James West Stack.

South Island Maoris, a sketch of their history and legendary lore online

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'■'■;'.t^?;M);,.jiM'j><'__^. , ■




Maori Chief.






Christchurch, Wellington, Dunedin and Auckland :


A -





Chiistchurch Savage Club,

in acknowledgment of the interest shewn

1!v them in all ^matters relating

to the history and customs of the

Maori People.


October, 1898.



The Maoris of New Zealand are a portion of a race which shares with
two other races — the Papuan and Malay — the countless islands of the
Pacific. The chief centres of Maori population are found in the
Hawaiian, Samoan, Rarotongan and New Zealand Islands.

The language spoken by the New Zealanders is a dialect of the
language common to all branches of the Maori race. The extreme
simplicity of its structure is a proof of its great antiquity. The grammar
is peculiar as compared with the ancient and modern languages of
Europe. Nouns are not inflected nor the verbs conjugated in the same
way. To form the cases or the plurals of nouns, or the mood, tense,
or person, of a verb, all that is required is to put a participle before or
after the word. There is no auxiliary verb " to be," but its place is
supplied by a participle. The pronouns are very complete and possess
double duals and double plurals.

The vocabulary is wanting in words to express abstract ideas, but
full of terms to describe outward objects. But there are here and there
words which seem to indicate that abstract ideas were once more
familiar to the minds of the race than they are now. But while the
language is defective for the purpose of argumentative discourse, it is
peculiarly well adapted for the purpose of narration and the peculiar
style of oratory cultivated by the people.

The art of writing was unknown till it was introduced by the
English missionaries about the year 1S20. It was by the advice of
Professor Lee, of Cambridge, that Roman letters were employed to
represent the sounds of the language, and a i)honetic system of spelling
adopted in forming the words. Only Jourteen letters are used to
express the sounds of the dialect spoken by the New Zealanders — five
vowels and nine consonants, none of which are sibilants. This is a
noticeable peculiarity as sibilants do exist in the .Samoan, Rarotongan
and Hawaiian dialects. Except in forming the sound Nga no two
consonants ever come together, and every syllable and every word ends
in a vowel, which renders the language when spoken soft and


The local difterences of dialect in New Zealand though important
in the estimation of the natives appear trivial to us, being nothing like
as great as the differences which exist between the dialects of the
northern and western counties of England.

The South Islanders substituted A' for N-^a, in the same way that
the Hawaiians and most other Polynesians do. Instead of pronouncing
the word for village as if spelt Kainga, it was pronounced as if spelt
Kaika ; but I have not thought it advisable to adopt this local
peculiarity when spelling the Maori words which occur in the following
pages. I have preferred to spell them as they will be found spelt in all
standard books printed in the Maori tongue.

The letters of the Maori alphabet are : —

A pronounced as a in father

E ,, as a in acorn

H ,, ha

I ,, as ee in sleep

K ,, ka

M ,, ma

N , , na

O pronounced O

P ,, pa

R ,, ra

T ,, ta

U ,, as 00 in too

W ,, wa

Nga ,, as ngah

When pronouncing a Maori word, the reader must be careful to sound
every vowel distinctly.

I regret that I have been unable to obtain photographs of the sites
of the ancient pas which can still be recognised by the earth works
which protected them, such as O te Kaue, at the mouth of the Wairau
River, Waipapa, Kahutara, Waikouaiti, etc. I have been unable, too,
to procure a correct picture of a Maori fortress as it existed before the
period of colonization. It was a structure as unlike anything to be
seen in this country now as a Norman castle was unlike a modern
English villa.

The war canoe shewn on page 47 does not represent the largest
of the sea-going canoes, which were longer, wider and deeper than
this modern specimen.

The portrait of Pita Te Hori found on page 36 is worthy of
special notice, as it is the likeness of the last Tohunga, or learned chief,
of Ngaitahu. It was from him that I obtained most of my knowledge
of South Island tribal lore.

I would recommend those of my readers who wish to obtain more
information about the subjects referred to in the following pages, to
read Sir George Grey's book on " Polynesian Mythology ; " " Old
Pakeha Maori," by Judge Manning ; Vates' " New Zealand ; " Dr.
Shortland's \V<jrks ; " Ika-a-maui," by Rev. R. Paylor ; and the


admirable series of papers on Maori habits and customs contributed by
the Rev. W. Colenso to the "Transactions of New Zealand Institute."

