1895 - Wohlers, J. F. H. Memories of the Life of J.F.H. Wohlers - CHAPTER XII. ON THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF THE MAORIS

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  1895 - Wohlers, J. F. H. Memories of the Life of J.F.H. Wohlers - CHAPTER XII. ON THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF THE MAORIS
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NOW we must discover how the Maoris came to this far-away island, New Zealand, in the wide ocean. The natives of New Zealand, when first seen by the discoverers and their followers, were still in the stone age. Their stone axes, cut with much labour and trouble, were fastened on to wooden sticks with strips of New Zealand flax, and with such rough tools they had to build their vessels, and that without nails, as they had no iron or other metal. To build a vessel, they had to cut down a tree, then, with immense labour, to cut it off at the upper end, then to hollow out the stem like a trough, and hew the lower side into a proper shape like a ship's bottom. In such vessels (called by the Maoris waka, by the Europeans canoe), how could they get across to New Zealand, over a wide sea, with rolling waves? But we must remember that in earlier times, as has been already pointed out, they possessed more lofty ideas and a higher cultivation than they had in later times. Now, they have retained a lofty, bold spirit, although they have long since lost their former culture. The sea forced them to be bold seafarers. Their high courage and united manhood did not shun the labour to hew down the loftiest trees in the woods with stone axes--and there are very high and thick trees here--to hollow them out, and make them into canoes. Thin and pliant tree stems were then split, and planks hewn out of them. These were then fastened with strings, drawn through holes made for the purpose, to the sides of the canoes, in order to raise them. In this way they made vessels of respectable size, with which they could trust themselves with confidence in rough seas. Sometimes two such canoes were lashed together with cross-beams, which made a sort of double ship, on which a kind of deck could be erected.

The Maoris of New Zealand are, however, only a branch of a people who have spread out over thousands of islands which lie scattered in the great so-called Pacific Ocean. All had the same religion, language, and customs, although each of them has

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perpetuated itself in a somewhat different manner in each of the island groups. According to their traditions, it is reported that in former times an intercourse existed between the different island groups. Certain arts were known, and new ones were sought for, which might be met with on certain far-off islands. It is true such sea voyages, in such unhandy vessels, and on a great wide sea, were not without danger; but God has placed a heroic courage in the human breast in order that in battle with untamed nature he may make the kingdom of earth subject to him. Such battles, as long as man is not degenerated by luxury and vice, or made slavish and cowardly by oppression, awaken pleasing feelings in the manly breast, and dangers are more inspiring than terrifying. As long as the Polynesians (this is the name of this people of many islands) exercised their heroic courage in bold but peaceful sea voyages and made new discoveries, their families could live in peace, be fruitful and multiply. But the heart of man is altogether corrupt, and qualities that are good in themselves easily change to bad ones. The heroic courage which should make untamed nature subservient to the use of man and do service to God was turned against their fellow creatures, who are made after the image of God, and who should live together peaceably as brothers. Men kill men like wild beasts, who kill for pleasure and have no knowledge. With time the natives of New Zealand had turned into such cruel savages.

I cannot here enter upon scientific investigations, but this may be remarked, that some who have carefully compared the mythology and traditions of the South Sea Islanders with the ancient history of Western Asia are of opinion that the inhabitants of these many islands, to which the New Zealanders likewise belong, were originally a people of the Aryan race, and lived in the neighbourhood of the Persian Gulf. That thence they either emigrated or were driven to India, and that there an intermixture with the inhabitants of that country took place. That from thence, at the beginning of the Christian era, they spread out into the Indian Archipelago, where they underwent a further mixture with peoples who had come from the rivers of Central Asia, and thence they spread into the islands of the Pacific.

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Foreign mixtures appeared very acceptable to the people. When English whale fishers came to New Zealand a number of half-caste children were soon born. When the whale fishery ceased, and no more Europeans came to New Zealand, and the natives were left to themselves, the half-bred children grew up with Maori ideas, and learnt only their mothers' language; but by their means the appearance of the people, especially here in the south, where there is the largest mixture of half-blood amongst the population, was considerably altered. This actually happened here, and a stronger spirit is to be observed in the renewed mixed race.

