Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon


Chapter Three — The Story of Takitimu

page 27

Chapter Three
The Story of Takitimu

The story of Takitimu opens with excitement and activity. The scene is one of great beauty around Piko-piko-i-whiti, where stood the beach dwellings of the forefathers of the people whom we now term the natives of New Zealand, the Maoris. But the beauty of island palms and tropical loveliness are for the moment forgotten.

People are running from their homes and their occupations to line the edge of the, lapping waters and gaze seaward. Nor have their weapons been forgotten. A strange craft, one larger than any fishing canoe, has crossed the horizon and is close to the island. It has assuredly come from afar. Who are these strangers who even seem to know the entrance to the lagoon itself? Now the canoe essays the tide rip to cross from the open seas into the calmer water. Who are these strangers who approach so fearlessly and so eagerly? Surely only friends could approach with such confidence and with no suspicion of hostility.

It was one of the great occasions of history, the occasion which finally kindled the imagination of the Maoris and awakened them to the fact that the great Southern land that we call New Zealand, was still almost empty of human beings and awaiting settlement. The canoe was Te Ara-Tawhao, the commander, Tama-ki-Hikurangi, the pilot, Hoaki. "Hoaki?" you ask. Was it The Hoaki?… Yes it was the Hoaki, the Hoaki who years before had left this very village to venture across the great southern seas. It was his triumphal home-coming. With Tau-kata, his brother, both of them the sons of Rongotaua, a chief of Tahiti, he had gone to search the seas for the land that Kupe found. The real purpose of the voyage was to search for Kanioro, their sister, who had been taken to Aotearoa by Pou-rangahau, an earlier voyager and whose home was at Kiri-kino, Turanga (the present Gisborne).

The two brothers in their canoe, Tutara-kauika (the page 28whale) made their landfall at Whakatane. While sunning themselves on the beach and reciting a charm they were heard by a woman, Te Kura-Whakaata, who had descended to the beach from the hill fort, Kapu-te-rangi. She immediately returned to acquaint her people of the news of the unknown men, and her father, the chief, Tama-ki-Hikurangi, told her to conduct them to the pa. Te Kura descended again to the beach and asked the visitors whence they came. She must have been amazed at their answer, "From Hawaiki, from Mataora," but she took them to her father, calling the news of the arrival as she passed through the pa. The people of the tribe Te Hapu-oneone were rather nervous of the visitors who, by reason of their great voyage, no doubt gained immediate prestige. Nevertheless, a feast was soon in preparation and all the usual foods were gathered for the occasion. The fern root was prepared by pounding and Hoaki, hearing the sound, and perhaps apprehensively associating it with the sound of the war drum asked, "What is that sound?" His host answered, "Oh, that is nothing, it is haumia." Haumia was the name given to the fern root. Later the feast was set before the newcomers. No doubt some forms of flesh foods were on the menu, such as fish, birds, rats or earthworms, but the visitors showed interest in the vegetable course consisting of the said haumia, with mamaku tips (the soft curled fronds of the tree fern, Asplenium bulbiferum) and hinau and tawa berries. Tasting these new foods the hosts were asked, "Has not the prized kumara of Hawaiiki reached Aotearoa?" "No, these are the foods of the land," was the reply. The brothers ate but remarked to one another that they seemed to be eating wood, and said as much to their hosts. The hosts replied "Well, these are the foods left by our ancestor, Toi." Taukata then said, "Well, your ancestors ate wood." So Toi, the early explorer has his second name bestowed, Toi-Kai-rakau or Toi the eater of wood.

At the conclusion of the meal Taukata called for water and taking from his belt some dried kumara he powdered it and mixed it to a paste. He then handed it around and the local people after tasting remarked, "The best foods are indeed at Hawaiiki." The upshot was that further questions were asked by Tama, Rongomai and others regarding the kumara, its method of propagation and the possibility of obtaining seed for planting. So, perhaps not at that moment but later on, the idea of obtaining seed kumaras led to the planning of a return voyage to Parinui-te-ra, Tahiti. Taukata showed his new friends a suitable log on the beach near Opihi from which it would be possible to adze out an ocean-going page 29canoe. The canoe was made by the brothers, using the adzes Te Manokuha, Te Waiheke and Te Warawara-tai-o-Tane. It was named Te-Ara-Tawhao, thus commemorating the fact that the canoe was made from driftwood.

At length the canoe was ready and the question of personnel was discussed. It was agreed that Taukata should not make the return voyage to his home but that he should remain in Aotearoa while Tama-ki-Hikurangi accompanied Hoaki to Hawaiiki. Thus it was that they who rejoiced at the return of Hoaki, welcomed too the rangatira, who, born in the southern land, had come to give them first-hand news of the country still only vaguely known as "the land that Kupe found."

