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The Maori: Yesterday and To-day

Chapter I. — The Maori's Place in New Zealand Life

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Chapter I.
The Maori's Place in New Zealand Life.

Three-quarters of a century ago an officer of the Royal Engineers stationed in Auckland put this prophecy in writing: “In fifty years there will scarcely be one New Zealand native left alive. All that can be done is to let them die out as quietly as possible…” Many Englishmen after Captain Collinson's day made a similar prediction, and in the Sixties there were politicians and newspaper writers who did not content themselves with the mere hope that the race would die out; they counselled a war of extermination. Even such sympathetic men as Alfred Domett, poet and statesman, regarded the Maori as a fast vanishing race.

The Maori himself has given reply to these confident prophecies of his melancholy fate by declining to lie down and die. There was a time when in his fatalism he was ready to accept the extinction like the moa that the all-dominating pakeha march meant for him. The process of disappearance from the earth to which the South Sea Islander and the Red Indian alike were submitting before the unconquerable advance of the white man, seemed inevitable also in the land of the Maori. Forty years ago the condition of the race was considered by many New Zealanders void of hope for the future. Like the forest-tree page 2 encircled by the ever-tightening and strengthening coils of the rata, the fate of the Maori, though long deferred, it was impossible to avert. He would gradually perish from the land, leaving nothing but his ruined hill forts and some military traditions and poetic literature to remind the coming generations of the New Zealand nation of the men who traded and fought with the pioneers of British colonization.

But to-day the Maori is 65,000 strong. Every census shows an increase in population. The race is established as a factor of permanent importance in the growth of New Zealand nationalism. In social conditions, in hygiene, in industry and the production of wealth, the Maori has exactly reversed the common belief of two generations ago. To a considerable degree the race is amalgamating with the Anglo-Celtic colonists who outnumber it nearly twenty-five to one, but there is a distinct increase in the purely Maori population and a faith in the future of the people as an individual entity in the life of the Dominion for many generations to come. The Maori, in short, stands on his feet once more. He rejoices in his renewed virility and hold on life, and he is opening a way for himself to a new world of contentment and prosperity. The agencies and influences that have contributed to this happy reversal of the mournful decline are manifold; the cumulative effect is a result that is peculiarly creditable to enlightened British methods in dealing with a native race. For it is only in British Colonies and Dominions in the South Seas, or groups largely under British influence, that the native races have picked up new heart after the early tragedy of contact with the European, and are regaining something of their ancient pride of nationhood and the olden fecundity.

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In the old Maori belief everything animate and many things inanimate were endowed with a mauri and a hau, by which terms were meant a soul, an individuality, and in the case of man, a “vital spark” which by various means, natural and supernatural, could be extinguished. When the white man's influence transformed the face of Maoridom, and the native race began to decrease, the wise men of the tribes attributed the decadence of the people to the neglect of the ancient religion, and the decay of the sacred hau which had been conquered by the spirit of the new age.

But there must be in the Maori a strong racial quality of physical and spiritual resilience, a power to rise superior to hostile natural forces. At any rate the outlook for the people has completely changed during the present generation. Factors which have contributed to this happy condition are the Government's sanitation crusade, medical and nursing attention, improved diet, better attention to young children, a return to the agricultural industries, increased sobriety, regular habits of work—all these have helped to overcome stagnation, moral and physical, which was an inevitable condition of the violent transition from a primitive state of society to the modern.

You see the depth of the despairing spirit of racial decay in the Marquesas group to-day. There a once splendid Polynesian people is disappearing, smitten to death by the impalpable enemy, the breath of the intrusive white man. The hau of the race has been overrun, trampled in the dust; the Marquesan has lost his mauri ora, his living soul. Conversely, the Maori of New Zealand regained his, or at any rate, has plucked up courage, the will to live, that makes all the difference in the world to a Pacific Islands people.

