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The Maoris of the South Island

Chapter I — The Origin of the Maori

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Chapter I
The Origin of the Maori

“We came from Hawaiki-the-Great
From Haiwaiki-the-Long, from Hawaiki-the-Distant.”

“The fame of your canoes can never be dimmed!
The canoes which crossed the ocean depths,
The purple sea, the Great-Ocean-of-Kiwa,
Which lay stretched before them.”

“Turn again your face to the shadowy land from
which we came, to the homes of our ancestors far
away, to the great Hawaiki, to long Hawaiki,
to Hawaiki-of-great-distance.”

Who are the Maoris? Where did they come from? The Rev. J. Watkin, in his report to the Missionary Society, London, states that their “traditions as well as their language show them to have had an origin common with the Polynesians.” The problem has occupied the careful attention of the historian and the ethnologist for very many years, and although there are diversities of opinion, it is generally agreed that the Maori is a Polynesian with a blend of Melanesian blood. The latter connects him with the dark-skinned peoples of New Guinea and the adjacent islands. The ancestry of the Maori, however, may be traced much further back than to the islands of the Pacific. James Cowan in The Maori Yesterday and Today quotes from a Maori chant as follows: “I came from Great Distance, from Long-Distance, from page 10 Very-Distant-Places — from Hawaiki.” “This formula,” says Mr. Cowan, “summarises the Maori idea of the migration of his ancestors, from one Tawhiti or Hawaiki to another, across the island-strewn Pacific.”

The tradition of the last migration from Tahiti and adjacent islands is illuminating. The tohungas have preserved these facts in detail from the last of the Hawaikis up to the arrival of their ancestors to New Zealand. “Hawaiki” means “the distant home” and refers to any place from which the Maori came in their ancient wanderings.

The Polynesian ancestry may be traced back to a distant Hawaiki—probably to the northern shores of the Persian Gulf and to the early inhabitants of Asia. Mr. Cowan, in Maoris of New Zealand, says that the Maori-Polynesian is a branch, though a distant one, of the Caucasian race and that this view is now generally accepted by scientific investigators. If this is correct, the Maori can therefore claim a connection with the ancient Chaldeans, the Phoenicians, the Babylonians, the Hebrews and the Arabs.

Mr. R. J. Casey states that the ancestors of the Polynesians, in the dim past, came from Ur in Chaldea, the land of the two rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris.1 That there is some link of connection between the Maori and Hebrew and Semitic race is suggested by the Jewish features seen in some of the Maoris. Taiaroa of Otakou, for instance, had a striking Jewish cast of features. Many of the Maori customs resemble Jewish practices. The law of utu, satisfaction or payment for an injury, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” seems to compare with ancient Jewish traditions. Tapu, sacred, set apart or under restriction, is another resemblance.

Certain of the Maori customs remind one of the marriage customs described in the Old Testament. A comparison of the Jewish ceremonial law, as embodied in the Old Testament Scriptures, with the customs of the Maori people, presents many points of agreement.

1 Easter Island, by R. J. Casey.

page 11

The Rev. R. Taylor mentions some of the resemblances: “the younger brother taking his elder brother's widow as a wife. The nearest male relation marrying the widow of the deceased husband who had no brother living, as Obed married Ruth; the elder brother caring for his sister as his right; the touching of food; God present in the whirlwind; all unclean who touched a corpse; the custom of betrothing infants, and the weeping and lamentation over the death of a friend.”

Watkin writes in his Journal, “When a New Zealander dies his wife is taken by his brother.” Many other resemblances could be mentioned. The Rev. Charles Creed mentions that a priest “is particularly interested in Christianity and compares the sacred history with their own traditions, remarking on the traditional events which seem analogous to those in the sacred volume.”

