Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Moa-Hunters of New Zealand: Sportsman of the Stone Age

Chapter VI. Who, And When?

page 221

Chapter VI. Who, And When?

For now we see through a glass, darkly.

Having, as it were, visited, inspected, and worked upon the ancient Maori camp sites, having in fancy entered into the daily life of their inhabitants, and in spirit participated in their communal Moa-hunts, all that now remains to be done is to formulate an acceptable hypothesis as to the identity of the people who established the camps, and to give a reasonable explanation as to when and why they subsequently abandoned them. The first of these problems is inextricably involved in the question of New Zealand's earliest human inhabitants, for I cannot but think that the hunting of the Moa began with the peopling of the country. Any attempt, however, to more definitely solve the problem is at once met with immense difficulty, for in the absence of recorded history we have no basis upon which we can build, except tradition, and we have no tradition sufficiently stable upon which we can safely build. This is immediately apparent when we observe the page 222 difference between the dates in the accounts describing the coming of the Waitaha people, who are said to have played an important part in the destruction of the Moa. Indeed, the dates assigned to their coming are as hopelessly conflicting as are the stories of how they came. Here we find ourselves reduced to the hapless condition of the Persian tent-maker who, in his efforts to solve the riddle of life, discovered the insurmountable to be opposed by the insuperable:

There was a Door to which I found no Key;
There was a Veil through which I might not see.

Of this much, however, I am reasonably confident: that the first-comers were members of the Polynesian race, and that the settlement of the country by them was in its process not materially different from the rude colonization by our own nationals that preceded the rule of British sovereignty.

That the Polynesians are an ancient people goes without saying. How they came or whence they came into the region of the Pacific is scarcely germane to our subject, but it is of importance to note that after the region of the Pacific assumed something like its present proportions of land and water they by force of circumstances became a nation of sea-rovers. Dismembered as the land area is, page 223 far apart as the islands are, sea travel became their sole means of communication one with another.

To meet the conditions of the moment, canoes of surprising stability were built, sea routes were laid down and remembered, and men learned to steer by the stars. The navigation of the Pacific thus became a commonplace, and to the adventurous spirits its dangers ceased to be an impediment, but instead became a positive joy. Misadventure, no doubt, oft-times carried them beyond their objective, resulting sometimes in disaster, but as often may have had the happy termination of adding to their thrills and of enlarging the horizon of their knowledge.

So far as the discovery of New Zealand is concerned, I believe it was not the result of misadventure with a happy termination, but the result of shrewd observation and accurate calculation. Standing upon their island shores, the people saw, year after year, the godwits—known to them as the kuaka—and other migratory birds go by on their annual flight, and, reasoning as keen students of nature would reason, they concluded that these birds were not flying on an aimless quest, but were, with unerring instinct, going to a summer land.

Once that conviction took hold upon the public mind there was never wanting the courage to test page 224 it out, and expeditions were set afoot to discover the whither of the birds. It may well be that not all of these expeditions were fortunate in reaching their destination, but some were. There are the traditional stories of the voyages of Kupe and of Ngahue, both of whom reached New Zealand and returned to the point of their departure. These navigators were in their day the Tasman and the Cook of our own era. The stories they brought back with them excited a public interest comparable to that which followed the publication of our own famous seamen's journals.

Not for nothing did Ngahue return with the block of greenstone found at Arahura, from which sacred adzes and famous pendants were made. Such material being highly valued in a region still in the Stone Age, to secure it became at once the dream and the resolve of many a bold island captain and his island mariners.

In the desire to obtain greenstone was, I believe, the foundation of New Zealand's Maori colonization laid, and in the quest for it many an unnamed and unrecorded migration came to this country from the islands—migrations unnamed and unrecorded because they never returned. Finding the country agreeable in configuration and climate, the voyagers remained, and by their original numbers and a rapid page 225 natural increase they established the tangata whenua —the men of the land—who were here when the later and better-known migrations arrived.

