The Autobiography of a Maori
In the previous chapter I said that, whilst lying sick in hospital, the "call of the wilds" came to me. I literally obeyed that call, for I took my family from Gisborne, from a comfortable little home, to the fastness of East Cape. No place could possibly have looked wilder. So wild was it that wild pigeons almost alighted on the roof of the house, and wild pigs could often be seen from the windows. My wife and I have often gone out pig-hunting and when we came home we have each carried a dead pig. Between East Cape and Te Araroa, a distance of fifteen miles, there was nothing that might be called a road, and to make the journey two tidal creeks and a river had to be crossed. Between East Cape and Rangitukia, a distance of ten miles, the track wound up a steep hill. It was on this hill that I was once nearly killed when my horse fell over a steep bank, throwing me out of the saddle. In its fall, the horse would have landed on me had I not had the presence of mind to roll out of its way, and thus I escaped being crushed to death. My wife could not see me over the bank and anticipated the worst. I heard her crying so I called out that I was all right. She heard me and was intensely relieved. Over this same hill we have many times carried our children, the baby being tied tightly to its mother's body so that her hands might be free to guide the horse. On receipt of a message that one of my children was very ill I once rode over this hill at midnight. Leading a pack-horse, and in the pitch darkness, I had to dismount so that I might feel the mud of the road and thus guard myself against falling over the cliff. Even page 102to the present day we have to pack our stores from Te Araroa. We have indeed been dropped into the wilds.
In our home, only a small cottage, were three families, but it was not really poky and was well ventilated. Our bed was separated from the rest of the household by means of a tent-fly. Since this house was built with timber from a wreck, it might truly be said of us, as was said of the Peggotty family in Dickens's story, that we lived in a wreck. Nevertheless, even with the slight discomforts, I was very happy to be near my mother, my sister and my brothers.
1 Facilities are now provided to enable Maoris to enter training college.
Take my own case. Should I have "gone to the mat" or answered "the call of the wilds"? Or should I have looked for a job in a town, married a white girl, and lived the life of a pakeha, cut off from my own people? This is the alternative.
I have tried, I have yearned, to do more for my Maori people, yet all the time, placed as I am, I feel cramped. I have been driven into this position and accept it as God's will for me.
After my father's death in 1886, my mother and her family moved to Rangitukia where my father had had the foresight to build a cottage. Before dying, my father asked my mother not to leave my grandfather1 but to look after him in his closing years. With my grandfather's death on March the 4th, 1894, my mother considered that she had carried out my father's wish and so was at liberty to go back to her own home.
She decided to go back to East Cape where she and her aunt had lived before the Hauhau outbreak in 1865. Not one of her own people was living to give my mother a welcome home and she stayed with some old people in the neighbourhood. Later, my sister and her husband followed her and built a thatched shanty in which they lived for several months. I visited them during a holiday and found them feasting on wild pigeons. I had often expressed the hope to move to Rangitukia but my children had always opposed me for they did not wish to leave the spot they had learned to love. It was a vain hope, for I cannot go where my ancestral home and sacred places are in the possession of other people.
After years in pursuit of pakeha knowledge and of wandering, I have now returned to Te Araroa where I spent my childhood days—a prophet, to his own country. I returned with a wife and a family of three. Our old home was there, but it was in the possession of another.
At Te Araroa there was no parsonage where we might live, even had there been I could not have stayed for my purpose in returning home was to establish a home for my children on my own paternal ground.
I had seen the Rev. Nikora Tautau, after years of hard work in the Waikato, come home to live and die in a tent.
I had always thought that the best way to teach a primitive people like the Maoris was by example, not only in spiritual things but also in secular. All my life I have taught that the Christian cannot divide his life into two sections, religious and secular, for every act of a Christian must be Christian. I have always endeavoured to live such a life. I have struggled; I have suffered; I have triumphed; and I have rejoiced.
