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Yesterdays in Maoriland

Chapter XII Rebels and Friends

page 180

Chapter XII Rebels and Friends

At this time-in the early part of 1882 — Te Wetere, Purukutu, Nuku Whenua, and Winiata, all implicated in the cruel murders of Europeans, were still at large; bands of native fanatics, excited to the point of rebellion against the whites, were massing themselves together in large numbers at Parihaka, and singing paeans to the pseudo-prophet, Te Whiti, who had for some time been inciting his followers to resist any attempt at incursion into their territory on the part of the European colonists who had acquired land and built settlements near the frontier.' — J. H. Kerry-Nigholls (The King Country, 1884 edition).

So on March 20, at daybreak, our horses were saddled, and we started off on this venture into the lion's jaws. My good friends, Honana and Wahanui, took leave of me as though they were certain they would never see me again.

Wahanui's nephew and I rode south-east along the Waipa River, on both sides of which stretched the plantations of the Maori. Then we forded the Moakurarua River and rode through the villages, Te Tuahu and Parapara. In quick time we reached Waipa, and in the Maori village of Otorohanga we called a halt, and the chief, Tanunui, entertained us most hospitably with pork and kumara.

I was stared at with astonishment by the Maoris, for they knew that no white man was allowed there; but page 181my companion quieted them by declaring that I was a friend of King Tawhiao. After the meal we rode on to the village of Arahiri, and passed the deserted pa, Haurua, which figured in the Maori War of 1865. We reached the Mangapu River, a peaceful and rather deep and muddy stream. The valley of the Mangapu is not so wide as the Waipa, but it is more romantic. In the evening we came to Hangatiki, a Maori village, where the chief, Natanahiri, received us kindly.

We put our kit into the runanga and gave the horses over to the care of a Maori boy. Here also everybody was surprised to see a pakeha, and I was regarded by many with suspicion. They could not understand how it was possible that Tawhiao had allowed me to come into this forbidden land. The meal consisted as usual of pork and sweet potatoes; afterwards the women brought fern-grass and a mat for me. They also laid down a bed of fern-grass for Cæsar near my couch.

On the 21st, at dawn, we hit the trail to the southwest. The ground got more hilly, while here and there swamps interrupted our progress. We passed the Maori settlements of Tahuahua and Te Mira, and also tried to pass through Te Kumi, but were stopped by the chieftain, Te Manuki, who lived there, an old warrior, and a bitter enemy of the Europeans.

He asked my companion why he had brought this white man. On receiving the reply that I had permission from Tawhiao and Wahanui to travel through the country, he said it was regrettable that just those chiefs who should be the first to refuse "any European permission to cross the boundary, should act contrary page 182to the oaths and agreements which had been resolved upon by the free tribes after the Maori War. Just as the whites in parts of the country would give no protection to the Maori, so there should likewise be in his country no protection for the whites.

1 replied to him: 'All right. I am a European, a friend of the Maori, and I respect your laws. The King and his councillors have watched and tested me for a long time before they recognised me as their friend and made me a chief. If, however, you still entertain mistrust towards me, you can give me one of your people to go with me.'

At that the chief looked keenly at me, and said: 'The sooner you get away from here the better for you!'

So we rode on farther, passed the Mangapu River, and came to Kuiti, the village of the famous — and infamous — chief, Te Kuti. In spite of his murderous deeds, this chief was a brave and independent leader, who had played a foremost part in the recent wars.

With two hundred of his warriors he had been taken prisoner and deported to the Chatham Islands. There the prisoners were well looked after, and were left in charge of a small detachment of whites, and they behaved in such an exemplary way (to all appearances) that the little English garrison never feared a surprise, although they had been warned of such a possibility.

On July 3, 1868, the schooner Rifleman dropped anchor at the Chatham Islands with a cargo of provisions. At a signal from Te Kuti, the guard was overpowered, and the Maoris took possession of the camp, seizing page 183all weapons and munitions. Although Te Kuti had given strict injunctions that no harm was to be done, one Englishman was killed.

