Nation Making, a story of New Zealand
Chapter XX. — Maori Characteristics
Indifference.—Self-possession.—'A man's a man for a' that.'—Savages and dandies.—Meeting of extremes.—The Maori's finger and the Gaslight.—Taihoa:—A waiting policy.—Sir Donald McLean.—A Sphinx.—A silent man.—Masterly inactivity.—Land buying.—Maori Chief and the Bags of Gold.—The Knight and the Chief play the game of Taihoa.—Two days of it.—The Chief loses.—The Knight wins and buys one hundred thousand acres of land.—Isolation.—No dealings with Samaritans.—Inflexibility of King Maories.—Proposed interview between the Maori King and the Duke of Edinburgh.—Not yet.—Race preservation.—Hon. John Bryce plays the game of Taihoa and wins.—Maori chiefs revisits their old Homes.—The fields of the foe.—Hauhaus.—The Chief's humour.—Storekeeper's dismay.—Maminga.—The Maori King revisits the old homes and the ancient graves.—Maori Lament.
The Maories, though full of curiosity, possess in X a remarkable degree the faculty of never expressing surprise at any of the wonderful results which civilization reveals to them. Though without the trained indifference or insensibility which fashionable snobs seem so much to affect, a Maori 'savage' is quite their equal in taking everything he sees, as a matter of course. Nor does he betray any awkward self-consciousness in the presence of superiors.page 184
Though he may be of no recognized rank, he never cringes or manifests any sign of discomfort in the presence of a Chief of high rank of either race. He seems to feel on all occasions, that a savage is 'a man for a' that,' and acts accordingly. In this respect, unless corrupted by civilization, the Maori is naturally a gentleman.
When King Tawhiao and his Chiefs visited Sydney and Melbourne, nothing appeared to astonish them. Even the grander 'sights' of London affected them far less than similar scenes affect provincials, when they first make acquaintance with the roar and scenes of London.
In seeing any new object, however remarkable, for the first time, a Maori Chief slightly raises his eyebrows in much the same manner as an aristocratic dandy under similar circumstances; a savage child of Nature thus occupying the point of impassive indifference, which, after the wide circle-sailing of so-called training and culture, is attained by the 'curled darlings' of our own day.
What an odd meeting of extremes. What a long journey to gain so little.
Shortly after the introduction of gas into the City of Auckland, a Maori was in a store (shop) when the gas was being lighted. Seeing the lights, he asked, 'Where is the oil and the wick?' 'This light does not require either,' replied the storekeeper.
'Maminga' (gammon) rejoined the Maori, 'how page 185can there be light without oil? that is no light,' and putting a finger into the gaslight, he quickly withdrew it, saying quietly,
'You Pakehas (English) are a strange people, your ships go along without sails, and you make light and fire out of nothing but the end of a piece of iron, which lights when you put a match to it.
Taihoa (wait, don't be in a hurry) is a Maori word of great significance. It is constantly in his mind or mouth. Do you ask him to sell you a mat, a horse, or a greenstone ornament? He has but one reply Taihoa. Do you ask him to pay a debt he owes you? He replies Taihoa. Do you wish him to sell you a piece of land? Again the usual answer, Taihoa. Being a savage, he takes no note of time,' at least of your time. So long as he sees you want anything from him, he gravely listens to your suggestions, wishes, or entreaties, and with a stony indifference, makes but one reply, Taihoa (be patient).
When you possess any article to which he takes a fancy, you hear nothing of Taihoa. Then, as impatient as a child for a new toy, he cannot 'wait.' If you turn his 'waiting' policy against him, he becomes impatient. The more you say Taihoa the more restless he becomes.
The late Sir Donald McLean told me a story page 186which illustrates the power of the Taihoa or waiting policy.
Sir Donald had the face of a Sphinx, impassive, grave and expressionless, you could learn nothing from it of his thoughts or desires. Moreover, he could be as silent as a statue. If he had nothing to say, he said nothing. If he had something to say, he still said nothing, till the proper time to speak had come. He was as great a master in Taihoa (waiting) as the most impassive Maori.
As Land Purchase Commissioner for the New Zealand Government, on one occasion he visited the village of a powerful Maori Chief, for the purpose of purchasing a large tract of land, which the Government were very anxious to secure. Much preliminary talk had taken place on the matter, which had led to nothing.
Sir Donald was accompanied by a European attendant, in whose charge were two large bags of gold. After the usual salutations—for Maories, in their way, are polite and punctilious—food was presented to the visitors. The Chief had an idea that land buying was Sir Donald's object, but though hours passed, not a word was spoken about land by host or visitor. Night came, and long hours passed in chatting round the fire.
At length Sir Donald rolled his blanket round him, but before settling down to sleep, he bid his attendant hand the bags of gold to the Chief for safe keeping till morning. The Chief at once opened the hags, and emptied the contents on a mat, round page 187which the Maories gathered to count the gold, to chink it, to place it in various squares, circles and other combinations, the operation greatly interesting them far into the night.
