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Te Ika a Maui, or New Zealand and its Inhabitants

Chapter VI. Fishing Ceremonies

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Chapter VI. Fishing Ceremonies.

Wangaroa Barbour.

Wangaroa Barbour.

The Religious Ceremonies connected with fishing were very singular. The day before they went to sea, they arranged all their hooks around some human excrement, and used a karakia, which will not bear being repeated; in the same evening they uttered the following invocation:—

E te pu nei, e te weu nei, O ye roots and little roots,
E ki konei hoki koe, Soon will your trunk depart (being made into a canoe),
Ka wano te tama nei,
Ka tangiwaraue, Soon will it be separated from its branches,
Ko ia ka uru a tu,
Ko ia ka urumai Soon go out to sea, and thence return,
Ko ia ka uru to hai, page 84
Keu wea mai te pu mai, Soon will it be finished;
Te weu mai te keuwenga mai, Lift up the trunk, the root remains,
O te matua nui, i a matua nui ra,
Ko ia i te kewenga mai, The trunk leaves.
O te matua nui ra, ko ia hai.

In each pa, different individuals were appointed for the several karakias, one for the kumera, another for fishing, and so on; when they reached the sea, and all the hooks were duly arranged, (being stuck in the raupo, with which the joints of the side plank of the canoe is covered,) the tohunga set apart for fishing commenced the following prayer, standing up and stretching out his arms:—

Tahuri mai, tahuri mai e Maru, Turn to me, turn to me O Maru,
Tahuri mai e Henga, Turn to me O Henga,
Tahuri mai e Kahukura, Turn to me O Kahukura,
He tapatua ko i uta, Be favorable on shore,
He tapatua ko i tai, Be favorable on sea,
He tapatua Tane, Be favorable O Tane,
He tapatua Tangaroa, Be favorable O Tangaroa,
Ko tapatua a te Hiri, Be favorable to unloose the heart,
Ko tapatua a te hara, Be favorable to do away with sin,
Ko tapatua a te manuka, Be favorable to take it from the mind
Ko tapatua a te ngahoa, Be favorable to take away headache,
Ta tapatua Tane, Be favorable O Tane (the tree, i.e. canoe),
Tangaroa e au ko i uta, Tangaroa (sea), let thy current flow fair,
E au koi tai e au Tane, Let it set in from the shore for the canoe,
E au tangaroa, Let it set in seaward,
Ko te au a te hiri, The current is unloosed,
Ko te au a te hara, The current is freed from sin,
Ko te au a te manuka, The current is freed from the mind,
Tena te au ka wiwi, Behold the current is gained,
Tena te au karawhe, Behold the current is held,
Tena te au ka mou, Behold the current is firm,
Mou ki mua waka, Gained before the canoe,
Mou ki roto waka, Gained by the side of the canoe,
Mou ki tu ta mua o Tane, Gained beyond the canoe,page 85
Mou ki tapu kaha nui o Tangaroa, Gained in the midst of the fish,
Te waka tauiratia ana mai e koe, The canoe is rendered sacred,
Te kaha Tane, Tangaroa ko taku, The strength of Tane Tangaroa is my strength,
Kaha, ko te kaha awai, The strength of whom?
Ko te kaha a Tama Titoko, The strength of Tama Titoko.
Tena te kaha ka wiwi, Behold this is the strength gained,
Tena te kaha ka rawe, Behold this is the strength acquired,
Tena te kaha ka, Behold this is the strength held,
Mou ki mua waka, Before the canoe to be held,
Mou ki roto waka, In the midst it is held,
Mou ki tu ta mua o Tane, Before O Tane it is held,
Mou ki Tapu kaha nui o Tangaroa, In the midst of the fish,
Mou ki tenei waka, Gained for this canoe,
Mou ki tenei Tauira, Gained for this spell,
Ko koe te waka Tauiratia, You are rendered sacred,
Ana mai e koe te kaha, You are made strong,
Tane Tangaroa, te wanatu, Tane Tangaroa render prosperous
Taku kaha nei ki ware pouri o Tangaroa i tai, My strength in the dark house of Tangaroa (deep sea),
Te homai, From the sea the giving,
Te herea, From the sea the binding,
Te notia, From the sea the fastening,
Te nota, From the sea the holding,
Te waka maua ki tenei kaha, From the sea the retaining by this strength,
Te wanatu taku kaha nei, The prospering my strength,
Ki ware hua kina o Tangaroa i tai, The opening of the door of Tangaroa's ocean house,
Te homai te herea te wakamaua, The giving, the binding, the holding firm,
Ki tenei kaha, By virtue of this spell;
Tena te kaha ka wiwi, This is the strength gained,
Tena te kaha ka rawe, This is the strength obtained,
Tena te kaha ka mou, This is the strength held,
Mou ki mua waka, In front of the canoe,
Mou ki roto waka, On the side of the canoe,
Ko koe te waka Tauiratia ana mai, You have strengthened by the spell,
E koe te kaha Tane Tangaroa, With the strength of Tane Tangaroa
E rarawe taku ure ngaua. The biting of the fish.
The first fish caught was returned to the sea, a karakia being page 86 previously uttered over it, to cause it to bring abundance of fish to their hooks. If the kahawai only was taken, the women were not allowed to partake; if a tamuri or other fish were caught, they were then permitted to eat; but the first fish taken belonged to the priest. On returning home, if very successful, three ovens were tapued;
  • The first was called He marae, for the elders;