That these original people came from many parts of the Pacific is easy to suppose and reasonable to admit, for the news of Kupe's and of Ngahue's return, followed by the departure of other migrations, would soon spread. The same restless spirit that operated in one group of islands would quickly be operating in another. There would thus be variations in colour, physique, and temperament, which in course of time would blend in the process of intermarriage, modifying the type, with here and there an instance in which that type persisted. But in all the essentials of their race these people were Polynesians, and their memorials are with us still to proclaim them as such. If there were any differences in cultural standards between them and their successors, they were only such differences as existed between the sealers, whalers, and traders who preceded our own regular and more refined colonists from Britain.

To attempt to reduce such events to historical dates or to invest them with an historical veracity would be futile. It is not even possible to say whether Ngahue was or was not an historical personage. The fact remains that around his name page 226 and personality there has been woven a story of such appealing human interest that it is highly probable he was indeed a man like unto ourselves. As such he injected into his day and generation so strongly the spirit of pounamu that, whether he willed it or not, he brought about in Polynesia a revolution, the reverberations of which were felt long after his own demise.

That the glamour of migration continued down to historical times is suggested—indeed, confirmed— by the coming, in approximately A.D. 1350, of what is known as “the fleet” of eight canoes. This event is recalled in a song which to this day is chanted by the poi girls of Taranaki as they swing the flashing poi balls and sway their supple bodies to the rhythm of a haunting air:

Give ear, O tribes, whilst the world looks on
And the hosts of heaven illuminate the sky.
Lo! the beckoning glimmer of Tautoru*
As it sets forth its challenge from on high—
First, to the constellation of Pipiri;
Secondly, to Kounuunu;
Thirdly, to the great white Mangoroa;
Fourthly, to the reflections of the dawn,
And to the source of its origin.
Alas! my significance, for I am but from
The excavation of Kaitangi Ariki,§

* Orion's Belt.


The Milky Way.

§ The Coalsack.

page 227

Of the contingent of Ngai-Tutawake.
Defeat and death are not for me—
I am of the seed sown hither from Rangiatea.*
Thus did Toto enter the domain of Tane
And felled he a tree from which were made these two canoes:
Matahorua he gave to Kuramarotini,
Aotearoa to Rongorongo.

So stand and chant the fame of Tainui,
Chant the fame of Te Arawa,
Chant the fame of Matatua,
Chant the fame of Tokomaru,
Chant the fame of Kurahaupo,
Chant the fame of Takitumu,
Chant the fame of Matahorua,
Chant the fame of Aotearoa—
Chant in battle, chant in peace,
Chant in meekness, chant in love.

Let Rehua§ ascend like vapour to the heavens and remain,
Above in all creation's space,
In light supreme, in blaze of day,
A pendant in the sky,
Hold fast, for it is the soul of power,
Soul of earth and heaven,
Ah! and life unlimited.

[Note—As the composer of the above poem is now dead, the Author has, without success, made an effort to obtain from living authorities the meaning of the terms “Kounuunu” and “Ngai-Tutawake,” which appear to have no celestial significance. Regarding these terms Mr. W. H. Skinner forwards the following note:

“I regret to say that I cannot throw any light upon their meaning or derivation. The last of my Maori acquaintances who really had the ancient knowledge of the people of the Taranaki coast passed away a few weeks ago. I referred these words to a younger man of Chieftain rank, and he stated, without hesitation, that ‘Ngai-Tutawake’ was the name of the hapu of his mother (Mere Taura), of the Ati-Awa tribe, who, in conjunction with the Kairoa hapu, held the country of Manutahi (Lepperton), Matai-tawa, Kairoa, and Moa (Ingle-wood). Tutawake was a noted toa (fighting chief) of these people. ‘Kounuunu’ was a prominent ancestral leader of the Puke-rangiora hapu of Ati-Awa, the adjoining hapu of the above Ngai-Tutawake. This information does not, however, harmonize with the other names in the chant which are of celestial origin—a rather sudden drop from the heavens to the earth.”]

* The island in the Society Group whence the ancestors of the Taranaki tribes migrated.

God of the forest.