Well armed, the Maoris now rowed out to the schooner in a strongly manned boat, overpowered the crew, and after all the Maoris had been brought on board, compelled the English officers and sailors to set sail for Poverty Bay. The first few days they met with stormy weather and contrary winds, so Te Kuti gave the order that all the greenstone ornaments should be brought to him. These he threw overboard to appease the sea-god, Tangaroa. As the weather did not improve, he ordered them to bind an old Maori and throw him into the sea as a sacrifice. The lamentations of the victim did not help him. It is said, however, that the old man managed to save his life, and that it was he who warned the guard and settlers of the Bay of Te Kuti's intentions.

The Maoris landed at length at Whareongaonga, south of Poverty Bay. They disembarked all weapons, munitions, and provisions; then, without doing further harm, they left crew and schooner free to go where they liked.

'God has given me freedom and arms,' said Te Kuti, 'and I am only carrying out his will if I go to the Waikato and depose the King. I will do you no harm if you do not attempt to hinder me from my purpose.'

English troops and a force of friendly Maoris followed Te Kuti and his force. Then Te Kuti flung all considerations to the winds. At first the war-god was kind to him; in all fights, in Pararota, Te Konaki, page 184and Ruakitui, he beat his enemies, and his following grew daily.

At the same time his boldness increased, and he took the offensive, killing the Arawa chief, Te Mutu, and falling upon and murdering white settlers and children in the most horrible manner. He also slew thirty-seven natives who were friendly to the pakeha.

Later on he lost some of his best chiefs, and was forced to retreat, committing further murders in Arai and Pipiwaka. He suffered severe losses, though he himself always managed to escape. In Mohaka he murdered several European families, and all the natives in Araniki and in Huka pa.

With alternating fortunes he reached Taupo, where the chiefs received him in a friendly spirit. With these he went to the Waikato to try and get the tribes there to join forces with him. In Takongamutu he was well received by the Ngatimaniapoto chiefs, Rewi and Manga.

Rewi invited the Ngatimahutas to a great feast in order to win their support for Te Kuti. Five hundred Maoris came in answer to the summons. After all the guests had assembled, Te Kuti ordered his warriors to approach, load and fire off a volley over the heads of the visitors. This was a fatal mistake, for this unexpected volley offended the guests so much that they refused to join him. By his too militaristic display, Te Kuti had spoilt his great plan of uniting the chief tribes for the destruction of the pakeha.

He soon fell back to Tauranga by Taupo, where he was attacked by Maoris friendly to the English. Te page 185Kuti retreated still farther, and at last fortified himself on the hill Te Poronga, till a strong attack drove him out of his entrenchments, and he had to leave his dead and wounded, and flee.

This defeat was decisive. Most of the tribes now fell away from him; he was followed up and beaten at every encounter. Once even he was captured, but succeeded in making his escape. Finally he got away to the Waikato, and Tawhiao allowed him to remain in the King Country on condition that he would behave himself peacefully. Ever since that time he had been living here, nursing the deepest hatred for all Europeans….

Te Kuti's settlement lay to the left of our path. As the Maoris appeared to be very hostile, we rode on without stopping, and passed the village of Ototaika and Mangawhititau. Here we found a guide that Hemera te Rerehau had sent waiting for us with a beautiful bay horse. He gave me this horse, and led mine, which was heavily laden, by the side of his pony.

In the Maori village of Te Piha we rested for a few days, for I wanted to visit the moa-holes in the neighourhood, which the Maoris had described to me. Unfortunately my search was unsuccessful.

The chief, Wiwini, came to our tent on the 25th with several Maori ponies and with ropes. We rode together over hilly country overgrown with bush, with here and there clusters of limestone rock, and made but slow progress. In the afternoon we reached the ruined caves. I clambered down and dug, but page 186found only a few bones of cattle. Evidently a few wild beasts had fallen down here and perished. We therefore had to return empty handed.

Continuing our journey, we passed the Mangatukura creek and the kainga of Mataruru, and came to Tihiotawa, villages of the chief, Wahanui, where I was warmly welcomed. Wahanui, who had ridden there alone, gave me a feast in old Maori style: cooked maize wrapped up in leaves and baked in hot ashes; then pigeons and tuis, plucked and then stewed, intestines and all, in the cooking-pits; also unsalted pork, potatoes, and kumaras, all served up in neatly woven little baskets. For dessert we had mealy, sweet-tasting fern-root. After the meal, a hua, the tail of a huia, was presented to me — the third I had received — and some beautifully plaited baskets.

