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The Long White Cloud

Chapter II — The Maori

page 47

Chapter II
The Maori

The moving finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on. Nor all your piety or wit
Can lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all your tears wash out a word of it.

The first colonists of New Zealand were brown men from the South Seas. It was from Eastern Polynesia that the Maori unquestionably came. They are of the same race as the courteous, handsome people who inhabit the South Sea Islands from Hawaii to Rarotonga, and who, in Fiji, mingle their blood with the darker and inferior Melanesians of the west. All the Polynesians speak dialects of the same musical tongue. A glance at Tregear's Comparative Maori-Polynesian Dictionary will satisfy any reader on that point. The Rarotongans call themselves “Maori,” and can understand the New Zealand speech; so, as a rule, can the other South Sea tribes, even the distant Hawaiians. Language alone is proverbially misleading as a guide to identity of race. But in the case of the Polynesians we may add colour and features, customs, legends, and disposition. All are well though rather heavily built, active when they choose, and passionately fond of war and sport. The New Zealanders are good riders and capital football players. The Samoans, until forbidden by law, used to spend weeks in playing gigantic cricket matches, fifty a side. Bold as seamen and skilful as fishermen, the Polynesians are, however, primarily cultivators of the soil. They never rose high enough in the scale to be miners or merchants. In the absence of mammals, wild and tame, in their islands, they could be neither hunters nor herdsmen. Fierce and bloodthirsty in war, and superstitious, they were good-natured and hospitable in peace and affectionate in family life.

page 48

There is no reason to think that the New Zealanders are more akin to the modern Malays than they are to the Australian blacks; nor have attempts to connect them with the red men of America or the Toltecs of Mexico succeeded. They are much more like some of the Aryans of Northern India. But the truth is, their fortunes before their race settled in Polynesia are a pure matter of guess-work. Some centuries ago, driven out by feuds or shortness of food, they left their isles of reef and palm, and found their way to Ao-tea-roa, as they called New Zealand.

On the map their new home seems at first sight so isolated and remote from the other groups of Oceania as to make it incredible that even the most daring canoe-men could have deliberately made their way thither. But this difficulty disappears upon a study of the ascertained voyages of the Polynesians. Among the bravest and most venturesome navigators of the ocean, the brown mariners studied and named the stars, winds and currents. As allies they had those friends of the sailor, the trade-winds. In cloudy weather, when the signs in the sky were hidden, the regular roll of the waves before the steady trade-wind was in itself a guide.1 Their large double-canoes, joined by platforms on which deck-houses were built, were no despicable sea-boats, probably just as good as the vessels in which the Phœnicians circumnavigated Africa. Even their single canoes were sometimes between 100 and 150 feet long, and the crews of these, wielding their elastic paddles, kept time in a fashion that has won respect from the coxswain of a University eight. For their long voyages they stored water in calabashes, carried roots and dried fish, and had in the cocoa-nut both food and drink stored safely by nature in the most convenient compass. In certain seasons they could be virtually sure of replenishing their stock of water from the copious tropical or semi-tropical rains. Expert fishermen, they would miss no opportunity of catching fish by the way. They made halting-places of the tiny islets which, often uninhabited and far removed from the well-known groups, dot the immense waste of the Pacific at great intervals. The finding of their stone axes or implements in such desolate spots enables their
A Black and White Photograph of some Maori solders.


A Black and White Photograph of a young Maori female.


A Black and White Photograph of a older Maori female.


A Black and White Photograph of a beach view in the capital city.


A Black and White Photograph of a steet view in a city.


1 S. Percy Smith on The Geographical Knowledge of the Polynesians.

page 49 courses to be traced. Canoe-men who could voyage to solitary little Easter Island in the wide void towards America, or to Cape York in the distant west, were not likely to find insuperable difficulties in running before the north-east winds to New Zealand from Rarotonga, Savaii or Tahiti. The discovery in the new land of the jade or greenstone—far above rubies in the eyes of men of the Stone Age—would at once give the country all the attractiveness that a gold-field has for civilized man.