It is remarkable that the language of the inhabitants of two large islands so very far removed from one another as New Zealand, in the far south sea, and Madagascar, on the south-east coast of Africa, appears to have had a common origin. Look only at the numbers

(From J. T. Thomson's Transactions of the New Zealand Institute.)

Formerly the Maoris first counted up to eleven, which they call tahi tekau; twelve was then tahi tekau ma tahi (an eleven and a one); and so on up to twenty-two (rua tekau); their hundred, or rau, therefore, contained 11 x 11 = 121. Now they have taken the European method of counting and thrown out the ngahuru, and call their ten their first tekau.

According to the numbers which occur in the old stories, they appear not to have taken their first aggregate up to eleven, but to ten. I am, therefore, inclined to think, especially as they have so easily appropriated the division by ten, that, originally, they called the simple ten ngahuru, and in the second aggregate of their system of reckoning tekau as tahi tekau, ten ; rua tekau, twenty; and so on. The tekau has a remarkable resemblance to the Greek deka, as the rua has with the Latin duo.

Judging by this relation of language the Malagaski in Madagascar, the Maori in New Zealand, as well as the whole population of the South Seas, must have had a common origin, and

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have emigrated from the same country, probably from the East Indian peninsula, the Deccan, especially as it is known that the inhabitants of this coast in the most ancient times were skilful sailors, but the inhabitants of the eastern peninsula were not. One branch of this people took its way south-westerly to Madagascar; the other went in an easterly direction over the East Indian peninsula, in the direction of the Moluccas, into the Pacific Ocean. According to their traditions they fixed upon The Navigator Islands, in the Samoan Group, as a permanent place of settlement, which was afterwards regarded as a centre of operations. Thence they spread out (eastward from the Fiji Islands, which contain a mixed race of Maoris and Australian Blacks) over the whole of the Pacific to the Sandwich Islands in the east and New Zealand in the south. This could easily be done, as they were expert navigators, as in all directions, even all the way from India, the sea is strewed with islands.

All the natives of New Zealand maintain, throughout the whole length and breadth of the land, that their forefathers came from Hawaiki (Savai of the Navigator or Samoa Islands) about thirty generations back (they can trace the ancestors of their high chiefs by name as far back as that) to New Zealand, which they named Aotearoa (long uprising world). The names of the canoes, according to their traditions, are still held in remembrance. If you only reckon a generation from a father till the birth of the following son as twenty-five years, you have a space of time of 750 years. Some reckon more, some less. It appears, however, that New Zealand was inhabited before this emigration. It is not yet decided whether the earlier inhabitants belonged to the Australian negroes or the South Sea peoples. At all events, New Zealand was known to the latter before the emigration.

It is remarkable that the related peoples, the inhabitants of Madagascar and those of New Zealand and of the South Sea Islands, now so far removed from each other, have all at the same time as peoples renounced heathendom and accepted Christianity. It seems more than an accidental coincidence. Does everything develope itself, including the history of peoples, by accident and without any plan, preconceived and of a higher kind, or does

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everything occur in accordance with God's providence and direction, and in accordance with a plan. Which is the most reasonable to believe? "God has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation." (Acts xvii., 26.)

I have already stated that the Maoris, as long as they lived in the sublime ideas of their old religion, could in a measure, thrive under heathendom. But later generations had long since allowed the lore of the old gods to sink into forgetfulness, and it was only known to the "wise people," but by them without any spiritual meaning. Their morals, therefore, became very depraved. Instead of living in the faith of sublime ideas, they lived in painful fear of lower evil spirits of a man-devouring kind--who dwelt in ruined buildings of tapu, because a breach of this entailed death as a consequence, of witchcraft of evil-minded men, and in constant fear of being killed and eaten--for they ate one another. Their sentiments had become so inhuman that they could eat dead bodies, stinking and putrefying, with pleasure, and without any feeling of disgust.

Schiller's verses were here verified:--

Woe to the stranger whom the waves
Cast on that unhappy shore.

To roast and eat a number of strange men--that is, those belonging to another tribe--was as great a pleasure to them as it is to lovers of the chase in civilized lands to have a grand dinner party when they have had good sport.

