W hat I believe to be genuine and authentic the collected publications of William Colenso



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Appendix D.


The best kinds of aruhe, or fern-root, at the north were known by the general names of maahunga = mealy, and motuhanga = brittle, easily snapping. Here, however, on the East Coast, the best kinds were called kaitaa = gentlemen’s food, and renga = mealy.

The motuhanga was really a splendid sort. I have seen it, a fine-looking black-skinned smooth root, eight to ten lines in diameter, with scarcely any woody fibres, and these were small, like a very fine rush, lustrous, hollow, and white. It would snap readily, like good biscuit, before being prepared or beaten. [38]

Then the best was again separated, thus:—
1. Kowhiti = best selected; for the chiefs.
2. Huirau = a hundred together in company; for warriors. This was stored up in their hill-forts for sieges and fighting times.549

3. Paka = dried; for general feasts.


4. Ngapehapeha = rinds, skins; for common daily use.

There were also other names for the third best and inferior sorts, as pakakohi = dried and gathered scraps; pitopito = ends; and pakupaku = small in size (broken parts of the choicer kinds); tuakau, pararaa, etc., etc.—(See “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. XII., p. 122, Proverb 55.)


1880 Historical Incidents and Traditions of the Olden Times, pertaining to the Maoris of the North Island, (East Coast), New Zealand; highly illustrative of their national Character, and containing many peculiar, curious, and little-known Customs and Circumstances, and Matters firmly believed by them. Now, for the first time, faithfully translated from old Maori writings and recitals.
Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 13: 38-57.


[Read before the Hawke’s Bay Philosophical Institute, 12th July, 1880.]

These Maori relations which I bring before you this evening, are selected from several other similar stories which I possess, and I have no doubt but that other parts and other tribes of this island have, or have had, many such; so, also, those other unhappy tribes who preceded them—and of whom not a vestige remains!

From the earliest traditionary times this country seems to have been exposed to the rage and curse of desolating wars, which every now and then sprang up from very slight beginnings (as it appears now to us), and which were too often carried to fearful lengths. This sufficiently accounts for its great depopulation. Nearly all their wars seem to have been of that kind so pathetically and truly deplored by Lucan—“as leaving no cause for triumph.” Nothing struck me more forcibly in travelling, (pretty extensively and always on foot, before the country became colonized and partly settled), than to find in all directions strong indications of a once heavy population, or a series (so to speak) of populations. And that those people [39] who once dwelt together must have done so in very large numbers, the remains of their extensive earth-works (mostly on hill-tops and ridges), accomplished, too, without tools or the use of iron, plainly attest.

In these narrations we shall find not a few highly characteristic traits of the New Zealander, some of which I have already mentioned, or alluded to, in former papers,550 as Shame—at detection of a fault, not unfrequently ending in suicide: Revenge,—deep, long meditated, obtained at any cost, and patiently waited and toiled for; on account of an insult, or a curse, never forgotten or forgiven! Cunning schemes, —laid and often well and fully carried out: Vengeance,—for bloodshed, which (as with the ancient Hebrews) was generally undertaken by the next of kin, and terrible in its effects!551 Strong belief,—in the efficacy of spells and charms, and in the mere recital of words exceedingly simple in themselves, and rarely ever possessing the merest germ of a prayer to, or invocation of, any higher power; and, also, the highly peculiar custom of personification,—or the personifying of things, animate and inanimate,—together with their giving proper names to every single thing they possessed or manufactured; which names were, sometimes, well chosen and expressive, and sometimes highly ridiculous; yet, at the same time, were not seldom the cause or source of future trouble to them.

I would also further observe, that it is only in relations of this kind, as given by intelligent old Maoris, that we may expect to find accounts of, or allusions to, many things,—as works, doings, habits, manners, customs, beliefs, etc,—which have become quite obsolete and lost. Even the very meanings of the names of some are now scarcely known, save to the older men. Indeed, herein is a mine of ethnological wealth, if it could but be expeditiously worked, for in a very few years more there will be no remainders left! Even now, what is related by the best of the Maoris relating to the olden time will require to be very cautiously received and examined, and that, too, by competent hands.



Another thing which I may be allowed slightly to touch on here in passing, is, that these historical narrations will serve faithfully, though silently, to show to the settlers of today a portion of what the early [40] missionaries in this country had to contend with; which, while scarcely any perceptible traces of them are now left, were, at first and for a long time, immensely powerful obstacles.