The Rev. W. Wyatt Gill, B.A., who spent some years in the Polynesian Islands of the Pacific, in his book Life in the Southern Isles, has pointed out that the elder missionaries who worked in those islands were impressed with the similarity to the Hebrew in the conjugation of the verbs and in many of the primitive words such as mate, death; mara, bitter; rapaau, to heal; pae, side; ina, behold, etc. Most verbs have a causative active and causative passive form, resembling the Hebrew conjugation Hiphal, and its passive Hophal. Another remarkable resemblance: “These islanders,” he says, “like the Hebrews of old, place the seat of the affections and intellect in the bowels.” A parent giving vent to an excess of tenderness to a child will say, “My bowels are all gone out towards you.” In writing to an absent son, the father will use the expressive phrase: “My bowels are pained through grieving for you.” So too of the intellect. A native will praise after this fashion: “Your bowels are full of light,” viz., “You have a clear intellect” or the reverse, “Your bowels are dark indeed.” Similar expressions are found in the Bible, Genesis 43:30 “And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother and he entered into his chamber and wept there.” 1 Kings 3:26: “Then spake the woman whose living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, etc.” page 12 So also the New Testament: Colossians 3:12: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness, etc.” Philemon 7: “For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.”

These resemblances, however, do not imply that there is any ground for the theory, put forth by some fanciful minds, that the Maori people are remnants of one of the supposed lost tribes of Israel. It does not suggest, moreover that the Maoris descended from the Hebrews, but it does seem to indicate that the Hebrews and the Polynesians of the South Seas had a common origin.

It may be asked, how can we trace the track of the Maori people to New Zealand? Cowan entertains the reasonable argument, now largely accepted, that the ancestors of the Maori migrated eastward from the shores of the Persian Gulf to Persia, Baluchistan and thence to India. The stages of their migration would cover many generations. Each country in which they were located would leave its impress on their manners, customs and traditions. There can be no doubt that the ancestors of the Maori sojourned for a period in the Malayan Archipelago, now peopled by Malays and a Mongoloid race which came later when the Maori ancestors had located themselves in the Pacific Islands. There is, however, no trace of the Mongoloid strain in the Maori. There can be no doubt that the Maori expedition in its pilgrimage passed through Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Easter Island, and also voyaged as far as the Sandwich Islands.

They were expert sailors and possessed considerable astronomical knowledge which was of value to them in their various migrations. No doubt this astronomical knowledge was due to their racial affinities with the ancient Chaldeans. “To the Phoenicians, who were great navigators, with whom they had blood relationships, they were indebted for their knowledge of navigation.” Origin of the Maori, p. 31.

Mr. Percy Smith in his book Hawaiki deals with the sojourn of the proto-Maoris in India where they were governed by a chief or king named Tu-te-Rangi-Marama. This, he page 13 holds, was about the year 450 B.C., prior to their migration to the East Indies.

In various ways India left its impress upon the ancestors of the Maori. In Western Polynesia the people resemble the Hindu in a greater degree than do the Maoris of New Zealand. The name “Maori” is known in Northern India, viz., Maori, Mori, Mauri and Maurea. Watkin, in his Journal, uses the name Mauri when writing of the native people of New Zealand. Mr. A. K. Newman, in his book Who are the Maoris? points out that many Maori names and words can be traced to India. The Maori legends of the origin of Maui are the same in India. Newman also points out that the protruding tongue in Maori art is characteristic of many Indian images of gods; that the Maori fortified pas, and their mode of fighting are Indian; that their canoes and canoe sails are Indian; that their tattooing is Indian. He is also of the opinion that some of the Maori customs and habits had their origin in India, and that the foods they cultivated—the kumara and the taro—were cultivated in India and planted with the same religious rites.

Cowan in The Maori: Yesterday and Today, page 27, calls attention to the theory (and indeed more than a theory) that those ancient intrepid navigators in their wanderings coasted down the eastern shores of the African Continent at least as far as the Zambesi, and that they visited and partly colonized Madagascar, which would account for the resemblances between the Maori-Polynesian language and Malagasy.

The Rev. J. F. H. Wohlers in his autobiography also calls attention to the similarities that obtain between the Maori and the Malagasy and gives examples: “Judging by this relation of language the Malagasy in Madagascar, the Maori in New Zealand, as well as the whole Polynesian population of the South Seas, must have had a common origin, and have emigrated from the same country, etc.”

