Pioneering the Pumice
Chapter IV: The Maoris
Chapter IV: The Maoris
“Say nothing but the Truth” — II Chronicles xviii, 15.
[Note — This is not intended to be a treatise on the Maori race but merely a faithful record of the local Maoris as I found them.]
The Tangata Whenua, or local Maoris, of my country are the Ngatitahu or descendants of Tahu the Chief already mentioned), a branch of the great Arawa †iwi.
There is not much evidence of a Maori population resident upon Broadlands, but in several places there still exist ditches and banks indicating where their cultivations had been fenced off from wild pigs. Tahunatara used to yield great crops of potatoes and the large number of potato pits in the banks surrounding “The Island” provide proof of the former fertility of this plot of land. The Maoris say that in the olden time it was dry, but the growth of weeds in the bed of the Waikato and consequent silting up with drift pumice subjected it to floods and rendered it unsafe for crops.
I am told that two †pa used to exist on Broadlands, but have long since been abandoned and I have never visited their inaccessible sites. One of the battles in which Rahu Rahu defeated Tatu was fought on Broadlands. The head settlement of the Ngatitahu from ancient times was Ohaki, just across the Waikato River from my homestead paddocks. At one time this †kainga contained thirty inhabited houses — now it seldom has more than three or four, sometimes only one. The rest have disappeared or are empty. This does not necessarily mean that page 52 the numbers of the †hapu have diminished. The individual Maori instead of having one large piece of land has little pieces here, there and everywhere within the tribal territory. So he moves about from kainga to kainga as the means of subsistence (wages, timber for sale, fish, rabbits, pigs, and other wild animals) offer.
Here I may remark that the Maori can exist in health, and a carefree enjoyment, on food and under conditions that would prove fatal to a white man. One great factor is an unbounded faith in the morrow; it is almost sure to be as good as today — probably better. Why worry? He does not exhaust his energies fretting about the future. Moreover he has the useful ability to consume at one meal enough food to last him for two or three days. His dwelling (a camp with †whare or tent) can be erected in a few hours. His food; wild pork, wild beef, rabbits, hares, an occasional tame beast, trout, †koura, eels, potatoes grown at his principal home, also maize, †kumara, pumpkins, watermelons and the like. Fern root and †taro, once important foods, no longer figure on his menu, but he still consumes kumara and extracts a little food out of the forest, rivers and sea.
He must have sugar, flour, and tobacco — especially the last. He would sooner starve than give up his †“kai-paipa” — or †tikarete as it usually is at the present time. The Ohaki Maoris possess a valuable hot bank. In this they cook their bread. It saves the trouble of making a fire. The bread thus made closely resembles gutta percha. I have tried to eat it, but the more I chewed the less could I masticate it. It would form an excellent substitute for rubber for motor tyres and such like. However, the Maoris tear off portions and swallow them. Their wonderful digestive apparatus does the rest.
As for his clothes: the Maori has completely given up his old native garments. He, or rather his wife, may weave an occasional one for show, but his daily raiment consists of European rags and sometimes a pair of well-worn boots. If at all possible he keeps a presentable suit of clothes for state occasions.
At first, except for the overseer, I employed only the local Maoris. The Maori has many advantages. He is good-natured and a gang of them is much less likely to develop ructions either among themselves or with “the boss” than a similar number of Pakehas. He is more biddable. He regards the boss as his intellectual superior and does not argue the point with him. For short spells — such as shearing or small contracts — he works with enthusiasm. His principal defect is his inability for continuous effort. After a few weeks of regular toil he must sit on the sunny and sheltered side of his whare — and it's no use trying to stop him.
It is a remarkable fact that, though his tools were so primitive and all his processes so laborious, the Maori enjoyed far more leisure than we do. One of his earliest observations was: “The Pakeha work, work, work all the time all the same the rat.”
Here is an actual example of Maori ways:
Hori was a young Maori I employed as a teamster in the early days — a lively lad and quite good with horses. One Thursday he came to me and asked for time off till Monday, to which I replied:
“Can't be done. You are already too far behind with your work.” But he pleaded very hard and I finally gave way, extracting a very firm promise from him to be back in time to take his team on Monday morning. Monday no Hori; Tuesday page 54 no Hori; Wednesday no Hori. Thursday I took the team myself, pending getting another man. The following Monday I was going down the paddock at daybreak to get the horses when I met Hori coming up with them.”
“What do you mean by this?” I cried angrily. “Didn't you promise to return on Monday?”
“Well this Monday e hoa!”
“You're a waster!” I roared and gave him a real good tongue-thrashing. All the time Hori stood with a pleasantly suffering smile on his face as one thinking “All this is violent and bad, but I suppose the poor old boss can't help it.” When I had blown myself out and could not think of anything more to hurl at him of the same weight and order of merit as the language already used he simply said sweetly:
“You finish the †riri, e hoa?”
What could I do but tell him to get to work and sin no more!
The Maori as a neighbour is a mistake. Get away from him if possible. He will not pay his share of fencing, though by legal processes the cost may be registered against the title of his land. It is unusual for him to pay his local rates, thus leaving the upkeep of roads and other public services as the exclusive privilege of the †Pakeha. His land breeds rabbits and wild, or semiwild, dogs. His live-stock hunger for your pastures — and who shall blame them? His mares produce foals resembling your stallion. Ragwort, blackberry and other noxious weeds flourish unchecked on “His own, his native land.” He is not subject to the same laws which rule the Pakeha; and, if you reason with him about his rabbits or his ragwort he makes answer: “The Pakeha bring these things: let the Pakeha take them away.”
The Maori as a helper is splendid. If he finds you in a difficulty he willingly exerts himself to assist you; indeed he often works better without reward than when receiving wages.page 55
The Maori as a host is perfect. He gives his guest the very best that he has and takes the second best for himself. He endures the acid test of hospitality — he will go hungry himself in order that his guest may have plenty.
The Maori as a fighter displayed true wisdom. He never derided or decried his enemy. On the contrary he extolled him. If he should overcome such a warrior what a victory! On the other hand, should he be beaten, being overcome by a hero of such prowess would not be much disgrace.
A Maori has no sur— or family name. Rameka Uenuku simply means Rameka the son of Uenuku; Piripi Rameka means Philip the son of Rameka; Kiri Piripi means Kiri the son of Philip—and so on after the Jewish model. But it must be remembered that the name of a hapu is that of a family group.
The Maori usually sports about three names: one grand one for legal documents: another common one for workdays: and a European name for the purpose of availing himself of “costless credit.” Though he may not be able to explain the curious “A + B theorem” any better than the gallant Major Douglas and the prayerful Mr. Aberhart, he can teach either or both of them a thing or two about the practice of costless credit.
I remember a swell named Aomarama Matene te Wheturangi, taking a contract from me to dig a drain. When he came in to the station he was “the glass of fashion and the mould of form” On his job he was known as Tommy, and sported pants reduced to “shorts” and holes, and a time-expired singlet. He also possessed a straw hat in two parts. One day he wore the crown, and the next the brim. It is obvious that by these simple means the life of a hat is doubled. Another Maori always known and addressed as “Jumbo” had the grand official name of Hemopo Reremoana Takahia. Again a Maori will often change his name. Thus a friend of mine named Rapa was formerly named Tuiri. All this is very confusing.page 56
It may likely interest the reader to follow the daily life of the ordinary Maori:
Born without trouble to his mother—the old-time Maori woman would produce her baby, wash it and put it to sleep and be back to her work in a few hours — the infant grows up, nearly always reared “on the breast.” At a very tender age it is introduced to indigestible foods and the kai-paipa — often with fatal results. The Maori people have always had plenty of children but have been unable to rear them. The wife of a great lump of a ploughman that I had produced nineteen children, none of whom survived one year. This Maori woman's endeavour was, evidently, to outrival Queen Anne (now deceased). It is the Pakeha nurse, maintained by the Pakeha taxpayer, in the Maori village, who is responsible for the recent striking increase in the number of children successfully reared.
Growing up, the Maori boys and girls are taken in a 'bus to school and there provided with books, paper, and all necessaries and accessories for their complete education, plus medical and dental attention — and again entirely at the expense of the Pakeha taxpayer. The teachers of the native schools are a devoted lot of workers. They cleanse their pupils, heal them of their sores, and endeavour to instil European ideas of morality into them.
