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Lore and history of the South Island Maori

Te Waipounamu — Westland, the land of the greenstone

page 186

Te Waipounamu
Westland, the land of the greenstone.

The Maoris of the South Island in their poetic references to their country invariably refer to it as Te Waipounamu, the island of the greenstone. However the term in a strict sense refers only to Westland where the precious stone is found. The Maoris have several legends connected with the origin and discovery of greenstone. Several stories have appeared in print, but the publications concerned have long since disappeared from general sale. To Ngahue, an explorer of long ago, one legend is attached. It appears that Ngahue, in the distant Hawaiki, had a disagreement with his wife, and went forth to seek a new home. The wife, however, caused a green fish named Poutini, a son of the sea god Tangaroa, to pursue her fleeting spouse. Ngahue reached the West Coast of the South Island in line with Aorangi (Mount Cook) with Poutini hot on his tail. Ngahue in his canoe journeyed up the coast, but when off the mouth of the Arahura River, darkness fell. The snow on Mount Tara o Tama mountain at the head of the Arahura River alone furnished brightness. Up the Arahura River sped Ngahue; Poutini followed after, failed to ascend the cascade, was injured, and fell into the deep pool, where the great fish was turned into a greenstone canoe.

According to another story the wives of the famous explorer Tamatea Pokai Whenua, deserted him. The canoe they journeyed in capsized at the Arahura. The drowned women were transformed into green jade. Tama ki te Rangi of the Tairea Canoe has also been associated with legends of the greenstone. It appears a canoe containing his wives came to grief high up the Arahura River. The Tairea Canoe remains to this day as a ledge of greenstone across the bed of the river. The rocky knobs are either the wives or the time givers for the paddles. The mountain Tumuaki represents the slave of Tamatea Pokai Whenua of the second mentioned legend who was turned into a hill for breaking the rules of tapu when cooking food.

Tumuaki according to another version about 1540A.D., took a party of the Nga Rauru Tribe up the Arahura River to obtain greenstone. He commenced breaking stone, and not being accustomed to such work, hit his hand, putting his fingers into his mouth to allay the pain he inadvertently broke the tapu attached to the sacred greenstone. For his misdeed he page break
Mrs Rahera Muriwai Morrison, descendant of Tuhuru of Westland, died June 3rd, 1930.

Mrs Rahera Muriwai Morrison, descendant of Tuhuru of Westland, died June 3rd, 1930.

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Bruce Bay

Bruce Bay

Browning Pass

Browning Pass

page 187 was turned into a mountain. It is quite within possibility that a man Tumuaki lived and died in the Arahura district. That Greenstone or Pounamu was discovered in Westland by Ngahue can be taken for granted. Pounamu is a fish deity, and is a son of Tangaroa, who was the offspring of Rangi and Papa. Tangaroa was the husband of Te Ano Matao. The brothers of Pounamu were Poutini, Te Whatu kura-a-Tangaroa and Te Whataikura. Pounamu was generated in the liver of sharks. It remained soft until it was exposed to the open air.

Kaikanohi is the usual name applied by the Maoris to the ledge of greenstone lying across the bed of the Upper Arahura River. According to a statement made by Mr Heaphy in 1846, the finest greenstone was obtained at Pahutani, and a very select "tapu" greenstone was found at Kotorepi, about a dozen miles north of Greymouth (Mawhera). It is quite evident the Ngati Wairangi Tribe traded greenstone from Westland to the North Island long before the Ngai Tahu Tribe journeyed south. The Ngati Wairangi Tribe came from Poverty Bay to Blind Bay in Nelson. Finding the Waitaha Tribe already there they moved over to West Whanganui, eventually occupying the whole of the West Coast. Until recent years a very high percentage of the greenstone curios given by the Maoris to visitors was produced by a firm of lapidaries in Dunedin. In August 1874, this particular firm was purchasing the greenstone from Greenstone Gully near Greymouth, at £8 per cwt. As at March 14th, 1904, a Wellington Jeweller had two tons of Westland greenstone awaiting shipment to lapidaries in Amsterdam, Holland, such to be made into Maori curios. He paid for the greenstone 1/- to 5/- per lb. according to the quality of the ground.