The Maori stories of their migration to New Zealand are a mixture of myth and legend. Among them are minute details that may be accurate, mingled with monstrous tales of the utterly impossible. For example, we are told that one chief, on his canoe first nearing the coast, saw the feathery, blood-red rata-flowers gleaming in the forest, and promptly threw overboard his Polynesian coronet of red feathers, exclaiming that he would get a new crown in the new land. Such an incident might be true, as might also the tale of another canoe which approached the shore at night. Its crew were warned of the neighbourhood of land by the barking of a dog which they had with them and which scented a whale's carcass stranded on the beach. On the other hand we are gravely told that the hero Gliding-Tide, having dropped an axe overboard off the shore, muttered an incantation so powerful that the bottom of the sea rose up, the waters divided, and the axe returned to his hand. The shoal at any rate is there, and is pointed out to this day. And what are we to say to the tale of another leader, whose canoe was upset in the South Seas, and who swam all the way to New Zealand?

The traditions say that the Maori Pilgrim Fathers left the island of Hawaiki for New Zealand about the beginning of the fifteenth century. Hawaiki is probably one of the “shores of old romance.” Other Polynesian races also claim to have come thence. Mr. Percy Smith gives good reasons for the suggestion that the ancestors of the Maori migrated from the Society Islands and from Rarotonga, and that their principal migration took place about five hundred years ago. It seems likely enough, however, that previous immigrants had gone before them. One remnant of these, the now almost extinct Moriori, colonized the Chatham Islands, whither page 50 they were not followed by the conquering Maori until the last century. The two most famous of the great double canoes of the Maori settlers were the Arawa (shark) and the Tainui (flood-tide). On board thereof, with the men, women, and children, were brought dogs, rats, the gourd and taro root, and the invaluable kumara or sweet potato. The karaka-tree, whose glossy leaves were in after days to be seen in every village, was in Maori belief another importation. With these tradition ranks the green parakeet and blue pukeko o+ swamp-hen, two birds whose rich plumage has indeed something in it of tropical gaudiness, at any rate in contrast with the sober hues of most New Zealand feathers. The Tainui canoe was said to have found its last resting-place near the mouth of the Mokau river. A stone still lies there which is treasured by the natives as the ancient anchor of their sacred craft. Some years ago, when a European carried this off, they brought an action against him and obtained an order of the Court compelling him to restore it. Not far away stands a grove of trees alleged to have sprung from the Tainui's skids. The late Sir James Hector, the first scientific authority in the Dominion, finding that these trees grow spontaneously nowhere else in New Zealand, named them Pomaderris Tainui. But though, for once, at any rate, science was not indisposed to smile on tradition and Maori faith triumphed, and the unbeliever was for a while confounded, it unhappily seems now quite certain that the congener of Pomaderris Tainui is found only in Australia, one of the few lands nigh the Pacific which cannot have been Hawaiki.

It will be safe to say that the Maori colonists landed at different points and at widely different dates, and that later immigrants sometimes drove earlier comers inland or southward. More often, probably, each small band sought out an empty territory for itself. On this tribes and sub-tribes grew up, dwelling apart from each other. Each district became the land of a clan, to be held by toma-hawk and spear. Not even temporary defeat and slavery deprived a tribe of its land: nothing did that but permanent expulsion following upon actual seizure and occupation by the conquerors. Failing this, the right of the beaten side lived on, and could be reasserted after years of exile. The land was page 51 not the property of the ariki or chiefs, or even of the rangatira or gentry. Every free man, woman, and child in each clan had a vested interest therein which was acknowledged and respected. The common folk were not supposed to have immortal souls. That was the distinction of the well born. But they had a right to their undivided share of the soil. Even when a woman married into another tribe, or—in later days—became the wife of a white, she did not forfeit her title, though sometimes such rights would be surrendered by arrangement, to save inconvenience. Trade scarcely entered into Maori life. Buying and selling were unknown. On and by the land the Maori lived, and he clung to it closely as any Irish peasant. “The best death a man can die is for the land,” ran a proverb. “Let us die for the land!” shouted a chieftain, haranguing his fighting men before one of their first battles with the English. No appeal would be more certain to strike home.