  • The second was called Te Ikahoka, for the priest of the canoe;

  • The third was called Te Tukunga, for all the party.

The priest took a fish, and pulled out a piha, or gill, then taking it to a sacred place, and holding it suspended by a string, he uttered this invocation to the gods:—
Te ika te ika i Waitotara, The fish the fish of Waitotara,
Te ika te ika i Whenua Kura, The fish the fish of Whenua Kura,
Te ika te ika i Patea, The fish the fish of Patea,
Te ika te ika i Tangahoe, The fish the fish of Tangahoe,
Te ika te ika i Waengongoro, The fish the fish of Waengongoro,
Te ika te ika i Kawia, The fish the fish of Kawia,
Te ika te ika i Taranaki, The fish the fish of Taranaki,
Te takina mai hoki te ika, The drawing to us the fish,
Ki tenei rua ki tenei one, To this place, to this land,
Te ika ki tenei papa, The fish to this spot,
Te ika ki tenei au tapu, The fish to this abode,
Te ika ki te au tapu nui no Tane, The fish to this abode of Tane,*
Ki te autapu o Tangaroa te ika, To the abode of Tangaroa.
Teretere te ika, The fish swim,
He ika waka mou kaha hai, The first fish caught,
Tena te ika ka moe, Behold the fish killed,
Ko te ika o te rua, The fish of the bank,
Ko te ika o te one, The fish of the land,
Te ika o te hohono, The fish of the deep.
Tena te ika ka taki ki mus, Behold the fish is drawn before,
Ka taki ki roto, Behold the fish is drawn to the side,
Ka taki ki te turanga, Is drawn to the landing,
Ka taki ki te kainga, Is drawn to the village,
Ka taki ki te au tapu nui no Tane, Is drawn to the abode of Tane,*
Ki te au tapu nui o Tangaroa. To the abode of Tangaroa.

* Spoken ironically, being the land, i.e. the oven.

page 87

In former days, the hunting of the rat was an undertaking of some importance, and required a large number of persons to assist in it, as not only were a great many traps required, but also roads had to be cut, which were made with much care, as the slightest obstruction was sufficient to ruin the undertaking. When the hunting party had assembled, this karakia was sung:—

Taumaha Kirunga, Give thanks above,
Taumaha Ki raro, Give thanks below,
Ki taku matua wahine, To my mother woman,
I ti ai taku kiore, My rat squeaks (it is caught)
Ma te reke taumaha taumaha, For thy coming thanks, thanks,
E taka te po, Night suitable falls,
E taka ki tuhua, Inland it falls,
E taka te ao, Day falls,
E taka ki Karewa, At Karewa it falls,
I tutu ai, he kiore, What is that standing up? it is a rat.

The hunting party then cut a line through the forest, carrying it up hill and down, however great the declivity. This was often many miles long. There were generally two roads made, one parallel to the other. Along them were many tawiti or traps placed. The first was called tamatane, the second tamawahine. If a rat was taken in the first, there was certain to be a failure along the whole line; but if in the second, they then made sure of having most of the traps filled. These were baited with miro and other berries; the bait was called poa. When the first rat was taken, the following karakia was used:—

* The spirit of hunger.

