Art. LXXV.—A Study of the Causes leading to the Extinction of the Maori.
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 22nd January, 1882].
The increases or decrease of a race living in our midst must necessarily be a subject of vital interest to each of us, and a study of the causes leading to such change is, I think, worthy of investigation. That the Maoris as a whole are very rapidly decreasing, needs but little proof. Everyone who has lived long in the colony must admit the fact. The early statistics are of course very loose; but the number of the observers and their general unanimity of statement, forms a mass of evidence which there is no denying. According to tradition, the Maoris came hither in thirteen canoes from Hawaiki, about five centuries ago. There is no evidence whatever to show that they found any race inhabiting these islands, and no faith can be placed in the vague tradition that these lands were inhabited by a dark race, the Ngatimamoe. The crews of these canoes were the first human beings who obtained a footing here. Finding a suitable climate and abundance of food, the race began to multiply and spread first over the northern half of the North Island, then gradually moving south, crossing over Cook Strait and overrunning the South Island and thence to Stewart's Island. Later on a number found their way to the Chatham Islands, forming a provincial branch—the Morioris. Various remains in the shape of old axes, and of ruins of old hill-forts, showed that these islanders were constantly engaged in intertribal wars, and that they were cannibals. The evidences of their having existed everywhere in these lands in what we may call pre-pakeha times, are very abundant. It is also abundantly proved that their advent to these islands was not above several centuries back. By the term “pre-pakeha” or “prehistoric,” I mean here the years immediately before the discovery of these islands by the first pakeha, Captain Tasman, in the year 1642. Mr. Colenso, quoting from a very rare book, says that Tasman describes how his ships were in one place attacked “by 8 canoes” and that “22 more boats put off from the shore,” these latter being double canoes. Parenthetically, I might here remark that Tasman says the warriors wore “each a large white feather in his hair.” This was a mark of chieftainship. I saw similar feathers nearly two and a-half centuries later in the heads of the released Maori prisoners who had been ennobled by Te Whiti at Parihaka
in 1881. The existence of 22 double canoes and 8 canoes in any one spot, is sufficient evidence of a large population. When Cook visited this place in about 1769, he saw very few boats. Dr. Forster in Cook's Second Voyage guessed the number of the Maoris at 100,000, “although,” as Colenso says, “he never saw any of the populous parts of the North Island.” Colenso quotes other estimates: Nicholas, in 1814, thought there were 150,000. Colenso thinks Forster's estimate far too low, because Forster only saw the sea coast, not going inland, and saw none on the whole west coast of the North Island, and therefore thought it uninhabited.
Amongst other authorities, I find that Cook, on one occasion, wrote there were 400,000 Maoris. In 1824, Major Cruise says there were nearly 3,000 present at a meeting at the Bay of Islands, and at another time a “vast number” of canoes. It would now be impossible to find anything like that number of people or canoes. The Rev. W. Williams, in 1835, estimated their numbers as not exceeding 200,000, and divides them thus:—
|Kapiti, and northern shores of Cook Strait||18,000|
|Bay of Plenty||15,600|
|East Coast, to Hawke's Bay||27,000|
Major Druse, writing in 1819, or a year or two previously, says that at one place he saw 50 canoes, each armed by fifty or sixty fighting men—at least 2,500 fighting men. Where now should we find such a concourse? Te Whiti, in 1881, at his greatest gatherings, could muster somewhat less than 1,000 fighting men. In about 1835, the numbers of the Maoris were estimated at 120,000, and in 1840 at 114,000. Governor Grey's figures in 1849 are 120,000, and Mr. McLean's in 1853 are 60,000. McKay asserts that from about 1820, the date of introduction of the musket, to close of Te Rauparaha's wars, in about 1840, no less than 60,000 perished. Colenso, Taylor, and others, have made similar statements, all showing the existence of a dense population. The numerous remains of old hill-forts show a former large population (see “Old New Zealand”). In places in the Auckland Province, and between Hawera and Patea, these ruins are existing in great abundance; now, scarcely any natives are to be found there. Terry, writing in about 1842, says that Williams very much underrated them, and based his estimates very largely on the tribes connected with the Church Missionary Society. Terry says there were 150,000 in the North Island alone. Another writer, in 1840, guesses the number at 80,000. This is the lowest estimate of early date that I have been able to find, and even this lowest makes their numbers double those now living. Colenso says that the missionaries knew, on excellent data, that in 1834 there were 7,000 fighting men from the Bay of Islands northward; that number has dwindled to less
than 1,500. Colenso took the greatest pains to number accurately the natives in Hawke's Bay and part of Wairarapa, in 1847–48, and counted 3,704, and ascertained that there were 45 tribes and sub-tribes: seventeen years later he reckons them at 2,000. Judge Fenton showed that, in fourteen years (1844–58), there was a decrease in the Waikato of 19 per cent. In 1858, the same learned authority, on good data, apportions them thus:—
[The section below cannot be correctly rendered as it contains complex formatting. See the image of the page for a more accurate rendering.]