I am largely indebted to the writings of the late Sir George Grey
for the contents of the last chapter of this publication ; and while
acknowledging how much I owe to him, I wish to point out to my
readers how greatly all New Zealanders are indebted to our late
Governor for rescuing from oblivion the most interesting and most
valuable portion of the Maori traditions which we possess. In a letter
which I received from him in February, 1892, he told me how he first
became acquainted with the story of Hinemoa ; and the account given
by him is so interesting that I feel that it would be an act of injustice
to him not to publish it. "I think," he wrote, "you may be interested
to know that the story was not as you seem to suppose, committed to
writing by a Maori chief, Ijut was written down by myself under the
following circumstances : —

" On Wednesday, December 26th, 1849, I was on a pedestrian
tour from Auckland to Wellington (we were then compelled to make
all land journeys on foot ; there were no roads, and, I may say, no
horses in the interior ; we often suffered from fatigue and hunger).

" With some of my party I was on the island of Mokoia, but I
wandered away alone, accompanied by three or four old chiefs. We
sat down to rest on the rocky edge of a hot spring shaded by Pohutu-
kawa trees — the bath that Hinemoa had swum to. My constant work
was collecting old poems and legends. The chiefs knew this, and began
to tell me the story of Hinemoa. I saw that it was a thing of beauty
and got them to repeat the tale ; and then by questioning them,
obtained it fully with all its details as it stands now. When I got back
with my party to the mainland to dine with the good and hospitable
missionary Mr. Chapman, I related briefly to him the tale at dinner.
He said I had been deceived ; if there was such a tale he must have
heard it, as he had lived there for several years. He was so excited
that he got up from iiis dinner and went out to speak to some of the
natives ; returned and said he found I was right. I then took
considerable pains with the translation, choosing the most fitting words
to convey the meaning of the Maori original, and to convey the spirit
and sense of the original ; and the tale was published early in 1851
with my translation in a .Maori newspaper, and taken from that and
published in a little journal of my journey overland, published in
Auckland in 1851. My translation of the tale was published in 1855,
by Murray, in my " Polynesian Mythology.

" From that time many persons writing of New Zealand, have
introduced the tale without any acknowledgement, and it became a


(avourite exercise to produce a translation of it which should excel
mine — which I have never touched since I first wrote it. Amongst
others, Manning, who was a great Maori scholar, in 1S70 or 1871
[luhlished an English version of the tale ; and Lord Penibrokf, in his
writings, attributes the discovery of it to Manning. In this manner the
discovery of the tale has been attributed to several people, many of
whose translations were perhaps better than mine. The only credit I
claim is having probably rescued it from loss or corruption ; and for
having by questions and interest shewn, elicited niceties of thought
and expression which could not perhaps have been drawn out by
others. These remarks apply equally to the tale of I'onga t<i which
you also allude."

I am painfully aware that this publication has suffered from the
haste with which its materials have been put together ; a haste necessitated
by my approaching departure from the colony ; Vnit the readiness with
which Messrs. Whitcombe & Tombs have kindly undertaken to publish
it for me at short notice, and the remembrance of the favourable
reception given a few years back to my story of " Kaiapohia,'' has
emboldened me to ask the public to accept, in spite of its defects, this
small contribution to Maori history, and the attempt I have made in it
to correct some of the erroneous opinions which are current regarding
the character and attainments of the Maori people.

The Vicarage, FciidaUon,

Can/erl itiy, Nac Zealand.


Preface —

Maori Language.

Rules regarding pronunciation.

Sir George Grey's letter re Hinemoa.

Chapter I. —

Sources of information . .