As I have already stated, we took up our abode at page 105East Cape. I was not altogether happy about living with others in the same house, and decided to move out with my family. The frame and shell of a large house which I had planned and had started to build during a visit home, had already been finished. In this I pitched a tent for a bedroom. Outside, with timber obtained from a wreck, I constructed a sort of kitchen. The roof was covered with nikau leaves, and the chimney, the inside of which was lined with sod to prevent it from catching fire, was built of timber. It remained our kitchen for the few years I struggled to complete the house. The weatherboards and the studs of the house were pit-sawn. To bring this timber out of the bush to the site, it had to be sledged to the top of a hill, let down on a wire to the bottom on the other side, and finally sledged again over very rough and slippery rocks. The rest of the timber was obtained from a wreck. I employed two carpenters to finish the inside of the house and to make bedsteads and wardrobes, but before the carpenters came, with the help of a native carpenter, I had completed the bathroom and a large scullery. With its porcelain bath and hot water service, we found the bathroom exceedingly useful, some of the children having hot baths two or three times a week. When the house was completed, it was a very delightful sight, its white walls and red roof contrasting beautifully with the green paddock in the front and the wooded hills at the back and on either side. My wife was very happy and at night she and I would often go outside to gaze at our home glistening in the moonlight. Without exception, every visitor admired our place and a director of education once called it a paradise.
When the Young Maori Party was inaugurated I read a paper, entitled "A Model Pa," at one of its conferences. In the paper I visualised a model native settlement, the houses of which were built with split page 106palings. I had seen some homes built with palings and I thought them a great improvement on the thatched whares. A few years later I saw those very homes being replaced by modern houses and I do not think you could now find a paling home in any East Coast settlement other than camps. On this coast there are many native homes which have every modern convenience.
I found my headquarters were at the extreme eastern end of my pastorate and this was the most roadless part in the area. It promised hard horseback riding. I had not come home to take a parish, but to establish my family. However, I made up my mind to do my best under these difficult conditions. What rendered my task, and, I may say, my lot, more difficult was the smallness of my stipend, being only £75 a year. On that amount I was expected to bring up a family decently, keep a modern home and gratify cultured tastes. It was a problem and a problem that ultimately led to my resignation. I was earning £75 a year, while men whom I had trained were earning about twice that amount.
Some hapless reader of these memoirs may remark, "There you are! That's what college has done for you: It has unsuited you for your life." My life! Was this to be without a good home, without cultured tastes, without the pleasure of books, without the faculty to criticise? I would rather live on shellfish and edible sea-weed than live without the attainments of which I now can boast. It was my desire to set an example, not from a pedestal, but by living amid and rising above the difficulties that others were meeting.
It was my habit on a Saturday to ride out to the settlement at which I was to preach on the Sunday. I often stayed with my father's old friend, Houkamau, at Te Araroa, going on the next morning. I could not be happy when staying with a poor family when I saw page 107that they were putting themselves to unnecessary expense for my sake.
Tides, tidal creeks and flooded rivers were always the same. I arrived at the Awatere River one evening to find that it was in high flood but, on inquiring at a nearby home, I was told that people had been crossing the river all day and that it was perfectly safe to cross. I took another look at the river and past experience convinced me that it would not be safe to attempt a crossing.
It was so un-Maori to urge a visitor to pass on instead of inviting him inside. I invited myself into the home and was given a cup of tea and a dry hard biscuit. I soaked the biscuit in the tea and enjoyed the frugal meal. At this very time, the dead body of a boy who had been drowned while attempting to cross the river higher up, was being carried down in its raging waters. There was a tangi1 for the drowned youth, and, when it was learned that I had been urged to cross the Awatere the evening before, there was quite a hullabaloo.
My wife and I once rode out early in the morning to attend a wedding at which I was to officiate. We found that the sea was running into the mouth of the Orutua creek, so, as a precaution, we double-banked on my horse which was higher than my wife's. As we picked our way across the slippery rocks two waves washed right over the saddle and we received a thorough soaking. We had to dry our clothes before we could proceed but the wedding was held though the inevitable feast was rather overcooked.
1 Mourning for the dead.
Another year I took my sheep to Rangitukia. Matters went smoothly, but the arrangement caused me much work and inconvenience.
Though poor Henare died at the war, the return of my other brother, Tawhai, was a great relief to me.
As I could not leave Kate and our small family by themselves in such a lonely spot as East Cape, I started work very early in the morning, conducted two or three services and returned home the same night. My longest and stiffest ride was to Hicks Bay and back, a distance of some forty-eight miles. When I arrived late of an evening, poor Kate would still be awake awaiting my return. At that time she did not look at all well.
