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The Coming of the Maori



The craft of plaiting, once so vitally important, has lost much of its value. The plaited sails of seagoing canoes disappeared early as ocean transport along the coasts ended. Leather shoes replaced plaited sandals, and plaited war belts ceased to be of use. Food and firewood formerly carried by plaited burden carriers on the backs of human beings are now transported in wheeled vehicles drawn by introduced quadrupeds. The plaited oven along the coasts ended. Leather shoes replaced plaited sandals, and plaited kono receptacles for serving food have been largely forgotten through the adoption of crockery.

The articles which linger on are mats and baskets. In country districts, the plaited floor mats have not yet succumbed to linoleum and woven carpets, and the tribal meeting houses still demand an equipment of takapau sleeping mats as the correct covers for the floor space on either side of the median passage. The green flax baskets still remain the best receptacles for gathering in the root crops and for other purposes. The better class of basket, once used for holding clothes and other property, has given way to wooden chests and suit cases. Even the smaller kits in which an older generation of women carried their pipe, tobacco, and matches have given way to the leather or cloth handbags in which a younger generation carry their cigarettes, lighter, handkerchief, and makeup necessities. Yet even now, the manufacture of sleeping mats has dwindled to certain districts. At Koriniti in 1921, the older women who were demonstrating plaiting to me complained that the teen-age girls who were trying to assist, could not split the flax leaves into wefts of even width. They shook their heads with forebodings of the future. Thus the rough mats and baskets will be replaced by trade substitutes as the younger generation of women become more and more absorbed in pakeha activities which will leave them with less and less time to learn and to devote to the ancient but now out-of-date craft of plaiting.