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The Southern Districts of New Zealand

Chapter II

page 15

Chapter II.


Near us lived an old chief, named Pokeni, who frequently made inquiries about Te Rauparaha, towards whom he expressed the greatest hatred. I found that many of his family had lost their lives in wars with that chief, and that he was an uncle of Tamaiharanui, whose tragical end has been related. He had outlived all those of page 16 his own times and age, and was scarcely ever to be seen unaccompanied by a child, the great-grandson of his wife's elder brother, who occupied all his cares.

The old man had the oddest looking being for a wife I had ever seen. One half of her face was tattooed in every respect like that of a man, while the other had no more marks than her sex entitled her to; so that two persons, who stood opposite each other, each viewing a different side of the face in profile, while she, perhaps, sat wrapped in her blanket, with a pipe in her mouth, would have pronounced the object to be a man, or a woman, according to the circumstance of his position. I afterwards met with several other old women of this tribe, who had similarly engraved on their faces many of the marks, which in the north island I had never seen but on males.

It may not be out of place here to observe, that the tattoo or “moko,” as it is termed in native language, is neither intended to constitute a distinctive mark between different tribes, nor to denote rank, as has been variously stated. It is, in fact, only a mark of manhood, and a fashionable mode of adornment, by which the young page 17 men seek to gain the good graces of the young women. It only so far denotes rank, that the poor man may not have the means of paying the artist, whose skill is necessary.

This engraving represents one side of a tattooed face, the numbers, 1, 2, 3, &c., having reference to the names of the several scrolls or figures of which the “moko” is composed. Sometimes the space, commonly filled by scroll No. 11, has in its place one very similar to scroll No. 12. This is page 18 the only notable variation I have ever seen, and this is merely a matter of taste. As a general rule, two fully marked faces selected at hazard from distant parts of the country would, on comparison, manifest merely some slight dissimilarities, attributable to the difference of skill or taste of the artists who had executed the work. The operation of tattooing is performed with a very small chisel, and being extremely painful, can only be done bit by bit, according as the patient has courage to endure it.

The women have usually merely the lines on the lips, and a scroll depending from the angles of the mouth, as shewn in the accompanying drawing; the fine blue lines, or scratches, which are often to be seen on their cheeks, arms, and breasts, being the offspring of each person's fancy.

One day Pokeni came to me with a complaint that the father of Timoko, the child of his adoption, had, a short time before our arrival, been murdered by another chief of this place, named page 19 Karetai, and some others. I had learnt to be cautious in believing the whole of a native's tale, and therefore walked over to Karetai's place of residence, on the eastern Head, to hear what he had to say to this charge. I found him very willing to meet his accusers at my house, in order that the truth might be discovered. This he did the next day, and the case was fully heard in the presence of all parties interested, except a chief named Taiaroa, when the following strange tale came to light.

Karetai, Te Matahara, Kohi, and others, had bought a sealing boat among them, each having contributed a portion* of the payment. Kohi

* The following statement of the amount of property contributed by each of the natives, ten in number, who had a share in the boat, was made during the investigation of the case:—

Baskets of Potatos.Pigs.
Karetai, Te Matahara, and two otherscontributed30021
Three otherscontributed4
If we suppose the potatos worth sixpence per basket of 351bs., and the pigs twelve shillings each, which is a moderate estimate, the sum paid was at least £42, a very handsome price for a secondhand boat.

page 20 falling ill, and thinking himself at the point of death, feared that his child, about four years old, named Timoko, would never have any benefit from the boat. He therefore resolved to burn it. Shortly afterwards, the boat being left at Koputai, where Kohi lived, he took advantage of the absence of the others interested, and ordered a female, named Kurukuru, and a young man, named Rau-o-te-uri, to fill it full of dry brushwood, and set fire to it. His wife Piro tried to dissuade him, and placed their child on it, but without effect. Kohi was then so ill that he could not walk, and was carried to a place near the boat, where he lay on the beach looking on while it was burning.
The next morning Karetai came; but did no more than vent his anger in words. The day following, Te Matahara and the rest arrived. When they found the boat destroyed, they were greatly enraged, and running ashore, where Kohi was lying, assailed him with threats and curses. Te Matahara, the most violent,* kicked him, and