In the morning, the bags of gold were returned to Sir Donald's attendant, who retired to count the money, only to find the contents correct. Next day passed. Not a word was said about land, though that was really the subject uppermost in the minds of both Chief and guest. The night came, and the bags of gold were again entrusted to the Chief for safe keeping, only to be chinked and played with as before half through the night: the bags being returned next morning, and contents counted as before, not a coin being missing.
On the morning of the third day, Sir Donald ordered his horse, and prepared to depart. The usual ceremonious parting greetings had been said. From the Chief, 'Go on your journey safely.'
From the Knight, 'Remain at your village in peace.'
Still, not a word was said about land, either by the White Chief or the Black one. Sir Donald has his foot in stirrup, wondering which would be the victor in this silent contest. He had played the game of Taihoa (waiting) persistently and well, and won it, for, at the instant of departure, with his hand on Sir Donald's bridle, the Maori Chief, unable longer to restrain himself, said abruptly, page 188'Why does my friend not speak about the land, does he not know I wish to sell it?'
'Do you?' carelessly replied the Land Purchase Commissioner, 'why did you not tell me your wish before?'
The horses were passed over to two Maori boys, the Chief and the Knight re-entered the house, and in ten minutes, one hundred thousand acres of land had been purchased, and 1,000l. had been paid in deposit on account of the purchase.
For a long time after the war, the King Maories maintained an attitude of obstinate isolation and sullen hostility to the Colonists. They fixed Aukatis (imaginary barrier lines) across which they permitted no white men to pass, declaring their determination 'to have no dealings with the Samaritans.' Te Ngakau the King's prime minister, maintained this isolation with severe rigidity, never for a moment relaxing it for years
In June 1869, accompanied by the late Mr. C. O Davis, I was requested by the New Zealand Government to visit the Maori King with the object of bringing about an interview between the King and H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh, then in New Zealand. The following extract from a Report I made to the Government presents some of the Characteristics of the Maories, worth noting.
'Yesterday morning a Native came up to us, and after regarding us for some moments, said, page 189'"Well, this is Hare Reweti (Charles Davis)!"
The native was an old man, only slightly tatooed, and with a little tuft of hair on his chin. He was attired in an old cotton shirt, over which was a common Maori mat, à la Roman toga. His legs were bare and brown, but sinewy though bowed, and his feet were flat and massive. His features wore a look of grizzliness, increased by a pair of sinewy eyes and a broad nose.
'Mr. Davis, turning to him, said: "Which is your tribe?"
'The native, whose name I afterwards learned was Werahiko Panipoaka, replied: "Te Haua."
'Mr. Davis: "Where do the Hauas live?"
'Panipoaka: "They live at no particular place. They are scattered all over the world (i.e. scattered throughout the island). They were like a ship which sailed on the ocean, but the ship was broken by the storm, and the planks were scattered far and wide. Like the planks of the ship have we been drifted about—some to Kawhia, some to Mokau, and some to other places. You (looking at me, and coming closer)—you Pakehas did this. Look at the sun shining in the heavens, giving light, and heat, and life to all men; but presently a mist arises, the light is withdrawn, and the earth is enveloped in fog. The mist and the cloud is the Governor, and the breaking of the ship was the work of the Governor Mr. Governor (looking straight at me), this was your work. You first brought us guns and powder, and set about to make these things. When you had completed making page 190them, you made swords,—you gave these things to us to destroy each other with. Then you sent us Missionaries, and we became religious. You told us to look up to heaven, and we turned our eyes upwards towards the heaven. While we were engaged in that way—in looking up to heaven—you looked down to the earth with a covetous eye to grasp the land. You made us despise the land, and give it away for that (pointing to his finger-nail). Then you commenced at our bodies. Wairau was first, Hone Heke second, Te Rangihaeta and Rauparaha third, and Te Mamaku fourth. Then came Taranaki, and, lastly, you dashed into the Waikato. Then I rose up to repel you. You put forth your strength, and I put forth mine. Your men fell and my men fell, and you thought to annihilate me. You tried your best, and I tried my best. We struggled for the mastery, but I have it. I am standing up here this day. You got yourself into a great ship, and a great storm came and rent her sails. You, England, who stood up like a great mountain, disappeared utterly before the smoke of my pipe!"
'This last was too much, and we burst forth into a hearty laugh. The old fellow had gradually warmed as he proceeded, and I expected nothing less every moment than that he would lay violent hands upon us.
'He was afterwards driven away for this rudeness in presuming to speak in such a way to Pakhea guests.'
All the efforts, bribes and blandishments of suc-page 191cessiveGovernors and Native Ministers to restore amicable relations with the Maories, were contemptuously rejected. To every solicitation, they had only one answer—when they condescended to reply at all—'Taihoa,' the meaning being, as elsewhere explained, 'wait, not yet.'
For half a generation, this masterly policy of inactivity, represented by the word Taihoa, had been played off by the King Maories, with wonderful success, against every attempt to conciliate them. Even before the war, when we desired to purchase lands, or make roads, they generally made but one reply. With lofty indifference, they said to us with Socratic brevity Taihoa.
