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Chapter Twenty-Four — The Life History And Activities of The Late Sir Maui Pomare, K.B.E., C.M.G., M.D

page 215

Chapter Twenty-Four
The Life History And Activities of The Late Sir Maui Pomare, K.B.E., C.M.G., M.D.

Having related the life history and activities of the late Hon. Sir James Carroll, K.C.M.G., M.L.C. (one of the guiding stars who was instrumental in the blending of the Maori race with the pakehas), we now take this opportunity to relate that of the late Sir Maui Pomare, who was responsible for the saving and improvement of the health of the Maori people.

The late Sir Maui Pomare was born at Pahou, near Urenui, Taranaki, in January, 1876, and was a son of Wiremu Naera Pomare, chief of Ngati-awa tribe. He was educated at the Christchurch Boys' High School, and at Te Aute College. At an early age he went to the United States, where he studied medicine, receiving the degree of M.D. in 1899 at Chicago. On his return to New Zealand, he was appointed the first Medical Officer to the Maoris, and he held this position from 1901 to 1911, when he was elected to represent the Western Maori Electorate in the House of Representatives, a seat which he held continuously until his death.

During his term as a Maori Medical Officer, he married Miria Woodbine Johnson. She was the daughter of James Woodbine Johnson of Wairakaia, Poverty Bay and Whepstead Hall, Suffolk, and Meri Hape of Rongo-whakaata and Ngati-Kahungunu of Te Wai-roa, Hawke's Bay.

Sir Maui Pomare was one of the original members of the Massey Ministry, being continuously a Member of the Executive Council representing the native race, and Minister of the Cook Islands from 1912 to 1928. He also held the portfolio of Health from 1923 to 1926, and for a short time was Minister of Internal Affairs. In 1920 he was awarded the honour of C.M.G., and in 1922 that of K.B.E.

On the 27th of June, 1930, Sir Maui Pomare died at Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. He had been in poor health for page 216nearly two years, and accompanied by Lady Pomare, had crossed the Great Ocean of Kiwa, Te Moana Nui a Kiwa (over which his ancestors had voyaged in their double canoes six centuries before on their way to what is now called New Zealand), to seek health on the Californian Coast. But the sad end came soon after he reached Los Angeles. Alone in a foreign land, far from Maoriland, Lady Pomare realised it to be her sorrowful duty to restore to his native land and to his tribesmen and relatives the mortal remains of her deceased husband. In the circumstances Lady Pomare decided to have the body cremated, a step which created a stir throughout Maoriland. This, however, had been the express wish of Sir Maui, although he had not known he would die in a foreign land. With the ashes enclosed in a casket, Lady Pomare returned to New Zealand on August 25th, 1930.

A week previously, when the Makura arrived at Rarotonga, the casket containing the ashes was taken to Taputapuatea, the place of Makea Tinirau at Avarua, Rarotonga, and a funeral service was held before a large gathering of the native and Euro pean population of the island. All the Arikis and chiefs attended and the services of the deceased Maori chief, who had been during most of his term as Minister of the Crown, Minister-in-Charge of the Cook Islands, were extolled.

The ashes were landed from the Makura at Wellington on the morning of August 25th, and were conveyed to St. Paul's Cathedral, where a service was held in the presence of a large congregation of representative men and women of both races.

After lying in state in the main vestibule of Parliament Buildings, the casket was taken to Wai-kanae, where the first Maori tangi was held. On the night of August 28th, a special train with representatives of the Governor-General and of both Houses of Parliament and many friends of the deceased states man, and also representatives of the Maori tribes of Manawa-tu and Whanga-nui districts, bore Lady Pomare and her children with the ashes of their husband and father on the last stage of the journey. Home at last, Pomare's ashes were received at Wai-tara the following morning by his kinsmen and borne with honour and lamentation to the courtyard of Manu-korihi pa, above the river, to the accompaniment of traditional Maori ceremony in keeping with the occasion.

Nearly twelve years have come and gone since the sacred dust of Maui Pomare was restored to the historic spot overlooking the modern town of Waitara; twelve years of travail throughout page 217the world, when the depression following the Great War laid its heavy hand on New Zealand in common with the rest of the world. Led by their most influential chiefs and chieftainesses, the Taranaki tribes to which Pomare belonged determined to erect a suitable monument to their dead leader above the vault, which sheltered his ashes. His blood, which was from the same stream which flowed in their veins, his work for the race, and in particular for his tribe, demanded that their tribute should be expressed in a visible and dignified form. But it had taken many years to build up a fund sufficient for their purpose. The monument in stone was decided upon some twelve months after the death of the deceased statesman, but the carved meeting house resulted from a visit paid by representatives of the Tara-naki tribe to the East Coast and Bay of Plenty districts four years after. In those districts, tribal leaders were honoured by monuments expressive of the decorative arts for which the Maori race was famous throughout the world.