Difficulty of unravelling thread of the

history . . . . . . . . 13

Chronology . . . . . . . . 14

Chapter II. — Fabulous Traditions —

Kongo, The Strider .. .. .. 15

Tama, circumnavigator . . . . 19

Ogre of Molyneux . . . . 20

Chapter III. — Uncertain Traditions

Waitaha . . . . . . . . 72

Tutevvaimate and Moko . . . . 25

Destruction of large bird of prey . . 26

Ngatimamoe till 1677 .. .. .. 28

Connection with Chathams 29

Chapter IV.— Reliable Traditions —

Ngaitahu 30

Causes which led to their migration

from the North Island . . 31

Maoris from west coast, North Island 32

Tutekawa 38

Last migration 41

Commencement of war with

Ngatimamoe .. .. .. 43

Marus leniency .. 44

Waitai's defection 44

Naval engagement . . . . . . 45

Battle of Ika a Whaturoa 49

Capture of Waipapa 55

Battle of Opokihi ... .. 56

Battle of Kahut.ira .. .. .. 56

Raid on Omihi 57

Kangitauneke's duel . . . . . • 60

Death of Manawa .. 64

Siege of Pakihi . .

Occupation of Caves . . 68

The Maiden of Taiari . . ^ . . . . 69

Te Wera 7'

Chapter V. — 1

Turakautahi's sons arrive
Taking possession of the land
Tutekawa's death
West coast natives' discovery of

Ngaitahu Expedition against West

Coast . .
Raid on the South
Great Battle of Teihoka

Final destruction of Ngatimamoe
Internal dissensions
Chapter VI.— Mythology, Ancient
History, Legends and Poetry,
etc., etc. —
Rangi and Papa . .


Tawhake .

Ancient home in Hawaiki
Origin of the name Hawaiki . .
How Maoris got to New Zealand
Pleasing traits in Maori character . .
Hinemoa ..
Te Ponga and Puhihuia

Magical wooden head . •
Taniwhas .
Proverbs . .

Proofs of refinement of feeling and
intelligence ..




Maori chief
Figure-head of Maori canoe . .

Pita Te Hori

War canoes
Maori ladies
Greenstone ornament
Specimens of carved boxes, etc.
Whatas or storehouses . .
Specimens of carved sternposts


Chapter I.

THIS sketch of the History of the South
Island Maoris from the commencement
of their occupation of the country until Ngai
Tahu became established as the rulers of it, is
intended to complete the accounts of the Ngai
Tahu tribe which have already appeared in the
author's Stories of Kaiapohia and Banks

The materials for this sketch were collected
between 1859 and 1863, from native chiefs
residing in different parts of the island, who
were recognized by their fellow countrymen as
authorities upon all questions relating to the
history of the Maori race. The knowledge
which they possessed had been handed down
to them by tradition. But as the reliability of
any oral tradition may fairly be questioned, I will
endeavour to show why these may be considered
worthy of credit, and also how in the absence of
a written language, the Maoris were enabled
accurately to preserve their history. Classes


for instruction in the various subjects of
knowledge cultivated by the people existed in
every tribe. These classes, which were held in
a building specially set apart for the purpose,
called the Whare-pu-rakau, or Armoury, were
opened annually with great ceremony at the
beginning of winter, the date being fixed by
the rising of Puaka (Rigel), a star in the
constellation of Orion, which took place between
May and June.

The classes were kept open for about three
months. Instruction was imparted by a band
of "tohungas," or skilled persons. The subjects
taught comprised the myths relating to the
origin of all things, and to the gods and demi-
gods, the religious beliefs of the race, charms
and incantations, the rules of " tapu," legends,
fables, history (national and tribal), laws, gene-
alogies, treatment of diseases, astronomy,
agriculture, etc. The most proficient of the
pupils trained in these schools formed the
learned class, from which the "tohungas" were
from time to time chosen.

To Europeans whose memories have not
been exercised and trained to the same extent
that the Maoris memories were, it seems almost
incredible that so large an amount of knowledge
on such a variety of subjects could have been
preserved for any length of time by oral
tradition ; but a comparison of the most ancient
traditions of the Maoris of New Zealand with
those of other branches of their race scattered


over the Pacific, from all intercourse with whom
they had been cut off for many centuries, proves
that they have been correctly handed down, as
they are identical in every particular point.
" You white men," the Maoris say, " keep your
knowledge on your bookshelves, we carry it
about with us in our memories "

