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DWELLERS IN THE FOREST.

A HILL TRIBESMAN OF TUHOE- . LAND. 1 PAITINI AND HIS COTTAGE. : . BY J. DBUMMOND, F.L.S., F.Z.S. At Ruatahuna, in the 1 heart of the Urewera Country, there stands a little cot-' tage, built partly of canvas and partly of rough planks and 'shingles hewn out of trees that • grew . close by. It is small, old,' and weather-beaten. Rose trees sprawl along the uneven fence, honeysuckle climbs up one of the walls, a weeping willow and two semi : tropical toi trees grow in front, and behind, further up the slopes of the mountain, there are apple, plum, and peach trees. A road that has opened up the fastnesses of this wild country of the' Tuhoe tribesmen runs in front of the cottage. Parallel with the road, at the bottom of the immense gorge, the Hei-pipi day and night sings a gentle song as it trips over stumps and boulders on its way, to the sea on the east coast, where it takes the name of the Whakatane River. The mountains rise up on all sides, but on the north there is a dip, through which the sun strikes the cottage and lights up the windows and the whole front. ' It is in the heart of the densest forests of New. Zealand, and occasional notes, in many keys, show that the trees, shelter species of native birds. Telegraph and telephone poles do not run in the district; newspapers do not circulate in it; time does not count; and the hills do not send back even the faintest echo of the hum of hustling civilisation. The little cottage,- in fact, is in one of the most romantic places in the wide world and in it Paitini and his wife Margaret live the simplest of simple lives, ana pass their declining days in peace and happiness, in a world of their own. They have few needs, which are easily supplied. In the shooting season Paitini slings his gun over his shoulder and goes out into the forests to shoot pigeons, which Margaret cooks to perfection. At other times of the year they catch the native trout—the palatable kokopu the. stream, with nets made by Margaret's own hands, on the pattern handed down by honoured ancestors. There are also' tawa and hinau - berries, mashed and mixed with honey, fern-root cake, flavoured with the juice of the tutu plant, squeezed out of the poisonous berries ; potatoes, wild, strawberries, and the flesh of vegetarian pigs. , , ' • The frost was on the ground, and every little pool was a sheet of thick ice when Paitini led me out of his cottage into his immense forest, one day a few weeks ago, to show me the old methods of snaring birds, taught him long before seventy years had bent his shoulders and bleached his hair and moustache. He wore a blue flannel shirt, blue dungaree trousers, .a red scarf around- his waist, and a red flannel jersey showed up on his chest where the shirt had been thrown open at the neck. He kicked off his boots and planted them in a clump of tea-tree, with the remark, "Too heavy." Bare-footed and bare-headed, he led the way into the darkness, of the forest, following tracks invisible to any eyes except his own. He. is a member of the Tuhoe people, who belong to a large number of forest-dwelling sub-tribes, well versed in the lore of the forests and of all the creatures they shelter. Civilisation has taken longer to seize them than to seize any other section of the Maori race. Old customs are still treasured there, and old ideas are lingering in tho minds of men and women who, in their younger days, believed that • the white men ,could be thrust into the sea, and that' New 'Zealand" would be left in the hands of the Maori again. With Paitini, and, no doubt, ; with many other Tuhoe tribesmen, Tane is still god of the forests, and all the trees, birds, and insects are . his children; Tangaroa is lord of the waters'; Ttangi 'and Papa are the heavens, and the earth; and Maui nearly succeeded in giving men immortality ; and in Tuhoeland, where these and other atuas hold 6way, it is advisable not , to foolishly offend them by neglecting ancient rites and practices. Paitini does not speak the English language. His spirit