1843 - Dieffenbach, Ernest. Travels in New Zealand [Vol.II] [Capper reprint, 1974] - Chapter I

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  1843 - Dieffenbach, Ernest. Travels in New Zealand [Vol.II] [Capper reprint, 1974] - Chapter I
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The Natives of New Zealand.

Before giving an account of the aboriginal inhabitants of New Zealand, it may not be uninteresting to take a cursory view of those varieties of the human race which inhabit the numerous islands in that immense space of the great ocean which has Asia, Africa, America, and the Southern Pacific for its boundaries. In some cases these islands are of the size of continents, in others they are merely small coral formations, or of a volcanic nature. Man inhabits most of them; the easternmost of those inhabited is Easter Island, the westernmost Madagascar, and the southernmost the southern island of New Zealand. In spite of the impediments which distance must have created, he has, even with his feeble resources, surmounted all obstacles in the most mysterious manner, and has traversed seas often stormy and boisterous, not following in his labyrinthic migrations that course

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which theorists have assigned to him, either from the direction of certain periodical winds, or from their preconceived ideas deduced from the history of the human species.

There are two great varieties of the human race to which these natives belong: one approaches to the black, or negro, and has therefore been called the race of the Austral negroes; their colour is dark, their hair sometimes woolly, curly, or matted; their skulls often show bad proportions, their language consists of various dialects, or perhaps languages; the state of society with them is disorganised, and they hold a low grade in the human family.

They occupy the following islands: --

Van Diemen's Land, New Holland, New Guinea, Louisiade, New Britain, New Ireland, Salomon Islands, Santa Cruz (or Nitendi), New Hebrides, Loyalty Island, New Caledonia, and the Archipelago of Figi. Of some other islands they were the original possessors, but were either exterminated, driven into the interior, or blended with the succeeding race. This is the case in the Malayan Peninsula, in the Andaman Islands, Penang Island, and the Philippine Islands.

If we divide this vast extent of sea and land by the equator, and again by the 164th degree of east longitude, most of the nations belonging to the Austral negroes will be found to live in the southwest division formed by these lines; the other three

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divisions are occupied by the second race. It must, however, be observed, that the term Austral negro is very vague. The Papua, the Alforas, and the Haraforas are included, of which the former have been regarded as a mixed race between the true Austral negroes and the Haraforas; and the latter as a race entirely distinct from the Austral negroes. There is a great variety amongst them: a native of New South Wales, for instance, bears no similarity to a negro, as the former has smooth lank hair; nor has the Austral negro in the New Hebrides, where they seem to be very pure, much similarity to the African negro; and the Viti or Figi islanders, especially, stand isolated among this race by a very peculiar dialect, a well-ordered state of society, notwithstanding that there exists cannibalism, by the chastity of their women, and by the exclusive use of pottery. I must, therefore, repeat that the term Austral negro is here only used to distinguish this class from the other great family, which I now proceed to define in a more distinct manner.

This second race comprises people of a lighter-coloured skin, with dark glossy hair, and often very regular features. Although the various languages which they speak appear very different, yet an identity of certain elements can be traced in them; and, from the relation that all the languages bear to the Malayan dialect, as well as from the similarity of manners and customs, this race was generally con-

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ceived to be Malayan, while in fact the Malays only form one subdivision of it. In general the nations belonging to this race have attained a certain development of social forms, which, indeed, with some have reached a very artificial state. This family may be subdivided into three great groups: --

1. True Polynesians. --They are distinguished by the mythos of Maui or Mawi, the religious or legislative custom of the "Tabu;" also in some degree by the drinking of the kawa; but, above all, by the very intimate connection of their several dialects. In their features they approach the Caucasian race; they are generally handsome, and of a light-brown colour.

They live to the eastward of the Austral negroes: a line running from the north-east extremity of the islands of Hawaii, between the Viti and Tonga islands, and extending westward to the westernmost part of the southern island of New Zealand, is the western limit of the true Polynesians. To them belong the following islands: --

Archipelago of Hawaii, or the Sandwich Islands; their northern limit.

Nukahiwa, or the Marquesas.

Archipelago of Pomotou, or Dangerous Islands.

Archipelago of Tahiti, or the Society Islands.

Archipelago of Hamoa, or the Navigators.

Archipelago of Tonga, or the Friendly Islands.

Fanning Island, Roggewein Island, Mangia, Savage Island.

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Waihou, or Easter Island; their eastern limit.

