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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 73

Art. XI.—Observations on some peculiar Maori Remains, with Remarks on the Ancient Institution of Tapu

page 148

Art. XI.Observations on some peculiar Maori Remains, with Remarks on the Ancient Institution of Tapu.

I have the pleasure of exhibiting this evening for your inspection two somewhat remarkable specimens of Maori remains, respecting each of which I will offer one or two observations.

The first of these is a portion of a cranium of extraordinary thickness, exceeding even that of the Chatham Island Moriori, of which an example drawn from the collection in the Colonial Museum is now on the table. The specimen is too imperfect to admit of my giving many measurements. But, with a minimum frontal diameter of 100mm. and an external biorbital diameter of 113mm., it presents a maximum thickness of 10mm. The maximum thickness of the same bone in the Moriori is 8mm. With these specimens I exhibit a very typical Maori skull from the Island of Ivapiti (presumably that of a Ngatitoa warrior), and also, for purposes of comparison, the skull of a Mallicolo Indian from the New Hebrides Group. The former has a lofty forehead and presents generally an intellectual character; whilst the latter is so depressed that it appears to have no forehead at all, this extraordinary shape of the head being due, it is said, to artificial pressure during infancy. Adopting the formula used by Professor Scott in his able paper "On the Osteology of the Maori and Moriori," which appeared in our last volume of "Transactions," it may be useful to give the comparative measurements of these two skulls, which are as follows:—
Maori. Mallicolo.
mm. mm.
Stephanic diameter of the cranium 116 85
Minimum frontal diameter 90 80
External biorbital diameter 110 109
Bijugal diameter 120 120
Bizygomatic diameter 130 128
Glabello-occipital length 155 175
Basi-bregmatic height 140 135
Basi-nasal length 111 120
Basi-alveolar length 118 130
Nasal height 71 71
Maximum transverse diameter 135 115
This very thick brain-case was obtained from that "necropolis" already described by me* as existing on the small wooded island in the Papaitonga Lake, and it may fairly be

* Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. xxvi., p. 572.

page 149 assumed that its original owner was one of the ancestors of the Muaupoko people, now residing at Horowhenua.

The other specimen is part of a Maori skull, in which there is an abnormal growth of one of the teeth. It will be seen that the left upper canine or "eye-tooth" is turned completely upside down in its socket, the crown appearing in the region of the nostril, and the fang coming out in the roof of; the mouth or palate. From the condition of the adjoining bicuspid, the enamel being worn away by long grinding and the dentine exposed, it evidently belonged to an adult, presumably a person past middle age. The reversed tooth is of the normal length, and its singular position is perhaps due to some injury to the upper jaw during youth, but not during infancy, because this is a fully-developed second tooth. The proper socket has become obliterated by absorption, and a thick covering of bone has been formed in front of the eccentric tooth, giving quite a normal appearance to the jaw.