To me, for years it seemed a singular anomaly that the Colonists, the representatives of a progressive and advancing race, should have so long failed to see, that they could afford to 'wait;' whilst the Maories, a decaying and diminishing people, should have so long and so successfully played off against us this waiting policy. So remarkable has been their persistence, that to me it seems to have been an instinct of race preservation, as though they felt, that directly the white man trod their fern wastes, or entered their forest glades, from that moment the fern began to disappear, the forest to wither. As they have often told me, their birds departed at the advance of the White man, and they, in like manner, were doomed to wither and fade away before the face of the stranger.page 192
Very gallantly have they held their ground. When beaten on the field of battle, resolutely withdrawing into their mountain fastnesses, refusing to treat with us or even to see us, saying to all our entreaties, Taihoa, Taihoa ('not yet, not yet.')
The Hon. John Bryce, late Minister of Native affairs, was the first to recognize the true position. He punished outrages with a firm hand, making no advances, avoiding all inducements or threats, he let them severely alone, turning against them their own masterly policy of Taihoa. Directly they found our solicitations ceased, their isolation began slowly to relax. When we seemed to be indifferent they began to be willing to make advances.
At last, a deputation of the Chiefs of the King party headed by Rewi Maniapoto, one of their most famous warriors, made a peaceful tour through the conquered Waikato country. They looked in vain for their old homes, and for the graves of their ancestors, finding these and the battle-fields, where they had fought so gallantly, covered by the homes and the fields of the foe—the resistless White man—and their strongest fortresses occupied by colonial troops. They were kindly treated by the settlers, and they returned as peacefully as they came, bearing with them the conviction that their beloved homes, their ancient graves, and the lands of their ancestors were gone from them for ever.
It was at the commencement of this visit, when page 193they first entered the frontier town, that an incident occurred, which, though perhaps a little incongruous, I cannot refrain from narrating here, more especially as it gives us a glimpse of the humorous side of Maori nature. Shortly after entering the town, Rewi and some of his companions visited a store to purchase some saddles, blankets and other requisites for the journey they were commencing.
The storekeeper, anxious to do business, said, 'Very glad to see you, Rewi, and your Hauhaus' (a common name for the King Maories), 'I am all the same as a Hauhau.'
Looking incredulously at the shopkeeper, the great Hauhau Chief said,
'You all the same as a Hauhau, Kapai' (very good), and proceeded to select the goods he needed.
When a pile of saddles and blankets had been made, Rewi said,
'Kati' (enough), and the storekeeper proceeded, with many expressions of admiration for Hauhaus, to make out his bill, which when finished, he courteously handed to the Chief.
'What is this?' asked Rewi.
'This,' said he, 'is the bill for you to pay.'
'Pay,' replied the Chief, with a merry twinkle in his eye,
'You all the same as a Hauhau. Kapai (very good). We are all Hauhaus, you and we. Now you know, we Hauhaus have everything in common; what belongs to one belongs to all. We never pay page 194one another.' And without further parley, proceeded to distribute the purchases amongst his followers.
Taken at his word in this practical fashion, the obsequious storekeeper looked aghast, not seeing exactly how to get out of the difficulty. Rewi finished the distribution, and then, with another merry twinkle, said,
'You a Hauhau, Maminga (gammon). You a humbug,' and paid the money due.
Some months after Rewi's visit, Tawhiao the Maori King, accompanied by a hundred chiefs, the remnant and the flower of the old nobility, made a peaceful progress through the English settlements in the Waikato country.
Nearly twenty years had passed since the vanquished Maori tribes had sullenly retreated across the frontier, and 'perched' (as they often said to me), 'like birds on trees,' looking over the wide plains of Waikato, which had once owned no sway but theirs.
Silently and sorrowfully they marched along the White man's roads, which had taken the place of the old Maori paths. Now and then, when a gnarled and withered tree marked the site of a village, or a forlorn tumulus, spared by the settler's plough, revealed the last resting place of a warrior famous in Maori story, very pathetic were the songs they mournfully chanted over the old homes and the ancient graves. At one spot, where long ago, a famous war party had crossed the plains, the whole company halted at a point, where cultivation had not page 195yet obliterated an old memento, and gathering round the obscured relic of the past, they broke into a 'Lament' which they chanted with a pathos belonging not to the days of old.
The Song of the Remnant.
The old tree stands withered and dead,
Its branches are broken, its life is gone.
The war gods of old are silent and still,
Tu's scarlet belt and the sharp-pointed spear
Lie in the dust, in the dust.
The shout of the warrior is heard no more,
The dance and the song have departed.
We look at the graves of the warriors,
But the foot of the White face is there.
Our ancestors silently sleep,
The day breaks. Why do we weep?
Though the sun shines on Pirongia's peak
We are in sadness, in shadow and gloom.
Hark! The cry of the night bird
Dies away on the morn.
It is the call of the dead.
It calls. It calls. We die.
The day is breaking. We live.