Tama, Hoaki, and their men were royally treated after their long voyage. Their prowess was told and retold in Haka and song. And, as the days slipped by, the tales of the southern land of the distant cloud gripped the imagination and stirred the wanderlust of some of those who lived in ease around the lagoon. There was the alluring prospect of a land by its emptiness inviting settlement. There was land sufficient for all. Here at home there was already overcrowding, resulting in quarrels and bitterness. Out there was the promised land of plenty for all. Slowly the idea took shape in the minds of several of the leaders, until finally the building of six great canoes was in hand and other arrangements made for one of the most remarkable migrations in the history of the world. These South Sea beach dwellers whom we today would term ignorant savages, put in train the organization necessary to build and equip seven ocean-going transports which, great as they were to the Maori, were in reality only frail dugout canoes tied together with home-made lashings prepared from flax or vines. So close did they live to nature that they were prepared to navigate these vessels with their knowledge of the sun, moon and stars. They pitted their knowledge of one realm of nature against the furies of another realm of that same world mother. They dared if haply they might find.

The Maori will read in the very word "canoe" all that is venerable in ancestry and sacred in tradition. Pakeha readers generally, do not realise the depth of regard that the Maori people have for the history that is wrapped up in the story of the vessels of the migration. The waka, or canoe, is the only bond joining them to their ancestral home, Hawaiki. If an Englishman boasts of his ancestry in terms of "William the Conqueror" or "Viking Blood", then the Maori will speak of Takitimu, or page 30Te Arawa or Tainui. The "old school tie" of the Maori is the "canoe" in which his tipuna or ancestors came to this land.

The Takitimu canoe was one of the seven great canoes of the migration of the Maori to Aotearoa. In a very real sense it was a sacred canoe. It is true that in the reciting of the story certain claims are made that can only be held as mythical. Being fond of boasting of their superiority, by comparison and by the adding of supernatural powers, the Maori has embellished all tradition. But, holding such romancing to be mere garments to the story, let us consider the main body of the facts.

None but selected chiefs were fit to be carried by Takitimu, these men and the sacred relics of the past. No common man, nor women, nor children, nor cooked foods were carried by this sacred vessel on its voyage across the great Southern ocean. We quote from Old Wairoa, page 76: "The Takitimu was a very sacred canoe, not only by reason of the many and varied ceremonies performed over her by the tohunga to render her seaworthy and proof against the waves and tempests of the great ocean of Kiwa, but because the chiefs and priests were the repositories of the ancient lore of their race, and it was they who brought much of the old Hawaiikian knowledge taught in the whare-wananga, or lodge of instruction, to the new land of Aotearoa."

Dr. Te Rangihiroa states in The Coming of the Maori. "Takitimu, owing to the precious freight of gods, was so sacred that cooked foods could not be taken on board. They ate their food raw".

Tamatea-ariki-nui (Tamatea the high priest) gave forth the order: "Let a giant canoe be made and be called Takitimu. We will journey far across the seas to this Southern land of which they tell." Previous emigrants who had settled in Aotearoa had returned to Hawaiiki seeking seed of the kumara to transplant to their adopted land. The history of this botanical quest is related in the book, The Voyage of Te-are-tawhao. The craftsmen Ruawharo, Tupai and putpai had their adzes made from stones named Kohurau, Ka-ra, Anewa and Pounamu (greenstone). The individual adzes were given the names Te Awhiorangi (made out of greenstone), Te-whiro-nui, Rakuraku-o-Tawhaki, Matangirei and Hui-te-rangi-ora. The first adze was extremely tapu, so sacred indeed, that it was not used in any actual work, but was used only in a ceremonial and religious way. Tamatea, the High Priest, used it to cut the Ngaru tupe (breakers) page 31in connection with Takitimu voyage. Figuratively it was also used to cut a passage through the high seas on the long voyage.

