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Te Rou, or, The Maori at Home

Chapter I. Introductory—The Origin of Hokianga

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Chapter I. Introductory—The Origin of Hokianga.

In the northern part of Aotearoa (New Zealand) there is a river which had its origin, according to Maori tradition, in the emulation which arose among certain young Taniwhas,1 one of whom, Waihou, boasted “that he could dig a great distance into the mountains with his nose.” Araiteuru, their mother, hearing the boast of her eldest son, ordered all her children to make a tour of the country, each one to dig a trench with his nose, and then return and report what he had accomplished.

1 Monsters. The reader will please to observe in reference to the pronunciation of all Maori words that every letter is sounded; that the vowel a is invariably pronounced as in the English word father, the vowel e as in bet, the vowel i as e in me, and u as in put. By attending to these simple directions the reader will be able to approximate closely to the proper pronunciation.

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Waihou took the lead, leaving his home, a cave fifty feet above the level of the sea, on the coast which faces the setting sun. After he had made considerable progress in his trench-digging, the others followed his track, starting at different times, and branching off to the right or left according to the progress they made or the difficulties they met with. Waihou dug on until he came to a flat country, and finding the climate warmer and more congenial to his feelings than the raw west-coast air, he made a large hole with his tail, and took up his abode there. This was the origin of the Omapere lake.

After leaving Waihou's track, Waima, not knowing the course his brother had taken, went in a southerly direction for some distance, then turning to the northeast, he suddenly found him in his new home.

Orira, while making his way to certain mountains, the interior of which he wished to see, was crossing a low country, where he was met by a giant (there were giants in the land in those days), who questioned him. Orira answered him tartly, upon which the giant gave him a blow on the head, thus ending his life, and preventing any further attempt at trench-making.

Mangamuka followed nearly the same direction as Orira; but, in attempting to get into the interior of the mountains towards which his brother was going, he encountered a Tupua1 (in the shape of a large stone)

1 A spirit having the power of transforming itself into any inanimate thing.

page 3 asleep, who refused to be thrown out of the way. The tupua put an end to his further progress by spouting a shower of water out of a hole in his back into the taniwha's eyes, which sent Mangamuka home in disgust.

Every branch of the river1 had its origin from one of Araiteuru's sons taking a tour. One of them, a young fellow named Ohopa, was so enraged by the number of rocks he encountered, that he took a deep hatred to every living thing, and to this day he is the terror of the Panguru range of mountains. Another, Wairere, met with many boulders, and wishing to verify his tale, attempted to carry one home on his back. When he reached the point where he had diverged from Waihou's track, he was so exhausted that he fell asleep with the boulder on his head, and there he remains to this day, only partially awakening at times. When any canoe is upset on this stone, it is caused by Wairere, who is partially awake, and is taking revenge because of his unsuccessful attempt to see the country.

Early one summer's morning, an aged chief was sitting on his mat in front of his hut. He looked northward, up the Mangamuka river, and mused over the days of his boyhood. “Ah! yonder are the hills where, in the days of my youth, I caught the rat, the kiwi,2 the weka,3 and the titi!”4 Holding out his

1 The Hokianga river; vide map.

2 Apteryx Mantelli, Buller's ‘ N. Z. Birds,’ p. 358.

3 Ocydromus Earli, ibid. p.165.

4 Puffinus brevicaudus, ibid. p. 315.

page 4 arm and addressing it, he said: “How slender and wrinkled you look! How small the muscles appear which once had power to wield the spear that pierced my enemies! Your skin looks like a partly dried mud-hole, after a heavy summer shower. You are all covered with holes, hills, and valleys. Well, never mind; I can tell Rou. On the last day of my life he shall hear from my lips a full and exact account of all the unavenged wrongs I have suffered from my enemies. O my son, Rou! thou art of the line of chiefs; as thou hast learnt from my lips the knowledge that leads thy limbs to action, and thy soul to flash in thine eyes like sparks of fire, to thee I may leave, as an heirloom, my injunction to obtain revenge for me after my death. My heart is great now that I know that my son will uphold my rank as a warrior, and I shall not die like a coward.”

Tare was thus talking to himself when his son Rou came up to him and said: “Tare, you once promised to tell me the history of our island home. I am going up to Mangamuka with a few young men; but as the tide is full we shall have to wait till low water, and in the meantime let us sit here, and you can teach me all about our island pah,1 Motiti.”

“Where have you been to-day?” asked Tare.

“I have just had my morning meal, that is all,” answered Rou.

“I thought you had been out catching fish—hence my question; for had you been out fishing, I should

1 An inclosed fortified place.

page 5 have had to repeat an incantation over you before I could have taught you. The history of our small island forms part of our sacred knowledge, and could not be taught to any one who had been near raw food until a karakia1 had been repeated over him.”

“I am listening,” answered Rou.

