Old New Zealand: Being Incidents of Native Customs and Character in the Old Times by A Pakeha Maori
“My Rangatira.”—The respective Duties of the Pakeha and his Rangatira.—Public Opinion.—A “Pakeha Kino.”—Description of my Rangatira.—His Exploits and Misadventures.—His Moral Principles.—Decline in the Number of the Natives.—Proofs of former large Population.—Ancient Forts.—Causes of Decrease.
When I purchased my land, the payment was made on the ground, and immediately divided and subdivided amongst the different sellers. Some of them who, according to their own representations formerly made to me, were the sole and only owners of the land, received for their share about the value of one shilling, and moreover, as I also observed, did not appear at all disappointed.
One old rangatira, before whom a considerable portion of the payment had been laid as his share of the spoil, gave it a slight shove with his foot, expressive of refusal, and said, “I will not accept any of the payment; I will have the pakeha.” I saw some of the magnates present seemed greatly disappointed at this, for I dare say they had expected to have the pakeha as well as the payment. page 165 But the old gentleman had regularly check-mated them by refusing to accept any payment; and being also a person of great respectability, i.e., a good fighting man, with twenty more at his back, he was allowed to have his way: thereby, in the opinion of all the natives present, making a far better thing of the land sale than any of them, though he had received no part of the payment.
I consequently was therefore a part, and by no means an inconsiderable one, of the payment for my own land; but though now part and parcel of the property of the old rangatira aforementioned, a good deal of liberty was allowed me. The fact of my having become his pakeha made our respective relations and duties to each other about as follows—
Firstly.—At all times, places, and companies, my owner had the right to call me “his pakeha.”
Secondly.—He had the general privilege of “pot-luck” whenever he chose to honour my establishment with a visit: said pot-luck to be tumbled out to him on the ground before the house; he being far too great a man to eat out of plates or dishes, or any degenerate invention of that nature; as, if he did, they would all become tapu and of no use to any one but himself; nor indeed to himself either, as he did not see the use of them.page 166
Thirdly.—It was well understood that to avoid the unpleasant appearance of paying “black mail,” and to keep up general kindly relations, my owner should from time to time make me small presents, and that in return I should make him presents of five or six times the value: all this to be done as if arising from mutual love and kindness, and not the slightest allusion to be ever made to the relative value of the gifts on either side. (An important article.)
Fourthly.—It was to be a sine quá non that I must purchase everything the chief or his family had to sell, whether I wanted them or not, and give the highest market price, or rather more. (Another very important article.)
Fifthly.—The chief's own particular pipe was never to be allowed to become extinguished for want of the needful supply of tobacco.
Sixthly.—All desirable jobs of work, and all advantages of all kinds, to be offered first to the family of my rangatira, before letting any one else have them; payment for same to be about 25 percent. more than to any one else, exclusive of a douceur to the chief himself, because he did not work.
In return for these duties and customs, well and truly performed on my part, the chief was understood to—page 167
Firstly.—Stick up for me in a general way, and not let me be bullied or imposed upon by any one but himself, so far as he was able to prevent it.
Secondly.—In case of me being plundered or maltreated by any powerful marauder, it was the duty of my chief to come in hot haste, with all his family, armed to the teeth, to my rescue—after all was over, and when it was too late to be of any service. He was also bound on such occasions to make a great noise, dance the war dance, and fire muskets (I finding the powder), and to declare loudly what he would have done had he only been in time. I, of course, on such occasions, for my own dignity, and in consideration of the spirited conduct of my friends, was bound to order two or three fat pigs to be killed, and lots of potatoes to be served out to the “army;” who were always expected to be starving, as a general rule. A distribution of tobacco, in the way of largess, was also a necessity of the case.
Thirdly.—In case of my losing anything of consequence by theft—a thing which, as a veracious pakeha, I am bound to say, seldom happened: the natives in those days being, as I have already mentioned, a very law observing people (of the law of muru), had, indeed, little occasion to steal; the above-named law answering their purposes in a general way much better, and page 168 helping them pretty certainly to any little matter they coveted: yet, as there are exceptions to all rules, theft would sometimes be committed—and then, as I was saying, it became the bounden duty of my rangatira to get the stolen article back, if he was able, and keep it for himself for his trouble, unless I gave him something of more value in lieu thereof.
