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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 6 (September 1, 1936)

The Canoe Mahuhu: Its History

The Canoe Mahuhu: Its History.

The second of the railway fliers, the new motor railcars placed on the North Island lines, has been named the Mahuhu, after one of the ancient Polynesian canoes which came to New Zealand. The name is not nearly so well-known as the Tainui, Arawa and Aotea, and their contemporary immigrant crafts from the Eastern Pacific Islands, but the canoe's history is no less interesting than that of the celebrated vessels of “The Fleet.” The Mahuhu brought some of the remote ancestors of the North Auckland tribes, and its story is preserved by their descendants, particularly the elders of the Kaipara.

The tradition is that the Mahuhu came to these shores from the tropic isles of the North quite seven centuries ago, or in the first part of the 13th century. That period was four generations after the time of the renowned Maori ancestor Toi-kai-rakau, and about a century before the Arawa, Tainui and others of their time sailed from Hawaiki. This computation of time is based on the average value of time accredited to a Maori generation, i.e., 25 years. There are 28 generations on the direct lines of pedigree, from the Mahuhu's coming to the present day.

The Mahuhu is generally referred to by the Maoris as the canoe of the Ngati-Whatua tribe of Kaipara and Orakei and the canoe whereby they arrived from Polynesia. But actually that tribe has not occupied all the Kaipara for more than two centuries; it is a tribe of very mixed lineage, having Mahuhu as only one of its sources.

The canoe came originally from the North, from the island called WaeRota. The také (cause) of that coming was a quarrel between two brothers, Rongo-mai and Rongo-atu. That trouble was over a cultivation, also family occupation areas and boundaries and ceremonies concerning the cultivation. Rongomai, the elder brother, therefore decided to search for another country, so he built and fitted out a canoe which was called Mahuhu because of the cultivation ceremonies (whakamahuhu) being the cause of contention and migration.

On his departure Rongomai called out to his younger brother (teina) thus: “E noho! Ko to taua maara he tuakana mou! (Remain here. Let our cultivation be an elder brother for you.”) The younger's retort was, “Haere! E taku tuakana kumara! Ou kumara he teina mou!” (Depart, my elder kumara brother! May the kumara be a younger brother for thee!”) Rongo-atu meant that his tuakana so valued his maara (the kumara grounds) that he made them a cause of quarrel—even to the length of leaving his home and relatives. This term “tuakana kumara” has become a whaka-tauki (proverbial saying) applied to a selfish person, especially an elder brother who places his personal desires before those of his younger relatives.