Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Yesterdays in Maoriland

Chapter VIII A Slice of History

page 113

Chapter VIII A Slice of History

A Fortunate accident made it possible for me to enter the King Country, the heart of Maoriland. After the Maori wars, King Tawhiao had left Kuiti and settled in Hikurangi, a little village from which, owing to its high situation, one could see over the country far and wide, from east coast to west, and northwards as far as Rangitoto, guardian of Auckland Harbour.

That far-seeing statesman and former Governor, Sir George Grey, was the first to undertake a visit to the hostile camp to try and influence Tawhiao and his Hauhaus to come to a more friendly understanding with the European. This was in 1878, the year after I arrived in New Zealand. He succeeded so well that, in the summer of 1882, Tawhiao accepted an invitation from the Mayor to visit Auckland, and went there with a large following. He was received with great respect, and festivities were held to celebrate the event.

I took advantage of this opportunity to make the acquaintance of Tawhiao. A friend of mine, Mr. George Brown, a half-caste and a relation of Wahanui, Tawhiao's chief councillor, introduced me to the king and to his followers. I now got ready for the expedition I proposed to undertake, and left Auckland for the Maori boundary at the same time as King Tawhiao.

This journey to the boundary town of Alexandra page 114was a great experience for me. My companions, Tawhiao's chiefs, told me of their people, of their fight for land and freedom; while we passed through scenes that had witnessed their heroic struggle against the intruding pakeha.1

To me it was as though I were making a journey into the dim, receding past. From the noise and the banal affairs of a European town, Man, the ancestor of the human race, was leading me back to an age of simplicity and artless communion with God and Nature. Before the inviolate doors of holy Maoriland, hitherto firmly closed, were opened to me, I wanted to learn all I could of her moving past and of the childlike soul of her people.

The story of New Zealand cannot be traced far back. Writing was unknown to the Maoris, and their past is thus enveloped in the mist of legend, only put down on paper since the comparatively recent advent of the pakeha.

The first European to attempt to land in New Zealand was the Dutchman, Abel Jansen Tasman, who, on August 18, 1642, put into a great 'Bay' at the northernmost point of the South Island. But before his men could step ashore they were fallen on by the Maoris, some being killed, and had to sail away again.

Three months after Tasman's voyage, Henrick Brouwer, another Dutchman, came on the scene. He found that this land, hitherto regarded as part of a continent, was only a number of islands. After his coming, the group was called New Zealand.

page 115

For a long time the country was shunned by all vessels, for Tasman's unhappy experience gave the natives the reputation of being murderous savages.

The real discovery of New Zealand by James Cook did not take place until 1769. He was the first white man to enter into contact with the, Maoris, and the first to recognise in them, contrary to report, a people of high intelligence and social development. He brought the Maoris the first domestic animals and the first seed for their crops, and he instructed them in agriculture and cattle farming. His deeds recur in Maori legend as those of a beneficent demi-god.

There was no regular colonisation until 1814, when the missionary, Samuel Marsden, and a little body of courageous and, in the best sense, Christian men, came to settle in the Bay of Islands.

Before this many Europeans had settled in various parts of the country, mostly the riff-raff of civilisation, convicts from Australian settlements, and similar adventurers. For spirits and tobacco they traded with the Maoris for women and food; also for skulls, for which there was an excellent market in 'civilised' countries. They led a wild life, founded on the law of the fist; and drunkenness and debauchery, robbery and murder, were the order of the day.

The Maori thus got to know the pakeha from the most revolting side, as a race of greedy, covetous individuals who only put their mental and civilised superiority to evil uses. It is not to be wondered at that further European emigration was met with deep mistrust and enmity.

page 116

The early colonists had more trouble with these first settlers than with the natives. The unimpeachable character of Marsden, his friendly contact with the Maoris and his quick sense of justice, quickly impressed themselves on the natives, and he soon won a large following. The first two chiefs to embrace Christianity were Te Ruatara and Rangaihu. They fenced in a piece of land, hoisted the British flag, and built a sort of pulpit out of an old canoe, from which Marsden preached his first sermons.

Under Marsden's beneficial influence the tribes began to give up their continual intertribal warfare as well as their cannibalistic habits. The missionaries built schools which were eagerly attended by the natives, and European colonisation at last began to appear in a humanitarian light.

