1870 - Meade, H. A Ride through the Disturbed Districts of New Zealand. [Chapters I-VI. - CHAPTER VI.

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  1870 - Meade, H. A Ride through the Disturbed Districts of New Zealand. [Chapters I-VI. - CHAPTER VI.
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Cross the Waikato -- Meeting with Poihipi -- Party of Uriweras -- Overtake Mr. Brenchley's party -- Camp out -- Mountain terraces -- New Zealand pigeon -- Mohaka -- Evening prayers -- Pohuhe -- Between the sheets-- Arrival at Napier -- Auckland Club--Points of Maori character -- Immorality -- Infanticide -- Hospitality -- Administration of justice -- Capacity for work -- Christianity -- Prospects of the race.

To return to our journey:--

We crossed the "Waikato by the ferry on Sunday morning, and soon afterwards entering the tea-tree scrub, the last glimpse of Poihipi's pah, with the Queen's flag waving over it, was shut out from our view.

For the greater part of the day we were traversing the south-western extremity of the Kaingaroa plain. Its surface is as even as a pavement, diversified only by a few shallow basins whose sides and bottoms are also perfectly smooth. Though watered by many streams it is altogether barren, nothing but small pumice-stones with widely-scattered tufts of worthless native grass and tea tree stunted to the dimensions of heather.

After fording two rivers, the Waipunga and Rangitaiki, we passed a tremendous chasm, terminat-

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ing at the edge of the path. It was here that in days of yore prisoners of war were thrown down alive.

We stopped a few minutes at the Kingite village of Opepe, for to have passed by without doing so would have been an insult; but we declined their offer of hospitality and kept pretty close to our horses. There was, however, no cause for alarm, as these people had not then become Hau-haus. After this we came to a belt of wood, a mile or two in breadth, where we halted for our simple dinner of hard biscuit and water and met Poihipi on his return from Brenchley. He was of course much surprised at seeing us at all, but in an instant I saw by the expression of his face that he thought I had merely pretended to go by Waikato to get rid of him and secure the services of the more lively Hemipo and his well-conditioned horses, which would have been very ungrateful after all the trouble he had had with us. Hemipo was too proud to make the necessary explanation, and Poihipi apparently would not understand what had happened by any combination of English, Maori, and signs which I could effect. I know I looked dreadfully guilty, and the old man rode away with a melancholy look of reproach which quite spoilt my dinner.

Soon afterwards, leaving the woods on our right, we passed over more plain, with a little swampy lagoon, and then found ourselves among the hills

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and mountains which extend thenceforward all the way to Napier, and which include two distinct and lofty ranges.

In the midst of a vast flat-bottomed valley, we met a long train of Kingites, Uriweras (the most savage tribe), with numbers of heavily-laden pack-horses, wending their way from Napier, where they had been making their purchases, to Taupo and the Waikato. Could we have seen the contents of those packs, there is little doubt that many a parcel of gunpowder and lead would we have found. According to custom on these occasions, as Hemipo explained, we diverged from the path a hundred yards or more, and halted with a salutation while they passed, which they did in peace.

Immediately afterwards we descried Brenchley and party in the distance at the end of the valley, and spurring on our horses, overtook them at a gallop. It appears that B------'s natives, not expecting to see us, mistook us for some of the Kingites whom we had just passed, and cried out that the Uriweras were galloping back to attack them. We accordingly found Brenchley "cleared away for action," with revolver in hand, ready to defend both life and luggage.

With pack and bad horses and dilatory companions, he had not of course been able to travel as fast as we, who had ridden hard, this being his third day out.

When about abreast of Runanga, a Kingite settle-

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ment a little off the road, Takiuira (our handsome friend who fought for "love" like an Irishman) and some of the Waihaha people joined our party: the more the merrier.

30th. --We bivouacked last night in a beautiful ravine, or fissure, in the side of a lofty mountain, whence, looking between the trees on either side, as through a picture-frame, we enjoyed a right glorious view of vistas of thickly-timbered mountains, with curiously well-defined terraces and deep gorges, and here and there a silvery bit of winding river, almost hidden in the foliage of the valleys.

We had a glorious fire, some 30 feet in diameter, round which the natives busied themselves in cutting for us the most luxurious beds, and then laughed and sang till long past midnight.

We left the camp at early dawn; for though there was enough rain to wet us through and chill us to the bones, there was no water for washing or breakfast; so after fording the Aratotara, a stream too deep and rapid to be crossed, even now, dry-seated, in any acrobatic position, and therefore I fancy quite impassable in winter, we reached Tarawera, a village perched on a high and steep terrace overlooking the river Waipunga.

Terraces such as that on which this village is built form the distinctive feature of the scenery throughout the greater part of the Northern Island,

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though they differ much from one another in shape, extent, and height.