* It appears, from the foregoing statement, that Kohi's share was one-seventh, and that the rest, except three who were probably slaves, had each paid nearly as much as he had—one indeed more. It was, therefore, natural that, during the first burst of their angry feelings—when they found how Kohi had wilfully destroyed what they had obtained only after much longing and difficulty—they should have treated him roughly.

page 21 struck the ground repeatedly, naming different parts of his body at each blow. He then fired his house, and stript him of everything but his shirt. Kohi never said a word. All night he lay on the beach, covered only with a few clothes, which his wife and a slave carried to him secretly, while the rest were asleep. In the morning Te Matahara again cursed Kohi, kicked him, and then went away.

Piro, Kohi's wife, admitted the general correctness of this statement, but said the kicks given by Te Matahara were more severe than by his account they would have seemed to be.

After Te Matahara left, Kohi remained two nights at Koputai. During the time that he lay on the beach, he had, unknown to everyone, concealed beneath his shirt a “rakau-pounamu” or weapon made from the stone called “pounamu,” which belonged to him and Taiaroa. This he gave to Piro, as soon as they were alone, desiring her to hide it for their boy Timoko, and tell Taiaroa that it had been lost.

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On Taiaroa's arrival, he inquired for the “rakau-pounamu,” and was persuaded to believe that it had been destroyed in the house, when burnt. Kohi was then carried in a boat to Otaheiti, Taiaroa's place of residence. While crossing the harbour, Karetai and Te Matahara met their boat, and asked if Kohi was in it. Taiaroa replied, “tenei ta korua tangata,” “Here is the man you have done for.”

On the second night after Kohi arrived at Otaheiti, Taiaroa advised him to consent to be strangled; persuading him that, if he did not die speedily, people would say that Te Matahara had not caused his death, and he would then not obtain “utu” or satisfaction. So Kohi consented.

The only persons present at the completion of the tragedy were the slave Kurukuru, who sat at the door to watch, and his wife Piro and Taiaroa within. Kohi, observing Taiaroa's hand tremble as he was tying the knot, said to him, “Kahore kia matau a Taiaroa ki te mea o te taura,” “Taiaroa does not know how to make a noose.” He then took the cord, tied a slip-knot, and adjusted the rope about his own neck. Piro sat at his feet, while Taiaroa pulled the rope tight, till he was dead.

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This part of the tale was related by Piro with the greatest coolness, and without a symptom of remorse.

Immediately after this, Taiaroa went to Mr. W—, a Wesleyan missionary, living at Waikouaiti, with crape tied round his hat, and complained that Kohi had been killed, in a very barbarous manner, by Te Matahara, who, he said, had jumped on his belly and chest, and then turned the body over, and jumped on his back, so that he died. Mr. W—was thus persuaded to write a request to the police magistrate, resident at Hakaroa, to send constables to apprehend Te Matahara for the murder, and Karetai as an accomplice. Taiaroa was bearer of this letter to the police magistrate, who forthwith made application to the Government for force to seize the persons accused.

Piro went to live with a European, the partner of our landlord, and placed the “rakau-pounamu” in his charge. One day it was shewn to Colonel Godfrey and myself, in the presence of my natives. As the New Zealander is sure to relate all he sees and hears on the first occasion, its size, form, and colour, were soon described to the natives page 24 who lived near us, when it was at once identified as Taiaroa's property, supposed to have been destroyed in the burning house.

This discovery, it seems, induced Piro to make a clean breast, and to confess the part she had acted at her husband's death.

Some months afterwards, I saw Taiaroa, who agreed to the correctness of the above statement, as far as related to himself. He seemed to think that he had acted very discreetly. Kohi was his “teina,”* and it was his duty to obtain satisfaction for his death. In this case, he hoped to obtain it by the assistance of the laws of the Pakeha.

We have here exhibited several points of the New Zealander's natural character, very important for the European colonist to understand, as teaching him that the former has many motives of action quite different from his own, and that it is necessary to study these well, apart from the ideas natural to a European education, before he can hope to be able to refer a native's actions to their right source.