Though the tribal estate was communal property in so far that any member could go out into the wilderness and fell trees and reclaim the waste, the fruits of such work, the timber and plantations, at once became personal property. The fields, houses, weapons, tools, clothes, and food of a family could not be meddled with by outsiders. The territory, in a word, was common, but not only products but usufructs were property attaching to individuals, who could transfer them by gift.

Though in time they forgot the way to “Hawaiki,” and even at last the art of building double-canoes, yet they never wanted for pluck or seamanship in fishing and voyaging along the stormy New Zealand coasts. Their skill and coolness in paddling across flooded rivers may still sometimes be witnessed.

Always needing fish, they placed their villages near the sea beaches or the rivers and lakes. In their canoes they would paddle as far as twelve miles from land. Amongst other fish they caught sharks, killing them before they hauled them into the crank canoes; or, joining forces, they would sweep some estuary with drag nets, and, with much yelling and splashing, drive the fish into a shallow corner. There with club and spear dog-fish and smooth-hound would be page 52 done to death amid shouts and excitement. Then would come a gorge on a grand scale, followed by business—the cutting into strips and drying of the shark-meat for winter food. In the forests they found birds, and, not having the bow-and-arrow, made shift to snare and spear them ingeniously. To add to the vegetable staples which they had brought with them from their Polynesian home, they used the root of the fern or bracken, and certain wild fruits and berries—none of them specially attractive. What between fish, birds, and vegetables, with occasional delicacies in the shape of dogs and rats, they were by no means badly provisioned, and they cooked their food carefully and well, chiefly by steaming in ovens lined with heated stones. Without tea, coffee, sugar, alcohol or tobacco, they had also but seldom the stimulant given by flesh meat. Their notorious cannibalism was almost confined to triumphal banquets on the bodies of enemies slain in battle. Without the aid of metals or pottery, without wool, cotton, silk or linen, without one beast of burden, almost without leather, they yet contrived to clothe, feed, and house themselves, and to make some advance in the arts of building, carving, weaving, and dyeing.

The labour and patience needed to maintain some degree of rude comfort and keep up any kind of organized society with the scanty means at their disposal were very great indeed. The popular notion of the lazy savage basking in the sunshine, or squatting round the fire and loafing on the labour of his women, did not fairly apply to the Maori—at any rate to the unspoiled Maori. As seen by the early navigators, his life was one of regular, though varied and not excessive toil. Every tribe, in most ways every village, was self-contained and self-supporting. What that meant to a people intelligent, but ignorant of almost every scientific appliance, and as utterly isolated as though they inhabited a planet of their own, a little reflection will suggest. The villagers had to be their own gardeners, fowlers, fishermen, and carpenters. They built their own houses and canoes, and made every tool and weapon. All that they wore as well as what they used had to be made on the spot. They did not trade, though an exchange of gifts regulated by strict etiquette amounted to a rude and limited kind of barter, under which inland tribes page 53 could supply themselves with dried sea-fish and sea-birds preserved in their melted fat, or northern tribes could acquire the precious greenstone found in the west of the South Island.

Without flocks and herds or domestic fowls, theirs was the constant toil of the cultivator. Their taro and their kumara fields had to be dug, and dug thoroughly with wooden spades. Long-handled and pointed at the end, these implements resembled stilts with a cross-bar about eighteen inches from the ground on which the digger's foot rested. Two men worked them together. The women did not dig the fields, but theirs was the labour almost as severe of carrying on their backs the heavy baskets of gravel to be scattered over the soil of the plantations.

Almost the only staple article of Maori vegetable food which grew wild and profusely, was the fern or bracken (pteris aquilina, var. esculenta), which indeed was found on every hill and moor and in every glade, at any rate in the North Island. But the preparation of the fibrous root was tedious, calling as it did for various processes of drying and pounding.

Fishing involved not only the catching of fish, but the manufacture of seine nets, sometimes half a mile long, of eel-weirs, lines made of the fibre of the native flax, and of fish-hooks of bone or tough crooked wood barbed with human bone. The human skeleton was also laid under contribution for the material of skewers, needles, and flutes.

