1856 - Shortland, Edward. Traditions and Superstitions of the New Zealanders - APPENDIX

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  1856 - Shortland, Edward. Traditions and Superstitions of the New Zealanders - APPENDIX
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Te kau, or Nga-huru Kumi
(10 fathoms)
















Tangata Tanata Takata






Tama Tamaiti


Tama tane













Sweet potato






































Girdle (for the loins)





Causative (prefix)
















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VERBI kahukahu significatio simplex est panniculus aut vestis. Kahu et kakahu formae usitatiores verbi sunt: et panniculus quo utitur femina menstrualis nomine kahukahu dicitur [Greek words].

Apud populum Novae Zelandae creditur sanguinem utero sub tempus menstruale effusum continere germina hominis; et secundum praecepta veteris superstitionis panniculus sanguine menstruali imbutus habebatur sacer (tapu), haud aliter quam si formam humanam accepisset. Mulierum autem mos est hos panniculos intra juncos parietum abdere: et hac de causa, paries est domus pars adeo sacra ut nemo illi innixus sedere audeat.

Opinio animis N. Zelandorum insita--nempe sanguinem menstruum germina humanae speciei continere-- opinionibus hodiernis convenit: multi enim physiologiae scientissimi credunt rumpi vesiculam graafianam, et ex ilia ova delabi circa tempora menstrualia.


The moth from whose eggs are produced this caterpillar is of the genus sphinx, and is named by the New Zealanders pepe. Its period of life is from November to

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December--the commencement of the summer in their country. Its caterpillar, called by the natives awheto or hotete, makes its appearance in the eighth month, viz. the end of January, and feeds on the leaves of the kumara and pohuehue plants, both of them varieties of convolvulus, and also on the flowers of a tree called rata (metrosideros robustus), which is of the same order as the myrtle. This insect is very destructive to the kumara, which forms so favourite an article of the New Zealanders' diet; and a great many persons are constantly employed in their gardens to pick them from off the leaves of that plant, for several weeks in the year. It is a common belief, however, that the caterpillar is rained down from the sky: for although vast numbers are destroyed by them day after day, many more are still found to reappear.

About the end of the eighth or the beginning of the tenth month, this caterpillar buries itself in the ground to the depth of five or six inches, previous to assuming the chrysalis form; and it is a singular fact, that the insect descends into its subterraneous hiding-place with its hindpart downwards. Such is the position in which it is invariably found. Were its position reversed, it would perhaps be impossible for the moth into which it is subsequently transformed to escape.

In the second month of the following year small reedlike plants, about three or four inches high, may be seen growing in great numbers from the ground under the shade of the rata trees. This plant being dug up carefully is found to grow out of the head of the caterpillar just described, which however no longer possesses any

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vitality; for cutting into its body, it is found to consist of a tough whitish substance, similar to a fungus. In this state it is collected by the New Zealanders, and after having been hung up to dry for some time in their houses, it is burnt to a coal: the coal supplying them with an excellent black pigment, which is much used in the operation of tatoing.

In the tenth month the reed-like plant dies away, but springs up again the following year: dying away again in the tenth month, and sending out a fresh shoot in the second month yearly for three or four years, probably till all the animal matter supplied by the caterpillar has been consumed. I have sometimes met with specimens in which the plant grew from other parts of the body than the head: but in all these the upper part of the body was deficient, and it appeared to me that it might have been destroyed by the rooting of pigs or otherwise, and that the plant had afterwards thrown out a fresh shoot from the summit of the part left in the ground.

The reed-like plant just described is the fructifying part of a fungus; and that part which was once the body of a caterpillar corresponds with what botanists call its mycelium, and gardeners call its spawn. While burying itself in the ground, no doubt some of the germs of the fungus lying scattered on the ground become attached to the skin of the caterpillar, and there developing with the extraordinary rapidity known only to this class of vegetable, kill the animal while in its torpid state, and very soon occupy the whole of its body, so as to correspond with it exactly in form. This fungus belongs to a particular class, distinguished by the name sphaeria. In

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China a variety of it is found growing in the body of a caterpillar just as it does in New Zealand, and is there sold as a remedy in certain cases. I have also met with the larvae of insects of the family called cicads, which is nearly allied to the grasshopper, from whose bodies grew a fungus which had killed them by a like process. The larvae were dug up in a potato garden by a native, who gave them to the Rev. T. Chapman, of Rotorua, from whom they came into my possession. The natives call the insects kihikihi.

The disease called muscardine, so destructive to the silkworm in the south of France, is also caused by the growth of a fungus in the living caterpillar.


February 25th, 1847.