As not the least remarkable, we observe the

* Vide Vocabulary.

page 25 facility with which Taiaroa appeared to adopt our laws, while he was really only endeavouring to make use of them, as far as they served him to carry out his own ideas of what was befitting. At the same time, the Wesleyan missionary and police magistrate, no doubt, looked on his conduct as an example of the rapid march of European civilization, and a proof of the readiness with which British law would be appealed to hereafter.

The result of my experience, derived from residing much among them, taught me to be very cautious how I received as true any statement obtained from purely native sources, if I could suggest to myself any motive for misrepresentations. At the same time—although a New Zealander will not scruple, in many cases, to misstate and deceive, often even without the possibility of thereby deriving to himself any advantage, and apparently influenced merely by the proneness to exaggerate, common to the inventive faculty of a “conteur”—he is also, I firmly believe, incapable of persisting in a statement which he knows to be false, for any considerable length of time, and therefore, if carefully cross-examined, is very likely soon to tell the truth.

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This peculiar trait of character cannot fail to attract the notice of any one who has long had intercourse with the natives.

In the course of the above narrative, Te Matahara is described as having frequently cursed Kohi, while he struck the ground, naming at each blow some part of his body. A blow thus given by proxy amounts, in the estimation of a New Zealander, to the same thing as one actually given to the person, and is commonly so spoken of; so that, at first, I was under the impression that Kohi, and not the ground, had received all the blows, and it was only by inquiry that I learnt how the case really stood.

Similar to this is the practice, when a new pa is erected in time of war, of naming some of the largest posts of the stoccade after the chiefs of the hostile tribe, and then firing at them, by way of expressing the deadly nature of the feud; and it is not uncommon to hear a chief complain that he has been shot at, when on explanation it appears that he has only been thus shot in effigy. This form of insult is called a “tapatapa,” or “tukutuku.” It also comes under the more general page 27 term “kanga,” which, although commonly translated “curse,” has a more extended signification than that word. Thus it is a “kanga” to use any form of words which can establish a relation between a person, or a part of a person, and the verb to cook, or to eat, so that the person spoken of is the object of the action. Where an Englishman says, “You be d—d!” a New Zealander will say, “You be eat!” or “Your head be put in a pot!” or something to that effect.

Tenei tou roro,
Ko te kowhatu e tu ki te ahi-kai:
Kia reka iho ai
Taku kaigna iho—e.

“O that this were your brain! this very stone placed by the food-fire! So would my banquet be thoroughly grateful to my taste.”

These lines are the concluding stanza of a hymn, which I heard sung on the occasion of the death of a chief, who was surprised, killed, and eaten, by his foe. His surviving relatives may therefore be excused for having shewn great sympathy with the spirit to which it gives utterance. It is, perhaps, the strongest form of “kanga” of which the language is capable.

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Even to speak of any part of the body, but especially of the head or back, in such a manner that, from the mode or tone of expression, it can be inferred that it is intended to be the subject of an injury or indignity, is equally, in the estimation of a New Zealander, a “kanga,” an insult to be avenged by blood according to ancient usage.

When we are aware of the peculiar mode of thinking common to the New Zealander on this subject, we can understand how insulting it is to swear at him, or even to tell him you will “break his head,” or “box his ears,” favourite expressions in the mouths of Englishmen; nor can we wonder that they have often severely suffered for their indiscretion. Hence we have acquired among them the title of the cursing tribe: “Katahi te Iwi-kanga, Te Pakeha,” “What a cursing tribe are the whitemen!”

I was once called upon to endeavour to obtain compensation from a native, who had destroyed, as it was stated, wantonly, several hundred yards of stout bullock-fence. I found that the fence had actually been in great part erected by this man, who was a good workman; but on some dispute arising about the payment, the European, a violent page 29 person, cursed him, and threatened to let loose on him a large and savage dog, which lay chained close to his house. On hearing this, the native threw off his blanket, and, rushing at the posts and rails, vented his rage in chopping them to pieces with his axe.

