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Chapter VIII. — Two Periods of Maori Life

page 52

Chapter VIII.
Two Periods of Maori Life.

There will be found in the following chapters some account of the bygone inhabitants of Tutira—their fortunes, their folk - lore, and their feuds. These relics of the past have been gathered from the mouths of three friends well stricken in years, Anaru Kune, now “gone west,” Aparahama—for short 'Para or 'Pera,—and last but not least, Te Hata-Kani, that wonderful old man—tauwhena—a word meaning sometimes dwarfish, of small stature, but also used to denote a person who never grows old, but retains his youthful vigour to the end. To these three men and to the indefatigable Rev. P. A. Bennet I owe the history of the Ngai-Tatara. To be in sympathy with this hapu or sub-tribe and its old-world ways, readers would be well advised to shed the Decalogue, to accept for the nonce the ethics of the Stone Age, to imagine themselves bare-limbed, bare-headed, brown, the pake of everyday wear thrown over their shoulders, on high days and holidays clad in soft mats of woven flax, plumes in their hair and taiahas in their hands.1

1 The generally accepted theory as to the colonisation of New Zealand by the Maoris, too definite to contain the whole truth, is that some five centuries ago a great migration from Hawaiki reached the Dominion. Mr Sidney H. Ray, to whom I applied for information on this matter, and who has kindly allowed me to use his reply, writes thus:— “I think that whenever the introduction of an element from the West into Polynesia took place, it must have been a great deal earlier than the fourteenth century. There is internal evidence that the known Maori language is formed by the imposition of an Indonesian linguistic element1 upon the speech of an earlier population. The words were adopted in their Indonesian derived form with no apprehension of their exact meaning. Thus a word might be pahiwi or hiwi, 2 pahore or hore, 3 karipi or ripi, 4 karakape or kape, 5 with no sense as to differences of meaning. That the prefixes are not meaningless is certain, but the Maori borrowers were just as ignorant of their meanings as they may be to-day of the suffix ana in tariana, 6 quoted by you, or of the meta in Hakarameta,7 the hana in Kamupeneheihana,8 or the mana in pirihimana. 9 Another fact is indicated by this borrowing of ready-made words. Other Polynesians do not know them in these forms, hence they did not give them to, nor did they receive them from, the Maoris. The words must have come directly from Indonesia to New Zealand in a migration which was not that of other Polynesians—e.g., Samoans or Tongans. These received their share of Indonesian speech from other places and at other times. Hawaiki and Pulotu may stand for different origins, both possibly within the Eastern Ocean.”

1 By Indonesian is meant the original speech of the islanders of the Indian Archipelago.

2 To jerk.

3 Peel.

4 Cut, gash.

5 To move with stick.

6 English -ion in stallion.

7 English -ment in sacrament.

8 English -tion in compensation.

9 English -man in policeman.

page 52a
Te Hata-Kani.

Te Hata-Kani.

page 53

A preliminary word may perhaps now also be said as to the seeming redundancy in coming chapters of seemingly irrelevant names. Time to the Maori was of no account: every incident in a story was to be fully given, no detail was to be omitted. Never, therefore, must the reader be tempted to exclaim—it would not be tika, it would not be correct—What do the names of Te Amohia's two cronies, Mohu and Whangawehi—I give both on principle—in her escape after the captivity of Tauranga-Koau, matter? What does it avail to know that Tataramoa was the father and Porangi the mother of the damsel Tukanoi—all of them, by the way, descendants of Kohipipi—in her love affair with the gallant, the gay, the red-headed Te-Whatu-i-Apiti? Why, it just matters everything; for after that fashion for ages have these stories been transmitted. It is proper, therefore, that in that exact shape they shall be crystallised in print.

It may be well now also to emphasise the anglification of place- and personal names during the brief space when heathendom and Christianity still divided the allegiance of the tribes. During that twilight interval it was that Te-wai-o-hinganga, for example, was changed into Bethany or—since there is neither B nor Y nor TH in the Maori alphabet—into Petane. Under the same scheme of things Te-Iwi-Whati, the grandfather of a friend who has done yeoman service in these chapters, became Abraham—Aperahama. Correlative to this change of place- and personal names was another in regard to weapons of offence—the musket was supplanting the spear. This same Te-Iwi-Whati, for instance, was desperately hurt by eight heathen spear-thrusts fighting the Urewera at Ngarua-titi. At a later period, missionaryonised into Aperahama—Abraham—he was no less badly wounded by Christian bullets at Tiekenui, again battling against the Urewera.

