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THE MAORI AND THE MOA.

Mr. C. IV. Purnell, Ashburton, in Ike “ Victorian Pexinw. ” Modern investigations into the origin and affinities of living races of men have proved of a more fruitful character than most of tho antiquarian researches of the last twenty years, which, claiming to have virtually solved man’s genesis, have really added little to our knowledge of that subject, beyond the fact that man has been an inhabitant of the earth for a much longer period than was supposed. Even where living races are concerned, when the thick rind of hypothesis is stripped off, the kernel of fact is extremely small, while in many cases chaos is introduced where order erstwhile reigned. Tho subject of this article is a case in point. The old notion was that tho Maoris came to New Zealand from Hawaihi—interpreted to mean Hawaii, one of the Sandwich Islands—in seven canoes, about 500 years ago ; that they fsund the country uninhabited by man, and the moi occupying it in great numbers ; that they were accustomed to use this bird as an article of food ; that the moa became extinct, if it were extinct, but a short time before the arrival of Europeans; and that, briefly, it was probable a few specimens of tho moa would still be found alive in remote parts of the interior. The theory was simple and easy to he understood; and being so, the philosophers promptly demolished it. An active enquiry has been going on in tho colony for some years past relative to the origin of the Maoris, and the date of the extinction of the moa. As to to the first branch of the' enquiry, the net result is that the Sandwich Islands are no longer regarded as the point from which the Maoris ’emigrated to New Zealand. A variety of reasons can he urged against t.hia view, but I do not think a better summary of them could be made than has been given by Mr. W. Colenso, F. L. S., Who contributed an excellent essay on the Maoris to the first volume of th».“ Transactions of the IS ew Zealand Institute. TTis summary against the Sandwich Island theory is this (1) The utter impossibility of the Maoris having come such a distance 65 ® of latitude) against the prevailing winds in their frail open canoes ; and (2) The irreconcilable differences which exist in the habits, customs, manufactures, traditions and religion of the Sandwich Islanders and the Maoris. “ Byway of illustration, the following may be briefly mentioned 4 (bearing in mind, that the New Zealanders, like most other uncivilised people, most pertinac.ously adhere to the plans, patterns, and sort of things made by their ancestors) : (a) all the various kinds of the New Zealand canoes are very differently made from those of the Sandwich Islands ; (b) they have no outrigger; (c) the N w Zealanders never use the kjFva root (notwithstanding a very closely allied specie of the piper grows throughout New Zealand); (d) nor the bow and arrow; (e) the New Zealanders invariably carry their burdens on their backs, the Sandwich Islanders on a balance-pole over the shoulders ; (f) the New Zealander has no words for swearing, oath or vow ; (g) the New Zealander never practiced circumcision ; (h) nor had any temples for religious worship; (i) nor idols; (j) nor king; (k) they knew not the names of the numerous chief gods of the Sandwich islands; (1) their old customs respecting their chiefs. &c., do not agree ; (m) their tattooing is different ; (n) they had no £ refuge cities ’ (a most remarkable custom, only found at the Sandwich Islands.”) There is (3) fm£lJtirno vestige of any of their several emigrations from Hawaihi and of the wars, Ac., which occasion them (as related by the New Zealanders) to be found in the ancient history of the people of the Sandwich Islands, whose traditions are much more ancient and clear than thosi of the New Zealander?. The Sandwich Islands being inadmissable, opinion now inclines to Sarah, the principal island of the Samoan group, as the Maori Hawaihi. But it should be noted that other Polynesian people besides the Maories look to an island Hawaihi—the name being spelt in a variety of ways, so as to suit local dialects —as the place whence they emigrated to their present abodes. The learned fancy of dissolving all historical tradit ons into myths has been at play here, as elsewhere, and the mythologists have made up their minds that “Hawaihi” is a Polynesian Garden of Eden, the allegorical birthplace of the race. It is an easy way of saving the trouble of investigation ] but the Maori accounts of the navigation from Hawaihi are for too circumstantial to permit us to adopt the myth theory, and are, moreover, corroborated by .facts which testify to their accuracy. The names of the canoes which bore the South Sea argonauts, the names of the chiefs who led the expedition, and some of the incidenls which occurred upon its arrival at New Zealand, are all preserved in Maori lore. It has been handed down from father to son that tho immigrants brought with them some of the dogs which they had been accustomed to use for food, and it is admitted by zoologists both that the Maori dog, now extinct, was identical in breed with the South Sea Island dog, and also that it was not indigenous to New Zealand. So tradition affirms that the cargo of one of the canoes, called the Aotea, included sweet potatoes, live edible rats in boxes, and tame green parrots. Of another canoe, the Arawa, it is related that when the voyagers approached the shores of New Zealand they were struck with the. beauty of the rata blossom, and one of them, named Taminihi, ‘ ’ threw away his kura”—which was a head-dress made of red feathers, described by Oook as worn by the South Sea Islanders—thinking to get a new and better one from the rata flowers. This kura drifted ashore, and it was afterwards picked up by a person named Mahina, who refused to restore it when asked ; hence the proverb still commonly in use, “ Kura-pae-a Mahina,” signifying a waif or godsend. If the rata was in bloom when the Arawa arrived, it must have been about the month of February. Many other little incidents might be quoted to show the circumstantial nature of the account given by the Maoris of their coming to New Zealand, and of the extreme improbability of Hawaihi being a mythical locality. Moreover, there are traditions extant of return visits made to Hawaihi both by the first emigrants and their successors. It is related by one of the named Nga-bori-i-rangi, that, being carried by a favorable wind he reached Hawaihi in seven days and nights after leaving New Zealand. A piece of detail showing the distance which the natives imagined Hawa ; hi to be from New Zealand. This migration of the Maoris from Hawaihi to New Zealand was a surprising event. The grand expedition—if it may be so termed —did not set out on a blind voyage of discovery, looking for new worlds to conquer. The voyagers knew that a large and fertile country existed south of their own home before they sailed. A southern Don Juan, Kupe by name, eloped with another man s wife, and setting off in a canoe, called Matalionia, drifted down to New Zealand, where he visited both islands — s P e ?h more precisely, he circumnav the North and discovered the Middle, or South Island, as it is usually called by the settlers—while doing so.' He did not, however, settle in New Zealand, but returned to Hawaihi, having apparently taken his marine excursion for the purpose of giving the injured husband’s wrath time to cool. Then Ngahue went to the new land, and gave it a name, the first name it’bore in history—Aotea roa, or “ the long day,” and, ultimately the' great •

