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Legends of the Maori

The Last Scene — The Home-Bringing of the Ashes — Farewell and Burial Scene at Waitara

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The Last Scene
The Home-Bringing of the Ashes
Farewell and Burial Scene at Waitara

ON the 30th. August, 1930, the ashes of the late Sir Maui Pomare whose body was cremated in California, were interred at Manu-korihi Pa above the right bank of the Waitara River, in the sight of thousands of the Maori and pakeha peoples, and amidst scenes of poignant sorrow. The following descriptions of the ceremonials are from the excellent accounts given in the two New Plymouth newspapers, the “Daily News” and the “Taranaki Herald”:

The ashes of Sir Maui Pomare were received at Waitara yesterday (August 29th) by his kinsmen, and borne with honour and lamentation to the courtyard of Manukorihi Pa, above the river, to the accompaniment of traditional Maori ceremony in keeping with the occasion.

Like a pall enshrouding the populace, a misty rain fell upon the arrival of the funeral train, and continued for most of the day. The proceedings, nevertheless, lost none of their dignity and impressiveness. The old and the new were thrown into the sharpest relief. Tangis of such wide interest, following the death of a Maori of such note who was reared in the old school, are destined in future to be few indeed. A native of the Taranaki West Coast, born in the midst of old Maori tradition and philosophy, rose to greatness in European and Maori eyes in backgrounds far removed from his boyhood haunts. Sir Maui introduced progressive reforms to meet the transitional crisis of his people, and his work is done. His last remains were received by representatives of all classes of the two races, gathered from all parts of New Zealand and the Chatham Islands.

The arrival of the ashes was greeted in the early morning by a large throng at the station, silent, except for subdued sobbing and wailing. Thousands lined the main street as the cortege moved in the rain across the river towards the pa, where thousands of Maoris and pakehas lined the hill, like ghosts against the skyline. All the deep mixed feelings intensified by the weeks of preparation, seemed to be imparted as 100 Maori women greeted the entry of the cortege to the courtyard. Bedecked with greenery and beckoning with green branches, dancing, and uttering wailing chants, the women slowly preceded the casket as it was borne forward. Amongst the thousands massed on all sides, Lady Pomare appearing worn with grief, and accompanied by her family and relatives, followed, while also amongst the visitors by the special train were twenty-one members of Parliament.

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A flaxen mat was laid on the ground, and on this the family of the late Sir Maui took up their seats—Lady Pomare, Miss Ana Pomare, Te Naera Pomare and Te Ra Pomare.

The wailing of the wahines and the tamahines had been rather in the nature of a welcome of the remains of the late chief back to their birthplace than a lament at his passing. For the remainder of the morning prominent members of the Native race, particularly Taranaki Maoris, advanced into the marae and with impassioned speech and eloquent gesture spoke of their late chief.

First on to the marae came Nohomairangi Te Whiti, son of the famous prophet of Parihaka. He greeted Sir Apirana Ngata and the Parliamentary party, and expressed gratification for the sympathy shown at the death of Sir Maui. Forceful and eloquent addresses were intermingled with chanting and prayer to the spirit of the dead man, in relation to its journey to the other world. Following Noho Te Whiti came Kaha Ho-moro, nephew of the famous Wiremu Kingi, also of the Atiawa tribe, Manaia (Hawera) and Pouwhare-Umu (Okaiawa), of the Ngati-Ruanui tribe, the last-named the son of the famous fighting chief Toi, Titoko-waru’s battle leader. He gave a most vigorous address. Then came Kingi Topia, of Whanganui, Tonga Awhikau, of the Ngati-Ruanui, Takarangi Mete Kingi of Whanganui, Kakakura Parata of Waikanae, and Kupe, of the Taranaki Maoris.