The infinite patience and delicacy requisite in their bird-snaring and spearing are almost beyond the conception of the civilized townsmen untrained in wood-craft. To begin with, they had to make the slender bird spears, thirty feet long, out of the light wood of the tawa-tree. A single tree could provide no more than two spears, and the making of them—with stone tools, of course—took many months. Think of the dexterity, coolness and stealth required to manage such a weapon in a jungle so dense and tangled that white sportsmen often find a difficulty in handling their guns there! The silent adroitness needed to approach and spear the wild parrot or wood-pigeon without stirring the branch of a tree would alone require a long apprenticeship to wood-craft.

Maori house-building showed a knowledge of architecture decidedly above that of the builders of Kaffir kraals, to say page 54 nothing of the lairs of the Australian blacks. The poorest huts were definitely planned and securely built. The shape was oblong, the walls low, the roof high pitched and disproportionately large, though not so much so as in some of the South Sea Islands. The framework was of the durable totara-wood, the lining of reeds, the outside of dried rushes. At the end turned to the sunshine was a kind of verandah, on to which opened the solitary door and window, both low and small. The floor was usually sunk below ground, and Maori builders knew of no such thing as a chimney. Though neither cooking nor eating was done in their dwelling-houses, and offal of all kinds was carefully kept at a decent distance, the atmosphere in their dim, stifling interiors was as a rule unendurable by White noses and lungs. Even their largest tribal or meeting halls had but the one door and window; the Maori mind seemed as incapable of adding thereto as of constructing more than one room under a single roof. On the other hand, the dyed patterns on the reed wainscoting, and the carvings on the posts, lintel and boards, showed beauty and a true sense of line and curve.

Still less reason is there to find fault with their canoes, the larger of which were not only strangely picturesque, but, urged by as many as a hundred paddles, flew through the water at a fine speed, or under sail made long coasting voyages in seas that are pacific only in name. To the carving on these crafts the savage artists added decoration by red ochre, strips of dyed flax, gay feathers, and mother-o'-pearl. Both the building of the canoes and their adornment entailed long months of labour. So did the dressing of the fibre of the flax and palm-ily, and the weaving therefrom of “mats” or mantles, and of kirtles. Yet the making of such ordinary clothing was simple indeed compared with the manufacture of a chief's full dress mat of kiwi feathers. The soft, hairy-looking plumage of the kiwi (apteryx) is so fine, each feather so minute, that one mantle would occupy a first-rate artist for two years. Many of these mantles, whether of flax, feathers, or dog-skin, were quaintly beautiful as well as warm and waterproof.

Nor did Maori skill confine itself to ornamenting the clothing of man. The human skin supplied a fresh and page 55 peculiar field for durable decoration. This branch of art, that of moko or tattooing, they carried to a grotesque perfection. Among the many legends concerning their demi-god Maui, a certain story tells how he showed them the way to tattoo by puncturing the muzzle of a dog, whence dogs went with black muzzles as men see them now. For many generations the patterns cut and pricked on the human face and body were faithful imitations of what were believed to be Maui's designs. They were composed of straight lines, angles, and cross-cuts. Later the hero Mataora taught a more graceful style which dealt in curves, spirals, volutes and scroll-work. Apart from legend it is a matter of reasonable certitude that the Maori brought tattooing with them from Polynesia. Their marking instruments were virtually the same as those of their tropical cousins; both, for instance, before the iron age of the nineteenth century, often used the wing-bones of sea-birds to make their tiny chisels. Both observed the law of tapu under which the male patients, while undergoing the process of puncturing, were sacred, immensely to their own inconvenience, for they had to dwell apart, and might not even touch food with their hands. As to the source of the peculiar patterns used by the New Zealanders, they probably have some relation with the admirable wood-carving before mentioned. Either the moko artists copied the style of the skilful carvers of panels, door-posts, clubs, and the figure-heads on the prows of canoes, or the wood-carvers borrowed and reproduced the lines and curves of the moko. The inspiration of the patterns, whether on wood or skin, may be found in the spirals of sea-shells, the tracery on the skin of lizards and the bark of trees, and even, it may be, in the curious fluting and natural scroll-work on the tall cliffs of the calcareous clay called pápa.

