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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 6 (October 2, 1933)

The Wisdom of the Maori

page 50

The Wisdom of the Maori

The philosophy, history and poetic expressions of the Maori are illustrated in this further selection of whakatauki or proverbial sayings, gathered from the rich storehouse of native wit and wisdom.

The season's greeting:

Ka tangi te pipi-wharauroa, ko te karere o Mahuru. (The shining cuckoo cries, the messenger of Spring.)

He wha tawhara ki uta, He kiko tamure ki tai. (The broad fruit of the tawhara, or kiekie, is found on land, and the snapper in the sea. Meaning there is food for man everywhere.)

Ka maunu te puru o Taumarere. (The plug of the fountain of Taumarere has been pulled out—hence this flood of people. Taumarere is a place near Kawakawa, Bay of Islands. The expression is used for a large assemblage of the Ngapuhi tribes. It will no doubt be heard from the Ngapuhi orators at the large gathering at Waitangi next January.)

Ka puru te puna i Taumarere, ka tuwhera te puna i Hokianga. (If you stop up the fountain at Taumarere, the water will flow more strongly from the springs at Hokianga. Meaning, though you destroy the people of Taumarere, you will surely draw upon yourselves the vengeance of those of Hokianga.)

Ko Rotorua matangi rau. (A hundred strong winds blow about Rotorua.) Also: Ko Rotorua te puna whakatoto o te riri. (Rotorua is the fount of strife and blood. Used in reference to the many wars which originated in the Rotorua district.)

Matariki hunga nui. (Matariki, the god personified by Matariki, the constellation of the Pleiades, has many people to work for him. All the tribes made offerings of their first-fruits of the kumara crop to Matariki.)

Ma wai e rou ake te whetu o te rangi, ka taka kei raro. (Who can draw down with a rake the stars of heaven, that they may fall to the earth? Meaning, can you lead away a powerful chief as captive?)

The Word “Pakeha.”

Some absurd statements concerning the origin and meaning of Maori words and place-names often find their way into the newspapers. A correspondent of a Wellington paper not long since declared that “it was not generally known” that the word “pakeha,” used to denote a white person was not a true Maori word but was developed by the natives in the early days from a swear-word much used by the early whalers. Those unfortunate early whalers are blamed for so many things! They cannot, however, be held accountable for “pakeha.” This is certainly an ancient and genuine Maori word, of Polynesian origin, meaning a foreigner, a stranger, not necessarily white, but probably derived from or associated with “pakehakeha,” which is an expression to denote fair-skinned legendary beings. “Patupaiarehe,” or fairies, are sometimes termed “pakehakeha” with reference to their colour. “Kiritea” is another term for a white or fair skin, but “pakeha” is the Maori word most used, and it is ridiculous to ascribe to it a whaler's term-of-endearment origin.

The Prophet of the Urewera.

The Maoris of that wild and beautiful forest land the Urewera Country, still live very much to themselves, though the population of the mountain villages has dwindled considerably, because of the attractions of dairying and maize-growing out on the plains at Ruatoki. The principal kaingas are Mataatua, the ancient page 51 heart of the Tuhoe or Urewera tribal district, and Maungapohatu, near the base of the great rocky mountain of the same name. There are always numerous families there who prefer their bush-girt valleys to the outer plains, and with them some of the old ways are conserved. The name and mana of Ruatapu, the prophet, is still strong there. Rua, as he is usually called for short, made some lively history seventeen or eighteen years ago. Nowadays he lives a quiet life, but he holds his place as the temporal and spiritual head of Tuhoe.

Not much has been heard of Ruatapu for some time, but lately I received a note from Maungapohatu which described some of the ways of the prophet and his disciples. Rua appears to be an influence for good among his people. For one thing, he inculcates habits of industry, like his prototype, Te Kooti, who though forty years dead, is still revered by these people and thousands of others along the Bay of Plenty coast.

“Rua,” says my correspondent, “has been up here at Maungapohatu, but these high places are too cold for him now in winter, and he is out now on his farm lands at Matahi and Otane, down in the Waimana Valley. He was here with his wives; there are only four now (instead of the mystic number seven of former years), and two of these wahines he left here when he returned to his Matahi quarters. He is working to get his Otane farm well developed; houses are being built, he milks eight or ten cows, and spends a good deal of time supervising things. Rua usually has a crowd of young people in his household, and when they are all here more work is done than during the rest of the year. Everyone has a job, and that job must be done.”

The Mana of Rua.

My correspondent describes the remarkable ascendancy of the prophet of the Rocky Mountains over the minds of his people: “The Maoris seem really to love their chief, but there is a good deal of fear mingled with it. The children tell me that Rua made the world, the trees and everything; that he is God, and able to heal all manner of diseases. To ‘tell Rua’ seems to be one of the most effective threats they have. The people have been seen filing past the prophet with bows, clasped hands, and obeisance to their Ariki, but this is stopped as soon as any of the pakehas here are seen approaching. Several times we have inadvertently stopped most elaborate ceremonies by appearing when we were not expected.

“Rua suffers badly at times from gout and rheumatism, and he lies in bed on his verandah or lawn, surrounded by some of his devout disciples. This last time he was in here hours were spent every night learning karakia (prayers), the Ringatu religious chants, and haka songs. Often when we visited the village we found men in odd corners with huge volumes busily writing, or droning karakia. All the people lived close around Rua then, and their own homes were shut up.

“The prophet certainly has an orderly way of managing things; he supervises his people closely. He buys all the clothes (out at the township) for his household, and now and again we saw him distributing the new articles. When he is here the people are kept clean. He insists on them bathing in the river every night. When he is away they are not so particular.”

Music Helps Not The Tooth-Ache.”

With equal truth it may be said that a fullsized orchestra cannot cure a cold. Be sure you get the right remedy, Baxter's Lung Preserver. “Baxter's” is unequalled for throat and chest ailments, so quickly does it soothe and relieve, while its tonic properties help increase resistance to further attacks.

Children prefer “Baxter's” to anything else. Chemists and stores, 1/6, 2/6 and 4/6. 3

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