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Lore and history of the South Island Maori


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Stewart Island is a land of hills, virgin bush and picturesque bays. It is forty miles in length and twenty-five miles wide with an area of approximately 1,000 square miles. It contains considerable mineral wealth, but the country generally is not suited for carrying a large population, and moreover is separated from the South Island by the often angry waters of Foveaux Strait, as visitors to the island travelling by the old S.S. "Theresa Ward" well know. It was discovered to be an island by Captain Dugald Stewart of the schooner Prince of Denmark, in 1808. The Maori name for Stewart Island is Raki ura, "heavenly glow." Its original name as recorded by the late James Cowan was Te Pungo-o-te-wako-o-Maui, signifying the anchor stone of Maui's Canoe.

Maui was the old time explorer who fished up the North Island whilst at Kaikoura in Marlborough. Of course this is the South Island Maori tradition. There were several Mauis, mostly mythical, but there is little doubt that a real Maui explored New Zealand, the South Island at any rate, about 750A.D., in the Mahunui canoe. Several places bear his name, one being Omaui in Port Adventure, Stewart Island. The native history of Stewart Island is very fragmentary, and from the depth below ground at which Maori ovens and tools have been found it can be inferred that Stewart Island, like the West Coast Sounds, had been a refuge for defeated tribes.

About 1720A.D. Tukiauau, and his son Koroko whiti, as Ngati Mamoe chiefs, had run foul of another chief of the same tribe at the Taieri, and found it expedient to move off with their hapu, and take refuge with a chief Tukete, at the north-west end of Stewart Island. Tu Wiri Roa later followed up with a taua, and catching a section of his enemies off guard whilst fishing at Orua kotuku, near Mason's Bay, slew them all. Moving on, he took the pa at Putatara further north and put Tukiauau Koroko whiti and Tukete to death. About thirty-five years later the great Ngai Tahu chief Te Wera, who had defied Taoka to oust him from Huriawa Pa at Old Waikouaiti, moved down to Stewart Island from Motu rata Island at Taieri Mouth. The "Ancient History of the Maori" by John White, mentions three places on Stewart Island where Te Wera lived which cannot now be identified, namely Otara, Moreuaki and Waikori.

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Te Wera visited Orangiahua in Patersons Inlet also Ohekia (Freshwater River) in the same inlet. Some fighting with the Ngati Mamoe there is called Kaitangata. Te Wera moved to the north-west portion of Stewart Island to Smoky, then called Orautahi. This shift is said to have been caused through disease at Ohekia occasioning many deaths. At Orautahi, Te Wera had further strife with the Ngati Mamoe of Okopihi Pa in the same locality. Te Wera and his people eventually crossed Foveaux Strait to Matariki, where a pa was built, and Te Wera himself died comfortably in his bed and is buried at Taramea (Howells Point). Fighting later at Matariki and nearby caused Te Wera's hapu to find death as true warriors.

The European period can be counted from June 5th, 1840, when Captain Nias of H.M.S. Herald, assisted by Major Bunbury hoisted the British Flag and claimed possession at Pegasus Inlet. Bishop Selwyn, during February 1844, visited the various native settlements. During May 1844, the schooner Deborah, with surveyors F. Tuckett, Barnicoat and Davison aboard made coastal surveys. This work was more carefully done by the officers and men of H.M.S. Acheron during 1850 and 1851.

On August 2nd, 1860, John Topi Patuki wrote to Governor Gore-Browne on behalf of himself, Paitu and the heirs of Tuhawaiki, offering the sale of Stewart Island to the Crown. After a considerable amount of correspondence, on June 29th, 1864, Commissioner Clarke purchased Stewart Island for the Crown at £6,000, subject to several reserves, and some eighteen mutton-birding islands off the coast.