Kuramarotini and Rongorongo, daughters of Toto and wives of Kupe and Turi respectively (see Maori-Polynesian Dictionary—Tregear).

§ Antares.

page 228

In our analogy the momentous migration of “the fleet” typifies the coming, in 1840, of the New Zealand Company's settlers, and later the official colonization of the country.

In this, or in some such way, New Zealand became populated. Portion of the first migrants would in the very nature of things land in the North Island; but in the passage of the years their identity has been lost, and they are represented to us in the mass as the tangata whenua, the mild-mannered people who were in possession when the more truculent migrants of 1350 arrived, from whose coming all prominent northern personages now emerge and all northern events now date.

page break
The Waingongoro River On the height above the river stood the famous Rangatapu Pa.

The Waingongoro River
On the height above the river stood the famous Rangatapu Pa.

page break page 229

When, therefore, we ask ourselves the question, “Who were the Moa-hunters of the North Island?” we are safe only in assuming that the first arrivals—unnamed and unrecorded—commenced the work; but there is ample reason to believe that it was continued by their successors, the vikings of “the fleet.” Of this fact there is little discernible evidence in the North Island middens, for, the early and later comers being one people, their methods would be the same in all cases, leaving no clear line of demarcation between them.

The attitude of opposition which is usually assumed towards this view is founded upon what is alleged to be the absence of tradition regarding the Moa among the present-day Maori. It is claimed that they could have known nothing of the bird, otherwise they would have recorded more of it in their sayings and in their songs. On a subject such as this opinions differ, for here is the view of a trained ethnologist—W. S. W. Vaux, M.A., F.R.S., Balliol College, Oxford—expressed in relation to this identical discussion, exactly bearing out one of the postulations of Mr. F. E. Maining, to which reference will be made later:

Old traditions brought by the few Maoris who first landed in New Zealand would be preserved, and, perhaps, accounts of some of their early wars, but page 230 the daily incidents of the expanding population in the new country would not be preserved. As a rule the histories we learn at school are better impressed on our memories than the historical incidents in our lifetime. Incidents occurring in savage or uncivilized states of society must be surrounded by romance and elaborated by a generalizing mind before they pass into tradition or literature.*

Whether the existence of the Moa had ever been glorified by a Maori “generalizing mind,” or whether it remained a matter so commonplace that it was not deemed worthy of a higher ranking in their lore than has been given to it, must remain a matter for individual judgment. It is, however, entirely an error to suppose that there is no mention of the Moa in Maori tradition, or that the Maori of the migration was ignorant of the Moa's existence or of its habits.

That early visitors to New Zealand, such as Captain Cook, did not hear of the bird is scarcely proof that the Maori did not tell them of it because they did not know of it. There must have been many things the Maori did not tell the early visitors, but with a more intimate acquaintance fuller information was given.

* “The Probable Origin of the Maori Races,” Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. VIII, p. 5.

page 231

The Maori had many curious superstitions in connection with his hunting and gathering of food.* For instance, it was considered most indiscreet to speak of a beast or a bird as already captured while it had life or strength to escape. That would be a puhore, or an omen of ill-success. When digging for the perei, an edible root (Orthoceras Solandri), the diggers were warned against mentioning the name perei, or the root would never be found. At such a time it was termed maukuuku. “This,” says Best, “appears to spring from the ancient belief, common among primitive races, that man, the lower animals, trees, stones, etc., shared a common life and understanding.” Thus the perei root and birds were assumed to possess a knowledge of the Maori language, or at least the vernacular thereof, and an unusual word is made use of in order that they might not understand it. Consistent with this spirit of precaution, might it not, then, have been considered indiscreet to become communicative regarding their Moa-hunting exploits?

If the Maori of a later day—1831–1837—knew nothing of the Moa, how was he able to direct the attention of J. S. Polack to the “petrifactions of the bones of large birds supposed to be wholly

* Jour. Poly. Soc., Vol. VII, p. 132.

page 232 extinct,” or to the “ossified parts of birds that are at present (as far as is known) extinct in these islands”?* If they were not able to tell him anything of the Moa, how could he have written, “I feel assured, from the many reports I received from the Natives, that a species of struthio still exists on that interesting island [South Island], in parts which, perhaps, have never yet been trodden by man”?

