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The Autobiography of a Maori

Catching Fish with Hinaki

Catching Fish with Hinaki

A method by which I was fond of catching fish was by the use of the hinaki. The term is also used for the eel-pot. It was usually about eight-feet long by three-feet wide at its mouth and was conical in shape. The frame was covered with net made of flax. The entrance, which was suspended about half-way inside the pot, was also made of flax. The pot is placed in a long channel that runs out into deep water and it is then fastened with ropes to a bar laid across the channel and driven into the rocks. As the tide recedes, fish naturally get into the channel on their way out to sea and are thus caught in the hinaki. It was my pleasure to empty the pots and I have counted as many as half-a-dozen in one pot. It was a simple and cheap method of catching fish and of replenishing the family larder. Usually, of course, whenever there page 44was a good catch we shared the fish with our neighbours. The hinaki has fallen into disuse because people nowadays are much too busy and chiefly because poachers empty the pots at night time. I do not remember my fish-pots ever being interfered with when I was young.

I have said just now, we shared the fish with our neighbours, and, of course, our neighbours always returned the compliment whenever they were in a position to do so. An ancient law of the Maori—the law of aroha—is generosity. It is an astounding custom. Generosity is always regarded by the Maoris as one of the highest virtues—it is a characteristic of a rangatira, and the absence of it is a sign of the low-born. When carrying food like fish, birds or mussels, a Maori would rather wait for darkness before passing through a settlement. It is the correct thing to part with your best. For instance, you must give away the larger and fatter of two fishes. To give a neighbour a hog's head instead of a portion of the body is to insult him. A stranger is never refused hospitality. A chief would give up his bed to a visitor and lie on the hard floor. To place a poor meal before visitors is considered a disgrace.