Discipline is a difficult problem. The Maoris themselves are very indulgent to children and seldom punish them. Cain was raised at the native school near Broadlands when the master thrashed a boy for holding immoral relations with a girl pupil on the way home from school. The boy's father was chairman of the school committee and almost half the pupils were from his family. He kicked up a great dust. He wouldn't mind his boy being beaten if he had done anything really wrong; but for a little thing like that, never! What authority had the schoolmaster outside the school premises? Was he censor morum page 57 for the district? He withdrew his entire family, thus seriously affecting the status and emoluments of the school. The master summoned him for non-attendance of the children. He then moved away to another †kainga.
Having completed his schooling the Maori youngster returns to the parental †kainga, there to exercise the cunning acquired at school, and get some return for the labours spent on alphabets, multiplication tables, and such like pests. The boys will seek work — preferably intermittent. Small contracts at scrub-cutting, draining, fencing and the like are desired. The particular work has an early end: it is accomplished, finished, done with. The pay received. There has been a minimum of oversight and orders from the boss. Now the enjoyment of spending and of rest before necessity urges the taking of another contract.
The girls do not like leaving home, so they stay and help Mother to sit in the sunshine. It is unusual for unmarried girls to take a job: but, after marriage, they work alongside their husbands on contracts.
The Maoris marry young. The girl of about fifteen starts to sow her wild oats — much the same as a boy — though as a rule she does not keep it up so long. What is all right in a boy cannot be all wrong in a girl — a great conception before the age of contraceptives. Indeed they think us mad to bind ourselves for life to a person of whom we have had no knowledge. The fact that a Maori girl has had numerous partners does not damage her reputation. On the contrary it is proof of her attractions: and, on the husband's side, has he not proved himself the best man among the competitors for the lady's hand and heart?
Let me give you an actual instance. One of my employees had the honour of proving himself the best man in the opinion of Hine. He applied for her “hand” and went to live in her page 58 father's house, and, as usual worked for the old man without wages as one of the family. Decision in this case was long delayed — the elders were more than usually talkative or the father hesitant. My lad got tired and sick of it and left the prospective in-law parental roof (the girl's father was a real hard shot) for a distant kainga. Finally the union met with official approval. I advised the lad and he returned. Next day he was mustering with me and not at all his usual jovial self.
“How the way you so †pouri?” I said, “you ought very pleased you get the girl.”
“E hoa”, he replied, “the time I'm away I get another girl. Now I don't know which I want to marry.”
But Hine knew!
And yet, though these experimental unions are always in progress, only once during my twenty-eight years' residence among the Maoris did I know of an ante-nuptial illegitimate child.
Prostitution for a money reward was practically unknown among the Maoris.
It must not be supposed that Maori marriage is entirely devoid of formality. When the young man and the maid have decided after their preliminary canters that they are suited to one another, they apply to the elders of the village for permission to marry. It must always be remembered that the Maoris are communists; the women belong to the tribe. One thing dear to the Maori is talk — everlasting talk. These discussions are often protracted. Meanwhile the young applicants are by no means restricted or inconvenienced. Nearly always the ultimate verdict is favourable; but occasionally it is adverse. In such case the young couple separate and no harm is done; or they may defy the elders and continue to live together — but they are not married. They are living in sin.
These proceedings which I have related apply to the common or plebeian Maori. With the Rangatira class it is otherwise.page 59
Infants are often betrothed by their parents and strictly guarded until marriage is consummated. Or a highly-bred eldest daughter may be declared a puhi — that is, a sort of vestal virgin. She is surrounded at all times by a committee of old women and never gets a possible chance of misbehaving herself. But, unlike the vestal virgin, she may ultimately be married if a suitable husband can be found.
In aristocratic weddings there is also much ceremony of delivery of the bride to her husband, formal visiting, feasting, present giving, and such like.
Post-nuptial chastity is much the same among the Maoris as with other folk; indeed in ancient times any breach of it was severely punished — sometimes by death. And for women the punishment called whakaineine must have been most unpleasant.
Divorce seems deceptively simple. The dissatisfied husband takes his spouse to the door, applies his boot in the place provided by nature — and at one hit or kick, severs the holy bonds of matrimony. But let him beware of the law of †muru. If, in the opinion of the elders of the tribe, he has acted unjustly towards his divorcee she summons her male relatives to form a †taua. They visit the late husband and relieve him of all his worldly possessions save only his pants and, in the olden time, this omission was perhaps occasioned by the same circumstance that has always created difficulty in the taking of breeks off a High-landman. Nor is it considered gentlemanly for him to resist. He should smile on the proceedings to show his acknowledgment of, and submission to, the findings of the Court of Elders. However there have been occasional violent exceptions to this excellent rule. Curiously enough a man of any position would consider himself slighted were he not subjected to a taua — he would thereby be marked as a man of no consequence.
Failure to produce children was a good cause of divorce and a reshuffle of the matrimonial cards. A great chief in the Taupo page 60 area — a man of great strength both of mind and body — died childless. He had some nine divorces and re-marriages and finally summed up the position by remarking: “Them women no good!”
The Maori takes a practical view of matrimony. One of my leading men had for long been concerned as to my condition. Being a bachelor I had always maintained a married couple in my house. My Maori came to me one day and, after some embarrassment, enquired:
“E hoa, how the way? You pay these women work in the house for you?”
“Of course I do; they wouldn't work without.”
“E hoa you †porangi; if you marry it, it work for nothing!”
And very true of the Colonial woman! By the way, Maoris usually refer to a woman as “it” — mainly, I think, because of a difficulty in pronouncing “she.”
I am reminded of the remark that a rich man must employ a valet, a laundress, a secretary, a cook and a housekeeper, while a poor man just gets married.
Another old Maori friend [this was during the Great War] looked long and steadfastly at me and remarked:
“Whale, you the bad man.”
“What's the matter now?” I asked.
“How the way you never get the †wahine? If you get the wahine I think a lot of men come out of you.”
Quite candid! These two stories will show the great anxiety caused to my Maori friends by my wretched bachelor condition.
Well, having reared his family, he finds himself approaching old age and depreciating in value. If he lives to be really old and feeble he simply is not wanted — unless, indeed, of recent years, he has managed to secure one of the innumerable pensions granted by a soft-hearted, soft-headed Government as a reward for failure. But I presume the purchase of votes is necessary to maintain one's own position — a dreadful, indeed fatal, feature of a democracy based on the radically essential lie that all men are equal. Formerly, and now if devoid of such outside financial support, the old are regarded as useless and not worthy of either food or care.
When I came to Broadlands there lived near by an old Maori named Te Waru, whom I have already described. He used to boast of having eaten human flesh. Later, however, he conceived the idea that such proceedings were not quite respectable and denied that he had ever shared in the †kai-tangata. When he got quite beyond doing any work he was put in a little whare to live alone and look after himself. One night in trying to light a fire to warm his old bones, he set fire to the whare and was burned to death.
Then there was Ripeka, a fine old woman, whose chief pride was that, as a young girl, she had shouldered a gun in the defence of Orakau against our troops. She was the grandmother of half the local tribe. Yet she was most shamefully neglected. Her own grandchildren would say: “That old woman no good, e hoa.”page 62
Whenever she came across to Broadlands I did what I could to help her. The housekeeper had standing orders to see that she always had as much as she could eat. And, until I found that they were promptly stolen from her, I supplied her with clothes. One day as I passed her having a meal in my kitchen, the poor old thing stretched forth her hand and stroked me, at the same time expressing her deep regret that she was not of an age suitable to rewarding me for my kindnesses in the manner available to all ladies. This fine old woman would have been treated the same as Te Waru had I not secured the Old Age Pension for her. Then she became an asset. At the last she was dragged from her deathbed and carried to the post office barely able to hold out her hand for the pension which had just arrived. She herself spent no penny of it. The hapu spent it at the †tangi.