One night, Kate, a friend and myself left Te Araroa late and though the weather looked threatening, we had to get home to the children. I let the two ladies travel on ahead for I had to attend to something and this delayed me. When I got to the bad bluff, I found the ladies huddled against the precipitous cliff waiting for me. It was bitterly cold and the wind was blowing hard, as only an East Cape wind could blow. They told me that they had not dared to move in case they should have taken a false step and fallen headlong into the boiling sea below. However, with me to lead them, they clutched to each other and to me, as alpinists do, and in single file, we reached home in safety.
The wind was once blowing with such terrific force that my horse refused to face the pelting sand, so I had no option but to take the saddle off and let him go. page 109On some parts of the narrow track, to avoid being blown off my feet, I had to fall flat on my stomach and crawl along on hands and knees. When I arrived home, my face was bleeding from the pelting I had received from the driving sand and grit.
I had to travel on weekdays to take funerals and to officiate at weddings. Though I did not charge or receive money for funerals, I did expect a small token at weddings.
To supplement my meagre stipend we had to grow potatoes, kumaras, maize, pumpkins and other small vegetables. My family also had some sheep and cattle. But for the assistance we received at home we would never have been able to carry on with a stipend of only £75 per annum.
I think my preaching and teaching was acceptable for with the training I had received I should have been able to give interesting and edifying sermons. I have always been interested in imparting knowledge and information. Between the services and after lunch on Sundays, it was my practice to tell the people important world news. Maoris are always thirsty for news and information and it is regrettable that those who are in a position to do so have not started a really good Maori newspaper. Members of the Waiapu Hospital and Charitable Aid Board recently complained that natives were spending too much on the Talkies and were not meeting their hospital expenses. The complaint can be quite justifiably answered. Maoris rush the Talkies because they usually lead very dull lives at home, many of them having nothing to read.
When a man, who carried the mail to the lighthouse on East Island, gave up the job, at the request of the principal keeper, I took it on because I thought the job would give me the opportunity to do some fishing and would give my family a little more, and besides, it enabled us to gather some shell-fish which were plenti-page 110ful on the little island. Being a new broom, I was anxious to make a start and so, with two companions, I set out late one afternoon to cross the passage, a distance of three miles, in a small boat. We lost no time in delivering the mail and in taking on board the outward mail.
We were but half-way across the passage on our return journey when darkness fell. By the outline of the hills against the sky we were able to judge the whereabouts of the landing but it was too dark to see the entrance to the narrow channel. To run the risk of missing the channel might mean striking the dangerous rocks so we bided our time. However, we realised that we could not stay out in the open sea all night, for, at East Cape, a change in the tide and weather might take place quite suddenly. I was just on the point of deciding to run the risk of missing the channel when, to our joy, we discerned the glimmer of a light on shore.
My old mother, true to mother's instinct, had guessed that we were in trouble and had come all alone for half a mile to guide us into the channel by the light of a lantern. So guided, we landed safely and my mother told me, with tenderness, not to run any risk in future. We had run a risk, and had narrowly escaped with our lives.
Some others and myself once had a narrow escape from drowning. We had pulled across the passage to East Island and on our way back I noticed that the landing was not going to be very easy; with the incoming tide a heavy surf was running. I was at the steer-oar and had just given the order to pull when I saw heavy waves forming behind us. I gave the order to backwater but my sister disputed my order and, having no time to argue, I called out to them to pull for their lives. But we were caught squarely and, like a cockleshell, the little craft was lifted out of the water page 111and turned over. When I came to the surface I clung, with the others, to the overturned boat, but another wave washed us off. I took many mouthfuls of water. We managed to reach the boat once more but again a wave washed us off. We were in a bad way and I was feeling exhausted. Fortunately the overturned boat had gone over the reef and was in deeper water where the sea did not break. I noticed my sister holding up the little boy and heard her calling for help but I could not go to her assistance. A life-buoy which I had placed in the boat was providentially floating her way and this, she grabbed, finding it sufficient to keep them afloat until I pushed a sweep towards them and to this they clung until they were washed up on the beach. The best swimmer among us had struck out for the rocks and was by this time watching us struggling for our lives. Fortunately the tide was coming in and after about a quarter of an hour we were safe on the beach. Had the tide been going out we would have been unable to reach land. Ours was a merciful deliverance.
