Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Yesterdays in Maoriland

Chapter X A Hostage of King Tawhiao

page 148

Chapter X A Hostage of King Tawhiao

When I arrived in Alexandra, the boundary township of Maoriland, the chiefs told me to my dismay that I might not cross the border. I declared to them repeatedly that I only wanted to see their country as a scientist and not as a political spy, and they could convince themselves of that whenever they chose. I said it would grieve me very much to be rejected by such a highly intelligent people as the Maoris, whom I loved and esteemed so highly.

Wahanui answered to that, 'Taihoa, pakeha, taihoa! ('Wait, white man, wait!')

A meeting was called to talk the matter over, in which I was allowed to take part.

Such meetings were often held by the Maoris. They were always ceremoniously conducted, and formed what may be called the Parliament of the natives, at which the chiefs, representing their own tribes, expressed themselves with impressive oratory, pleading their rights and interests with picturesque force.

On this occasion the debate (korero) began according to time-honoured custom. First of all, quantities of provisions were brought to the place, kumara, taro, hire, and rewai, birds preserved in oil, dried eels, sharks, and edible mussels, and finally, whole pigs and oxen. The baskets were bound together with strings of flax, and piled up in separate heaps to a page 149height of about 15 feet on the free places before the meeting-house (runanga). Huts were erected for the guests, and cooking-pits dug.

Already at dawn of day I found a chief (karere) standing on guard with his warriors. The different tribes as they arrived were greeted with songs of welcome: 'Ehoa, Heremai tauwhaka!' and with a war dance (haka).

For this the Maoris were clad only in a kotikoti, a loin-kilt, with their faces and chests gaudily painted with ochre colours.

The guests were led to the village, where they were met by the women and the girls, dancing with out-stretched arms, who brought them to the mare, or village square. Here began the real greeting, the hongi, or nose-rubbing. The dancers seated themselves on the ground at some distance off with crossed legs.

Then a chief conducted the arrivals to the huts which had been prepared for them. It took a few days for all, the guests to assemble. After they had all arrived, they went to the mare, where the provisions lay. A chief strode at the head of the procession: in one hand he carried a long staff, and in the other, a short one on which were bound bundles of wild-pigeon feathers. When they reached the square, the leader began to sing. As often as, during his singing, he touched a portion of the provisions with his staff, one of the chieftains present took possession of the pile, and divided it among his tribe, who in their turn carried it away to their huts.

After this distribution of food, the debate began. A page 150place was allotted to each tribe, the chiefs seating themselves before the meeting-house on flax mats. The other listeners squatted cross-legged on the ground in the places given them. In the middle a long space was left free; this was reserved for the speaker.

While speaking, he would walk up and down with a quick step, towards the end of his speech also making springs, during which he executed fighting movements with his club; and he finally returned to his place with a slow stride, speaking all the time. No one might disturb the orator, however long he cared to go on speaking.

The first to speak was the senior in rank. As soon as he had finished, up sprang the next, and put his views before the meeting. The debate lasted until the paohore, the wooden clapper, sounded. At this signal the separate groups went off to their appointed cooking-places and had their meal. That finished, the debate continued. At the end, feasting, with dancing and singing, lasted until the food had all been consumed.

In my case the council lasted three days. My opponents said: 'He has a white skin. How then can he, be our friend?'

They saw, and not without some reason, an enemy in every European. Only when the influential chiefs, Wahanui, Te Witiora, and Honana, offered to stand warrant for me, was the opposition outvoted.

In the concluding stages of the debate I took no part, as I had returned to Alexandra. My joy can be imagined when, on the fourth day, Honana Te Majoha page break
Black and white photograph of Hera, principal wife of Tukaroto Matutaera Potatau Te Wherowhero Tawhiao

Tawhiao's Head Wife

Black and white photograph of Rangiaho(?), second wife of Tukaroto Matutaera Potatau Te Wherowhero Tawhiao

Tawhiao's Second Wife

page 151 came to me with three horses and a Maori lad, and summoned me to go with him.

The Maori King Country now lay before me! I was about to experience the wonder of a strange old raceculture; I could observe the secrets of a rare and unspoiled world.

