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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 5 (August 1, 1935)

A Thousand Years Ago

A Thousand Years Ago.

But there are those whose whakapapa has forty or fifty names in direct succession. Taking 25 years as a generation, these lines go back a thousand to twelve hundred and fifty years. I have known many Maoris of the old generation who confidently recited such lists without a break, and who could give many names on collateral lines. Nowadays English education, with its reliance on printed books, has atrophied the Maori memory; but the people of the older generation upon whose minds and memories the stories and songs of the past are imprinted in astonishing volume, can retain many scores of ancestral names in the proper sequence.

All this makes for a very proper family and tribal pride. I knew several tohungas whose lines in direct descent from some celebrated priest and wonder-worker such as Ngatoro-i-rangi, of the Arawa migration, were all men or women of priestly rank and reputedly magic powers. Can you wonder at it that such men had a very high opinion of their family line and themselves? I don't think anyone but a Highland laird—there was The Macpherson whose ancestor had “a boat o' his ain” at the time of the Deluge and therefore waved away Admiral Noah's offer of a passage—can pretend to rival the grand hereditary line of a Heuheu or a descendant of Potatau of Waikato, or Te Whiti of Taranaki.