is proud, and he belongs to a stiff -necked generation, and perhaps on that account he has refused to relinquish/the language taught to - him in his childhood. In spite of a very seedy appearance, and a humble" residence, he likes to display his independence and his contempt for many things that are loved by the white. men whom he once hated and fought. Before we started on our tramp through the forest he swept the sky-line with his hand and said, "All my land; tousands acre!" I' asked this strange and picturesque overlord of thousands of the best broad acres in New Zealand why he did not make some use of them. He said that he would gladly sell them if the Government would allow him to do so, but as for using the land for cattle or sheep, or cultivating it, he was too old and too contented with his lot to contemplate incurring responsibilities and worries of that description. ■ When the mists began to creep down the mountains and purply shadows were cast on the distant slopes, and Tane giant children assumed gaunt and unnatural shapes, we returned to the -cottage near the road, • where Margaret had prepared a bush dinner of good pigeon and potatoes, set out on a tiny table, covered with a snow-white tablecloth. Margaret s kitchen is about ten feet, by six. The fireplace occupies nearly one side of. the room. For a few feet it is built up of clay arid rubble. On the top ot that there is a ' chimney of galvanised iron, with boards on the weather side. Chains, hanging from a heavy cross-bar, support kettle and pots over the burning firewood, and on each side there are immense hobs. The other walls of the room are furnished with shelves and racks, containing rows of plates, cups, and saucers. - It is a compact little kitchen, and it is as scrupulously clean and tidy as if old Margaret kept a whole regiment of domestic helps to attend to her household work. Most of her cooking is done in that kitchen, with such modern appliances as bush life affords, but outside in a slab lean-to she has an oven designed on the " hangi lines, adopted long before pots and pans were thought of in New Zealand, and there she usually cooks all her potatoes, steaming them on hot stones. , After dinner, Paitini, Margaret, and three little girls they have adopted gathered together in the room allotted to the visitor. It is a box somewhat smaller than the kitchen, and is used as a bedroom and a sitting-room. It has an interest ' to all friends of the Maoris, and all lovers of the forest on account of the fact that it was for some years the residence of Mr. Elsdon Best, who wrote in it some of his graphic and stirring notes on the tribesmen's forest lore. The furniture consists of a low; bed t a small table, a stool, shelves, and matting on the floor. A great tawa log sparked in the spacious fireplace, and fitfully lighted the room and the faces of its occupants. Paitini, tired with his -day's tramp up and down the forest-clad hills, reclined at full length on the floor in front of the fire, and announced through the oldest girl, Himaema —in English, Jemima bright Maori maiden of sixteen, who has been well educated at St. Joseph's Catholic College,, at Napier, and who is a very able interpreter, that he was ready to tell stories of the old days. When he was twenty-two years of age his sympathies were strongly with the Maori chiefs who raised the flag of rebellion, and he and some other men from Tuhoeland joined the Waikatos . under Rewi Maniopoto. Paitini was armed.with a rifle, and as he had a steady aim and was active and courageous, he was welcomed'as a valuable "tea."> His story of Rewi's defeat at the Orakau pa in April, 1864, where the chief shouted a defiant refusal to surrender is brief and clear. ' "' " _; -: ' :: - ; _ .- ::'.. , ~ -~/ "The soldiers," he said, "came up to the pa while the fortifications were being made and before the pa was ready. The Maoris beat them. The soldiers ; came again and the Maoris beat them again. In the night the soldiers came close up to the pa, but the Maoris could ■ not - see them. In the day-time'the. soldiers- dug

