Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

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

“A Second Paradise”

A Second Paradise

No finer description of Tolaga Bay and its people appears among the narratives of the voyage than Parkinson's:

“The country,” he says, “is agreeable beyond description and, with proper cultivation, might be rendered a kind of second Paradise. The hills are covered with beautiful flowering shrubs, intermingled with a great number of tall and stately palms, which fill the air with a most grateful fragrant perfume…. Between the hills we discovered some fruitful valleys, which are adapted either to cultivation or pasturage. The country abounds with different kinds of herbage fit for food…. Adjoining their houses are plantations of koomara [kumara] and taro and the ground is cultivated with great care and kept clean and neat.
“The natives, who are not very numerous, behaved very civil to us. They are, in general, lean and tall, yet well shaped, have faces like Europeans and, in general, the aquiline nose, with dark-coloured eyes, black hair and beards of middling length…. Their tataowing … looks like carving … and is peculiar to the principal men. Servants and women content themselves with besmearing their faces with red paint or ochre, and, were it not for this nasty custom, would make no despicable appearance.
“Their cloth is white and as glossy as silk. It is worked by hand and wrought as even as if it had been done in a loom, and is chiefly worn by the men, though it is made by the women, who also carry burdens and do all the drudgery. Many of the women that we saw had very good features and not the savage countenance one might expect…. They seem to be proud of their sex and expect that you should give them everything they desire because they are women, but they take great care to grant no favours in return, being very different from the women we saw in the islands….
“The men have a particular taste for carving, which they execute with as much truth as if done from mathematical draughts…. We saw many beautiful parrots and birds of various kinds … but we found no ground fowl or domestic poultry. Of quadrupeds, we saw no other than dogs, which were like those on the island of Otaheite, and of these but a few; though it cannot be supposed that so large a country as this appears to be should be destitute of deer and other kinds of four-footed animals.”

Much inquiry was made at Tolaga Bay by Cook and his companions with reference to native customs and usages. Tupaea, it seems, never let up in the quest for information. He had many long conversations with a Maori priest. “They seemed to agree very well in their notions of religion,” Banks remarks, “but Tupia [Tupaea] was much more learned than the other, and all his discourses were heard with much attention. Tupia asked the priest … whether or no they really eat Men which he was very page 57 loth to believe. The priest answered in the affirmative, saying that they Eat the body's only of those of their Enemies who were kill'd in War.”

In his rough notes, Cook summarizes the information that was gleaned:

The religion of the Natives bears some resemblance to the George Islanders [Tahitians].


They have god of war of husbandry, etc. but there is one supreme god whom they call … he made the world and all that therein is by copolation.


They have many priests.


The old men are much respected.


They have King who lives inland; his name is … we heard of him in Poverty Bay.


They eat their enemies slane in Battell; this seems to come from custom and not from a savage disposition; this they cannot be charged with; they appear to have but few vices. Left an inscription.


Their behaviour was uniform free from treachery.


The women may be known by their voices; they paint their faces rud.


The women's faces are not tattow'd.


They seem to live on the ridges of hills in the summer.


We found several houses not inhabited.


The frames of some of the houses are ornament'd with Carv'd work.


Their carving good.


Their large canoes.


Animals none except dogs and ratts—the former they eat and oriment [ornament] their clothes with the skin.


Plants birds and insects woods etc.


Fishes in the sea.

Each day the course and distance to be inserted.