In 1912, the amount of greenstone calculated as being able to be quarried at Tara Tame, Westland, amounted to 270,000 tons. Greenstone suitable for working was valued at from 1/-to 6/- per lb., or in bulk £56 to £672 per ton. Our Museum authorities with the trained eye can readily detect the work of the pakeha from that of the old time Maori. The Maoris of Napier and Poverty Bay as early as 1510A.D. had a chief named Mairetu gathering up greenstone in Westland, and according to tradition nine canoes conveyed the material north. The canoes were in charge of a chief named Rakai. When Raureka, a Ngati Wairangi chieftainess journeyed over Browning Pass and showed samples of green-stone to the Ngai Tahu at Arowhenua, she brought trouble on her people. She was taken to wife by Puhou of the Ngai Tahu Tribe. The Ngai Tahu men each carried 60 to 70 lbs a piece over Brownings Pass from Westland.

Puhou was probably the first Ngai Tahu chief to cross Browning Pass. The section from Taumutu, under a chief Whakariki, were drowned crossing the Rakaia near the Gorge page 188Bridge at the place called Kaitangata. Te Rangitamau and his sons Weka and Marama however made several successful journeys over to Westland from Taumutu for greenstone via Browning Pass. Disaster overtook a party led by Takawa during a snow storm, and the pass become less favoured.

Peaceful trading between the Ngai Tahu and Ngati Wairangi Tribes did not last many years. The club-footed, head chief of the Ngai Tahu Tribe, Turakautahi, prevailed on Te Rangi tamau to lead a war party over Browning Pass and attack the Ngati Wairangi. The fight took place at Lake Kaneire and the Ngati Wairangi chief Te Uekanuku was slain and his warriors defeated. A few years later a Ngai Tahu expedition was badly defeated by the Ngati Wairangi at Lake Mahinapua. The karakia (invocations) said by the tohunga Tuararo-o-te-rangi of the Ngati Wairangi were strong and powerful. Tanetiki, who was a son of Tuahuriri, together with Tute pirirangi and Tutaemeora met death by drowning. Their kinsman Hikatutae cut off their heads, and brought his precious burden straight back to Canterbury. The fight at Lake Mahinapua is called Tawiri o te mango (heaping of sharks).

Hokitika interpreted means "returned in a straight line," and refers to Hikatutae's direct return from Hokitika to the East Coast. The third war expedition was led by Moki and Maka and the Ngaiti Wairangi were defeated at Otuku whakaoki. The Ngati Wairangi during the following fifty years made a few raids on the east coast, particularly around Port Cooper (Lyttelton Harbour). Five of the leading hapus of the Ngai Tahu of Canterbury, united with the members of their tribe domiciled on the West Coast and decimated the Ngati Wairangi at the Paparoa Range. The leaders were: Tuhuru, Te Para, Puka and Te Ao whakamaru. The Ngai Tahu Tribe of Westland had several skirmishes with the Ngati-tumata-kokiri Tribe of the Buller district over lands, but the story of these fights belongs to the Nelson chapter.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the old time Maori gateway to the greenstone country was the North Rakaia or Browning Pass. John Hall, secretary of Public Works of Provincial Canterbury, approached the Rev. J. W. Stack, Maori Mission Kaiapoi, to seek information as to Maori tracks over the Alps. On March 31st, 1865, the Rev. J. W. Stack replied:—"I am sorry to say the only Maori who has gone to the West Coast by the old route is now too infirm to leave his whare. There are no Maoris now living, except this old man, who know anything about the route beyond what they have heard in the past from others." This old Maori furnished a sketch (reproduced) and gave detailed information thus:—Having reached the headwaters of the Rakaia, the traveller must go up the Waitawhira (Wilberforce) branch until he page 189reaches the mountain called Kaniere; there he will find a cave where the Maoris used to camp (still used by pakehas). From the cave the path leads up one of the spurs of the mountain to the saddle. About 200 feet below the saddle, the track is very steep, but could be easily improved, the ascent took the Maoris three hours to accomplish. There is a small lake over the pass (Lake Browning) about three or four hundred yards in diameter, the source of a stream (tributary of the Arahura). A gentle slope leads down to the riverbed on the western side covered with Spaniards and stunted brushwood. Maoris heavily laden with provisions starting from the cave on the eastern slope of Kaniere reached the coast on the following day at noon.

