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A Maori Relic.

The "Transactions" of the New Zealand Institute for this year contain a report of a discussion among savants at Wellington, respecting a curious object, regarding which there is a division of opinion whether it is an extremely valuable Maori relic, or a case of '' Bill Stumps M his mark." Major Wilson, J.P., of Waikato, has in his possession a bird, carved in stone, the figure, 16£ inches long and weighing about 4£lbs, representing, as well as can be made out, a sort of sea-gull. The stone is a dark green serpentine, said to be a North American stone ; the detail of the carving is said to be in the Japanese manner, and the bird it is supposed to represent is an inhabitant of a belt of the South Pacific, a little north of New Zealand. Major Wilson purchased this image from a Native named Albert Walker some dozen years or so ago, and the question is : Where did Walker get it? The story he told to Major Wilson, which induced him to give £50 for the bird, was that it was found in the roots of a large manuka tree, blown down by a storm. The figure for some time after its discovery lay at Cambridge, and was there seen by an old chieftainess who at once bowed herself before it and sang a «ong about it, under the name "Korotangi.;) The Maoris say this carved stone bird was brought by their ancestors when they came to the country from Hawaiki, in the canoe " Tainui," and the news of its finding caused a great commotion, as it had been lost for many generations. It was the custom of the tribes to commit valuable relics to the care of Tohungas or priests, who used to hide them with great care. It appears that the tohunga who " planted " this relic did it so well that h,e could not find it again ; or perhaps he fell among enemies and was killed, There is. no do.iibt that the Maoris did bring with them some sort of image of a bird, and that this was somehow lost, for all the tribes had songs lamenting its loss. A passage in one of these laments, published in 1853, long before the Korotangi was found, has been translated— "Look, girl, at the duck that swims there, " It is naught, it is a Maori cluck, " We must look at the feathers that "Have been carved and brought from a distance. " Where is Korotau (Korotangi) who is missing 1" Another song has the following :— "My daughters, look ye on the ducks, "Down in the di?ta,nce floating. Ah ! these are c * Not like him. That is the common bird. " Let us gaze upon the feathers carved " In lands remote." While the Maoris were excited by the find, the savants among the settlers were greatly interested, and the subject was much talked about. For a long time this image was accepted without question as the genuine Korotangi, the long lost bird from "lands remote." Three ye^rs ago however a bombshel} W as dropped into the camp of the believers in it. Lieut.-Col McDonnell wrote a letter to Major Gudgeon, wlio laid it before the Wellington -Institute, in which he stated * «fc *I 1«r ir id was a fmud ' Perpetrated by Alfred Walker upon Major Hay, wlip-sold it to Major Wilson for £5, Now part of thjs storjr has fce ; en proved to be false, I

for Major Wilson states that he bought the bird from Walker direct, and gave not £5 but £50 for it. Walker, it appears, a sailor, is now absent from the colony, somewhere among the South Sea Islands. It would seem that Major Wilson's proof that part of Col. McDonnell's account was incorrect, is sufficient to discredit the rest; but the genuineness of this alleged korotangi is also doubted by the learned in Maori lore, because the native traditions are so much more vague than they should be if this image is the korotangi. It appears to be an isolated case in which poetic tradition does not include a minute history of the article, and at least the name of the person by whom it was lost, and so the Wellington Philosophers are divided in opinion about it, ; . some believing it a genuine relic, others that it is a modern edition of " Bill Stumps M his mark," and each party will retain its opinion until Mr Walker returns—and then probably one or other will disbelive him, whatever he may say. In the report oi the discussion before us, there is no hint that it occurred to anyone taking part in it, that the defect in the native tradition, whatever its importance, is a defect that equally exists whether this image is genuine or not; therefore no argument could be founded upon that deficiency.

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Bibliographic details

A Maori Relic., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2486, 8 August 1890

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A Maori Relic. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2486, 8 August 1890

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