FUNERAL OF TE PUNI.
The report which we were enabled yesterday to give of the proceedings immediately following the burial of Te Puni at Petoni, was necessarily brief. We now fur Dish, at more length than we could then, the remarks made by the Hon. Mr. Fitzherbert and the Hon. the Native Minister, Donald M'Lean, Esq. The occasion is regarded naturally enough by many of the earlier settlera as an important historical event, not only of this Province, but of the Colony of New Zealand. It is many years since so many of the first settlers of Wellington assembled together, and the occasion will be the last with many amongst them. Younger men, and those who have arrived within the past 20 years, are quite unable to realise the estimation and friendship with which the aged chief was ever regarded by the first Colonists. It is equally impossible to convey to anyone at this time of day a proper idea of the many useful and valuable services so cheerfully rendered by Te Puni and the Maoris of Petoni to the early settlers of Port Nicholson. Disagreeable, wet, and unpleasant though the day was, yet the many hundreds who attended, patiently and willingly walked through the rain, and remained till the last sad rite was over. There were also frequent evidences that it was not a mere formal ceremony that was performed, but a tribute of genuine respect and sincere regard that was paid to an old friend's memory and to departed worth. The Hon. Mr. Sewell, Minister of Justice, in the abseuce of Mr. M'Lean, had issued orders on behalf of the Government, that as many as possible of well known old residents should be asked to be present ; and excellent arrangements were made for their conveyance to the Hutt from town. Nearly every setttler, including many ladies, of any note living near Petoni, were also present. Ample arrangements were made by the Government authorities for refreshments to those who had been invited, both at Valentine's and at Osgood's. The majority of the volunteers remained at Valentine's, whilst those who were uiore intimately known to Epuni partook of luncheon at Osgood's. It should be borne in mind that for nearly an hour several hundred persons were exposed to a penetrating mist, which was varied by heavy showers, and all of course reached their destinations more or less thoroughly wet. It was about a quarter to one when the first paity (for there were two or three followed) sat down to lunch, and the chair was filled by the Hon. D. M'Lean (Native Minister), and tbe "vice-chair by the Hon. Mr. Sewell (Minister of Justice, and Acting Colonial Secretary). On the right of Mr. M'Lean was the .Right Rev. the Bishop of Wellington, who has laboured amongst the natives for 30 years, next to whom was his Worship the May or. On the other hand was J. E. FitzGeralcl, Esq., the eloquent pleader for what he considered Maori rights, with whom was his young son. Amongst the old settlers, we noticed G. Hunter, W. Lyon, A, Ludlam, G. Crawford, A. Brandon, J. H. Wallace, W. Seed, C. B. Borlase, J. Woodward, R. J. Duncan, Robert Hart, G. Moore, D. Lewis, G. Allan, E. W. Mills, T. Mills, J. Halse (of the Native Office), besides Colonels Harrington and Reader, Captain Pearce, W.A.V., Archdeacon Stock, Rev. James Paterson, J. Hackworth Esq. (Collector of Customs), C. T. Batkin, and. many others. No toasts were proposed, and the one subject — namely, the removal of old Epuni, and the meeting together of old faces and friends, with the events of past years — was the principal topic of conversation. As the party were about leaving the room — many to return to town — the Hon. Mr. M'Leaji rose, and said that before they parted, and on the occasion of the death of the oldest and most respected chief of this part of New Zealand, of whom so many entertained the kindliest recollections, he thought it would be a pity that some word should not be said, and was glad, therefore, to state that Mr. Fitzherberfe, who was acquainted with Epuni from the earliest days, had consented to make a few remarks on the event, which had caused the assembling of so many of the old • settlers of Wellington. Mr. Fitzherbert, who was visibly affected during the delivery of his speech, said that he had been called upon in an unexpected manner by Mr. M'Leau to say a few words on the melancholy occasion of their being assembled together. He wished that some one better able than himself had been asked, but he assured them that no one felt more deeply than he did the value of old Epuni's character, and was proud of the honor at being requested to say a few brief words on the occasion. It was one that did not call for any eloquence of words, but it was one that ought not to be passed over in silenoe. All knew that a word of sympathy — a look even— if omitted at certain times in our lives, caused pain. Thirty years ago the spot they were now at partaking of refreshments was covered by a dense forest— except a few patches cleared here md there by our deceased friend and his followers.. In 20 or 30 years hence it would become a very nourishing town, in a district destined to hold an important place in these glorious islands, which would play a great part and exercise vast influence in the colonization of the South Pacific. (Hear hear. ) The mere fact of such