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

Pictures Of New Zealand Life

page 41

Pictures Of New Zealand Life

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.

The Mahuhu's Voyage and Arrival.

From the home island of Waerota, the Mahuhu sailed (eastward apparently) to Wae-roti—and thence to Mata-te-ra (which is supposed to be at or near Tahiti). There Rongomai heard accounts of this country, Aotea-roa (or Nuku-roa, the “Long Land”), therefore he sailed for it. He brought with him seed of the hue (calebash marrow) and tubers of the uwhi, the hoia (a taro) and several varieties of the kumara—and also plants of the auté (or cloth bark) and the edible ti (the sweet cordyline).

Mahuhu made the coast of New Zealand at Takou (near the North Cape). There the crew found the people of Kui very numerous. They sailed on to Whangaroa and Whangaruru, thence to Ohiwa and then on to Waiapu (East Cape). All these places were populated by the tribes called Tini-o-Toi. At each place, one or more of the crew remained to marry and settle among the tangatawahenua (people of the land).

From the East Cape the canoe returned northward to Takou and Parengarenga, where others of the crew settled. Rongomai then went round to the West Coast and sailed down past Hokianga to Taporapora, a large sandy island which then existed inside the Kaipara Heads.

An Island That Was Drowned.

At this low flat island Taporapora (the name suggests a naming after romantic Porapora, in the Society Islands) Rongomai made his home and took a wife from the people of the place. Then he went to live at Manukapua and at Okahukura.

One day he went out fishing in his canoe. It was capsized when crossing the Taporapora Channel opposite the heads, and he was drowned. His death was attributed by his relatives to spells of witchcraft cast on him by his brothers-in-law, who lived on Taporapora. In revenge, the sons of Rongomai, who left for the North, raised a great gale, by their wizardly arts. This storm, with its huge seas, overwhelmed the sandy island Taporapora. It was compeletely destroyed and washed away, and all the people living on it perished. Only shoals and sandbanks now remain.