|North Island||29,984||22,993 = 52,977|
|South Island||1,326||957 = 2,283||55,970|
|Stewart's Island and Ruapuke||110||90 = 200|
|Chatham Islands||247||263 = 510|
Mr. Alexander McKay's census for the South and Stewart Islands in 1868 is:—
|Adult Males||951||Adult Females||711|
|Male Children||375||Female Children||316||2,353|
In census of 1881 the figures are:
|Adult Males||697||Adult Females||526|
|Children, Males||424||Children, Females||414||2,061|
Colenso again in 1863 estimated the entire population at 49,000. It would be mere waste of time to supply a further list of figures all more or less accurate, but none strictly so. According to the census of 1881, which is fairly correct, there are 24,370 males and 19,729 females = 44,099, but of this number upwards of 400 are half-castes.
These statistics with a host of others might be adduced to justify the widespread belief that the race is rapidly dying out. Every intelligent observer has had before his eyes continually, ample proof of their astonishingly rapid disappearance. Here, within a 5-mile radius of this very lecture-room, since this colony was founded exactly 42 years ago, see how the Maoris have disappeared. There are now within that area only 37. There were, 42 years ago, a pa at Ngahauranga, one at Kaiwarra, a few families living near the site of Dr. Featherston's house, a few at Mr. Izard's; about 50 people at the bottom of Hobson-street; about 20 at Wordsworth-street, and 60 at Te Aro (Heaphy). A very few years before that there were three pas on Miramar peninsula; in one bloody battle between two of these pas, there were 500 killed on one side, and 70 on the other-even allowing for exaggeration in the two last figures, it shows a large population where now no Maori exists. So too wherever we revisit after a lapse of 20 years we find the same thing—the abolition of the pas, or their tenancy by a fraction of their former population. I know one ready objection to this statement is,
that the natives are not dead, but only gone farther inland. This argument in the case of the Maoris in the South Island, is clearly disproved by the fact that it has long been possible there accurately to count every native, no matter how far back they may go. Altogether apart from the mere question of statistics, I am quite positive that this objection in this island is perfectly groundless. Take this island: the natives round this city have almost died out; at the Hutt, but a remnant exists; the pa at Waiwhetu is gone; there are no natives in the Wainui-o-mata valley; or up the Hutt valley. In the Wairarapa many pas have vanished, and but a remnant remains in the others. My own knowledge of Hawke's Bay, extending back about twentyfive years, assures me that recent statistics even do not prove sufficiently clearly the rapidity of extinction. In that short time I know of several populous kaingas quite deserted. I know that formerly, twenty years ago, there were a large number of natives in the district where now but very few exist. All along the east coast, from this spot to Napier, they have greatly dwindled. If we go up the other coast we find the same thing. About twenty years ago there were 300 living at Porirua and near neighbourhood, now there are 53. AtWaikanae some forty years ago there were 500 fighting men besides women and children, now there are only 20. There was a pa at Paikakariki, now one family dwells there. Farther up is Otaki, where the population has greatly dwindled, and so we may go up through Horowhenua, with a fraction of its former population, onwards through the now almost deserted Manawatu and Rangitikei, to Wanganui, and right along the coast to Parihaka and Taranaki. How many warriors could now be put in the field as compared with those who encountered our troops under General Cameron. Clearly the natives have “gone farther back” than Hawke's Bay and Taranaki. If we start at the North Cape and travel downwards from the Three Kings, we have seen by statistics but a fraction of their numbers now exist north of Auckland, and a journey southwards to the Waikato and Thames will reveal the same scantiness of population. Judge Fenton showed us how they decreased in the Waikato in a few years, and all observers admit that the natives are fewer in the centre of this island and about the East Cape than they were twenty years ago.
The proof is overwhelming, the natives have not gone farther back—they have died.
The Maoris and the weaker Morioris in the Chatham Islands are almost extinct. Bishop Selwyn preached to 1,000; now the entire population, Maoris and Morioris, is 126.