being the case was due in some measure to the conduct of Honiana te Puni, who was a gentleman — a born gentlemau — one of nature's noblemen. (Cheers. ) He saw around him many offjthe old settlers who knew this more than any others, and felt that they had lost a friend. Had he (Erjuui) ever listened to suggestions less than that of gentleness and nobleness, or to men of lower minds than his own, how different would have been the early history of Wellington ; and the colonisation of Neir Zealand might have been indefinitely postponed, if not abandoned for years. (Hear, near. ) This was not an unbefitting occasion to refer to such a matter, for had it not been for our friend and other chiefs who had in other parts of the island acted in an equally noble manner, neither we nor our children could have remained in. the land. Times, have been when the question gxose wheu tho settler^ were weak and few in number, and the na? tives were powerful, if the old race should not rise as one man, and expel tfye white rnenj but it was due to oi^r deceased friend to say that it was owing to him and other chieftains that such ideas were strangled in their first conception. Whatever may have been our confidence in our own strength,, it might not be gratifying to acknowledge it, but nevertheless it was simply the record of an historical fact to state that it was due to the forbearance of the natives, and the firm friendship of Honiana Te Puni, that such a thing was never attempted. If years afterwards it took 10,000 British soldiers to make an impression on the native tribes., how was it to be* accounted for that a few hardy and noble settlers remained at amity with the natives, although surrounded and outnumbered by them on all sides, but for the
friendly influence of him who has left us ? It was natural that we should pay a tribute to the remains of that chief who had just been appropriately laid on the sands of that sea beach, where the pioneers of this settlement first landed. How much aud how deeply do we lament the loss of such a friend. He died, having lived to an extreme old age ; nature was utterly exhausted, and the lamp of life had fairly burnt out. He passed from amongst with as little of the pain of dissolution as it was possible to conceive, surrounded by many of the comforts of life. It would ever be a subject of pleasant memory to us that when it became our turn to be the dominant and powerful race, we had done all in our power, to repay the deceased chief in some measure the debt we owed. We had thrown around ! him the tegis of our protection. We 1 had not forgotten in the day of our power to requite the good which he conferred on us. His small wants and complaints were always attended to and promptly redressed. The history of the last 10 years possessed much significance. We have in this Colony been trying to solve the greatest problem ever given to men in modern times, viz., the co-existence in the same country of native and civilised races. He contended that, notwithstanding what the ignorant of this and other Colonies may have urged us to do, we have trreated the natives with strict justice, and had only punished them for offences, the justice of which were admitted by themselves. When land had been confiscated, it had been in perfect accordance with their oavu prac« tices as well as ours. We had endeavoured to nourish aud cherish the race, and we had done with them as if they had been of the same race as ourselves. Whether in ordinary life, in the Courts of Justice, or on the field of battle, they had ever received greater consideration thau men of our race. He could say no more than that we had lived amongst them, and had faithfully tried to discharge our duty. No page of our future history would be read with greater pride than our conduct with respect to the native race generally, and he was sure that the last closing scene, orpageant,it might becalled,by which we have endeavored to show respect to the memory of the deceased chief, j would be long aud gratefully remembered by all those of both races who were pi-esent ; we had done all in our power to comfort the I life and show honor at the death of our departed friend. The honorable gentleman sat down amidst loud and continued cheering. The Hon. Mr. M'Lean, on behalf of the Government, thanked the public for having so readily responded to their wishes, by attending the ceremony, and said that this was the first public funeral accorded to a native chief since the establishment of the Colony ; and felt certain that its influence would be most beneficially felt throughout this island among the native- tribes j and hoped that the motives of the settlers would be appreciated elsewhere. (Loud cheers.) The various parties at once returned to Wellington. We ought not omit mentioning that the Maoris had erected a large marquee, and had bought large quantities of wines, cakes, &c, for the purpose of entertaining the Europeans. The bad weather spoilt this portion of the programme, as it kept away hundreds of people.
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Evening Post, Evening Post, Volume VI, Issue 256, 10 December 1870
FUNERAL OF TE PUNI. Evening Post, Volume VI, Issue 256, 10 December 1870
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