1893 - Stack, J. W. Kaiapohia: the Story of a Siege [1990 reprint] - CHAPTER I. A CONTRAST, p 9-18

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  1893 - Stack, J. W. Kaiapohia: the Story of a Siege [1990 reprint] - CHAPTER I. A CONTRAST, p 9-18
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THE Pah of Kaiapoi, after which the English town of that name in the Provincial District of Canterbury is called, was the chief fortress and stronghold of the Maori tribe of Ngai Tahu; and the story of its siege and capture by a hostile force from the North Island, under the command of the famous warrior chief, Rauparaha, forms the most important chapter in the modern history of the natives residing in the South Island of New Zealand. The facts narrated in the following pages were told the writer more than thirty years ago, by persons who had either taken part in the defence of the Pah, or who had once resided within its walls.

The growth and development of the English community in this country has been so rapid that only a small percentage of persons in it have any conception of the marvellous change which has taken place in the appearance of New Zealand, and in the character of its inhabitants within the short period of sixty years. No one

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passing to-day through the busy towns, and along the well-kept highways and railroads, which traverse a country studded in all directions with comfortable homesteads, surrounded by cornfields and well-stocked pastures,--could imagine that persons still living have only to close their eyes to the scenes around them to enable them to recall to mind the appearance of the country when there was not a sign of civilized life to be found anywhere within a thousand miles of it, when everything was in a state of nature, and the only people to be seen were fierce, untamed barbarians. No two parts of the world were then more unlike each other than highly cultivated, highly civilized England and wild uncouth, barbaric New Zealand; they had nothing in common; the physical features of both countries, and the vegetation, the animal life, and the people were altogether different. But so rapid has been the process of transformation, that persons who have come to these shores within the last twenty-five years have found everything about them so like what they left behind in the Old World, that the change of residence has proved to them more like a removal from one English county to another than removal to a foreign land. Seeing no traces anywhere around them of barbarism, they have failed to realize that things have not always been here what they are now; that whilst the barbaric age is separated from the civilization of Europe by an interval of nearly

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two thousand years, it is only separated from the colonists of New Zealand by the short period of sixty; and that, in that short space of time, the pioneer settlers have passed through all the phases of experience, from barbarism to a high state of civilization. We have only to compare the Kaiapoi of the present with the Kaiapoi of the near past to realise this fact.

The Kaiapoi of to-day is a borough town, twelve miles north of the city of Christchurch, presided over by a Mayor and Councillors, and is the centre of a large and flourishing agricultural district. The site of the town was fixed upon in 1853; but the first building, which was a thatched cottage of wattle and daub, was not put up till 1855. Since that date hundreds of substantial dwellings have been erected, and the population of the town and neighbourhood, which is entirely European, has grown from one inhabitant to four thousand. There are no less than five hundred children attending the State School in the borough. The main trunk line of Railway passes through the town, and the telegraph puts the place in communication with all parts of the world. Shops of various kinds and hotels are found in the main thoroughfares, as well as warehouses for the storage of grain, and wool, and other produce, which is either exported by rail or by water in coasting vessels, which can easily load at the wharves along the bank of the river that flows through the centre of the town. The river is spanned by

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two bridges, one for wheel traffic and the other for foot-passengers. The most conspicuous public buildings are the churches belonging to Anglican, Presbyterian, Wesleyan, and Roman Catholic communions, the Borough Schools, the Oddfellows' Hall, the Masonic Hall, the Bank, the Resident Magistrates' Court, Borough Council Chamber, and a Library of several thousand volumes, the Drill Shed, and Fire Brigade Station. But the largest building of all is the Woollen Factory, on which the welfare of the town mainly depends. It occupies a very picturesque situation on the banks of the Cam, and covers a large space of ground, having attained to its present dimensions from very small beginnings. It was started in 1866 for the preparation of the fibre of native flax, which grew over thousands of acres in the immediate neighbourhood; but as it did not prove a paying concern, it was converted, in 1873, into a flannel and blanket factory. It changed hands for the third time in 1880, when the range of its operations was very greatly extended. The newest machinery was imported from Home, and the manufacture of every kind of woollen fabric undertaken. Being in a position to secure the choicest kinds of New Zealand wool, the Managers of the Kaiapoi factory are able to turn out as good work as any of the looms in the Old Country. The mill uses up about 950,000 lbs. of wool during the year, and employs 270 hands on the premises, and 320 in the Clothing Factory at Christchurch.

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The borough adjoins the Native Reserve of Kaiapoi, on which the Maoris reside. This Reserve contains two thousand six hundred and forty acres, and forms part of the land which the Maoris reserved for their exclusive use, when in 1848 they conveyed upwards of twenty million acres to the Crown for the small sum of two thousand pounds, an amount which was afterwards slightly added to. Six hundred acres in the centre of this block was covered at that time with fine forest trees, consisting mostly of black and white pine, and totara. When the existence of this forest became generally known to the colonists, many persons who were in search of employment purchased from the Maoris the right to use the timber, and for many years a brisk trade was carried on in building and fencing materials, and firewood--about two hundred sawyers being engaged in it, besides a large number of bullock-draymen, and sea-faring people who were employed in conveying the timber to Lyttelton and Christchurch. Before the days of wool and grain, it was the timber from the Maori Bush which supported the township of Kaiapoi. For many years past there has not been a tree, or even a stump to mark the site of the forest, which is now the richest arable land, yielding as much as sixty bushels of wheat to the acre. Every tree was cut down, and the stumps and roots were all removed for firewood, the high price obtainable for fuel making their removal profitable.