But, however the moko artist learned his designs, he was a painstaking and conscientious craftsman in imprinting them on his subject. No black-and-white draughtsman of our time, no wood-cutter, etcher, or line-engraver, worked with slower deliberation. The outlines were first drawn with charcoal or red ochre. Thus was the accuracy of curve and scroll-work ensured. Then, inch by inch, the lines were cut or pricked out on the quivering, but unflinching, human page 56 copper-plate. The blood was wiped away and the narahu (blue dye) infused. In the course of weeks, months, or years, as leisure, wealth, or endurance permitted, the work was completed. In no other society did the artist have his patron so completely at his mercy. Not only was a moko expert of true ability a rarity for whose services there was always an “effective demand,” but, if not well paid for his labours, the tattooer could make his sitter suffer in more ways than one. He could adroitly increase the acute anguish which had, as a point of honour, to be endured without cry or complaint; or he could coolly bungle the execution of the design, or leave it unfinished, and betake himself to a more generous customer. A well-known tattooing chant deals with the subject entirely from the artist's standpoint, and emphasizes the business principles upon which he went to work. It was this song that Alfred Domett (Robert Browning's Waring) must have had in his mind when, in his New Zealand poem, he thus described the Moko on the face of the chief Tangi-Moana:—

And finer, closer spirals of dark blue
Were never seen than in his cheek's tattoo;
Fine as if engine turned those cheeks declared
No cost to fee the artist had been spared;
That many a basket of good maize had made
That craftsman careful how he tapped his blade,
And many a greenstone trinket had been given
To get his chisel-flint so deftly driven.

When, however, the slow and costly agony was over, the owner of an unusually well-executed face became a superior person. He united in himself the virtues and vices of a chieftain of high degree (shown by the elaborateness of his face pattern), of a tribal dandy, of a brave man able to endure pain, of the owner of a unique picture, and of an acknowledged art critic. In the rigid-looking mask, moreover, which had now taken the place of his natural face, were certain lines by which any one of his fellow-tribesmen could identify him, living or dead. In this way the heads of Maori chiefs have been recognized even in the glass cases of museums. On some of the earlier deeds and agreements between White and Maori a chief would sign or make his mark by means of a rough reproduction of his special moko.

page 57

The Maori pa or stockaded and intrenched villages, usually perched on cliffs and jutting points overhanging river or sea, were defended by a double palisade, the outer fence of stout stakes, the inner of high solid trunks. Between them was a shallow ditch. Platforms as much as forty feet high supplied coigns of vantage for the look-out. Thence, too, darts and stones could be hurled at the besiegers. With the help of a throwing-stick, or rather whip, wooden spears could be thrown in the sieges more than a hundred yards. Ignorant of the bow-and-arrow and the boomerang, the Maori knew and used the sling. With it red-hot stones would be hurled over the palisades, among the rush-thatched huts of an assaulted village, a stratagem all the more difficult to cope with as Maori pa seldom contained wells or springs of water. The courage and cunning developed in the almost incessant tribal feuds were extraordinary. Competent observers thought the Maori of three generations ago the most warlike and ferocious race on earth. Though not seldom guilty of wild cruelty to enemies, they did not make a business of cold-blooded torture after the devilish fashion of the North American Indians. Chivalrous on occasion, they would sometimes send warning to the foe, naming the day of an intended attack, and abide thereby. They would supply a starving garrison with provisions in order than an impending conflict might be a fair trial of strength. War was to them something more dignified than a mere lawless struggle. It was a solemn game to be played according to rules as rigidly laid down and often as honourably adhered to as in the international cricket and football matches of Englishmen and Australians.

As is so often the case with fighting races capable of cruelty, they were strictly courteous in their intercourse with strangers. Indeed, their code of manners to visitors was so exact and elaborate as to leave an impression of artificiality. No party of wayfarers would approach a pa without giving formal notice. When the strangers were received, they had the best of everything, and the hosts, who saw that they were abundantly supplied, had too much delicacy to watch them eat. Maori breeding went so far as to avoid in converse words or topics likely to be disagreeable to their hearers.