1. The Story of the Murder by Rangiwhakaoma.


The principal place of residence (pa) of this chief, of Rangiwhakaoma, was at Rakaupuhi; there he dwelt. One day he went to the entrance porch of his kumara store, and there he sat down. Now the name of that store was Raumatirua. While he was there a certain lad, named Tawakeariki, the son of a chief named Te Aotata, went up also to that spot, when Rangiwhakaoma said to him, “O, sir, whither art thou going?” The boy replied, “Just here, to this place, to look at the kumara in thy store.” On hearing this Rangiwhakaoma said to him, “Stay a bit; it is not so very good to look about here (in the kumara store). Far better is it, O thou! below in the unseen world (reinga), that the looking about may be both beautiful and pleasing.” Then that boy went quickly below to the unseen world (reinga) to observe and look about at the steep cliff in Hawaiki. There he expressed his admiration at the beauty of the kumara;552 and, while he was thus admiring, lo! the whole piled-up-stack of kumara (in that store) was made to fall suddenly down upon him, so that he was immediately killed. His friends, on finding that he was dead, sent off a messenger to Uawa, to his father, Te Aotata. On hearing the sad news Te Aotata exclaimed, “By whom was my son slain?” The messenger replied, “By Rangiwhakaoma.” The father, having mourned over his son, assembled a band of his followers. On their leaving to seek revenge the principal chief, Hauiti, called out to them, “O, friends, listen! If you should capture the daughter of Rangiwhakaoma, let her be kept alive, to become my wife.” So the armed party of Te Aotata went to Rakaupuhi, the place where Rangiwhakaoma dwelt, invested the place, assaulted and took it, and killed the people, including Rangiwhakaoma. A remnant, however, escaped; and of those they caught alive they slew some as food for themselves, saving alive three women—namely, [41] Rakaumanawahe, the daughter of Rangiwhakaoma, and two others, young women of rank, named Rakaiparore and Hineparata. This business over the armed party returned to its own place—to Uawa; and Hauiti took Rakaumanawahe to wife. One day in the summer those two young captive women, Rakaiparore and Hineparata, were bathing as usual in the deep water, and there they amused themselves (as women do in bathing) with causing their armpits to make a great noise553 while lashing the water with their arms. The noise was heard by some of the men at work, who cried out, “Those women are deeply affected!” and then the loud taunting song was raised respecting them, through which those two women felt greatly ashamed. So they both together arose and left that place, and travelled a very long distance by the sea-coast until they reached a place called Orerewa, where they stayed, and afterwards both took husbands there. In due course of time Rakaumanawahe, the wife of Hauiti, gave birth to two children; the first was named Karihimama, the second Ngatorotahatu. Being in want of seed kumara, Hauiti said to his wife, “Go to Ngatira to fetch some kumara for us.” So she went thither, taking another woman (lady) named Tahipare for a companion. On those two women arriving at Pakaurangi, Ngatira’s village, the people of the place rushed out and killed one of the women, Rakaumanawahe, but saved her companion; and, not content with killing Hauiti’s wife, they cut her up and ate her. Then the woman that was saved returned to Hauiti, and related all that had taken place. On hearing this sad news the chief, Kahukuranui,554 became exceedingly cast down, on account of the degrading outrage offered to his wife, and immediately began to assemble an armed band to go and take revenge. While this army was getting ready a woman came over from the people of Ngatira to see Kahukuranui, being incited thereto through her sympathy for him, and she showed him how Ngatira’s place (pa) could well be taken by the army, saying, “By means of the crawfish the fort can be overcome,” for Kahukuranui’s army was not physically strong enough for that purpose. On hearing this, Kahukuranui commanded an immense taking of crawfish to be made, and they all went willingly about it. Crawfish were caught in great numbers and dried; they were brought from all the fishing stations on the rocky sea-coast—from Te Haha, from Taoparapara, from Te Ika-a-tauira, from Tatara, from Maitara, from Whangaiariki, from all the many creeks and seas the crawfish were [42] collected, and, when ready, were carried away for Ngatira.555 Hence it was that Ngatira and his people afterwards suffered dreadfully in their fort when besieged through want of water, for the water of the place being outside of the village was soon in the possession of the besieging party, and the people of the fort could not get at it with their calabashes. But the friends and relatives of the foe living in that place took with them their heavy, thick flax-mat garments when they went down to see their relatives;556 these they used instead of calabashes to carry up water to the besieged, soaking them in the water (although, after all, scarcely any water remained in the said garments), and when they returned to the fort they wrung the water out for the children and the women, while others desperately chewed and eagerly sucked the loose hanging flax-fringes of the wetted garments, just to moisten a little their parched throats. The water to drink was also the more required through their still eating the dried crawfish, being impelled thereto through hunger. For some time they managed miserably in this way; but at last, on trying it again, they found the armed party (who had become suspicious) watching the water, so that when the women and others went into it to wet their flax garments as before those watchers rushed in upon them, and they fled back to their fort with scarcely any water! Soon after this the final assault was made, and though the picked band of brave and fearless fighters, Koparakaitarewarewa and his friends, went boldly outside and withstood the besiegers, and that more than once, they were obliged to give way, being all faint and half-dead through want of water, for it was this alone that slew them. So Ngatira was killed, and Pakaurangi was taken. This battle was called “The death in the wet garments,” or, “The death in the time of the wetted garments.” The remnant who escaped of this people fled various ways, some went to Kaiora and dwelt there, building a fort (pa) for themselves; some fled further north; some haunted the neighbourhood of their [43] former homes, but away up on hills and mountains, and in cliffs, and in inaccessible sides of streams. Those who did make a stand and dwelt at Kaiora had a wretched life of it through constant dread. At last some of them fled south to Wairarapa, and even to Kaikoura (South Island), and thus were widely dispersed the refugees from Pakaurangi. This battle was known to our fathers by the name of “The death in the time of the wetted garments;” and this conquest was achieved by Kahukuranui. [This fight took place, according to several genealogical lists, thirteen generations back.—W.C.]


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