And so to burial:
A tangi is a great ceremonial event with the Maori. One learns of a death in the village by a weird howling. If the deceased has been a person of position this howling will be maintained all the time by relays of women. For a common person the paroxysm of grief is soon ended. The immediate relatives remain by the coffin all the time, receiving the visitors and shedding tears galore. These may or may not be only conventional. The Maori has the strange gift of being able to pour floods of water out of his eyes at a moment's notice. Anyhow there is always plenty of weeping going on. Two old women have not met perhaps for some years. They press their noses together. They water the earth with their tears. They bemoan at length the death of each member of the tribe who has passed away since their last meeting. Meanwhile the bulk of the celebrants are having a rare old time with talk and games of all kinds from football to cards.
Nor do they forget to eat: bullocks, pigs and sheep disappear in quantities; the huge piles of potatoes melt away; the food is page 63 finished; the body is buried; the tangi is over. All have had a most enjoyable time.
Visitors are welcomed with a loudness of acclaim and an elaboration of ceremony appropriate to their importance. Gentlemanly visitors place something on the coffin as a contribution to the expenses of the funeral.
Talking of funerals reminds me of the death and burial of an old and wealthy Maori neighbour. He owned a lot of land and about a thousand sheep, besides cattle and horses and pigs, and was supposed to have £1,000 in the bank. A regular Crœsus! Let it be understood then, that a Maori woman has no claim on her husband's property. If he dies she just goes back to her own blood-relatives. Consequently when our old friend was evidently nearing the end of his earthly career his wife persuaded, cajoled or bullied him into making a will in her favour. When the dying man's blood-relatives heard of this they were naturally furious and did their damnedest to make him cancel it. So it came to pass that the wife desired his arrival at the pearly gates before he had time to change his mind, while the relatives desired time for his repentance and reversion to ancient Maori custom. Anyhow the wife won, and as widow rewarded him with a splendid tangi. Indeed she got the priests [our friend was a Roman Catholic] to conduct the funeral and bury him properly. When the observant multitude beheld the priests put two large beer bottles in the coffin before closing it down, they were full of praise for this kindly action in assuring to their friend spirituous refreshment on his arrival in Heaven — or per-chance it might be still more acceptable in another place prepared for those breaking old customs and leaving their land out of the family. Be that as it may, as soon as the priests' backs were turned the crowd decided “this world first” and up came the coffin: Imagine the disgust and righteous indignation of all when the beer turned out to be nothing better than holy water!page 64
The Maori still retains many of his old beliefs. He still has faith in †tohunga and prophets, and of these the principal was Ratana. When in funds our Maori cheerfully paid his money into the Maori bank, but I am told that there was usually a scarcity of pay-out tellers there. Nor did convictions for driving his car while drunk seriously affect their faith in Mr. Ratana. Even a telegram from him, though delivered in the handwriting of the local postmistress, possessed magic power.
A woman at Ohaki was sick unto death. It was deemed certain that she would pass away in a day or two. The hapu began to gather round in readiness for the tangi. But the husband was determined to preserve her life. So he came over to use my telephone every day to wire to Ratana in terms such as these:
“To the Father, Son and Holy Ghost and their true angels, to their and our mouthpiece also, send health to my wife. Grievous is her affliction.” And again:
“Glorify the Lord's most highest and His holy angels. Honour the †Mangai. Amen. Wife improving in most conditions cough temperature weak of heart and weakness remains.” And:
“Give praise and glory to the Gods — Father, Son and Holy Ghost and to their true angels. Glory also to their mouthpiece. Amen. My wife is improved in health.”
Perhaps I should explain that Ratana appointed himself the Mangai or mouthpiece of God. He magnified the importance of angels so as to differentiate his religion from the older-established Christian sects. Anyhow the lady kept alive for a fortnight, by which time the assembled mourners had consumed all the food. Consequently she had a very meagre tangi.
When I first went to Broadlands there still lived one of the real old tohunga — a regular old rascal who appropriated everything that he wanted. If anyone objected he frightened him half-way to death with his †makutu. He was of course the doctor page 65 of medicine. I had a Maori lad working for me who “took ill.” The tohunga came along and ordered him ten minutes in the Waikato River. Paying a second visit in about a week he found his patient still alive. He ordered twenty minutes in the Waikato. The tangi was a success.
Towards his last days this old magician announced, amid concealed rejoicings, that his body and his soul would part company that day week at 5 p.m.; and he died to time like a true tohunga and a gentleman.
Maoris who had assembled to witness his death disputed violently as to whether his soul had been seen to leave his body, and they came to me about it; so I said to the leader of those who had seen the spirit:
“In what manner did he appear?; was he clothed or naked?” After a little hesitation:
“Oh! clothed the same as always.”
“Then,” I said, “I cannot believe it. It might be possible that a man's spirit would assume the shape of his body, but it seems impossible that his pants and his coat would possess a soul to fly away to Heaven.” This conclusion then prevailed.
Parties of Maoris from all over the North Island continued to arrive to tangi this old-tohunga at intervals for six months or more, reducing my Maoris to the verge of starvation.
Definite knowledge of the powers of the old time tohunga is lacking. Certain it is that they could kill human beings with their makutu. Many years ago when by brother was staying on Yates' Station at Parengarenga, a young woman fell foul of the tohunga and he makutu'd her. Her brothers were greatly distressed and squared the old villain, the final condition being that the girl should drink a bottle of sea-water before noon. (I presume that the Maori doctor, in common with his Pakeha brother, would not consider his job properly carried out unless he put the patient to some inconvenience.) There being no time page 66 to lose, one of the brothers seized two bottles, to be on the safe side, and galloped to the tide. Returning, the bottles clashed together and all the water was spilled. Before a fresh supply could be procured noon had come and the girl was gone. Next morning a Maori from the out-station came in to say that he had seen the girl's spirit on its way to the †Reinga. He knew nothing of her death.
About four miles from Rotorua on the road to Taupo, there used to stand a large dead willow tree, and the Maoris claimed that Te Kooti had killed it by makutu to mark his displeasure at the Arawa people's refusing him passage through their country.
The tohunga claimed the power of killing vegetation and of bringing down birds on the wing by incantations, but of these powers we have no proof. The highest priesthood were afraid to communicate their knowledge for there was no one able to absolve them from the consequences of such action.
We do know that their supreme deity was lo, a name so sacred that if pronounced by a common man fatal results would ensue.
Their mythology is rich in poetic sentiment and beauty of imagination. Some claim it to be equal to that of the Greeks. To this I can hardly agree, but certain it is that many of their myths have a strange resemblance to the Grecian myths — their account of the Creation out of chaos and the separation of earth and sky is not unlike the Greek; but Tane's method of separation of †Papa and †Rangi was not nearly so cruel as that employed by Cronus to keep apart father Uranus and mother Gaeia. The reader will remember that poor old daddy Uranus was left no better off than a male †tuatara.
The Maoris' ideas of Christianity are really very vague, but they have definite superstitions. For instance they have distinctly stronger objections to starting work on a Friday than on other days.page 67
The Maori still rather more than half believes in †Taniwha. †Nagara, †Kumi, †Kehua, †Wairua, and the like. In my area in former times dwelt two famous taniwha. One was brutally murdered, but the other still survives. The deceased was Hotupuku. This dangerous beast, taking the shape of a ngarara (a lizard, crocodile or dragon of immense size) dwelt in a cave in the Paeroa Ranges, close to the old Maori track from Rotorua to Taupo. Large parties of men he avoided, but solitary travellers or parties of two or three he delighted to devour. This became such a nuisance that a league was formed for his destruction. A huge rope was made and a noose in it placed over the mouth of the dragon's cave. About fifty men were stationed at each end of the rope. When all was ready, the bravest of the brave entered the cave to tempt the monster out. When it issued forth the noose was closed on it and the great beast slain and eaten. Then did the valiant and victorious Maori get his own back. The taniwha had eaten his mates.
In like manner a Maori on my place was afflicted by a rat which flourished on his flour. Having contrived to capture the rodent he ate it, remarking that he was getting his flour back!
The other great and living taniwha is a winged beast named Horomatangi, which dwells in Taupo Lake under the water. Should an irreligious Pakeha scoff at this the Maoris exclaim: “You ask Darby Ryan. He the man see that taniwha.” It will be remembered that Darby ran a steamer on Lake Taupo. He was not positive about the clearness of the view he had had of this strange monster.
