1884 - Lady Martin. Our Maoris - CHAPTER IV: PEACE AND ITS FRUITS. 1847.

E N Z B       
       Home   |  Browse  |  Search  |  Variant Spellings  |  Links  |  EPUB Downloads
Feedback  |  Conditions of Use      
  1884 - Lady Martin. Our Maoris - CHAPTER IV: PEACE AND ITS FRUITS. 1847.
Previous section | Next section      


[Image of page 53]


IT was not till July, 1847, that peace was made through the length and breadth of the land, for there was fighting in the south at intervals for nearly two years. When all was quiet, the new Governor, Sir George Grey, presented the old warrior, Te Rau-pa-ra-ha, with a gig and horse, and his son immediately set to work to make a good road to Wellington, and so the country was opened. No sooner was all quiet than the natives began almost literally to turn their swords into ploughshares, and set to work with all their strength of purpose to grow wheat. The Governor wisely encouraged this movement by presents of ploughs and horses, and by giving money towards the erection of mills.

One old chief sat up all night after the arrival of his plough-horse to talk to it and caress it. "What is the good of your doing that?" said a matter-of-fact settler to him, "he can't understand you." "Can't he?" said the old man, with a knowing nod, "then why do you say 'Gee up' and 'Whoa'?" "Daughter," wrote a white-headed man to me from

[Image of page 54]

the Island of Waiheke, "ask the Governor to give me also a plough. Women's words are very powerful. You will get one for your loving son Hori--i. e., George."

But it was not mere child's play. Everywhere large tracts of wheat were grown, and the natives contributed largely towards the erection of mills. Many bought cows, and friends of ours travelling through the country a year or two later were pleasantly surprised to find home-baked bread and fresh milk offered to them in the villages, instead of potatoes only. This general stir throughout the country made us acquainted with the tribes that lived in the interior, near to the hot springs and lake district on the East Coast. The soil was not favourable for wheat-growing, but they brought scraped flax and Indian corn to Auckland. To do this they had to buy cutters or schooners. There were one or two good harbours near. It was wonderful to see the amount of patience and self-denial exercised by these wild people. No one man could obtain money enough to buy a vessel. It must be a tribal purchase, and become tribal property. Whole villages--men, women, and children-- worked for months, scraping flax, till the money was raised. They made poor bargains generally, buying a worn-out tub of some trader; but they had no fears, and the little craft would run up and down the coast laden with produce till she got knocked to pieces in a gale of wind, or foundered on the rocky

[Image of page 55]

coast, often with great loss of life. One poor fellow came to us in much grief. We had warned him not to buy the vessel offered for sale, but he and his people were too eager to wait, and it very soon suffered shipwreck. "Mother," he began, "my heart is as black as my trousers." Very often these native vessels were detained for a week or two in Auckland by adverse winds, and as most of the women, with their children, accompanied their husbands, there was much distress for want of food. A deputation would then be sent to us, praying for an order for flour and sugar, with many promises of payment when the next potato crops should be ripe. Of course we lectured them on their improvidence; but we always ended by giving an order for food, and most faithfully did they repay us. Months after a large party might be seen toiling up our hill, laden with potatoes or corn, and there was generally a basket or two extra in token of their gratitude.

These Ma-ke-tu and Roto-rua natives were very unlike our first friends, the Waikatos. They have a harsh provincial accent, and a very blustering manner. One of our first acquaintances among them was a huge old Titan named Tanga-roa (Long man). His people at Ma-ke-tu had deservedly obtained the character of being very lawless, and had lately plundered a schooner that was wrecked on the coast. He handed us, with modest pride, a bit of dirty paper, which he

[Image of page 56]

brought out from under his blanket--a testimonial, as he deemed, of good conduct. It was from the captain: --"I certify that Tanga-roa had nothing to do with the plundering of my vessel, because he was away at the time." A large party of Roto-rua men was in Auckland when Government House was burned down. A friend of Sir George Grey's had just arrived, who had lately been through the Kaffir war. They sat up late, talking over the condition of the Maoris. The more strongly the Governor dwelt on their good faith and loyalty, the more did the new-comer warn him to trust no coloured race.

Captain K------- woke up from his first sleep with a sense of oppression, and, looking out, found that the house was in flames, and saw a number of huge, wild-looking, naked men (as he supposed) sacking the place. They had gallantly volunteered to save the property, and to a large extent succeeded.

One of our Roto-rua acquaintances was a very remarkable man named To-hi. He had some years before (since our coming into the country) been concerned in an act of cannibalism. It was hard at first not to shrink from welcoming him. He was a thickset, short man, with a keen, strong-willed expression, the eyes bloodshot and fierce, but the whole expression was rather thoughtful and intelligent than savage.