Without going into the still disputed question as to which great division of the human family the Malay race belongs, according to the best evidence it seems clear that the Maoris are a part of the race which stretches west
from Singapore to Madagascar, perhaps to South Africa, and west to Java, the Marquesas, the Sandwich Islands to Otaheite, over most of the Pacific Isles to Easter Island and New Zealand. Through all this vast range of land we find a decaying race.
De Quatrefages, in his work on “The Human Species,” writes:—Captain Cook, just a century ago, estimated the Kanakas in the Sandwich Islands at 300,000. In 1861 there were 67,084–about 22 per cent. of the original number. From another source I find that the Kanakas in 1832 were 130,817, and in 1872, 56,897. In the Marquesas, Porter guessed the population in 1813 at 19,000 warriors, giving a population of 70,000 or 80,000. In 1858 M. Jouan found 2,500 or 3,000 warriors, and about 11,000 other people. Cook and Forster estimated the population of Tahiti at upwards of 240,000. In 1857 the official census gave only 7,212, that is to say, a little more than 3 per cent. of the original population. De Quatrefages also adds that this decrease of population extends to all the islands of Polynesia, and instances Bass Island, where Davis counted 2,000 people in the beginning of the century, and where Moerenhaut found only 300 in 1874. I believe it is the same with the Papuan race in Fiji and other islands. In the “Malay Archipelago” Wallace tells us that the Dyaks and other branches are dying out, owing to the frequency of deaths and the infertility of the race. The large stone ruins of Easter Island tell of a bygone dense population, where now but a beggarly remnant exists.
It would be mere waste of time to go on accumulating further evidence; everywhere the evidence is clear and abundant that not only in New Zealand but all over the broad Pacific the race is steadily dying out. This steady diminution of the race is not a peculiarity of the Maoris; it is common to the Malay family generally. Certain writers please to call the Maoris a “provisional race,” but the phrase though learned means little. The Maori is becoming extinct, like many other races, from almost identical causes. All over the world we see some races progressive, some stationary, others decaying; others recently extinct, a few fossil. The Anglo-Saxon race is rapidly progressing; the French seem nearly stationary; the North American Indians are fast vanishing; so are the Bosjesmen. Soon will vanish the Ainos, the Eskimos, the Australian aborigines, the Kamskatdales, the Makalolos and the Morioris. Lately extinct are the Tasmanians the Charruas, the blacks of California. Long extinct are the race found as mummies in the caves of Madeira, the Cro-Magnon race; the people whose remains are found in the caves of the Pyrenees and the Perigord: still more anciently extinct is the race to whom belonged the fossil man of Neanderthal.
All over the world we see evidences abundant, clear, and indisputable, that races of mankind like individuals have their birth, their period of growth; some are fertile and give birth to other races; some races are sterile, merely propagating themselves for a time, but in either case invariably like individuals beginning to die and then becoming extinct. Such a race is the Maori, a small race inhabiting a strange land, multiplying rapidly, giving birth to one weakly offspring, the Morioris, and now steadily dying, just as do individuals. The race is “run out,” it is effete; seems thoroughly worn out, and its approaching death has been hastened by the struggles with a newer and a fresher race. The races of mankind are like individuals in this respect, each has its birth, its maturity, begets fresh races or individuals, and then slowly or rapidly decays. They die out just as certainly as do individuals. We as individuals have a certain time, bar accidents, to grow, increase, multiply, and decrease. I believe that races have the same, and that in time all the existing races, no matter how flourishing, will die out: in some instances leaving a progeny, in others none. The public settle the question of the dying out of the Maori race in an off-hand manner, by saying “the black man always speedily disappears before the white;” but that the advent of the white man alone is the sole cause is disproved by the dying out of the Dyaks in parts where the whites have barely reached; so, too, in other islands of the Pacific where the white race can have had at the utmost a trivial effect. Undoubtedly we do speedily kill the black races in all countries sufficiently cool for us to live and thrive in.
The rapid decrease of the Maoris is a startling fact when we recollect that for the last fifteen years they have had no devastating wars: that of late they have been living in peace among themselves, and in the South Island have not fought the Europeans or among themselves for thirty years. Formerly the tribes were always at war with adjacent tribes, and when not actually fighting were continually destroying each others crops. Formerly their food was hard to get, and poor when got: now the supplies are regular and far more nutritious. They all possess ample means. They never die of starvation. They can all obtain ample clothing. The struggle for existence is among them far less severe than it is amongst ourselves, yet our race, by natural means, apart from immigration, is increasing as rapidly as the other is decreasing. Moreover, there seems now to be less chance than ever of any union of the races. Half-castes appear to be far fewer proportionately than in the early days of the colony; and those few who do not revert to the semi-savage state, but become civilized, are an unproductive race. In the course of a few generations the Maoris will die out and leave no trace of their union with the whites.