The nine reserves made on Stewart Island were situated as follows:—Lord's Harbour, Port Adventure, The Neck, North side of Paterson's Inlet, North Head of Horseshoe Bay, Cultivation Point at Port William, Raggedy, Port Easy and Masons Bay. In 1864, Port Adventure boasted a small kainga occupied by half-castes. Wiremu Topi Patuki, a half brother to John Topi Patuki was the leading Maori of the small settlements at Port Adventure and other places on Stewart Island. Native villages once existed at Native or Rabbit Island (Te Whara-whara), Broad or Wilson's Bay, Port Adventure (Waipuna), Port Willian (Pa Whakataka), Orangiahua at Caerhowel Arm of Paterson's Inlet, and Horomamae or Queen Island. Te Wera had two pas at The Neck long before European days. The Maori name for The Neck is Te Wahi a te Wera, because that redoubtable warrior who feared no man in fight took fright at this locality and ran away when he met a sea lion for the first time.

The Titi or Mutton Birding Islands whether Maori or Crown owned are generally well known by both their European and Maori names to those Maoris who have the exclusive right of landing thereon. The names of the islands figure in page 159the original maps of the early days, and appear (a few at a time) annually in the press reports on the mutton-birding industry.

The following are names which have so appeared:—Owen Island (Horomamae), Entrance Island (Tia), Refuge Island (Herekopare or Marama), Long Island (Kanaiwera or Taukiepa), Moggy Islands (Moki nui and Moki iti), Solomon Island near Long Island is Rere whakaupoko, Wedge Island (Poho o waitai; The Breaksea Group which are often mentioned in reports are Wharepuaitaha, Rakawhakakura, Kaihuka and Te Pomata kia rehu, Stage Island (Poho o tairea), Timore and islet south of Stage Island, Te Maka an islet near Easy Harbour, Kai Mohu an islet north of Solomon Island, Poutama (Eevening Island); Hidden Island (Putahinu), Huirapa and Te Mai o te Mioka south of Huirapa are three islets near Wedge Island. Motunui is Hotunui, Haremai te raki and Kani te toi are two islets of the Fancy Group; Te Wahi taua is Bench Island. Return or Bates Island is called Te Moutere o te Wharerimu. Kane is First Island and Pukeweka is the second islet north of Long Island. The large island called Codfish is to the Maori Whenua hou.

The mutton-birding rights have occasioned personal strife among the natives concerned. At the Supreme Court, Inver-cargill, on September 30th, 1909, a native ouf Arowhenua took action against a native of the Bluff for an eviction made on Horomamoe Island on April 11th, 1909. The action was dismissed as the matter was a subject of settlement by the Native Land Court. The Native Land Court in 1914 and in 1921, decided the names of the Maoris entitled to enter upon the Tite Island, and the same was published in the New Zealand Gazette together with the location of the several sections.

The Fluttering Shearwater is the mutton bird of the South Island. In the North Island the bird taken is the Grey-faced Petrel. The Titi Islands are divided off into sections, each one of which is marked off by tufts of fern tied to a tree, and each mutton-birder has to keep to his own section. During the mutton-birding season of 1897, the Maoris of Riverton and Colac Bay, some 50 persons belonging to 17 families, obtained a catch of 75,000 birds or approximately 15,000 to an individual. Valued at 3d. per head (bird) the return was £937/10/0. Two Maori maidens of Riverton took 4,200 birds between them. In the season of 1899 the Maoris of Colac Bay were unfortunate in as much as the whole of the take was lost when the cutter "Aparima" was wrecked near Riverton, on May 25th, 1899, the loss to the Maoris being £380. The New Zealand Government, however, made a benevolent grant of £190. During the season of 1908, the Maoris took 100,000 birds. The value of each bird at 4d. page 160netted the Maoris £1,600. Some 100 men were engaged, and when the women and children helpers were included, the tally was 400 persons. An average family earning was £16 for the season less £2 expenses. The season of 1909 commenced on April 1st and ended on May 31st., over 200,000 birds being taken.