Honana and galloped onwards along the right bank of the Waipa River, over a fern-covered plain. We came at length to a Maori village, in which King Tawhiao and several hundred Maoris were awaiting my arrival.

Here preparations had been made for a feast in my honour. Honana and I stopped before the King's hut. He, a powerful energetic man with a richly tattooed face, came out to meet us. He was wearing a mantle of kiwi feathers over his shoulders; his hair was adorned with huia feathers, the badge of rank; his ears were hung with ornaments of sharks' teeth and greenstone pendants; in his hand he carried a large and beautifully formed greenstone club.

He stooped to welcome me by nose-rubbing, during which he uttered a long-drawn wailing sound. It was the welcome of the Maori.

The Queen, Tawhiao's first wife, came after him. She was rather corpulent, and tattooed on lips and chin. It was difficult for me to keep a straight face when I saw how she was clad for the feast; She was wrapped in a calico dress on which all kinds of card games were printed in a strange manner; a top-hat formed her head-dress.

In pleasant contrast to this tragi-comic caricature page 152of European dignity was the King's second wife, whose comely figure and handsome features were in complete harmony with her Maori attire.

The herculean chiefs and warriors were sitting together in groups before the huts, all in native dress. They were richly tattooed on the face, many also ' round the hips, and the upper part of their bodies was painted. They wore feather decorations in their hair.

Their clothing consisted either of a mere loin-kilt made of New Zealand flax, with coloured edges beautifully ornamented, the kaitaka, or of the korowai cloak, ornamented with black edging, and thrown over the shoulders. But a few wore only the little kilt of raw flax, the kotikoti.

For weapons the chiefs carried the taiaha, a spear made of hard manuka, the beautifully carved point of which represented the head of a man with tongue sticking out, Others carried wooden lances or long, hatchet-like weapons called tewhatewha. Most of the Chiefs also carried clubs of a fair size in their girdles, those of the most important indeed being of greenstone, the finished making of which took twelve years; and there were other clubs as well, the so-called meremere of carved wood, and the ordinary stoneclubs (patu kotato).

The women and girls, who were for the most part strikingly handsome and of somewhat European features, were tattooed only on lips and chin, except a few with additional tattooing on the hips. In their tangled and generally black hair they wore an orna-page 153ment of feathers or wild flowers. Many had oiled or brightly painted faces.

Their clothing consisted of mats or woven flax, and they wore no shoes. Some of them were occupied in peeling sweet potatoes with mussel-shells, which served as knives. Young girls were plaiting little fourcornered food-baskets out of flax and reeds, and some children were playing with a piece of pear-shaped wood, which they drove before them like, a top with sticks or little whips, while others were wrestling together.

Honana introduced me to some of the Maoris. Some bowed their heads in greeting, while others observed me with the greatest amazement. Until now they had never seen a white man. A few chiefs spoke to me.

The feast began with horse-racing. The horse, which the European had brought to New Zealand, is more highly prized by the Maoris than any other animal, and the sport of racing is now passionately pursued by this warlike and sport-loving people.

The course was over a fern-covered plain, the starting-point being denoted by a post hung with branches of flax. Most of the jockeys rode good horses. The first one was clad only in a flax cloth, the second in European breeches and cap, the third wore a kotikoti round his waist and had decorated his hair with feathers, the fourth was distinguished by his long cloak, and the fifth was wearing a woman's jacket and a tea-cosy on his head. A few had European saddles, but others were merely plaited out of New page 154Zealand flax, and had stirrups of flax, which they held fast between the big and second toes.

Several chiefs formed the committee, and the programme was divided into five races. The horses ran well, and at the end, prizes were distributed, consisting of money, pipes, and tobacco.

At the conclusion of the races, the monotonous paohore, the wooden clapper that is often struck for hours on end on the selfsame note, was sounded. It was a signal for the beginning of the feast. I was led into the King's hut. This was built of reeds, and in the interior I found the floor covered with a cushion of fern-roots over which mats were spread. On these we seated ourselves.