Of several of the lamentations, songs, and lullabies of the gallant hapu whose story I am about to relate, only general renderings into English are given; the older poems are not properly translatable into another tongue. I have not attempted it. There occur words so page 54 ancient that their meanings have become lost, and occult allusions almost or quite impossible of elucidation. In the folk-lore tales and tribal legends the exact Maori phrase descriptive of any striking custom or statement has been preserved. Alas! from what the writer has been able to gather from the annals of the Ngai-Tatara alone, he is cognisant of the wealth of material that must have elsewhere perished.

The lands described under the designation Tutira were included in the immense territory of old, claimed or occupied by the Ngati-kahungunu—a countryside stretching from Gisborne to Woodville—from Turanga to Tamaki. Descent is claimed by the Ngati-kahungunu from Rongo - kako, whose son Tamatea arrived in the fast-sailing Takitimu, one of the most famous canoes of the great heke or migration from the mythical Hawaiki. In this great tribe were included the hapu living on or possessing interests in Tutira. Formerly it had been known as Ngai-Tatara, but later, for reasons yet to be told, it was styled Ngati - kuru - mokihi: it was made up of two minor septs—the Ngati-moe and the Ngati-Hinerakai—each of which, moreover, possessed its own especial cultivation plots. The two were, however, indissolubly allied “hoa matenga”—friends together to the death. There were also intimate ties of blood and friendship connecting them with the neighbouring hapus. In the accompanying map are marked the boundaries of the lands of the Ngai-Tatara, and the names of the sub-tribes by whom they were surrounded.

Although there were pas—stockades—built on Tutira, yet within its boundaries the Ngai-Tatara were in great degree wanderers. At any rate they did not chiefly put their trust in stationary fastnesses; rather they relied on stout hearts and active limbs; “Ko to ratou pa ko nga rekereke”—“their pas were in their heels”: that was the tribal motto. Like the Douglas of old, they preferred to hear the lark sing rather than the mouse squeak. Their temporary camping-grounds were chosen, doubtless, according to the seasons and the conditions of food supply. As another local proverb has it: “Ka pa a Tangitu, ka huaki a Maungaharuru, Ka pa a Maungaharuru ka huaki a Tangitu.” “When Tangitu”—the deep-sea fishing-ground off Tangoio—“is closed, Maungaharuru”—a mountain range prolific in bird life—“opens; when Maungaharuru closes, Tangitu opens.”

Man, like other animals, is dependent for his maintenance and increase on the nature of the soil in his possession. The Maori is a page 54a page 55 descendant of ancestors who have travelled from warmer climes; in New Zealand he has clung to the coasts, to the thermal regions, and to the northern portions of the North Island. The Ngai-Tatara during winter, and whilst planting of crops was in progress, dwelt chiefly about the estuaries of the local rivers. The climate of Tutira was rather too cold and wet, the land usually too poor for the cultivation on a great scale of such exotics as the taro (Colocasia antiquorum), the hue (Lagenatia vulgaris), and the kumara (Ipomœa batatas). On the other hand, the flax (Phormium tenax)1 growing about its swamps was celebrated for strength, the shallows of the lake were paved with mussel-beds—kakahi (Diplodon lutulentus), the flavour of its eels was unsurpassed. They were speared in the lakes, they were caught in enormous numbers in eel-weirs—patunas—or in whare tunas built along the edges of streams. In the forests of the interior, pigeon (Carpophaga Novœ Zealandiœ), tui (Prosthemadera Novœ Zealandiæ), and kaka (Nestor meridionalis) abounded; they were captured by means of decoy birds, or snared by natives ambushed beneath selected trees. Often a superabundance of birds preserved in their own fat was bartered for the delicacies of other hapus. Tools of wood and weapons of stone were manufactured. These relics of bygone days—pounders for the softening of flax-fibre, adzes, eel-spears, and bundles of bird-snares hidden in rocks—are still from time to time discovered. The womenfolk by many processes worked the tall flax-blades into soft beautiful mats, or nursing their babies, sung them to sleep with such lullabies as the following:—

E hine e tangi nei ki te makariri i a ia,
Kaore nei e hine te rau o te ngahere i a taua,
Pinea rawatia ki Tutira ra;
Ki te ue pata, ki te kai rakau.
A ehara e hine i te roto hou;
He roto tawhito tonu na matou ko o nui.
Ina tonu te raro i potau atu ai e hine:
Ko Hine-rau-wharariki te hahanu noa nei:
Ko tini o hunga ki roto kakati ai e hine.