During the 1910 season, the Maoris working the Breaksea Islets (Kaihuka, Kahawhakakura, Wharepuaitaha, Te Pomata kia rehu) brought into The Neck 190 kits representing 8,000 birds which was exceptionally good considering that the weather allowed only about a fortnight's work. The "Rakiura" conveyed the Maoris to the islands during the seasons of 1908 and 1090. The best take of the 1909 season was from Papatea (Green Island), In 1913 it cost the Maoris £4/10/0 per head to be conveyed by boat to the Titi Islands from Riverton, 50 miles distant. A large number of natives journeyed to the Titi Islands from Colac Bay, Papatotara and Arowhenua in 1915, and a larger number from the same settlement in 1917. On March 10th, 1917, the "Rita" conveyed Wixon's Maoris to Poutama Island, and on the following day took over the natives from Colac Bay and Riverton. On March 12th, 1917, the S.S. "Loyalty" took West's party to Poho-o-waitai, Big Island and Cundy Island. The S.S. "Dispatch" took over Davis's party to Boat Harbour on March 15th. The "Savaii" took over King's party to Moki nui and Rerewhakoupoko (Solomons).

The birds in 1917 were valued at 8d. each. On June 11th, 1917, Mr T. Parata, m.p., appealed to the Maoris to raise £10 per runanga towards the cost of sending 10,000 preserved mutton birds to the Maori soldiers of the Great War. In June 1918, Rahera Mutu on her own appeal obtained 8,000 birds at the Bluff to send overseas. In the season of 1921, the Maoris of Riverton and Colac Bay captured 24,000 birds and in 1922 the take was 14,000 birds. On March 27th, 1934, the S.S. "Tamatea" conveyed the mutton birders from the Bluff. The 1937 season was a poor one as in April of that year the S.S. Kekeno returned with only 25,000 birds, owing to weather conditions. The S.S. "Orewa" has taken over the Maoris of recent years. The mutton-birding season lasts approximately ten weeks. The birds lay their eggs at the end of November. The time of incubation lasts one month. When the young birds can fend for themselves, the old birds leave Foveaux Strait in April.

The bags for holding the birds are made from bull kelp. The giant sea weed is cut into lengths four feet long and two feet wide. The Maori inserts his hand along the inside honey-comb until a bag is formed, with about two inches left unbroken around the edges. The bag is inflated and secured for three days, and then left in a cool place to soften. Flax or totara page 161bark is used as its protective covering. The heads, tails, wings and feet are removed from the birds prior to preserving. The birds are cooked in their own fat. The contents of a kelp bag are numbered with knots on a flax cord. Each knot represents 10 birds. In 1941 (about February) a meeting of delegates from the several runangas was held at Tuahiwi, Canterbury, and a commencement was made to provide the Maoris at the World War with (to them) the tasty mutton bird.

It must not be taken for granted that Titi Island, though abandoned for nine months of the year by the Maoris is otherwise useless. Mr J. Bragg made a clearing on Pukeokaoka Island which lies off the entrance to Halfmoon Bay, Stewart Island, and on it planted on it "Up to Date" potatoes. From an area 66 x 24 feet he obtained a return of ½-ton of potatoes, many weighing 21bs. each. In the early days the Maoris indulged in sealing. A party of Maori sealers, who left the Bluff for Seal Cove at South East Cape at Stewart Island, returned three weeks later on January 23rd, 1871, with 73 seal skins. The seals were obtained on a narrow ledge reached by climbing a 40 foot precipice.