“You must know that a taniwha, named Araiteuru, lived on the south head of the river, and that in olden times she sent her sons to cut trenches all over the country. The eldest commenced at the ocean shore, and as he went on the sea-water followed him; the others went in his track, and thus this river in which is our island pah was formed. Not many summers after, our ancestors came across the sea in a canoe, named Mamari, and arrived in this river; they came in search of a man who had left his home beyond the horizon, whose name was Rui. I will tell you about him some other time. Our canoe met that of another migration of people; their leader was Kupe; he told our ancestor, Nukutawhiti, that he had just left a large river, which he had named Hokianga-o-Kupe (Kupe's return).

“That river is where we now live. The canoe Mamari, after entering the river, came up here, where she left her ballast, which formed this island. Such is the origin of our pah.

“You have also seen the rocks at the mata,2 just visible at low water, and the large one inshore of the others, which is at high-water mark. O my son Rou! that

1 Incantation.

2 Promontory.

page 6 large stone, called Tokawhero, was the buoy, and the others in the water were the anchors of Mamari. You know that our tribe is named Kopura, and that we are a sub-tribe of Puhi, for the name of Puhi was given to those who are the offspring of Nukutawhiti. There are many sub-tribes living on the branches of this great river, all belonging to the Puhi, but disputes about land and women have at different times caused wars, and there still exists much ill-feeling among them. On some future occasion, when I am going west with the setting sun, I will tell you the history of my life, in order that you may take revenge upon those from whom I have not obtained satisfaction for injuries I have sustained. Go up to Mangamuka, my son; but act as a chief. Be on your guard, for the sons of Rutu live near our tribe, and they have much to revenge. In former days there was a set time for our people to catch rats at Rata. We went there—I was quite young then—and when we had reached our line on you mountain ridge which you see between the Taniwha peaks, where our ancestors had for ages set traps to catch rats, we found the sons of Rutu already there, taking the rats from the traps we had set over-night. Papa, their chief, was with them, and I singled him out from the rest, and challenged him to single combat, that I might chastise them for their theft. Being old, he would not deign to accept the challenge of a youth; which so enraged me, that I lifted my spear in the attitude of the marangai,1 and went up to him, calling him a

1 The principal posture of defence with the spear.

page 7 coward. One of his people struck at me with his wahaika;1 but I parried the blow with my hani,2 and the next blow he gave I laid him low, and as silent as the root of the tree on which he fell.

“I then pierced Papa with the tongue end of my hani. He fell, but not dead; I stood over him, he would not ask for his life, but smiled at my uplifted weapon, the next blow of which broke into pieces the lines of the tattooing on his brow. Thus we taught the sons of Rutu not to tread on the ridges where we had the sole right of catching rats. O my son Rou! be like the rat—look all around you in all your travelling, lest at any time an old enemy come upon you. Be on your guard, and on no account forget the incantations I have taught you for your spear in war, for your canoe in a storm, for your legs to have speed to catch your enemies.

“But, above all, in your travels, do not cook or eat food near a place where any of our tribe of Puhi have been left by the priests. Go, my son, and see your brothers, and children, and fathers, at Te Roto. O my son Rou! be careful of Hanpa and Kaito, who life at Otu.

“They are the persons who have to revenge the death of Papa, whom I killed. You know how they obtained the land on which they now live. Being descended from a common ancestor, we once gave a

1 A long-handled wooden hatchet, from the head of which hangs a tassel of hawks' feathers.

2 A carved wooden spear.

page 8 feast, to which Papa and his tribe were invited. They came in canoes from one of the lower bends of the river, and while at Pukahu one of their young chiefs was drowned. His body was washed up on that place, and our fathers gave them the land on which Otu stands to appease the grief of the relatives of the young chief. You know Tuawera, who is their priest. He is a restless man, and, like the pigeon-hawk, he will lie in wait to catch any bird off his guard. Be careful, my son. It is true that Tupu and Moka, who are at Waima, can avenge any insult; but a live son is better to me than the shark's-tooth or green-stone of many generations which are now in my ears.”

Te Rou and his companions left for Te Roto, where they arrived without meeting with anything unusual.

Te Roto is a small pah, about three miles from Otu. The inhabitants, who are members of the Kopulra tribe, numbered about seventy-five.

The principal body of the Rutu tribe lived near the heads of the river, in Omanaia, and were very restless and overbearing in their conduct towards the other sub-tribes of Puhi. A small number of the Rutu, consisting of Haupa (the mother of Papa), Kaito, her son, and about twenty-five others, resided in Otu. Tuawera, a ventriloquist, and the priest of the Rutu tribe, a man of superior intellect compared with the generality of chiefs, had often urged Kaito to avenge the death of Papa, saying, “I will becloud the eyes of the Kopura warriors by my incantations, and you can kill them page 9 like so many pigeons on the forest trees. They shall nod their heads to and fro, like that bird, in their attempt to see, while you can take your time to kill them.” This promise had been given years before, and Kaito, watching for an opportunity, had not yet found one to put his wishes into effect.