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The Ancient History of the Maori, His Mythology and Traditions: Tai-Nui. [Vol. IV]

Chapter XII. — Paoa. (Nga-Ti-Paoa.)

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Chapter XII.
Paoa. (Nga-Ti-Paoa.)

How shame o'ercomes me when my words
By slander so perverted oft by envious lips
Are heard! But, mother, hadst thou truly seen
My days of noble youth, and how in silence
I forbore to smite my foes, or meet
Them on the coast of Tu-rangi!
Nor would I deign to pass the door
Where food was kept by Ma-heuheu
Of value less than scraps I owned
When youth, and power, and fame were mine.
But stores of plenty still my parents hold,
Nor dare the Urn ask or take of it.
But, oh! to have a small canoe
To carry me to Tumuaki-whenua,
That I might have, and once again possess
The root of Hawa-iki (kumara).
I am not all unknown, as Karihi
Has told my fame in Taumata-maire
And old Ta-weke knows my whole descent
From ancient gods, and tells that truth in every home.

Paoa (gall) came from the south, from the district where Kahu-ngunu lived at Te-whai-a-pawa (the rat-trap; also, riddle of Paoa, or the sting-ray of Paoa), where his own home was known by the name of Rongo-tu-moe-whare (the kumara kept in a house). While he still lived with his parents he and his wife quarrelled, and she left him and went to another settlement, and wept. Paoa waited for her to return to him, but she did not return. He began to think that she had gone to a distance.

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He determined to go in search of her, taking his slave. He paid a visit to many settlements; but when the wife heard the voice of Paoa she hid herself, and Paoa sought her in vain.

He returned to his home and his parents, and wept and said, “I and my slave will again go to seek my wife at every pa, and if we do not find her we will go on our journey to distant lands, and not come back.”

His father said, “Yes; but your younger brothers must accompany you.”

Paoa said, “Yes; and if I find my wife we will return to you; but if we do not find her I will send my younger brothers back to you, and I and my slave will search for her at every settlement.”

The father said, “Yes.”

Paoa and his brothers went on their journey even as far Tau-po (loadstone); but they did not find, his wife, and Paoa said to his brothers, “Go back to our father, that his heart may live [or cheer him].” But the brothers, because of their love to Paoa, wished to accompany him still further; but he forbade them, and they went back to Te-whai-a-pawa.

Paoa continued his journey along the ridge of Tonga-riro (distant south), and came out at Tara-naki (low small-leafed fern), but still did not find his wife. He came on along the west coast, and, turning inland, went on to the upper waters of the Wai-kato River.

The inhabitants of the district asked in regard to Paoa, “Who is this man?” They asked the slave, who said, “He is Paoa.”

They asked, “Where has he come from?”

The slave said, “We came from the east, from the sunrise.”

They asked, “What have you two come for?”

The slave said, “To search for his wife; but we have not found her, nor do we know where she

The people said, “Why do you seek for that woman? Here is a wife for him. You have women in your tribe, and we have page 224 women in our tribe: why seek for that woman? Here is a wife for him.” And Paoa had a wife given to him by this people.

Paoa and his wife came down the Wai-kato River, and lived at Kai-to-tehe (eat the pulp), where he begat two children, Toa-whena and Toa-poto. Paoa saw a young woman of pleasing appearance, and on that account he loved her. She was of inferior origin, but he took her and forsook his first wife and children.

His attendant slave, who had accompanied him from the East Cape, stayed with the first wife and helped her to cultivate her kumara-crop. The first year they had a hundred baskets, and the second two hundred; and thus he and his mistress obtained, much food to live on.

Paoa and his wife did cultivate, but, as Paoa was a leading chief, all travellers went to his settlement: thus the crops they were able to obtain were consumed by visitors, and every year he and his wife were ever kept short of food. But the time arrived, when the parents of the first wife came on a visit to Paoa. They came from Horo-tiu (fly fast), and landed at Pepepe (butterfly), where the first wife of Paoa was living with her two children. They asked her, “Where does Paoa live?”

She said, “He lives down the river at Kai-to-tehe.” They embarked again in their canoes and paddled down to the settlement, where they were announced to Paoa by the call of his own attendants, “Here are strangers! here are strangers !”