Wahanui was the ariki of the Ngatimaniapotos, an old warrior, a man of firm character, courage, and honest opinions. His people looked up to him as to a father. Here in Mokau he had extensive lands, with herds of pure-bred cattle and horses.

Directly I had said good-bye to my friends, we left. On March 27, we rode over highland, passed the Mangakowhai creek, and came to Te Waiarua, the kainga of the chief, Te Haere, whom we found sitting before his hut enveloped in a mat.

My companion pointed him out to me as a notable warrior. I remarked: 'He has been, but now surely he is too old?' I was therefore surprised when the hoaryheaded old chief went into the hut and came out clad in a loin-kilt, his hair decked with feathers, and a page 187taiaha in his hand. He stepped up to me and went through fighting exercises as though he were fighting me. So nimble and sure were his blows and thrusts with the weapons that I could feel the wind from them whistling past my cheeks, without being touched or injured in the least. I marvelled at the speed and agility of that old man, who continued to fight with other weapons, and finished off with a haka (wardance), during which he rolled his eyes and shook his feet, arms, and body with the greatest energy.

We remained overnight, and continued next morning along the wide and fertile valley of Mohau. We saw the villages of several Maori warriors. In Kuratahi we stopped awhile. Here the chief, Hemera te Rerehau, was awaiting my arrival. He received me with every sign of friendship.

As I have mentioned, this chief, together with a second chief, Wireama Toitoi, had been invited by Ferdinand von Hochstetter to go to Europe with the Novara. There he had mastered several languages, and had moved, in top-hat and gloves, among the most exclusive of social circles. I now found him sitting on the floor of his hut, clad in his mat, an embittered enemy of the English.

He said to me: 'Once I loved the Europeans; we gave them lands and made them our friends, but they aiways Wanted more, and strove to be our masters. When we would give them no more land, they made war on us, and took the best away. We were forced to draw back into the bush and into these hidden valleys where the soldiers could not follow. If the pakeha page 188still wants to dispute with us these last of our territories, I am determined that I and my tribe shall fight to the last man, and at any rate die as free Maoris on our own soil.'

Hemera te Rerehau presented me to his people, who were so astonished at seeing my white skin that they peeped down the sleeves of my coat to see if I was white there also. A Maori brought me a tui in a cage woven out of osiers, which, to my surprise, greeted me in German with 'Guten morgen. Herr!' It appeared that Hemera te Rerehau had himself taught it this sentence. Afterwards a feast of welcome was given me; there were dances, swimming races, diving, sham fights, and horse racing.

On April 2, I rode with the chief's son, a muscular, well-built lad of twenty, along the valley and into the thickly wooded Harongi Range, which was swarming with wild pigs. The ground was so uprooted by these animals that it looked as if it had been ploughed.

We rode back over the Maiirea Range. In many places the track was so steep and bad that we had to lead our horses. Towards evening we came into the Maori village, Miroahuau, which likewise belonged to Hemera. We were kindly welcomed. On the 3rd we went back to Kuratahi; and on the 6th I rode with Hemera through his own lands, first to Wairamarema, and from here to Kotukotuko, a village lying on a hillside from which one could see the country belonging to Hemera and beyond. Troops of wild horses galloped past us to the top of the hill, where they stood to watch our further movements.

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Here Hemera said to me: 'If you will only stay with us, I will give you as much land as you want, and the most beautiful chiefs' daughters as your wives.'

When I thanked him, but declined, he was very hurt. He suggested that I should be mediator between the Maoris and the English, and to tell the truth I was genuinely sorry at heart at being unable to do this service for this noble native race.

Hemera gave me a huia's tail as well as a valuable lance (taiaha) decorated with the hair of the Maori dog. I received many other presents, and gave away various things in return. When early on the 8th I thanked my kind hosts and said good-bye, Hemera seemed still unhappy, for he could not understand why I would not accept his seductive offer.

I left Kuratahi accompanied by the chief's son. The first Maori village we reached was Mangahanga. There the chief, Te Kahiki, received us kindly. We afterwards passed two pas, Kahuera and Maurangowa.