Lesser taniwha were for instance:
A large fish which spent its life swimming between the Waikato River and the boiling pool at Ohaki. How it managed to avoid being cooked is a mystery. Then there was another taniwha in the shape of a log, floating in the Rangitaiki River just at the top of a fall, but never going over. Certain sacrilegious page 68 Pakehas took the log away but, behold, it had returned to its accustomed place before the dawn!
My friend and neighbour Mr. Butcher was honoured with the presence of a taniwha in a warm swimming pool on Strathmore. To the uninitiated eye it looked just like a log, and Mr. Butcher decided to improve the pool by its removal. The Maoris were horrified and strictly warned their and my friend of the perils attendant upon such wicked folly: and, sure enough, every time he went to move it there was a terrific thunderstorm. Finally he abandoned the idea of taking the thing away, but moved it to another part of the pool.
Out in the wilderness strange things sometimes happen. One night Mr. Butcher was riding home across the plains from Galatea. It was pitch dark, when suddenly he saw a bright light dodging about among the tussocks. He tried to capture it or get a close-up view but it always avoided him. Putting his spurs into his unwilling steed he galloped straight at it and jumped off the horse quick and lively, but the thing had disappeared. Some contended that this apparition was the result of the want of water, but Mr. Butcher was quite serious about it.
Then there were kehua at large in our district. A kehua is a malignant kind of ghost liable to do people mortal injury. One evening my men were huddled around the stable door instead of departing promptly to their homes as usual. Upon enquiry I ascertained that there was a kehua in a clump of trees close to the gateway leading to their †kainga. I went there, walked all through the trees and through and about the gate and assured them there was nothing there.
“That all right the Pakeha, but he get us!” was all the response: and these men walked three miles on a roundabout route to avoid the death lurking among those trees. Most Maoris page 69 would refuse to go out on the river after dark or to sleep alone. Among the Maoris private conversation is not of an elevated character, consisting mainly of what the Maoris themselves call †korero tara.
To any wishing to pursue these studies I can recommend the works of Percy Smith for history, and those of Elsdon Best for mythology, mentality, arts and crafts.
The Maoris consider the Pakeha capable of any achievement. The invention of the aeroplane left them cold. Just the sort of thing the Pakeha would do!; but sometimes simple little things will fill them with wonder. When they saw me press-copy a letter and beheld the perfect image made in a moment, they were dumbfounded. They enquired what magic I had used and refused to believe that the only medium was common water. When I erected my shearing machines — the first within about a hundred miles — there was a numerous assembly to witness the great event of the first shearing. None of them had seen an oilengine. One followed me into the engine-room. After studying the engine for a while he asked:
“What make that thing go, †e hoa?”
“He got the †taipo inside.”
“Kaore kau. He tito koe.” (It is not so; you are not telling the truth.)
“All right,” I said and got him to put his finger on the spark-ing plug. When the innocent looking piece of metal bit him good and hard he let out one yell and I did not see him stop running.
The natives are quite good mechanics, however, and they soon got to know as much about the machines as I did — perhaps more.
The Maori is rather a fascinating person, and he is a man. He may not be treated as a slave or as a dog. You get quite fond of your native neighbours, and they get to look upon you page 70 as their guide, friend, and father. So I took a great liking to young Rangi, a well-bred, upstanding and intelligent lad of about fourteen and destined to be head of the hapu. With the consent of his father I sent him to St. Stephen's School. At the end of the year he came home for his holidays. I was in Auckland for Christmas and on my return I found that his people had carried him off and put him to work in the scutching pit of a flaxmill. I thought he'd soon get sick of that and be back at Broadlands, but the next I heard of him was that he was dead.
The Maori is a happy, care-free, humorous being, ready at a moment's notice to sit in the sunshine out of the wind, and yarn and joke with his friends. He also loves to linger awhile beside the milestones of the past. Titaka was one of these. A great fellow standing six feet two and weighing sixteen stone. I had fitted him out with a wagon and team to do my carting. In those days there was complete freedom of the King's high-way, and competition was still regarded as the soul of business. For awhile Titaka had done well; but, the ladies becoming more fascinating than horses, he had neglected his job and there was a great accumulation of goods in Rotorua. I reprimanded him in the strongest terms. Then did Titaka get his friend Big Harry to bring a load out at the same time and they arrived together. I went over to the shed to tally the goods and took off my coat.
“How the way you take your coat off, boss?” enquired Titaka.
“I'll have two or three rounds with you, Titaka, if you don't get on with your work better.”
Then the other giant, grinning all over his face, looked down at me and remarked:
“And if you no kill him you let him go.” I should think so! Maori jocularity, like the Irish, is often dependent for its page 71 humour on the vis-a-vis. An old lady came over from Ohaki one afternoon to ask me to let her have a “Italian hen.” I said: “What is an Italian hen? I don't know the breed. What is it like?” After some questioning I “dropped to it” that what the dear old thing wanted was a stallion hen — or what we would call a rooster!
The Maoris have expressions curious to us:
“†E hoa, you truss me a half dead mutton?” From this I would know that my prospective customer wanted half a sheep dressed for his use provided I would give him credit for it.
A Maori butcher having come to me for fat sheep, I enquired why he was not buying from his usual source of supply. He replied: “E hoa, them sheep too narrow.”
There was a tattoo artist over at the †kainga decorating the women. Maori men have completely abandoned beautification by tattoo — I have not seen a properly tattooed chief for many years (the last occasion was when Mr. Massey visited Mokai in January, 1913, shortly after assuming the Premiership), but the women still like to have their lips and chin adorned to show that they are married. This chap got fifteen shillings a time. To me came a Maori already in my debt asking for a further loan of £2 for this purpose. To this I answered:
“You rascal, you know the man charges only fifteen shillings.”
“Oh, well e hoa, you muss lend me the money. You the only man I truss!”
Rather a reversal of our usual ideas of credit!
Here I may remark that the Maori is a past-master at getting into debt. Many a time I have made up my mind not to allow a certain Maori to get on to my books, but he'd get there “by hook or by crook.” They are very cunning, and a great advantage they possess is having all day to think out their little schemes. I imagine the Maori has two objects. In the first place it is not respectable not to be well into debt. Such a condition page 72 shows that no one will trust him. Then again a Maori knows that you have no hope of payment except by his labour. To be in debt ensures employment.
“How the way I never see you the long time before?” indicates that your friend does not understand how it comes about that he has not seen you of late.
The Maori always uses the word “never” instead of “no” to indicate the negative; and he pronounces “V” as “W.” So I was called Whale (— or was it Wail?) not because I was a remarkably big fish and certainly not because I gave cause to be regarded as a direct descendant of the late lamented and lamentable Jeremiah, but simply because of inability to pronounce a V.
And the Maori often duplicates his expressions — as: “twice times” for our simple “twice.” On one occasion after passing another car my Maori companion thrust his head out of the window and remarked: “He still follow yet.” “Can't able,” to denote inability, is another curious Maori expression. For instance an enquiry as to liquidation of a debt is answered: “I can't able, e hoa.” A Maori cannot distinguish between “L” and “R.” He nearly always adopts the R, but sometimes the L, as when I had Maori boys holding the lambs for docking. These boys have to declare the sex of the lamb so that the man doing the docking may know what is coming on. They were calling “Lam” instead of “Ram.” Chiding them, I remarked: “You imps! we know it's a lamb, but is it a ram?” They then invented the method of calling “Tallion” (stallion) for the ram lambs! “S” is another letter that puzzles them. They stick it in where it is not wanted and balk at it where it is wanted. Thus old man Taati, who was thoroughly satisfied with himself and repeatedly assured me that he was well qualified to take the entire management of the place — had he not been on a Station in Ox Bay (Hawkes Bay)? — was given the job of clearing a page 73 paddock of pumice. At midday I enquired how he was getting on, to which he replied: “I get six sheep.” I said there were no sheep in the paddock; but, after lunch, I took my faithful hound to muster any errant sheep there might be, when I found the old man's “sheep” were heaps of pumice stones! If a Maori wants to refer to fogs he will say “fox” but if you ask him to say Major Fox he will invent some curious verbal contortion such as Pohika.
But sometimes the Maori is more accurate than ourselves. Were I overloading a wagon, a Pakeha would say: “I don't think those horses can pull that load,” but a Maori would not plead guilty to the condition of mental vacuity indicated by “don't think.” He would express himself: “I think those horses cannot pull that load.” One time a Maori I sent with a message to Mr. Butcher returned without an answer.
