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


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In the very early days of the Polynesian Society, a few of its members, having in mind the many omissions and inaccuracies in "The Life of Te Rau-paraha" (which at that time was practically the only history of the West Coast), determined to collect material for a more comprehensive history of that part of the North Island extending from Kawhia to Wai-rarapa. That was the origin of this history. Fifteen years passed in collecting the material herein printed; the mere writing and collating the vast number of notes thus secured occupied over twelve months. Some of the matter in this book was gathered from the Natives over fifty years ago.

Reference is made in Chapter II. hereof to the paucity of information relative to the tangata-whenua, or original inhabitants of this coast. Since that was published, some documents, written at the end of the fifties of last century to the dictation of one of the last of the learned men of the Whare-wananga, or House-of-learning, have turned up, and from them the following brief account of these people is abstracted:—"After the discovery of the country by Kupe (referred to in Chapter III.), and before the arrival of Toi-te-huatahi in circa 1150, several canoes arrived here, making the land in Northern Taranaki, where they settled down, building some of the pas still in existence. From there they spread north and south, so that at the time of Toi's arrival they occupied the West Coast from the North Cape to the Wai-ngongoro River—south of Mount Egmont—and the East Coast from the North Cape to the eastern side of the Bay of Plenty, and were a very numerous people. It is clear from the description of them which has been preserved that these people differed somewhat from the subsequent migrations from Eastern Polynesia, in that they had more Melanesian blood in them, and appear to have been more like the Fijians, though they spoke the Polynesian language. They were known by various names, but Te Tini-o-Tai-tawaro was that of those who principally occupied the Taranaki Coast. After the arrival of Toi and Whatonga from Eastern Polynesia, inter-marriages took place between the two migrations, and in the times of Awa-nui-a-rangi (circa 1200) wars of extermination commenced, ending in the practical extinction of the men of the tangata-whenua, whilst the women page breakand children were absorbed by the conquerors. The remnant of Te Tini-o-Tai-tawaro fled across Cook's Straits to D'Urville Island, from which place they were driven, and finally made their way to the Chatham Islands, where they became the originators of the Moriori people." The evidence of all this cannot be given here; but in all probability the Polynesian Society will publish the full detail both in Maori and English before very long.

This history is much longer than perhaps suits the ordinary reader—indeed, it is over a hundred pages more than was originally contemplated. But the amount of information collected will prove of interest to those living in the localities mentioned in after times; and it could never be collected again, for the old men who gave it have now passed on to Te Hono-i-wairua.

To others than members of the Polynesian Society it is right to say that the book has been published in the Society's "Journal" by instalments—it would otherwise never have appeared on account of the expense—and that the number of maps in it is due to the liberality of the Government, who had them drawn and printed at their expense.

S. Percy Smith.

"Matai-moana," New Plymouth, New Zealand. November, 1910.