About two-thirds of the way to the coast, there is an open valley through which a path leads to the Hokitika River. The place where the path starts may be known by a great landslide on the south bank of the stream. The distance between Kaniere Pass to the mouth of the Hokitika is not greater than the distance between Kaniere and the Arahura mouth." Browning and Griffiths, the surveyors, found the description accurate as disclosed in their report of September 7th, 1865. In later years a track was formed and was extensively used by both stock and humans. A track down the Arahura from the Pass as an alternative route has long since been overgrown and out of repair; the Maori one still remains. The Wilberforce River takes it source on the snow field at Pope's Pass.

Before the days of Te Rauparaha's raids the Maoris of Kaikoura were often at war with their kin at Kaiapoi. On one occasion the Tuahuriri hapu of Kaiapoi sent a large party over to Westland for greenstone, and the northerners then essayed an attack. Warning reached Kaiapoi and a messenger named Ngatorangi was sent to bring the warriors back to defend their homes. Ngatororangi made a non-stop run towards Browning Pass. He swam the Waimakariri, made across the dreary plains towards Mount Hutt and the Rakaia River, over the Acheron River, past Whakamatau (Lake Coleridge), up the Waitawhiri (Wilberforce) and climbed up the 45 degree incline to the summit of Browning Pass. From there he loudly called on the Tuahuriri folk to return. His message heard, Ngatororangi collapsed. Tuahuriri folk sped back to Kaiapoi and won the fight. Two warriors had been detailed to nurse back their messenger to health at the cave (now well known). When Ngatororangi was back at Kaiapoi his tribesmen feted him for days.

The Maoris used to have seasonal camps at the Upper Rakaia, one was opposite the junction of the Mathias near the lagoon at Double Hill, its name being Tokinui; another near the junction of the Harper and Wilberforce Rivers was page 190called Otumapuhi. The posts of the pas were removed by the European station owners about 1896. Dr. H. D. Skinner of the Otago University in one of his magazine articles quotes a Maori of old as denying that the Maoris used Whitcombe Pass. The early explorers could not learn of any having knowledge of Whitcombe, Mathias or Mungo Passes. R. A. Sherrin (a man whose value as an explorer has not been recognised) early in the sixties put it in writing that the Maoris of Kokotahi Pa denied any knowledge of passes in that particular direction, though he personally thought a pass at the head waters of the Whataroa (Wataroa) possibly existed. Sealey Pass has been crossed by many persons and without the aid of Government-made tracks. Whitcombe, the discoverer of that pass, experienced great hardship, and surveyor Griffiths, who followed two years later (1865) had a similar experience, and his report dated August 20th, 1865, describes his dangerous journey and his concluding words are quoted thus: "I consider this route perfectly useless for any purpose, not excepting foot travellers who cannot use it without risking broken limbs."

For the next thirty years Europeans and Maoris alike shunned Whitcombe Pass.

In 1896, the explorer Douglas formed a track which avoided the impassable gorges. In 1906, this track was cleared by the Lands Department, but it was not used and became overgrown. Mr B. Cropp of Hokotahi re-discovered the track in 1934. In 1935 the track was reformed by deer cullers, and in May 1937, the Whitcombe Pass was crossed by four women.

