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Legends of the Maori

Chapter I. — The Making of the Canoe

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Chapter I.
The Making of the Canoe

THE tradition of Tainui as handed down from generation to generation for six centuries begins in the tropic islands of the Eastern Pacific. The Maori calls this fatherland Hawaiki; it was the last of many Hawaikis on his long adventure of ocean roving and island exploring that ended at length in our own Aotea. Our Hawaiki was the group of islands which Captain Cook named the Society Islands; we know them best to-day as Tahiti, and its neighbours Raiatea, Huahine, and the lesser Moorea and Porapora. There begin our genealogies.

In one of the islands of that group our great ancestor Hoturoa was born. By the time he had grown to manhood the tribes were at war, and because of the dissensions he and his people migrated to Hawaiki-it’ (“Little Hawaiki”). There they took up their abode at a place called Waihi in the traditions. In the Tahiti tongue to-day it is Vaihi, which is in the district of Papara, in the island of Tahiti. Hoturoa’s wife was Whakaoti-rangi, and they had two sons, Hotu-hope and Hotu-matapu.

At Waihi more dissensions arose and the clans warred upon each other over land and other causes, but chiefly for land, for the isles of Hawaiki were but small countries to hold such a large population. The tribespeople scattered and lived unrestful lives and the thought grew that it was time to set forth into the vast unknown ocean again and seek homes that would be less circumscribed. The leaders of those families who had decided to migrate were Hoturoa and his kinsman Ngatoro-i-rangi, who was a wise man and a high priest.

In order to make their voyage to a new land in the far south-west, of which descriptions had been brought to Hawaiki by adventurous navigators who had returned from time to time, it was necessary to build strong ocean-going canoes. Hoturoa and Ngatoro-i-rangi went into the forest and sought a suitable large tree, and they discovered one which would serve as the hull, on which the upper parts could be built with planks fastened together with coconut fibre in the usual manner of island shipwrights. Hoturoa and his tohunga kinsman then returned to their village and called upon the people to assist them in the making of the canoe.

The first step in this important work was the propitiation of the spirit of the forest, Tane-mahuta, who is lord of the forests and all the creatures that dwell therein, by appropriate ceremonies. Ngatoro-i-rangi led the workers to the tree selected, and when they stood at its base he recited a sacred chant, which was the karakia his ancestor Rata used when he went to the forest to fell a tree for his canoe. This was the prayer recited by the tohunga:

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Kotia te pu ka waiho i uta,
Ko te kauru ka to ki tai;
E ai ra ko te umu tuhi,
Kihai tae ki nga pukenga,
Ki nga wananga, ki nga tauira.
Matua kuru, matua whao,
Matua te toki ma tai haruru, e Tane.
Tu ake ai au ki runga nei
Ki te whare hukahuka no Tangaroa,
Tangaroa Uenuku tai ma roa.
Orooro koa te toki nei
A Hine-tua-hoanga;
Kaore ko au ko Rata
E kimi ana, e hahau ana,
I te awa i Pikopiko-i-whiti,
Mate ki Maungaroa,
Mate mai ai ko Whitinui.
Ta taua rangi!

And again Ngatoro-i-rangi uttered the karakia:

Ka mate i a Rata
A Wahieroa.
Ta taua rangi!

After this had been uttered, they felled the tree with stone axes and with fire, and there made the canoe. Then Ngatoro-i-rangi said:—

Tu ai nuku, tu ai rangi,
Tu ai nuku, tu ai Tangaroa.
Atu ai, atu ai!

So they put the skids under the canoe and the bow was made to touch the stump of the tree, according to the custom that a man should say farewell to those remaining, by touching noses. Such was the ceremony of the ancient canoe-makers. And so the canoe was dragged from the stump, the head of the tree. The work of hollowing it out with stone axes page 5
The Hauling of Tainui.

The Hauling of Tainui.

page break page 7 was partly done, and then the skids (rango) were placed in position for the haul to the sea. Ngatoro-i-rangi, the priest, stood on the canoe; his voice resounded in the forest; he gave utterance to this sacred chant:—

Ko te kia, ko te kia
I wharikia e wai,
I wharikia e Tumatakotako,
Hapai tana i tana rango,
He rango mania,
He rango paheke,
Paheke i te uranga a Tainui,
Tainui ano Tainui,
Me te tuputupu,
Me te hahau,
Me te awhituria e Rata,
Maiangi runga,
Maiangi raro,
Taki Mahu te waka.

The purpose of this karakia was to assist the hauling of the canoe to the seashore. And again Ngatoro-i-rangi’s voice was heard in this hauling charm:—

Piri papa, piri papa,
Ki te taiara mea,
Ko rihimatai tua,
Ko ia i hiri hara,
Te mata o
Tu mai
E tupa.

The new canoe glided along the skids, and so, for the first time, the people heard that the name of their canoe was “Tainui” (Great Tide). It was dragged to the beach and there a house was built to protect it from the hot sun. The sides of the canoe were built upon the carved-out keel.

It was at this juncture that a certain boy came and saw Hoturoa and Ngatoro-i-rangi working away at the canoe. This boy began to play about and climb upon the canoe. He was scolded by Hoturoa, but he still persisted. Hoturoa became angry and he struck him with one of the side- page 8 boards of Tainui, and killed him. To conceal the body he heaped the chips over it. That is the reason why Tainui was not so thoroughly finished as the other canoes; the builders, after this murder, were in a hurry to get away. Because of the deed of blood committed by Hoturoa, he and Ngatoro-i-rangi hurried their task, and as soon as the canoe was fit for sea they dragged it to the water.

Now, the young chief Tama-te-kapua saw Tainui afloat at her moorings, so he had his canoe, the Arawa, also dragged to the sea. All the other canoes at Waihi were old canoes; Tainui was the only new one.

Both these canoes were left lying at anchor in the lagoon. Now Tama-te-kapua approached Ngatoro-i-rangi to go and perform the necessary incantations over his canoe, because the Arawa canoe had no priest. As Ngatoro-i-rangi was going to the waterside, Tama-te-kapua said: “You had better bring your wife Kearoa so that the incantation in regard to the female element of my canoe may be completed.” So Kearoa went with her husband on board the Arawa. Ngatoro-i-rangi performed the ceremonies usual on such occasions, and he went into the deckhouse built amidships. Tama-te-kapua had given directions to his men to haul up the anchor and to set sail while Ngatoro-i-rangi was below, so that the priest would be carried off to sea as the tohunga of the Arawa. So Hoturoa and his canoe Tainui were left behind, and Ngatoro-i-rangi, against his will, sailed in the Arawa.

Tainui now took in her cargo for the voyage and embarked her people. Hoturoa, with his two wives* and his children and his people came, and with her crew and their food supplies they put to sea for the voyage to a far country.

* Whakaotirangi was one of Hoturoa’s two wives; the other was Marama-Kiko-hure, whose conduct when the New Zealand coast was reached made trouble for Tainui.