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The Autobiography of a Maori

Maize-growing Industry

page 46

Maize-growing Industry

My father and another Maori, Reihana Moari, took a trip to Auckland by a vessel which called to take a quantity of maize. At Auckland they met Captain J. H. Skinner, who agreed to bring them home. This led to Captain Skinner's entering the East Coast trade in which he was engaged for very many years. With transport assured the natives started to cultivate maize to a large extent, and this developed into quite an industry. Handicapped though they were by the lack of necessary implements, the natives went about their work with a will. They had no working horses; the only implement of any size they possessed was a small wooden plough. When the Corn was ripe they began to pick it. The coats of the cobs were not pulled off but pulled down. From half-a-dozen to ten cobs were tied together with flax and paired with another bundle so that the two bundles could be hung up on a willow tree whose branches had been lopped off. To sling a couple of bundles to a man perched on the tree was hard work when it was kept up all day. I have seen as many as ten trees in a row loaded with maize. Shelling the corn was a tedious job. When a schooner called to lift the corn, the whole settlement was astir. Sledges loaded with bags of maize and pulled by small horses made their way to the mouth of the river where a couple of whale-boats were waiting to take the corn out to the waiting schooner. It took two men to lift a bag of maize on to the boat. Only in recent years did it ever occur to the shipping companies that it would expedite matters to provide surf-boats. In Waiapu, Maoris carried bags of maize on the necks of their ponies for a distance of over five miles to Port Awanui.

Captain Skinner sold the maize at Auckland and brought back goods for the Maoris. The people did so well that they began building weatherboard houses for themselves, and everybody was anxious to become a page 47storekeeper. The relics of some of the houses are still to be seen at Te Araroa.