But Marsden's success drew other Europeans to New Zealand, and the spirit of greed again began to get the upper hand. The mistrust of the Maoris grew. Their keen intelligence began to see through the malpractices of the Christian, who seemed to interpret his own doctrine of charity in so one-sided a fashion. They soon saw their uninvited guests adopting the airs of being undisputed lords of the country.

But some of the Maoris were just as clever as the pakeha. The story of Hongi, chief of the Ngapuhi, illustrates this strikingly. He resided at Kerikeri, the northernmost part of the North Island. At first a zealous follower of the missionaries, he made special efforts to adopt European ways, and as he was particularly intelligent and possessed considerable influence page 117among the Maoris, the missionaries sent him to Sydney, where it was hoped he would learn civilised customs and be won over to the cause which they had at heart.

He stayed there a year, studying diligently, and after his return acted with renewed zeal in support of the missionaries. These were so delighted with his industry that they determined to send him on a voyage to Europe. They met with no opposition; Hongi, on the contrary, declaring that it had long been his wish to see the great King of England, and to make the acquaintance of his people. He promised to study hard and to return in due course to his country, bringing smiths, carpenters, and miners, so that the Maori might be induced to follow the peaceful arts of which the missionaries spoke.

Hongi left New Zealand in 1820 and went to England with another young Maori and the Englishman, Kendall. He was received at Court, and society was charmed by the tattooed warrior who moved among them quite to the manner born. King George IV gave him a complete suit of armour and many other presents, and both Maoris made many friends, who likewise loaded them with rich gifts. With Hongi's help, Professor Lee of Cambridge wrote a first grammar of the Maori language.

Hongi did indeed study zealously, but in quite a different manner from what the missionaries had intended. What, absorbed him was the art of war according to the white man, and he zealously visited barracks and manoeuvres. The life and conquests of the page 118great Napoleon also had a great attraction for him. On his departure, a hopeful Government presented Hongi with a fine supply of agricultural instruments, a sum of money, and other useful gifts.

When he got back to Sydney, Hongi exchanged all his possessions with an enterprising contractor for rifles, munitions, and other war material. Arrived in New Zealand, he declared to the astonished missionaries that in England he had seen Englishmen governed by an English King. As New Zealand was inhabited by the Maoris, it was only natural that a Maori should rule the country. That Maori, Hongi intended, should be himself. He had noticed that missionaries and other officials were the King's servants, and it was their business to look after his interests. If, therefore, the New Zealand missionaries desired to remain his friends, they must submit to his orders, otherwise it would be his duty to destroy them.

Hongi drilled three thousand warriors in the European fashion, got his canoes ready, and began his destructive journey to the south, his object being to bring all tribes under his supremacy. His first victory was celebrated in gruesome fashion. Sailing south from Whangaroa Harbour to the Thames, his warriors first attacked the pa of the Chief Hinaki. It was taken after a stiff fight. Hongi shot the chief, gouged out his eyes, cut the artery in his neck, and drank the warm red blood. The entire enemy tribe of some one thousand men were killed, and three hundred of the slain were cooked and eaten on the spot. The heads of the chiefs were preserved as trophies, and the remaining bodies page 119of the enemy dismembered and the flesh carried off in baskets.

Hongi now started off on a second expedition to Mercury Bay, where he won another victory; then, murdering still, he made for Kaipara. Returning again to the Thames, he laid siege to Totara pa. Finding this strongly fortified, he pretended he would like to form an alliance with its garrison. Without misgiving he and his warriors were admitted into the fortress through the palisades. That night he fell on his hosts as they slept, and massacred over a thousand.

Continuing his march, he took the two pas, Maninena and Mokoia, then had his canoes dragged overland, and rowed from the Gulf of Manukau up the Waiuku River. Thence he went overland to Awaroa, and up the Waikato as far as the Waipa, where he took the Matakitaki pa. From here he went to Wanganui.

In the year 1823 he extended his conquests to Rotomahana and Rotorua in the hot-lake district; and no year passed in which he did not undertake some marauding excursion. In 1827 he burned down the Wesleyan Mission Station at Wingaroa, and began an attack on the chief, Tara, whose warriors, like his own, were armed with European weapons.

In spite of a stout defence they could not hold out against Hongi's superiority. The latter slaughtered men, women, and children, and the few that got away he followed to the village of Hunahuna. Here Fate overtook him in the shape of a stray bullet, which pierced his lungs. At every breath he drew, the air page 120whistled through his wound, but the hardy old warrior made a jest of things. This fearsome old cannibal died after a year's suffering. To his faithful followers the last words he breathed were 'Kia toa! Kia toa!' ('Be brave! Be brave!').