Rotu-ma; their western limit.

Chatham Islands.

New Zealand; their southern limit.

2. A second group inhabits islands to the northward and westward of those above enumerated. They are generally of a darker colour; the use of the kawa is unknown to them, and is replaced by the betel and the areca. They are bolder navigators than the true Polynesians, and have distinct traditions. Their language, although it has many points of general relationship, forms some very distinct dialects, which are called the Tagalo, Bisayo, and Kawi languages. The following islands are inhabited by them: - -

Kingsmill Group, Gilbert's Islands, Marshall Islands, Radak or Ralik Island, the Carolines, Mariannes, Pellew Islands, all the islands between Japan and Hawaii, the Archipelago of Anson and Magellan, the Philippine Islands, and the island of Java. Chamisso, the German traveller, has sketched many of these people in a very spirited and attractive manner.

3. A third group comprises the true Malayans. They have a flatter and broader countenance, and inhabit Malacca, the Indian Archipelago, the Sunda Islands, the Moluccas, the coasts of Borneo, Celebes, Guilolo, and Sumatra.

There are many circumstances to interest us, particularly at the present moment, in the history

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of that division of the human family to which the inhabitants of New Zealand belong. It is true they have no written language in which their past history is preserved, and their religious notions and traditions are exceedingly confused and undefined; their mode of life is extremely simple; their arts, although interesting, yet rude. Their traditions, however, contain many things which would be important to the historian of the human species if he could discover their true meaning; but his chance of doing so is every day decreasing, and many materials calculated to elucidate the past history of the nations of the great ocean have already been lost. Their intercourse with Europeans is so general, they make such rapid strides towards civilization and Christianity, and so many dangers threaten to annihilate them, that every traveller should consider it a paramount duty to become acquainted with everything regarding these islanders, as the means of awakening an interest in the minds of the powerful and civilized, and of inducing them to afford effectual aid, protection, and instruction to the weak and uncivilized.

Regarding the natives of New Zealand the public has lately evinced so much interest as to induce me to believe that the following details, which I collected amongst the people themselves, will be acceptable. My object will be fully attained if these details tend to produce still more amicable intercourse with the native race, as well as speedy mea-

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sures in regard to their preservation and improvement, and, above all, that forbearance on the part of the colonists, without which no efforts to preserve the natives and to ameliorate their condition can be successful.

It appears that the native population of New Zealand was originally composed of two different races of the human family, which have retained some of their characteristic features, although in the course of time they have in all other respects become mixed, and a number of intermediate varieties have thence resulted. They call themselves Maori, which means indigenous, aboriginal; or Tangata maori, indigenous men; in opposition to Pakea, which means a stranger, or Pakea mango mango, a very black stranger, a negro.

The men belonging to the first of these races, which is by far the most numerous, are generally tall, of muscular and well-proportioned frame, very rarely inclining to embonpoint, but varying in size as much as Europeans do. Their cranium often approaches in shape the best and most intellectual European heads. In general, however, it may be said to be of longer dimensions from the forehead to the occiput; the forehead itself is high, but not very full in the temporal regions; the coronal ridge is ample, no coronal suture exists; the occiput is well developed, showing a great amount of animal propensities--not, however, in undue preponderance over the intellectual. In a skull which I possess of

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a man of one of the interior tribes of Roturua, the frontal sinuses are much developed, the skull lengthened, the forehead somewhat reclining; the osseous part of the nose is much depressed, and the nasal bones much more curved than in the European; the upper maxilla protrudes much, especially the part from one incisor to the other; the bones are thick and heavy in comparison with those of a European, and this is a character which seems to be rather general. The wormian bones are unusual; in the skull referred to there is one at the lower angle of the parietal and its junction with the occipital bone. This skull is certainly one possessing all the peculiar characteristics of the race; but the skulls of many New Zealanders in no way differ from those of Europeans.