“Didn't you see Mr. Butcher?” I enquired; to which the Maori answered:
“Then why the blue blazes didn't you bring an answer?”
“But I never see him.”
“You said just now that you did see him.”
“You mistake, e hoa. You ask: ‘Didn't you see Mr. Butcher?’ I say: ‘Yes — I didn't see him.’”
Again the Maori (once more resembling the Irish) draws a distinction between tea and the decoction from it. In the store he will ask for a pound of “dry tea” or a pound of “tea leaves.”
Sometimes the Maori is business-like enough, as when a young Maori repeated the usual enquiry why I wasn't married, and I answered:
“Can't get it, e hoa, I'm too old; the †wahine think †Pau te hau”; to which he promptly replied:
“You give me the full packet date, I get you the wahine quick!”page 74
The Maori, though a communist, is often quite capable of regarding his own individual interest. As when I met Harehare, a prominent chief of Urewera, in Wellington:
“Hullo! Harry,” I said, “what you do here?”
“I sell my land Herry.” (Mr. Herries was Native Minister at the time).
“What you get e hoa?”
“Juss about £400.”
“You don't mean to tell me that you have sold that beautiful land for only £400?”
“Oh, well e hoa, I'm the werry old man. If I newer sell that land now, I newer able spend that money.”
My Maoris had the most extravagant idea of my wealth. This arose from an innocent business arrangement. In Auckland I banked with the Bank of New South Wales; but as it then had no branch in Rotorua, I opened an account with the Bank of New Zealand there. This gave the Maoris the great idea that I was so immensely wealthy that it took two banks to hold my money!
Only once, as far as I am aware, was my cheque challenged. A strange Maori had cut out his contract, and I started to write a cheque when he objected.
“All right,” I said, “I'll send in to Rotorua and get cash.”
“I can't able wait,” he replied.
“Well then,” I remarked, “it's the cheque or nothing, I have no cash.” So he accepted the cheque remarking:
“Now I †haere †ki Rotorua. I see if you got any money.
“No you won't,” I replied; “you'll see if the bank has any pluck.” But the joke was wasted on him.
In a general way the Maori has no idea of business, as the following will show:
Wharerangi (sky-house) was the local carpenter: the proud possessor of a saw of sorts, a chisel with an edge closely related page 75 thereto, a hammer and a “cheap and chippy chopper.” To give him his due, he could work wonders, considering the nature of his tools of trade.
Unfortunately, however, he managed to dispose of the lands of his ancestors to the tune of £800. With this he started the old game of “the big Rangatira” — he nobly entertained the tribe, and carpentry in our area was at an end. To him I addressed myself with no uncertain sound:
“You infernal old fool — don't waste all your money — get out of this and put what is left in the bank”; and I hurried him away to Rotorua. Arrived there he strengthened the Bank of New Zealand with his deposit and then evidently exclaimed with Marshal McMahon: “J'y suis et j'y reste (I'm here; and here I stay).”
Going thither in about a week's time I searched out my friend, and found him in an auction mart, seated in an easy chair in the front row, and exhibiting only the very slightest signs of sobriety. He was on the point of becoming the possessor of a piano, when I stopped the proceedings, dragged him out and hunted him off home. Returning a couple of days later I halted at the half-way house for lunch. Up rushed my friend Wharerangi flourishing a cheque book with a few unused forms in it:
“You the bad man e hoa. The bank you tell me put my money in no good. He sell me the cheque book: now he won't pay the cheque.”
I found he had been putting in considerable overtime at the bar of the house, shouting not only beer, but cheques on the rotten Pakeha bank run on its antiquated, moss-covered, conservative lines, and giving no adequate assistance to consumption of the abundance of the good things of physical life.
So he had to return to toil and I gave him the job of building a bridge: and against the job I supplied considerable stores in page 76 accordance with well-established custom. Materials being assembled on the site, I sent word to my friend and received a reply to this effect:
“Wharerangi is engaged in an interesting billiard tournament, but hopes to be able to come in a day or two.”
Consequently I got to work with my own men, and by the end of ten days when Wharerangi and his men arrived, the work was nearly finished. But the stores were outstanding!
Later I offered him another job — to alter my store; and, to get ready, I shifted the stock out. Again no appearance, so I “bucked in” and did the job myself. A few days later along happens Wharerangi. Entering the store he exclaimed:
“†Aue! Who the carpenter man?”
In my pride and neglect of grammar I exclaimed: “Me.”
And so things drifted for about eighteen months when, meeting the old chap, I said:
“Look here, Rangi, if you don't pay for those stores I'll have to take out a summons.” Then was it that he uttered the fatal words so often quoted by Douglas Credit Socialists:
“I got no money.”
Consequently it was agreed that I should give him work, and I said:
“Be sure to come on Monday morning.” He solemnly promised.
Monday, no Wharerangi — Tuesday, no Wharerangi — Wednesday, he arrived.
“Look here, Rangi, what do you mean by it? You promised faithfully to be here on Monday morning. You're a waster.”
“You mishtake, e hoa: we have the big meeting; we talk all night.”
“Quite likely,” I said; “you're champions to waste time.”
“You mishtake: we have the big bishness: we get a hundred pounds.”page 77
“What on earth are you going to do with it?” I enquired.
“We make the bank all the same the Pakeha lend the money the Maori.”
“My oath!” I exclaimed, “and what security are you going to get?”
“Must be the good man, e hoa. The Committee must like him.”
“And what interest will you charge?”
“Three shillings in the pound the month.”
“You infernal usurers,” I gasped; “you'll get put in gaol.”
“We have the long talk that way, e hoa. Some man say one shilling in the pound the month: but we fik three shillings in the pound the month. That the way make him grow quick.”
“You are wrong by only two letters,” I replied; “the money will go quick.”
Next day the head of the tribe was over to help me with sheep work when I said:
“Rapa, old chap, is it true that you are chairman of the Ohaki Bank?”
“Ka tika (quite correct)” he answered.
“Well, look here, my men want to get that £100,” I said.
“By gorry. I bury him all the same the dead man. Your men never find him,” was his convincing but disappointing answer.
The history of the Ohaki Maori Banking Company, very Limited, was brief. Business proceeded merrily for a month, by which time £60 had been lent out to various members of the tribe. No penny of it, either principal or interest, has ever been paid back. The remaining £40 was deposited in the Post Office Savings Bank at three and three-quarter per cent, per annum and has long since been spent in enjoyable entertainments reflecting great credit on the tribe.
And so another experiment in banking for the benefit of the people failed. Doubtless those wicked “German-Jew financiers page 78 of New York” wrought its ruin in order to sustain their “time-worn, worm-eaten, out-of-date theories.”
I may here mention that the Maoris are usually too proud to accept pennies in change. They leave those large coins of small value behind — perhaps as a protest against the waste of useful copper.
It may be of interest to follow the little life stories of some of my Maori neighbours to give the reader an idea of how they live from day to day.
Let me start with my friend Rapa — as honest a man as ever lived and benevolent and kindly to all around him. He was my head-workman and with him on the job I needed not to worry. Not only would he do his work well, but he would see that the others did theirs. He had been married before, and, his wife having borne him no children, a re-shuffle of mates had been arranged; but he had no greater success. However, he and the new wife rubbed along together happily enough until she became seriously ill and Rapa sent her off to Ratana to be cured. The †tohunga in this case did no good, and Mrs. Rapa continued to sink. Rapa went off and arrived not long before her death. Keen on burying the body in the tribal †wahi tapu my friend wired to me for a loan of £30. Such sums I did not usually lend to Maoris, but I answered Rapa that the money would be available on his arrival. He then engaged a truck and journeyed homeward. Arrived at Taupo he was encountered by the late Mrs. Rapa's blood relatives [Rapa had married outside his tribe] who claimed her body. A very heated argument ensued, which being referred to the local policeman, was settled in Rapa's favour. However, the cortege got no further than Wairakei when the hostile mob was again encountered — this time drawn up in battle array. Rapa and his friends, determined to see the thing through, responded to the challenge and the enemy gave way. Arrived at Ohaki, Rapa came over to get his money.page 79
“You're surely not going to give all that money to the rascally truck owner?” I asked.