How else were the elders of the race possessed of the meticulous knowledge which they imparted to Mr. John White of the bird's appearance in life, its food, its habits, the mode of attack by the hunters, even the karakia that were offered up to ensure the success of the projected hunt, and even the class of knife that was used at the feast to dismember the captured game? Why, in all the bones that the Natives of the East Coast brought to the Reverend William Williams in 1839 and in the succeeding years, did they never make a mistake, if they had no knowledge of the bird for whose bones they were searching to win the missionary's reward?

From whom, if not from the Maori himself, did Sir George Grey derive the information which in

* New Zealand, by J. S. Polack, Vol. 1, pp. 345–346.

Ibid, pp. 307–308.

page 233 1870 he conveyed to the Zoological Society of London when he wrote:

The Natives all know the word Moa as describing the extinct bird, and when I came to New Zealand twenty-five years ago the Natives invariably spoke to me of the Moa in exactly the same manner as they did the kakapo, the kiwi, or the weka, and an extinct rail in districts where all those birds had disappeared. Allusions to the Moa are found in their poems, sometimes together with allusions to birds still in existence in some parts of the island. From these circumstances, and from former frequent conversations with old Natives, I have never entertained the slightest doubt that the Moa was found by the ancestors of the present New Zealand race when they first occupied the islands, and that by degrees the Moa was destroyed and disappeared as have several other wingless birds from different parts of New Zealand.*

Was there any hesitancy on the part of his guides when, in 1843, the Reverend Richard Taylor first stumbled upon a pile of Moa bones near the mouth of the Waingongoro River and asked his companions what they were?

It was here I first heard the word Moa. They told me that these huge birds were very abundant before the Europeans came, but they gradually diminished and finally disappeared… The birds used to conceal themselves in the koromiko thickets, from which they

* Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. VIII, pp. 73–74.

page 234 were driven and killed by setting the thickets on fire: “Te koromiko te rakau i tunu ai te Moa” (“The koromiko is the tree that roasted the Moa”).
With the exception of Sir George Grey, few Europeans had better opportunities of penetrating to the inner recesses of the Maori mind than F. E. Maning, the author of that acknowledged classic, Old New Zealand. During his long and intimate association with the Native people of rank and breeding in the North Island, this gentleman acquired at first hand many important facts relating to their knowledge of the Moa, and these he put on record in a paper read before the Wellington Philosophical Society on the 4th October, 1875. Of these facts the following seem to bear most importantly upon our subject:
1.The Moas still existed in great numbers when the first Maori colonists arrived here. [This refers to the 1350 migration.]
2.They were called Moas because the Maoris were acquainted either by experience or tradition with other large birds which they called by the same name.
3.There was little or no excitement in hunting the Moa, except such as a hungry man feels when hunting a dinner.
4.They were most stupid and sluggish birds, and they were destroyed wholesale by setting the grass and scrub on fire, and would quietly allow themselves page 235 to be roasted alive without moving. The Natives killed in this way vast numbers more than they could use, or even find when the fire spread great distances.
5.The Natives have a saying, “As inert (ngoikae) as a Moa.”
6.One unusually dry summer a Maori hunter set fire to the scrub, and it caused such destruction among the Moas that from that time forward they were so scarce as not to be worth the trouble of hunting and they soon became extinct.
Forty years ago Mr. T. W. Downes received from one of the last of the human repositories of Maori lore, Te Whatahoro, the following particulars of the Moa which bespeak a transmitted knowledge of the bird too intimate to leave room for the thought that they were the fruit of invention: The name by which the bird was first known to the Maori was Kura-nui, meaning “the greatest of all birds.” Another old name, descriptive of its flightless condition, was Manu-whakatau, “the bird that stays on the land.” By both of these names the bird is frequently mentioned in waiata and whakatauki.* Moa is a modern name, and although it is sometimes found in songs referring to distant events, such songs have been composed at a comparatively recent date. Among the sayings regarding the Moa are the following: “Hopara makau rangi Manu-whakatau