My companion related to me that here formerly the Ngatimaniapotos had put up a stout defence against the Ngatiawa and Ngapuhi tribes, and beaten them in a bloody fight. In the evening we came to Korangi, Te Haere's village, where we were received most hospitably. Songs, dances, and fighting exercises occupied the evening. Here I exchanged a wooden comb, such as the Maoris wear in their hair, for a tara (greenstone pendant) and a basket made of raw flax.

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The following morning we rode on again. When we came to Tihiotawa, the chief, Wiwini, would not let us ride on any farther. We went out pigeon hunting, and prepared supper from our spoils. Next day the chief took me to his tobacco plantation, which was kept carefully cultivated by the old people of the place. The leaves were 18 inches long. As soon as they were ripe enough to pluck, they were dried, rolled together, and then tightly bound with string, hung up, and stored in the pataka. The pataka is a storehouse resting on posts, which are generally richly carved, so raised as to protect the stores from rats and other harmful things.

On the nth we reached Otorohanga, and at last, on the 12th, got back to Te Kopua, where my anxious friend Honana exhibited great joy at seeing me again safe and sound. He gave me a splendid collection of Maori weapons and implements, among them a quantity of fishing-tackle.

The oldest fishing-hooks of the Maori were of wood, usually of manuka or wood from the roots of trees. As the flesh of the shark was considered a great delicacy, they naturally had some very large fish-hooks. Such hooks were fastened to shags (cormorants), and these birds then let out of the canoe tied to a string line, and allowed to swim on the surface of the sea. The sharks bit eagerly, and quickly disappeared, diving into the depths. Rapidly paying out the line, one had then to wait until the fish began to tire. Then up he would come to the surface, be drawn to the canoe, and killed. I once caught a shark like this, and when I page 191thought he was quite dead, I pulled him into the boat. But he came to life again, snapping at everything about him, and began to move forward like a seal to attack me.

After capture, the shark is brought to land, cut up into long strips, and dried on the beach. At feasts, I saw whole pyramids of such sharks' flesh stacked up to a height of 10 yards. It stank horribly. The oil and gall of the shark are employed by the Maoris for the preparation of colours.

On the 14th I visited the Pirongia Range once more. We climbed along a ridge through thick bush, and came to the plateau of Rangimarama, but it was so marshy that we could find no favourable camping spot. It was essential, however, that we should camp here, and after a long search we found a hollow tree, almost lost in the embrace of a giant rata, from which we broke off dry wood enough to make a camp-fire. We made a couch of fern-grass, damp enough though that was, and then on wooden spits we roasted the pigeons we had killed.

Next day we climbed Mount Terape, where we pitched our tent for the night beside a small stream. We had a good supply of fresh water, dry wood, and enough food for a frugal meal. The night was cold, but my companion lighted two fires, which warmed the camp. Giant fern-trees roofed over our leafy couch.

From here we wandered into the Mangapapa, where I hunted with success. Then we left this magnificent forest, so many miles in circumference, and made page 192our way back to Te Kopua, where Chief Honana received me as heartily as ever.

A few days later I rode to Whatiwhatihoi to see the King, who was deeply concerned about the severe illness of his son. Then, accompanied by two Maoris, I turned back to Alexandra, the English border township, where I invited my two companions to dine with me at the boarding-house. We were given some rather tough cutlets to eat. The Maoris watched me intently to see how I handled knife and fork, and then tried to copy me. But it was not a success, and soon deciding it was much more decent to eat Maori fashion, they took the meat up in their fingers. One of them also took a big spoonful of mustard and stuck it in his mouth. Although it must have burned him like fire, he did not turn a hair, merely saying composedly: 'This sauce is stronger than waipiro (spirits).' After completing arrangements in Alexandra for getting my things away, we went back to Te Kopua.

On the 21st I rode to Hikurangi to see dear old Te. Witiora, who had got together many interesting things for me. He had, for example, a kaitaka, a flax mat beautifully embroidered, which was a present from the King's aunt; hokaira (flax satchels) and upake (baskets); then flax in six different colours, as manufactured by the natives; some half-woven baskets; hihiwhakatauwa (the feather ornaments of a war canoe); the taiaha of the first Maori king, Potatau; tewhatewha and clubs, hemahoe, uhitauwa (tattooing instruments), stone axes, etc. I made some presents, and left the articles for the time being with my friend.