On the morning of June 27th, 1936, the anniversary of Pomare's death across the sea, the stone memorial was unveiled and the carved house officially opened by the Governor-General (Lord Galway), and in the presence of representatives of all Maori tribes throughout the Dominion, including the Cook Islands, and of the representatives of the Crown, of Parliament, and of the Pakeha race, between whom and the Maori people, Pomare had striven to bring about a spirit of sympathy and understanding.

There lies in that vault, not only the casket which contained the ashes of the greatest man of the Maori Race, but also that of his elder son, Te Naera Pomare, who died after him, and whose remains were cremated following the precedent set in the case of his father.

I think it would be proper to quote the speeches of the Prime Minister) said: "His administration was throughout marked to the death of Sir Maui Pomare, in the House of Parliament at Wellington, on 1st July, 1930.

The Right Hon. Mr. G. Forbes (who was then Prime Minister) said: "His administaration was throughout marked with ability, and during his term of office he was responsible for many reforms and measures for the betterment of the Maori Race in New Zealand, and the people of the Cook Islands. Nearest his heart were his own people and their kindred in the Cook Islands, and he did valuable work amongst them when in the position of Health Officer. He first visited the Cook Islands in 1906 to survey the medical condition and needs of the people, page 218and submitted recommendations which afterwards were put into effect with beneficial results.

"He was also instrumental in bringing about the segregation of leper patients at Mokogai.

"Sir Maui was one of the early members of the Young Maori Party, holding the view that the Maori had reached a stage in his development when the individual should make an attempt to stand alone and that the old communistic system of the people was not one to be encouraged.

"During the Great War he was Chairman of the Maori Recruiting Board responsible for recruiting the Maori Battalion, and he also visited the Cook Islands for the purpose of recruiting the Rarotonga Contingent."

The Right Hon. Mr. Coates (who was then Leader of the Opposition) said: "The pakeha has lost a friend, the Maori a guide and counsellor. The greatest portion of Sir Maui Pomare's life was given unselfishly to work on behalf of his own people, but he was mindful of his pakeha people. He was the first Health Officer appointed to administer the Native side of the Department of Health. Many of us can remember that strapping young fellow taking up his duties. With what energy, tact, and ability he accomplished almost insuperable tasks only those closely associated with the Maori people and the rugged conditions of the country at that time can realise. By canoe, on horseback, by coach, the young Maori set out to educate his Maori people in methods that would lead to the saving of their race. The older members of this House will remember the concern that was evident among the pakeha population on account of the falling-away in numbers of the Maori race through disease and other causes. The late Sir Maui Pomare's first duties were to try to train and guide the Maoris into a recognition of necessary reforms and to show them how they could help themselves. Old customs had to be overcome, and a lot of groundwork had to be accomplished, all of which called for the guiding hand of a man of understanding, knowledge, and extreme tact. The success of the initiation of that policy is now a matter of history, and it is recognised that the success achieved and a large portion of the good work were due to our deceased brother."

The late Mr. H. E. Holland (then Leader of the Labour Party), speaking of Sir Maui Pomare's good works, said: "He was one of the most efficient of the Ministers of Health who have held that office—at any rate, since I entered this House—and if he had done nothing more than what he achieved in connection page 219with the Mokogai Leper Station—making possible the wonderful cures that are being effected there and bringing new hope into the lives of people suffering from that dread disease, his would have been a great achievement. The great work that is being carried on at Mokogai to-day by the Catholic Sisters would not have been possible if it had not been for the interest and untiring effort and energy of the late Sir Maui Pomare.

"When the departure was made of admitting into the Parliament of New Zealand representatives of the Maori race, a great forward step was taken, and the Maoris who today represent their race in this House, and who have represented it in the past, have lived up to the very best traditions of Parliament and fully justified their admission. They have raised their voices in the House, and none of them more earnestly or more eloquently than the late Sir Maui Pomare, in support of the rights and claims of their race. During the last decade of years, those of us who had the privilege of sitting in the House remember the speeches made by the gentleman who is now deceased. He never hesitated to speak out freely and courageously on every question. Related to the Samoan race, his sympathies were always with the Samoans, and those of us who listened to his speech on the third reading of the Samoa Amendment Bill in 1927 know that it was one of the greatest efforts ever made in this House. Overwhelmed with a desire to be loyal to his own party and Government, and at the same time not surrendering any of the strong viewpoints which he held, he made a speech which was bold and at the same time pathetic—a speech that will live as one of the highest oratorical contributions to the pages of Hansard."