The meal was now served up. It consisted of stewed eel and sweet potatoes, presented to us in little neatly woven, four-cornered flax-baskets. The Queen waited on me with her own hands. We ate with our fingers, for no knives and forks were available. The rest of the Maoris had betaken themselves to their own cookingplaces. After the meal there was more racing and swimming. Finally the Maoris went away in groups to their own villages.

Chief Honana and I rode to Whatiwhatihoi, a Maori village to which the boy had already taken my baggage. It was put into a hut there, but when I wanted to go inside and take it away, the chief drew me back and said, 'Taihoa, nga tapu!' ('Wait, it is tapu!')

He thereupon took away the tapu token, a beautifully carved weapon of whalebone (hoeroa) and the tapu was dissolved. Then everything was quickly page 155packed on a horse and entrusted to a Maori lad. The chief and I followed on foot.

It was a wonderful moonlight night. The narrow track led over fern-covered highland; in the west the Pirongia Range gleamed majestically. Over the Waipa valley a grey mist was creeping, and the stone-owls were calling in a deep bass through the stillness their monotonous 'Morepork! Morepork!' Suddenly we heard the loud cry of the Maori lad and the, hoofbeats of the horse galloping away. Through carelessness he had let him break loose.

I sent Cæsar after him, but because the native track was exceedingly narrow, the dog could not get ahead of the horse. We only succeeded in catching him by a stream, Ngakiaokio, but by that time both pack and saddle had been torn off. Cæsar went off to look for them, and managed to find and bring back all the smaller objects from my pack. Then he returned and remained by the larger, barking loudly until we came along to fetch them.

Once, when we were so far off that we could not hear his barks, he came tearing along back to us, wagging his tail, and then sprang off again, barking, until we followed him and fetched the objects. Soon we had found everything except a shoe, which Cæsar also managed to bring back after a long search.

The chief was so astonished at Cæsar's cleverness that he cried out: 'Nahore te kuri, nga tangata, nga riri te kuri!' ('You are no dog, but the spirit of a man in the skin of a dog !')

After this little adventure we set off again on our page 156travels. When we came to the Moakurarua River, I started to undress myself. The chief, however, would not allow it; he took me on his back and carried me over. Thereupon, he said:

'You are the first man I have ever carried. I am only doing so out of love for you, for you are a great chief.'

During our tramp he told me much about his people and the Maori wars. Finally we reached Te Kopua, his own village. Here we were greeted by his wife, a tall, handsome figure with tattooed lips and chin, and with scars on her face and body which bore witness to the courage with which she had fought in 1864 by the side of her husband against the pakeha. She was immensely delighted about my coming, and immediately prepared a meal of 'porka' and kumara, and got me" ready a bed of fern-root covered over with mats. I and my Maori attendant soon laid ourselves down to rest, but could not sleep for long on account of the many midges and sand-flies which pestered us. As was my habit, I wanted to be out in the open and away by break of day, and accordingly I told the Maori lad that it was time for us to make a move. I called and shook him, but he only rolled himself up again in his blanket.

I therefore ordered Cæsar to wake him. First of all he pulled his mat away, but when the youth rolled himself up again in a ball, he seized him by his long hair and tugged away at that. This worked, and the lad was on his feet in no time.

On February 16, the chief conducted me to his page 157village, and introduced me to his Maoris as the great Rangatira of Auturia, that land from which they had received the 'hokioi,' the handpress, and as a friend of King Tawhiao and himself.

This handpress, or hokioi, had the following history: When 'Hokiteka,' Professor Ferdinand von Hochstetter, the celebrated Austrian geologist who took part in the world cruise of the frigate Novara, was in New Zealand, two chiefs, Wireama Toitoi and Hemera te Rerehau, joined themselves to him. They journeyed to Europe with the Novara, and came to Vienna. There they were received at Court, and introduced among others to the Archduke Maximilian. He asked them what he could do to please them, and Wireama Toitoi answered that he might present them with a printing-press so that they could publish a paper of their own when they got back.

They were presented with a handpress, and taught the compositor's business in the Imperial Printing Works. They took the press back to New Zealand with them, and there issued a political paper, the Hokioi, of which Chief Patora te Tui was editor and publisher.