It has sometimes happened that even missionaries, without being aware of the interpretation their words were capable of, have uttered “kanga” in addressing their congregations, who have taken no more notice of the unintentional insult than, perhaps, to point out the error after the service. On one occasion, however, when a clergyman of great influence and experience unwittingly made a mistake of this sort, the honour in which he was held did not entirely protect him. I first heard the circumstance from old Te Heuheu, at Taupo, where it occurred, who was very angry that a gentleman, while his guest, should have been insulted under any circumstances by one of his countrymen.

When * * * arrived at Te Heuheu's place of abode, there happened to be there some chiefs of Waikato tribe, who were not within the page 30 pale of missionary influence. One of these was very importunate for tobacco, and thought to obtain the object of his desire by saying that he would listen to what * * * had to say, if he would give him some. Then said * * *, “I had better plug your ears with tobacco.” These words, though a very natural and innocent joke in English ears, were a “kanga” to the old chief's mode of thinking, and with this idea, before any one could interfere, he knocked off * * *'s hat, and then brandished his tomahawk, as if he were not yet satisfied.

A New Zealand chief will never carry food, but in his hands, nor allow it to touch any part of his head, except his mouth. He will not even enter a cooking-house, or a building where any sort of food is suspended from the ceiling, lest his head should be for a moment under it. These ideas are instilled into his mind from youth, as part of the dogmas of his religion; and he believes that, if he transgresses the rules of his religion, he will be punished speedily in this world. The spirits of his departed ancestors, jealous of the infringement of their “ritenga” or rites, will commission some spirit of their kin page 31 to enter into his body, and feed on some vital part. The visible signs of this hidden and mysterious process they believe to be the various forms of disease. The mildest forms of disease are hence supposed to be caused by the spirits of those who knew the sufferer while on earth, and are therefore imagined to be more merciful, and more reluctant to injure an old friend and relation: the worst forms are supposed to be caused by the spirit of a dead infant, who, having never contracted any affection for those on earth, tears and feeds on the vitals of his nearest kin without compunction.

With these ideas of the origin of disease, they would never have sought for a cure in the natural remedial effects of herbs or other drugs. And such is found to be the case; their whole efforts being directed to the means of driving or coaxing away the spirit. Of this I will say more in another place; but the digression seemed necessary to render it intelligible, how * * *'s words were so offensive.

To hear any one talk of placing food in his ear—a part of the head—without avenging the insult, would be to a chief to incur the anger page 32 of the spirits of the dead, and the consequent punishment. To a missionary native it would be of much less moment, from his belief that the God, preached by the Pakeha, had power over the malignant spirits of the dead, and would protect him.

There is another form of “kanga” which is worthy of notice, called an “apiti,” which may be translated “double entendre;” the word “apiti” signifying “a thing added,” or “a meaning added.”

I lived for a long time with a very large tribe, Ngatiwakaue, who had abolished from their vocabulary the word “Kai,” in common use over all the rest of New Zealand to signify “food,” for which they substituted “tami,” because one of their chiefs had, among other names, received that of “Nga-kai” (plur. of food). They could no longer use this word; for such an expression as “Homai nga kai maku,” “Give me food to eat,” which might be frequently in any one's mouth, might be construed, “Give me Nga-kai to eat.” I was often much amused at the difficulty experienced by strangers, when on a visit, in remembering not to use this word in its ordinary sense, and their consequent embarrassment, page 33 when it half slipped out. At length I became so familiar with the synonym of the tribe, that I sometimes used it when out of the circle of old Nga-kai's influence, and was then laughed at for so doing.

Some tribes are more sensitive on these points than others; and an expression, which would be a curse, with one, might be in everyday use with another, and be thought nothing of. Thus Kaitahu use the word “papa” indiscriminately to signify “bread,” or “father,” and many other words with double meanings, which would shock the ears of Ngati-wakaue, and most other tribes in the North Island.

It has been seen with what solicitude Kohi endeavoured to hide his “rakau-pounamu” for his son. This weapon is to the natives as great a treasure, as any of the most precious stones are to us. It is thought worthy to be distinguished by a name, as was King Arthur's sword “Caliburn,” and is handed down, an heir-loom, from father to son. I will therefore give some description of it, and of the stone from which it is fabricated.

