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History and traditions of the Maoris of the West Coast, North Island of New Zealand, prior to 1840

Tumuaki's Search for the Green Jade

page 165

Tumuaki's Search for the Green Jade.

Uenuku-mai-te-ra-roa had three sons: 1. Taha-nuku-o-rangi, 2. Paikea, 3. Ruatapu—the last two being celebrated in Polynesian History, as referred to in Chapter V.

Table No. XXXX.

Table No. XXXX.

In the generation succeeding Ruatapu, occurred the great heke to New Zealand of 1350. The marginal table is quoted to show where one account places Tama-ahua, who made the journey (or voyage) to the Middle Island to procure jadeite or greenstone The Tama-ahua here shown is identical with he who returned to Hawaiki, as related a few pages back, and could scarcely be the same who went after the greenstone. If this is the man who prosecuted that search, then his voyage took place in the next generation after the arrival of the fleet, or say somewhere about the year 1400, which shows a much earlier acquaintance with that stone than the Rev. Mr. Stack allows in his account, which places the first knowledge acquired of it by the Ngai-Tahu people, of Canterbury, as about the yoar 1700. Mr. Justice Chapman, in his pamphlet, "The Working of the Greenstone," page 15, says:—"Mr. Stack puts the visit of Rau-reka (who first made known tho existence of the jade to the Ngai-Tahu tribe of the East Coast, Middle Island) about 1700, but thinks that the traffic in greenstone had probably sprung up between Ngati-Wairangi and the North Island tribes, bordering Cook's Straits, long before it became known to Ngai-Tahu." Ngati-Wairangi is one of tho branches of the West Coast, Middle Island Maoris, known generally as the Pou-tini people, and in whose country alone is the green-jade found in New Zealand. Mr. Stack's suggestion as to the early knowledge of greonstone by the Cook's Straits tribes, as quoted above, will be proved by what follows, for whatever we may think of the peculiar story of Tama-ahua and his search for the precious stone, the journey of Tumuaki, on the same errand, is historic, as will be seen. I cannot think that the Tama-ahua, shown on Table 40, is the same person as he about whom is the mysterious story of the search for the jade.

Tumuaki was a young man of the Taranaki tribe, who was born and lived to manhood at a place between Okato (tho modern village seventeen miles south of New Plymouth) and the sea. His imagination became excited by the stories of the quantities of pou-namu, or green-jade, to be procured in the South Island, and he decided to try page 166and obtain some of this valuable article, which to the Maoris was the the most precious possession they had. His own people were adverse to undertaking the journey, on account of the many difficulties in the way; but Tumuaki eventually persuaded a party of the Nga-Raura tribe (to whom no doubt he was related) to accompany him in his quest. They crossed Cook's Straits by canoe, and from somewhere on the southern shore started on their long and tedious journey—" probably a year were they travelling," says my informant. They finally, however, reached the pou-namu country, and were made welcome by the Poutini people.* My informants could not tell me the name of the place where tho party went to, but probable, it was to the Arahura river a few miles north of Hokitiki, from which place, and its neighbourhood, the pou-namu has always been obtained. Tumuaki disclosed to tho local people tho errand on which he had come, and asked them to explain the methods by which the jade might be obtained. The people told him that the pou-namu was difficult to procure, and then only after appropriate karahias had been said. "When you go to sleep" said they, "you must hirihiri to ngakau, (excite your heart, imagination) and then if you dream that you are nursing a child, or embracing a woman, you will be able to find the pou-namu next morning in the river." Tumuaki carried out the advice of his friends, and in the morning proceeded to the river, where to his great delight he found a fine block of jade, in the form of a boulder. (The jade is nearly always found in this form, and so far as I can learn, the Maoris never found it in situ, except at an inaccessible place at the head of the Ara-hura river, under a waterfall, to get at which one must swim. Such is the traditional account. The Government Geologist, Dr. J. Macintosh Bell, however, says it is found in situ at the head of Griffin's Creek, a branch of the Tere-makau—not Taramakau, as usually spelt—-river.) So Tumuaki proceeded to split up his block of jade, taking directions from the local people who were also at work at the manufacture of meres, ear-drops, etc., at the same spot. There are certain rules that obtain with respect to the finding page 167and breaking up of tho jadoite boulders. He who, through, aid of his dream, finds a block of the stone, has the tinana, or body of it, whilst the people who assist him have tho maramara or chips, fragments, etc., broken off in splitting up the stone. Now Tumuaki, not being practised at tho work, in hammering at his block to break it up, hit his finger and bruised it. To alleviate the pain he put his finger into his mouth, which was a very wrong thing to do, as the stone was tapu, whereas his food-contaminated mouth was not (void of tapu); thus was the work polluted and evil consequences to Tumuaki sure to follow. Hence, say my informants, was Tumuaki himself turned into a stone, which may be seen to this day in the Pou-tini country. As a matter of fact there is a hill called Tumuaki in the neighbourhood of Ara-hura river, West Coast, South Island.

We need not believe that Tumuaki was turned into stone—this is a more gloss, due to the culture-stage in which the Maori lived. But it is quite reasonable that Tumuaki died in the Pou-tini country, and that the hill was named after him, a common occurrence in Maori history. In stories, the period of which is four to five hundred years ago, we must constantly expect to find the marvellous entering into them—and we shall find more of it directly—but the historical part can usually be separated without much trouble.

* The genealogies shown in Table 41 infra, preclude the idea that the Pou-tini people here referred to had any connection with tho Pou-tini-Ngai-Tahu who now live on the West Coast, South Island, for the latter only conquered that country in about the sixteenth century. But, as usual, the langata-whenua were absorbed into Ngai-Tahu, and they no doubt where the people alluded to in the text as Pou-tini.

Perhaps it may here be suggested that hirihiri to ngakan may be translated as a mode of auto-suggestion, for I am persuaded the Maoris were acquainted with the doctrine.