These people were about seventy [one hundred and forty] in number. At this time the young wife of Paoa had just returned from collecting the middle or curled fronds of the korau or mamaku fern, which she covered with leaves and put them into hot ashes. The party landed; and she left the fern-fronds cooking, and did not take them out of the fire. The strangers came up to the settlement, and some of them went into the cookhouse, where the fronds were cooking. Seeing the ashes heaped up, they said, “Eels cooking,” and were pleased, and waited for the owner of the cooking delicacy to return and take page break
Tomb Of Huri-Whenua.

Tomb Of Huri-Whenua.

page 225 that which was cooking out of the fire; but she did not return, as she was ashamed lest they should see the poor food she ate. Nor did Paoa utter a word to the strangers, on account of the shame he felt at not having anything to place before them. Paoa called his young wife and said, “Go and obtain some kumara from the first wife.”

She said, “She will not give any.”

He said, “Though she does not, still you can go, and if you do not procure any you will have gone to obtain some.”

She went with the message of Paoa; and when at a distance the children of the first wife saw her. They went to their mother and said, “The wife of Paoa is coming.”

Having heard the words of the boys, she went into her house to hide herself, and the second wife went on: she had seen the first wife going into the house. She went to the door of the house, and knelt down and looked in, and saw the first wife weaving a mat. The first wife gave greetings to the young wife, who greeted her in return. The young wife said, “Hearken to this: I was commanded by Paoa to come and obtain some kumara for strangers who have come to his place.”

The first wife knew that Paoa had sent her for kumara, and answered, “Where is the food? Am I a man, that I can cultivate and obtain food? You have the man who can cultivate and provide food. Has a woman the power to cultivate? I will not give any of the food I have; I will keep it to feed my children, who, if I gave it to you, would starve.”

Paoa and the strangers were waiting at the settlement, and when the young wife got back Paoa asked, “What was said?”

She answered, “It was not given. She says there will not be any food for her children to live on, and they will starve.”

Paoa was so ashamed that he did not speak for some time. At last he said to the strangers, “We shall be faint for want of page 226 food, and we shall not be able to speak well unless we have appeased our appetites.”

When evening came the strangers pulled back to their pa, and Paoa was so overcome with shame that he left his abode that night and went he knew not where to seek a new home. He went by way of the Manga-wara (indistinct noise) Creek; and by dawn of day he had arrived at Tikitiki-mau-rea (light-coloured effigy) which is a low hill. There he sat down and looked towards Wai-kato and towards Hau-raki (dry wind), where he wept in sorrow for his two boys and the people he had left in Wai-kato. Then he went on towards Pi-ako, and came out at a pa called Mirimiri-rau (patted by all), where he took up his abode; and the people of that pa were kind to him, and accepted him as their leader.

After some time the fame of Paoa was heard in Hau-raki, even to Rua-wehea (divided pit). The people where Paoa resided went to pay a visit to those at Rua-wehea, where a great number of people lived. These visitors went to the home of Tukutuku (ornamental carving and plaiting in the interior of a Maori house), the daughter of the head chief of Rua-wehea. They had not been there long when fires were kindled in which to roast fern-root as an intermediate meal, till the usual repast was prepared. The usual meal was prepared and eaten, and the guests slept there that night. On the following day each one went to visit his or her relatives; and after many days' absence they again met at the Rua-wehea Pa. That evening, after fires had been lit in the strangers' house, a game of haka was played. This game, the haka, is a sign of a great people, a people of men of rank.

Then Tukutuku asked the visitors, “Where is the man whose fame has been heard here?”

They asked, “Who is that man?”

She said, “Paoa.”

They said, “He is living at Pi-ako.”

She asked, “Will that man ever be seen here?”

They said, “We do not know. Perhaps he may come here.”

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Now, Tukutuku was a single woman, and had not been taken by any man as his wife. Many chiefs had courted her, but she would not accept any. When the parents of Tukutuku heard of the questions she had asked of the strangers, they said, “Our daughter has a desire for Paoa, or she would not have asked such questions.”

On the following day, when the strangers left for their home, they could not but express their appreciation of the kindness of Tukutuku, and wonder at the number of her people, and at the noble bearing of all. Tukutuku was kind to all her tribe, and they, in return, provided fish and shellfish and many other dainties of old for her. When they got home they told Paoa all the news about Tuku-tuku, and what a noble and hospitable woman she was. And in the evening, when all the people had assembled in the house where strangers are entertained, one said, addressing Paoa, “O father! that female asked about you.”