SIR,--I have the honour to lay before you, as concisely as possible, information relating to the subject of your inquiries during my interview with you on the 20th instant.

In considering the modes by which land becomes distributed among the different members of a tribe, it must not be imagined that an individual is at liberty to cultivate at his pleasure any unappropriated spot within the limits of the district claimed by his tribe. He must confine himself to those parts of that district to which he and other members of his family have a joint right, and then his selection should be made with the consent of those

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interested. The non-compliance with this usage by turbulent fellows is a frequent cause of dispute.

It must also be understood that individuals have a sole right to those spots which they occupy, or have derived from an ancestor who previously occupied.

In cases of adultery, &c. where the injured party is willing to receive compensation, a piece of land generally forms the most important part of the payment, being considered the only kind of property of equal value with a woman. They reason thus: All other property is perishable but a woman or land: they are imperishable-- inasmuch as the one produces children, and the other produces food necessary to their support. Also in making peace after a long war, during which many lives have been lost, land has often been given up by one party to compensate for the greater number killed on the other side. From this it appears, that the New Zealanders had an idea of the value of land as an exchangeable property before the arrival of Europeans among them.

I now advert to some of the principal causes which have operated to extend native claims over a greater space than is requisite for their present use, and than would at first seem probable to European ideas. Such are,--the frequent changes of settlement in time of war, or in peace on the death of a chief, when the former situation becomes sacred, their claim to it being maintained,--the selection of the choicest spots only for cultivation grounds on the banks of rivers, in valleys, and on the borders of woods, and the abandonment of them after three or four years,--the value set on eel-fisheries, which causes every stream to have its weirs, and every

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large swamp its embankments, and channels to direct the eels into the weirs during a flood,--the value of forests as preserves for birds. The extensive wooded district between Taupo and Wanganui, the wildest and most desolate part of New Zealand, has its claimants, who are by repute the most expert bird-catchers in the island. At one season of the year, when the kaka, a large grey parrot, is fat, the whole population of the upper part of Wanganui river betake themselves to the forests. With the assistance of tame parrots, as decoys, the wild birds are easily caught, when they are cooked and potted in calabashes for future use, or to be sent to a distance in exchange for other commodities. Ranges of hills are generally boundaries, and have their names. Mountains have acquired sacredness from being often named after an ancestor, or an ancestor after them; and, from old association, being frequently apostrophised in the speeches of natives. 1

A New Zealander could never he made to comprehend the justice of disputing his right to the mountains, hills, forests, or other lands contained within his boundaries,

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although he neither used them himself, nor could prove that an ancestor had used them for cultivation grounds; and he would maintain his right to them with the greatest pertinacity. If Captain Hobson had given the natives to understand that all lands not reclaimed by them were to belong to the Crown, the opposition he would have met with would probably have prevented New Zealand from being proclaimed a British colony, and he must in that case have remained in his original position of Consul.

I have the honour to enclose an extract 2 from my journal, which I think is of interest, as serving to illustrate native ingenuity in proving a title by descent.

For further general information relative to these subjects, I would beg to refer to a former report on the nature of native titles to land. 3

The New Zealander, being by nature fond of trading, has two objects in view in selling land--one to exchange it for something he desires--the other, and more important in his eyes, to obtain by the settlement of Europeans a market where he may exchange his surplus provisions, &c. for European property. He was not naturally willing to part with land, but saw in it the only means of inducing Europeans to settle in his country; and as he found them buy readily, and without inquiry, he sold bountifully his disputed lands, encumbered with their disputes; and he thought he had thus relieved himself, in an honourable and advantageous way, from the duty handed down to him by his ancestors to maintain the

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family claim. The payment received formed in these cases the balance in the debtor and creditor account of injury and murder done on either side, and kept in memory by generation after generation. The enclosed extract 4 from my journal will serve to explain their method of keeping such records.

The New Zealanders sold more sparingly land, their claim to which had not been disturbed. Indeed, I have always observed that they have great reluctance to part with those lands regarding which they can say, "Noku te whenua, no oku tupuna;" "the land is mine, inherited from my forefathers."

From what has been said, it is easy to understand the cause of all the troubles which have since arisen about land. In some cases even lands, the claims to which have been examined by the Commissioners appointed for the purpose, and for which Crown grants have been issued, are notwithstanding still liable to be disputed whenever the attempt to take possession of them be made. Of this the perusal of the enclosed letter 5 will make you aware; and, I hope, by bringing it now under your notice, to prevent these troubles, whenever they do occur, from being appealed to as an argument to prove the impossibility of obtaining, by purchase from the aboriginal claimants, such a title as shall not be disputed by them afterwards.