Under the above regulations, things went on pleasantly enough: the chief being restrained, by public opinion and the danger of the pakeha running away, from pushing his prerogative to the utmost limit; and the pakeha, on the other hand, making the commonalty pay for the indirect taxation he was subjected to; so that in general, after ten or fifteen years' residence, he would not be much poorer than when he arrived: unless, indeed, some unlucky accident happened, such as pakehas were liable to sometimes in the good old times.
Mentioning “public opinion” as a restraint on the chiefs' acquisitiveness, I must explain that a chief possessing a pakeha was much envied by his neighbours, who, in censequence, took every opportunity of scadalizing him, and blaming him for any rough plucking process he might subject the said pakeha to; and should he, by any awkward handling of this sort, cause the pakeha at last to page 169 run for it, the chief would never hear the end of it from his own family and connections: pakehas being, in those glorious old times, considered to be geese who laid golden eggs, and it was held to be the very extreme of foolishness and bad policy either to kill them, or, by too rough handling, to cause them to fly away.
On the other hand, should the pakeha fail in a culpable manner in the performance of his duties—though he would not, as a rule, be subjected to any stated punishment—he would soon begin to find a most unaccountable train of accidents and all sorts of unpleasant occurrences happening; enough, in the aggregate, to drive Job himself out of his wits: and, moreover, he would get a bad name, which, though he removed, would follow him from one end of the island to the other, and effectually prevent him having the slightest chance of doing any good,—that is, holding his own in the country; as the natives, wherever he went, would consider him a person out of whom the most was to be made at once, since he was not to be depended on as a source of permanent revenue. I have known several industrious, active, and sober pakehas who never could do any good, and whose lives, for a long series of years, were a mere train of mishaps, till at last they were reduced to extreme poverty; merely from having, in their first dealings with page 170 the natives, got a bad name, in consequence of not having been able to understand clearly the beauty of the set of regulations I have mentioned, and from an inability to make them work smoothly. The bad name I have mentioned was short and expressive: wherever they went, there would be sure to be some one who would introduce them to their new acquaintances as “a pakeha pakeke,”—a hard pakeha; “a pakeha taehae”—a miser; or, to sum up all, “a pakeha kino.”
The chief who claimed me was a good specimen of the Maori rangatira. He was a very old man, and had fought the French when Marion, the French circumnavigator, was killed. He had killed a Frenchman himself, and carried his thighs and legs many miles as a bonne bouche for his friends at home at the pa. This old gentleman was not head of his tribe; but he was a man of good family, related to several high chiefs. He was head of a strong family, or hapu, which mustered a considerable number of fighting men; all his near relations. He had been himself a most celebrated fighting man, and a war chief; and was altogether a highly respectable person, and of great weight in the councils of the tribe. I may say I was fortunate in having been appropriated by this old patrician.
He gave me very little trouble; did not press page 171 his rights and privileges too forcibly on my notice; and, in fact behaved in all respects towards me in so liberal and friendly a manner, that before long I began to have a very sincere regard for him, and he to take a sort of paternal interest in me; this was both gratifying to observe, and also extremely comical sometimes, when he, out of real anxiety to see me a perfectly accomplished rangatira, would lecture on good manners, etiquette, and the use of the spear. He was, indeed, a model of a rangatira, and well worth being described.
He was a little man, with a high massive head, and remarkably high square forehead, on which the tattooer had exhausted his art. Though, as I have said, of a great age, he was still nimble and active: he had evidently been one of those tough active men, who though small in stature, are a match for any one. There was in my old friend's eyes a sort of dull fiery appearance, which, when anything excited him, or when he recounted some of those numerous battles, onslaughts, massacres, or stormings, in which all the active part of his life had been spent, actually seemed to blaze up and give forth real fire. His breast was covered with spear wounds, and he also had two very severe spear wounds on his head; but he boasted that no single man had ever been able to touch him with the point of a spear. It was in grand mélées, page 172 where he would have sometimes six or eight antagonists, that he had received these wounds. He was a great general, and I have heard him criticise closely the order and conduct of every battle of consequence which had been fought for fifty years before my arrival in the country. On these occasions the old “martialist” would draw on the sand the plan of the battle he was criticising and describing; and, in the course of time I began to perceive that, before the introduction of the musket, the art of war had been brought to great perfection by the natives: when large numbers were engaged in a pitched battle, the order of battle resembled, in a most striking manner, some of the most approved orders of battle of the ancients. Since the introduction of fire-arms the natives have entirely altered their tactics, and adopted a system better adapted to the new weapon and the nature of the country.