1 Through this plant an acquaintance with the Latin tongue is the heritage of every man, woman, and child in New Zealand. All know two words of it—Phormium, flax; tenax, tough, No writer on country matters can forgo the magic words; even flax-millers attain scholarship. What pax vobiscum was to Wamba, the son of Witless, Phormium tenax is to the New Zealand settler. Wool may be down, stock may be down; he braces himself in the knowledge that phormium means flax, and tenax tough.

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O maiden, who art weeping because of the cold,
We own no garments of forest-leaves, O child.
Let us gather together to Tutira
Where are eel-weirs and fruit-laden trees.
The lake, my little girl, is not a new lake,
But an ancient lake possessed by thy ancestral great ones.
It is only just now that the food has gone:
Hine-rau-wharariki is preparing the fibre:
Suppressing the hunger-pangs gnawing within.

Tutira and the adjoining lands were a sort of connecting link between the seaside villages and the ranges of the interior. The Ngai-Tatara during peace dwelt about the coastal estuaries and the lake. During war they sheltered in the forests and fastnesses of the hinterland. The glory of the hapu was in their continued occupation of so famous a lake, in their possession of so unfailing a food supply of the most highly-prized kind. Their warriors were active, bold, and resolute; nor, as we shall see, did the womenfolk of the sept fall short of their husbands and sons in the accomplishment of deeds of derring-do.

The annals of the tribe may be divided into two distinct periods. One is of a time when the Ngai-Tatara—when the Maori people everywhere—had attained its maximum numbers; when, on Tutira as elsewhere, every height and fastness was utilised for defence, when every fertile locality was devoted to cultivation. The other period, brief in its duration, is marked by the presence of kaingas or open villages with considerable areas of crop-land adjacent, by whare sites immediately extraneous to the fortified pas, such sites corresponding to the overflow in old-world cities of houses beyond the ancient walls of defence, beyond the city gates; lastly, by the appearance in the gardens and cultivation-plots of alien plants and of alien fruit-trees.

The first period represented heathendom, the second Christianity. Evidence of the former is plentiful in folk-lore and tradition. There are records of forays from the direction of Mohaka and from the regions of Waikaremoana and Heretaunga. Doubtless, according to modern reckoning, no action that could be dignified by the name of battle has taken place on Tutira soil; perhaps indeed the killing of Ti-Waewae and the vengeance of his tribe is the deed that has circulated furthest beyond the marches of the run. Nevertheless although skirmishes on Tutira have been but skirmishes, they illustrate the former way of life of its inhabitants; as part of the history of the station they must be recorded.

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In '82 sites which still showed distinct traces of fortification were Kokopuru far to the west, the peninsulas Oporae and Te Rewa, and the island Tauranga-koau. There were other spots also where evidences of former habitation were discernible; one sure and infallible sign indeed of ancient Maori settlement was in the 'eighties the appearance of certain native grasses. Danthonia semiannularis and Microlœna stipoides, elsewhere smothered by fern and scrub, survived about the erstwhile whare sites and along the edges of the hard-trodden paths.

Kokopuru was a cone-shaped hill connected by a narrow ridge with the Otukehu range—the “Nobbies.” The main defensive work of the pa built on its top was in '82 almost intact. Immense upright totara boles and boughs, placed circlewise about the waist of the solitary hill, then stood black and erect. Undisturbed, this heavy palisade work


should have lasted for centuries; it was pulled down and converted, not by me, into fencing posts. This really fine example of a fortified pa now resembles any other peak of the neighbourhood. Signs of former use are almost gone—only ash and splintered stone tell of the ancient kitchen midden. In 1919 my daughter discovered what will prove probably the last vestige of native occupation—a fragment of totara with tool-marks still visible on its grain.

Oporae, a minute peninsula on the eastern edge of Tutira lake, also shows signs of fortification. On three sides water was its natural defence, in the fourth a bank and fosse—maioro—had been cut, which, though partially filled in, is still many feet in depth. On the edges of the level summit cavities remain, out of which have been burned or pulled up, or from which have decayed, the huge posts of the main defence. page 58 Entrance across the moat was by bridge; no sign of that remains, but the narrow gap in the embankment where stood the ancient gateway is still distinct. The natural declivities also of the little peninsula have been straightened into perpendiculars. Within these defences stood on levelled ground, in close proximity to one another, the reed-thatched huts. There are faint indications still of canoe traffic on the adjacent shore.

Te Rewa, the terminal point of the spur which nearly divides
Oporae pa.

Oporae pa.

