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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Chapter I

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Chapter I.

We white people, with unpardonable conceit, are in the habit of saying and thinking that the History of New Zealand dates from the time of European occupation. This is not true; any more than it would be to say that English history commences with the Norman Conquest. Probably the early history of this country is as reliable as that of most countries prior to the introduction of written records.

The early European explorers found this country occupied by an intelligent, warlike, but savage race, which, later on came to be called Maori (meaning Native to the soil), and which is a branch of that wide-spread race of brown men called, from their location, Polynesians. The traditions of these early occupants of New Zealand go back to a date about a hundred years before Alfred the Great ruled over England, when bold navigators from the Western Pacific discovered and settled in this land. These early people are called by the later migration (to be referred to) tangata-whenua or "men of the land."

From the time of their first arrival, the people seem to have remained in comparative isolation until about the year 1350, when communication was again opened with Central and Eastern Polynesia, and a considerable accession to the population took place, the new comers baiting from Tahiti, Raratonga, and the groups of islands in that neighbourhood.

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photograph of village

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About the date mentioned six large and well-known vessels arrived in New Zealand, their crews, attracted by the prospects of a large field for emigrants, and where scope for settlement was to be found, which was, through increase of population, denied them in their places of birth. The crews of "The Fleet," as they are usually termed, were evidently men of a more forceful character than their predecessors—a result flowing naturally from their ability as navigators and warriors gained in many a long voyage which had taken them and their predecessors all over the island world of the Pacific. The particular canoes of "The Fleet" with which the Taranaki tribes are connected, were the "Aotea," "Toko-maru," and "Kura-nau po" names now perpetuated in some of the ocean liners carrying passengers and freight between the Home country and New Zealand. These later emigrants soon became the leading people by conquest, or absorption of the previous inhabitants. They brought with them, top, the Kumara and the Taro plants, which were destined to make considerable changes in the mode of living of the people, thereby rendering it possible to store up provisions for winter use, by which means distant predatory expeditions of a warlike character became more easy of accomplishment.