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First in the agencies that have transformed the outlook on life for the Maori is the work of the State's doctors among the people in the last quarter of a century. It was in 1901 that the pioneer Maori doctor, Maui Pomare—now the Hon. Sir Maui Pomare, M.P.—a young New Zealander of high pedigree and great natural gifts, the first native graduate in medicine, who had returned to his country full of zeal for his profession and his people, was appointed to the staff of the newly-formed Department of Public Health. That was the beginning of the great work, the task of staying the downward drift of the race. The enthusiastic young doctor who went into the kaingas from end to end of the Maori districts and earnestly preached sanitation and exhorted and pushed the people into new and higher modes of life, has won high honours as an administrator since the early days of this century; but his greatest work was that first almost heartbreaking effort to stop the all-but-inevitable end of the Maori race and its South Sea Island kin. Pomare, in his first report to the Chief Health Officer, wrote that “it was with a heart full of fear and trembling that my mission was undertaken.” He had strong antagonism to pakeha science to overcome, deeply rooted belief in tapu and the tohunga, racial mistrust of all pakeha counsels; agelong social habits and practices. No pakeha doctor, or host of doctors, could have begun that breaking-down process: only a man of their own race, followed by others as they were trained, could turn the Maori into the path of life and progress. The campaign against disease and unwholesome ways has been carried on by several of the young generation since the way was opened twenty-seven years ago—Dr. Te Rangihiroa (Peter Buck) good soldier and distinguished ethnologist, Dr. Wi Repa, and page 5
“The Light of Other Days.” “…. The memory of joys that are past, pleasant and mournful to the soul….. Slant looks the sun on the field; gradual grows the shade of the hill.”—Ossian. The venerable Patara te Tuhi, Chief of Ngati-Mahuta clan of Waikato. A picture at Mangere, Manukau Harbour, by James McDonald.

The Light of Other Days.”
“…. The memory of joys that are past, pleasant and mournful to the soul….. Slant looks the sun on the field; gradual grows the shade of the hill.”—Ossian.
The venerable Patara te Tuhi, Chief of Ngati-Mahuta clan of Waikato.
A picture at Mangere, Manukau Harbour, by James McDonald.

page 6 Dr. Ellison—after the foundation of a new sound life was laid by Dr. Pomare.

An admirable summary of the Maori health situation and its interrelated problems was contained in Dr. Pomare's official report in 1906. He wrote:

“We have lived in hopes, and at last I see a glimmering of realisation in the reconstruction of the Native Department. Not that we did nothing in the past years, far from it, but we laboured under great disadvantages and difficulties. The field was too great for one man, the task too herculean for one body, the distances that had to be travelled were too great, the roads in parts were often impassable, but yet never a call came that we did not respond, a cry that we did not heed.… Recent changes in the Native Department give promise of having this done, and, further, we can expect more systematic work being carried out in the sanitary inspecting of kaingas, medical attendance to the Maoris, and the proper care of the old men and indigent natives.”

“We have looked into the question of the decline of the Maori, and have found that the causes of this were legion. Bad housing, feeding, clothing, nursing, unventilated rooms, unwholesome pas, were all opposed to the perpetuation of the race; but a deeper knowledge of the Maori reveals to us the fact that these are not the only potent factors in the causation of his decay. Like an imprisoned bird of the forest, he pines for the liberty and freedom of his alpine woods. This was a warrior race used to fighting for liberty or to death. All this is gone, fighting is no more. There is no alternative but to become a pakeha. Was not this saying uttered by the mouth of a dying chief many generations ago: ‘Kei muri i te awé kapara he tangata ke, mana te ao, he ma’ (‘Shadowed behind the tattooed face a stranger stands, he who owns the earth, and he is white’)? There is no hope for the Maori but in ultimate absorption by the pakeha. This is his only hope, if hope it be, to find his descendants merged in the future sons of the Briton of the Southern Hemisphere. Sons who will not forget that in them runs the warrior blood of unconquered chieftains of centuries, and who, on the other hand, will be imbued with loyalty and imperialism, proud of being members of the Empire to which belong their fathers. While, however, this is taking place we must recognise the fact that these people must live under hygienic conditions, not only because it would be to their own advantage, but also that the public at large demands it; and that is why the crusade must be carried on, the war waged with increased vigour and untiring effort.”

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That was the situation as it appeared over a score of years ago. Pomare's prophecies have been fulfilled in some respects. The war against disease and ignorance has been carried through with the result that many of the old habits that were dragging the race down have been given up. But it is happily apparent also that the Maori of the new generation is not likely to merge his individuality completely in that of the pakeha. The Maori community in many a district will continue thoroughly Maori in many of the features that distinguish a proud race of immemorial poets and warriors from that of the commercial-minded pakeha.