At this time my beautiful little boy was lying ill and he did not recover.
As my brother-in-law was dead and my two brothers were away at the war, it fell to me to look after the farm. I had to do many things that were foreign to my upbringing. I had to plough, pack, fence, muster, drove, attend to the shearing of the sheep, and, on Sundays, conduct my services.
I had always wished for an opportunity to enable me to give more time to Church work.
The problem of education of our children soon confronted me. The nearest school was at Horoera, about five miles away, and to attend it the children had to ride on horseback along an exposed beach.
On Tawhai's return from the war, in 1918, I shifted my family to Te Araroa. Although I could get about page 112and our little children could go to school, I was not happy during the three years we were at Te Araroa. My brother always left the Cape at week-ends and our beautiful house was left without anybody to look after it. I worried at night and often dreamed that the house was on fire. One of my parishioners who must have appreciated the difficulties of my position, one day asked me how I could leave my beautiful home.
We had to keep an open door at Te Araroa and a depression was on. I often rode to East Cape during the week to get meat and to fetch a fresh horse. With a stipend of only £75, we soon found ourselves in financial difficulties. But for the generosity of the storekeepers, we would have starved.
At the Cape we had working horses, implements, good soil and good paddocks, but at Te Araroa we had either to borrow or pay. My wife and I worked hard to grow potatoes and kumaras but the soil had been exhausted and it was almost impossible to eradicate the weeds. We found a great friend in Rawinia who often brought us a sledge-load of potatoes, kumaras and pumpkins and occasionally watermelons. Another woman, by no means a saint, often brought us fish. I am pleased to acknowledge the kindness of these two good Samaritans, though both of them have long since died.
Mrs. Roha Huriwai, Te Araroa.
St. Stephen's Church, one of the oldest Churches on the East Coast, was built in 1861. On the occasion of its opening, a small sum of money was collected and this formed the nucleus of the Waiapu Bishopric Fund and this was one reason for the diocese being called Waiapu. When I took over the parochial district, the Church had been blown down. I took steps to rebuild it, the cost being £1600. The usual Maori way to pay for Churches and other public buildings was to call a big hui. Hori Mahue and others, adopting my advice, were determined to pay the debt on the Church by direct giving which was quite a new method among the Maoris. At a meeting called to discuss the matter, Hori's cousin stood up and put down a ten pound note; Hori followed with a similar amount and others brought contributions from outside districts. Every penny owing on the Church was paid before it was consecrated. I always advocated a system of direct giving and I hoped that this occasion would launch it as a permanent arrangement but other influences stood in the way.
Sir Apirana Ngata, who is credited with founding the Young Maori Party, always had a fondness for huis and gatherings which Maoris have. The debt on the Church had been paid, but he organised a large meeting the purpose of which was to collect money to help returned Maori soldiers within the Eastern Maori Electorate. A large number of people from Hawke's Bay came by special boat, and the sum of £3,170 was collected. Money raised as the result of a queen carnival brought the total amount to £4,570. It may be briefly stated that the returned Maori soldiers' page 114fund amounted to over £42,000.
An incident in connection with the building of the Church might well be recorded. It was decided to cover the roof with slate tiles and to use sheet-lead to cover the upper portion of the tall spire. A man came from Auckland to put on the tiles, a job which he carried out fairly well, but, on the advice of two Maoris, he also covered the steep roof of the spire with slate tiles though the lead was actually on the spot. I at once saw that the job was unsatisfactory and before the carpenters dismantled the scaffolding, I asked them to leave it erected as I was not satisfied with the work on the spire. The foreman readily agreed and told me that he had expected me to interfere. In a short time people, both Maori and pakeha, came from every direction, the Maoris protesting but the pakehas siding with me on the matter and telling the Maoris that it was beyond them as it was not a kumara pit.