Their feeling for beauty was shown not merely in their art, page 58 but in selecting the sites of dwelling-places, and in a fondness for shady shrubs and trees about their huts and for the forest-flowers. The natural images and similes so common in their wild, abrupt, unrhymed chants and songs showed how closely they watched and sympathized with nature. The hoar-frost, which vanishes with the sunrise, stood with them for ephemeral fame. Rank without power was “a fountain without water.” The rushing stream reminded the Maori singer, as it did the Mantuan, of the remorseless current of life and human fate.

But who can check life's stream?
Or turn its waters back?
    'Tis past,

cried a father mourning for his dead son. In another lament a grieving mother is compared to the drooping fronds of the tree-fern. The maiden keeping tryst bids the light fleecy cloudlets, which in New Zealand so often scud across the sky before the sea-wind, to be messengers to her laggard gallant.

The sun grows dim and hastes away
As a woman from the scene of battle,

says the lament for a dead chief.1 The very names given to hills, lakes, and rivers will be witnesses in future days of the poetic instinct of the Maori—perhaps the last destined to remain in his land. Such names are the expressive Wai-orongo-mai (Hear me, ye waters!); Puké-aruhé (ferny hill); Wai-rarapa (glittering water); Maunga-tapu (sacred mount); Ao-reré (flying cloud). Last, but not least, there is the lordly Ao-rangi (Cloud in the heavens), over which we have plastered the plain and practical “Mount Cook.”

Many of the Maori chiefs were, and some even now are, masterly rhetoricians. The bent of the race was always strongly to controversy and discussion. Their ignorance of any description of writing made them cultivate debate. Their complacent indifference to time made deliberative assembly a prolonged, never-wearying joy. The chiefs met in council

1 The Maori is deeply imbued with the poetry of the woods. His commonest phraseology shows it. “The month when the pohutu-kawa flowers”; “the season when the kowhai is in bloom”; so he punctuates time. And the years that are gone he softly names “dead leaves!”—Hay, Brighter Britain.

page 59 like Homer's heroes—the commons sitting round and muttering guttural applause or dissent. The speeches abounded in short sententious utterances, in proverbs, poetic allusions and metaphors borrowed from legends. The Maori orator dealt in quotations as freely as the author of the Anatomy of Melancholy, and his hearers caught them with as much relish as that of a House of Commons of Pitt's days enjoying an apt passage from the classics. Draped in kilt and mantle, with spear or carved staff of office in the right hand, the speakers were manly and dignified figures. The fire and force of their rhetoric were aided by graceful gesture and were set out in a language worthy of the eloquent. If we cannot say of the Maori tongue as Gibbon said of Greek, that it “can give a soul to the objects of sense and a body to the abstractions of philosophy,” we can at any rate claim for it that it is a musical and vigorous speech. Full of vowel-sounds, entirely without sibilants, but rich in guttural and chest notes, it may be made at will to sound liquid or virile, soft or ringing.
The seamy side of Maori life, as of all savage life, was patent to the most unimaginative observer. The traveller found it not easy to dwell on the dignity, poetry, and bravery of a race which contemned washing, and lived, for the most part, in noisome hovels. A chief might be an orator and skilled captain, but, squatting on the ground, smeared with oil, daubed with red ochre and grimly tattooed, he probably impressed the White visitor chiefly as an example of dirt and covetousness. The traveller might be hospitably entertained in a pa the gate of which was decorated with the smoke-dried heads of slain enemies by a host whose dress might include a necklace of human teeth,1 the owner of which he had helped to eat. Though a cannibal feast was a rare orgie, putrid food was a common dainty. Without the cringing manner of the Oriental, the Maori had his full share of deceitfulness. Elaborate treachery is constantly met with in the accounts of their wars. If adultery was rare, chastity among the single women was rarer still. The affection of parents for young children was requited by no kindness on the part of youth for old age. Carving never rose higher

1 At any rate among the Ngatiporou tribe.

page 60 than grotesque decoration. The attempts at portraying the human face or form resulted only in the monstrous and the obscene.

