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

Banks Describes the Natives

Banks Describes the Natives

An excellent description of the natives is furnished by Banks:

“The people were in general of a midling size,” he says, “though there was one who measured more than six feet. Their colour was dark brown; their lips were stained with something put under the skin (as in the Otaheite tattow); and their faces mark'd with deeply engraved furrows, coloured also black, and formed in regular spirals. Of these, the oldest people had much the greatest quantity and deepest channel'd—in some not less than one-sixteenth part of an inch.
“Their hair, always black, was tied on the Tops of their heads in a little knot, in which was stuck feathers of various birds in different tastes, according to the humour of the wearer, but, generally, stuck into the knot, sometimes one on each side of the temples pointing forwards, which made a most disagreeable appearance. In their ears, they generally wear a large bunch of the down of some bird, milk white.
page 42
“The faces of some were painted with a red colour in oil—some all over; others in parts only. In their hair was much Oil that had very little smell; more lice than ever I saw before and on most of them a small comb neatly enough made, sometimes of wood and sometimes of bone, which they seemed to prize much. Some few had on their faces and arms regular scars, as if made with a Sharp Instrument— such as I have seen on the faces of negroes.
“The inferior sort were clothed in something that very much resembled hemp. The loose strings of this were fastened together at the Top and hung down about two feet long like a peticoat. Of these garments they wore two—one round their shoulders and the other round their waists. The richer had garments probably of a finer sort of the same stuff, most beautifully made in exactly the same manner as the South American Indians at this day—as fine or finer than one of them which I have by me that I bought at Rio de Janeiro for 36 shillings and was esteemed uncommonly cheap at that price.
“Their boats were not large but well made—something in the form of our whaleboats but longer. Their bottom was the trunk of a tree, hollowed and very thin. This was raised by a board on each side, sewed on with a strip of wood sewed over the seam to make it tight. On the head of every one was carved the head of a Man with an enormous tong reaching out of his Mouth. These grotesque figures were some at least very well executed. Some had Eyes inlaid of something that shone very much. The whole served to give us an idea of their taste as well as ingenuity in execution; much superior to anything we have yet seen.”
“Their behaviour while on board shewed every sign of friendship. They invited us very cordially to come back to our old bay [Poverty Bay] or to a small cove which they showed us nearer to us. I could not help wishing that we had done so, but the Captain chose rather to Stand on in the search of a better harbour than any we have yet seen….”

Banks also says that, after a stay of about two hours, most of the natives went away, but, “by some means or other, three were left on board and not one boat would put back to take them in and, what was more surprising, those left aboard did not seem at all uneasy with their situation.” With the aid of a light nor'-wester, the Endeavour steered along shore under an easy sail until midnight and brought to off Table Cape [Mahia]. In the morning, when their guests noted that the ship had sailed some leagues, they began to lament and weep very much. About 7 o'clock, a canoe with an old man, who seemed to be a chief, came out and took away the ship's guests “much to their, as well as to our, satisfaction.”