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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70

Famous Implements, etc

Famous Implements, etc.

It would be impossible in a paper like this to refer era briefly to any considerable number of the famous historical implements and ornaments of New Zealand. A few only can be mentioned. English lawyers are familiar with the case of Pusey versus Pusey, in White and Tudor's Leading Oases, decided in 1684, which shows that before the days of title-deeds a material object might be the outward symbol of a title to land, and that in this one case the tenure still exists. There the horn is equivalent to a title-deed, and on it is the inscription in what looks like comparatively modern, or fourteenth' century, English.—

Kyng Knowd geve Wyllyam Pewse
This horne to hold by thy lond.

Such cases are not unknown in New Zealand. The title-deed of the famous Heretaunga Block, now worth three-quarters page 31 of a million, was a small pendant now worn by a gentleman on his watch-chain. In finally ceding land to the Queen upon a sale by the native owners a mere has often been handed over as symbolical of title. It is, of course, handed to the white man "who settles the bargain, I am not aware of cases where it has got any further towards the Queen, nor does the colony possess any treasure-house for keeping such objects.

The famous heathen chief Te Heuheu, on the night of the 7th May, 1816, was overwhelmed, with all his people save one man, by a landslip burying the village Te Rapa. It is said that the great warrior was last seen praying to or threatening his atua. His mere was the most famous in New Zealand, and is mentioned in the lament written by his brother and successor,—

Sleep on, O chief, in that dark, damp abode,
and hold within thy grasp that weapon rare,
Bequeathed to thee by thy renowned ancestor
Ngahue when he left the world.

I think there must be some confusion in this, as it was the famous eardrop called Kaukaumatua which Tama-te-kapua was said to have brought from Hawaiki, and which had been made from Ngahue's stone, which had come down to his descendant Te Heuheu. This eardrop is often mentioned in Maori history. It was the subject of a fight between two sons of Tama-te-kapua, who was supposed to have brought it from Hawaiki, and was buried by one of them but recovered by his nephew. Some years before Te Heuheu's death it was appealed to in a dispute as to the ownership of Flat Island, in the Bay of Plenty, claimed by his relations. It was agreed that those who could prove relationship to its possessor could establish the best title to lands first occupied by their common ancestor Tama-te-kapua-In later times a hundred men were successfully employed in digging out the famous mere, which is still held by the tribe. The bones of its mighty owner were carried high up the mountain Ruapehu, and there left on a ledge of rock; from which cause that mountain remains sacred to this day.

When Sir Donald McLean in 1856 brought to a close the protracted and complicated negotiations by which the Government finally acquired from hostile and conflicting claimants the northern end of the South Island, he had his greatest difficulty with the district about Tory Channel and Queen Charlotte Sound, as from its past associations the natives attached great importance to it as the scene of many hard-fought battles, and of final conquest. When signing the treaty of cession, Ropoama te One, after alluding to these wars in an emphatic harangue, struck into the ground at the page 32 feet of the Commissioner a greenstone axe, saying in their usual style of metaphor," Now that we have for ever launched this land into the sea, we hereby make over to yon as lasting evidence of its surrender this adze named Pai-whenua, which we have always highly prized from having regained it in battle after it was used by our enemies to kill two of our most celebrated chiefs, Te Pehi and Pokaitara. Money vanishes and disappears; but this greenstone will endure as durable a witness of our act as the land itself which we he Te now under the shining sun of this day transferred to you forever."

Mr. Travers mentions several celebrated meres—viz.: One with which Te Wherowhero, the father of the chief who afterwards became the Maori King, and is still so callea, killed two hundred and fifty prisoners of war at a sitting smashing the head of each with a single blow. His son still has the mere. Another, called Kai-kanohi, now in the possession of the descendants of Matenga te Aupori, with which, as has already been mentioned, Ngaitahu once ransomed Tuhuru, who had been taken prisoner by Rauparaha's branch expedition. I have elsewhere referred to the two beautiful weapons which Te Pehi has left to his descendants Others are connected with the history of the North Island tribes.

In the early part of this century a splendid mere was buried secretly in a swamp in Southland to settle a dispute as to who was to inherit it. Not long since a half-caste, in digging a post-hole for a fence, accidentally dug it up and restored it to the heir, death having settled the dispute. Similarly one now lies hidden in a swamp beyond Riverton. It is well known that in the North Island many have been hidden, and in many instances mortality in the tribe has obliterated all knowledge of the hiding-place. Occasionally lost meres are found and recognised, to the great joy of the tribe. On other occasions Europeans have found them buried in the grounder hidden in old hollow trees. Indeed, Polack's prediction, made fifty years ago, has been fully realised—namely, that in future many aboriginal curiosities would be discovered by European colonists, as the New-Zealanders have been in the habit from time immemorial of burying with their dead the favourite axes and implements of stone that were highly prized by the chiefs whilst in existence.