When war broke out, they wrote revolutionary articles against the pakeha; and when the Maoris were forced to retreat before the white troops, they carried the press with them, putting it into a canoe in order to bring it over the Waipa River. But, alas! the canoe turned turtle, and the press sank.

Honana told me that the Maoris, who were armed with muskets, were at last forced through shortage of page 158shot to fire on their attackers with the remainder of the lead type. I succeeded in getting hold of two copies of this highly interesting paper, the rarity and value of which are evident when one finds that the only other copies extant are the few in the collection of the former Governor, Sir George Grey, now in Auckland Public Library. One of these originals I gave to the Vienna Library, and the second remains in my possession.

Chief Honana held a korero (talk) about Cæsar with his Maoris. The result was that henceforth Cæsar was bountifully fed with titbits, and they treated him with great respect. For the future nobody dared to come near the tent at night without first calling out 'Kui!' (Cooee).

On the 7th I rode, accompanied by a Maori lad, from Te Kopua to the Moakurarua River. We crossed it, then went on over highland to Ngakiaokio River, and then once more into the bush. Going by the plantations at the edge of the bush, we met Poupatate and Te Reureu, who invited us to stay for a meal. They had that Maori delicacy, rotten sharks' flesh, with potatoes and honey, got ready for us. I contented myself, however, with the 'extras.'

After the meal we penetrated into the bush. My dog tracked a kiwi to its hole, and after long digging, we succeeded in finding it. In the evening we prepared camp by a spring out of branches and moss. My boy lighted a great fire as a protection against evil spirits.

Next morning we went farther into the range. I captured some interesting specimens, and spent page 159another night in the bush. When I returned again to Te Kopua, I found Honana waiting for me with a message that I was to go back at once to Whatiwhatihoi, to the King, who had sent a messenger for me. In quick time I rode with Honana to the King. I found a great assembly of chiefs awaiting my arrival.

Near the King's hut a comfortable tent was fitted up for my use. An attendant was assigned to me, a chief sitting continually before my tent as a guard of honour — in reality as observer of my doings — while another Maori prepared food for me. At their own request the King and those chiefs who assisted him as councillors visited me daily; and they often remained with me for five hours at a stretch, during which time lively debating took place.

The Maoris of the King Country were then divided into two camps. The one wanted to pave the way to peaceable relations with the pakeha and to open up the boundaries of the country. But the other party wanted to see all the Europeans driven out and kept away by force. This radical party thought victory was certain, for they believed that through prayer and secret signs their bodies could be made bullet-proof.

The first question the King put to me was, how I liked the Maori people ? I replied that I could see they were an intelligent and a brave race, who had unfortunately been led astray and betrayed, and I could see that they now entertained hate and mistrust towards all Europeans. But they ought not to believe that all white men were their enemies.

I took two kumaras (sweet potatoes) with fine skins page 160and several with coarse skins, laid them before the King and the chiefs, and said: 'Those with the fine skins are softer, and have a more pleasing exterior than those with coarse skins, but the rough-skinned are the better inside. So it is with the pakeha. Some come to you flatteringly, talk to you sweetly, telling you that they are your friends, but they are only on the watch for what they can get out of you, and are really laughing at you. But the others, who appear to you stern and rough, they will not go behind your backs, for they detest such meanness.'

The second question of the King was what I thought of his dark skin, and whether I was afraid of the Hau-haus? I told him that I formed my judgment of a person not according to his race and colour, but by his character; and that I esteemed the customs and beliefs of the Maoris, and knew of no reason why I should be afraid of anybody.

The King appeared to be satisfied with my answers, and asked further if the race to which I belonged elected their King from their own or from another tribe. I replied that it was only natural that the white people should elect a white man for their King.

'Why do the English, then, want to force a white Queen upon us?' asked Tawhiao.

I replied that the English would not take away the rights of the Maoris if they would only live at peace with them, and would deliver up the murderers whom they still harboured in their territory.

Tawhiao said that he was indeed ready to come to a friendly understanding, but that he would not deliver page 161up the murderers, for they were his tribal brothers. The white man had come to New Zealand without the Maori asking him to come there, and when later on the Maori wanted to oppose the land-greed and thirst for power of the pakeha, they were made war upon. Because the Europeans had better weapons than they, according to natural laws they were being forced to go under. Now they even appeared as the guilty ones, because they were the weaker.