Paoa asked, “Whom did she ask about ?”

They said, “About you. She asked, ‘Where is that man of whom we hear so much?’ We asked, ‘Whom do you mean?’ She said, ‘Paoa,’ and added, ‘That is the man whose fame has been heard in all the land.’ We said, ‘He is living in his own land.’ She asked, ‘Where?’ We said, ‘At the Pa Mirimiri-rau.’ She again asked, ‘Will he not come here?”’

Then Paoa said to the people, “At some future time we will go there—in autumn, when we have put the kumara-crop into store, when we shall not have any home duties to occupy our minds, so that we may go without anxiety about what we have left undone at home.”

All the people assented to his proposal, and said, “Yes; we will go in the tenth moon [at the end of summer, when all the crops are housed]. And let us go in a great body; let not one stay at home.”

They all said, “Yes; let us go in answer to the inquiries made by that woman.”

In the tenth moon [March] the company of Paoa assembled, consisting of seventy [one hundred and forty], embarked in page 228 canoes, paddled down the river, and the first night they stayed at Te-kere-pehi (held down), and slept there. On the following day they came down the river and entered the mouth of the Ra-waki branch of the river, where they stayed for a time to cook and take refreshment; and when the tide flowed they entered Hau-raki River, and the flood-tide carried them up without much exertion on their part till the people of the pa saw and welcomed them on shore. As they went from the beach to the pa Paoa was seen to tower above all the crowd, like a turuturu-pou-rewa (the bird stilt) in the midst of smaller birds. All the people of the pa waved their garments, and called the usual welcome to strangers,—

Come, O strangers! from afar!
My youngest child has fetched you From the distant horizon,
And brought you here. Welcome! welcome!

As they all went towards the pa Paoa pulled his rough mat up over his head. He was wearing the mat kopuku (a mat closely woven) next to his person, and next outside of that the pihepihe (a chiefs girdle), and outside of all the whanake (rough winter-mat). When the strangers had sat down on the marae (courtyard) of the pa, the people of the pa endeavoured to discover Paoa, and, seeing a man who was the tallest of those who had entered the pa, they said, “Who can this man be? Perhaps he it is whose fame has been sounded here.”

The visitors had not sat long when firewood and stones were brought for the ovens in which to cook food, and marohi (fern-root) was also brought, and fires were lit in which to roast the fern-root. The fern-root was now being roasted; and the hum of voices, with the noise of the paoi (fern-pestle), made a loud, confused din, as the attendants of the pa each took his or her pestle, and on a large round stone pounded the roasted fern, which they formed into cake-like portions. This, with fish cooked in a hangi (oven), was placed before the guests. Paoa rose and went and sat in the midst of his people in the marae page 229 (courtyard). Before him, as chief, kahawai (Arripis salar) were placed. This was done by the hosts, as they thought he might like the large and best and cleanest fish; but Paoa pushed the kit in which they were aside to his companions, and pulled towards him the tapora (small basket), which contained less inviting and broken fish, and in two mouthfuls had eaten all it contained. This was observed by some of the hosts, who said, “Why, he is a man of mean birth, and eats in a vulgar manner.” But the elder chiefs of the hosts said, “He is a man of high rank, and assumes to be of low birth.”

Paoa consumed the contents of two baskets of broken fish; when one of the hosts asked a lad among the visitors, “Who is this man?”

The lad said, “He is Paoa.”

When he heard who it was, he went to the old chiefs of the pa, and said, “The man about whom we inquire so much is Paoa; but how vulgarly he eats !”

Some of them said, “He is Paoa of the big stomach:” and hence the proverb which has ever been used to designate the Nga-ti-paoa Tribe—” the Nga-ti-paoa of big stomach.”

Paoa was recognised, and the people went near to look at him, and said, “Well may the fame of this man be heard afar; he is a fine-looking man.”

Those who had partaken of the feast now went from where they had eaten the food provided for them, and presents of various sorts of mats were laid before Paoa by the people of the pa.