My old friend had a great hatred for the musket. He said that in battles fought with the musket there were never so many men killed as when, in his young days, men fought hand to hand with the spear: then a good warrior would kill six, eight, ten, or even twenty men in a single fight. For when once the enemy broke and commenced to run, the combatants being so close together, a fast runner would knock a dozen on the head in a short page 173 time; and the great aim of these fast-running warriors, of whom my old friend had been one, was to chase straight on and never stop, only striking one blow at one man, so as to cripple him, in order that those behind should be sure to overtake and finish him. It was not uncommon for one man, strong and swift of foot, when the enemy were fairly routed, to stab with a light spear ten or a dozen men, in such a way as to ensure their being overtaken and killed. On one occasion of this kind my old tutor had the misfortune to stab a running man in the back: he did it of course scientifically, so as to stop his running; and as he passed him by he perceived it was his wife's brother, who was finished immediately by the men close behind. I should have said that the man was a brother of one of my friend's four wives; which being the case, I dare say he had a sufficient number of brothers-in-law to afford to kill one now and then.
A worse mishap, however, occurred to him on another occasion. He was returning from a successful expedition from the south (in the course of which, by-the-by, he and his men killed and cooked in Shortland-crescent, several men of the enemy, and forced three others to jump over a cliff which is, I think, now called Soldier's-point), when off the Mahurangi a smoke was seen rising page 174 from amongst the trees near the beach. They at once concluded that it came from the fires of people belonging to that part of the country, and who they considered as game; they therefore waited till night, concealing their canoes behind some rocks, and when it became dark, landed; they then divided into two parties, took the supposed enemy completely by surprise, and attacked, rushing upon them from two opposite directions at once. My rangatira, dashing furiously among them, and—as I can well suppose—those eyes of his flashing fire, had the happiness of once again killing the first man, and being authorized to shout “Ki au te mataika!” A few more blows, and the parties recognize each other: they are friends!—men of the same tribe! Who is the last mataika slain by this famous warrior? Quick, bring a flaming brand—here he lies dead! Ha! It is his father!
Now an ancient knight of romance, under similar awkward circumstances, would probably have retired from public life, sought out some forest cave, where he would have hung up his armour, let his beard grow, flogged himself twice a day “regular,” and lived on “pulse”—which I suppose means pea-soup—for the rest of his life. But my old rangatira and his companions had not a morsel of that sort of romance about them. page 175 The killing of my friend's father was looked upon as a very clever exploit in itself; though a very unlucky one. So after having scolded one another for some time—one party telling the other they were served right for not keeping a better look out, and the other answering that they should have been sure who they were going to attack before making the onset—they all held a tangi or lamentation for the old warrior who had just received his mittimus; and then killing a prisoner, whom they had brought in the canoes for fresh provisions, they had a good feast; after which they returned all together to their own country, taking the body of their lamented relative along with them. This happened many years before I came to the country, and when my rangatira was one of the most famous fighting-men in his tribe.
This Maori rangatira I am describing had passed his whole life, with but little intermission, in scenes of battle, murder, and bloodthirsty atrocities of the most terrific description; mixed with actions of the most heroic courage, self-sacrifice, and chivalric daring, as leaves one perfectly astounded to find them the deeds of one and the same people: one day doing acts which, had they been performed in ancient Greece, would have immortalized the actors, and the next committing barbarities too horrible for relation, and almost incredible.page 176
The effect of a life of this kind was observable plainly enough, in my friend. He was utterly devoid of what weak mortals call “compassion.” He seemed to have no more feeling for the pain, tortures, or death of others than a stone. Should one of his family be dying or wounded, he merely felt it as the loss of one fighting man. As for the death of a woman, or any non-combatant, he did not feel it at all; though the person might have suffered horrid tortures: indeed I have seen him scolding severely a fine young man, his near relative, when actually expiring, for being such a fool as to blow himself up by accident, and deprive his family of a fighting man. The last words the dying man heard were these:—“It serves you right. There you are, looking very like a burnt stick! It serves you right—a burnt stick! Serves you right!” It really was vexatious. A fine stout young fellow to be wasted in that way.