They occur in single, double, and treble rows, one above another. In the country we are now passing through, there is generally a single row of terraces, suspended as it were, midway between the summits of the mountains and the streams at their feet, with upper surfaces perfectly level and divided by clean-cut edges from their steep and lofty sides, which are far more heavily timbered than the flats above them. The effect is to give the scenery an appearance of singular massiveness and grandeur.

The chief, a silver-haired old man named Paora Motutawa, welcomed us with great cordiality, and producing his little stock of flour for our breakfast, we feasted sumptuously on damper and tea.

Then came a plunge in the cool running river, and after some delay, caused by the unwillingness of our natives to leave such pleasant quarters, we got our little cavalcade clear of the village before noon.

The forest was very beautiful; quantities of graceful tree fern; lofty timber with weeping foliage; and pendent creepers in great variety and luxuriance. We met with a very few small birds, which made up for the want of numbers by the beauty and clearness of their notes. Later in the day we saw several specimens of the kukupa, or great New Zealand pigeon, sitting sometimes on the lowest branches of trees which overhung the path. I fired at two or three

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with a revolver, as they sat dreamily gazing at the men with the strangely-coloured skins, but missed them all, in spite of their size and their tameness.

Ve had some heart-breaking mountain ridges to cross during this and the following day, more especially one just before arriving at Te Haroto, --miles of steep and slippery ascent without a single break. We found Te Haroto nearly deserted, but there were a few scattered groups of whares in the neighbourhood, whose inhabitants mounted their horses on seeing our approach, and accompanied us on to Mohaka, where we passed the night.

This settlement is curiously situated on the banks of a river traversing an apparently oval piece of table-land surrounded by mountains, suggesting the very unromantic idea of a deep and gigantic dish, divided by a crack, through which flows the river Waiaoao.

We found here a great concourse of natives, who lodged us royally in a tent carpeted with new mats on fern, and regaled us with beef.

The bullock had only just been killed, and the flesh of the veteran made our teeth ache again; but meat of any sort is a great luxury after living so long on potatoes alone. There has been recently a great sale of land here to the Crown, which accounts for the beef, as well as for the unusual number of natives. Some of the men have very Jewish features: some of the women pretty faces, though of

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pure Maori blood. At sunset this evening the little bell of the chapel, or "whare-karakia," checked for a time the eating and smoking and boisterous merriment around us; while from every side, old men and young ones, girls, and mothers with their children in their arms, came streaming in to attend the usual evening prayers read by a Maori deacon.

31st. --A cold night, with a sharp, white frost. Prayers again--well attended--at seven this morning. Left at nine, and crossed the river. The track between Taupo and Napier may occasionally be dignified by the name of a road, some part of it being passable to a cart. For the last two days Brenchley and I have been riding on with Hemipo, leaving the other natives to follow with our baggage more leisurely. It took us several hours to cross the next range of mountains, Brenchley comparing the scenery to that of the Pyrenees; after which we passed two Pakeha-Maories' houses, near the native village of Titiokura, and at two reached Mr. P------'s station at Pohuhe, about a mile off the road.

He has only been out about two years, and has at present but 3000 sheep and a small quantity of cattle. His daughters look after the house, while he with his four sons and two servants do the remainder --burning off the fern, sowing English grasses, fencing in the paddocks, and building bridges. There are everywhere signs of cleanliness, of contentment.

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and of the cheerful hard work which is daily improving and civilizing the little home in this desert of fern.

Our host soon made us free of the house, and set before us a savoury stew of smoking steaks, with draughts of rich sweet milk. Our table had not had such grazing grounds as these for many a long day, and the trim little damsel who so kindly ministered to our wants could hardly conceal her surprise at the voracity with which, after emptying the ample dishes before us, we hungrily craved for more.

But even eating cannot last for ever, so after declining our host's pressing invitation to pass the night under his roof, we saddled our steeds, which had been enjoying themselves as much as their riders, in a paddock of soft English grass, and started again at four, hoping to reach Napier the same night. In another two hours we reached the river Petane, whose course we had to follow nearly all the rest of the journey, fording it just nineteen times during the evening. The moon set early behind the hills, and we had to ask our way at the only house we saw.

We reached Irin before 11 P. M., but finding that there yet remain some five miles of heavy shingle and a ferry to cross between this and Napier, and our horses having been nearly twelve hours on the road, we stay here the night, revelling in the unwonted luxury of beds.

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February 1st. --In the course of the afternoon the rest of our party came up with the traps, and we all went into Napier the same evening.

