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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.


Toi People Preceded by Mouriuri—Mystery Stone Anchor—Historic Migrations to Other Districts—Famous “House of Learning” at Uawa.

According to Elsdon Best (Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, Vol. 48, p. 435 and The Gisborne Times, 23 December, 1925) portions of the North Island, including Poverty Bay and the East Coast, were first settled by folk whom he calls “Mouriur” or “Maruiwi.” They were, he says, descendants of the crews of three canoes which reached the Taranaki coast from “Horanui-a-Tau,” their homeland, and spread round the North Cape at least as far as Poverty Bay. It was his opinion that they were of mixed Polynesian-Melanesian extraction. The Toi people (who landed in New Zealand in the twelfth century) intermarried with them and, consequently, the inhabitants whom the settlers by the Pilgrim Fleet in the fourteenth century found in New Zealand were of mixed Mouriuri-Toi descent.

Evidence that representatives of more than one branch of the Pacific peoples reached New Zealand in early times is afforded by the physical and cultural differences which distinguished the now extinct Moriori from the Maori. Noteworthy also is the presence of the dark Melanesian strain among the Ngai-Tama-whiro, who made their abode near the Rangitaiki River, and among the East Cape natives. In the Urewera Country, where a fair strain is found, Best says that, in 1877, he also saw some natives who had Fijian-like heads of frizzy hair. That the Pilgrim Fleet brought immigrants bearing such a wide variety of physical characteristics seems unlikely. Nor is it certain that the admixture of Maori and Mouriuri-Toi blood could have produced such a wide range of results.

Best claimed that, although the Maoris of the East Coast districts lay great stress on their descent from the immigrants who arrived about the middle of the fourteenth century, they must, nevertheless, be principally of Mouriuri-Toi blood: that is to say, that the coming of a few hundred immigrants to settle among a numerous population of the Mouriuri-Toi tribes could not have furnished later generations with more than a small proportion of the blood of the later migration. He added:

“Possibly, there was some effect in relation to character and mental powers consequent upon the immigrants by Horouta and Takitimu intermarrying with the Toi folk. In any event, the Maoris of Poverty Bay and of the East Coast are, assuredly, a superior type. We have page 2 to thank them for the preservation of most interesting accounts of old-time Maori beliefs, usages and ritual and, fortunately, this important information has found its way into the printed works of the pakeha.”