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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70

2. Te Wai Pounamu

2. Te Wai Pounamu.

The weight of authority is against Mr. Wohlers on the subject of the name of this (South) Island, though Major Heaphy and a few others take the same view. Wahi Pounaum would mean "place of greenstone," though a Maori has told me that it is an inadmissible form of expression. Wai Pounamu means "water of greenstone," He suggests that the former is correct, and that it applied to the district where the stone was found. The pronunciation of the two words is very different. Captain Cook, in his way of spelling, wrote "Tovy Poenammoo." He treats "Te Wai" as one word, in which case the short vowel might without great inaccuracy be written "o," and was so written by other writers of later date, until the missionaries reformed and settled the Maori orthography. He fancied, probably with truth, that the "w" was there a "v," as he often writes it so; and he gave "y" as the English equivalent for the long vowel-sound which we now write "ai." By no process can "Te Wahi" be got out of his word. Had he heard it he would have written it "Vahee "or" Wahee." Cook got the name from an old man at Queen Charlotte Sound. Speaking of the land south of Cook Strait, he says, "This land, he [the old man] says, consisted of two whennuas, or islands, which may be circumnavigated in a few days, and which he called 'Tovy Poennammoo.' The literal meaning of this word is 'the water of green talc;' and probably if we had understood him better we should have found that "Tovy Poennammoo' was the name of some particular place where they got the green talc of which they make their ornaments and tools, and not a general name for the whole southern district."

In his narrative of the third voyage the geographical ques- page 47 tion is more explicitly dealt with. He concluded from the statements of natives that the stone was obtained near the head of Queen Charlotte Sound, and not above one or two days1 journey from his ships—an error arising from an imperfect knowledge of the language, the distance being probably two hundred miles by any available road. His account of the fabulous tales of the natives has already been given. He adds, "As they all agree that it is fished out of a large lake or collection of waters, the most probable conjecture is that it is brought from the mountain and deposited in the water by the torrents. This lake is called by the natives Tavai Poennammoo—that is, 'The Water of Green Talc;' and it is only the adjoining part of the country, not the whole southern island of New Zealand, that is known to them by the name which lath been given to it on my chart,"

This notion of a lake in which the stone was obtained was a source of great confusion to geographers, who before the interior was known placed it on the maps at random, generally about the site of the shallow Taieri Lake, fully three hundred miles' journey from the true spot, The fables Cook heard are to some extent collected in this paper; but probably most of them are lost. Cook was probably right in his notion as to the name of the country—so far, at least, that it was not originally general—and Dr. Shortland bears him out in this; but in speaking of it in the North Island the term got to be general, and that is now undoubtedly the name of the Island. It was doubtless so called because the greenstone was always got in or about water, either in a river or on the seashore—not, as Dr. Shortland thought in 1844, about Lake Wakatipu.

Major Heaphy describes the mode of searching for it. The River Arahura appears to cut through some veins of this stone, and to bring down fragments of it in the floods. On the subsidence of the water the natives wade about searching for it in the bed of the river, and the heightened colour of the stone in the water soon reveals it to them.

Parties from distant places travelled to Wai Pounainu, the water where the greenstone was found, and this term gradually became the name used by the North Island people to apply to the South Island, Rauparaha, early in this century, pointing to the south, said, as he abandoned his home to begin his famous march, "The people of Kawhia are going to Kapiti, to Wai Pounamu."

Dr. Shortland insists that neither Island ever really had a name, and that in the case of the North Island Cook picked up a Maori phrase descriptive of it. White gives an earlier name for the South Island as "The Food-abounding Island." The page 48 truth is that, as in the case of Europe and America, and even our own Province of Otago, a local name, or the name of a limited territory, has gradually spread to a very large area, and, looking out from the North Island, men point to the mountains of Wai Pounamu as if that name applied to the whole country. Cook must have misunderstood his first informant in one way, as he spoke of circumnavigating the two southern islands in a few days, while it required many months to circumnavigate the North Island, both statements being exaggerated.

Closely connected with this subject is that of Piopiotahi. In the deed of sale by Ngaitahu to the New Zealand Company, dated 12th June, 1848, Milford Sound is called Whakatipu Waitai, and on the attached map it is called Wakatipa Waitai. This mistake is rectified by the purchase-deed of Murihiku or Southland, which gives the true name Piopiotahi for this mighty fjord. As the Maoris gave Sir James Hector the name Wakatipu for the lake now called Kakapo or McKerrow, in the next valley to the north at Martin's Bay, that must be the true Wakatipu Waitai, or tidal Wakatipu, Some yean earlier Dr-Shortland had constructed a map from information supplied by Maoris, in which Lake "Wakatipu appears as" Wakatipua; "while the range of mountains which separates that lake from Milford Sound is marked, "Wakatipu a Range: in this place rises the torrent Piopiotahi." He gives a more detailed map of the lake district, drawn by a Maori named Huruhuru, in which the lake appears as "Wakatipua, the famed Wai-pounamu," In the text he says that Wakatipua "is celebrated for the pounamu found on its shores and in the mountain-torrents which supply it" and conjectures that it may be the Waipounamu of Cook, This conclusion is manifestly incorrect. Modern references to Piopiotahi always connect it with Milford Sound; and, as the shores of Wakatipu aw now inhabited, we know that no greenstone is found there. Doubtless the confusion has arisen out of the fact that two waters bear similar names—one being the salt-sea (tide-water) Wakatipu, and the other having been sometimes called the fresh-water sea; while colonists erroneously applied the reference to a sea-coast Wakatipu to Milford Sound, which they knew, rather than to the lake some miles inland, which isas unknown.

On the other hand, tangiwai in plenty lies on the beach at Anita Bay, in Milford Sound, where, however, the only apology for a torrent is a watercourse, generally dry, coming down the mountain. Sir James Hector, in his admirable report to the Provincial Government of Otago on the geology of the sounds, in 1863, refers to this beach as the place where the Maoris ob- page 49 tained the greenstone. He failed to find the dyke, which was my experience thirteen years later; but I am now informed that it is higher up the spur. Some greenstone is said to be found on a stream in the opposite side of the sound. Shortland gives, in addition to Arahura, both places—" Wakatipu, a lake in the interior, one of the sources of the Matau; and Piopiotahi, a torrent on the south-west coast;" and mentions that at the latter place a block some tons in weight lay in the stream. A whaler, finding this, got up a company in Sydney to work it for the China market. After much labour and destruction of tools they found that it was spotted and would not take the China market. It sold in Wellington for one shilling per pound.