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MIDDLE ISLAND NATIVES.

THE LAND COURT.

To the Native mind the interest of years centres towards the sittings of the Land Courts. Whether it is due to " earth hunger," or whether it arises from a covetous desire for other men's goods, or that, in its proceedings, there is a source of entertainment to the mind, we do not know. But, directly a Land Court Is expected, the Native mind becomes excited, and the whole bapus collect to the centre in which the sittings are held to sit for days watching the proceedings. From days historical the Maoris have been remarkable for their order and obedience to the Courts, and, over tbe most exciting matters, are willing to talk it out. For days the hapus have been centring towards Tuahiwi (Kaiapoi), the head quarters of the Ngaitahu, aud yesterday a further influx was anticipated from the Wast Coast.

Tuahiwl nowadays boasts a neat village of Maori residences. The old whares have long been a thing of the past, iv their places being erected substantial cottages with gardens in front and fenced enclosures. The country around, which was a dense native forest, at present does not bear the resemblance of ever having been otherwise than an open plain. In the village is a neat school and church, as woll as an assembly hall, the latter used far the meetings of Runanga, capable of holding about 200 persons. In front of the hall stands the flag-pole of the township, from which when tbe Court sits is spread the New Zealand nag, with the name of the tribe in white letters upon It. The Court has been well arranged and ordered. Upon the platform is placed two tables, covered respectively with green and red cloths. At the former presides the Judge, Colonel Trimble, who rules his Court in a firm and "matter of fact way. At the other table sits the Native Assessor. Pirimi Mataiawbea, a North Island Native, of good proportion and seeming intelligence. On the > proscenium over the stage the Royal Arms of Great Britain and the Prince of Wales Feathers probably prove the fealty of the Maoris towards the Crown of Victoria, On the stage are piles of records in blue and white foolscap sheets, with the accustomed bands of red tape to prove their official nature. On the floor below the Judge is placed the Registrar, Mr S. C. 6. Vickera, and at his elbow Mr R. Booth, the Maori interpreter, seated at a table, to which the applicants draw near and spread their documents as the cases are called. In the body of the Coutt are arranged seats with comfortable backs, and yesterday were present not only a large number of men, but Maori ladies, some in the latest fashion', and some in very old examples of dress; with them they bring their babies and children. Whilst a case is being called the Natives break forth into talking, but directly a case begins all is hushed in expectation, and the deepest interest is evinced in every word as it goes from the witness to the interpreter and thence to the judge, or vice versa. The roof of the hall bears evidence of a recent convivial party, in the evergreens and strings of colored paper which remain. The place Is, however, a very convenient one for the Court, and, as one of the Natives observed In conversation, It is away from a public-house. Thus a South Island Land Court Is a teetotal affair; not that even in the North Island drinking goes on In the Court,' but outside—tell it not in Gath the scenes which are there enacted.

If the claims, which now number 255, are as speedily determined as the thirty claims of Bey. G. P. Mutu were, the Court will not hold a very long session. An Interesting succession claim, it will have been observed, was decided on Wednesday, and there will be others like it in which there is no opposition to the claimant who produces and proves in presence of this Court the existence of his genealogical tree. Few of the Natives are unable to do this sufficiently accurately to convince the Judge of the righteous nature of their claims. Each person sworn is charged 2s, and in the ease referred to for award of seven acres the fee was only Ss. When the process is so economical and easy it is not to be wondered at that tbe Maoris are anxious to avoid bringing their will cases into the Supreme Court, but desire the Land Court Judges should continue to deal with them. It may be stated, in conclusion, that the list of cases are printed and handed round to all and sundry within the precincts of the building, and probably will be treasured for years to come. '

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CHP18900815.2.17

Bibliographic details

MIDDLE ISLAND NATIVES., Press, Volume XLVII, Issue 7631, 15 August 1890

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803

MIDDLE ISLAND NATIVES. Press, Volume XLVII, Issue 7631, 15 August 1890

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