The Rt. Hon. J. G. Coates, Leader of the Opposition, said: “I am sorry for the cause that brings us to your courtyard; to the courtyard of the ancestors of a man who stands in high respect among the Maoris from the North Cape to the Bluff. Few men have done more than the late Sir Maui Pomare to bring about that sympathetic understanding as between pakeha and Maori. Few men have done more to stay the surge and feeling of discontent and distrust, and smooth out the future way of trust for Maori and pakeha. To-day it is more in a personal regard for his memory, a tribute to the man himself, and the affection that the pakeha feels for a lost friend, that you see with us to-day the members of Parliament, members of his own party”—and Mr. Coates named the numerous Ministers and members of Parliament present.

“Surely this is a tribute not so much to the political worth of our departed brother, but to the high personal regard in which he was held,” continued Mr. Coates. “Sir Apirana Ngata has in his usual courteous manner effaced himself in order that the political friends of Sir Maui Pomare may be heard. I would like you to know and him to feel that to his thoughtfulness and his arrangements that we are able to be here to-day page 275 to pay tribute to the memory of Sir Maui. We are grateful for his kindness, his thoughtfulness and his work on our behalf.

“May I mention and remind you that Sir Maui’s work was not confined entirely to the thought of the Maori people; but he had that happy gift by which he could work without favour but wholeheartedly for the whole nation. His work for the health of the Maoris and on behalf of the lepers, not only in this country, but as father of the Cook Islands, his work for Samoans in getting old grievances cleared up, and his work for the pakeha in hospital are well known to each and all of us. And to-day we realise that there is a heavy burden to take up. We can all realise and I am sure we all feel that Taranaki realises the loss it has suffered. Surely one of the props of the tent has been struck from under. When I remind you of the West Coast lands, I remind you of how near is the work of the departed friend.

“Through all his work and his troubles he has had with him a lady who has been ever ready to sacrifice her own pleasure and health, and always rendered help and succoured him in timés of stress. To-day I am sure I voice the feelings of everyone when I express gratitude that Lady Pomare should return with the remains, and to her we extend our sympathy.

“Personally, I feel the loss of a brother; one with whom during 20 years of work I was intimately associated. For some years since and during the war the Native Department in Parliament was welded together, its first consideration being towards the Empire, then the Maori people, thinking out the best way of serving the race. We have with us to-day two men who took a prominent part in Parliament in that great work—Sir Apirana Ngata and Mr. Tau Henare. Let us hope that the work they began and that Sir Maui Pomare had such a great part in initiating will continue; and that the Maori people will take their proper place among the people of our nation.”

“I am here to-day not only as a Minister of the Crown and representative of the Government, not only as the representative of this district in Parliament, but as a friend of Sir Maui, to mourn with you the loss of your member, chief and great statesman,” said the Hon. S. G. Smith, Minister of Labour. Although he had sat on the opposite side of the House to Sir Maui, it had always been his desire to help him and the Maori people. He joined with Mr. Coates in all he had said in tribute to the great man whose loss they were mourning. Mr. Coates had told them what Sir Maui had done for his people, and it was for them to see that they stuck together, to see that the great work he had started would not end till final success came page 276 to the people of the district. Pakeha and Maori were as one in offering to Lady Pomare and the members of her family their heartfelt sympathy.”

As a member of the Native Department and a staunch friend of Sir Maui, Judge Jones, of the Native Land Court, added his sympathy. “This gathering shows,” he said, “that there could be no more fitting place than Waitara for it to be held. We of the pakehas do not forget that here, in this very pa, years ago, was cemented that peace that has been kept ever since. In June, 1878, Rewi Maniapoto met Governor Grey here and said, ‘We will take our hands off your heads if you take your hands off our heads,’ and peace has reigned ever since. Governor Grey thereupon said that he had such faith in the Maoris that if England had an enemy tomorrow, he would not hesitate to take a Maori army to fight for her. No one then dreamt that England would want their help; but the time came when the Governor’s words came true and England called for Maori regiments. A member of one (Captain Pitt, Gisborne) is standing beside me (interpreting). Maori boys and our boys went together through the valley of the shadow of death in defence of the Empire. Their blood was spilt on the same fields, and now they are living together in peace because of that. Now that is gone and past, and we come to mourn the death of Sir Maui Pomare. We can say to his spirit ‘Go to your ancestors, and tell them that what you have said in the past has come true.’ “

The Chief Tauvao of Samoa, accompanied by Viopapa and Pilopo, daughters of Taisi (Hon. O. F. Nelson), was present at the obsequies, and presented a Samoan fine mat as a parting tribute.