The Maori men are as a rule tall and bulky, long-bodied and short-legged, and with fairly large pyramidal skulls, showing well-developed perceptive faculties. Their colour varies from maize to dusky olive, and their features from classic to negroid; but usually the nose, though not flat, is wide, and the mouth, though not blubber-lipped, is heavy and sensual. Shorter and more coarsely built than the males, the women, even when young, are less attractive to the European eye, despite their bright glances and black, abundant hair. It might well be thought that this muscular, bulky race, with ample room to spread about a fertile and exceptionally healthy country, would have increased and multiplied till it had filled both islands. It did not, however. It is doubtful whether it ever numbered more than a hundred and fifty thousand. Except on the shores of Cook's Straits, it only planted a few scattered outposts in the South Island. Yet that is the larger island of the two. It is also the colder, and therein lies at least one secret of the check to the Maori increase. They were a tropical race transplanted into a temperate climate. They showed much the same tendency to cling to the North Island as the negroes in North America to herd in the Gulf States. Their dress, their food, and their ways were those of dwellers on shores out of reach of frost and snow. Though of stout and robust figure, they are almost always weak in the chest and throat. Had the Maori died out, the medical verdict might have been summed up in the one word tuberculosis.

The first European observers noted that they suffered from “galloping” consumption. Skin disorders, rheumatism and a severe kind of influenza were other ailments.

In the absence equally of morality and medical knowledge among their unmarried women, it did not take many years after the appearance of the Whites to taint the race throughout with certain diseases. A cold-blooded passage in Crozet's journal tells of the beginning of this curse. Though not altogether unskilful surgeons, the Maori knew virtually nothing of medicine. Nor do they show much nervous power page 61 when attacked by disease. Cheerful and sociable when in health, they droop quickly when ill, and seem sometimes to die from sheer lack of the will to live. Bright and imaginative almost as the Kelts of Europe, their spirits are easily affected by superstitious dread. Authentic cases are known of a healthy Maori giving up the ghost through believing himself to be doomed by a wizard.

There are, however, other evil influences still at work which affect the lives of this attractive and interesting people. Though no longer savages, they have never become thoroughly civilized. Partial civilization has been a blight to their national life. It has ruined the efficacy of their tribal system without replacing it with any equal moral force and industrial stimulus. It has deprived them of the main excitement of their lives—their tribal wars—and given them no spur to exertion by way of a substitute. It has fatally wounded their pride and self-respect, and has not given them objects of ambition or preserved their ancient habits of labour and self-restraint. A hundred years ago the tribes were organized and disciplined communities. No family or able-bodied unit need starve or lack shelter; the humblest could count on the most open-handed hospitality from his fellows. The tribal territory was the property of all. The tilling, the fishing, the fowling were work which could not be neglected. The chief was not a despot, but the president of a council, and in war would not be given the command unless he were the most capable captain. Every man was a soldier, and, under the perpetual stress of possible war, had to be a trained, self-denying athlete. The pa were, for defensive reasons, built on the highest and therefore the healthiest positions. The ditches, the palisades, the terraces of these forts were constructed with great labour as well as no small skill. The fighting was hand to hand. The wielding of their weapons—the wooden spear, the club, the quaint meré,1 and the stone tomahawk—required strength and endurance as well as a skill only to be obtained by hard practice. The very sports and dances of the Maori were such as only the active and

1 Tasman thought the meré resembled the parang, or heavy, broad-bladed knife of the Malays. Others liken it to a paddle, and matter-of-fact colonists to a tennis-racket or a soda-water bottle flattened.