Tai tai ki runga, Tap tap above,
Tai tai e rangi, Tap tap upwards,
Ko taitai o tu pahua, The tapping of the hungry,
Ko taitai o te wairua toa,* The tapping of the strong spirit,
Ko taitai unuhanga, The tapping which produces food,
Tena ko taka o te wairua toa, Behold the wairua toa departs, food will come,
Marie ki tenei,
Taitai awa, Tap tap hungry,
Ko tenei taitai, Thus tapping,page 88
Ko taitai unuhanga, The tap tap drawing forth
Te poa ki runga, The bait above,
Te poa e rangi, The bait of heaven,
Te poapoa tukia, The bait giving out its fragrance,
Poahaunga, The bait strong smelling,
Poa kakara tukia ki tenei, The bait giving out its fragrance,
Poa haunga ki tenei poa, The strong smelling bait, this is the bait.

They commonly caught several hundred in one hunting, and were out many days. When all the rats taken were collected together, then they made first an oven—hangi alua—in which they put a rat, as an offering of the first fruits of the chase to the Atua. This was lifted up on a stage, and then the priest used the following karakia:—

Te kaha ko ia unuhanga, The smell is drawn out,
Ko ia komokanga, It enters the nostrils,
Ko ia puakanga ki waho, It spreads in the air,
He popo, popo ngaruru, The bait is perceived by its fragrance,
Te huia mai, The assembling,
Te katoa mai, The numbering,
Ko taumaha atu ki tau, The thanksgiving,
Maha a rongo, To Rongo,
Ka ma tama kiri, For the rats living in the barks of trees,
Ka ma te ware rakau, For that is their house,
Te rangi akinga, Rangi akinga,
A Ware Rakau, The son of Ware Rakau.

A second oven was made, in which two rats were cooked. This was sacred to the priest. A third oven had about ten in it; this also was for the priest. A fourth had a larger number in proportion to those employed in the hunt; for whom it was sacred. The fifth oven had a still larger number in it, for all in common; but no one touched the food until the offering and karakia to the atua had been made.

The general size of the rat is about one-third that of the Norway. It was formerly very abundant; but now, from one cause or other, it is nearly extinct. The two grand enemies to it are the cat and imported rat. This little animal is said to run only in a straight line. If the roads made for it were page 89 at all crooked, it turned off where they diverged, and ran into the forest.

The rat was formerly prized for food, and is said to be very fat and delicate eating; much oil was extracted from it.

Nearly allied to these supposed charms or spells, was makutu, or witchcraft.

When a native had received, or fancied he had received, an injury from another, he sought the destruction of his enemy by witchcraft, if he could not obtain it by other means. If he had a pig stolen, he would say, Go away, my pig, my pig, without a payment. He then took a branch of a tree, and went to a spring of water, and used incantations to his atua, until the person who had injured him appeared before him. When this was the case, the bewitched person was sure to die; but then it also endangered the other's life as well. The person who wished to bewitch another, sought to obtain something belonging to him—a lock of hair, a portion of his garment, or even some of his food; this being possessed, he uttered certain karakias over it, and then buried it; as the article decayed, the individual also was supposed to waste away. This was sure to be the case if the victim heard of it; fear quickly accomplishing his enemy's wish. The person who bewitched-another, remained three days without eating; on the fourth he eat, and his victim died.

The natives were very fearful of their food being bewitched. If a person had enmity towards those he eat with, and bewitched their food by a secret karakia, they die, but he is found out by his living. When they embraced Christianity, they were very particular in asking a blessing on it, to prevent the evil wishes of their enemies from taking effect.*

Persons might makutu themselves, by unconsciously using any article belonging to a sacred character, as to an ariki or great tohunga. When Taunui, a principal chief of Mokau,

* A native put a question to me relative to food on which a blessing had been asked,—Is it right to give even a bone of food thus sanctified to a dog? I replied, that we only asked a blessing on the portion we consumed, and not on what we left. He might therefore give his dog the fragments.