“I promise him that money.”
“You send him over to me. I'll deal with him.”
To which Rapa replied:
“I can't do that thing e hoa. I promise £30.”
An honest man! At the time of Rapa's own death he still owed me £15. Calling me to his side he expressed his regret. I assured him it did not matter at all. Summoning a young relative, Rapa described to him a certain horse and ordered him to deliver it at Broadlands in satisfaction of the debt, and so he died happy. On his grave I had erected a stone whereon is inscribed: “Here lies an honest man.”
Tuwhaia was a very blue-blooded young native, working for me off-and-on when it suited him. He had passed the age at which Maoris usually marry, and his folk began to press him to take a wife to his bosom. In response to these suggestions he displayed no enthusiasm, merely remarking: “You find it. I try it.” His relatives having found a suitable young lady, the betrothal was announced and a great wedding planned. Some members of the tribe went as far afield as Napier to procure raiment suitable for the occasion. My Maoris were all awaiting the signal to proceed to Tokaanu to participate in the festivities when a shocking damper arrived over my 'phone: “Wedding finish — can't find it — don't bother.” It seems that the bride-to-be resented neglect by her prospective husband and had cleared out.
Pupuri arrived in our midst, a kindly-natured, good-looking, strong and upstanding girl; and she had land yielding her a fair rental, but she had one drawback — a half-caste child. She looked after it well and carried in about everywhere — she refrained from visiting the sins of the parents on the child. She said she did not know who the father was! — and the child, page 80 being no wiser than others, could not enlighten her on that matter. She next appeared as cook in a camp of scrub-cutters on the boundary of Broadlands. This gang was headed by Kiakaha, one of the best fighters in the tribe. However, there was another member of the tribe, one Wahanui, who, though desirous of marriage, had never succeeded in winning a †wahine. The fact was he was not handsome and not good-tempered, though honest and a good worker. The elders then arranged a marriage between this man and Pupuri, who accordingly left the scrub-cutters' camp for the dwelling of her new spouse. For a week or two all went as merry as a married belle. Wahanui wore a much more pleasant expression — in fact almost beamed — and carried the half-caste child around as though quite proud of a son acquired as a bonus to the bargain and without effort on his part. However, the time came all too soon when Wahanui's leave expired, and he had to resume his duties as a Government rabbiter on remote country. Down pounced Mr. Kiakaha and carried off the lady back to his camp. Wahanui was furious and disconsolate: the elders of the tribe were indignant and ordered the woman to return to her lawful husband. However, no one was in a hurry to take on the big fighting man and matters remained “as they were before they were” until Kiakaha stole the lady's rental money and thrashed her into the bargain. Then she left him and allied herself with one Ruamoenga, though I fancy this union lacked the blessing of the elders. However, the couple kept together until poor Ruamoenga — a very decent chap — passed away. Then, to my astonishment, she carried off the blue-blooded Tuwhaia, much her junior. To this day they remain united and the lady has had two children — not half-castes this time.
As for poor Wahanui: the elders found him another wahine, but she treated him very badly and he decided to end it all by jumping into the Waiotapu River. However, it was page 81 very cold and he crawled out again. Having procured a bottle of “distilled damnation,” he returned to the creek and there completed the dread deed.
Hono was a young man working for me, and in the fullness of time his young wife was ready to add her mite (not a widow's mite!) to the local tribe. She had been taken to Rotorua to go through her first ordeal of motherhood. Hono became very anxious and obtained leave to go in to Rotorua to see the happy event over. However, there was unanticipated delay and he returned. The housekeeper, being well aware of the purpose of his absence, welcomed him by exclaiming:
“Oh, Hono, I'm so glad. I hear you've got a dear little baby.” Hono looked extremely sheepish and muttered:
“I get him all right, but he never come out yet!” Which simple statement seemed to knock the housekeeper right back.
I am here reminded of early experiences, when Maoris would come over the river to announce the imminent arrival of a new member of the tribe, and to impress upon me the great benefit to the expectant mother of suitable stimulant. As a result I usually gave them a stiff nip of whisky. But when I discovered that the men usually drank the whisky themselves to help their wives through their trouble, I gave up this particular form of benevolence.
Just one more character from my tribe: Kanapa was a very polite man — had been to college — wrote a beautiful hand and spoke English pleasantly and correctly. When I wanted a supply of five thousand posts he took the contract. As Maoris never have more than about a day's supply of food in hand, it is a well-established custom to advance goods to contractors so that they can keep alive until they are entitled to a draw. Kanapa impressed upon me that the distance at which his bush lay made it most inconvenient and wasteful of time for him to come to Broadlands for instalments of stores. The contract was page 82 a big one: therefore he must have a good lot to go on with. The stores were accordingly supplied. No posts having arrived, I stirred our friend up. He was full of excuses. He had done a vast lot of work in forming roads and splitting the posts. If I would let him have just a few more stores he would have the posts delivered in no time. Like a fool I complied. Not a solitary post has that blackguard ever delivered. He had learned enough at his college to be more than a match for a trusting Pakeha.
In some directions Maoris have courage: in others they are cowards. When winning they are full of élan, but when losing are lacking in spirit and in persistence. As the observant Mr. Pepys remarked when Prince Rupert, the most dashing cavalry leader in Europe, was frightened into fits by danger of the plague: “Courage is of different kinds.” When the great fighting Maori who downed the redoubtable Pukuriri became afflicted with a sore place in his foot, he came to the father of his tribe — the celebrated Dr. Vaile. I diagnosed the case thus:
“There's something in the flesh. Have you trodden on anything?”
“By gorry e hoa! The time I'm at Te Awamutu I tread on a bottle, but the doctor take all the grass out.”
“That's just what he hasn't done. A piece of glass is now working its way out.”
So I cut a piece out of his boot to ease the pressure and gave him a riding job. In about a week the glass had worked out far enough to enable its removal without much trouble. However, my noble wouldn't as much as let me touch it, and limped about until the thing came out of itself.
When I came up to Broadlands, and for long after, there was no such thing as registration of births, marriages and deaths among the Maoris. They just got born, married and died to please themselves. Sometimes this state of affairs saved much page 83 trouble. One night two Maori cars were out and, as usual, there wasn't one lamp between them. Both cars then displayed a preference for the same side of the road, though travelling in opposite directions. As may be guessed, there was a good hard bump and a Maori child was hurled through the wind-screen and killed. All that happened was that the mortal remains were gathered up, put in a box, and buried. Had these folk been Pakehas, there would have been inquests, enquiries, sentences and all sorts of fuss and trouble.
The resemblance between the Maori and the Irish has often been noted — indeed I have heard the former referred to as “the smoked Irishmen.” I refer in these observations not to the Irish of the North or of the Pale, but to the “wild” or Kern Irish. The young women are very attractive, bright, and have excellent figures: but at middle age their figures begin to assume the form and comeliness of a sack of potatoes with or without a string round the middle. Both races are extremely fond of potatoes. They live in similar dwellings. Both are fond of the pig and inclined to entertain it in the front parlour. A Maori †tangi is the exact replica of an Irish wake. Many Irish soldiers did not like firing on the Maoris because they were so like themselves, and a great friendship arose between them. Thus, when the Sixty-Fifth Regiment appeared, the Maoris would shout “Kapai te hikety pifth.” (Good old Sixty-Fifth.) And it is a curious fact that the Maoris cross best with the Irish, for example Sir James Carroll and others.
The Maoris were, and to a great extent still are, Communists. I have often tried to get from my Socialist friends a proper definition of the difference between a Socialist and a Communist, but without success. So I have had to think up one for myself. Both relieve you of all your possessions, but your Socialist will forgive you and shake your hand as long as you are not naughty: whereas your Communist cuts your throat page 84 into the bargain, lest perchance you should ever have the impudence to demand the return of your property.
In pre-European days the Maori's private possessions were very meagre and his dwelling bare of furniture of any kind — no chairs, no tables, no beds, no crockery, “no nuthen.” Even now the idea of individual property has not made much growth among them. They eat one another's food. Should two Maoris possess motor-cars of the same breed and one of them spoil a tyre the owner of that tyre would think nothing of borrowing a wheel off his neighbour's “'bus.” If one of the tribe grows a crop, the others turn their stock on it. If one has a job he is expected to spend his wages for the benefit of the hapu. All this greatly retards progress.