Hene Akineta, an old chief's wife who once put me up on Hauturu Island, related to me the gruesome deeds of Hongi. In her girlhood she had accompanied him on his war expeditions. Among other things she related how once they had lived for three weeks on nothing but human flesh.

As Hongi in the North, so in the South Rauparaha, chief of the Ngatiraukawa, and his ally Rangihaeata, pillaged and slaughtered unceasingly. They also had obtained weapons and munition from the pakeha, and wiped out whole tribes less well-armed than they.

The rest of my account of New Zealand history is founded on the personal recollections related to me by Chief Honana te Majoha and the English interpreter, Hughes.

Compared with Hongi's war excursions, there was at first only a small amount of fighting between Maori and pakeha, and this was principally the fault of the latter, through the Maori being cheated out of his land rights, or because his customs and habits were not respected. The result of these little scraps was generally that the Maoris killed a number of Europeans and then devoured them.

In 1835, a Frenchman, a certain Charles Baron de Thierry, who called himself 'Sovereign Chief of New page 121Zealand and King of Nukuhiva' (one of the Marquesas Islands), issued a proclamation to England, France, and America, in which he declared his intention to occupy New Zealand as an independent State under his own sovereignty. He waited at Otahaiti for a war ship from Panama, which was to take him to the Bay of Islands, where his arrival was already announced. He maintained that he had been invited by several powerful chiefs, and Kendall had acquired land for him at three places on the Hokianga River.

Whether the whole story be truth or fiction, the English did their damnedest to extract some legal recognition of English overlordship before he came. For this purpose the Thierry menace was undoubtedly one to be made use of. The natives could perhaps be brought under English rule on the excuse of a defensive alliance against outsiders, without the Maoris realising what had happened. The danger of such an outside invasion only needed to be painted to them in sufficiently glaring colours.

Busby, who was at that time British Resident in the Bay of Islands, on October 10, 1835, issued an address to his countrymen in which he called a joint meeting of Europeans and powerful Maori chiefs of the North Island. The need of an alliance was set before the Maoris. In case of refusal it was pointed out that they would be at the mercy of any adventurous 'Sovereign Chief who might come along to destroy and subdue them.

The English gained their point. The Maoris, in-page 122timidated, signed at Waitangi, on October 28, 1835, a treaty of independence and union of all tribes into one State under the designation, 'The United Tribes of New Zealand.'

The declaration was signed in the presence of the British Resident by thirty-five chiefs. Those who were unable to write, inscribed their tattoo marks on paper. The declaration also bore the signatures of the Rev. Henry Williams, the Rev. George Clark, and the merchants, James C. Clendon and Gilbert Mair.

In 1837 the New Zealand Company received from the English Government a concession for the colonisation of New Zealand. In 1840 they founded Wellington, on Cook's Straits, the present capital. In January of that year, Captain William Hobson arrived to take up his appointment as British Consul, and later on as Governor of New Zealand. He was empowered in the name of the Queen to treat with the Maoris and their chiefs for the renunciation to the British Crown of their recognised territorial rights. Europe had already begun to ask material payment for the protection she had proffered unasked.

Hobson established himself in what was then the very tiny settlement of Auckland. The negotiations he carried on led, on February 6, 1840, to the treaty of Waitangi. This hastily executed treaty was not only accepted by the Northern chiefs, but by many from the South and Stewart Islands. In all, it bore 512 signatures. It was chiefly owing to the Chief Tamati Waka Nene of the Ngapuhi, who was friendly disposed page 123towards the English, and who used all his influence and eloquence in favour of the treaty, that the other chiefs signed this declaration. Again most of them used their tattoo marks. Thus English sovereignty was to all intents and purposes established. To-day an obelisk marks the spot where this historic meeting took place.

I gave a facsimile of this treaty to the Imperial (now the State) Library of Vienna, and a second one is in my private possession.

The result of this treaty, the excesses of the Maori, and the beginning of a chain of war feuds, were not long in following. The sale of land was now sanctioned — to the unquestionable advantage of the calculating pakeha.

One of the first Maoris to rebel against the validity of this treaty — a man, too, of remarkable ability — was Hone Heke. Like Hongi, he was a Ngapuhi chief, and indeed Hongi's son-in-law. Although he had accepted Christianity, he disputed English authority over New Zealand.