The Whitcombe is strictly the main river, (the Hokitika being only a tributary), and is always a monstrous stream passing through large deep rock-encumbered gorges such as the Collier below Frew's Creek, which is quite impassable. The descent of the river in some places amounts to 200 feet per mile. The tracks over the Mathias arid Mungo Passes are now out of repair. Douglas the explorer was greatly assisted by Captain Bascand of the S.S. Waipara in his work, (who landed stores at most of the South Westland river mouths). The Douglas Glacier is named after the intrepid explorer, and the Waipara River of South Westland commemorates Captain Bascand's steamer which eventually met its doom on the Okarito (Akarita) Bar. Why writers have given so much prominence to Whitcombe Pass (in books) as a Maori Pass is not understandable.

The Haast River is similarly not the larger stream and should give place to the Landsborough which is classed as the tributary. The Landsborough region is even yet only partially explored. In the gold prospecting days, Maoris are reported by the Gold Fields Wardens in official reports, as working at the various head waters of the Whataroa right up to the snow line. Sealey Pass at the head of the Scone tributary of the page 191Whataroa was crossed by Europeans in 1869, in 1888, in 1890, and three times by parties in 1892, on two occasions by women. In 1908, Sealey Pass (5,800 feet) was crossed, and there have been many crossings since which have become too common to be reported by the press.

Lake Kaniere, in the basin of the Hokitika, near Mount Tuhua, is five miles long by one and three quarters wide and is 422 feet above sea level. The name Kaniere can be interpreted as "sound of a dance" and "act of saving greenstone". Lake Brunner (Moana) is five miles long by four broad and is 280 feet above sea level. Lakes Ianthe and Mapourika have an area each of two square miles. Lake Mahinapua is noted for its reflections.

The Hokitika River was explored by Sir Julius Von Haast and on May 12th, 1865, he ascended the river by a Maori canoe to Lake Kaniere. On the 22nd May, 1865, he took a canoe journey twenty-two miles up the Hokitika. At that point passage was barred by rapids. It took three days to make the up voyage and three hours to return. Arahura Pa was visited by Brunner the explorer, on October 12th, 1847, and his Maori companions were Te kau hauke, Tipiha and Paeture and the latter's daughter. Gerhard Mueller surveyed the native reserves of South Westland during May 1866, and his assistant was a Maori named Keoii. The Arahura Reserve was set down as containing at least 2,000 acres. On account of its being greenstone country the Maoris were offered first chance of purchasing the land between the Arahura Reserve and Mount Tuhua at 10/- per acre, it having been discovered that the mountain was five miles further inland than was supposed. The offer was made in July 1866.

The late Sir Arthur Dudley Dobson when surveying the Arahura Reserve was ordered off by the Maoris on January 12th, 1864. James Mackay Jr., Native Commissioner, on February 15th, 1864, assured Tarapuhi, Wereta Tainui, Hakiaba, Makarini, Arapata Horau, Purua, Papara, Inia and Ihia Tainui that it was in the interests of the natives that the lands should be correctly surveyed.

On December 13th, 1866, Ihaia Tainui applied to purchase 100 acres at the Kokotahi A native school was established in 1878, and was further enlarged at Arahura in 1891. With the advent of the consolidation of schools movement a few years ago, the pupils were removed to a European school a few miles north by railway. The site for a native settlement on the Arahura Reserve was set aside on September 1st, 1896. The original Arahura Hall was completed by the Maoris during April 1873, and the walls were decorated with Maori art, the floor matting was also Maori. In the centre of the hall stood a carved figure, tattooed, with paua shell eyes and a protruding tongue. In July 1870, Te Koro Maitai, an aged Maori friend page 192of the Rev. J. W. Stack of Tuahiwi, journeyed over Harper Pass to Arahura and held a six weeks mission, and as a result Maori converts were later confirmed.