To gain a clear view of the effects of the different causes leading to the extinction of the race it will be well to study very briefly the Maoris in their former wild and their present civilized conditions. Before we came to these islands the natives were dotted in clusters all over the islands, but more thickly in the northern one. These clusters were generally on small or lofty hills, with a wood near and a river at the base. As they were divided into many tribes, which were always ready to fight for their own protection, each small tribe, or parts of bigger tribes, entrenched themselves on the spurs of a mountain or the brow of a hill. One side of the hill was usually a steep ascent, and the other sides frequently defended by a ditch and ram-part. In these highly-placed forts they slept, descending by daylight to the damper lowlands or the swamps and rivers for fishing. Any food they got was irregular in supply, and nearly always hardly earned, almost always was bulky, but very innutrient. Their clothing was very scanty, and put on or off without any regard to so-called decency. They intermarried largely. Their lives were always harassed by actual warfare or a dread of assaults. They had few diseases, and as communication with different parts of the islands was rare, epidemics did not do much damage. The Maoris enjoyed an immunity from very many diseases which have long affected us, e.g., smallpox, syphilis, measles, scarlet fever, whooping-cough, typhus, and probably typhoid. But though they had few diseases, those few were deadly. Consumption in its various forms killed old and middle-aged and young. They suffered from a malarious fever, from diarrhœa, from bronchitis and pneumonia, and many from rheumatism. Rheumatism was a frequent scourge. Scrofula thinned the children's ranks. Epilepsy and dropsy were not infrequent. A species of leprosy (ngerengere) was prevalent. In addition to these and other diseases, cannibalism was the cause of death to many. Infanticide, especially female infanticide, was very common. Old people, both men and women, chiefly the latter, were allowed to die of neglect or starvation. They sometimes died from eating unhealthy eels or from a surfeit of lampreys. Suicide was exceedingly common, but is now rare. Murders were numerous. In the olden times, if a husband died the woman nearly always killed herself. Under the painful operation of tattooing some died; and lives were lost by the old warriors' dislike of dying in bed, for when they felt death approaching they used to arm themselves to the teeth, and then at night, gathering their remaining energies for one last struggle, would rush headlong into one of the enemies' camps, generally killing men, women, and children, before they themselves sank covered with wounds.
Numbers died because they were makuhied: were bewitched, died through sheer fright, after infringement of the tapu. Slaves were known to die
of nostalgia. Their knowledge of surgery being limited, they died frequently from slight wounds. Sometimes great Maori chiefs dropped dead from excessive excitement. In times of war, or of scanty food supply, the old women were killed. A few died from the bite of the katipo, or poisonous spider, and a few from eating poisonous berries, and some are said to have died from sunstroke.
Now, the Maoris have quitted all their old hill-forts, and live at the edge of a bush or a swamp, almost always on low-lying, damp, ill-drained spots. It was the author of “Old New Zealand” who first drew our attention to this most important fact. Their old hill-forts were sunny and airy; the winds blew away the odours, and they were often above the mists and dews that hang round their present habitations. Usually perched on the edge of a cliff, with a scanty humus beneath their whares, and below that again rocks which let the water escape, these places were always dry and tolerably clean. Now, however, they live in sheltered spots, with only a moderate amount of sunlight and but little wind, with abundance of morning and evening moistness; below, a thick black humus, with probably a clay basis which retains the water. This land lying low there is usually no subsoil and still less surface drainage. The soil all round their whares is often spongy with retained water and decaying organic matter; even the floor of their huts is frequently damp. In very many cases it would have been quite impossible for them to have chosen worse or more unhealthy sites for their dwellings. I am quite convinced that this question of change of site is infinitely more powerful in its effects than has hitherto been supposed. The chief disease that kills the Maoris is consumption. I believe it kills more than all the other diseases put together. In any assembly of Maoris there is sure to be heard a large proportion of coughs, with a death-knell ringing in their tones. We are apt to think consumption dreadfully disastrous to our own kith and kin, but among the Maoris its effects are still more terrible. Consumptive people among ourselves do frequently refrain from marriage for fear of its affecting their offspring, but among the Maoris no such sentiment prevails. No matter how consumptive they will marry, and the results are seen in the sickly offspring, dying early of kindred inherited diseases. Usually among ourselves, even if persons with a consumptive diathesis marry, they mate with healthy people who are not their kinsfolk. With the Maoris it is altogether different. I am quite convinced that this change of locality is one of the most important factors leading to extinction of the race. The whole evidence of modern medicine shows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the two chief causes of phthisis amongst all nations is the intermarriage of phthisical people, and dwelling on low, damp, ill-drained soils: yet these are the very things which the Maoris