page 90 lost his tinder-box in one of his journies, it was picked up by some natives, who afterwards went by the same way; they made use of it to light their pipes. On reaching Taunui's place, he asked them whether they had seen his tinder-box; they were so dreadfully alarmed at the idea of using anything belonging to so sacred a character, that three of them actually died, and more would have done so, had not Taunui immediately removed the tapu from his box.
The power of bewitching was not confined to the priests, but was supposed to be possessed by every one, a simple wish often being sufficient. Many remarkable instances have fallen under the notice of the Missionaries, where those bewitched have died, although unaware of their being so. In the early days of the Mission, those who opposed the Gospel, tried by witchcraft to destroy the preachers of it; this has been frequently practised upon several of our members, and it is remarkable, that the individuals who attempted it, died themselves very shortly after, and their deaths were attributed solely to their having failed in injuring the parties they sought to destroy. This was the case twice with individuals who endeavoured to makutu the Missionaries of Otaki and Wanganui. At the latter place, the man who sought his death was a head chief, and he was the very first person who was killed in the war, which immediately afterwards broke out; two others attempted the same, and they also shortly after died. The fact that they have been unable to injure us in this way, has caused many to embrace the Gospel, as they have ascribed our safety to the greater power of our God.* I once heard a story of an Irish sailor, who fancied he had been bewitched by a native. Poor Paddy became alarmed, and anxiously demanded what he should do to get free from the curse; he was recommended to go to the tohunga, who had bewitched him, with a handsome

* The relatives of Maketu, a chief who had openly cursed me, came after his death, and demanded whether I had not also cursed him, and thus been the cause of his being killed, thinking my curse had proved the most powerful. I replied, Ministers never cursed even their enemies, as Scripture bid us bless and curse not. They went away with the conviction that he had caused his own death, by cursing a minister.

page 91 present in his hands; the advice was adopted, Paddy was graciously received, and gravely ordered to open his mouth, when the other immediately spit down his throat, and then told him he might rest satisfied, no evil would befall him, for he had made him noa, or removed the spell.

One of our countrymen living at Mokau, a swearing, blaspheming fellow, was thought to possess this power, from some individual who had been cursed and sworn at by him, suddenly dying; the natives afterwards had the greatest fear of him, and even Poutama, the head chief, who was in general an overbearing man, was quite afraid of this fellow; he had sold some pigs to him, but he did not even dare to ask him for the payment, and he, being a rogue, never gave any.

The natives had a way of divination by means of sticks; this was called Niu. Each chief had a particular name for his own stick; thus, that of one chief was called Te ata mounu; that of another Te manu i te ra; and of a third Tongo hiti. The person consulting the Niu went out in the morning before it was light, so that no one should have been out before him, which would destroy the power of the consultation, and taking his stick, a short thin one made of the mahoe, in his right hand, and another representing the enemy in his left, he went and stuck another in the ground; this represented the tapu; and placing the two sticks together, one across the other, he uttered a karakia, and then threw them in front of the third stick, and it was according to their position that the consulter ascertained whether any one was travelling on the road, whether they are friends or foes, and if the latter, whether they would be conquered or not.* They had, in fact, no end

* If the stick representing his tribe fell above the other, it was a favourable sign; if below, a bad one.

With them, as with the heathen in general, the most trifling things are invested with the greatest importance; thus, the cutting of the hair (purei) was done with much ceremony, and the repeating of many spells; the operator was made tapu, for this service, and until he had finished, he could not feed himself, or engage in any other employment. When the hair was cut, a portion was cast into the fire, and the following karakia was uttered:—

Oe he pikinga he kakenga,Piki mai te rangi tua tahi,
Ka e kei tua, kei waho kei tuatua,Piki mai te rangi tua rua,
Kei te karawa kei te ranginui e tu nei,Piki mai te rangi tua toru,
Piki mai te rangi tua wa,Piki mai te rangi tua ono,
Piki mai te rangi tua rima,He rangi he hei te uru. — uru.

This was a karakia to avert the bad effects of thunder and lightning, which were supposed to be occasioned by this potent operation.

The word Nui is also used in Tonga for a divination by means of a cocoa nut, which is spun round on the ground, and according to its motions a favorable or unfavorable omen is drawn.

page 92 of signs and tokens, good and bad; the throbbing of the pulse in the right arm, was a good sign in war; that of the left, a bad one. The twitching of the arm, the starting in sleep; in fact, the minute distinctions made in all their religious observances, are perfectly astonishing, and required the skilful tohunga to interpret.*

Different tribes had different ways of consulting the niu, but the practice was general throughout the land. A spirit called Korohaha Tu, was supposed to reside in the sticks.