The motor-car is probably the greatest cause of the poverty of the Maori. In former times they fared forth to the plains and rounded up and caught as many horses as they wanted. Each would have about half-a-dozen. One he would keep in for riding, the others were turned loose in a large “paddock,” there to enjoy the fresh air and the scenery. It is fair to say, however, that a Maori horse will — though a Pakeha horse won't — eat tussock grass and †manoao scrub. When number one horse had been ridden three-quarter way to death, he was turned loose in the paddock and another charger brought in — and so on round “the stable.” By the time number six was longing for release by death, number one would be in condition again — anyhow his back would have healed up. The cost of all this was just nothing, and all the gear necessary, a bridle made of rope or even flax. The wealthy would possess also, a saddle of sorts, and this was sometimes furnished with stirrups. Should his horse give a Maori trouble in the catching, it received a blow over the head with a stick or the bridle (provided the bridle had a bit). Thus were horses taught to be easily caught. The Maori has no regard for the sufferings of dumb animals.page 85
On this scene of economic happiness and equine suffering burst the secondhand motor-car. When friend Maori found he could actually acquire this miracle of human ingenuity for £5 down and his promise to make further payments, he quickly discarded the antiquated animals of the past in its favour — and he soon discovered that the beastly thing would not move a yard on a diet of tussock and manoao with fresh air and scenery for dessert. Of course the instalments did not matter. The Maori, among other privileges, has always had his Mortgagors' and Lessees' Legalized Swindles Act. His land is not attachable for debt and he has nothing else, and, as for the car itself, why, if the vendor would like to have it back after one, two or three months' abuse, there is no great objection. But benzine, tyres, and spare parts had to be paid for and ate up all his substance till he had nothing left. When I first went up to Broadlands, the Maoris had thousands of sheep and hundreds of cattle, horses and pigs. Now they have nothing.
I have often asked the Maoris how they lived before I came along with my wages: “Oh, plenty †kai that time e hoa. Plenty †poaka, plenty †kau, plenty †hipi, plenty kai †ika, plenty †riwai.” Since the advent of the motor-car it takes them all their time to feed it. The family can wait.
And now, patient reader, if you have faithfully followed this truthful narrative and yet survived, you will have a fair idea of the Maori as he is.
To my Maori friends I must say †e noho. I trust that I have not in any way hurt their feelings by recounting some of their foibles.
Addendum to Chapter IV
I have said that this chapter is not a treatise on the Maori race; but I feel that, after all I have recounted about my tribe, I must say a few words about the Maoris in general and their recent history.
Too much adulation is bestowed on the Maori by many well-wishers and he is clothed with capacities, characteristics and virtues which in fact constitute but a minor part of his make-up. After all there is nothing greater than the truth, and there is no saying in the English language more true than: “He who flatters me is not my friend.” The Maori has serious faults: and, until he recognizes them, he cannot possibly cure them. The first prerequisite for salvation is the consciousness of sin — even as the first step on the way to knowledge is the recognition of one's ignorance. All genuine and permanent improvement to the Maori must come from within: and it is very wrong to lead him to think otherwise and that the Pakeha owes all sorts of duties to him while he owes none to the Pakeha. The idea that any good can come of putting the Maori in a feather bed and feeding him with a silver spoon is utterly false. I strongly object to my Maori friends being treated like pet dogs, or mental invalids, or mendicants, or even as museum specimens. They must be made self-supporting, self-respecting, useful citizens. If the Maori has no confidence in himself nobody else will. The granting of pensions and other forms of pauperization is absolute ruination. The salvation of the Maori lies in honest work and independence.
As with other peoples the hope of improvement lies with the young.
The education of the Maori needs amendment. When I have suggested that greater stress should be placed on the value of page 87 honesty it is replied that honesty is always impressed on the Maori youth. Others say the Maori is perfectly honest. With regard to the first contention I deeply regret having to say that my own experience, and that of friends, has been that the educated young Maori is far more dishonest than the old untutored savage. With regard to the second contention: again I regret my inability to support it. I wish someone holding such belief would buy my Maori debts at two shillings and sixpence in the pound. But when a Minister of the Crown, as reported in the N.Z. Herald of 30th January, 1937, advises the Maori people not to worry about paying their debts, what can we expect? Then I say the young Maori must be taught that the future of his race is in his own hands: the battle is his: he alone can fight it successfully. In the native schools the attention devoted to book-learning should be reduced and handicrafts, horticulture and agriculture substituted. In this, as in all other matters, the truth is the only thing worth a moment's thought. As I have said, it is no use imagining that the Maori possesses qualities in which he is deficient. The great mass of people of that race, as children, learn as quickly as ordinary Europeans, but the limit of capacity is reached at about the age of fourteen. Of course all avenues of attainment should be left open for exceptional Maoris, but actual results have not been encouraging. The above are the directions in which he needs education. He needs no instruction in the use of greater leisure. He knows more about that than any instructor — it just comes natural-like to him! All New Zealanders are acquainted with the dear old tuatara and boast of its being the oldest surviving form of life upon this planet and of its many peculiarities. I have even seen it stated that it is the only animal capable of standing on the same spot longer than a policeman. But the Maori can beat both for perseverance in sitting on the sunny and sheltered side of a †whare.page 88
And all this teaching of the Maori that he is a very ill-treated person and entitled to all sorts of compensations for injuries supposed to have been suffered is absolutely false, pernicious, and a slander on my fellow colonists. The fact is that above all other human races the Maori has enjoyed justice and benefits and kindness beyond comparison. My own experience has shown me that the Maori himself recognizes these facts and is grateful for the benefits he has received. How often have I heard the Maoris talking with horror of the “old cruelling days” as they express it. But he is educated by mistaken Philo-Maoris to waste all his time and energies working up grievances and creating imaginary injuries.
One would suppose from all this silly and false talk that, prior to the coming of the Pakeha, the Maoris were an angelic folk living a peaceful and benevolent life free from danger and from sin. Nothing could possibly be farther from the truth. The fact — as can easily be confirmed by reading any of the old books on New Zealand written before the incursion of the whites — is that he lived a precarious existence, never enjoying safety for a moment. A slave to the negative “Thou shalt not” of †tapu, and the positive, deadly, everlasting commands of †utu: subject also to the vilest treachery and wickedest practices imaginable. I need mention only cannibalism. At the time of the arrival of the Pakeha he was retrograding in civilization. Nor was he possessed of any of the comforts or conveniences of life — furniture, tools, light, roads, vehicles, and such like.
Now, what benefits has the Maori received at the hands of the Pakeha, and what privileges have been granted him?
1. The Christian religion. The conversion of the Maoris was one of the greatest triumphs of the Christian faith. Almost in a moment of time the fiercest and wickedest of savages were made gentle, kindly, harmless persons. And, if we ourselves had page 89 practised what we preached and followed the principles laid down by the Christ, they might still be exemplary men and women. In my opinion not nearly enough credit has been given to the devotion, courage, perseverance and final success of the Missionaries.
2. The multitudinous blessings and conveniences of civilized life.
3. He was granted the wonderful privilege of retention of his lands and possessions. He could not be deprived of his land except by sale, and from very early times institutions were set up to protect him from land sharks and to see that he was paid a fair price. In this connection, too, it must be remembered that when ownership by the Maoris was recognized under the Treaty of Waitangi, land in New Zealand was worth nothing. Let me instance what this means. When I went to Broadlands a tribe of Maoris owned a block of forty-eight thousand acres adjacent to my estate. It would not have been saleable at anything more than a nominal price. My work and that of a few other settlers brought this land into repute and the Maoris sold thirty-five thousand acres of the poorest of it at twenty-five shillings per acre. Always the Pakeha has created the value and then paid the Maori for it. Look at Lake Rotorua. The Maoris receive from the suffering taxpayer £6,000 a year for ever for doing nothing. Did the Maori make the road, build the railway, erect schools, boardinghouses, churches? Did he stock the lake with trout, establish golf links, and bring the tourists in their thousands? Did he show how the land could be profitably farmed? By no means. All these improvements and facilities which give value to Rotorua have been provided exclusively by the Pakeha — and then he pays the Maori for them! Consider also Te Kuiti and other King Country towns. The Maoris not only contributed nothing to the railway but they strenuously opposed it. Yet we let them keep the title. We raised the valuepage 90
from next to nothing to pounds per acre for hundreds of thousands of acres and to pounds per foot for many thousands of feet of street frontages. Both these cases and hundreds of others are purely quixotic in their generosity.