This relic was obtained by my son in 1878 from a wahi tapu or sacred grove some six or seven miles up the Opotiki River, on the East Coast. The place of sepulture was a hollow tree about 4ft. in diameter. The bones of the dead had been deposited within the tree from an aperture about 12ft. from the ground, and the interments had been continued from time to time, till the hollow tree was completely filled up with human remains. For a long period of time this burial-place, protected by a thick clump of bush, had been unvisited by any Maori, the resident tribes having, with the advent of civilisation, adopted other modes of disposing of their dead. But the hollow tree-trunk, containing the remains of a former generation, had decayed with time and broken asunder, discharging its ghastly memorials in a confused heap all around. At the time of my son's visit, in company with Captain Mair, the place was so strictly tapu that it was considered unsafe for any European to trespass upon it, to say nothing of interfering with the human relics. My son had therefore to content himself with only a hurried inspection, and, in order to bring away the remarkable specimen now exhibited, had to break off and leave behind the major part of the skull. I believe the clump of bush is still under strict tapu, and it will probably remain so for many years to come. The island in the Papaitonga Lake, on the other hand, where he obtained the heavy cranium now exhibited, although the scene of a terrible slaughter, and practically the cemetery of the Muaupoko tribe, has never been tapu at all. This will no doubt seem strange to you, but it is readily explainable. The two cases afford a good illustration of the manner in which the Maoris of old understood and interpreted what Mr. Colenso has fittingly termed "that mysterious and intricate institution of the tapu." page 150 The. tapu, with its many rites, forms, and observances, was so to speak, the foundation of Maori society, and the bulwark of tribal existence. The tapu "commenced with the birth of the New-Zealander, continued with him throughout life in all its varied scenes, and did not leave him until long after he was a the grave. The tapu regulated, or pretended to regulate, all his movements. It certainly enabled the Maoris to accomplish many heavy and useful works which without it they could not have done. Through it their large cultivations, their fisheries, their fine villages and hill forts, their fine canoes, their good houses, their large seine-nets, their bold carvings, and a hundred other things were accomplished—without possessing either iron or metal. Through it their fowl, and fish, and forests were preserved;" and through it the tombs and graves of their dead—objects held sacred even by the most untutored savage—were preserved inviolable. This far-reaching law of tapu had, as may readily be believed, a powerful influence over the Maori mind; so much so that, as Mr. Colenso adds, "the stoutest and fiercest of the chiefs bowed like an infant before it, and dared not disobey its behests." The tribal burial-place at Opotiki, primitive as it was, necessarily came under the protection of tapu in its strictest and most uncompromising form. On the other hand, the beaten Muanpoko, stripped of everything, and reduced in numbers to a mere remnant, who took refuge in the mountains, never dared to impose the spell of the tapu on the scene of their discomfiture and entombment. No better proof, perhaps, could be given of the complete conquest of the Muaupoko at that time by the Ngatitoa and Ngatiraukawa than the inability of the survivors ever afterwards to enforce the observance of this rite.* The nearest approach to it is what I have myself done in this present year of grace. I will explain. Among those who were killed in the great fight at Papaitonga was a celebrated chieftess named Te Riunga, an ancestress of the well-know chief Major Kemp Te Rangihiwinui. The island having come into my possession, I have erected upon it, in front of a grove of karaka-trees, the famous carved canoe "Te Koangaorehua," brought from Wanganui for that purpose. This monumental tomb, formed out of the end of a totara canoe of large dimensions, and elaborately carved to represent three human figures, one above the other, was erected some seventy years ago at Pipiriki (fifty miles up the Wanganui River) to mark tie resting-place of Te Mahutu. After the battle of Moutoa, in 1863, when so many "friendlies" fell fighting on our side

* According to the doctrine of law which governs the Native Land Court, conquest, unless followed by actual occupation, confers no titles to the land.

page 151 against the Hauhaus for the protection of Wanganui, it was decided to bring this monument down the river to Putiki, and erect it in the cemetery there in memory of those who had been killed, for the bones of Te Mahutu had long since been removed from Pipiriki to their final resting-place. This was accordingly done, and, whilst the loyal Natives were erecting their simple obelisk in the graveyard, Dr. Featherston, the Superintendent of Wellington, was uncovering a handsome marble monument in the Market Square at Wanganui, erected by the province to the memory of these brave defenders. But, owing to defective workmanship, in less than twenty years the carved monument toppled over, and, being still more or less tapu, was allowed to remain another ten years on the ground, having become in time completely hidden from view by a dense growth of vegetation. In order that it might be erected as a topu for his ancestress, Te Riunga, Major Kemp presented to me this interesting monument, and it was accordingly conveyed by train to Papaitonga. It is still in an excellent state of preservation, and will, I trust, in its new location long remain to interest the visitor, whilst it marks the scene of one of the most cruel passages in Maori history.
Having said so much about the institution of tapu, I will ask your permission to quote here the evidence given by the well-known chief Hohepa Tamamutu, of Taupo, in the Native Land Court at Cambridge, at the hearing of the Whakamaru case, in 1883, because it is a very clear and authoritative statement:—

"The law of tapu is a universal custom among our race. There are many kinds of tapu, and it belonged to the owners of the land to decide the nature of the tapu they imposed upon any land. It was the right of the relations of the dead, being owners, to impose a tapu; and theirs only. An attempt by any others than the owners would be valueless.