Tutira from Waikopiro lake, was another and larger fortified peninsula. Its natural defences on one side were impenetrable marsh, on two sides water, northwards Tutira, southwards Waikopiro; its fourth approach was guarded by a bank and fosse similar in principle to that of Oporae, but of greater width. Moat and embankment are now alike obliterated; they have been trodden flat by the hundreds of thousands of sheep that pass yearly to and from the wool-shed.

The pits of the ancient stockade posts are likewise worn away; only page 59 the earthen floors of former whares remain preserved by the matted growth of an alien grass—Poa pratensis.

Tauranga-koau, the island off the east shore of Tutira lake, was in the beginning a mere bare reef,—as its name signifies, “a perching place for cormorants.” This natural point of vantage was built up and consolidated by soil shipped from the mainland. As late as '82, though hardly an upright remained in position, quantities of timber not yet utterly rotten lay in shallow water or on the island itself. Many of the prone posts or take of the palisading were still ornamented with the curious top or head supposed to be commemorative of ancestors, and dear to Maori fort-builders. Beneath the water there
Te Rewa.

Te Rewa.

were visible not only the lines of holes sunk for the main defence, but, preserved by water, even remains of the smaller innermost stakes of the breast-work—kiritangata. Water was, of course, the principal natural defence of this pa, which could only be reached by canoes, by rafts, and by swimming.

Other peninsulas have also been occupied, but of their defences little now remains saving natural declivities made more precipitous, beds of broken kakahi shell, collections of splintered stone used in the evens, and as elsewhere levelled earthen floors. About every one of them also grew in the 'eighties the native grasses already named. On one of these juts of land, Pari-karangaranga, there remained until ten page 60 years ago a section of about twenty yards of native footpath, a trail trodden out by naked feet long prior to the advent of the booted settler.

This old-world track, slightly dished and about eighteen inches in width, used to be one of the most interesting relics of Maori life on the run. It had remained untouched on a soil of grit, dust, and powdered kakahi shell. There had been no inducement for cattle, sheep, or pig to visit this desolate little bluff with its unpalatable stunted bracken and starved danthonia. Alas! it exists no longer; like other sentimental interests dear to the writer, it has been sacrificed to exigencies of station management. Its contour has been defaced, obliterated indeed by cattle.

Such were the fighting forts and strongholds of the virile hapu who owned Tutira and the adjacent lands. Their way of life was similar to that of every tribe of New Zealand. Their motto, “Ko to ratou pa ko nga rekereke”—“their pas were in their heels”—was, however, only relatively correct, for until about the 'fifties, as Manning1 says, no man slept safe who did not sleep armed and within walls. Out of their strongholds every morning marched the men, prepared for all contingencies, their womenfolk and children in the rear; into them every evening retired their owners, the women and children in front, bearing wood, water, and food for the evening meal.

About the middle of the century a change took place; an Indian summer of peace prevailed, a brief space between the cessation of tribal warfare and the struggle which from the beginning had been inevitable between the brown race and the white. Missionary influence had quenched the fires of internecine hatred, the war and bloodshed which had seemed until then the normal condition of the land. The tenets of Christianity had widely spread amongst the tribes. Instead of as formerly sleeping within the precincts of the stockaded pas, the natives of Tutira, like their fellows elsewhere, dwelt now “after the manner of the Sidonians, careless” in open villages. The pa had given place to the kainga; cultivation grounds lay undefended, unfenced, unhidden; there was no longer need for the concealment of crops nor for their hasty furtive gathering and storage. Heathen names of villages gave place to Christian names; Johns, Peters, Abrahams, and Isaiahs swarmed in every tribe. During this golden interval between war and war the

1 Author of ‘Old New Zealand,’ a volume remarkable alike for its sympathetic appreciation of the Maori character and for its abounding wit.

page 61 principal open villages on Tutira extended secure and peaceful on the “grubbed grounds” of the Mangahinahina and on the fertile slopes now called the Racecourse Flat. There were smaller settlements also at Kahikanui and at Te Rewa; there were isolated whares besides, scattered here and there along the margin of the lake, the homes of outliers, each with its patch of tillage and grove of peach-trees.

A farther and a final change occurred immediately prior to the taking up of Tutira as a sheep-station. As not long before the fighting forts and heights had been vacated, now the open villages were deserted. A general shrinkage in the native population of New Zealand had drained off the inland tribes and sub-tribes towards the coast, towards warmth, richer lands, food supplies more easily won from sea, lagoon, and river-mouth. Tutira was deserted save as a temporary residence of hunting-parties.