under the ground, and one day the hole they dug almost reached the - pa. . They came up by the hole, but the Maoris killed them again. -Then the soldiers brought up a great big gun, which made a terrific noise. The Maoris could not stand against it. So they left the pa, and all rushed out. I was running down the hill to get; away, when I was shot through the left leg. . I saw , two soldiers in front ' of: me, and I shot them, and then fell to the ground. AH the soldiers ran on after the Maoris who were not shot.* I crept into the raupo, and hid there. There were . ten of us. * The soldiers came back from chasing the Maoris, but went ; into the pa and did not see us. So we got away in the night, and three of us; Pomare, Horo,, and I, came back to Ruatahuna, because the fighting was over and there was nothing more to be done. That was the end of it." Four years later he had : joined Te Kooti's Hauhaus t and. was again under arms- against the white men. He was present at T. the affair at Mohaka, near Napier, where Europeans and Maoris were killed, but. immediately afterwards he left the rebels and returned once more to Ruatahuna, to come forth a third time when the Tuhoes tried to stop the advance of the soldiers at Tatahoa, where Margaret .was also present. • Paitini describes Rewi. Maniopoto as a . fine man, but v his great -hero, some people will be surprised to learn, was Te Kooti. " I was sorry for him and for the -way he had been treated," he said, " and that is why I joined him." ' Evidently a close personal friendship sprang „up between the two men. Europeans who saw Te Kooti both before and after he escaped from the Chatham Islands describe him as an undersized, ugly, ill-favoured and insignificant man, with a mean presence - and a demeanour that was not at all prepossessing. Both Paitini and Margaret, however, agree that he was an excsptionally tall man, and they say that he was handsome, and was generous to his followers. ' In- a wooden trunk Paitini keeps a, black cloth overcoat, given to :him by his chief, the only personal memento, it is stated, Te Kooti" ever gave. The coat has never been much worn. It seems to be quite new, and when Paitini put \it on and buttoned it up it was clear that ,it had been made for a man of large proportions. Paitini insisted that Te Kooti was a good man, and wished' to do something for the Maoris. After he escaped from the Chat-hams, Paitini added, Te Kooti's intention was to make his way to the Urewera- Country, and there live in peace amongst his people. > He did not wish to fight or to. seek revenge, and would not have created trouble if he had been i left alone. According •to Paitini he had two other names, Te Turuki and Rikirangi, and he was by nature, if not by ; birth, a real rangatira. "But enough of • this," the old man said, as he folded up the coat and placed it in its box again; " we will how talk of other things,'' and he chanted in Maori ' several sayings and songs relating to birds. They were written in Maori by his interpreter; at his dictation, and were afterwards translated for me" by Mr. Best. f One": is ; the song of the parasitical shining; cuckoo and long-tailed cuckoo, which place < their eggs in the nests of the whitehead and other small native birds and leave them to hatch the young. The words are : "0, son, who sleepest there, awake, and arise!; When strangers ask, 'whose child is this? swift be your answer, 'I am the offspring of the shining cuckoo, of i the long-tailed cuckoo, left for the whitehead .to cherish. • Another song, in. the form of a lament, was composed .by :an old woman named Mihi-Ki-te-Kapua, when her children were scattered and she was . left alone and friendless. Into it she introduced a reference to the belief, still shared by Paitini, that, the • kiwi lays! its eggs in holes under the roots of the tawai or f agus tree, covers them ' with leaves, and : allows them to hatch out, a process . which takes so long that they block the entrance to the; hole. •The old .woman, in expressing, the. deep ! feelings •of her heart,; compared her children to the black petrel, the Maori s titi, and'herself to the kiVi's egg. , " The wailing titi flies onward and alights m pairs, but I, 0 bird, am like the kiwi egg left under a tawai tree, which, when .hatched, will be my only offspring. A-favourite amusement of the ancient Maoris was to teach captive tuis to. repeat sayings, especially when visitors arrived at the settlements, the words, ".Welcome,; welcome, . O distinguished guest," being .frequently used. He chanted several of these, and his interpreter repeated them in .the soft and silvery tones noticeable in the speech of the Tuhoe girls and women. ' The old man then announced that the time to sleep had come. He dismissed his womenfolk with a word and a wave, ot his hand. As they opened the cottage door to go to their own detached compartment, some twenty yards away, I heard them cry out loudly to frighten off the «vil spiirts who still come about on dark.nights in Tuhoeland, and ' I heard them raaior their lives lest they should be caught. Paitini ; then j took off : his coat and , made a pillow of it, ; wrapped himself in a fourfold blanket, curled : up on the hard floor in front of the fire, and soon snored loudly. On turning down the .blankets on the bed I saw on a white pillow-case, done neatly in needlework, the words, "Ee Moe ffi Kaha," an invitation to." sleep, strongly, which was not wasted. .My sound sleep was broken only once, shortly after midnight, when I awoke to find Paitini piling wood on the fire. The drawback to ] the ordinary fire, he explained, mostly by signs,.is that while it roasts. one side of a man the other side might be quite frozen, and he suggested that it; would be a good thing to have a fire which would keep both sides warm at the same time. He had hardly concluded this wise remark before he was fast asleep again.

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http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NZH19110819.2.104.7

Bibliographic details

DWELLERS IN THE FOREST., New Zealand Herald, Volume XLVIII, Issue 14763, 19 August 1911, Supplement

Word Count
2,539

DWELLERS IN THE FOREST. New Zealand Herald, Volume XLVIII, Issue 14763, 19 August 1911, Supplement

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