"I will give instances: Wharengaro was one of the principal chiefs of Taupo. He died at Te Ariki, in the Arawa country, and was interred in the middle of a plantation where potatoes and kumaras had been grown. In fact, he was buried just where he fell—in his blood as he was shot. Te Hirapango was his companion, and shared his fate and his grave; but the tribe could not whakatapu the spot, because, while the dead chiefs were Ngatituwharetoa, the land belonged not to them but to the Tuhourangi. Had it been their own land they could have proclaimed it tapu. Long after, when the flesh was decayed, the bones were exhumed and removed to Tongariro; but the land was never tapu, and it is not so now.

"On the other hand, Te Heuheu (the elder) was buried by a landslip at Te Rapa, between Tokanu and Waihi. The page 152 village was on the edge of the lake, and was completely buried In consequence of this, the entire lake and the land within defined limits was tapu, lest the fish of the one and the productions of the other should be eaten by any one. This was proclaimed by Te Heuheu Iwikau. Nothing from the lake-fish, koura, &c.—could have been eaten on pain of death. It was not till five years after that the present Te Heuher removed the tapu. He was the man whose right it was to do so, being the son of the deceased chief; and it was done to secure provisions for the gathering held for the lamentation over his father. No foreign chief could have done it. The ceremony was that the fish were caught, then removed tot place still tapu, and then cooked; then given to the priest, the ariki, and then eaten by him solemnly. No meaner person could have dared to do so. The high priest, the arik, on this occasion, was Te Takinga, and it was his office to eat these first-fruits of the land.

"I take the instance of Te Rangituamatotoro. After his death he was conveyed by Tamaira to Motu-taiko. An earthquake shattered the island, and the bones fell into the lake. The water of the lake within certain limits was whakatapued Now, there was a certain shallow (tahuna) in the lake that was a favourite fishing-ground, but it has been tapu ever since, and it is so still, and no one will dare to fish there.

"In all my experience I have never met with a single instance of a tapu laid by a foreign tribe upon land not their own property. Were such a thing attempted it would not be respected.

"I knew Totoia; also his elder brother, Te Ihukino. I heard of the tapu imposed because of his death. I was present at Waikari when Te Kaperakau and the others were there. Te Kaperakau—grandfather of Aperahama Te Kume [the claimant]—and the rest started to look for his body, but it could not be found. Totoia was a man of great consequence, as is proved by the land being made tapu for his sake. It was Te Kaperakau and Te Reweti who proclaimed the tapu."

A witness, however, on the other side gave the following evidence: "When I and my party visited Maungaiti we found Totoia living there alone. He was growing potatoes: that was all I saw. We slept there one night, and went on the next morning. Totoia gave us supper and lodging. There were several houses, but much dilapidated, and he himself had grown very old. He said that was his settlement. He was dressed in a cat-skin rug, painted inside with red ochre. The skins were of different colours. He wore it by day and he slept in it by night. We went on from Maungaiti to Tapapa and took up our residence there. After this we heard of To toia's death at Maungaiti. I do not know how he died. We page 153 did not go to fetch his body or look for it. The Ngatikikopiri did go, but I heard that it was supposed the pigs had devoured him, for he could not be found. . . I heard that Wahineiti died at Tauranga a natural death. His body was brought back to Patetere by the Ngatikea and the Arawa, and was deposited at Omaruapu in a small wooden hut in which he was seated. Then all Ngatiraukawa were summoned by messengers to come and see him. They assembled, and when they saw him they chanted a funeral dirge, to which Ngatikea and the Arawa responded; and then the Ngatiraukawa removed the body to Maungaiti, resting at Tokoroa on the way. On the birth of the child of Rangitaiki (the chief of Ngatikikopiri) it was called 'Nga-wi-o-Tokoroa,' and Hape's child was named Horohau, from the grass on which the corpse had lain and the wind that blew over it as it rested there. The body was then interred by the Ngatiraukawa at Maungaiti, because that was his own special territory. His remains were subsequently removed to Waotu when those of Hape were removed from Mangatautari, for the chiefs of the Ngatikikopiri decided that the two brothers should rest together."