The Hon. Sir Apirana Ngata (then Minister of Native Affairs) said: "Reference has been made by the Leader of the Opposition to Sir Maui Pomare's work as a member of the Young Maori Party. In that respect he should go down in the history of this country as one of its great pioneers. Perhaps no greater crisis arose in the history of the Maori race than confronted it at the beginning of the present century. We were confronted with the situation of a declining population—a people who had largely given up hope in many respects, and an attitude on the part of the older generation of scepticism towards the rising young generation who were being educated among the pakehas.

"I remember well that the late Sir Maui Pomare was one of the band of young men who made up their minds to attempt on a small scale to turn back the hand of time. He set out with a number of friends to penetrate some of the Maori villages, and page 220to attempt to persuade the inhabitants to introduce in the villages the law of pakeha hygiene. It was then that he made up his mind to study medicine, and to take up work as a health officer. We know how successful he was in that. With the assistance of some friends he went to America, simply because the oppor tunities did not offer in his own country, and he came back to find that opportunity was here, awaiting him to begin work as a pioneer, and he, as a prominent member of what was then called the Te Aute Students' Association, took up the question of sanitation."

Message From Lady Pomare, O.B.E., To Her Maori People in
Continuation of the Work of Her Late Husband.
"Maori Maternal and Infant Welfare."

Published by the Health Department,
Wellington, 1934

"To my People—

"The Minister of Health, in whom is reposed the great duty of promoting the bodily health and physical welfare of the people of New Zealand, thinks that the time has arrived to issue again, but in a greatly improved form, the little book which my late husband, known to all of you as Maui Pomare, caused to be prepared and printed in the Maori tongue for the guidance of Maori mothers in the care and feeding of their children.

"Everybody who has the welfare of the people at heart knows that the child of to-day is the man or woman of to-morrow, and that the foundation of any strong and virile race, fit to fight in the forefront of the battle of life, lies in the care that a mother gives to her child both before and after its birth.

"Every Maori mother has a sacred duty to the noble race to which she belongs to do her part in helping on the great work. My husband devoted his life to it. He appreciated that when Maoriland became inhabited by the pakeha, the risk to the Maori people of surviving amidst the dangers inseparable from contact with modern civilization were very grave. It was the pride of the Maori of the old days to bring up strong children to be the fighting men of the tribe. A tribe which did not replace its fighting men became conquered by one that did. The fight to-day is like the fight of old, but the difference is that the risks of extermination to-day are not by the mere or taiaha, but by the incessant warfare of disease lurking in every neglected hole and corner of the kainga. In the old days, if one place became un-healthy, the tribe moved to another. To-day that is not possible, and the only way for the Maori to keep his health and bring page 221up strong and virile children is to have regard to the teachings of the laws of health and hygiene. The pakeha rules about health and hygiene are framed to combat the ravages of the enemy of modern civilization. The old Maori laws were designed to ensure the health of the community, but are not good enough for the new conditions brought about by the advance of civilization.

"When my late husband and I arrived in San Francisco on the 8th June, 1930—his last visit to America—two professors and a number of his old student friends who were attending a Conference, came to see him. The first thing they said was: 'Well, you talked a lot about what you were going to do for your race— what have you done since you left thirty years ago?' My husband just smiled and said, 'There were only 43,000 of my people left when I returned to Maoriland thirty years ago. Now they are 63,000.'

"That shows what can be done by having regard to the teachings of the pakeha upon the vital question of bodily health.

"My husband—a Maori—went among the pakeha and learnt the pakeha ways of combating disease. He did this so as to be able to use that knowledge for your benefit. The wise ones of my race have profited by his teachings and it behoves the mothers of my race to read what has been said and profit by it. Others are now carrying on his work, and this little book is written to tell you of the results of that work and how you can profit by it.

"The Minister of Health has honoured me, as the widow of one who devoted his life to the health and welfare of the Maori people, to give you the message that he, had he been here, would have given you. This is what he often said:

"(Kua kotia te taitapu o Hawaiki.' (There is no returning to Hawaiki. The Rubicon is crossed.)