In 1844, the English erected a flag-pole on a hill near Kororareka, in the Bay of Islands, in Hongi's own part of the country. They hoisted the British flag as a signal for incoming ships. Hone Heke regarded this as a challenge to the Maori, and a symbol of their subjugation. Falling into a rage, he cut down the flag-pole with his own axe, and began a war dance on the spot. To those about him he exclaimed, 'Now I have cut off the serpent's head!'

This revolutionary incident induced the then page 124Governor, Fitzroy, to send to Sydney for troops. After these had arrived in Kororareka, he went to meet Hone Heke, Waka Nene, and other chiefs. Nene and the rest promised to stand warrant for Heke's behaviour if the Governor would send away the soldiers.

The Governor followed their counsel, and Heke did for a time keep quiet; but when the flagstaff was again erected, he was tempted once more to show what a good woodchopper he was. The English now erected a third flag-pole reinforced with steel, and near by they built a block-house full of loop-holes. A garrison was told off to guard the blockhouse.

The chiefs, Nene and Tawai, tried once more to keep Heke quiet, and threatened that if he did not, they would fight against him on the side of the troops. Heke answered that he had heard that the serpent, whose head he had cut off, had swollen into a many-headed monster (by which he referred to the blockhouse with its loop-holes), and that he was curious to see how such an animal would defend itself.

He and Kawiti assembled several hundred warriors, and camped in the neighbourhood of Kororareka. At first only a little stray fighting took place.

Two little episodes which occurred about this time testify to Heke's chivalry and sense of humour. To one lieutenant who had been taken prisoner and disarmed, Heke gave back his weapons and let him go, advising him 'to be cleverer next time.'

On another occasion the English sent a missionary page 125to his camp. He was received in a friendly way, and allowed to preach to the assembled warriors a sermon extolling the virtues of brotherly love and the evils of warfare. Heke let him have his say. When he had finished, he said, 'We thank you for your edifying sermon, but now I beg you, go and say as much to the English soldiers, for they have more need of it than we!' With these words he strode away from the dumb-founded priest.

About four o'clock on the morning of March 11, 1845, settlers of Kororareka were aroused by shooting. Kawiti had fallen on the garrison of Captain Robertson. At the same time, Heke attacked and took the blockhouse. Robertson's troops held out bravely, but were finally outnumbered and forced to retreat. There were dead and wounded on both sides, among the latter being Robertson himself.

The victorious Heke allowed the settlers — who had hurriedly sought the shelter of the ships in the bay — to return and take away their household goods; and he ordered a woman, who in the hurry of flight had been left behind, to be escorted to the ship by his own men. After the English had sailed away for Auckland, Heke burned down the whole settlement, including mission station and church. The missionaries, who remained behind, set to and buried the fallen, friend and foe alike.

Heke now began a defensive war; for his old friends, Waka Nene and Tawai, allied themselves with the English and attacked him. He drew back to a fortified position and held his attackers at bay. After several page 126vain efforts his enemies retreated. Heke then left his fortress and entrenched himself in the Bay. Here he beat off more attacks, and then went on to Taiamai. This place was only taken from him after a stiff battle, and with the aid of artillery.

Heke now built a new fortress, Ruapekapeka, and here he was surprised and taken prisoner.

On this occasion the conduct of Heke the cannibal stands out in vivid contrast with the guile of the pakeha.

The neutral chief, Ruhe, who supplied the English soldiers with provisions — for even at this time neutral cannibals had learned the art of profiteering! — was obliged to go through Heke's camp in order to reach the English. He asked Heke for permission to pass. 'Yes,' said Heke, 'for the pakeha soldiers must eat if they are to fight.'

The pakeha, on the other hand, was not averse to taking advantage of Heke's Christian beliefs.

One Sunday when he and his warriors were assembled behind the fortress for morning service, without thought of attack, in the firm conviction that the Christian pakeha would be keeping the Sabbath holy in the same way, the English and their friends crept up and entered the deserted pa. They found the Maoris behind the pa praying, and took the unsuspecting congregation completely by surprise.

Heke finally concluded peace in 1848, and thereafter remained quiet. But Maori dissatisfaction did not cease. It grew rather from day to day, because the discord over the sale of land knew no end. Far-seeing page 127Maoris, anxious about the future of their race, realised the danger that threatened the free existence of their tribes, owing to the continuous land expropriation and the virus of civilisation which had begun to infect their life.

1 White man.