Referring to this, Hitiri Paerata (the hero of Orakau), who also gave evidence in the case, said, "Wahineiti was travelling through and died, and was taken to his own place. It was only the great people who were taken to the tribal sepulchres. The common people were buried where they died—anywhere."*

I offer no apology for giving you these long extracts, because this evidence has never been published, and appears to me of considerable interest. I am of opinion that there would be no surer way of compiling a true history of the Maori people than by sifting and comparing the evidence recorded by the Judges of the Native Land Courts all over the country during the last thirty years. Of course much of it is unreliable and worthless; but that there are treasures of unspeakable value to the future Maori historian scattered through these countless volumes cannot for a moment be doubted. The real information is to be found in the private note-books of the Judges rather than in the minute-books of the Court, which for the most part are mere records of proceedings, or, at best, contain a mere outline of the evidence. For a period of sixteen years an accomplished Maori scholar occupied the position of Chief Judge of the Native Land Court, and I believe it was always his desire that a systematic effort should be made

* Wahineiti, the elder brother of Hape, died at Tauranga. He said to Ngatikea, "Don't take me to Maungatautari, but to Tokoroa, that the rushes of my land may grow over me; that I may drink the dews of Tokoroa." This occasioned the name of "Horohau." Therefore "Nga-wi-o-Tokoroa" became a proverb. (Evidence of Aperahama Te Kume.)

page 154 to collate this information and place it on record in some permanent form. A volume of "Important Judgments" of the Court was published some years ago, but nothing more has been achieved, if we except the publications, from time to time, of individual judges of the Court. It is not too late now, for it is well known that the most capable of these Judges have preserved all their note-books. In the hands of a skilful compiler, possessing the necessary qualifications, a most interesting and valuable volume would be the result. For example, what could be more spirited than the sketch of Maori history contained in Mr. Fenton's judgment in the celebrated Pukeha-moamoa case at Hawke's Bay—one of the last delivered by him—or what more poetic than the evidence in that case of Noa Te Huke, who rested his whole title on the dying words of his female ancestor, "Take me not away from the land, but bury me within hearing of the Rangitahi waterfall"?

There is another consideration to be borne in mind, and it is this: that, in the case of evidence given on oath, the natural tendency to romance is necessarily somewhat if not entirely curbed, and that consequently by this means a truer narrative ought as a rule to be obtained than by any other mode of inquiry. What, for example, could be more realistic and apparently truthful than the following passage taken from the evidence of Matiaha Peko, in the Rangatira case (1882), about the killing of Totohu?—"I was born at Te Ngei, and am the son of Takiau, the same man who killed Totohu in company with Te Kapiti, at Te Karangi, on the Pourewa. They killed him for stealing the eels there. Then they cut him up and ate him—ate the whole of him, except the head, and that we put on a pole. We dried it, Maori fashion (mokomokai), and took it to Turakina. There was a kumara ground there, and we set up the head on it to scare the pukekos. Afterwards it was thrown into an eel-pond or lagoon at Waiwhero. I helped to eat him. I saw the head. It was a huge head, with crisp hair, like a negro's (poriki), and the face completely covered with tatooing. He was said to belong to Ngatihauiti."

It would not require much play of the imagination to suppose that the remarkably thick cranium which I have exhibited I this evening belonged to just such a head as that so graphically described by Matiaha Peko—that of the unhappy eel poacher, Totohu.