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The Maoris held their land in common till 1860, when it was divided amongst them, each man receiving a section of fourteen acres which was Crown-granted to him. For a time some of them farmed their sections, employing Europeans to do all the work from the fencing in of the ground to the grinding of the corn grown upon it, the money to pay them for their labour being obtained by the sale of some part of the bush. But when this source of revenue was exhausted they had nothing to pay wages with, and so the Maoris took to leasing their sections to Europeans, receiving at first a rental of about five shillings an acre; but competition has improved the letting value of their land, for which they now receive an average rental of thirty shillings an acre.

About the same time that the sub-division of the land took place the Church Mission Station was formed at S. Stephens, the site being chosen near the centre of the reserve. Gradually the Maoris removed from the vicinity of the English township where they were settled, along the banks of the Cam, and built their houses round the Church and Boarding School, where they formed a village, the counterpart of the neighbouring English hamlets. They were satisfied at first with anything in the shape of a weather-board house, but as soon as the settlers around them began to improve the style of their residences the Maoris copied their example, submitting

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to great privations in order to procure the necessary funds wherewith to make the desired improvements, often pledging their rents--which furnished their only source of income--for years for the purpose. One old gentleman who found great difficulty in procuring enough money to secure the erection of his house, having got together in the course of a few years the sum of forty pounds, proceeded to interview all the builders in the Christchurch district, hoping to induce one of them to put up a dwelling house for that sum; but as he insisted that it should contain a "parlour room," with a fire-place, and that the building should be match-lined throughout, and varnished, and painted, he could never come to terms with any of them, and had to content himself at last with such a house as he could get put up by a journeyman carpenter for the money; but he never took kindly to it, and always spoke of it in contemptuous terms as the white man's dog kennel." The most striking contrast to be found in the native village between the old and new style of Maori dwelling is the house built by the late Chief Te Aika, who was formerly an inhabitant of the old Kaiapoi Pah and fought in its defence The building is a neat villa residence with verandah in front, and contains five or six rooms of fair dimensions comfortably furnished. The sitting room has a piano in it on which the old Chiefs grand-daughter played for his

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amusement any English tunes with which he was familiar. A short distance behind the house stands a stable with accommodation for several horses, and a coach-house containing a good buggy. There is an orchard stocked with fruit trees, and in the front of the section a garden plot full of English flowers. A shed close by shelters one of Ransom and Sim's steam threshing machines owned by a company of young Maoris who work it together. All young Maoris can now speak English, and apart from their complexion there is nothing in the dress or manners and customs of the Kaiapoi Maoris of the present day to distinguish them from their English fellow-citizens.

Some details of the historical narrative contained in these pages may appear to the reader rather revolting, and calculated to produce an unfavourable impression of the Maori people; but, before adopting any adverse opinion about them upon such evidence as that which is herein supplied, the reader should bear in mind that it is not fair to judge the habits and actions of these people by our standard of 19th century culture and refinement, and that if we wish to deal fairly with them we ought to go back to the days of our own Saxon forefathers when they first appear on the page of European history for the standard by which to estimate their habits and actions; and if we do this we shall find that the difference between the two races is after all very small indeed.

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In a work written by Professor Gummere, and published during the present year, the "aim of which is to give an account of the founders of our race," we find evidence of the humbling fact that our own forefathers were guilty at times of perpetrating quite as blood-curdling deeds of ferocity as the Maoris--that they were just as cruel, and almost as backward in their civilization. Their dwelling-house consisted of one chamber which was used for all purposes. Adults wore but scanty clothing, and young children none at all. As late as the 6th century of the Christian era, infanticide was practised, and the sick and aged and useless people were killed without compunction. Scandinavian tradition contains allusions to the practice of drinking the blood of a slain enemy, in order to acquire his courage and spirit. "Eating the heart" is a tradition deep rooted in Germanic mythology. The German warrior's favourite drinking vessel was one fashioned from the skull of a slaughtered enemy. The famous Alboin, King of the Lombards, after killing his father-in-law, Cunimund, caused a drinking cup to be made from his skull. This cup he had the inhumanity to send, filled with wine, to his queen, telling her "to drink with her father'-- an insult which deservedly cost him his life.

The following story of the siege and capture of Kaiapohia is published in the hope that it will not only prove interesting to the general public, but especially so to those who have been

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born in the vicinity of Kaiapoi, and who may learn, perhaps for the first time, from these pages, the interesting nature of the locality with which they are so closely identified. And if the story has the good fortune to survive long enough in print, it may prove of some service hereafter to the historian and the archeologist, when time has done for Pakeha and Maori history what it has done for that of Saxon, Norman and Briton.

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