As for fear, I saw one or two instances to prove he knew very little about it: indeed, to be killed in battle seemed to him a natural death. He was always grumbling that the young men thought of nothing but trading; and whenever he proposed to them to take him where he might have a final battle (he riri wakamutunga), where he might escape dying of old age, they always kept saying, page 177 “Wait till we get more muskets,” or “more gunpowder,” or more something or another: “as if men could not be killed without muskets!” He was not cruel either; he was only unfeeling. He had been guilty, it is true, in his time, of what we should call terrific atrocities to his prisoners; which he calmly and calculatingly perpetrated as utu, or retaliation for similar barbarities committed by them or their tribe.
And here I must retract the word guilty, which I see I have written inadvertently; for—according to the morals and principles of the people of whom he was one, and of the time to which he belonged, and the training he had received—so far from being guilty, he did a praiseworthy, glorious, and public-spirited action when he opened the jugular vein of a bound captive and sucked huge draughts of his blood.
To say the truth, he was a very nice old man, and I liked him very much. it would not, however, be advisable to put him in a passion; not much good would be likely to arise from it: as, indeed, I could show by one or two very striking instances which came under my notice; though, to say the truth, he was not easily put out of temper. He had one great moral rule,—it was, indeed, his rule of life: he held that every man had a right to do everything and anything he page 178 chose, provided he was able and willing to stand the consequences; though he thought some men fools for trying to do things which they could not carry out pleasantly, and which ended in getting them baked.
I once hinted to him that, should every one reduce these principles to practice, he himself might find it awkward; particularly as he had so many mortal enemies. To which he replied, with a look which seemed to pity my ignorance, that every one did practise this rule to the best of their abilities, but that some were not so able as others; and that as for his enemies, he should take care they never surprised him: a surprise being, indeed, the only thing he seemed to have any fear at all of. In truth, he had occasion to look out sharp. He never was known to sleep more than three or four nights in the same place, and often, when there were ill omens, he would not sleep in a house at all, or two nights following in one place, for a month together. I never saw him without both spear and tomahawk, and ready to defend himself at a second's notice: a state of preparation perfectly necessary, for though in his own country and surrounded by his tribe, his death would have been such a triumph for hundreds, not of distant enemies, but of people within a day's journey, that none could tell at what moment some stout young page 179 fellow in search of utu and a “ingoa toa” (a warlike reputation) might rush upon him, determined to have his head or leave his own.
The old buck himself had, indeed, performed several exploits of this nature; the last of which occurred just at the time I came into the country, but before I had the advantage of his acquaintance. His tribe were at war with some people at the distance of about a day's journey. One of their villages was on the border of a dense forest. My rangatira, then a very old man, started off alone, and without saying a word to any one, took his way through the forest, which extended the whole way between his village and the enemy, crept like a lizard into the enemy's village, and then, shouting his war cry, dashed amongst a number of people he saw sitting together on the ground, and who little expected such a salute. In a minute he had run three men and one woman through the body, received five dangerous spear-wounds himself, and escaped to the forest; and finally he got safe home to his own country and people. Truly my old rangatira was a man of a thousand,—a model rangatira. This exploit, if possible, added to his reputation, and every one said his mana would never decline. The enemy had been panic, stricken, thinking a whole tribe were upon them, and fled like a flock of sheep: except the three page 180 men who were killed. They all attacked my old chief at once, and were all disposed of in less than a minute, after, as I have said, giving him five desperate wounds. The woman was just “stuck,” as a matter of course, as she came in his way.