* Waiata and whakatauki—song and proverb.

page 236 (“The first chieftainess is like the Moa”); “Ko wai tou tamaiti kapa ko te Manu-whakatau?” (“Is your child noble like the Moa?”). When Tamatea came to the country his fire ran through almost the whole of the island. Many of the birds, seeing fire for the first time, fled to the swamps for protection, but many were caught in the conflagration. Some were left, and our forefathers long ago hunted with dogs those that remained. There were never very many, and on this account they were very tapu. Its feathers were used for mat-making. The body-feathers alone were used. In colour the breast and back were grey, the neck approaching to white. It was still alive in the South Island after it was lost in the North. It disappeared in the South Island eight generations (200 years) ago. The old Maoris recognized by their bones four different species. Some birds were lower set than others, some had heavy bodies, and some had very long necks. Of the biggest, one of our tall men would reach only to its back. The Moas were usually to be found along the banks of creeks, rivers, lakes, or swamps, seldom in the bush. It has been reported that they caught the small fresh-water fish—the kokopu, the inanga, the kakawai, and the karohi (swamp spotties).* It also fed upon the young shoots of the

* See also pp. 109–110.

page break
The Author Contemplating the Relics of a Moa-hunters' Feast at Waitaki

The Author Contemplating the Relics of a Moa-hunters' Feast at Waitaki

page break page 237 water plants. The cry of the bird was a sound between the screech of the kaka and the boom of the matuku, and could be heard from a great distance. The only use* our ancestors made of the Moa's bones was as a weapon shaped like a club, about 18 inches long, called a pakuru, of which I have heard but never seen. The trachea ring bones were sometimes worn as a neck ornament by a chief's daughter.

In the upper Whanganui district there is a legend to the effect that a certain chief went out to kill a bird called a weka-nui, or the giant weka—presumably a Moa. Several men had previously tried to kill this bird, but had failed. The chief took fifteen dogs with him in the early morning, and first sent one of his dogs to engage the bird in combat. After a time he knew by the dog's silence that he was killed; therefore he sent his second dog. That dog met a similar fate, and, as is usual in Maori story, he sent forward all his fifteen dogs, one at a time, but they were all killed by the weka-nui. By this time evening had fallen, and the chief knew that the bird would now be fatigued with its day's fighting; he went in himself and slew the bird, which fell surrounded by his fifteen dead kuri.

* This is not strictly correct. The bone was used for many purposes.

page 238

These excerpts should be sufficient to substantiate a claim that the Maori of the migration knew something of the Moa; they negative the contention that the bird was extinct long before the arrival of man, and, although they do not particularly specify for us who the hunters were, they definitely state that hunting took place, and in that way are substantial confirmation of the middens already described.

Quite obviously the Moa was hunted in the North Island, and, as has been shown, with every probability by the ancestors of the present-day Maori. Yet withal, owing to certain physical disadvantages in its environment, the bird did not flourish so lustily nor in such numerical strength as it did in the sister isle, and for that reason it was almost certainly extinct in the North Island long before it disappeared in the South Island.

In our estimate of the peopling of the country it is possible that the quota of migrants received by the South Island has not, in the past, been properly appraised. For many years it was popularly supposed that the South Island was not inhabited until long after the North Island, and that when at last it was peopled the new-comers arrived from the north, first in waves of defeated fugitives, fleeing before their stronger rivals in northern wars, and page 239 then as invading hosts eager to reap where others had sown.

