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The Maori: Yesterday and To-day

The Ancient People of New Zealand

The Ancient People of New Zealand.

More than a thousand years ago, centuries before the sailing canoes of the Eastern Pacific made landfall on these shores, there were people here—a race closely resembling the Maori, in fact, Polynesians of an earlier and more primitive stage of culture than the Hawaikian Maori, with a strong element of Melanesian blood. Some of these tribes came from the north, probably from the New Hebrides, and Fiji. The later migrations which mingled with these peoples were purely Polynesian.

Many years ago a member of the Arawa tribe, a learned old chief of Mokoia Island, gave me these names of the aboriginal tribes who were found in possession of the Lakes Country, the plains, and the Bay of Plenty Coast, when the historic canoes arrived from the Pacific Islands:— page 38
  • Pakakohi.

  • Kokomuka-tutara-whare.

  • Tururu-Mauku.

  • Raupo-Ngaoheohe.

  • Haere-Marire.

  • Te Ngaru-Tauwharewharenga.

  • Te Pirita.

  • Kahu-pungapunga.

  • Te Aruhe-toro-rararo.

Some of these clan names are curiously descriptive and poetical, such as Te Ngarutauwharewharenga, which refers to the curling over of a wave just before it breaks. Others, such as Te Pirita (“the supplejack”), and Tururu-mauku (“fern-seedlings”), are taken from the vegetation of the country. Pakakohi is a kind of edible fern root. Kahu-pungapunga, as the old legend-keeper explained, meant garments dyed yellow with the raupo-reed pollen.

The Maruiwi people described in so many traditions were similar to, and probably identical with, some of these tribes. There were also the Waiohua, a blend of the ancient and later peoples.

A learned kaumatua of the Ngai-Tahu tribe, at Rapaki, Canterbury, gave me this traditional information concerning the successive iwi or peoples of the South Island:

“The first race to occupy this country was a tribe named Hawea, who came here in a sailing canoe called the Ngapakitua. They came from the west, or the north-west. They were a dark curly haired people. The next iwi to reach this island was a tribe called Te Rapuwai, who came from the north. They had kiri whewhero (red or copper-coloured skins). The Rapuwai strain still exists in our South Island tribes. Next came the Waitaha, page 39 who were a very numerous people. Then in much later times, Ngati-Mamoe migrated to the South from the North Island, and they were followed by Ngai-Tahu, who fought and defeated them and intermarried with them. The present Maori inhabitants of the South Island and Stewart Island are a blend of the various migrations; Ngai-Tahu is the principal tribe. But we are half pakeha now!”

A man of Waikato, wearing tail-feathers of the pheasant.

A man of Waikato, wearing tail-feathers of the pheasant.