The second great factor in the regeneration of the race is the return to the agricultural life, and the growing interest in pastoral pursuits. The Maori is now a successful farmer in many districts; he has even taken to the dairying industry, which at one time was distasteful to a people impatient of the steady attention to one job which the milkingshed demands.

What the Census Shows.

In 1926, the year of the last census, there were 63,670 Maoris, of whom 11,306 were half-castes and 6,632 three-quarter Maoris. The total native population showed an increase of about 18,000 on the figures of the census twenty-five years previously. In the last census the males numbered 23,783 and the females 21,646. Over 61 per cent. of the males and 63 per cent. of the females were under 25 years of age. The Government Statistician, in commenting on the census figures, said that already probably almost one half of the Maori community was no longer of pure Maori descent and could never again contribute to the quota of pure page 8 Maori. The pure Maori remnant must inevitably suffer attrition as members from time to time marry outside its ranks. “The analogy of other races in other countries does not lend colour to the theory of indefinite survival, but the somewhat gloomy prophecies of rapid extinction held in past years by such men as Featherston, Hochstetter, Newman, Buller and Walsh have happily been refuted.” One statistician considered it very doubtful whether the race could survive the gradual infiltration of European strains. Its continuance as a separate entity for many generations was assured, but its indefinite continuance was quite another matter. In other words, there would most probably be in the future a complete blending of the two races.

An estimate of the Maori population in February, 1929, was 65,441.

In 1919, of 814 men of the Maori Pioneer Battalion returning from service in France, 48 per cent. had European blood; and of 4,500 native school children investigated in 1922, the percentage with white blood was 50.1 per cent.

Ninety-six per cent of the Maori population is in the North Island and seventy per cent. in the Auckland province. In 1926 the Maoris recorded in the South Island numbered only 2,804. The North Auckland peninsula holds almost one-fourth of the whole Maori population. In particular the counties of Hokianga and Bay of Islands, with an aggregate native population of 7,280, represent the densest Maori communities of the present day.

Of the Moriori, or Mai-oriori race, the original people of the Chatham Islands, there is only one solitary pure-blood member to-day; this is Tami Horomona, a sheep-farmer at Awapatiki. He has a Maori wife. Tami's forefathers were such page 9
Map showing districts of the principal Maori Tribes in New Zealand

showing districts
of the principal
Maori Tribes
in New Zealand

page 10 inveterate lovers of the peaceful life that they eschewed all weapons of war and all military exercises, with the natural consequence that they fell the easiest of victims to the cannibal Maori invaders headed by Pomare, of Ngati-Mutunga, nearly a century ago.

The Test of War.

It was the Great War that gave the young Maori the grand opportunity of demonstrating his fitness for soldierly brotherhood with the world's finest fighting men. Physically, mentally and morally the Maori troops who went to Gallipoli and Europe were the peers of the best of Britain's blood. More than 2,200 Maoris, with several hundred of New Zealand's Polynesian Islanders, enlisted for service in the Empire's cause overseas. Most of these served in the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion, organised for France after the Gallipoli expedition. The first Contingent of Maoris distinguished itself in the Gallipoli fighting and lost heavily in the battle of Sari Bair in 1915. The total casualties, 1915–1918, were nearly a thousand, or about 45 per cent. of the Maori strength. Many officers and men were decorated for special acts of bravery; all won praise for their conduct in troopship, in camp and in the trenches. The Pioneers' steadiness and endurance under the greatest test of all, sustained shellfire, was the theme of commendation by British generals. A pakeha officer on Gallipoli wrote of them: “I am satisfied that better troops do not exist in the world”; and another said they were the best of bayonet fighters, and were perfect as sentries. The honourable and gallant record established by the Maoris on foreign battlefields enormously stiffened the fibre of the race. They had won the respect and affection of their pakeha page 11
A Maori fort of the musket era: Ohaeawai Pa, near Kaikohe, North Auckland, unsuccessfully attacked by British troops, 1845. The strong timber palisade, double, was thickly padded on the outside with green flax, which deadened the impact of artillery balls as well as musket bullets. The defenders in the trench in rear of the stockade fired through the loopholes at ground level. [From a drawing by Major Bridge, 58th Regt.