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On the 23rd I went off to the great forest lying to the southward along the Marapuku River. This forest is magnificent. A deep, wonderful stillness reigns within. Only now and again when a wild pig breaks away, or a parakeet flutters across from tree to berry-laden tree, does life invade this silent paradise. But at night, when the wind is quiet, it is as still in these woods as at the lowest depths of the sea. Only if I were to make a fire would the little ' Moreporks' come, attracted by the light, and gaze in wonderment at the stranger with their yellow eyes, as much as to say, 'Who gave you the right to invade our secret fastnesses?' In many places the bush is so thick that even on the brightest days the sun cannot break through the thick canopy of creeper-laden tree-tops.

The first night in this bush I camped under a punga-punga (fern-tree). I boiled the billy for tea and roasted a few pigeons on a spit. A noise broke the stillness, and I saw a kiwi, like a little wood-sprite, with back bent and beak touching the ground, stalking silently round the fire. At my first movement he listened attentively, and the next instant had disappeared among the trees.

Next morning I penetrated still deeper, following Cæsar, who went off on a track of his own. He stopped presently before a mighty fallen tree-trunk, and there I found a kiwi hole — such a big one that I was quite unable to get within reach. So I stopped up the hole and chopped another opening farther along the trunk. I had to chop five such holes and drive the bird out page 194with a stick before I could get hold of him. It was a male (Apteryx bulleri). This had taken me so long, that when I looked at my watch I found it was two o'clock, so I sat down and had lunch.

Bad weather now set in, interrupting me completely. The hillsides were so slippery that I often slipped back farther than I could go forward. I was soaked to the skin, and had nothing dry left to put on, and my pack was so heavy I could hardly move. Altogether I was not at all sorry to leave off.

On May 2, I reached Hauturu, but Te Witiora was not there, so I went on to Hikurangi. There I found him, and remained some time in order to get my things better packed. I then rode back to Kawhia, where I stayed three days, returning again to Hikurangi. Thence a small caravan, led by Te Witiora, conducted me through Whatiwhatihoi to Alexandra, laden with the objects I had collected. I there procured some cases, and having packed them to my satisfaction, arranged for their further dispatch. A few days later I was back with Honana at Te Kopua.

On the 15th I went with Chief Poupatato into the Pirongia Range to look for para, a kind of fern which the Maoris plant in the bush. When the bulbs are ripe, they are dug up and boiled in the hangis. They taste like truffles. This chief afterwards presented me with some musical instruments — kawauwau (flutes), putorino (whistles), and poakoiko (wooden drums).

Next day I returned to Te Kopua and began to page 195pack up. My observations in this region and my study of the Maori people had come to an end. I had gained a much better impression of these children of Nature than I had previously formed from pakeha hearsay and from what I had read.

Before these Maoris I experienced that sense of shame which surely any sensitive man must feel who, after thinking like a demi-god puffed up with false arrogance, and filled with the darkness of the schools, at last comes face to face with the secrets and eternal truths of Nature. For as soon as the significance of these secrets steals upon him, all his boasted knowledge dwindles to naught, leaving him with a profound respect for Nature's eternal laws, and nothing but contempt for the folly of a spiritual drift which thinks in its pride that it 'indeed knows much, but would like to know all.'1

That Europeanism which has conquered the whole world, and which calls the native races that are so near to God 'wild,' I felt to be a disease from which these 'wild' men and these 'wild animals' wanted to heal me. I felt myself guilty also of the great crime which Europe had done these 'wild' people, who were really the better men, when they took their land from them, their customs, and their freedom. I heard the sound of the saws in the kauri forests, which in a single hour cut down the giant tree which had withstood the storms of the ages; and I saw in the spirit, in the mind's eye, this last free Maoriland falling under the machine of Europe.

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What cannibalism could not in centuries destroy, European civilisation had almost succeeded in destroying in a single generation.

Hard it was for me, very hard, to say good-bye to these simple folk. All the inhabitants of the village sat around me in a circle and wept. It was a real, not a conventional, tangi.

1 Quotation from Faust.