There is the traditional story of Maui who fished up the North Island of New Zealand with a fish hook. It appears that there were five brothers of whom Maui was the youngest. To the latter was ascribed extraordinary or miraculous feats page 14 such as procuring fire from the underworld with which he performed wonders. As a result the brothers were afraid of him. It happened that the brothers had arranged a deep sea fishing tour, and they were keen to keep the secret to themselves and keep Maui out of the venture. Maui, however, upset their plans by stowing himself away on the canoe on the night previous to departure. He did not reveal himself till the canoes was far out to sea. They sailed into the distant southern waters. Maui then decided to fish on his own account and took his line but, alas! according to the myth he had no hook and no bait, but he had with him the jawbone of his grandmother—Murirangawhenua—which he used for a hook and for bait he punctured his nose and poured his own blood upon the hook. This hook and bait were symbolic of supernatural power. He uttered a karakia and when he pulled in his line he found that he had gripped something very heavy — a huge fish. This enormous fish, known as Te-Ika-a-Maui, was the North Island of New Zealand. Such is the myth, the fabulous story. It is given in detail by Dr. Shortland in his Traditions and Superstitions of the New Zealanders and also by Sir Peter Buck in The Coming of the Maori. When the mythical is eliminated from the story it does not preclude the possibility of Maui the Polynesian navigator.

Regarding the historic setting of the Polynesian migration to New Zealand, there are various and nebulous accounts, every tribe having its own version. Kupe, who hailed from Hawaiki, is regarded as one of the most noted of the Polynesian navigators. The approximate date of his visit is given as A.D. 925. Even Kupe may not have been the first to land in New Zealand. This is lost in the mists of antiquity. Kupe in his canoe Matahourua, after long weeks of dangerous voyaging, was rewarded by seeing a white cloud in the far distance, and a cry was raised, “A cloud! A cloud! Ao-tearoa.”

Kupe is supposed to have sailed along the coast of the North Island, entered the harbour where Wellington is situated today, and also entered Porirua Harbour. He is credited with page 15 visiting Queen Charlotte Sound and the Tory Channel. It was from Hokianga that Kupe returned to Hawaiki. Such is the story, in brief, as believed by the Maori people.

The visit of Toi marks a new era in the settlement of New Zealand and is generally placed as being approximately in the year A.D. 1150. Sir Peter Buck calls this the second settlement group. Mr. Percy Smith, in his Hawaiki, places the period of Toi thirty-one generations back from the year 1900 or in the year A.D. 1125. The Rev. J. H. Fletcher has given much thought to the problem, and is of the opinion that Mr. Percy Smith has not put the date far enough back, and places the date at about the year A.D. 950 but today the year A.D. 1150 is generally accepted as the approximate date. Toi lived at Hawaiki, probably Tahiti, and came from a race of navigators.

At the time mentioned, chiefs came from the various adjacent islands and even from distant islands, to participate in canoe racing. Whatonga and Turahui, grandsons of Toi, entered their canoe Te Wao for the race. On the day appointed for it, it is said that sixty canoes set off together. Far out at sea a fierce gale came on and they could not return. To make matters worse fog followed the storm and Whatonga and Turahui with their crew were unable to trace their way back. They were lost, but ultimately they landed at Raiatea Island far away from their own home. They lived there for a period and married with the people of the island.

Toi, lamenting the loss of his grandsons, and anxious to find them, decided to go in search of them. Accordingly he built a strong canoe, and with a selected crew, sailed to Raratonga and probably to Samoa and then on to the Chatham Islands, but in vain. New Zealand was the next place of call and he landed on the coast of the Hauraki Gulf. From Hauraki he reached Whakatane where he and his crew settled down, building a pa named Kapu-te-rangi which is still in existence on the hills behind the town. Soon after Toi's departure from Tahiti, his grandsons Whatonga and Turahui found their way back to their home and there learned that Toi was away seeking them. The grandsons agreed to page 16 search for their grandfather and, collecting their crews, which included their women, they duly arrived at Raratonga. They were told there that Toi could be found at Whakatane on the east coast of New Zealand. Whatonga and Turahui were delighted to find their grandfather well and strong in a well-constructed pa at Whakatane. Eventually, some of their descendants settled at what is known today as the Wellington Harbour.