Horomona Paitu, the chief who controlled Soloman's Island (Rere whakaupoko) built a church thereon in the early days, so that the mutton-birders and seal takers did not neglect spiritual affairs. Old Soloman was a convert of Bishop Selwyn's, and was catechist at Riverton. In the sealing days Tupai was a leading chief at Stewart Island, though Tukete held sway at Codfish Island, and Paitu at Port William. By the several Landless Natives Acts, land was reserved for the natives at Lord's River and Port Adventure, during the Liberal Government regime. However in 1914, Royal Commissioners Gilfedder and Hazard stated that no permanent residence had been taken up by the Maoris concerned (a few hundred in all). Similar lands in.Southland met a similar fate, being poor and too far away from civilization and costly to clear by a tribe with little (if any) fund to assist. The little island of Whero, ½-acre in extent, has been the subject of much attention of recent years on account of the destruction of native bird life by cats. Other small islets have suffered from the same cause. It was on this islet that the whaling ship "C. A. Larsen" was damaged.

Mouterenui is an old name for Stewart Island, Pa Whakataka is Port William, Hautupe was the Maori settlement at Horseshoe Bay, Kai rakau is Halfmoon Bay, and Pukuheke is the site of the lighthouse. Otakuu is Murray River, Orautahi is Smoky, Ohekia is Freshwater River, Orangiahua is at Paterson's Inlet, Te Oneroa is Masons Bay, Lords River is Tutae kawetoweto. Te Wharawhara is Native or Rabbit Island, Tinko is Coopers or Ulva Island. Paitu was a tattooed Ngai Tahu chief, and Horomona Patu (Pukuhiti) was a Ngati page 162Mamoe chief; both played a prominent part at Stewart Island in early sealing days.

Foveaux Strait on many maps bears the name "Te Ara a Kiwa", Kiwa was a more or less shadowy explorer of 2,000 years ago, and probably of Melanesian origin, certainly of a darker race than the Polynesian, as the Maoris of Southland invariably call a dark member of their race "a son Kiwa". Solander Island bears the name Hautere and Centre Island is always referred to in the southern dialect as Raratoka not Raratonga as in the north. Raratoka has a sacred burial-place.

When the New Zealand Government steamer "Stella" called at Centre Island on July 30th, 1878, to inspect the lighthouse, the officers found a group of angry Maoris in possession. Diplomacy was used, the Maoris being guaranteed that while no interference with their burials would be permitted, on the other hand drastic action would be taken if the Marine Department's work was hindered. Ruapuke Island is fifteen miles south-east of the Bluff and is made a centre for the mutton-birding expeditions, and a haven for the oyster cutters. The island has an area of approximately 4,000 acres. Its chief claim to interest lies in the fact that it was the island fortress of the famous Ngai Tahu and Ngati Mamoe chief Tuhawaiki, who proved himself more than an equal as a warrior to Te Rauparaha whom he defeated in fair battle.

The Rev. J. F. H. Wohlers, a missionary, landed at Ruapuke on May 17th, 1844, by the schooner "Deborah", which also conveyed F. Tuckett, the surveyor. The Rev. Wohlers who made the welfare of the Maoris his object in life, passed away at The Neck, Stewart Island, on May 7th, 1885. The pa of Tuhawaiki was situated on an islet connected at low tide with the mainland, and it was called Pa rangia-io (bait for fish). It was the site of a former Ngati Mamoe fortress. Tuhawaiki possessed cannon and guns obtained in Sydney, and had his warriors disciplined in European fashion.

The house of Tuhawaiki on Ruapuke, built in European fashion with rough boards, consisted of two rooms with a lean to. Tuhawaiki was born at Tuahinu, Inch Clutha, in 1805. He was a son of Te Kaihere of the Huirapa hapu of Ngai Tahu by the wife Kura, who was a sister of Whakataupuku. He became chief at Ruapuke in October 1835. The interpretation of his name is "ancestral war god". He was drowned from off his canoe in November 1844, at Patiti Point, Timaru. Te Iri haukoa, a wife, was on board at the time of the accident. In February 1844, Bishop Selwyn visited Ruapuke per Tuhawaiki's schooner "Perseverance". This vessel was wrecked in July 1847. The name Ruapuke interpreted means "two hills". There used to be several small villages on Ruapuke. Where the Rev. J. F. H. Wohlers lived is now called Porora, but on the maps it is Tau-a-te-maka.