From the questions which the King had put, and the watchful behaviour of his chiefs, it became clear to me that the hatred and mistrust of the Maori was likely to stir up a new war, and that my position here, in the midst of the Hau-haus, was a risky one.

The King's next question convinced me that I was not mistaken. He told me that the prophet, Te Witi, was at that moment besieged by English volunteers, and he asked my advice as to how the Maoris should conduct themselves in case of attack. I said the military would certainly not attack so long as the Maoris gave them no occasion to do so. The King asked doubtfully:

'But if they still do attack?'

'Well,' I said, 'then throw all your weapons away and get ready a great feast for the soldiers. Seat yourselves on the ground and watch them. But don't fight! I am certain that the English Colonial troops are not so cowardly as to overpower a defenceless force!'

The chiefs were dumbfounded at my answer, and left my tent with friendly nods. I was put under observation again, but always treated as a guest of page 162honour. This captivity was only irksome to me because, in order to avoid awakening the mistrust and suspicion of the Maoris against me, I was unable to register my observations. I had not much fear that they would use me as a hostage, for I well knew their noble character and sportsmanship.

I will here anticipate a little, and admit that my position soon underwent a surprising change; and a very! pleasant surprise it was too, as you will see.

The next morning the King invited me to a kiwi hunt. Great preparations had been set on foot, meat and vegetables packed in baskets, a pack of dogs brought along, and soon the long procession started off.

But when the members of the hunt, consisting of the| King with his bodyguard and myself, were about to move, it began to rain, and the hunt was put off for the time being. I, however, went on alone, with my two attendants, into the Pirongia Range. We penetrated deep into the bush, but the weather became worse and worse, and a thick mist descended on us, compelling us to turn back.

I asked one of my companions if he knew where we were, and in what direction Whatiwhatihoi lay. He clambered up into a tree to try and find out, but soon came down with a very troubled face, declaring he could not rightly say where we were, that we should certainly perish there, as many had done before us who had ventured into this bush without taking heed of the track.

I calmed his fears, told the two of them I had an page 163instrument with the help of which I could find my way anywhere. The chiefs were still unconvinced. Anyhow, I got them to make a hut of nikau-palms, so that we could remain there for the night. In the morning we would try and find our way back to Whatiwhatihoi.

The following morning my companions were highly, intrigued when I took out my compass and followed a set direction through the bush. About midday we reached the edge of the bush and saw Whatiwhatihoi lying below us. They exhibited childlike joy over their 'rescue,' marvelling at the 'watch' that showed the right way. They naturally informed the King of this wonder at once, and he was very much amused to hear that I had had to guide my 'guides.' Tawhiao asked me to show and explain the compass to him.

It was on the 14th that I experienced my great surprise. The King's uncle, Te Witiora, the brother of the first King Potatau, came with a following before my tent, and presented me ceremoniously with a casket called a paparauparaha, in which I found a huia tail — the highest distinction which the King or head chief could bestow. It signified the bestowal of chieftain's rank, and is hereditary, descending to the first-born child, be it boy or girl; so that if, after returning home to my dear wife, I should have the good fortune to be blessed with son or daughter, then Austria would be the richer for a race of chieftains.

The chief made me the following address:

I greet you as our friend! The King sends this token of his love for you. He sees that you are a true page 164friend of the Maori, and not their enemy as he had at first supposed. From to-day forth you may go through his land as you please. Whoever insults you insults also myself and the King. Let your name be from this day on: Ihaka Reiheke, Te Kiwi, Rangatira te Auturia!'

I thanked him for the honour, and was pleased that from now on I should be rid of my observers, and that I could explore the country unhindered.

I went to see the King, who received me like a brother. When I had thanked him, he said to me:

'We love you because you are a man after our own heart. Were all whites like you, then we should never have lifted club or spear against them. For the past twenty years we have closed our last stretch of land against the white man. You are the first to whom we have allowed entrance. God grant that the mind of the white man will change!'