Their powers of digestion proved even greater than ours, and kept the kitchen of the little inn in full operation for several hours before they were satisfied. But remembering our own appetites, I shall in future think more charitably of the excesses of savages who, after long mouths of abstinence, gorge themselves when they suddenly obtain possession of an abundance of meat.

9th. ---Arrived at Auckland, after a two days' passage from Napier, where we were made welcome during our short stay at the club, having been introduced by the superintendent of the province, with whom we had to communicate touching the provisioning of the natives of our party by Government until their departure on their return journey. The gentlemen who form the majority of the members of the club are mostly holders of sheep-runs, and amongst them a more kindly spirit is shown towards the Maories than is to be found among the politicians and speculators of one or two of the larger towns.

Several settlers told me of the faithfulness with which the natives have held to their land contracts, permitting the lessees to retain the land for the whole term of years agreed upon at the original rent,

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although not bound by law, when they might, from the increased value of land and the competition among the whites, have easily obtained two or three times the amount of rent. Others have told me that they prefer the neighbourhood of Maories on their stations to that of the lower class of whites, on account of the greater security of property.

On the whole I prefer the Maories to any uncivilized race with which I have yet come in contact. We have now been living for the greater part of two months with the Maories, under circumstances of intimacy which have afforded us better opportunities of judging their character than years spent in town or camp. But, of course, I can only speak of those amongst whom we have been, for the natives on the east coast, north of Auckland, and in other parts, differ much in habits and character.

I will endeavour to mention the more prominent points in their character which strike the new comer most forcibly.

The first is their great and undoubted valour: that, at least, is allowed by their bitterest detractors, and they have many.

As a race they are honest. There are thieves among them, but they are few and despised.

During the whole time that I was up the country, living often in the same whares with the natives of our party or our hosts, my baggage was never locked, and often left open in my absence, yet I never missed

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anything, though it contained many things which they covet.

They are a very good-tempered people, easily pleased, but keenly alive to a slight, not quarrelling much among themselves individually, and still more rarely coming to blows.

Much has been said of the immorality of the Maories--rather too much, I venture to think; certainly, at some of the garrisoned seaports they are bad enough, but in the interior, with the exception of Ohinemutu, where the mingling of sexes bathing nightly in the warm lake leads to a singular state of affairs, the standard of morality is not lower, if so low, as in many parts of Scotland and Wales.

Infidelity in the marriage state is rare on the part of the men, but the daughters of Eve are not quite so immaculate. Almost promiscuous free-love follows in the wake of Hau-hauism.

The Church marriage-service has rather fallen into disuse lately, it having been found that it has not the effect of making the married ladies more circumspect in their behaviour. The natives can recover damages before a bench of English and native magistrates for crim. con., but they have no means of obtaining divorce, so that women, knowing that their husbands cannot get rid of them for any cause and be free to marry again, are less careful.

Infanticide was in days gone by a very common crime; now it has succumbed to the influence of

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Christianity, together vsith the fear of national extinction; whilst the viler crimes so common amongst the natives of southern Europe and elsewhere are almost unknown. The ancient hospitality of the Maories is rapidly degenerating, and after a few more years of contact with white men will become a thing of the past.

There was an old chiefone of the old school-- who scorned to take payment for feasting his guests; but he too in time caught the thirst for money which at one time became a sort of "quinte" with the natives. One day a friend of mine, who had known him from childhood, stopped at his house, where he slept and left again the next day never thinking of such an insult as offering payment for his board and lodging. He had not gone far when he heard the old chief running after him and calling him back, crying, "You have murdered me," in a very doleful manner. He stopped, and found that his host meant that he had never offered him payment, and therefore forced him to ask for it; he wanted money, but being ignorant of the value of it, laid his "utu" at 6d.

These mercenary ideas are very much on the increase, especially among the "friendly" natives, who see more of us civilized people, and are losing their old feelings of independence and habits of self-support, mainly from the quantity of money they receive from Government in the shape of salaries as native magistrates, assessors, or policemen.

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The Arawas, with some of their offshoots between Rotorua and Taupo, are the only loyal tribe which we came near during our journey, and at some settlements from the half to two-thirds of the able-bodied men are receiving pay from Government in one of the above capacities.

As far as the administration of justice is concerned, the present system seems to work quite as well as can be expected amongst tribes where European resident magistrates are only appointed at the request of the natives, and cannot act with vigour unless supported by Maori public, or rather local, opinion. And it is to the credit of the magistrates of both races that Europeans, when they have a civil complaint against a Maori, prefer to bring their case before a native magistrate, and vice versa.