Every tribe was composed of hapus, and every
hapu of families. Each family, hapu, and iwi
carefully preserved the names of their ancestors,
and their ancestors' wives and offspring. In
transmitting this knowledge, the greatest care
was taken to avoid errors, because, as the Maoris
were very punctilious in the matter of preced-
ence, a mistake made on the occasion of any
public assembly of the tribes might be construed
into an insult, and result in a blood feud. Such
mistakes were all the more likely to happen
from the custom which prevailed, when speaking
of a chief, of alluding to him as a relation —
"Brother, uncle, son, grandson, nephew, brother-
in-law," etc., etc. A very accurate knowledge
of tribal genealogies was therefore required to
enable a speaker to apply to any given person
that term which exactly described the rank to
which he was entitled in the tribe. This know-
ledge was not confined to a class of learned
genealogists, but was possessed by every
rangatira or native gentleman. To acquire it,
each one from childhood up was obliged to make
this subject a constant study ; and the public
recitals which were held at frequent intervals


kept the names and the facts connected with
them always fresh in their memories ; for,
besides the names of their ancestors it was held
to be of equal importance to know the deeds
for which they were distinguished. The value
attached by the Maoris to land is too well known.
From the time that the first arrivals from
Hawaiki ascended the highest mountains to
partition all the country they could see from
thence amongst themselves, the title to land has
been a fruitful source of strife. Every part of
the country was owned and named. Not only
were the large mountains, rivers, and plains
named, but every hillock, streamlet, and valley.
These names frequently contained allusions to
persons or events, and thus served to perpetuate
the memory of them and to preserve the history
of the past. Every Maori was required to
know by what title the land claimed by his tribe
was held, whether by right of original occupa-
tion, conquest, purchase, or gift ; and thus it
happened that traditions relating to the same
transactions were preserved by tribes whose
interests were antagonistic ; and several
opportunities have been afforded in recent
times of comparing these accounts, which have
been transmitted for several generations through
separate and independent channels, and they
have invariably been found to agree. With
this fact before us, it is hardly possible to deny
the historical value of a large portion of these
traditions which have been preserved by the


same method but which cannot be vouched for
in the same manner.

I experienced considerable chfficulty at first
in disentangling the complicated narratives,
because my Maori informants being themselves
so familiar with the history did not see the
necessity of explaining as they went along why
things happened as they did. They would
repeatedly break off from the continuous history
of the tribe to follow the fortunes of a favourite
hero, and again as abruptly leave him to resume
the thread of the original narrative. One
prolific source of confusion arose from the
intermarriages which took place between the
members of hostile tribes. It was bewildering
to find the same person fighting for one tribe
but wishing success to the other, and guilty of
treachery towards both. The man who married
a Ngatimamoe woman would be found plotting
the ruin of his wife's relations ; and the
Ngaitmamoe man who, by marriage with a
Ngai Tahu woman, was admitted to that tribe,
would still sympathize with his own people, and
betray his connections whenever he could.
Another element of confusion arose from the
two tribes being spoken of as totally distinct
from each other, whereas they had a common
origin, and this fact afforded the only explanation
of many strange things done on either side. The
history throughout is one dark narrative of
treachery and ferocity, brightened here and
there by displays of great courage and occasional
acts of generosity.


The method I have adopted for ascertaining
the chronological order in which the various
events occurred, has been first to form a genea-
logical table, and then allowing ^twenty years
for a generation, to count back the generations
from the present time, and thus fix the date of
any event by the position in the table which
the persons connected with it occupy. Of
course this plan only gives an approximate date,
but it is sufficiently near to render the history
intelligible, though further investigation may
lead to some alteration beincj made here and
there in the sequence of events.

The history may be divided into four periods :

I St. Prior to the arrival of Waitaha.

2nd. Waitaha occupation, 1477 to 1577.

3rd. Ngatimamoe occupation, 1577 to

4th. NgaiTahu occupation, 1677 to 1827
(the date of Rauparaha's invasion).

'^I have fixed on twenty years, as the Maoris married early.

Chapter II.

THE traditions may be divided into three
classes : — The Fabulous, the Uncertain, and
the Reliable. The Fabulous relate to pre-
historic times, and to supernatural beings ; the
Uncertain relate to those tribes which have
perished, and whose only memorial is contained
in the fragmentary notices which occur in the
history of those who superseded and survive
them ; the Reliable comprise the history of
Ngai Tahu during the last two hundred years.