The cause of his cruel raid on a neighbouring tribe was that a fine boy of his had started on a

[Image of page 57]

journey to them, and was never heard of again. He was probably drowned crossing some river, or lost in the forest. In the wild, passionate grief of a father, he took up the notion that they had killed and eaten him. They had been hostile in old days. Soon this notion, confirmed by wild rumours, grew into belief, and he and his men surprised and killed a number of his old enemies, and had a cannibal feast afterwards. When the Judge spoke reprovingly to Tohi of this deed, he grew wildly excited--his eyes glowed like red embers. He took up a ruler that lay near, and striking rapid blows on the table, he burst out: "Why should I not? They took my child and slew him, and roasted his liver in the fire. Why do you condemn the practice? Beasts of prey eat beasts, birds eat birds, fishes eat fishes--why should not man eat man?" Then, suddenly softening, he said quietly: "But I know it is contrary to English ways of thinking, and it shall be done no more." After a while he looked round at the various ornaments in the room, and said: "Friend, I am a son of Mate-te Kapua" (the mythic ancestor of his tribe, and a mighty lifter of property). "My fathers, when they desired a thing, stretched forth their hands and took it. I do not do this, but the hands of my heart go forth towards them. Take my child" (a boy of ten, his only remaining one) "and teach him your ways, that neither the hands of his body nor of his heart may covet."

[Image of page 58]

This wild man had good stuff in him. He put himself under Christian teaching, though he was never baptised. He became a very efficient magistrate under the Government, took the names of the Police Magistrate and the Acting Governor, and always signed his name, Beckham Wynyard Tohi. He died, fighting on our side, in the war of 1863. His wife was beside him when he fell, and directly shot the man dead who had killed him.

It often makes one shudder to hear the stale, flippant jokes about cannibalism indulged in by Christian men and women in England. We have heard young Maori men who had embraced Christianity speak with loathing of having been forced, as little children, to swallow some of the cooked flesh of their fathers' enemies. The youngest male child must take part in this deadly insult to the vanquished. Before joining in it, they were put into a state of tapu by the priest, from which they could only be released by certain spells and prayers.

"Why do your missionaries," said a clever Maori to us, "speak to us thus: 'Your sins of drunkenness, adultery, theft, and the like'? As far as I can see, English and Maoris are alike in these respects." Then he lowered his voice, and said: "One sin we had--a detestable one, which you Pakehas do not commit--but we have put that away."

It was wonderful to see how much strong common-

[Image of page 59]

sense our New Zealanders had, which restrained them in times of wild excitement. They had from the beginning of the colony shown reverence for law. When the Judge was returning home through the bush, in 1843, he stayed for two days at Taupo, in the heart of the country, and had much talk with a grand old heathen chief, named Te Heu-heu. He was a man of huge size and height, and of commanding presence. He had ten or twelve wives, was a regular autocrat, and was looked up to with awe by all the people of the district. He was very civil and friendly, but did not disguise his opinion that our laws were unnecessarily cruel. "Why do you keep a prisoner for days and days awaiting his trial? If any one commits a crime here, I knock him on the head at once. Then, too, you put people in prison for such small things. Now, Judge, listen to me. If a man were to dare to take one of my wives or to take this" (pointing to a beautiful hatchet made of green stone, and highly polished, which he carried in his hand), "I should kill him, of course, at once; but if he pilfers little things, I take no notice," and he drew himself up with an air of fine contempt at our "mean white" notions of justice.

Some years after this, a party of Waikato natives came into Auckland to trade, and one young fellow, in a high-handed fashion, snatched a shirt from a shop, and ran off with it. He was at once pursued,

[Image of page 60]

captured, and put into the lock-up. Now, the Waikato tribe had a very high opinion of themselves. They had, in old days, been mighty warriors, and had always, from the beginning, been staunch friends to the English. This capture, therefore, wounded the feelings of the whole party deeply, and they at once cleared out of the town, and went, in high dudgeon, to the village of some kinsfolk, three miles off. We were staying at St. John's College, and as soon as the Judge heard of the excitement, he walked down with Archdeacon Abraham to see them. As they went down the hill towards O-ra-ke-i not a sound was to be heard or a man to be seen; but, as they turned towards the village, a hundred men sprang up from the bush and began to dance the war-dance. When that was over, a speaker rose and began a vehement speech, running up and down as he spoke: "Now is a shirt for the first time become something great; now is a shirt to bring disgrace upon Waikato," and so on. The Judge waited till he had done, and then very quietly pointed out that the law must be obeyed in small matters as well as in great, and that small thefts led on to bolder deeds of violence. One or two more speakers had their say, but the tone soon softened down. In about half-an-hour, the native teacher came up with a prayer-book to the Archdeacon, and whispered: "Things are all quiet now; will you not read evening prayers?" This, of course, was done, and the malcontents joined

[Image of page 61]

in heartily, and the next day returned to Auckland to trade, and left the young man to bear a short imprisonment.

There was great feeling another time about the trial of an Englishman who had quarrelled with and killed a Maori woman with whom he was living. The old chief of her tribe, Kiwi by name, came up to Auckland. He was a short, excitable, wild-looking man, and threw out dark hints to the Native Secretary that, if favour was shown to the prisoner, it might become unsafe for travellers to pass through his district. "The cliffs," he said, "were steep there, and the path ran along the top of them. Moreover, when Maketu killed an Englishman, the Maoris gave him up to be executed. Why should not this prisoner be given up to the Maoris?" He was answered, "Has Kiwi got any man in his tribe as learned and impartial as the English Judge?"

"No," said he, "we have no man like him." On the day of the trial, he appeared early in the morning at our house with a large party, and announced his intention of accompanying the Judge to Court. The Judge quietly answered that it was contrary to our law to appear to side with or show favour to either party. This the old man agreed to as a just rule. When the verdict of manslaughter was brought against the prisoner, he submitted quietly to the decision, and came to breakfast with us before he left Auckland.

Previous section | Next section