The following was a karakia used when the divination was made with the hands, and therefore called, He niu ringaringa (a niu of the hands):—

Kia mana tenei niu; Let this niu be strong;
Tenei te niu ka rere; This is the niu, there it goes; a niu of Paki.
He niu na Paki
Ko te he kia puta. The bad let it be seen.

Whilst this was being said, the person kept clapping his hands together; if the fingers locked each within the other, it was a good sign, for a party wishing to pass along a road, in time of war, they would succeed, and arrive safe; if, however, the finger ends rested one on the other, it was a sign they would be stopped; if two of the fingers entered and two were arrested, it was a sign they would only meet with a travelling party.

It is remarkable, that although the natives have innumerable karakias and rites, yet they had no stated festivals, or any days more sacred than others, nor had they any religious system common to all; their religion, indeed, may be regarded as

* Whilst encamped in the forest, an old chief who was with us, threw out his arm violently in his sleep; the act awoke him, and immediately caused a general discussion, as to what it portended. One expressed one opinion, and another another; at last, the chief said, it means that we shall meet strangers to-day. We resumed our journey, and accordingly did meet three natives; all were then satisfied with the correct interpretation of the omen.

page 93 being of an individual rather than of a national character; each one being independent of his neighbour, and at liberty to follow his own ideas; although there were persons called tohungas, or priests, who officiated on certain occasions, such as before their entering upon a war expedition, the planting or reaping of the kumara, fishing or hunting; still this did not interfere with each one's individual right to use whatever karakias he might think fit, and whenever he pleased. In this respect they differ from most nations, which in general are so tenacious of any interference with the rights and privileges of the constituted priesthood.

This freedom in spiritual matters naturally caused a great diversity of rites and customs; often what was practised in one place, would be quite different from that in another.

This diversity chiefly depended upon some individual, whether a tohunga or not, who was supposed to be more gifted in one department than another; for instance, the chief of Waitotara was considered to be profoundly wise in the stars, knowing all their names and powers. His people therefore became the chief worshippers of the heavenly bodies, and there the only resemblance to a stated period of worship existed, for each star had its karakia when it was in the ascendant; so also was it with the moon, which the chief of another place was supposed to be the best acquainted with; he had a karakia, when the new moon appeared. In one place, the hurihanga tau, or new year, was celebrated with a karakia. In another, the most sacred day of the year was that appointed for hair cutting; the people assembled from all the neighbouring parts, often more than a thousand in number; the operation being commenced with karakia, the operator and his obsidian (substitute for scissors) being thus rendered peculiarly sacred.

The piece of obsidian too, with which the hair was cut, had this karakia uttered to render it efficacious:—

Mori mori ta kiki, The hair is gone,
Mori mori ta kaka, The hair is shorn,
I te waruhanga a te mata, By the cutting of the stone
Ko i to ko ata The head is as bare
I taku ipu waka iroiro. As the calabash.
page 94

In some places, the hair is cut only in the morning; in Taupo, it is done in the evening. The hair in other parts was laid upon the tuahu, or altar, whilst the karakia was uttered, and left there, the tuahu being in the wahi tapu, or sacred grove.

Another way of obtaining revenge, was by cursing. To call any object by the name of a chief, and then strike or insult it, was regarded as a curse; this was tapatapa, or tukutuku.

To curse, or kanga, was to apply any word to another which had reference to food; to say, you be eaten, or be cooked, would be considered in that light. The following is an example:—To bid you go and cook your father would be a great curse, but to tell a person to go and cook his great grandfather would be a far greater one, because it included every individual who has sprung from him. This would have been quite sufficient in former days to cause a war; it could not have been overlooked.

Tenei tou roro, ko te kowhatu e tu ki te ahi kai, kia reka iho ai taku kainga iho —e. If this were your brain, this stone which stands by the food fire, i.e. the kitchen hearth stone, how very sweet would be my eating of it.