The colour of the New Zealanders is a light clear brown, varying very much in shade; sometimes it is even lighter than that of a native of the south of France: the nose is straight and well shaped, often aquiline, the mouth generally large, and the lips in many cases more developed than those of Europeans; the eyes are dark and full of vivacity and expression; the hair is generally black, and lank or slightly curled; the teeth are white, even, and regular, and last to old age: the feet and hands are well proportioned; the former, being uncovered, are in a healthy development, and a native laughs at our misshaped feet. As the New Zealanders often use the second and great toes in weaving and plaiting the ropes of

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the phormium, the toes are less confined than with us, and they have more command over the muscles. Their features are prominent, but regular; the expression of the face quiet and composed, showing great self-command, and this is heightened by the tattooing, which prevents the face from assuming the furrows of passion or the wrinkles of age; their physiognomy bears no signs of ferocity, but is easy, open, and pleasing. Some of the natives have hair of a reddish or auburn colour, and a very light-coloured skin. I may also mention here that I have seen a perfect xanthous variety in a woman, who had flaxen hair, white skin, and blue eyes; not perhaps a half-caste, but a morbid variety, as was proved by the extreme sensibility of her visual organs, her rather pallid appearance, and her age; on her cheeks the skin was rather rough and freckled. The natives who live near the hot sulphurous waters on the borders of the Lake of Roturua have the enamel of their teeth, especially of the front teeth, yellow, although this does not impair their soundness, and is the effect, probably, of the corroding qualities of the thermal waters. In a skull which I possess of a chief of that tribe, the last incisor and the canine tooth show, where they join together, a semilunar incision. This is the case in both the upper and lower maxillae, but more so in the upper. It is perhaps made with an instrument, or is occasioned by the constant use of the pipe.

The second race has undoubtedly a different ori-

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gin. This is proved by their less regularly shaped cranium, which is rather more compressed from the sides, by their full and large features, prominent cheek-bones, full lips, small ears, curly and coarse, although not woolly, hair, a much deeper colour of the skin, and a short and rather ill-proportioned figure. This race, which is mixed in insensible gradations with the former, is far less numerous; it does not predominate in any one part of the island, nor does it occupy any particular station in a tribe, and there is no difference made between the two races amongst themselves; but I must observe that I never met any man of consequence belonging to this race, and that, although free men, they occupied the lower grades; from this we may perhaps infer the relation in which they stood to the earliest native immigrants into the country, although their traditions and legends are silent on the subject.

From the existence of two races in New Zealand the conclusion might be drawn that the darker were the original proprietors of the soil, anterior to the arrival of a stock of true Polynesian origin, --that they were conquered by the latter, and nearly exterminated. This opinion has been entertained regarding all Polynesian islands, but I must observe that it is very doubtful whether those differences which we observe amongst the natives of New Zealand are really due to such a source. We find similar varieties in all Polynesian islands, and it is probable that they are a consequence of the differ-

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ence of castes so extensively spread amongst the inhabitants of the islands of the great ocean. If one part of the population of New Zealand were a distinct race, --a fact which cannot be denied as regards other islands, --it is very curious that there should be no traces of such a blending in the language, where they would have been most durable, or in the traditions, which certainly would have mentioned the conquest of one race by the other, if it had really happened. Captain Crozet, a Frenchman, who early visited New Zealand, says that he found a tribe at the North Cape darker than the rest. I could observe nothing of the kind there, although I visited all the natives. Nor are these darker-coloured individuals more common in the interior; I should say, even less so. There is undoubtedly a greater variety of colour and countenance amongst the natives of New Zealand than one would expect, --a circumstance which might prove either an early blending of different races, or a difference of social conditions, which latter supposition would go far to explain the fact. All the New Zealanders speak of the Mango-Mango (blacks) of New South Wales as unconnected with and inferior to themselves, but they never make such a distinction regarding their own tribes.

The females are not in general so handsome as the men. Although treated by the latter with great consideration and kindness, enjoying the full exercise of their free will, and possessing a remarkable

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influence in all the affairs of a tribe, they are burdened with all the heavy work; they have to cultivate the fields, to carry from their distant plantations wood and provisions, and to bear heavy loads during their travelling excursions. Early intercourse with the other sex, which their customs permit, frequent abortions, and the long nursing of the children, often for three years, contribute to cause the early decay of their youth and beauty, and are prejudicial to the full development of their frame. Daughters of influential chiefs, however, who have slaves to do the work of the field, are often handsome and attractive, and no one can deny them this latter epithet as long as they are young. This is heightened by a natural modesty and childlike naivete, which all their licentiousness of habit cannot entirely destroy. The children of both sexes, with their free, open, and confident behaviour, have always been my favourites. Brought up in the society of the adults, partaking in the councils of their fathers, their mental faculties become awakened and sharpened earlier than is the case in more civilised countries.

But I must not forget to pay my tribute of praise to the old; the old women especially are the best-natured and kindest creatures imaginable, and the traveller is sure to receive a smile and a welcome from them, if no one else shows any intention of befriending him.

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