page 62 vigorous could excel in. Slaves there were, but not enough to relieve the freemen from the necessity for hard work. Strange sacred customs such as tapu (vulgarly Anglicized as taboo) and muru, laughable as they seem to us, tended to preserve public health, to ensure respect for authority, and to prevent any undue accumulation of goods and chattels in the hands of one man. Under the law of muru a man smitten by sudden calamity was politely plundered of all his possessions. It was the principle under which the wounded shark is torn to pieces by its fellows, and under which the merchant wrecked on the Cornish coast in bygone days was stripped of anything the waves had spared. Among the Maori, however, it was at once a social duty and a personal compliment. If a man's hut caught fire his dearest friends clustered round like bees, rescued all they could from the flames, and—kept it. It is on record that a party about to pay a friendly visit to a neighbouring village were upset in their canoe as they were paddling in through the surf. The canoe was at once claimed by the village chief—their host. Moreover, they would have been insulted if he had not claimed it. Of course, he who lost by muru one week might be able to repay himself the next.

Certain colonial writers have exhausted their powers of ridicule—no very difficult task—upon what they inaccurately call Maori communism. But the system, in full working order, at least developed the finest race of savages the world has seen, and taught them barbaric virtues which have won from their White supplanters not only respect, but liking. The average colonist regards a Mongolian with repulsion, a Negro with contempt, and looks on an Australian black as very near to a wild beast; but he likes the Maori, and treats them in many respects as his equals.

No doubt the remnants of the Maori tribal system are useless, and perhaps worse than useless. The tribes still own a certain amount of land in common, but the great bulk of it is leased to the white man, and the natives receive yearly very large sums in rent. They could be rich farmers if they cared to master the science of farming. They have brains to learn more difficult things. Thirty years ago it was the custom to speak of the Maori as a dying race. They did page 63 not seem to realize that they might be healthy men and women if they would accept the teachings of sanitary science as sincerely as they took in the religious teachings of the early missionaries. Nor could they be made to realize that foul air, insufficient dress, putrid food, alternations of feast and famine, and long bouts of sedulous idleness were destroying them as a people; that so long as they soaked maize in the streams until is was rotten and ate it together with dried shark—food the merest whiff of which would make a white man sick; so long as they would wear a suit of clothes one day and a tattered blanket the next, and sit smoking crowded in huts, the reek of which struck one like a blow in the face; so long as they would cluster round dead bodies during their tangi or wakes; so long as they would ignore drainage—just so long would they remain a blighted and dwindling race. And observers without eyes talked as though there was something fateful and mysterious in their decline. A gradually broadening ray of hope for them has, however, now been glimpsed. The efforts the Government has made in matters of education, of sanitation, and of medical supervision have had their good effect. Moreover, educated Maori of the younger generation have awakened to the grave plight of their people, and it is reasonable to hope that the Maori will become a useful factor in the life of the young New Zealand nation that is growing up. Through their Maori Land Boards they are taking an active part in the administration of their lands, and Maori Councils composed of natives are now charged with the supervision of matters generally affecting their settlements and villages, more particularly in regard to sanitary matters. A further hopeful and remarkable omen for the future of the Maori may be seen when we note that one of the outstanding and most popular men in the present Government is a full-blooded Maori, the Hon. Sir Maui Pomare, who, in addition to representing the native race on the Executive Council and holding the portfolio of Minister of the Cook Islands, is Minister of Health for the Dominion. Also there is a distinct movement on the part of the Maori in the direction of farming their own lands. In 1920 legislative provision was made for the appointment of a “Native Trustee” to administer native reserves and undertake the page 64 functions in regard to natives formerly vested in the Public Trustee, and a Judge of the Native Land Court has been appointed the first Native Trustee. They are also caring more for the education of their children. It is satisfactory to note that some ten thousand Maori children now go to school, and their attendance is remarkably regular. Very quaint scholars are the dark-eyed, quick-glancing, brown-skinned little people sitting tied “to that dry drudgery at the desk's dull wood,” which, if heredity counts for anything, must be so much harder to them than to the children of the Pakeha.1 Some years ago the Government re-organized the native schools, had the children taught sanitary lessons with the help of magic lanterns, and gave power to committees of native villagers to prosecute the parents of truants. The result was a prompt and marked improvement in the attendance and the general interest. Who can say, then, that there is not hope for the future of the Maori race?

Maori tattoo

1 Foreigner.