On the following day Paoa and his people went up the river, and, when seen by the occupants of Te-turua (grand, becoming), were welcomed by them, and invited to stay. Some of Paoa's associates objected to stay; but the people continued to wave the tokens of welcome, and wish them to land and stay. Paoa said, “Let all be thin: do not be thick” [show a gentle and pliant spirit, and be not contemptuous], which saying has ever been repeated as a proverb by the Nga-ti-paoa. They landed, and were treated as they had been treated at the previous pa; but page 230 Paoa would persist to wear his whanake (rough winter-mat). Again they were regaled with roasted fern-root, and slept there. On the following morning they went on, and arrived at a pa called Te-kari (clump of trees), where they were again welcomed by Te-rapa (the toes united), by whom Paoa was known, as these people had visited Pi-ako; but strangers who were with them, who had not seen Paoa, went to look at him and admire his noble bearing. The tide was now ebbing. Paoa and his people slept there that night. So soon as the tide flowed that night a canoe with messengers was sent up the river to inform the tribe at Rua-wehea that Paoa was coming up the river.

When the messengers had got as far as the pa at Rangi-ora (day of security) the people there asked, “Where does the canoe now passing come from?”

The messengers answered, “From this district.”

They asked, “From what part does she come?”

The messengers answered, “From Te-kari.”

They asked, “What is the news?”

The messengers answered, “There is not any news— only one point of news of which we are aware: that is, Paoa is coming up the river; and we are going to inform Taha-rua (two sides).”

They asked, “Will he come up tomorrow?”

The messengers answered, “Yes, in the morning, when the tide flows, and when they have partaken of the meal at dawn. We must go on.”

The people of the pa said, “Go, paddle on.”

When the messengers had paddled far up the river they came to the Pa Matai (obtain by artifice), where the people asked the same questions as were asked by the people of the last-passed pa. They went on to Te-manga-rahi (great branch), where they told the news. Going on, they got to Te-tutu (set on fire), and told the news. On they went to O-pukeko (Porphyrio melanotus), the pa of Taha-rua, where they were asked, “What have you to say, that you have come paddling up the river in the night?”

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They answered, “We have news: Paoa is at Te-kari Pa.”

The people of the pa asked, “Paoa's own body [Paoa himself]?”

The messengers said, “Yes.”

They asked, “When will he paddle up to this place?”

The messengers answered, “Tomorrow. But he may be long in coming, as he may be invited to stay at each pa on his way up. He is a stranger to the people of these pas.”

They asked, “At which pa does he intend to stay as a guest [which pa did he leave his home to visit]?”

The messengers answered, “Here at this pa; and hence we were sent to apprise you of his visit.”

The people of the pa said, “Yes.”

On the following day Tukutuku prepared the tawhiri (a species of Pittosporum) to scent the house in which Paoa should be entertained.

Now, Paoa and his people left the pa at which they were staying when the messengers left them, and paddled up the river to Rangi-ora, where they were welcomed, and went on shore and slept that night. On the following day, attended by some people of this pa, they went on to the Manga-rahi Pa, where they were welcomed and landed, and were entertained with a repast, and slept there that night. Paoa still kept his whanake (rough winter-mat) on. Some of his friends said, “O father! why not cast your rough mat aside? It makes you look such a strange being.”

He said, “Let it be as it is [it will do well enough].”

On the following day they went on to the Tutu Pa, and stayed there over night, still being escorted by people of each pa at which Paoa had stayed. A man from the pa of Taha-rua had paddled down the river, and was at this pa. He had come to see Paoa. Learning that Paoa would on the following morning proceed up the river, he returned that night in his canoe back to the pa of Taha-rua and Tukutuku, and took the news that Paoa would be with them next day.

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Tukutuku gave orders that the settlement should be swept and prepared to receive Paoa. Mats were laid in the house where he would be entertained, and, as tawhiri had been prepared with fat or oil, this was to be sprinkled over the inside of the house. When the dawn of day was still grey Tukutuku rose to superintend the preparations for a feast for Paoa, and to add another portion of the tawhiri - scented oil in the house, which when she had sprinkled all over the house, she closed the doors and windows to agreeably surprise the visitors when they entered the house.

When day was fully come Paoa and his party, in company with people of every pa he had passed, came on up the river, and when in sight of the pa of Taha-rua the people of the pa climbed on the palisadings of the fortress and waved their garments, and all the people with one voice shouted the old song of welcome given to guests,—

Come, welcome, strangers of the distance.
My youngest child went to fetch you
From the distant horizon,
And bring you hither. Welcome!