A Maori fort of the musket era: Ohaeawai Pa, near Kaikohe, North Auckland, unsuccessfully attacked by British troops, 1845. The strong timber palisade, double, was thickly padded on the outside with green flax, which deadened the impact of artillery balls as well as musket bullets. The defenders in the trench in rear of the stockade fired through the loopholes at ground level.
[From a drawing by Major Bridge, 58th Regt.

page 12 brothers in a way nothing but the common sufferings and sacrifices of war could have achieved for them. The social and spiritual rehabilitation of the Maori was crowned by this long service under arms on the thundering fields of France and Flanders.

The Genius of the Race.

Coincidently with this material renaissance of the race, its ascent in health and comfort and industrial habits, there has come a new interest in the cultural side of the Maori, the artistic and poetic tradition and the varied forms it assumes; features that will strongly colour the New Zealand national life and character of the future. The native talent in artcraft, the poetry that so deeply permeates the Maori being, are discussed in chapters in this book; a vast amount more could be written about them. A great body of Maori lore and ancient wisdom and poetry has been placed on printed record. But these records should not be regarded as so much museum lore, an interesting relic of the past and no more. Much of it is at least as worthy of use among the Maori of to-day as pakeha traditional practice is among the pakeha. I should like to see the young generation of Maori take more pride in his nationality, in other things than sport. He is too ready to accept his pakeha environment and to believe that what the pakeha believes is also the right and proper thing for him. There are many of his grand traditions he can practice to-day without sacrificing his opportunities of advancement in the arts and industries of his English fellow-New Zealanders.

The soul of the race, the individuality and peculiar genius of the descendants of the old Pacific sea-rovers, bards and mystics, are expressed in the national tradition, poetry, song and artcraft. Long page 13 discouraged by neglect and by those who desired to see the Maori individuality merged in the white and Anglicised out of all likeness to the original type, these rich fields of knowledge and inspiration are now engaging the attention of students of both races. The beauty of much of the old Maori religion has come to be recognised. The best type of missionary among primitive races is now an ethnologist, with a mind broad enough to appreciate the nobility of primitive religion even when it runs counter to the dogma and prejudices of his own church. All present-day church people, however, do not seem to realise the merits of the immemorial Maori system of faith and ceremonial ritual, and there is an unfortunate tendency to supplant even what little remains of the original karakia with the customs of the pakeha. As an example, there is the Maori service for the opening of a newly-built carved house. Nothing in a pakeha service for the blessing of new buildings is so finely poetical and so appropriate as the Maori house-opening chant given in Chapter 10 of this book, an Arawa karakia that is a true house-warming prayer. Custom and wholesome veneration for the unseen and the divine are bound up in such ceremonials. I should like to see the Maori people generally insist on preserving such observances as these unspoiled by the foreign element.

The Maori Farmer.

The Maori in the pre-European era was the most industrious of men. Probably no other race had to work harder for its very existence. Enormous works, such as fortifications, were carried out by communal labour, and these scarped and terraced hill forts stand to this day in many hundreds of examples, as monuments to the skill, perseverance and page 14
Maori Skill in Military Engineering. These detail drawings of the Ngapuhi fortifications of Ruapekapeka Pa, in Hone Heke's war in North New Zealand, 1845–46, illustrate the ingenuity with which the Maori adapted his defences to the needs of the firearms era. The Maori was particularly skilful in “digging in” against artillery fire.

Maori Skill in Military Engineering.
These detail drawings of the Ngapuhi fortifications of Ruapekapeka Pa, in Hone Heke's war in North New Zealand, 1845–46, illustrate the ingenuity with which the Maori adapted his defences to the needs of the firearms era. The Maori was particularly skilful in “digging in” against artillery fire.