4. When we might have treated the Maori in the same way that he had treated his predecessors in possession, instead we gave him a secure title to his lands. As I have already pointed out, the Maori prior to our advent had no title — except the power of seizing lands and holding them against other marauders. There was no Government with a Land Transfer Register and power to ensure possession and peaceful enjoyment of land.
5. We extended to the Maori the extraordinary privilege of holding huge tracts of country in idleness without paying a penny in taxation. A mere white man would have been crushed by graduated land tax. Again quixotic.
6. Almost the same with rates. Tribal customary lands have never been rated, but Maori owners of individualized and occupied areas are liable for local rates. Of course payment is unusual. The practice is to wait until say £30,000 has accumulated and then the Government will pay the unfortunate County Council about £5,000 in full settlement. The struggling Pakeha †“Cocky” has to make up the loss, while the Maori enjoys all the facilities — generous I say to the point of injustice to others.
7. Another extraordinary privilege extended to the Maori is the protection of his lands and the proceeds of his lands from seizure for debt. A Maori owning thousands of acres need not pay his debts unless he likes — and he doesn't.
8. The Maori village is furnished with a qualified nurse: medical and dental service is provided — all at the expense of the Pakeha taxpayer.
9. The Maori child is motored to and from school, taught and provided with books, stationery, and the like, again exclusively at the expense of the Pakeha taxpayer.page 91
10. Old age pensions, family allowances, and the like, are granted to the Maori equally with the European.
11. Millions of money have been spent in providing farms for Maoris.
12. In practice the Maori is allowed to neglect the suppression of weeds and rabbits in a way that would not be tolerated in a Pakeha, and he is allowed to advance claims to lands — or to compensation for them — long after title in a European would have been lost by adverse possession.
I have even heard men who ought to — and do — know better, get up at a public meeting and say that the Waikato War was forced on the Maoris for the purpose of appropriating their lands without payment. It is sufficient refutation of this wicked calumny merely to record the fact that at that time Sir George Grey was Governor, and the Ministries in office comprised such men as Alfred Domett, Frederick Whitaker, William Fox, T. B. Gillies, F. Dillon Bell, Reader G. Wood, Henry Sewell, and others. It is useless to ask me to believe that these gentlemen would countenance any injustice much less the waging of a wicked war on defenceless folk merely to steal their possessions.
Anyhow the origin of the war is perfectly plain. The Maori beheld the Pakeha coming in increasing swarms, acquiring more and more land, and gradually pushing the natives further and further back. Patriotic Maoris decided that this incursion must be stopped and decided upon the sacking of Auckland and the murder of all whites whether bearing arms or not. It was drastic but I must confess that, had I been a Maori, I should probably have joined the Kingite movement. That was the cause of the war. But Wiremu Tamihana, Rewi Ngatimaniapoto and the others miscalculated the strength of the Pakeha. They were driven from position after position until at Orakau the offer to accept an honourable surrender was met with the brave but useless reply: “Ka whawhai tonu ahau ki a koe, ake, ake, ake.” page 92 (I will keep on fighting you for ever, and ever, and ever — I had these words from Major Mair himself and he told me that they were uttered not by Rewi but by a chief named Hauraki Thompson). After this the Kingites succumbed and were granted very different conditions from those they intended imposing on the Pakeha. But a great mistake was made: all the confiscated land was taken from the Waikatos and none from the Ngatimaniapoto. This was felt to be an injustice and indeed may have been so for the latter people were “In it up to the neck” and their chief was commander-in-chief of the Maori forces. But the lands of the Waikato were accessible while those of Ngatimaniapoto were not.
I recount these undoubted facts, not to decry or belittle the Maori, but to refute most wicked and false charges against my fellow colonists.
But what can be done now?
Not so long ago the Auckland branch of a great international organization undertook an examination into the Maori question, and most of the investigation was thrown upon me.
Here is the report which was drawn up. But nothing was done about it.
Report of Committee on Maori Affairs
Let us state at the beginning that we have endeavoured to avoid all that sentimentalism and ideology which clothes the Maori with imaginary qualities that he does not really possess: and to view our Maori as he really is and not as we should like him to be. On the other hand we certainly have not made him the villain of the piece. Facts, realities and the truth only have been our objectives.
After conferring with Judges of the Native Land Court; principals of Maori Colleges; officials of the Native Department; page 93 and individuals of experience in Native affairs in many districts your Committee is of opinion that improvement in the native race can be effected only through better up-bringing of the young, and we suggest:
Making them realize that the future of their race is in their own hands and that they themselves must become capable of managing their own affairs, understanding the value of money, and making provision for the future. The battle is theirs and they must fight it: all the Pakeha can do is to lead them and help them. The salvation of the Maori lies in honest work, independence and self-respect. If they fail to realize this they are doomed to pauperism.
Impressing upon them the fundamental value of honesty and in particular the faithful discharge of their obligations. Anyone suggesting to the Maoris avoidance of their just debts and responsibilities is doing them a signal disservice.
Emphasizing the value of a knowledge of the principles and practice of elementary hygiene and physiology.
While leaving open to those capable of benefiting thereby all opportunities of higher education, reducing book learning and substituting therefor handicrafts, horticulture and agriculture. We agree with those authorities who think it well to recognize the simple fact of the case, which is that the vast bulk of Maori youths are only wasting their time endeavouring to attain a standard of education and assimilate a mass of unpractical knowledge entirely beyond their capacity. Moreover they cannot hope to obtain employment in office work or in business for they are by nature quite unsuited for such pursuits: nor do employers desire their services. Educated for manual dexterity the Maori makes a good blacksmith or mechanic, a fair carpenter, and page 94 is good at nearly all farm jobs including shearing — quite a useful citizen.
We approve a suggestion that, complementary to the Government schemes of small farms, garden settlements should be established for those Maoris unsuited to the farms. The idea is that in good soil about two acres should be devoted to each allotment. On this land the materials for improvements should be deposited, the Maori himself to effect the improvement with his own labour subject to supervision.
The advantages claimed for this plan are:
That the houses being close together the natives could enjoy the community life so dear to them.
That a sufficiency of food could be grown on the allotment.
That the capital cost would be very low, necessitating only a nominal rent. The small needs of the occupant beyond what the land would yield would be supplied by a minimum of employment.
Many think that the Government farms are too big and too expensive for the Maori, and the houses necessarily too far apart, besides being too elaborate. The capital cost of each farm is considerable and the subsequent cash rent difficult for the Maori to find. Constant attendance on dairy cows the year round is also deemed to be beyond his endurance.
Certain it is that any plan to succeed must be acceptable to the Maori and be within his capacity: also within the willing ability of the taxpayer.
We strongly deprecate the tendency among some to resurrect supposed ancient grievances and to persuade the Maoris that they are a vastly injured people. This has a most unsettling and detrimental effect upon the race. We are quite satisfied that, by and large, the Maoris have been exceptionally well treated — page 95 indeed often with the greatest generosity. No treaty has been in force so long or so faithfully observed as the “Treaty of Waitangi.” Anyhow it is not wise to look to the past. Hope lies in a wise and courageous future.”
Any attempt to resuscitate a separate entity and a separate culture for the Maori will, in my judgment, end in failure. His future lies in the adoption of European standards and merging with the Pakeha.
I desire to make it plain that I approve the Maori being treated generously, but resent the imputation that he has not been so treated. It is a pernicious slander on the British colonists of New Zealand. The old saying that “Too much of a good thing is a bad thing” might also be borne in mind.
As I have demonstrated by the recital of indisputable facts the Maori has been treated with extraordinary generosity and, let me say, this is probably due to his own good qualities. He is a likeable, humorous, plucky chap —and he has no more sincere wellwisher than myself.
E hoa ma! Ka nui taku aroha ki a koutou.
(My friends! Great is my affection for you all.)