The tribes assisting with the building were the Ngati-Huka-moana, Ngati-Hakuturi and the Ngati-Tutaka-hinahina. These tribes were under the leadership of Tamatea and were living in the villages of Whangara, Pakarae, and Rehuroa. The initial shaping was done on the hill Titirangi and later at Whangara, the residence of Tamatea. Here too, were added the rauawa (top sides), haumi (fore and after pieces), taumanu (thwarts), karaho or rahoraho (flooring platform), tauihu (figurehead), rapa (sternposts), whitikotuku (parts of awning frame), tira (masts), puhi (ornaments of feathers), karewa and hoe (paddles). Besides the common paddles six ornamental, or special paddles were made, namely, Rapanga-i-te-ati-nuku, Rapanga-i-te-ati-rangi, Manini-kura, Maniniaro, Tangi-wiwini and Tangi-wawana. The two former were for Commander Tamatea's use when steering and the remainder for similar use in the hands of the priests Ruawharo and Tupai. Two balers named Tipua-horo-nuku and Tipua-horo-rangi were also made. At the bow of the canoe immediately in front of the seat of the high priest Ruawharo, a special compartment for the housing of the sacred articles personifying the gods of the people was prepared. The canoe was built in an enclosure into which no women or common people were permitted to enter, a place sacred to the craftsmen who themselves were bound under a strong tapu, nor did this tapu cease automatically with the completion of the task, it must needs be lifted by special rites and in these ceremonies we understand the deep significance of the whole. First the builders and their tools were freed from the tapu, the workmen with their tools would proceed to the nearest stream or river and stand in a row in the water. If there was sufficient water they would stand completely submerged, otherwise the High Priest would splash water over them while chanting the incantation—

Te Wherikoriko, te tapu-e
Haere i tua, haere i-waho
Haere i te wai kopatapata e rere nei
Kia hokimai ai te wai mahuru
Korou noa, korou ora.

The High Priest too would gather and burn the chips which had fallen from the log now become a great canoe. In respect to the great lord of the forest to whom belonged all forest dwellers whether trees or birds, the debris was far too sacred to be used for any common purpose such as cooking, nor must it remain as page 32litter. The same custom was observed in the building of a house. The penalty for the non-observance of the above rites was disaster to the canoe, misfortune, and perhaps loss of life to the builders, and the loss of the sacred tools.

Only when the foregoing observances were carried out could the final ceremonies of the consecration, naming and launching of the vessel be carried out. The consecration consisted of the invoking of the blessings of the gods of sea and sky, to assure their interest and protection in the years to come, and also to pacify Tane for the taking of the timber from his forest. Tamatea, the Commander, took his place at the stern, with Ruawharo, the Priest, at the bow, and the tohungas standing along the strakes. Holding the paddle in his right hand Tamatea, would chant the following:—

Kowai te waka e takoto nei i,
Ko Takitimu, Ko Takitimu.
Pa atu ra taku hoe,
Ki te riu tapu nui o te waka e takoto nei
Rei kura, rei ora.
Rei ora te mauri-e.
Ka turuturua, ka poupoua,
Ki tawhito o te rangi-e.
Rurukutia te waka e takoto nei.
Rurukutia te kei Matapupuni,
Rurukutia te ihu matapupuni a Tane.
Rurukutia i te kowhao tapu a Tane,
Rurukutia i te mata tapu a Tane.
Rurukutia i te rauawa tapu a Tane,
O te waka e takotonei.

The repeated words rurukutia were used to invoke spiritual blessing and power, while in the repetition of the name of Tane is seen the desire of the priest to pacify Tane for the taking of one of his forest subjects, the huge tree. The ceremony was concluded with the splashing of a calabash of water over the bow of the canoe. The launching was aided by four rollers or neke named Te Tahuri, Mounukuhia, Mouhapainga, and Manutawhio-rangi, the last two possessing supernatural powers.

On the canoe's reaching the water a trial of seaworthiness was carried out in the historical lagoon of Pikopiki-i-whiti. At night the vessel was taken to the place Te-whetu-Matarau, where several charms were incited by Ruawharo, the chief of which was as follows:—

page 33

Tu mai awa, tu mai moana
Ko koe takahia noa tia e au
Tupe aunuku tupe aurangi
Whati ki runga, whati ki raro
Perahoki ra iaku manu-nui na Tane
Ka tatau atu ki roto o Nuku-ngaere
Maia whiwhia, maia rawea
Maia whakatakaia.
Ka taka te huki rawea
Koro i runga koro i raro
Koro i Tawhirimatea.
Ki kora hoki koe tu mai ai
Ka hura te Tamatea nunui
Ka hura te Tamatea roroa.
Te Kauaka nuku, te kauaka rangi
Te ai a nuku, te ai a rangi.
Te kura mai hukihuki
Te kaweau tetere.
Kawea a nuku kawea a tai
Oi! Tumata kokiriritia!
Hoatu waka ki waho
Hoatu waka, ki uta.
Ngaruhinga atu, ngaruhinga mai.
I runga te mata wahine
I raro te mata Tane.
Huki nawenawe.
Tenei te waka ka whakairia,
Ko Takitimu te waka ee,
Ko Tamatea ariki te tangata.