The following year 1871, St. Paul's Anglican Maori Church was opened and dedicated by Bishop Harper, and fairly regular services were afterwards held there by Archdeacon Harper. At the Anglican Synod held during August 1871, the Rev. Cooper spoke of the sincerity of the Arahura congregation. Mrs Tainui informed the author that the church was removed further from the sea a few years later.

A section of the Rapuwai Tribe dwelt long ago near Arahura, but a fight with the Ngati Wairangi Tribe resulted in the Rapuwai chief Hauaki's being killed. The spot is now called Otauaki. Jackson's Bay, at the extreme south end of Westland, bears the name Okahu, after a chief Kahu slain there in the intertribal fighting days. However the Maoris at the beginning of last century suffered almost as much from such frays by conflicts with the ruthless European sealers. At one time three hundred Maoris dwelt at Jackson's Bay and a slightly smaller number at Paringa. The latter place bears the name of a chief. Sealers slew many Maoris, including the chiefs Te Wera and Taniwha. The primitive weapons were not a match against pakeha guns, and the natives returned to Otago via the Haast and Okura Passes.

At Jackson's Bay dwelt the chief Te Uira who long defied the conquering Ngai Tahu Tribe. Starting from Hokitika whose chief in early European times was Hakiaha, a trip down the coast can be made. In 1846, notable Maoris there were Te Kauhauke, Tipiha and Paeture. Paire (a bundle) is the stream south of the Hokitika. The Totara River and Totara Lagoon are north of Ross. The Mikonui is an ice-fed stream. Paramata is the cliff face near Bold Head. The Maori name of the latter is Kanui mata. The Waitaha River named after an early tribe enters the sea fifteen miles south of Ross. On the coast in this locality are the Pakutuaro and Opuku Cliffs. Nearby is the Te Raha Taiepa stream and just south again is the Waikoikoi Creek. Lake Ianthe to the Maoris is Matahi.

The Whanganui (Wanganui) River is a very turbulent stream. It was apparent to the early Europeans that at some time many Maoris must have dwelt on its south bank. In 1863, the totara posts of many whares were visible. Two large totara whatas for strong eels were then standing. Saltwater Lagoon bears the name Wairoa (long water). South of the latter is the Poerua (Poherua) Stream at which there is a sunken pa of unknown origin. The Whataroa (Wataroa) is the large river which rises in the glaciers. By its tributaries, the Perth and Scone, access is obtained to Sealey Pass. At Whataroa in the early sixties dwelt Taetae with his wife and two children. page 193When Taetae died, his brother Hamiora married the widow Maomahi. Hamiora, to make sure of the ceremony, in 1863 came over to Tuahiwi to have it performed by the Rev. J. W. Stack. Hamiora died at Whataroa and is buried at the head of the Okarita Lakes. His last resting place was marked by a paddle and spear.

Rohutu is the modern settlement of the district. The Okatua, Otaroki and Otakoe streams flow into the Okarita Lagoon. This lagoon is seven miles long and tidal. The Wahapo Lake is connected with the Okarita Lagoon. It was at Okarita that the Ngati Tama under Niho captured Tuhuru of the Ngai Tahu, who was an expert worker with greenstone. In 1846, the Maori population of Okarita was six and in 1860 ten. All of these Maoris had become Christians through the efforts of the Wesleyan ministers Rev. C. L. Reay and J. Aldred. The Maoris from Mahitahi (Maitahi) used to frequent Okarita on account of the superb eels obtainable at the Lagoon, while wild pigs were plentiful there during the sixties.

Brunner visited Okarita (Okarito) on October 31st, 1847. Mackay in 1860, made the arrangements for the purchase of Westland at the Pohorua Lagoon. Long Point is called in short Koamaru, but in full Kohuamarua. This place, nine miles south of Abut Head, was the site of a pa of the Ngati Wairangi Tribe. Mount Forbes is in Maori Tururehekau, Totara kai torea stream drains into the Three Mile Lagoon, the Totara or Five Mile Creek drains Lake Alpine (Ata Puai), and South thereof is the Pereka.