The Morioris have occupied the attention of investigators for many years and there are still diversities of opinion. All agree, however, that they were an early migration of Polynesians from their Hawaiki. The present writer discussed the problem with the Rev. R. Tahupotiki Haddon who was an authority in regard to Polynesian traditions. In early life Mr. Haddon was trained in Maori mystic law by Kakahi in the “school of higher learning” in Taranaki. Mr. Haddon was definitely of the opinion that the Morioris were Polynesians of a very early migration.

Some investigators claim that the Morioris of the Chatham Islands had no knowledge of New Zealand, and that their language, customs and material culture were widely different from the Maori; that their mythology reveals a close kinship to the fundamental Polynesian pattern, but that their historical traditions do not indicate that the Morioris had any knowledge of New Zealand. It is quite possible that odd fishing boats may have drifted to New Zealand and that their Moriori occupants became absorbed in the Maori people.

Sir Peter Buck, in his The Coming of the Maori has a different opinion. He states that the Morioris, traditionally, are believed to be a branch of the first migrants or settlers in New Zealand who later found their way to the Chathams before the arrival of the Great Fleet in New Zealand, A.D. 1350, and who thus “through isolation have retained more of the physical characters of the early settlers than the Maoris who were the result of intermixture with later arrivals. Hence the Moriori may be regarded as the pure descendants of the tangata whenua first settlers who from their isolation did not share in the legends, stories and cultural changes introduced page 17 and developed in New Zealand after their departure. It must be noted also, that the language of the Morioris is basically Polynesian, but is still very different from the Maori language which has apparently suffered little alteration throughout the thousand years or so that they have been in occupation of New Zealand.”

It is believed that the first canoe of Morioris landed at Kaingaroa. The canoe bore the name Tane and was in charge of Kahu. The second wave of colonists came in the canoes Rangihoua and Rangimata1 The third canoe was named Oropuke and was under the charge of the chief Moe, and made its landfall approximately in the year A.D. 1175.

They were a bright and pleasure-loving people and lived their own way of life till they were disturbed by the Maoris. In 1831–36 the Chathams were invaded from the North Island of New Zealand by the Ngati Mutunga and the Ngati Tama tribes, and the Morioris fell an easy prey. The invaders killed many of them and took their women as wives. They introduced disease which rapidly reduced their numbers. Intermarriage was another factor which thinned out the pureblooded Morioris. In 1870 reserves of land were set aside for the survivors, but they continued to decline until the last pure-blooded Moriori died in 1931. In the early days the numbers were estimated by Captain Broughton, who was in command of the Chatham, to be 1,600. Bishop Selwyn estimated the number at 268 in 1848.

The Rev. J. Aldred (Wesleyan) who lived in the Chathams in 1841–42 has stated than in addition to the Maoris in his charge, there were about 300 Morioris living on these islands. According to their own statements they had been a numerous people but were dying out. Mr. Aldred said of them: “They are a harmless, inoffensive people. They have no fixed dwelling place, clothing or house. They put up a sort of wind-break, behind which they eat and sleep. Their food is herbs and fish, and their sole attraction to any one place is firewood and water.” They had some notion of a page 18 supreme being whom they regarded with fear and dread, and they also believed in a future state. Their dead were not buried, but the trunk of a tree was scooped out, the body placed in the cavity, covered with a lid and then put in a reclining position on the ground in their cemetery. These burial grounds were supposed to be peculiarly sacred to the gods. On ordinary occasions the Morioris feared to enter them, and when Mr. Aldred did so an old man who accompanied him sat at the entrance amazed and wonderstruck. There their idols were erected, and when a burial took place they prayed to them. Mr. Aldred came to the conclusion that there was little affinity between them and the Maoris, basing his opinion on the dissimilarity of manners and customs. When Mr. Aldred spoke to the chief Mate Waipuku about the Gospel, the chief said: “O, why did you not come and teach us before the white man came and led us into evil ways.”