Tauvao delivered in the Samoan tongue a panegyric and address to the departed native statesman, a translation of which is as follows:—

“Reverence to Heaven. Tulou! Respects to the drifting of the clouds of Heaven. Tulou! Regards to the scattering of the titles. Tulou!

“Is it not a fact that a prince has fallen this day in Aotearoa? Pomare has passed away. Galumalemana has left his people. Tulou!

“Pomare, you have left us, but on whom shall Samoa lean? Who shall be the fortress for our little country? You have been the main pillar of our faith. This, notwithstanding, ‘where one warrior has fallen, may another warrior arise.’ May the best of health attend your descendants. Far removed be illness from Lady Pomare.

“We have come with an ie-toga (fine mat) as a parting token of the bond which existed between Taisi and Pomare. The genealogy of this mat is as follows:—

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“This mat was one of the principal mats in the langi (burial ceremony) of Tamasese, the father of the late Tamasese Lealofi and the present Tamasese. On that occasion this mat was presented to Mr. Williams, the then Deputy-Administrator of Savaii. From Mr. Williams the mat passed to Petia Le-Savaiinaea (Mr, P. A. Jensen). It has now been released to be presented this day as the mavaenga (parting gift) between Taisi and his dear friend Pomare.

“The soul is full of words, but it is difficult to express them because the ground on which we are is consecrated. Aotearoa is sacred. The arikis and rangatiras of Maori are assembled. No one may speak lightly.

“May God attend the ceremonies from this day until the termination of the tangi, when the ground has again been declared normal. Far removed may be illness and indisposition from the assembly. May your servant live.”

In the sunshine and calm of a perfect spring morning the ashes of Sir Maui Pomare were laid to rest at Manukorihi early on Saturday afternoon, August 30th. Taranaki never heard or witnessed a more beautiful ceremony. The Maori has a way all his own for wishing a soul God speed on its way to the mythical land of Hawaiki, and the earnestness, the simplicity and the beauty of it leave a pakeha mute.

Intricate and delightful poi dances, amazingly rhythmical and wonderfully executed, were given first by three groups comprising wahines of the Ngati-Maru tribe from the Urenui districts, Ngati-Ruanui, from the country surrounding Hawera, and the Atiawa from the home pa. Each dance was symbolical of grief and mourning in accordance with the custom of the ancient Maori. The wahines, barefooted and with faces painted with black, wore piupius, each of a different design, and were profusely garlanded over head and body with green leaves and small branches of greenery—symbol of mourning.

The Maori people brought floral tributes, unremitting sobbing expressing their anguish for the loss of a great man and friend. Wonderful korowai flax robes of all sorts and sizes were laid across the vault. There were gifts from Samoa, Rarotonga, Niue Island, Cook Islands and from every tribe of Maoris in the Dominion—testimony to the love of the people of the Pacific and New Zealand for Sir Maui, who had led them so wisely and well into the way of health and prosperity. Greenstone and taiaha descended into the vault with the preciously borne and beautiful casket, while high round the projecting walls of the vault were heaped floral emblems from friends from North Cape to the Bluff.

Canon K. Karaka led the service. Sentences were read by Archdeacon H. Raiti (Waikato) and a psalm was led by Archdeacon G. H. Gavin page 278 (Waitara), who spoke through the chanting interpretation of the combined Maori clergy. The lesson was read by the Rev. R. T. Haddon, or Tahupotiki.

The Rt. Hon. J. G. Coates addressed the gathering: “Chiefs and people of Taranaki,” he said, “chiefs and hapus from all over New Zealand; ladies and gentlemen, this is an occasion when we can express our last thoughts of and respects to a man held in high esteem and close affection, first for his service to his country, to the Maori people and to the pakeha. This is an occasion when I can remember the man himself—his courteous manner, his education, his force of character and his belief in Christianity which proves the stepping-stone to the highest ideal in human life.