The Fabulous traditions relate to the Kahui
TiPUA or band of ogres, a mythical race who
are said to have been the first occupants of this
island. They are described as giants who could
stride from mountain range to mountain range,
swallow rivers, and transform themselves into
anything animate or inanimate that tbey choose.

When RoNGO-i-TUA (Fame-from-afar) arrived
from Hawaiki, he found the country inhabited
by these ogres, who on seeing the stranger,
ordered food to be set before him ; their servants
brought specimens of all their choicest delicacies,
but Rongo hardly tasted anything, and presently
asked for a bowl of water to be brought. This



he placed behind him, so as to conceal what he
did. Then unfastening his waist-belt, he took
from it some dried kumaras (sweet potatoes)
which he placed in the bowl, and having mashed
them into a pulp, he mixed them with water
and handed the bowl to his hosts. When the
Kahui Tipua tasted the sweetness of the
mixture, they wanted more of it, and asked
their afuest where he Qfot it from ; he told them
from across the sea. Soon after this, Tua-kaka-
riki, one of their number, found a large totara
tree on the beach, cast up by the sea. He
measured its lenQ^th, and found, after extending
his arms alono- it ten times, that he had not
reached the end of it. Delig^hted with his
discovery, he hastened back to the pa. In the
meantime, Rongo-i-tua reached the beach, and
seeing the tree, mounted upon it, and made a
mark near the butt end. When he, afterwards,
heard Tua-kakariki claiming the tree by right
of prior discovery, he told the people that it
could not be claimed by Tua-kakariki, as it
belonged to him long before in Hawaiki, from
which place it had followed him ; and that if
they went and examined it, they would find his
private mark upon it, made before leaving
home. The discovery of the mark settled the
(|uestion of ownership in favour of Rongo-i-tua.
The tree was subsequently split in two, and out
of each half a canoe was made ; one called
Manuka, the other Arai-te-Uru. Manuka was
first finished, and the Kahui Tipua, impatient



to possess the kumara, sailed away to Hawaiki
in search of it. They obtained a cargo, and
returned ; but, on planting them, they were
disappointed to find that none grew. In the
meantime, Rongo-i-tua sailed away on the same
errand in Arai-te-Uru. On reaching Whanga
ra (sunny cove), the place in Hawaiki where
the kumara grew, he ordered his men to
surround the chiefs house. They heard the
people inside repeating the kumara charms and
incantations. " Ah," said Rongo " those
karakias are what you need. Learn them."
After listening for a while, he and his men
acquired the knowledge they needed to ensure
the successful cultivation of the kumara.
RoNGO-i-TUA then sent his canoe back under
the command of Paki-hiwi-tahi and Hape-ki-
TAURAKi, as he intended to remain for some
time longer in Hawaiki. The voyage to New
Zealand was safely accomplished, and the cargo
partly discharged, when the canoe Arai-te-Uru
was caught in a storm and capsized off Moeraki,
the remains of the cargo being strewn along
the beach, where the petrified eel baskets and
calabashes and kumeras can still be seen at low
tide. When the time came for Rongo to return
he stepped in one day from Hawaiki to Ao-tea-
roa. The Kahui Tipua first saw a rainbow,
which suddenly assumed the form of a man,
and Rongo stood amongst them, hence he was
ever afterwards called Ronco tikei or Rongo
the " Strider."


Tama-tea-pokai-whenua (Fair-Son — the cir-
cum-navigator), enjoys the credit of being the
first to explore the coastline of this island, and
to give names to the various places which he
discovered. The promontory at the base of
the On- Lookers was named Kai-koura by him
because it was there he landed to cook crawfish.
The chief object for which the voyage was
undertaken by Tama was to discover the hiding
place of his three wives who had deserted him.
At the entrance of every inlet round the coast
he waited and listened for any sound which
might serve to indicate the whereabouts of the
runaways. But it was not till he arrived off
the mouth of the Arahura river that he heard
voices ; he immediately landed, but could not
discover his wives, being: unable to recognize


them in the enchanted stones which strewed
the bed of the river, and over which its waters
murmuringly Howed. He did not know that
the canoe, in which his wives escaped, had
capsized at this spot, and that they and the crew
had been changed into blocks of stone.
Accompanied by his servant, he proceeded

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Online LibraryJames West StackSouth Island Maoris, a sketch of their history and legendary lore → online text (page 1 of 8)