The necessary provision to insure the successful issue of dealings with natives for land is that these dealings be conducted by a competent person, whose duties should be confined exclusively to such matters. The first plan

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adopted by the Government, viz., of purchasing land through the agency of the Protector of Aborigines, and then selling it by public auction, has been so far successful that very few difficulties have occurred in placing settlers on the lands thus bought. Two objections, however, have been offered to it, which are of some weight, viz.--

1. That the Government has not a fund available for the purchase of the land required for settlers.

2. That the Government may be represented to the natives in a very unfavourable light, as defrauding them by purchasing at a low price, and re-selling at a high price.

With the view to remove objections of this sort, I venture to offer the following suggestions:--

1. That any district which the Government intends to settle be first surveyed,--and its rivers, streams, swamps, woods, hills, and other natural features clearly defined on a map, as well as native settlements, cultivations, &c, and the lines of proposed roads.

2. That all native claims to land within the district so surveyed be investigated by an officer appointed for that purpose, whose duty it should also be to point out to the surveyor those lands which the native owners wish to sell, and those which they wish to retain. The lands which the natives desired to retain might then, if considered ample, be distinguished on the map by some colour, and would form the most appropriate native reserves in that district. If the lands so reserved were more ample than appeared requisite for the present or future wants of the native population, it would still be most politic to reserve them for the natives, if they so wished; leaving it to be

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considered hereafter how far their limits might be reduced, when--as certainly would be the case, in future years--the owners might wish to sell any part thereof.

3. That a registry be kept, by the same officer, of the names of tribes, families, and individuals having claims within the district; and of the lands, specified by name, to which they individually or jointly are found to have a right; and that the boundaries of such lands, with their names, be also laid down on a separate copy of the map of the district, to be kept by the same officer.

This being done, the intending purchaser would apply at the surveyor's office, where the district map would be shown him, and all information given as to the land open for sale. He would then go over the ground and select, with the aid of an authorized surveyor, under certain restrictions as to extent, frontage, &c, the spot he wished to purchase.

The officer who had already investigated the titles to land in the district would negotiate the purchase, and the intending settler would pay the price agreed on through him to the native sellers.

After this the purchaser would, on the payment of certain fees, receive a plan of his ground, and a Crown grant thereto. The fees to be limited to the necessities of a revenue, to be applied to the same objects as that proposed to be raised by sales of land by auction.

It is not meant to apply this plan to the case of town lands. In settling a new district, it seems essential that the Government should first purchase a block of a size sufficient for the intended town and suburbs, to be laid out and sold by auction.

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No difficulty would arise in making the necessary roads. The natives would see that they were for their benefit jointly with that of the settlers; and they could be employed advantageously on their construction, particularly where they passed through forest lands. 6

It would require, perhaps, more than twelve months to make the necessary inquiries preliminary to the purchase of land in a new district, but the information once gained would be applicable to all titles in the same district.

In the course of his investigations, the land officer would become familiar with the pedigrees of the chief persons in the district, and would collect traditionary history of the quarrels and wars which have affected their titles to land, and thus learn how conflicting claims had arisen.

It should not be lost sight of, that the Government would gain increased influence from thus being the depositary of the collective knowledge of different tribes; which knowledge is highly esteemed by the natives, and is one source of influence possessed by their most experienced chiefs. In cases of dispute, the Government would hereafter be appealed to as authority.

To prove the practicability of obtaining such information, I have the honour to enclose 7 the pedigrees of the principal persons of some of the tribes of the Bay of Plenty, which I learnt when employed in making a purchase of land near Maketu.

Civilized nations, from having trusted so long to writ-

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ten histories, have, I believe, very seriously impaired the powers of their memory, and have consequently learnt to undervalue traditionary evidence.

In conclusion, I would remark, that it seems to be so much the duty of the more civilized by all means in their power to preserve that good understanding between the two races, which alone can ultimately lead to their amalgamation; that, to bring about this end, they should not hesitate to sacrifice their prejudices, if they oppose those of the less civilized; and should be careful to adopt, in dealings with the latter, that course the justice of which can be made most intelligible to their understanding.

As a matter of mere policy, these considerations obtain greater weight, since it appears that latterly the native population has certainly not generally decreased, but rather increased.

I have the honour to be, &c.
B. Hawes, Esq., M.P.,
One of H. M. Secretaries of State for the Colonies, etc., etc., etc.


