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Legends of the Maori

Part VII. — In farewell to the Dead

Part VII.
In farewell to the Dead

page 245

Te Whiti the Prophet
Pomare’s Oration

IN 1907 the celebrated old chief Te Whiti o Rongomai, the prophet and leader, died at his town, Parihaka, in Taranaki. One of the finest speeches delivered during the mourning ceremonies of the tangihanga was that of Sir Maui (then Dr.) Pomare. He opened with the usual salutations to the dead and to the people. Then, addressing the spirit of Te Whiti, he said:

“Depart to the illustrious chiefs who have gone before, to thy brave comrades of old, to the Giver of war and peace. Go to that land from which no man ever returned. Thy words have come true; the lips of children speak of thee as ‘The man of peace and goodwill to all people, on the West Coast.’ In thine own words thou said’st that war and peace, as life and death, were fore-ordained. The sun was overshadowed at times with many troubled clouds, but thy sun has sunk gloriously in the west, leaving thy people disconsolate.”

Turning to the people, Pomare said:

“A new condition of affairs has arisen. It is not new; it is old. Your predecessors saw years long before the feet of white man had trodden on the land that this would be. The pakeha is not a stranger; he is one in blood with us. Ever bold and venturesome, the Maori conquered the unknown waters while his pakeha brother clung to the land, journeying westward through Europe, fearing to cross the unknown waters lest they should tumble over the edge of a square world. One of your ancestors, long before the foot of white man touched this soil, said: ‘Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, for the time is come, and now is, when alien white feet shall desecrate my grave.’ Tiriwa, another of your ancestors, two hundred years before the white man came, said: ‘Shadowed behind the tattooed face the stranger lurks. He is white. He owns the earth.’ Now the pakeha has come, the iron has taken the place of the stone. The lightning flash of the pakeha’s wisdom” (referring to the telephone) “speaks from near and far. The old order has changed; your ancestors said it would change. When the net is old and worn it is cast aside, the new net goes fishing. I do not want to blame the old net; it was good in its day, and many fish were caught in it. But the old net is worn with time and we must go fishing with the new net our brother has brought us. We must advance by work, for therein lies our only salvation.”

page 246

Farewell to Taare Waitara

A FUNERAL oration by Sir Maui Pomare, when Chief Native Health Officer, at Parihaka, over the Taranaki chief Taare Waitara, son-in-law of the famous prophet and leader Te Whiti o Rongomai:

“The stars of heaven are dimmed; darkness is over all. Our treasured bird has flown away. The giant tree of the forest which sheltered the great birds and the small has fallen to the earth. The midpost of the house has snapped asunder; the chill wind blows through the afflicted home. Our friend has gone, borne away in his canoe of Fate. He passes along the viewless path by which so many have gone before.

“When men fight with weapons hand to hand a blow can be warded off. Not so with the blows of Fate. No man can avert the blow dealt by the gods. And so with Waitara. He has been claimed by the great Goddess of Death. Weep, ye widows, groan, ye aged, cry, ye fatherless! Waitara, the parent, the provider, has gone. The old day ends to-night. The old day was a day of hand and feet. That was the day of war; this day is the day of brain.

“The tide of wisdom and progress is sweeping on and we must go with it. Education is to be the future paddle for our canoe. If we do not take advantage of what is before us we will be swept into oblivion. This is the history of the world. The day has dawned when the pakeha and the Maori must work in harmony with each other, having the same aim in life, and that is progress.

“I weep with you to-day for our common sorrow. I weep because a great man has ceased to live amongst you. Who is there with a heart big enough to take up his fallen mantle? Who will now be the parent? Waitara was a man of few words but great deeds. To him there were neither high nor low; there was no rich and.no poor. At his table sat the chief and the plebian, the Governor and his coachman. This is the religion of the grand old man Te Whiti; this is your religion, and Waitara was the apostle. Farewell, Waitara! Farewell! Time is short, you have joined our mighty dead. When the canoe of Fate comes again who knows who will be the passenger? Farewell, O Waitara.”

page 247
The Canoe of Fate (Te Waka O Aitua).

The Canoe of Fate (Te Waka O Aitua).

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page 249

Mahuta of Waikato
Sir Maui’s Funeral Speech

IN the year 1912 the Hon. Dr. Pomare (as he was then) visited Waahi, Waikato, on the occasion of the mourning over the late Mahuta Tawhiao, son of King Tawhiao, and grandson of Potatau, the first Maori King. Standing in front of the body of the dead King, he spoke as follows: “The tree has fallen and there it lies. The giant totara has come crashing to the earth, and the sound thereof reverberates through the length and breadth of the land. The stars of the heavens grow fewer. The ridgepole of the house is broken asunder. The whare leaks. The children shiver with the cold. The father has gone. The tribe is left desolate. The little ones are left orphans. The canoe of fate which was fashioned in Hawaiki by the God of misfortune—Aitua—has come. It has visited your home as it needs must visit the dwelling-places of man. Each time it takes its silent passenger to the realms of Night. So to-day, you are the silent passenger, and we have come to bid farewell. Depart to the Spirit Land in the company of your illustrious brother who preceded you. Together wend your ways to the great ones of the earth, to our common ancestors, and tell them the truth concerning these days.

“In their time this was the proverb: ‘The man first, and then the land.’ Now the world is upside down, and the proverb has been transposed: ‘The land first and the man after.’ In their day thus was the word: ‘Man is easily lost, but the land remains for ever.’ This saying is also changed: ‘The land is easily lost, but man remains for ever.’”

Dr. Pomare then chanted an old song and incantation, Te Neke’s Lament. Thereafter, as their representative in Parliament, he greeted Waikato and the other assembled tribes.

page 250

To a Patriot of Samoa

ATRIBUTE of affection and admiration to the high chief, Tamasese (afterwards killed with a number of his people on Apia Beach), who was imprisoned as the result of political differences with the New Zealand Government administration of Samoa. Sir Maui Pomare visited Tamasese in his prison-cell at Auckland in 1929, and was moved to tears, and he wrote this message to the “New Zealand Samoa Guardian”:

“To-day I saw Tamasese in gaol. I greeted him in his own tongue. We sat and talked of many things. I said, ‘Tamasese, I am sorry to see you here, and yet I am glad. I came to see your face….’

“And so I looked into the countenance of a Tama—an Ariki—a prince indeed. The lineal descendant of kings whose genealogical lines reach back into the twilight of fable, and yet withal I looked and saw the face of a martyr—a patriot. He has given his all in the cause of his people— the emancipation of his race.

“I thought, and asked myself this question. What have we—New Zealand—done? In our blind blundering party wrangling and political humbug we put this man in gaol. That is what we have done. This man we deprived of liberty, hereditary titles, degraded, deported and imprisoned. Yet those titles will continue till the last drop of Tamasese blood ceases to flow.

“Degradation? An honour. Deportation? A privilege. Imprisonment? A crown of glory. And so we have made it! ‘la loto malosi, Tamasese’ (‘Be strong in heart, Tamasese’).”