The natives are unanimous in affirming that they were much more numerous in former times than they are now, and I am convinced that such was the case, for the following reasons. The old hill forts are many of them so large that an amount of labour must have been expended in trenching, terracing, and fencing them—and all without iron tools, which increased the difficulty a hundred-fold—that must have required a vastly greater population to accomplish than can be now found in the surrounding districts. These forts were also of such an extent that, taking into consideration the system of attack and defence used necessarily in those times, they would have been utterly untenable unless held by at least ten times the number of men the whole surrounding districts, for two or three days' journey, can produce. And yet, when we remember that in those times of constant war—being the two centuries preceding the arrival of the Europeans—the natives always, as a rule, slept in these hill forts with closed gates, bridges over trenches removed, and ladders of terraces drawn up, we must come to the conclusion page 181 that the inhabitants of the fort, though so numerous, were merely the population of the country in the close vicinity.
Now from the top of one of these pointed, trenched, and terraced hills, I have counted twenty others, all of equally large dimensions, and all within a distance, in every direction, of fifteen to twenty miles; and native tradition affirms that each of these hills was the stronghold of a separate hapu or clan, bearing its distinctive name. There is also the most unmistakable evidence that vast tracts of country, which have lain wild time out of mind, were once fully cultivated. The ditches for draining the land are still traceable, and large pits are to be seen in hundreds, on the tops of the dry hills, all over the northern part of the North Island, in which the kumera were once stored; and these pits are, in the greatest number, found in the centre of great open tracts of uncultivated country, where a rat in the present day would hardly find subsistence. The old drains, and the peculiar growth of the timber, mark clearly the extent of these ancient cultivations. It is also very observable that large tracts of very inferior land have been in cultivation; which would lead to the inference that either the population was pretty nearly proportioned to the extent of available land, or that the tracts of inferior land were cultivated page 182 merely because they were not too far removed from the fort: for the shape of the hill, and its capability of defence and facility of fortification, was of more consequence than the fertility of the surrounding country.
These kumera pits, being dug generally in the stiff clay on the hill tops, have, in most cases, retained their shape perfectly; and many seem as fresh and new as if they had been dug but a few years. They are oblong in shape, with the sides regularly sloped. Many collections of these provision stores have outlived Maori tradition, and the natives can only conjecture to whom they belonged. Out of the centre of one of them which I have seen, there is now growing a kauri tree one hundred and twenty feet high, and out of another a large totara. The outline of these pits is as perfect as the day they were dug, and the sides have not fallen in in the slightest degree; from which perhaps they have been preserved by the absence of frost, as well as by a beautiful coating of moss, by which they are everywhere covered. The pit in which the kauri grew, had been partially filled up by the scaling off of the bark of the tree; which, falling off in patches, as it is constantly doing, had raised a mound of decaying bark round the root of the tree.
Another evidence of a very large number of page 183 people having once inhabited these hill forts is the number of houses they contained. Every native house, it appears, in former times, as in the present, had a fire-place composed of four flat stones or flags sunk on their edges into the ground, so as to form an oblong case or trunk, in which at might a fire to heat the house was made. Now, in two of the largest hill forts I have examined (though for ages no vestige of a house had been seen) there remained the fire-places—the four stones projecting like an oblong box slightly over the ground; and their position and number denoted clearly that, large as the circumference of the huge volcanic hill was which formed the fortress, the number of families inhabiting it necessitated the strictest economy of room. The houses had been arranged in streets, or double rows, with a path between them; except in places where there had been only room on a terrace for a single row. The distances between the fire-places proved that the houses in the rows must have been as close together as it was possible to build them; and every spot, from the foot to the hill-top, not required and specially planned for defensive purposes, had been built on in this regular manner. Even the small flat top, sixty yards long by forty wide,—the citadel,—on which the greatest care and labour had been page 184 bestowed to render it difficult of access, had been as full of houses as it could hold; leaving only a small space all round the precipitous bank for the defenders to stand on.
These little fire-places, and the scarped and terraced conical hills, are the only mark the Maori of ancient times have left of their existence. And I have reasons for believing that this country has been inhabited from a more remote period by far than is generally supposed. These reasons I found upon the dialect of the Maori language spoken by the Maori of New Zealand, as well as on many other circumstances.