SOME of the chiefs of Ngatiwakaue and of Naitirangi, two neighbouring tribes, had long contested the right to an island in the Bay of Plenty, called Motiti (Flat Island of Cook). During one of the many discussions on the subject, the Ngatiwakaue tribe, in proof of the supe-

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riority of their claim, set forth that their ancestors were the first who landed at Maketu, and subsequently located themselves on Motiti. As collateral evidence of this, to make their case more clear to Europeans, they appealed to a green stone eardrop, called Kaukaumatua, which Tama-te-kapua, one of their ancestors, had brought with him from Hawaiki (the island from which they say they migrated), and which was then in possession of Te Heuheu, his lineal descendant. They argued, that they who could prove relationship to the possessor of this heirloom had a better right to occupy the land in question than persons who could show no claim but one derived from conquest, and who had in their turn been forced to abandon the land on the renewal of hostilities.


AKAROA, 15th August, 1843.

SIR,--In reply to your letter, dated November 19th, 1842, I have the honour to communicate to you the information which I have been able to collect relative to the nature of the tenure whereby lands are held among the aborigines.

According to native tradition, these islands were first inhabited by the present race, who left their own country, one of the Polynesian Islands, on account of some national disturbance. This probably happened between five and six hundred years ago. Several canoes are said to have sailed about the same time to seek new lands.

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Part of these only reached this shore; and the spot where each was finally drawn to land was taken possession of by the crew, who spread themselves from that centre over the more fertile districts, till they became a numerous tribe.

In confirmation of the truth of this, it is worthy of remark, that each of the grand divisions into which the natives of the northern island may be separated has its own characteristic dialect. And it seems probable that the term Waka (canoe), which is used to denote these primary divisions, has reference to this origin of the tribes.

At the present day, these Waka are divided into many distinct Iwi; each of which is subdivided again into Hapu, or smaller communities. These Iwi, although descended from common ancestors, have, through quarrels respecting their lands and women, imbibed hatred to each other, which keeps them in continual feuds -- forgotten only for a while, when assailed by a common enemy, they have united for mutual protection, as the tribes of Waikato did when attacked by Ngapuhi.

The territory claimed by each Waka is subdivided into districts, each of which is claimed by an Iwi. These are again variously apportioned among the different Hapu and families of chiefs.

In the immediate vicinity of a Pa, the land is more minutely subdivided between its inmates, nearly every person having his own small cultivation ground, or holding some spot in common with other members of his family. This circumstance would render it very difficult

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for Europeans to purchase lands once so occupied, even though the Pa may have been deserted for many years; as every man whose ancestor had cultivated there will expect his claim to be satisfied.

The chiefs are the principal land-owners. Every individual, however, so far as I have been able to learn, has his own estate which he has inherited from his branch of the family, and which he cultivates as he pleases. The sons of a chief may, during his lifetime, select kainga (farms) from their father's estate; but the larger portions are cultivated in common by the different members of the family. When a daughter marries, a small farm is generally given to her, which, however, should she die without issue, reverts to her brothers.

On the death of the father, the eldest son chooses some part of the lands for himself. The others do the same: the daughters obtaining only so much as their father or brothers choose to leave them. This order of things is sometimes changed, in case the elder brother is of a quiet disposition, and his younger brother happens to be a toa, or turbulent fellow. The latter will then grasp the bulk of the property to the exclusion of the rest, even during his father's lifetime. And he is in the opinion of his tribe entitled to respect for this show of spirit. The husband of a sister is at liberty to do the same, if he can. The other members of the family then sink to the condition of tutua (insignificant persons), retaining only their right to their kainga, or cultivation grounds.

Ngatiwakaue, perhaps the most turbulent tribe in the island, seem to carry to a great extent this system of raising one member of the family at the expense of the rest.

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A chief, when speaking of the title by which he holds his lands, never fails to make a distinction between those which he has inherited from his ancestors, and those which he or his ancestors have obtained by conquest. Over the first his right is universally recognized. The latter appear to be tenable only so long as the party in possession are the more powerful. The claim which he advances is, however, quite characteristic of this people; namely, that they are the utu, or compensation, for the loss of his relations, who perished during the fight.

It is from purchasing lands, the right to which is thus contested by two hostile parties, either of whom is glad to avail himself of an opportunity to sell independently of the other, that Europeans have unwarily fallen into so many difficulties.

Besides the lands thus held, there are large districts on the borders of different tribes which remain uncultivated. These kainga tautohe, or debatable lands, are a never-failing cause of war till one party has lost all its principal men. The remnant then cease to have any political importance, and are reduced to the condition of mere cultivators of the soil, being contemptuously styled a toenga-kai, or offal.

