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The Highlanders of Waipu
Chapter XVI - Relations with Maoris


The settlement was surrounded by Maori villages, named kaiks or pahs, some of whose inhabitants paid them frequent visits. A feature of Maori life was that they lived on the tops of easily fortified hills, river bends, or seashore peninsulas. Their fortifications consisted of trenches, and earthen walls, on the top of which were erected wooden palisades of easily cut branches bound with and intertwined with wythes of various kinds. At the corners or other suitable spots were erected large watch-towers, from which all approaching visitors could be readily espied. Each village would have a population of one or two hundred individuals, governed by a Chief, or "Rangatira," and a priest or medicine man called "Tohunga." Their mode of defence was sufficient in the days of stone and wooden weapons, but to-day they are merely relics of a primitive people. The Maori has now taken to all the modes and manners of his Pakeha neighbour. From climatic reasons the Maori had to invent some kind of clothing. He understood the rudiments of weaving, and fashioned rude garments of various kinds from the fibre of the native flax (phormium tenax) to cover his trunk, while all his limbs were left bare. Any sort of raupo hut served as a home, while his food was of the simplest kind. Fish he had in abundance; also birds and pigs. Of bread, as we know it, he had none; but as a starchy substitute he had fern roots, cabbage-tree and fern-tree pith, and kumeras (or sweet potatoes). The whalers and earlier settlers introduced potatoes and maize, and as they became general the fern root and cabbage-tree pith were abandoned.

The Waipuans had little dealings with the Maoris. To begin with they numbered over 300 souls and possessed rifles and other weapons ot defence. The Maoris usually visited them in bands of one or two dozen, but they were not bellicose as they recognized the weapons of defence and the numbers of the people. Their greatest offence was that they had no sense of private property, and as a consequence would walk over wheat fields, appropriate potatoes, or enter houses just as if they were their own property. As they came to know each other, these habits gradually ceased. There were no police and no law but that of help yourself when necessary, so that much patience and tact had to be practised. In the early days the Maori was not a worker; he would fight, but not work. The Waipu settlement, however, was purely a working one, so that every man, woman, and child who could work did work. During their visiting the Maori boys rarely made any advances to the Pakeha girls, but the Maori wahines (girls) frequently set their caps at the Pakeha boys. The wahines considered it a compliment and a conquest when they had a white admirer.

Hine-Moana (sea maid or mermaid) was the Belle of Kaiwai. She was a frequent visitor and a great favourite at Waipu. She had some knowledge of English which she had learned from the whalers and Pakeha settlers along the Whangarei Bay. Kaiwai was some 15 miles distant from Waipu, but that was a mere trifle to this child of nature. Being the daughter of a minor chief, she was always accompanied by one or more of the tribal wahines. Hine was a good exponent of the Maori song and dance. These qualifications led to her being invited to the Waipu ceileidhs, so that in a year or so she became an expert Scottish dancer. Even the language of Eden (Gaelic) was not beyond her, and soon she knew that "cia mar tha shu" (how are you) and "ma gaol" (my love) were much the same as "kanui taku te aroha kia koe" (my love for thee is great).

Alister Ban (fair Alister) was her principal teacher during these ceileidh evenings, and he soon found his pupil to be an apt scholar and a very intelligent girl. As Hine progressed in her Waipu accomplishments, she gave demonstrations of them at Kaiwai. This led to quite a number of Maori boys and girls finding their way to Waipu. Alister Ban was in demand to teach them reels, jigs, and hornpipes, or, as Burns says, " but hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels put life and mettle in their heels." The news spread to the surrounding pahs, and Waipu became a centre of attraction to many Maori youths. Pioneering, however, had its stern duties, and the Pakeha youths found there was no taihoa (put offs) in their daily toil. The lordly Maori could see no sense in the efforts of the Pakeha to subdue the wilderness. They could find their food in the bush or the stream or the seashore and sleep contentedly under the blue canopy of heaven. Their philosophy was:

We are here to-day, away to-morrow; so why trouble. Hine continued her visits, and scarcely a week passed without her visiting the settlement and bringing with her a variety of domestic articles which her people made from the flax fibre, such as mats, baskets, wall pockets and watch pockets, which the Pakeha was pleased to accept or barter for the few articles at his command. Alisterís mother was always remembered, so that in a few months her log hut was well supplied with the arts and crafts of the Maori. In the watch pockets there was always a small piece of the Mamaku pith (fern-tree which had a most enticing aroma. The pith naturally had no aroma, and what the substance was that gave it its peculiar scent was a puzzle. Alisterís mother inquired, he himself inquired, and several others inquired; but no one could solve the riddle. Perhaps if we tasted it, said Alister, we could tell. This he did, and lo, the taste was as exquisite as the odour. During one of Hineís visits she was asked what the substance was. "Oh," said she, "I got it from our Tohunga, but I do not know how he prepares it." It was the custom in the early days for the Tohunga to prepare such things as a charm for the chiefs of his tribe, and hence the girls (or wahines) used it after many incantations to attract some desired lover. It had to be tasted ere it had its desired effect; but once tasted the doom of that individual was sealed. The very same custom existed in the Highlands and elsewhere, and still exists at Waipu. In both those places it goes by the name of "caper" or "mir taobhoich," or love piece or love philter or glad eye. It is curious that in peoples living at the two extremes of the world the same sort of incantations are used where Cupid is concerned. The coleens of Waipu quickly divined that this substance was a love philter, and so warned Alister of his danger. After this event they gave Hine the cold shoulder, and discontinued inviting her to their ceileidhs. Alister laughed at the idea of there being any potency in the Maori charm, and hence proposed to taste every one presented. One day Alister and a few companions went pig-hunting into the Ruakaka bush. Here they met a party of Maoris who were engaged at the same pastime. Some differences arose between the two parties, so the Waipuans deemed it wise to retreat. The Maoris followed, and the retreat ended in a race for home. In crossing the Pohaenui River Alister dropped into a deep pool. Immediately a Maori jumped in, caught Alister, and pulled him ashore. " Hullo, Hine." said Alister, "is that you." "Hush," said she, "breathe not my name ere the boys hear you. Go, and remember Hine saved your life. Tell your Pakeha. friends the Maori returns good for evil." After some days Alister thought it would be wise of him to call upon Hine and express his gratitude to her. He visited Kaiwai, sought out his protectress, and made his peace with her. The Maoris have no word in their vocabulary for "thank you," but use the word "kapai" (good) which serves a variety of purposes. "Your friends," said Hine, "have been bad. They say I am a Maori, and have tried to bewitch you. Go to your people, go to your country, for Ao-tea-roa (New Zealand) is my country." Alister departed crestfallen. Here was independence personified, and here a Maori Chieftainess subdued him. Weeks passed and he neither saw nor heard anything of Hine. Shall I visit her again, or shall I forget her? were questions he frequently asked himself. Try as he would he could not forget her. Why do I continue to think of her? That Mamaku thing could have no effect. it was not the Waters of Lethe. Only a trifle prepared by an ignorant and savage Tohunga. Yet they say a Maori will turn his face to the wall and die should the Tohunga or the Chief use their powers of Tapu (witchery or sacredness). They can tapu as they please and charm as they please, yet it will have no effect upon me. So he went on bush-felling.

Said he one day, "that superstition begins to master me, so I must go and ask the Tohunga or Hine to absolve me." He visited Kaiwai, but the Tohunga disclaimed all knowledge of the incident and referred him to Hine. On approaching Hineís whare (home) he heard female voices alternately singing the Waiata Aroha (love song without action) and then the Rure-rure (love song with action). There was no such custom as knocking at doors amongst the Maoris or using the terms master or mistress. It was merely Kapai Hine or Haeremai (good or welcome, Hine). As he uttered those words the scene changed to a Hakaperu peru (war song), and he heard them shout

Kamate, kamate, kaora, kaora,
Kamate, kamate, kaora, kaora,
Ha! Ugh!

Hupane! kaupane!
Hupane! Kaupane, whiti te ra!
Ha! Ugh!

Alister wondered if they were preparing for war, or if it would be wise to turn and run. Summing courage, he shouted: "Hine, Hine!" when out flew the raging furies. What brings you here, Pakeha ?" "I wish to speak with you, Hine." " Sneak, Pakeha; see, here are my maidens." "Can you remove that spell." "No, Pakeha; the Tohunga alone can do that." "He says he knows nothing of it and referred me to you." "If so, Pakeha, a Maori wahine never removes her tapu." " In that case," replied Alister, I may as well stay here, for you have bewitched me."

"Return to your people, Pakeha, and tell them so." The end was that Alister married the maiden, received her portion of land, and lived happily in his new associations.

The mode of mating between the Maoris was originally wholly tribal. The Chief or the parents in each case agreed from early youth that so-and-so and so-and-so were to be man and wife, and seldom were any objections raised. The custom was a very ancient one and the people quietly submitted. To-day all is changed, and now the Maori wahine can choose for herself just as does her Pakeha sister.

As a rule, the children of this mixed mating become fine looking men and women. Their mental capacities are upon the whole equal to those of the Pakeha. Their moral qualities, however, are not equally stable. It would be unreasonable to expect that a race who were yesterday in the stone age can to-day equal a race who had quitted that stage over 2,000 years ago. Half-caste and quarter-caste Maoris frequently marry Pakeha women, but it is rare for a full-blooded Maori to marry a Pakeha woman. The Pakeha woman shrinks from this union, but the Pakeha male is not equally fastidious. Seeing that the Waipu people were surrounded by Maoris for many years, it is astonishing that practically no intermarriages took place. Many of the Maori wahines are fine looking women, and if they lack some of the accomplishments of their Pakeha sisters, still they make most affectionate, useful, and faithful companions.


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