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Hawaiki: The Original Home of the Maori; with a Sketch of Polynesian History

The White Race

The White Race.

There is a singular tradition existing amongst the Maoris to the effect that they learnt the art of making fishing nets page 96from another race, and the name they give this race is Patu-pai-arehe, who have usually been considered as Fairies, or supernatural beings, with a local habitation in New Zealand. This, however, is but natural, for it is well known how common it is for all kinds of traditions to become localized in the process of time. The tradition clearly points to a time in the history of the race in which they did not know of the art of net-making; and it may further be inferred therefrom that there was also a time when the knowledge of the sea, fishing, &c., was not very extensive. We may of course dismiss the idea of the people learning this art from the Fairies as unscientific; but clearly it was learned from some other race who had more experience of a maritime or littoral life than the ancestors of the Polynesians. The Patu-pai-arehe are described as a white race, and it is said also that the Albinos found amongst the Maoris are their descendants. This of course is not true; but all through the race, everywhere we meet with it, we find a strain of light-coloured people who are not Albinos, but have quite light hair and fair complexions. With the Maoris this strain often runs in families for many generations; at other times it appears as a probable reversion to the original type from which the strain was derived. There are also traditions amongst the Maoris of a race of "gods" called Pakehakeha, who are said always to live on the sea, and are white in complexion,—hence the name Pakeha they gave to the white man on first becoming acquainted with us in the eighteenth century. There are also other names for a white man, as Turehu, Waraki, Maitai (the latter also meaning iron). It is said of the Patu-pai-arehe, from whom the Maoris learnt the art of making fishing nets, that they worked at night, and disappeared as the sun rose; page 97and it was by a stratagem that one Kahu-kura* secured one of the nets, since which time the Maoris have possessed them. They have much the same story in Niue Island, but there it was the gods who came fishing at night, and the net was secured by a man who dived and fastened it to the coral; but it is a mere local variation of the other legend. So much for the Maori story.

But the Maori is not the only branch of the race that retains this tradition of contact with a white race, for the Hawaiian history relates that Hawaii-loa, one of their great navigators, on one of his voyages apparently in Indonesia, brought back to his home two white men, poe keokeo kane, who were married to his people. According to Fornander's genealogy this man appears to have flourished about A.D. 300, or whilst the Polynesians were probably on the move southwards towards Fiji.

The Mangaian people, according to Dr. Wyatt Grill, call the keu, or light-coloured people, Te anau keu a Tangaroa, the light-coloured offspring of Tangaroa, the latter being their principal god, whilst he is the Neptune of the Maoris.

We thus see that there is evidently a dim recollection of a white, or light-coloured, people retained in Polynesian traditions. When we come to enquire into the origin of this story, it is most natural to ascribe it to contact with a light-coloured race in very ancient times. It is difficult to conceive of a brown race inventing such a distinguishing racial characteristic had they not actually seen it. Prior to that time all experience would go to prove that mankind was of the. same brown tint as themselves, or of the darker page 98races they must have been acquainted with. The very names the Maoris give to these white people are peculiar: Patu-pai-arehe cannot have a meaning given to it as can most other names; nor can Waraki; in fact I believe both names to be corruptions of words of some other and foreign language learnt in ancient days from a foreign race.

If we allow that there is sufficient warrant for believing this contact with a white race, it is most likely to have occurred on the shores of India or the westernmost parts of Indonesia. Therefore, the two entries supplied by Forlong (see page 75 hereof) as follows:—"Probable date of the Phoenician inscription, South Sumatra, B.C. 450," and "Nearchus supposed to have sailed to Sumatra B.C. 323,"— may be a possible indication of the sources of the Polynesian traditions, and either the Phoenicians or the Greeks may have given them the fishing net. It was during this very period, if we trust the Rarotongan genealogies, that the Polynesians were migrating along the coast of Burma, the Straits of Malacca, Sumatra, and Java.

* In the large genealogical table given at the end hereof, this name Kahu-kura under its Rarotongan form—Kau-kura—will be found. Apparently he lived in Hawaiki-nui, or India. There may be nothing in this more than a coincidence.

Fornander loc. cit., Vol. I., p. 135.