"'Ka pu te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi.' (When the old net is full of holes it is cast aside and the new one goes afishing.)

"I say: 'Kia toa, kia kaha, kia ora.' (Be brave, be strong, be of good health and good wishes.)

"Miria Woodbine Pomare,

"'Hiwiroa,' Lower Hutt,

There has been no exaggeration in the words spoken above, but the writer contends that much of the ground work was not fully mentioned, which is the most difficult part of administering a cure to doubting and conservative Maoris of the old school (who were then in a large majority). Being myself one of those page 222associated with the "Young Maori Party" in its movement to bring about a reform and advancement of the Maori Race, I have done a good share in the spade work. It was not then, in any respect an honoured and popular undertaking, but rather was the object of abuse and hatred.

I remember well, of a visit of inspection, made by the late Sir Maui Pomare (who was then Dr. Pomare), to a large meeting of Maori representatives of the East Coast, which was held at Te Whakaki, Te Wai-roa, Hawke's Bay, about the year 1901. Being a forceful and bold speaker, he began by condemning the water supply which was generally used for drinking purposes at the meeting. He was about to be bundled out of the meeting house, when he pleaded with the people to bring him a bucket of water from their drinking well, which was dug in, in a swampy place at the foot of a high hill. On the bucket of water being brought and placed before him, he fixed a microscope on top of the bucket and invited the people to see for themselves what they were drinking. I was amongst the first to rush to the bucket, not that I was doubting his words, but I was hoping that he might turn the tables upon his opponents. Those who looked in the bucket, scattered about, spitting on the ground and cried out, saying: "E hika ma e; Kei te Kai tatau i te ngarara." (O people; We are eating live creatures.)

In that water, through the glass, swimming about, were bully-headed creatures about the size of oat grains. The whole of the people being struck with horror, surrendered and begged the Doctor to advise them as to how they might get out of their plight, in order to carry out the meeting. They were told to sieve the water through a fine calico and then boil it.

One of the unpleasant duties which the late Sir Maui Pomare was forced to do, was to order all the Maori houses built of raupo and rushes, which were then abandoned and left to rot, to be burnt. This act of impudence and degradation (to the mind of the old Maoris) was bitterly challenged by saying: "A: Tena haramai; Pakaru tana puku i te hoota." (O, Let him come, his stomach will be blown out by a charge of shots.) Several other dangerous risks were faced by him, not only of attack by Maoris who opposed him, but also the risk of infectious disease, lurking in some of the Maori villages at that time.

He did not administer his laws by sitting in cushy chairs, or by joy-riding on motor-cars, but set out as has been related, by canoe, on horseback, by coach and walking, to save the people, like the Good Samaritan of old.

page 223

The machinery which assisted the late Sir Maui Pomare in the carrying out of his good work was afforded by the "Maori Councils Act, 1900," and its amendments (which, unfortunately, are not now being made use of). By these, the Maori people were taught and helped to better themselves, instead of being hauled in by the strong and unsympathetic arms of the law to be made criminals.

The late Sir Maui Pomare not only attended the people personally, but distributed to all the village committees, printed pamphlets setting out all details of cure and prevention. Self-help and promptness were the keystone to the success of his scheme, and are the only remedies to lead the Maori people out of the chasm of unconseptive pakeha-civilization.

Although the Maori population is increasing in numbers, nevertheless, disease and lack of moral principles, striving ambition and self-reliance are still very evident. We need now (perhaps more than ever) bold and forceful Maori leaders to teach our people to be self-reliant, industrious and healthy—and to resist the temptations of the new mode of living brought to us by the pakeha. It is my hope that such leaders will arise— like the youthful and enthusiastic Maui Pomare—to guide the feet of the Maori in the new and difficult paths.

I also pray that such leaders will try to preserve, and to keep alive in the minds and hearts of the Maori, the wonderful history and legends of our race.

Maui Pomare fought the good fight, and carried on to the last his great work. His honoured widow, Lady Pomare, who is dear to Ngati-Kahungunu and is one of ourselves, is carrying on great work. But the vineyard is large, and the labourers are few.

Our European friends are in the habit of praising us, and of saying what a fine and noble race we are. I may be wrong, but I think they are not helping us greatly by doing so. Our faults and problems are many, and our best friends are those who not only see our faults and still love us, but are at the same time able to point out our faults and problems, and the remedy for same.