Apiti is also a term for cursing; any one who used a word, however unintentionally, which is regarded as a curse, would be exposed to extreme danger; a young man, who saw a chief running in a great heat, and the perspiration flowing down his cheeks, remarked, that the vapour rose from his head like the steam of an oven; this expression was regarded as a great curse, and caused a war, which did not terminate until the entire tribe of the person who uttered it was destroyed.*


He kai mau te tangata
Makutu mai,
Mahara mai,
Kei reira to hara
Harabara aitua,
Harahara atai
Ipakia ai koe,
Irahau ai koe,
Niniho koi, tara koe
Kei te tai timu,
Kei te tai pari,
Kei a Rangi riri *
Haukumea hautoia
Nau ka anga atu,
Anga atu nau;
Ka anga mai, anga mai.

Food for thee, O fish, is the man whom thus I curse, who by his witchcraft and wishing me ill luck, is the real cause that none of you will take my bait. What have you done that they should thus bewitch, and with their ill omens and curses, reach you; you have been by witchcraft touched, by cursos smitten. Those teeth of yours, so keen and sharply pointed. At the ebb tide, you are best caught or at the flood. Then you return to Rangi riri's fount. Come, pull away at my bait, drag out my line. If finished be your nibbling, then begone; but if you will bite again, then come quickly.

* Rangi riri is a fountain in the sea near Hawaiki, and is the source whence all fish come.

This is a curse upon some unknown enemy of the fisher, who had bewitched the fish so that they would not come to his balt, thereby causing him ill luck.

page 95

The Bishop of New Zealand once nearly got himself into a serious scrape, by saying to a chief, who asked him for tobacco, Oh! you want me to stop up your ears with tobacco; this was viewed as a curse, and caused a temporary misunderstanding.

Sometimes there are words in common use in one tribe, which are regarded as curses by another. Kai, the general word for food, is not used at Rotorua, because it was the name of a great chief, and the word tami has been substituted for it. If a person of another tribe were to use it there, it would be viewed as a curse. Almost every tribe had some words which were in a similar way interdicted, and with which it is necessary to be acquainted, to avoid giving offence.

A chief named Rona, one night being very thirsty, when his wife was from home, was compelled to go to the spring himself, much to his annoyance, as it was degrading for him, a chief, to do so; as he went, the moon became overcast, and he struck his foot against a stone; in his anger he said,

“Awhea te puta ai te marama upoko taona?”

“When will the moon make its cooked head appear?” which, being a great curse, caused the moon immediately to descend, and take both him and his calabash up with it. This is the way the natives account for the spots on its surface.

Closely connected with religion, was the feeling they entertained for the Kura, or Red; it was the sacred color. Their idols, their sacred stages (Pataka) for the dead, and for offerings or sacrifices, their urupa, their chief's houses, their war canoes, were all thus painted.

The way of rendering anything tapu, was by making it red. When a person died, his house was thus painted; when the tapu was laid on anything, the chief erected a post and painted it with the kura; wherever a corpse rested, some memorial was set up; oftentimes the nearest stone, rock, or tree served as a page 96 monument; but whatever object was selected, it was sure to be painted red. If the corpse was conveyed by water, wherever they landed, a similar token was left; and when it reached its destination, the canoe was dragged on shore, painted red, and abandoned. When the hahunga took place, the scraped bones of the chief, thus ornamented, and wrapped in a red-stained mat, were deposited in a box or bowl, smeared with the sacred color, and placed in a painted tomb. Near his final restingplace a lofty and elaborately carved monument was erected to his memory; this was called he tiki, which was also thus colored.

In former times the chief anointed his entire person with red ochre and oil; when fully dressed on state occasions, both he and his wives had red paint and oil poured upon the crown of the head and forehead, which gave them a gory appearance, as though their skulls had been cleft asunder.

Red appears to have ever been a sacred color; it is still so universally in heathen lands, and has been so from remote antiquity. The tabernacle was covered with skins dyed red; the houses of princes were ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion. Ezekiel speaks of the Chaldean images pourtrayed with vermilion. The heathen power is described by St. John as a great red dragon, and the anti-Christian one as a woman, clothed in scarlet, and sitting on a scarlet colored beast.

Red was the distinguishing color of kings, princes, and rich men; it still is the color of the Sovereign Pontiff and his Cardinals, who are clothed entirely in red, even from their hats to their very shoes.

It is the chief prized color of all savages, and Maori tradition records, that when they came from Hawaiki, they brought a supply of kura with them, that they might not be without so necessary an article.

Carved Box

Carved Box