Mr. Aldred preached the first sermon ever delivered in the group at Waikeri from the text “God so loved the world …” The people recognised in the missionary the messenger of peace and goodwill. He wished to bring some of his own Maori teachers from Wellington to these islands, but the captain of the schooner declined on the plea that “they would spoil his trade.” Unfortunately large quantities of ardent spirits had been taken to the islanders by the traders, and some of the people became drunkards. Later, Maori teachers were admitted and recognised. The Rev. Wiremu Te Kote Te Ratou was appointed and resided there for several years, and accomplished much for the Maori people and dwindling Moriori population.

The Maori people today trace back their descent to the various canoes of the Great Migration. It is believed that this migration took place about the year A.D. 1350. How many canoes came to New Zealand between the arrival of Toi and the historic fleet it would be difficult to state. However, the Great Heke was the first organised migration on a large scale of the ancestors of the Maori people to New Zealand, and is referred to by Sir Peter Buck as the third settlement page 19 group. The causes of the migration were various. The increasing population led to bitter feuds and frequent hostilities. There were family jealousies with regard to prestige and quarrelling over food supplies. All this unrest led to the desire to find a new home beyond the seas. Sir Peter Buck gave the names of the canoes: Tainui, Te Arawa, Matatua, Kurahaupo, Tokomaru, Aotea and Takitimu. Another famous canoe was the Horouta, commanded by Pawa. There may have been others. These skilful sailors steered their course by the stars and the guidance, they believed, of Tangaroa, the God of the Ocean. The Kai-Tahu people of Otago and Southland claim descent from the Takitimu, and they also have a tradition of the Araiteuru canoe which was wrecked at Moeraki. The round boulders on the sea front there are said to be the petrified calabashes from the canoe. The Takitimu canoe was commanded by Tamatea, who was accompanied by his sons Ranginui and Kahungunu. The priests were Ruawharo, Te Rongopatahi and Tupai. The Takitimu made its first landfall on the east coast and landed some of its people at Poverty Bay and some at Hawke's Bay. At Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbour) Tamatea met Whatonga's son Tara. He then proceeded to the far south, to Murihiku (the end of the tail) as far as the Waiau River where the Takitimu struck a reef and her long voyage ended. The Takitimu mountain range is a memorial to that famous canoe.

Tamatea then built the Karaerae canoe and sailed to the North Island and settled at Hokianga. Tamatea's sons settled in Poverty Bay and Hawke's Bay.

There are traditions of canoes, other than those already mentioned, which landed in New Zealand before the “Historic Fleet” of A.D. 1350.

In The Coming of the Maori, p. 40, Sir Peter Buck states that certain of the “Whanganui tribes of the west coast have some odd laments which mention canoes associated with ancestors who lived in the period before the Fleet.” Among the canoes mentioned is the Tairea.

The South Island Maoris have a tradition of the Tairea page 20 which arrived some time before the Fleet and engaged in exploration. This canoe called at Kaikoura on the east coast and at other places. After this it appears to have sailed round to the west coast and put in at several inlets. One of these places where the occupants landed and where they remained for a short time is known today as Milford Sound. There is a Kai Tahu tradition that the Captain of the canoe, whose name was Tama-ki-te-Rangi, was searching for his missing wives. At Milford he found one of them turned into greenstone. Tama wept bitterly over her and his tears entered into the rock, which explains why the clear, almost transparent kind of greenstone is found at Milford and is called tangiwai, tear water, or water of weeping. The Tairea canoe was wrecked, and Tama finally proceeded to the North Island.

There is the tradition of the Uruao canoe which is regarded as having ante-dated the Great Fleet. The Hon. F. Waite, in his Pioneers in South Otago, mentions the approximate date as being A.D. 850. Mr. F. G. Hall Jones in Historical Sauthland gives the same date and mentions the name of the great chief Rakai-haitu.

The elders of the South Island Maoris have a tradition that Rakai-haitu or, more correctly, Te Raikaihautu with his canoe sailed from Hawaiki, called at the North Island, entered several harbours, and then proceeded to the South Island. He and his party are credited with exploring the cold lakes Hawea, Whakatipu, Te Anau and Manapouri. They sailed down the Waiau river, entered Foveaux Strait and then departed for Banks Peninsula.