In recent times a new complexion has been put upon this phase of our country's colonization. Genealogies have been unearthed which make it appear that there have been Maori people in the South Island for possibly a thousand years, and that these tangata whenua came not as fugitives or conquerors from the north, but as colonists from Polynesia. Of this phase of an intricate subject Mr. Herries Beattie, who has delved deeply into and written extensively upon southern Maori lore, has this to say:

At one time discussions took place as to whether there had been any inhabitants in New Zealand prior to the arrival of the Maori about A.D. 1350 in the famous fleet of half a dozen big canoes (probably double canoes, with a deck between). Further research established the fact that people had been here when the big fleet arrived, and these people were roughly classed as tangata-whenua (men of the land) by the later arrivals. Patient investigation revealed a number of traditions preserved by the tribes which had mostly intermarried with the earlier immigrants, and from these fragments the history of man in New Zealand was extended back a century or two. Then the Polynesian Society secured and published the very full traditions preserved by the learned priests of the Ngati-Kahungunu tribe, and from these the arrival of Maori people in New Zealand page 240 was pushed back to the time of Kupe, whose genealogy would make his birth about A.D. 925. At this point the Maori traditions preserved in the South Island leave the North Island accounts behind, and proceed still further into the past, and relate the arrival of Rakaihautu in the South Island about A.D. 850. They go further, and mention the arrival of canoes even earlier, but the details have not been preserved with much amplitude or clarity.*

Mr. Beattie's information is that Rakaihautu, as chief of the Waitaha tribe, arrived in the canoe Uruao, forty generations ago, and, touching at the north end of the South Island, ventured upon a great feat of exploration. Dividing his party, he and a few of his followers struck inland, while his son, Te Rakihouia, explored the seaboard and examined the food resources of the eastern coastal regions. Rakaihautu and his band stout-heartedly pushed their way along the western foot of the Southern Alps, through Otago's fiordland, across her great lakes, over mountain passes, and then, having discovered Murihiku, “the last joint in the tail,” they turned northward again, and with great rejoicing met and reunited with his son and his followers on the Canterbury plains. It is only fair to say that this account differs somewhat from that given by Mr. Alexander Mackay in his massive

* Otago Daily Times, 30th June, 1930.

page 241 Compendium of Official Documents, published in 1873. Here it is made to appear that Waitaha came to New Zealand in the Arawa canoe, commanded by Tama te Kapua, and first took up their abode in the interior, near Lake Taupo. About two hundred years after the arrival of their ancestors from Hawaiki military pressure or social ambition caused them to migrate across Cook Strait and take up their residence in the South Island. There the tribe dwelt, alternatively at peace and at war with their neighbours; but eventually they attained to a position of power, opulence, and eminence in the land.

Both stories agree that the north end of the South Island was the point of approach, but beyond this they have little in common. Yet closer investigation may disclose further agreement, for the sequel clearly suggests that Waitaha had a measure of intercourse with the North Island tribesmen. South Island tradition of to-day is, however, very firm in the assertion that Waitaha's arrival took place at least one thousand years ago, and it does not admit of any North Island origin.

In the South Island there is also a common agreement that it was the Waitaha people who there played the most important part in the diminution of the Moa stock, if not in its actual extinction, and page 242 in building up the great shell-heaps which are such a conspicuous feature in most of these ancient southern settlements. The Reverend Canon Stack rescued this information at a time when tradition was perhaps purer than it is to-day.

When the writer questioned Mrs. Matene (Mrs. Martin), an extremely intelligent woman, who speaks English excellently, and who is now the principal Maori resident in the vicinity, as to what she knew of the origin of the Waitaki camp, she at once threw up her hands in despair, and replied that she knew nothing of it, but supposed that it went back to Waitaha times. To the writer this reply smacked somewhat of that with which one is apt to be met when visiting old churches in England. Nearly every one of these edifices has somewhere a broken window, and by way of apology for not having it repaired the aged and ingenious verger or janitor will tell you with all seriousness, “That was broke in Cromwell's time.”

Assuming, then, that the Moa was “broke” in Waitaha times, to what conclusion does that lead us? Undoubtedly, to the conclusion that they were the first human inhabitants of the South Island, and that they it was who began the human attacks upon the Moa in that part of the country. This they continued until the bird was becoming a negligible page 243 quantity as an object of sport and as an article of food, and then they became shell-fish eaters and began to build those huge shell-heaps of which so much has been said, for tradition links Waitaha* as closely with these accumulations as it links them with the Moa. The Moa was not hunted by one race and the shell-heaps accumulated by another; the process was simply the supersession of one article of diet by another because it served sufficiently well and was more easily obtained.

