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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70

Observations on the Authorities

page 44

Observations on the Authorities.

Several points in the matters touched upon in the foregoing answers appear to call for observation, though I feel much diffidence in venturing to criticize anything coming from gentlemen of the standard of knowledge of my correspondent Certain obscurities and apparent differences are, however, in a large measure capable of being explained and reconciled.

1. The Hei-tiki: its Significance.

White's derivation is overruled by all other authorities. Hei is a neck-ornament. This name is given to me by competent Maori scholars to represent several forms of bous ornaments hung from a string round the neck. Tiki is the name given to the large carved figures on the gables of houses or set up near houses. This, then, is a small copy—a neck-tiki The tiki represents, and the word is derived from, the name of the god Tiki, He is sometimes spoken of as the progenitor of mankind, and enters into numerous mythical tales. According to some authorities there were several gods Tiki. It seems certain that these objects were not gods or idols, nor were they in any way worshipped, Messrs. "White, Stack, Short, land (second paper), and Wohlers, beside other authorities, are substantially in agreement as to their true import, Though Dr. Savage, who visited New Zealand in 1806, thought they were protecting deities, for some unexplained reason he uses the expression "the man in the moon" in describing them.

Mr. Wohlers's account of the hei-tiki offers in all probability the true solution of the apparently conflicting views. They were not portraits of ancestors, but they were, as Mr. Stack says, mementoes of ancestors. They became sacred and ever more sacred from the touch of the sacred dead, and so became indissolubly connected with the memory of ancestors. Why they were named after Tiki, or Adam, is a matter now lost in the mist of time. The old missionaries, who had an ignorant aversion for everything connected with heathen worship, had none for this object or its uses. The Rev. William Tate, who lived in New Zealand in 1828-35, says that the idea that it was connected with superstitions arose from the fact that the hei-tiki was taken off the neck, laid down on a tuft of grass or a clean leaf in the presence of a few friends meeting together, and then wept and sung over, in order to bring more vividly to the recollection of those present the person recently slain, whose body they will never see again, to whom the hei-tiki belonged. In this way it is used as a remembrance of all those who have worn it, and is called by the name of the individual whom it for the moment represents. It is wept over page 45 and caressed with much affection, and those present cut themselves severely In token of their regard for the deceased. These amongst other mamatungas (keepsakes or heirlooms) are much valued. When not received from friends, similar objects may be purchased for a trifle. Similarly, Thomson, describing it as the most valued of all their ornaments, varying in size from a shilling to a plate, says, "When a long-absent relative arrives at a village the hei-tiki is taken from his neck and wept over for the sake of those who formerly wore it. There is no doubt they are handed down from father to son for generations—indeed, for centuries. They were deposited with the bones of the dead until they were removed to their final resting-place." The practice of burying them when the last of a family dies continues to this day, and is doubtless the reason why so many of them and other valuable objects are found buried.

Dieffenbach refers in somewhat similar terms to the practice of wearing them by Maoris of both sexes, and connects them with the grotesque colossal busts at Easter Island and elsewhere. Thomson shows the reverence in which they were held as representing the dead, narrating a story of an English sailor travelling with him who dared to remove one from a monument by the roadside, and only saved his life by hastily restoring it.

The hei-tiki is best described as a grotesque squat figure with a big head and attenuated legs, resembling some kinds of Hindoo idols. Its arms are bent, and its feet meet below. The hands, as on the great tikis of wood, and, indeed, in all Maori carvings, have only three fingers. Mr. Tylor, in his "Early History of Mankind," quoted with approval on this head by Mr. Travers, says, "Some New-Zealanders lately in London were asked why these tikis usually, if not always, have but three fingers on their hands; and they replied that if an image is made of a man and any one should insult it the affront would have to be revenged, and to avoid such a contingency the tikis were made with only three fingers, so that, not being any one's image, no one was bound to notice what happened to them."

It is worthy of note that Parkinson, who went out with Cook on his first voyage, never figures a really good hei-tiki, though several fiat ill-finished specimens appear in his book It may be that the highly-worked specimens were rarer then than fifty or sixty years later, when the missionaries began to describe them.