We may easily imagine that a hill of this kind, covered from bottom to top with houses thatched and built of reeds, rushes, and raupo, would be a mere mass of combustible matter; and such indeed was the case. When an enemy attacked one of these places, a common practice was to shower into the place, from slings, red-hot stones, which, sinking into the dry thatch of the houses, would cause a general conflagration. Should this once occur the place was sure to be taken. This mode of attack was consequently much feared; all hands not engaged at the outer defences, and all women and non-combatants, being employed guarding against this danger, by pouring water out of calabashes on every smoke that appeared. page 185 The natives also practised both mining and escalade in attacking a hill fort.
The natives attribute their decrease in numbers, before the arrival of the Europeans, to war and sickness; disease possibly arising from the destruction of food and the forced neglect of cultivation caused by the constant and furious wars which devastated the country for a long period before the arrival of the Europeans: and to such an extent that the natives at last believed a constant state of warfare to be the natural condition of life, and their sentiments, feelings, and maxims became gradually formed on this belief. Nothing was so valuable or respectable as strength and courage, and to acquire property by war and plunder was more honourable and also more desirable than by labour. Connibalism was glorious. In a word, the island was a pandemonium.
A rugged wight, the worst of brutes, was man;
On his own wretched kind he ruthless prey'd.
The strongest then the weakest overran,
In every country mighty robbers sway'd,
And guile and ruffian force was all their trade.
Since the arrival of the Europeans the decrease of the natives has also been rapid. In that part of the country where I have had means of accurate observation, they have decreased in number since my arrival rather more than one-third. I have, page 186 however, observed that this decrease has for the last ten years been very considerably checked; though I do not believe this improvement is general through the country, or even permanent where I have observed it.
The first grand cause of the decrease of the natives since the arrival of the Europeans is the musket. The nature of the ancient Maori weapons prompted them to seek out vantage ground, and to take up positions on precipitous hill-tops, and make those high, dry, airy situations their regular fixed residences. Their ordinary course of life, when not engaged in warfare, was regular, and not necessarily unhealthy; their labour, though constant in one shape or other, and compelled by necessity, was not too heavy. In the morning, but not early, they descended from the hill pa to the cultivations in the low ground; they went in a body, armed like men going to battle, the spear or club in one hand, and the agricultural instrument in the other. The women followed. Long before night (it was counted unlucky to work till dark) they returned to the hill in a reversed order; the women, slaves, and lads, bearing fuel and water for the night, in front: these also bore probably heavy loads of kumera or other provisions. In the time of year when the crops, being planted and growing, did not call for their attention, the page 187 whole tribe would remove to some fortified hill, at the side of some river, or on the coast, where they would pass months in fishing and making nets, clubs, spears, and implements of various descriptions; the women, in all spare time, making mats for clothing, or baskets to carry the crop of kumera in, when fit to dig. There was very little idleness; and to be called “lazy” was a great reproach. It is to be observed that for several months the crops could be left thus unguarded with perfect safety, for the Maori, as a general rule, never destroyed growing crops, or attacked their owners in a regular manner until the crops were nearly at full perfection, so that they might afford subsistence to the invaders; and consequently the end of the summer all over the country was a time of universal preparation for battle, either offensive or defensive, the crops then being near maturity.
Now when the natives became generally armed with the musket they at once abandoned the hills, and, to save themselves the great labour and inconvenience occasioned by the necessity of continually carrying provisions, fuel, and water to these precipitous hill-castles—which would be also, as a matter of necessity, at some inconvenient distance from at least some part of the extensive cultivations—descended to the low lands, and there, in the centre of the cultivations, erected a page 188 new kind of fortification adapted to the capabilities of the new weapon. This was their destruction. For they built their oven-like houses in mere swamps, where the water, even in summer, sprang with the pressure of the foot, and where in winter the houses were often completely flooded. There, lying on the spongy soil, on beds of rushes which rotted under them—in little low dens of houses, or kennels, heated like ovens at night and dripping with damp in the day—full of noxious exhalations from the damp soil, and impossible to ventilate—they were cut off by disease in a manner absolutely frightful. No advice would they take: they could not see the enemy which killed them, and therefore could not believe the Europeans who pointed out the cause of their destruction.