Pokorua is the Maori name of james Creek, once the haunt of pakeha gold seekers. The Waiho, which is only 14 miles long issues from the celebrated Franz Joseph Glacier. Waiau is the correct Maori name. There are hot springs in the district. The Waikukupa Stream enters the sea between Moonlight and Sandy Bays, the Omoeroa River enters the sea on the south side of the Omoeroa Bluff, while the Hauraki, Waitapi, and Waikao streams are south of the Bluff. Gillispies Point is Kaohaihai. The Yellow Cliff is Otorokua and the nearby stream is Waihohai, Cook's Bluff is Weheka and Cook River is Waiweka, Para para are the yellow cliffs near the Waikapuka Stream. Going south are the Utumoa Head-land and the streams Matukituki and O Hine-tamatea. Following on is the Karangarua with its tributary the Taorua, then the Mana kai aua. The Makawhio Point and Makawhio River are at the north end of Bruce Bay where the beautiful greenstone known as aotea is found.

Makawhio is 150 miles south of Hokitika. Jacob's River is the old pakeha name of the district. Over thirty Maoris dwell there belonging to the Ngati Mahaki hapu of the Ngai Tahu Tribe. Hakopa Kapo was a chief. At Bruce Bay dwelt Te Koeti Tauranga the last tattooed Maori in page 194Westland. On a terrace six miles south of Bruce Bay in March 1866, Albert Hunt and three companions staged a bogus gold rush as recorded by Keogh, Gold Fields Warden. Te Wharaki or Here taniwha is a bluff at Bruce Bay. The hill above the Makawhio Ford is Te Puku o te Wairapa, as a warrior Wairapa was killed there. Bannock Brae is Kohukohu (scudding mist), Tiki tiki o Rehua, two miles south, is a hill where another warrior met his doom. The Matai Stream enters Bruce Bay, the Mahitahi (Maitahi) and Waitangi Streams flow into Bruce Bay towards the south. At Porangirangi on November 14th, 1846, Brunner found Maoris possessing extensive cultivations. The name Porangirangi means "annoy at night". The Waitemati Stream is five miles south of Heretaniwha Point.

Brunner crossed the Oinemaka and Hanua kura streams on his way to Paringa on November 16th, 1846. The chiefs Tuapore and Te Rapa dwelt there with six other natives, and possessed large gardens. Te Rapa is credited with having hidden a valuable greenstone heirloom in Lake Hall (Paringa) when Niho moved south. The Otoko is the main tributary of the Paringa. The Hainua kura River is near Paringa. Titi tira or Titihaia Point is fifteen miles north of Arnott Point. The next headland south is Piakatu. Lake Moeraki is drained by the Moeraki Stream, three miles north of Arnott Point. Next follows the Wakapohai Creek.

At Taupirihaka about three hundred yards from the beach gold prospectors of the early days found the hull of the ship "Schomberg" wrecked and drifted from the Australian coast. The Waita is the stream nearby; the Haast River is the Awaru, and what is erroneously termed the tributary, the Landsborough, is the Toatataihi. The hills behind the Haast are the Okura-matakitaki; Pa korari is the old kainga. The Hapuka, Akura and Turnbull Rivers enter the sea at Okura on Open Bay. At Black Creek, near Okura, is an old Maori burial place. Ten good adzes were found in 1926 in the bed of Black Creek, The largest adze was 11½ inches long with a 4 inch cutting edge. The adzes were displayed in a Christchurch jeweller's window during December 1926. South of Okura is the Waitoto River. The Arawhata enters Jackson's Bay. Cascade Point is Tahu tahi (one husband), Awarua Point is Te Ara pokipoki (path of eddying wind). The stream entering Big Bay now known as Awarua should be named Waione. The Otago boundary has been reached. A considerable amount of the history given was gleaned in 1924 from the late Mrs Rahira Muriwai Morrison, a descendant of Wereta Tainui, who passed away in 1930.