expedition set ou J , from which the present Maoris derive their descent. Now, when we reflect that the Samaon group is about twenty degrees of latitude north of New Zealand and that the Kermadce Islands, the nearest group to New Zealand, are nevertheless 400 or 500 miles distant ; remembering, also, that these South Sea voyagers possessed nothing that could properly be called a ship ; still more, that they were without a compass, and that virtually the whole of their voyage was made out of sight of land, we are hound to acknowledge, in most liberal terms, their possession of maritime skdl and courage. To each of them the words of the Latin poet arc applicable :—■ “ Illi robuv et ess tiiplex Circa pectus erat qui fragilem tnici Commissit pelagcm ratem Primus.” The South Sea Islanders have ever been bold sailors, and those who sailed down to New Zealand, there to found a barbarous community, full of intelligence and vigor, but wasting it in fierce wars and cannibal atrocities, were distinguished ones. They have retained their maritime courage till modern days. Several times, according to Mr Edward Shortland, a competent authority, have attempts been made by Maoris to return to Hawaihi, and only about five-and-thirty years ago “ an instance occurred at Tauranga, on the east coast of the North Island, where a family fitted out and provisioned a canoe for a” long voyage, and then put to sea with a design of returning to that island, having no better guides than the stars and the tradition of its position. The fate of these intrepid voj'agers was, of course never known in New Zealand. Some of the Maori kindred, instead of going to New Zealand, went to the Chathams, 600 miles to the eastward. How they discovered these remote islands, lying quite out of the track of their ordinary voyages, we cannot guess ; nor do we know whether their departure was coincident or not with that of the emigrants to New Zealand- Probably it was : the traditions of the Morions (as the Chatham Islanders are now called), like those of the Maoris, ascribe the migration to the devastating wars in Hawaihi ; and inasmuch as other South Sea Islanders possess traditions of their own of a similar character, we may conclude that at this particular juncture, society in Hawaihi had become disorganised through internal feuds, and a general exodus took place in consequence. However, the people who went to the Chathams found another race already in possession, taller, darker in color than themselves, and tracing their descent back through thirty generations to Rongomai, a Polynesian demigod, and also looking to Hawaihi as their ancestral home. Subsequently, a batch of Maoris came down from New Zealand (how they learned of the existence of the Chathams, tradition does not tell us), and all three tribes were finally interfused, composing a people with a different language from that of the Maoris, or at all events, a strongly-marked dialect of the mother tongue, and further characterised by peculiar manners and customs.

It was not want of room that drove the Maoris who went to the Chathams from New Zealand thither. New Zealand was big enough and to spare for a hundred times the number of its inhabitants at that time ; but its people were constantly fighting and killing one another; the loving spirit, too, was strong upon them. We were about to write—constantly killing and eating one another, but that might have been incorrect, because, if we are to believe a Maori legend, it was not until after their arrival in New Zealand that the Maoris took to cannibalism, although when they did acquire the habit, they became the most ferocious cannibals under the sun. This legend also indicates that after the first grand immigration, other influxes of Maoris took place ; and, indeed, if such a tradition had not existed it would have been difficult to account for the immense number of people, comparatively speaking, which occupied the islands at the lime of Captain Cook’s visit, or even for the reduced numbers since, inasmuch as, according to Maori traditions, the Maoris have not been in the country for a longer period than from 350 to 500 years. (to be continued )

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http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AG18800304.2.12

Bibliographic details

THE MAORI AND THE MOA., Ashburton Guardian, 4 March 1880

Word Count
2,023

THE MAORI AND THE MOA. Ashburton Guardian, 4 March 1880

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