Writing to me on the subject of the manufacture of hei-tikis, Mr. Helms says, "I was told by a Maori at Blenheim that as many as eight or nine slaves were given for one. Have you heard anything like this? I tried also to find out how page 46 They were made, but all my informant could tell me was that it took a long time, and that the old men would sit in the sun and grind away, humming at it all the time. He put the action to the word, and described circles round the eyes of a hei-tiki I had, at the same time doing a hissing hum. The de. scription seemed to me very natural, because the humming would counteract, so to say, the monotonous grating of the operation,"

Though the best authorities agree that the hei-tiki was not made in this Island, this must be taken subject to an exception, Major Heaphy, in his account of his visit to Arahura in 1846, says that he there saw hei-tikis receiving their last polish. The inhabitants of that place consisted largely of Ngatitoa and Ngatiraukawa conquerors, who had formed a part of Rauparaha's West Coast expedition, and it was probably some of these North Island people who had recently introduced this art.

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.

3. The Drill.

The description of the drill is singularly interesting. The fly-wheel was originally a couple of very heavy stones, of which I have several in my collection. Mr. White's description suggests the top of the drill-spindle working in a drill-head or mouthpiece. Mr. Wohlers makes it work without this support. Whether the primitive Maoris ever had a mouthpiece is doubtful: to any one who has used a drill it would seem incredible that a man who had once used one should ever try and work a drill without one. The late Mr. I. N. Watt, Sheriff of Otago, who was a very clever mechanician, told me that when he first went to Taranaki, of which province he was Superintendent, the Maoris had a very primitive drill. He taught them to make and use the bird-cage drill, and they at once abandoned their own. The primitive drill was identical with the balanced drill described by Mr. Wohlers. Mr. Watt informed me that the first he saw was steadily and accurately worked, boring a piece of greenstone, by a blind old man. The statement as to the character of the drill is confirmed by my brother-in-law, Mr. M, Cook, of this city, who tells me that in 1888 he saw an old Maori at Rotorua, in the North Island, sitting on the ground, holding down a hei-tiki by means of his two great toes, and drilling a bole through it, using such a drill as is above described, supporting it by merely balancing it.

This is the answer to Mr. Tylor's remark upon an apparent omission m Thomson's description of this drill ("Story of New Zealand," vol. i., p. 203): "There must, of course, be some means of keeping the spindle upright" (Tylor's "Early History of Mankind," p. 242). "Captain Cook could not ascertain how holes were bored in the handles of greenstone meres, as he saw no instrument sufficiently hard for that purpose. It is now known that these holes are drilled with a sharp wooden page 50 stick 10in. long, to the centre of which two stones are attached so as to exert pressure and perform the office of a fly-wheel The requisite rotatory motion is given to the stick by two strings pulled alternately."

Thomson, in his account of the drill, obviously draws upon Dr. Shortland, who, describing his visit to Waikouaiti, the whaling-station of the late Mr. John Jones, says, "Here, also, I saw the drill with which holes are bored through this stone. It is formed by means of a straight stick 10in. or 12in. long, and two stones of equal weight, which are fastened about its central point, one on either side, opposite each other, so as to perform the office of the fly-wheel in machinery, and to exert the required pressure. One end of the stick, or, as we may call it, shaft, of the instrument is applied to the pounamu where the hole is to be bored. Near the other end are tied two strings of moderate length. One of these is wound round the shaft, close to the point of its attachment, and its extremity is held in one hand while the extremity of the other string is held in the other hand. A motion is now given by pulling on the former string, which, as it unwinds, causes the instrument to revolve, and the other string becomes coiled round the shaft. This is then pulled on with a similar result, and so the motion is kept up by alternately pulling on either string. The point of the instrument can thus be made to twirl round backwards and forwards as rapidly as the point of a drill moved by a bow, and merely requires to be constantly supplied with a little fine hard sand and water in order to eat its way through the pounamu or other stone, on which steel would make no impression." (Pl. XXXVIII.)

It is noteworthy that Dr. Shortland is the only authority I have quoted who describes the drill without a stone point, the grinding being done by sand alone.

Brunner, in his journey down the West Coast in 1846, found at Pahutani limestone rock containing pure flints, which he erroneously thought occurred nowhere else in New Zealand and ascertained that presents of this stone were carried by the natives to all parts of New Zealand as material for boring greenstone. His companion Major Heaphy's account of the drill then used has already been quoted.

The Rev. R. Taylor, in his celebrated work, "Te Ika a Maui," says that to drill a hole the Maori ties a small piece of basalt or obsidian firmly to the end of a stick the sides of which are weighted with two heavy stones. Attached to the other end of the stick is a string, by which it is made to revolve; and, to keep the point of the instrument constantly on the same spot, a piece of perforated wood is placed over it. Thus ornaments in the shape of human figures are formed. It page 51 appears to me evident, however, that the piece of perforated wood is by no means always used; hence the clumsiness of many holes.