While I was telephoning I overhead the young chieftainess asking an old clergyman to come to see what I was doing. I was prepared to meet the situation. The old clergyman arrived in a towering rage and told me to leave the spire as it was, in spite of the fact that I was responsible for the re-erection of the Church. However, the Maoris were all angry with me and practically told me to mind my own business and to let the women's committee alone. Mr. George Kirk, who was financing the job, came to inquire into the trouble. At a meeting of the people an old man contended that the chieftainess was responsible for the work of building the Church and that nobody else must interfere. I explained that I had consulted the chieftainess and that she had agreed that the work on the spire was unsatisfactory and that in reply to my telegram the architect had stated that it would be dangerous to put tiles on the spire. An expert had to come from Auckland to Te Araroa to inspect the work which, page 115of course, he condemned The trouble was perhaps only a storm in a tea-cup, but it shows that there is always jealousy in a Maori community. St. Stephen's is now one of the most beautiful Churches on the East Coast.
In the Church is a brass tablet to the memory of the Rev. Rota Waitoa, who was the first Maori to be admitted into the ministry of the Church of England. He met much opposition from the chief, Iharaira Houkamau, who resented the idea of a Maori from another tribe assuming the position of a teacher and a leader. By forbearance Rota won over the chief who, after preparation, was baptised with the name Iharaira (Israel). To show how contrite he was, Iharaira requested that he might be appointed bellringer and sweeper of the Church.
In the early days of the Church, the Maori Christians were very strict in their observance of the Lord's Day. No work of any kind was permitted, no clothes were allowed to be hung out to dry, no firewood chopped, no potatoes or kumaras peeled, and no travelling could be undertaken. Today, Maoris have gone to the other extreme.
After the carved whare, Hinerupe, and the Rongomaitapui hall were completed in 1938, Dr. Wi Repa, some others and myself, were officially appointed trustees of the Hinerupe marae. Dr. Wi Repa declined his appointment because, as he told me, there would always be squabbling among the people and the trustees would be the target of criticism. I did not resign, thinking that I would be able to help look after the two beautiful houses. A self-appointed committee was then in charge and received all money paid for the use of the hall. Although I was elected chairman of the trustees and was urged by the elders to take control of the marae and its finances, I refrained from interfering. A fellow trustee drew my page 116attention to the state of the hall: tanks were leaking and crockery and bedding had disappeared, I then agreed to take action, with the consent of the other trustees.
The trustees took control of the marae for over a year and showed how it should be run. They replaced the leaking tanks, bought new crockery and took charge of the finances. At this time the soldiers were returning home after the conclusion of the war. In accordance with the custom, we had to present every soldier with money, and a fresh batch of soldiers was arriving every week. One time, a large batch of returned men, under Col. Reta Keiha, arrived and in the morning, I set to work to find money. I was able to collect the sum of £42. Each man was given £3 and the officer, being a new arrival in the Ngati-Porou territory, was given £10. Even after this, our enemies did not cease to move heaven and earth to oust the legal trustees. We were actually hauled before the Native Land Court. Judge Carr, fearful lest a charge of misappropriation of funds be brought against the trustees, wished me to settle the dispute out of court. But, when the court opened, the enemies could not formulate a charge.
At the annual meeting of trustees, the treasurer, Turei Brown, submitted a properly audited balance-sheet, showing a good credit. Trustees wished to emphasise the importance of properly disbursing public money, for rafferty rule had been and is still the practice, especially in the case of big huis.
Once more our enemies called a large meeting which I was not bound to attend. They could not bring any charge against the trustees. The meeting was obviously divided into two sections, the young, whipped up by fanatics, siding with the enemy, and the elders siding with the trustees. I gave the people an opening by reading out the trustees' report and balance-sheet, but, even then, the opponents could not pick holes. However, page 117as chairman and on behalf of the trustees, I handed over the marae to the irresponsible agitators. I was thoroughly sick of the whole business. My wife was glad to see me come home and said, "Wash your hands of them and let them go to hell."
Strangely enough, not long after these happenings, the ring-leader lost a lucrative and very important position. Needless to say neither the trustees nor myself had anything whatever to do with his dismissal.
In 1946, the lead which covered the tall spire of the beautiful Church, began to peel off. Nobody took the slightest notice. As time passed the tear opened further and the Church began to leak. My daughter, Rewa, took it upon herself to collect money for the purpose of repairing the damage and she collected the sum of £137 which she deposited in the bank. Meanwhile the marae committee looked on with complacency, waiting for something to turn up.