This view bears out the traditional story, that Waitaha were a fortunate and wealthy people—fortunate in the sense that they had no troublesome neighbours, and wealthy in a Maori sense, in that they had abundant food supplies.

They seemingly became numerous, for they are said to have “covered the land like ants,” but whether by accessions to their ranks due to the arrival of additional immigrants or merely by natural increase it is impossible to say. Prima facie they would appear to have occupied all the Moa-hunter camps at or about the same time. That they were influential enough to have intercourse with North

* There are references in the early traditions to the Rapuwai and Hawea people, but these probably were hapu of the main Waitaha tribe.

page 244 Island inhabitants is also obvious from the presence of obsidian in their middens. Their friendship with one section of these northern people it was that ultimately led to their undoing.

Though they lived in the intangible past, the episode in Waitaha story that appears to have an element of dependability is the narrative transmitted to us of their downfall and the manner in which they contributed to their own misfortune. The story seems well authenticated that it was the generous use they made of their abundance of food that brought about their destruction:

In an impulse of generosity the Waitaha sent across the Straits to their friends the Ngati-Mamoe* some of the superabundant stores that it was their good fortune to have accumulated in “the food-abounding island.” As their friends smacked their lips over these dainties furnished from the southern island, they resolved to wrest the coveted preserves from Waitaha. Unused to war, the old inhabitants were easily subdued, and their possessions taken from them

* The Ngati-Mamoe account of themselves is that they descend from Hotu-Mamoe, or Whatu-Mamoe, a chief of the tangata-whenua people living in or about Hawke's Bay some four or five generations before the migration of “the fleet” in 1350. This migration pushed them southward to the Wairarapa and the neighbourhood of Wellington, and it was from there they migrated across Cook Strait to the South Island. Their headquarters in the South Island was Banks Peninsula.

page 245 by the invaders, but after a while peaceful relations were restored between the tribes and intermarriage took place.*

This, in general terms, in an account of an historical event which the Reverend Canon Stack estimated to have occurred in 1577, and which in all probability was responsible for the abandonment of the Moa-hunters' camps in the South Island, for such an event as the subjugation of a people could not but have had far-reaching and long-enduring results. Their camps would be deserted, their pas overrun, and for a time, at least, their people would be fugitives, taking little thought of their destination so long as they could elude the vigilance of their pursuers.

The wars which followed the invasion of Britain by the English delayed in an important degree the destruction of the larger and fiercer wild animals that found shelter in the uncultivated lands. The wolves increased in numbers after that time and became sufficiently formidable to be worthy of special enactments in the days of Eadgar and Edward the First. They were exterminated in England about the end of the fourteenth century, in Scotland in 1680, and in Ireland in 1710.

* VideAlexander Mackay, Compendium of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs in the South Island, Vol. 1, Part III, p. 40.

Best thinks this date too recent, but does not supply an alternative.

page 246

So wrote Professor Boyd Dawkins in his monumental work, Early Man in Britain; and just as wars of invasion delayed the destruction of wild animals there, so two such events in New Zealand might very well have provided a respite for the Moa. By the coming of Kati-Mamoe, Waitaha's attacks upon the bird were almost certainly interrupted, and it would be long ere Kati-Mamoe would have time and peace sufficient to acquire the hunting habit for themselves. These operations would, in turn, be suspended by the Kai-Tahu* irruption, whose war of conquest commenced about A.D. 1670 and gave Kati-Mamoe something to think about more important than hunting a defenceless bird, for they were then themselves being remorselessly hunted.

Unfortunately, owing to Waitaha's conquest by Kati-Mamoe, their tribal story has been almost completely obliterated, and beyond the fact that odd individuals have preserved their tribal characteristics and identity we know little of them. Waitaha's absorption by Kati-Mamoe has robbed us of any information as to where their main pas were, and from what points their great influence radiated.