This sort of indirect bribery by paying such a large proportion of the faithful for nominal services is no longer necessary to keep them on our side, as the enmity between them and the Kingites, whom they have fought successfully on several occasions has become too deep for any fear of reconciliation; indeed the Kingites have ceased to make overtures to them. But it will now be very difficult to alter this system of Government officials without creating profound dissatisfaction. Another bad effect of this system is the encouragement, if not the creation, of idleness. The Queenite natives are certainly the laziest race I have ever seen. During the whole

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time that I was with them I never saw one man doing a hand's turn of work, with the exception of occasionally fishing in the lake, which can hardly be called work. There is no doubt that they can work, as is shown by the wonderful rapidity with which they throw up rifle-pits and construct pahs: but they require excitement to keep them up to the mark, and I fear do not understand properly the "dignity of labour," about which we hear so much in England, and are not at all proud of being seen hard at work.

While we were at Taupo the natives began building a whare, in which they hoped Mair would come and live in peaceable times; now though this house rose about as fast as it would have under the hands of the same number of dockyard "maties" working by the day, yet I never succeeded in detecting one of the Maories with adze in hand, though I came out surreptitiously at all hours. As travelling companions or servants their dilatoriness is irritating beyond measure.

They are very intelligent and reflective; they learn what is taught them in the schools much more rapidly than Europeans, and he who wants to "weather" a Maori in a bargain will have to get up very early in the morning. At the same time they are very superstitious, having a childish fear of darkness and solitude, ascribing omens to the commonest occurrences, and often cherishing a doubting, hidden

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terror of their Tohungas 1 and the objects of their old deserted heathen worship.

Amongst the latter is the green tree lizard, from which, whether alive or dead, men, women, and children are said to fly in real terror, and even take refuge in the water.

They do not fear the ordinary ground lizard (at least not where we have been), but merely experience the same sort of loathing that one of us would if required to go to bed with half-a-dozen eels.

Nearly all the chiefs are as proud as Lucifer -- pride of race, of influence, and of broad lands. And their mutual jealousy is proportionate; this has always been one of the principal causes of numbers joining our side against their own countrymen.

The residence of a Pakeha is a very frequent cause of bitter jealousy. They look on a Pakeha as a most useful animal causing all sorts of good things to fall in the way of those amongst whom he lives, and speak of him to one another as their "property."

Thus, Hohepa, chief of Oruanui, solemnly and three times over cursed Poihipi: taking a piece of flax, he said, "Here is his body," and then cut it into three pieces, merely because, from our protracted stay at Taupo, he thought Mair was going to take up his abode with Poihipi instead of himself.

What sort of a hold religion has on the Maories it is difficult for me to say when the missionaries

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themselves disagree. They are certainly not the angels on earth which you read of at home, yet in many places we stopped at where a missionary does not show for months or years together, the good seed sown in former days still bears some fruit in the shape of well-attended daily prayers, both morning and evening. I think that many of them are at least as good Christians as the average run of Europeans, save in the one particular of licentious conversation; and more cannot well be expected when it is remembered that a few years ago these people were all heathen cannibals (many of whom are alive now), and that the Christian religion is the faith of a nation against whom the Maories have fought long and fiercely.

The Maories are an undeniably well-made race, especially about the lower limbs; but in spite of the size of their calves, which would make the fortune of any London footman, they are not so fleet-footed as Europeans; neither in trials of strength can they lift such heavy weights.

The principal causes of the diminishing population are said to be the barrenness of women when married to their own countrymen, intermarrying, which still prevails to a great extent in some places; scrofula, which taints more or less nearly every hapu in the kingdom; the early abuse of tobacco; living in whare pens--hot, unhealthy, half-sunken houses, without ventilation; and eating a favourite

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mess made of half-rotten fermenting maize; and lastly--to those who live near towns--drink.

The rotten-corn luxury is now nearly out of fashion, and from the day that we left Auckland till the day we returned, I never saw a Maori drunk, though I can't say as much for the white men.

The possession of horses and the increasing rareness of wars have allowed the Maories to seek wives amongst other tribes, and the Arawas between Taupo and Maketu are now decidedly on the increase, their settlements swarming with children.

The "Half-castes" are one of the finest races I have ever seen, and the Maories are very proud of them, and always endeavour to get hold of the children and bring them up amongst them. Nearly all natives have great individuality of character and countenance. In many places we were struck with the strongly-marked Jewish features of both men and women, especially the former.

They would be a much handsomer race were it not for the custom--now, however, fast falling into disuse--of forcibly flattening by pressure the noses of the children.

The Half-caste race seem well fitted, both by their size and comeliness, their vigorous intelligence and the fecundity of the race, to form in days to come no inconsiderable portion of the inhabitants of this country.

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How long the pure native race may be preserved in times of peace it is difficult to say. At present they seem bent on war--a war not for the redress of grievances, or for revenge, nor for the conservation of their lands, but simply for the sovereignty of New Zealand.

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1   Priests and sorcerers.

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