It must have been about 1820-1830--I knew a few who were present--when the Maoris in the south first came into touch with the Europeans. The captain of a whaling vessel placed a few of his people in an uninhabited bay in Stewart Island to catch fur seals, whilst he went whale fishing with the rest of his crew. The natives, however, did not approve of this. Soon a number of men and women went across from Ruapuke to Stewart Island, fell upon the sealers and killed and cooked them. They then looked for their provisions. At that time they were quite

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unacquainted with European things. They took the flour for white ash, and amused themselves with throwing it at one another and watching the white dust fly. Then they found something that looked like provisions, and they chewed it till foam came out of their mouths (it was soap), but it was not to their taste. Still worse did the tobacco taste, which they, therefore, called heaven's gall (aurangi). A vessel held some black seed (gunpowder), which they scattered about as a useless thing. Then when they had satisfied themselves with the flesh of the dead men and in the evening sat around a bright fire--oh, what a fright!--lightning and flames of fire suddenly broke out amongst them. The fire had lit the powder they had thrown away. Some time afterwards some canoes with all their crews were lost, and no one knew for a long time what had become of them, until later some whale fishers came from Australia who became friendly with the natives, and these brought the news that an American whaling captain known to them, when he found that the men he had left on Stewart Island had been killed and eaten, whilst sailing about, meeting some canoes, had sailed them down.

Not long before my arrival, and before Christianity had obtained so much power amongst the blood-thirsty natives that they gave up cruelty, and lived peaceably with one another, the inhabitants of the southern island, who themselves had almost eaten an entire tribe in the south, were hard pressed by a tribe from the north under the leadership of the celebrated chief Te Rauparaha. Part of the hard-pressed tribe fled to the south to Ruapuke and neighbourhood. But they were not allowed to remain there in peace by their more powerful foes. A band of them came overland and made floats of the stalks of New Zealand flax, and embarked at the mouth of the Mataura, which empties itself opposite the island of Ruapuke, and in the neighbourhood of the mouth of the river fell upon a village of the local tribe. Most were killed at once and immediately cooked and eaten by the hungry warriors. The remainder were kept as prisoners in the meantime. Amongst the latter was a woman who, later on, lived as a good Christian at Ruapuke. She has often told us of the horror of the attack. Her children were torn from her breast

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and thrown on the glowing coals, and the poor mother was compelled to look quietly on, for she knew well that if she disturbed the rough warriors her own head would be split. The warriors thought they would be able to refresh themselves here after their toilsome journey overland, but they were deceived. Some of those attacked had escaped, and quickly carried the news to the surrounding villages. A band quickly assembled at the island of Ruapuke, where the high chiefs lived. These went to the Mataura and fell upon the enemy, yet wallowing in human flesh. Many were at once killed and eaten; a few were kept alive as slaves. I knew a few of these and baptized them. They then received their freedom and went back to their northern home. Such cruelties were formerly quite ordinary occurrences. Just as cruel was their child murder. Affairs of love, as they are carried on by young people of civilized races in honour and modesty, were quite unknown to the heathenish Maoris. The old people, not only the parents, but those of the whole district, arranged the marriages without asking what the young people's inclinations were. This did not hinder young people, when so inclined, from indulging their fleshly lusts. Children which were born of such unhallowed unions, at the command of the old people were put out of the way as kittens are put out of the way. Even married women sometimes put their new-born children out of the way, either because they did not like them or because attending to them was troublesome. They did not kill them outright, but placed them in a lonely place and let them cry themselves to death. And now, in the space of a life time, these cruel New Zealand savages, by the simple preaching of Christ crucified--although the Word of the Cross in old Christendom was called by certain Jew-like Christians (in name) in the time of St. Paul a "stumbling block," and by some narrow-minded worldly-wise people "foolishness"--are so changed that the magnificent prophecy of Isaiah xi. applies to them. A weak missionary, who could command no earthly power, can lead the changed, erstwhile cruel savages, and can live in friendship and love with the formerly treacherous and unclean heathen, now, however, clothed and in their right mind, and sitting at the feet of Jesus. The

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little children of the missionary are now attended to by people who were previously cannibals and murderesses, and that with more motherly kindness than they could feel in their heathenish state towards their own children.

"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den."

May the time soon come when the following verses from Isaiah xi. may apply, not only to the new communities, but to old Christendom:--

"They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people: to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.

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