When a dispute arises between members of the same tribe, who is the lawful owner of a piece of land, the principal persons on both sides meet together to discuss the affair. Their pedigrees are traced, and the ancestor from whom either party claims is declared. Any proof that an act of ownership (such as cultivating, building a house, setting pitfalls for rats, or erecting eel-weirs,) was once exercised without opposition by one of these ancestors, is

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considered sufficient evidence of the right of his descendants to the land.

I have the honour to be, &c.
To the Chief Protector of the Aborigines, etc., etc., etc.


COROMANDEL HARBOUR, 10th June, 1844.

SIR,--In reference to the claims to land in the Hauraki district, which were investigated last year by Commissioner Richmond, I have the honour to bring under your notice the fact, that promises of future payment have in many cases been made to natives interested, to prevent their opposition, or to induce them to give favourable evidence.

This I have learnt from natives who were parties to such transactions, and who have made application to me respecting the non-fulfilment of such promises.

It has also come within my knowledge, that the evidence produced before Commissioner Godfrey has, in many cases, been given under similar influence.

I am aware that this practice has prevailed to a certain extent generally, at all similar investigations. Its effects, however, must be injurious both to the natives and to the claimants. It tempts the former either to threaten unjust

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opposition, or to give untrue evidence, to the injury of native absentee proprietors, who may never have parted with their rights. And as the Commissioners may recommend the issue of Crown grants to lands, the title to which rests on such evidence, cases will probably occur where the lands may be resold to persons who intend to settle thereon; when, if any portion is included which has never been sold by the rightful owners, or if any promise of further payment remain unfulfilled, application will at once be made to the new comers, who will then for the first time learn that their title is incomplete.

Since all disputes arising from this source, will necessarily be referred to you for investigation, I lose no time in writing to you on the subject; and at the same time, I take the liberty to suggest a mode of removing these imperfections from titles granted by the Crown, and of avoiding endless trouble hereafter.

1st. That a Protector of Aborigines be sent to mark out the boundaries of lands sold, distinctly, by posts, &c. I believe he would find no difficulty in effecting this with the aid of the natives. The claimant or his agent might be on the spot; and such a description might thus be furnished, that a surveyor would have nothing to do but to estimate the contents of the area included.

2ndly. That cognizance be taken by the Government of all promises, of the nature above described, and that Protectors of Aborigines be instructed to draw up statements of them, signed by the claimant or his agent who made the promise, and by the natives to whom the promise was made, so as to enforce their fulfilment before the lands fall into new hands.

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Without some such precautions be taken, before the issue of Crown grants, I fear that serious difficulty and responsibility will result to the Government.

I have the honour to be, &c.
To the Chief Protector of the Aborigines, etc., etc., etc.

[Two whakapapa on inserted fold-out pages]

[Names include Hou or Houmaitawhiti, Rangitihi, Tuhourangi, Wakaue, Tutanekai, Korokai, Te Pakaru, Taiapo, Te Aitu, Hikairo]

[Names include Tia, Tapuika, Pongo or Ngakai, Tohiteururangi Tereanuku, Te Ngahuru, Te Amohau, Huka, Te Pukuatua, Tupaia, Tarakura, Tauroa, Punohu]

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1. A chief of the crew of the Arawa.

2. Vide pp. 122 and 123, anecdote of this chief.

3. A chief of the Naitirangi tribe.


1. A chief of the crew of the Arawa.

2. Tauroa was descended from Tainui ancestors. He came from Kawhia, and marrying Puriti, settled at Rangiuru.

3. Murdered, as related at p. 17.

4. Through Tarakura is derived Tupaia's claim to the island Motiti, so long a subject of dispute.

5. Anecdote of this chief, vide pp. 20, 21.

6. The most influential chief at Tauranga.

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1   "Maro-nui-a-Tia, e. Kikona ra koe tu mai ai. Haere ake au nei. To ake te papa i taku whare." "Maro-nui-a-Tia, farewell. You will remain firm where you are now. When I go up hence, close after me the door of the house." Such were the farewell words of Ouenukukopako when quitting for ever his residence at Taupo. He was on his way to Rotorua, and was seated on the hill called Maro-nui-a-Tia, the last point in the path from which he could catch a glimpse of his deserted home. The words are preserved by his descendants as a whakatauki, or proverb, to be applied when any one goes from his home with the intention of never returning. Maro-nui-a-Tia means Wife-of-Tia; Tia being the name of his ancestor who came to New Zealand in the Arawa.
2   Vide infra, enclosure A.
3   Vide infra, enclosure B; vide also Southern Districts of New Zealand, chap. v.
4   Vide supra, p. 18.
5   Vide Enclosure C.
6   The truth of this observation has since been proved experimentally.
7   Enclosure D.

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