In 1947, a meeting was called at the marae to decide how much the people should contribute to Sir Apirana Ngata's gigantic hui at Ruatoria. As we had contributed £100 to the V.C. meeting in 1943, it was unanimously decided to contribute £150 on this occasion. When Sir Apirana Ngata was notified of the proposed sum, he was displeased and said, "Is that all?" Only when the sum was raised to £500 was he satisfied and he smiled. And still the beautiful Church at Te Araroa, with its spire pointing to heaven, remains unrepaired.
No more, august body of visitors could have honoured any marae than that of Sir Peter Buck, with his fellow-scientists and Government officials and others, with Sir Apirana Ngata as cicerone. They had had only a cup of tea at Rangitukia, before coming on to Te Araroa, and so were ready for a feast, as might well be expected. They were given poor mutton boiled with kumara and puha. I felt so ashamed that I walked from the page 118table. I heard Sir Apirana call out, "Where are the crayfish and sea-eggs?" They were still in the sea, not far off. It was a consolation to my harassed soul that Sir Apirana Ngata's own people were responsible for the meal.
I confess that I am not a strict Sabbatarian, nor, for that matter was Christ Himself as strict as the Jews or the Maoris in their observance of Sunday. Christ hurt the susceptibilities of the Jews on this very question. I have been guided by His word that the sabbath was made for man and not man made for the sabbath.
We have a fine tennis court in front of our home at East Cape and although I connive at quiet games being played on Sundays I draw the line at organised tennis parties. Once, cricketers asked one of my sons to approach me about playing a match in my paddock on a Sunday. My son's advice was "Don't ask the old man for permission for he would assuredly say no. Go on with the match and he won't say anything." On my return home on that Sunday afternoon, a pretty scene presented itself to my eyes. The men, rigged up in their best clothes, were playing in the middle of the green paddock, and the women, also in their Sunday best, were preparing afternoon tea, while the children gambolled like lambs. Now, would I not have been a brute to have spoilt these people's simple pleasure by forbidding the play? What I should have done was to have called for a short service, but even this, laudable though it may appear, might have spoilt the fun.
One day, on returning to Te Araroa from a trip to Hicks Bay, I found my wife in one of our gardens. Though she was not really fit to do any work, there she was on her hands and knees weeding the ground. I told her we were going home to East Cape, and, later, when the Bishop came, I told him of our plight. I told him I intended to resign. Before accepting my resignation, the Bishop suggested my transference to page 119another district. But with the country in the midst of a depression, I did not like the prospect of shifting my large family and thus leaving behind a home to which I had done so much, and a farm which was the only thing I could bequeath to my children. I knew of other Maori clergymen who had died, leaving behind them debts for their families to pay. If I were to be transferred elsewhere I would leave behind me unpaid debts at Te Araroa. I was determined, therefore, to resign.
Some people took it into their heads that to resign a charge was tantamount to resigning from religion. They had not then learned that religion was part of one and could not be set aside as one would take off one's Sunday clothes.
I continued taking services until I found the hard riding too much for me. I still celebrate marriages, administer the Holy Communion, christen children and take funerals, all, of course, without any remuneration. Even today, I would do much more if I could get about more easily than by riding on horse-back.
I must briefly refer here to an unpleasant incident that occurred when I attended a sitting of the synod at Napier.
The Maori clergy were invited to Bishopscourt for a conference during which the Bishop referred to Maori clergymen who were working on their own lands; he expressed his disapproval. He said that the trouble with the Maori clergy was that they were not converted. I felt he was aiming at me though I was not the only clergyman who was doing something on ancestral lands. What made the conference more painful was the attitude of a clergyman who stated that, although his aged father was helpless, he had left him behind in order to do God's work elsewhere, for he obeyed the Master's words to let "the dead bury the dead." The Bishop held this man up as a model for page 120others to copy. A fellow-tribesman of the model protested by saying that the East Coast clergy had good lands whereas he and others had only pumice lands that did not call for development. It was a painful incident and I had to restrain myself.
After my arrival home, I forwarded my resignation to the Bishop, but, of course, he did not accept it.
Economic stress later compelled me to send in my resignation to Bishop Sedgewick.