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The Autobiography of a Maori


I was born at Orutua, near East Cape, on April 11th, 1871, in the open air and under a peach tree, as Timi Kara1 was, so it is said, under a cabbage tree. My father and mother, in order to be near their kumara cultivation and to save my mother a long walk, were camping out when I first saw the light.

The Orutua valley was then closed in by wooded hills on three sides, open to the Pacific Ocean on one and in the middle of it, fed by several mountain torrents, the Orutua winds its sluggish course to the sea. A bar of papa rocks stretches across the mouth of the river, holding back the water and turning it into a strip of a lake. Both banks of the river were lined with large and gnarled pohutukawa trees, which when in flower enhanced the beauty of a beautiful valley.

Not a week ago I had crossed the Orutua. Piled up along the beaches were logs of all sizes, brought down by flood, and boulders and debris hurled over the rocky bar by the force of flood waters had filled up the space between the bar and the sea. I noticed with deep regret that the beautiful pohutukawa which grew on the left bank of the river near its mouth, and others further up, had wholly disappeared, torn up from their roots by the weight of the logs piled up against them by the flood. All my life, I had known these trees, and one of them I had particular reason to remember. Now, my trees are gone—gone for ever. They were strewn on the beach, like dead soldiers on a battlefield.

page 16

Here in this valley I was born, and here I spent the earliest days of my life.

Before I write down my recollections of this period of my life, first, I should explain why my people came to East Cape and later to Horoera and Orutua. This would naturally necessitate a brief sketch of my leading forbears and events which occurred before I was born.

1 Sir James Carroll.