* These invaders are said to have come from the district of Hataitai, now a portion of the city of Wellington.

page 247 Kati-Mamoe's subsequent conquest and absorption by Kai-Tahu has likewise compelled us to look at them as through a glass quite as darkly.

This state of negation Mr. Edward Shortland, as long ago as 1843, met in pronounced form when he endeavoured to elucidate the position. He writes:

I found that all the families of the present day, of any consideration, traced their origin to the Turanga, or Poverty Bay, sources—as being the conquering side and therefore the more honourable—and neglected altogether the Ngati-Mamoe* sources beyond the time of their conquest. Hence it was very difficult to obtain information about the early history of the tribe.

* “The origin of the Ngati-Mamoe is nearly as obscure as that of their predecessors. Like them they came from the North Island, being probably driven down before a stronger tribe. Their pitiless treatment of Waitaha was afterwards repeated upon themselves by the stronger and more warlike Ngai-Tahu. Their destruction of the Waitaha and their own subsequent destruction accounts for the absence of all tradition relating to the visit of Abel Tasman in 1642, just as the destruction of the tribes inhabiting the shores of the Straits by Rauparaha in this century explains why no account of Captain Cook's visit in 1769 has been preserved amongst the Natives now residing in that neighbourhood.”—Stack, Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. X, p. 64.

Referring to their lack of traditions, the Otago Daily Times of the 5th April, 1871, says: “The aboriginal inhabitants of the southern portion of this Island possess no traditions about their ancestors.” Is it any wonder, then, that they knew so little of the Moa?

page 248

The important point now to be noted is that by the time Waitaha had been subdued, and Kati-Mamoe had become the dominant people in the South, the Moa is said to have dwindled to a negligible quantity. Mr. Herries Beattie relates that in his extensive search for South Island tradition what he was told was this: “The Moa was plentiful in Waitaha times, but was scarce, and became extinct shortly after the coming of Kati-Mamoe, while Kai-Tahu never saw the Moa in Murihiku.”

Mr. Beattie, like the writer, accepts this as a general statement of the position, but believes that a remnant of the Moa family still lingered in secluded places long after the coming of Kai-Tahu; but it is probably safe to say that not for 300 or 350 years have the Moa-hunters' camps from Little Rakaia southward been occupied by the people who founded them or by those who succeeded them.

There is one historical circumstance, and only one such circumstance, known to the writer that might furnish us with a faint lead as to the date of these camps, and that is that nowhere have remains of the pig been found in the Moa-hunters' ovens. Had this animal been roaming the country with even less freedom than it is known to have done in later years, it could scarcely have escaped capture and subsequent consumption in much the same way as page 249 the Moa was consumed. The fact that it did not do so inclines the writer to the view that the Moa-hunters and their camps, if not the Moa, must have flourished and faded away before the arrival of Captain Cook.

Difficult as it may be, in view of the state of some of the remains, to realize this, in the absence of definite data the reasonable probabilities of the situation irresistibly lead us to that conclusion; and even that may be a conservative estimate. It is a case of “the desert heart is set apart, unknown to any man.” We do not know.

In dealing with these questions it is only possible to grasp the relative duration, for the measurement of time absolute in terms of years outside the reach of history is beyond our powers. We do not know the length of the interval separating any two events not recorded in history, nor are we possessed of any natural chronometer by which to fix a date in the historical sense. We are dealing merely with time relative, and not with time absolute.*

In the graceful words of Edwin Arnold:

Shall any gazer see with mortal eyes,
 Or any searcher know by mortal mind?
Veil after veil will lift—but there must be
 Veil upon veil behind.

* Professor Boyd Dawkins, Early Man in Britain, p. 265.

page 250

All that we can with any degree of certainty say is that here at each of these camps there were once busy scenes of life in which men and women moved about their daily tasks with all the animation of moderns. But while engaged in schemes and intrigues, in projects large and small, there was perhaps no event of the day which so moved them to a common purpose as to assemble upon their improvised marae and there give lusty welcome to “the hunter home from the hill.”