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The Autobiography of a Maori

Should the Stingy be Killed?

Should the Stingy be Killed?

My great-grandfather, Pakura, and his brother, Hihi, were once the terror of their whole district. It, was their habit to sit on a bank overlooking the beach where people passed by on their way home after catching fish and gathering shell-fish. No food carriers would pass without leaving something behind for the two chiefs. It was customary to do so. One day, however, while the two chiefs happened to be absent from their perch, a party of food-carriers passed by without observing the usual practice of leaving a tribute of food. On the return of the chiefs, they were told of the party, which had been carrying crayfish and had passed by without leaving anything. Pakura and Hihi got their spears and at once gave chase to the offenders. The pursuers came upon the carriers of crayfish just as they were nearing their pa. The crayfish were gathered and Tiritahua, the leader, was killed and eaten with the crayfish.

More than a century afterwards a similar incident happened at East Cape, only it was without bloodshed. There is a small lake on our estate, and it has a reputation for yielding nice eels. Our neighbours, who lived on the other side of the hill came over to spend a night catching eels in the little lake. The next morning it rained and the poachers were obliged to pass near our home. They had a pack-horse loaded with eels. My children saw the party pass by and, like true Maoris, quite expected to be given a few eels, especially since the eels had been caught on our property. No eels were given them and my little boy ran inside, a little excited, and said, "Papa, I know now why Pakura killed stingy people."

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The next day the same people came over the hill again, but my children, without a word from me or their mother, went in a body and one of the little girls told the poachers to leave the place.