page 15 working capacity of the native people. Tree-felling and timber-working, clearing land for cultivation, making great canoes, building large and beautifully-carved houses, obtaining food from forest, sea, river and lake, were occupations that called for strenuous effort and great ingenuity. Agriculture, though primitive and restricted to one or two staples, provided subsistence for a very large population. Then, in the early days of contact with the pakeha, the rush to obtain firearms and gun-powder set every tribe toiling with feverish energy at flax-cutting and scraping for the traders. In a later era, the first two decades of British colonization, the Maori became a grower of wheat and other new foodstuffs, and there was a time when the infant cities in the North Island drew much of their wheat and flour and potatoes from the Maori farms. The long wars ruined this happy industrious age, when thousands of acres of wheat and other crops were raised by the tribes on the coast and far inland, and when nearly every large community had its flourmill, driven by waterpower, and when flour from the heart of the Waikato was even shipped to the new gold-rush towns in California and Australia. The wars that lasted for ten years set the Maori back fifty years; and the dealings in land that followed, the interminable Land Court sittings, with their scenes of drunken dissipation—until the Government changed the venue to purely Maori districts away from the temptations of the public-houses—the chicanery and double dealing of pakeha agents, the unsettled conditions of life, the lack of definite aims and hopes—all these factors made for deterioration of the moral and physical fibre of the race. Life's handicap sat heavily on the Maori of forty years ago. Now the change that has come over the scene is pleasant indeed. The old page 16 racial bitterness has gone, or is all but gone; the old despair has given place to hope and faith in the future. The knowledge that the race is increasing in numbers, as shown by every census that is taken, has enormously heartened up the Maori people. The increasing virility of the race, the increase in the proportion of children, the general steady growth within the last generation have given the people courage to attack the industrial problems of life. And above all the life on the land is engaging the physical energy and the brains of the young Maori. There are still some sections lingering in the old paths, reluctant to learn and adapt themselves to the new era. But the Maori generally is manfully shouldering the pikau of this twentieth century and is in some quarters showing that, given the same facilities, he can even outstrip the pakeha in the walks of civilized life. He has come to realize that the pakeha regards him as a member of the community whose value, social and industrial, to the nation increases with every year that passes. He appreciates, too, very acutely the fact that his pakeha fellow countryman—and now his racial kinsman—places high value on the spiritual and intellectual gifts of the ancient race, and looks to the Maori for inspiration in art and poetic conceptions and the distinctive characteristics that go to build up the national ideals.

The Maori, wherever he is given a fair chance to win a living from the soil of his ancestors, is manfully doing his best to keep up with his more experienced pakeha neighbours. As for his standard of living, it is relatively high. The native is a “good spender” as the tradespeople say, he is no miser, no coin-hoarding Chinaman or Hindu. No doubt he would sometimes be better, like his pakeha friends, for a little of the frugal spirit, but page 17 generosity and hospitality are the soul of the race, and the communal spirit of giving reaches its pinnacle, perhaps, in the kainga Maori.

The Maori people have only about four million acres of land remaining to them, and from this area there have to be deducted rugged mountains unfit for settlement and other useless land, so that the area available for farming is now too small for the requirements of the increasing native population. Not merely should the Maori be secured beyond all fear of dispossession of what land remains to him, but he should be given State facilities to obtain more land for his present and future needs. The truth is that in some districts the people have not sufficient land for their subsistence. They are forced to take to other occupations to earn their bread. If the Maori is to take his natural and most fitting place in the industrial world he must be assured in the possession of land for himself and his children after him. In Taranaki, in Waikato, and in the Rotorua district, and other parts, there
In the potato field, Whakatane Valley, Urewera Country. [J. A. Baine, photo.

In the potato field, Whakatane Valley, Urewera Country.
[J. A. Baine, photo.

page 18 are Maoris willing and anxious to farm the land, but they have no land to farm. The call is for more population for the Dominion, but the human material native to the soil is far more valuable to the nation than any immigration from overseas. Happily during the last few years the Legislature has exhibited an excellent sense of its duty to the native race, and measures passed during the 1926 session enabled the various Native District Boards to assist Maoris in farming and otherwise making use of their properties, and this financial help has given a desirable impetus to the work of cultivating and stocking the land. There was at the last return over half a million in funds held by the Native Land Boards, and farmers are able to obtain loans from this source. The work of consolidation of interests in land, so that each owner shall have a usable block or section to work, instead of having a number of small and comparatively useless interests in various parts, is a most necessary preliminary to satisfactory farming, and this task has engaged the Native Department of the Government for some years.