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In the northern island it is called a “patu-pounamu” or “meri-pounamu.” A very celebrated one which I saw in the possession of Te Heuheu, at Taupo, was of the form here represented, about twenty inches long, the blade about four inches wide, and three-fourths of an inch thick in the middle, tapering on either side to a tolerably sharp edge. The stone was of a pale green colour, mixed with opal, so as to present a wavy appearance, like that of a mackerel sky, translucent at the edge, and not disfigured by a single black speck. This weapon was named “Kaiarero,” and was obtained from a chief of the east coast, whom an ancestor of Te Heuheu had killed in battle.

Specimens of the stone are found, in detached blocks or pebbles, in several mountain torrents on the west coast of the Middle Island. The places most renowned, near which it is sought, page 35 are Arahura and Ohonu, on the north-west coast, Wakatipu, a lake in the interior, one of the sources of the river Matau, and Piopiotahi, a torrent on the south-west coast.

At the last-named place, a large block of several tons, valueless to the natives from its size, had been brought down from the mountain by some ancient rush of water, and left in the middle of the stream. This part of the coast, although we have as yet no correct chart of it, has for a long time been well known to the sealers. One of these, being at Sidney, heard that this sort of stone was valuable in China, and having seen the large block at Piopiotahi, conceived the idea that he had a mine of wealth within his reach. To some extent he was right. The information which he possessed, in those days of speculation, quickly caused the formation of a company, in which a Manilla merchant was chiefly concerned; and this man, with a party of miners, was sent down to New Zealand to blow the rock into fragments of a convenient size for export. Having cut a new channel for the stream, they, with infinite labour, owing to the extreme toughness of the stone, were able to send a few tons in a vessel to Manilla, to page 36 test its value. The workmen remained on the spot for several months; after which, having nearly exhausted their provisions, and ruined their tools, hopeless of receiving their arrears of pay, they concealed, by burying in the ground, the fruits of their labour, and then scattered themselves among the small settlements about Foveaux's Straits.

The specimens carried to China were found to be of a quality not esteemed there, being disfigured by the presence of small black specks, like the mica grains in granite. So the speculation failed. The year following, a small quantity was carried to Wellington, and obtained a ready sale among the natives there, at one shilling per pound weight.

In search of this stone, the natives of other places have been in the habit of making long voyages, and journeys across the mountains from the east to the west coast. When procured, it is fashioned, and polished, by rubbing it on flat blocks of sandstone. This is a work of so much labour, that to finish such a weapon, as that above described, often requires two generations. Hence one cause of the great value set upon it. Another page 37 cause of its value is that the extreme toughness of the stone enables it to bear a fine edge; so that, before the New Zealanders knew the value of iron, they had a useful substitute for it, from which they made hatchets and chisels.*

By some the strange notion has been entertained that this stone was found in a soft state by the natives; it not being credited that they could have learnt the art of fashioning it otherwise. Mr. Banks and Capt. Cook also expressed their wonder by what process this was done; as they found the stone so hard as to resist the force of iron. But sandstone will cut it as readily as it does iron; and holes are drilled through it with the aid of a little fine hard sand and water, and a sharp pointed stick, by a simple process which is described in another place.

Stones of different qualities, determined by different shades of colour and transparency, are distinguished from one another by names, and have corresponding values. The best quality is

* Upon this island there was a larger house than any we had yet seen; but it seemed unfinished and was full of chips. The wood-work was squared so even and smooth, that we made no doubt of their having among them very sharp tools.—Cook's Voyage, by Hawkesworth, 4to. vol. ii. p. 320.

page 38 called “kahurangi” (robe-of-the-heavens), a word often used, in the same way as we use the word jewel in poetry, to denote a precious object.

Whaia e koe ki te iti kahurangi;
Kia tapapa koe. He maunga tiketike.

Follow after the little “kahurangi” (jewel, or nobleman),
That you may give birth to a lofty mountain,

are lines which applied to a woman of rank who had fallen in love with a slave, and were sung to her by her relatives who disapproved of her unworthy connexion.
In Phillip's Mineralogy this stone is described under the name of Nephrite, and is said to occur in the Hartz, in Corsica, in China, in Egypt, in New Zealand, and in other islands of the Pacific, its composition being—
Oxide of iron5.50
Oxide of chrome.05