“Those intimately acquainted with him remember his many acts of kindness; the many thoughts from the mind of a philosopher, derived from stimulating books he had read and University life. Further than that, knowing life and its pitfalls, he warned anyone to avoid them. Those in Taranaki understand that the mighty totara has fallen with a sound that will reach to every part of New Zealand. And it will reach further than that, for we know the respect paid and the attention given him when he visited America recently in the hope that the trip would help him back to health again. It is a sad day for all of us; a sad day that we would all like to have avoided. In his loss has gone the help of a stalwart—a man whose life was given to help the Maori and pakeha people. His name will live.

“I hope we will have the help of his wife in the future; she who stood by him royally in all adversity right to the end. I ask her assistance to smooth the path of difficulty and trouble away at any time it may impede the progress of the Maori people.

“We are laying to rest a great New Zealander whose name will live for ever. No member of the race has had such a tribute as our friend. It is fitting it should be so. I would like to express my thanks for the privilege given me, that in the courtyard of his ancestors I should be chosen to say a few words which but mildly express the feeling of grief of the people who are here to pay their last respects to this great New Zealander.”

“Of the burial ceremony,” said a Taranaki newspaper writer, “it can only be said that all of it was to the pakeha a marvellous education. The perfect rhythm of the poi dances and the infinite pain and pleasure in the laments was something more than even the most discerning pakeha can quite understand. He simply feels himself in the power of a tremendous force, of which those swaying bodies, that perfect rhythm, that unerring tone and pitch in the music were but a touch. Most of all the music. page 279 There was glad music in the poi dances, and sad music in the laments, but of all the music the loveliest was the rendering of the psalms and the chants in the actual church service. The utter sweetness of the girl’s solo, and the blending of the chorus, male and female, was something that the assembled pakeha will never forget. It was too beautiful for words, too deep for expression. It was the spirit of the Maori race in its grandest moment of supplication rising superior to mundane things.”

To the accompaniment of renewed wailing and a sad persistent monotone, Messrs. J. Manu, J. Bailey, Noho Te Whiti, and Hapi Love slowly bore the casket from the tent and placed it upon a beautiful mat in the centre of the marae. The people rose and stood bareheaded in silence. The Rev. Hadfield led on to the marae the Whanganui Maori Choir. The clergy, representative of the Church of England, the Methodist Church and the Salvation Army, ten in number, walked slowly round until facing the choir, with the casket between them. Wahines recommenced their sobbing and wailing, but this practically ceased when the Maori choir and clergy sang the opening hymn. The surpassing beauty of the harmonising of the men and women in the choir greatly impressed the hearers. The liquid vowels of the voluble Maori tongue lend themselves particularly well to this form of expression, and the bass cadences of the men mingled with the other sweeter notes to create a remarkable effect.

A low and sweet lament was sung by the choir and the clergy. The people turned to the vault. The casket was raised, and Sir Apirana Ngata, the Right Hon. J. G. Coates, Tau Henare, Mr. K. S. Williams, M.P. (Bay of Plenty), T. Makitanara, M.P. (Southern Maori), and Hapi Love accompanied it to the vault. Sad and weeping wahines rhythmically swinging their pois, the choir and other prominent and mourning officials followed, while the clergy turned off to the other side of the steps to the vault. Sobbing broke out in renewed volume, the older wahines shivering spasmodically from the intensity of their grief and perhaps also from sheer exhaustion. Following the reading of further sentences by the Rev. Hikairo, the Rev. Hadfield, as priest of the home parish, descended the steps to the door of the vault and officiated for the actual committal of the casket.

Owing to the circumstances the phraseology was in some places altered a little as was evident from the first solemn words, “We commit his ashes to their resting place,” as spoken in the Maori tongue by the Rev. Hadfield. The closing prayers were delivered by Canon W. Williams, in Maori.