In those districts such as the East Coast where sheep-raising and other branches of farming have been carried on for some years with success, the people have received practical help from their pakeha fellow-settlers, and now that they are able to stand on their own feet, and even to exhibit a fine example to the European stock-owner and agriculturist, they are a distinct source of economic strength to the nation. What Ngati-Porou have done in the East Cape country can be emulated in other districts, given the financial and technical help that the Government is now making available. But an assured sufficiency of workable land is the first essential to the building of a prosperous and contented Maori people.

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The Progress of Ngati-Porou.

The Maoris of the East Cape district held on to a large portion of the land when other tribes were selling as fast as they could sign the deeds and dissipate the proceeds. In the Waiapu county, of nearly three-quarters of a million acres and a population of about 2,700 Maoris, there is something over a quarter of a million acres in native hands. A pity, perhaps, there is not more, seeing that the Maori population is on the increase; but what there is has put the people on the road to great comfort and prosperity.

A Taranaki Family.Te Whare-aitu and his wife and children (Ngati-Tupaea hapu of Ngati-Ruanui tribe).

A Taranaki Family.
Te Whare-aitu and his wife and children (Ngati-Tupaea hapu of Ngati-Ruanui tribe).

Here, led by Sir Apirana Ngata and other educated Ngati-Porou of the younger generation, and wisely counselled and generously assisted by page 20 the Williams family of pioneers, the natives embarked a little over twenty years ago on a system of co-operative sheep-farming which has developed into a very large enterprise. New Zealand, indeed, does not realize what a splendid thing this Maori-pakeha combination has been to the East Coast and to the native race.

In the joint application of brains, capital and labour to the sheep-farming business, the communal or group system has worked out exceedingly well. The co-operative principle exactly suits the tradition and genius of the Maori. It helps to preserve the village life instead of isolating families on large farms. Every comfort of civilized life is to be found in these Ngati-Porou homes, and indeed many of the luxuries of the town are here. Ngati-Porou certainly seem to have solved the problem of how to keep the young people on the farm.

Large, well-furnished homes, all the latest farm implements, large modern-type woolsheds with shearing machinery, are to be seen throughout this Maori coast country over a stretch of about a hundred miles. The country is for the most part better suited for the raising of mutton and wool than for a cow-farmer's industry, but wisely the Ngati-Porou are not going to be dependent altogether on the sheep. There are large areas of the lower lands excellently suited for dairying, and so the best herds are being obtained, dairy factories have gone up, and butterfat cheques are coming in. There are pretty villages, each with its decorative meeting-house and its church and school; its flag-staff where the Union Jack and the New Zealand flag and the tribal colours are flown. No homes in the Dominion are more snugly or more picturesquely placed than those happy looking kaingas of Ngati-Porou, lying in their fruit-groves and page 21 kumara gardens among the hills, or on some half-moon bay-front, facing the Rawhiti, the place of the sunrise—the territorial name by which all this East Coast is known.

Climate and situation, and soil-kindliness combine to make this Sunshine Coast a perfect home for the development of a great race. Ngati-Porou and their European neighbours surely have their lot fixed in a fortunate place. Their semi-isolation in what may be called their pioneer years of farming has after all worked to their advantage.

Pinia, of Ngati-Haua.

Pinia, of Ngati-Haua.

During the 1927 season the principal native dairy factory—that at Ruatorea, East Cape district—doubled its output of butter, from 60 to 120 tons, and in the following season this total was again more than doubled. As for sheep, a fact noted by the Native Department in its annual report for 1927 was that while the gross total of sheep owned by station-holders in the Gisborne and Hawke's Bay page 22 districts—where the principal Maori sheep-farmers were situated—decreased by 118,669, the native flocks in the same districts showed an apparent increase of 2,700 sheep. The number of sheep owned by Maoris was estimated at about half-a-million, out of a total of, roughly, 24,900,000 held by flock-owners throughout the Dominion. Since then the flocks have increased very considerably.

Maize is very largely grown by Maori farmers in the North and on the East Coast. Tobacco is another crop favoured by native growers, who now have the benefit of expert advice from the Department of Agriculture and a market in the Dominion's tobacco factories.

The robe-weavers of Mataatua, Urewera Country. The flax mats on which they are working are the most valuable kind, with decorative borders of taniko pattern

The robe-weavers of Mataatua, Urewera Country. The flax mats on which they are working are the most valuable kind, with decorative borders of taniko pattern