This change of residence was universal, and everywhere followed by the same consequences, more or less marked: the strongest men were cut off and but few children were reared. And even now, after the dreadful experience they have had, and all the continual remonstrances of their pakeha friends, they take but very little more precaution in choosing sites for their houses than at first; and when a native village or a native house happens to be in a dry healthy situation, it is often more the effect of accident than design.
Twenty years ago a hapu, in number just forty page 189 persons, removed their kainga from a dry healthy position to the edge of a raupo swamp. I happened to be at the place a short time after the removal, and with me there was a medical gentleman who was travelling through the country. In creeping into one of the houses (the chief's) through the low door, I was obliged to put both my hands to the ground; they both sank into the swampy soil, making holes which immediately filled with water. The chief and his family were lying on the ground on rushes, and a fire was burning, which made the little den, not in the highest place more than five feet high, feel like an oven. I called the attention of my friend to the state of this place called a “house.” He merely said, “men cannot live here.” Eight years from that day the whole hapu were extinct; but, as I remember, two persons were shot for bewitching them and causing their deaths.
Many other causes combined at the same time to work the destruction of the natives. Besides the change of residence from the high and healthy hill forts to the low grounds, there were the hardship, over-labour, exposure, and half-starvation, to which they submitted themselves—firstly, to procure these very muskets which enabled them to make the fatal change of residence and afterwards to procure the highly and justly page 190 valued iron implements of the Europeans. When we reflect that a ton of cleaned flax was the price paid for two muskets, and at an earlier date for one musket, we can see at once the amount of exertion necessary to obtain it. But supposing a man to get a musket for half a ton of flax, another half-ton would be required for ammunition; and in consequence, as every man in a native hapu of, say a hundred men, was absolutely forced on pain of death to procure a musket and ammunition at any cost, and at the earliest possible moment (for, if they did not procure them, extermination was their doom by the hands of those of their countrymen who had), the effect was that this small hapu, or clan, had to manufacture, spurred by the penalty of death, in the shortest possible time, one hundred tons of flax, scraped by hand with a shell, bit by bit, morsel by morsel, half-a-quarter of an ounce at a time.
Now as the natives, when undisturbed and labouring regularly at their cultivations, were never far removed from necessity or scarcity of ood, we may easily imagine the distress and hardship caused by this enormous imposition of extra labour. They were obliged to neglect their crops in a very serious degree, and for many months in the year were in a half-starving condition; working hard all the time in the flax page 191 swamps. The insufficient food, over-exertion, and unwholesome locality, killed them fast. As for the young children, they almost all died; and this state of things continued for many years: for it was long after being supplied with arms and ammunition before the natives could purchase, by similar exertion, the various agricultural implements, and other iron tools so necessary to them; and it must always be remembered, if we wish to understand the difficulties and over-labour the natives were subjected to, that while undergoing this immense extra toil, they were at the same time obliged to maintain themselves by cultivating the ground with sharpened sticks, not being able to afford to purchase iron implements in any useful quantity, till first the great, pressing, paramount want of muskets and gunpowder had been supplied. Thus continual excitement, over-work, and insufficient food, exposure, and unhealthy places of residence, together with a general breaking up of old habits of life, thinned their numbers: European diseases also assisted, but not to any very serious extent.
In the part of the country in which I have had means of observing with exactitude, the natives have decreased in numbers over one-third since I first saw them. That this rapid decrease has been checked in some districts, I am sure, and the page 192 cause is not a mystery. The influx of Europeans has caused a competition in trading, which enables them to get the highest value for the produce of their labour, and at the same time has opened to them a hundred new lines of industry, and afforded them other opportunities of becoming possessed of property. They have not at all improved these advantages as they might have done; but are, nevertheless, as it were in spite of themselves, on the whole, richer—i.e., better clothed, fed, and in some degree lodged, than in past years; and I see the plough now running where I once saw the rude pointed stick poking the ground. I do not, however, believe that this improvement exists in more than one or two districts in any remarkable degree, nor do I think it will be permanent where it does exist; insomuch as I have said that the improvement is not the result of providence, economy, or industry, but of a train of temporary circumstances favourable to the natives: and which, if unimproved, as they most probably will be, will end in no permanent good result.