seem to prefer doing. Amongst ourselves the awful ravages of phthisis may be either entirely checked or greatly abated, by care, by medicine, by nursing, and by change of climate; of all these the Maori knows nothing. He undergoes no medical treatment at all, or only in the last stages, when medicine is powerless; he never takes care of himself, he goes out in all weathers, gets soaked and does not change his clothes, and his food is not the well-cooked, wholesome, easily digestible food fit for an invalid; he never wears suitable warm clothing. This frightful scourge (phthisis) is still further aggravated by the close fetid air of their tiny whares, or the draughty condition of their badly made wooden houses. Again, as so many persons, healthy as well as unhealthy in all stages, sleep all huddled close together in their unventilated whares, they breathe and rebreathe each others unhealthy breaths. The consequence is that the naturally healthy catch the disease in large numbers. Amongst ourselves who have private sleeping rooms, we see the ill effects, but among the Maoris the results are awful to contemplate.
This evil habit of pitching their dwellings on low-lying swampy ground causes many deaths from rheumatism, from bronchitis, pneumonia, and low fever.
I wrote to a number of medical men to obtain their experience, and to them I am exceedingly grateful for much most useful information. Unfortunately the Maoris need not have their deaths certified to, and in a large class of diseases, especially those of women, they never consult a doctor. Owing to these causes I am unable to present to this society any statistics of disease; but still it is not difficult to detect the chief. The principal diseases of infants are scrofulous; large numbers die from scrofula in some shape or another. From the time they are weaned they eat anything the mother eats, and the consequence is that most Maori children look badly fed, big-bellied, with wasted limbs, and with eruptions about their orifices. They die largely from the effects of bad feeding, getting tabes mesenterica, chronic diarrhœa, atrophy. They suffer from swollen glands and eczematous eruptions. Some have hydrocephalus, acute and chronic. Dr. Spencer, who has for many years attended a Maori orphanage, says they improve wonderfully on admission; their bellies shrink; their limbs grow bigger, and their eruptions vanish; but about puberty they often get weak again and break out afresh with eruption. They are very subject to chronic peratitis.
Dr. Earle of Wanganui dilates on the many hundreds of children that die annually from dysentery and tabes mesenterica, brought on by improper food and the want of a milk diet. With regard to a milk diet, Mr. Locke writes that in those instances where the children are fed on milk they improve
wonderfully in appearance. Archdeacon Williams attributes the decrease of the race chiefly to the dreadful mortality existing among the children. Most observers have had their attention drawn to this fact. No more striking difference between a Maori pa and a white village can be noticed than the fewness of the children in the one with the multitude in the other, and the difference in the physique of the feeble black and the healthy white child is equally remarkable. Though, as I shall show hereafter, the one race is noticeable for its sterility and the other for its fecundity, undoubtedly the marked difference in the number of children seen in a village is due to the fact that Maori babies die out in such awful proportion. Any observer visiting a number of native pas could not help seeing that any race with so few children must inevitably soon become extinct.
The imported diseases have, of course, been very powerful agents in bringing about the decrease in the race. In the early part of this century a disease swept through the country like an epidemic: it is believed to have been a kind of influenza, but nothing is known accurately. Since our arrival in the colony there have been many attacks of measles which have always been very fatal, especially the earlier epidemics. This disease, so mild among ourselves, is wondrously fatal whenever it gets among the island populations of the Pacific. Even smallpox has never been known in these islands and happily the natives will not suffer much from this disease because so many are being vaccinated. Scarlet fever has at times been disastrous. Diphtheria has had its victims, but, strange to say, this disease and several others do not appear to have greatly affected the natives. I believe one of the greatest curses to the Maoris is the popularly-called low fever, which is nothing else than typhoid. The spread of this fever is largely encouraged by the absence of all drainage in their encampment. As yet, we have not brought to them smallpox, or cholera, or plague, or yellow fever, or typhus, or relapsing fever, or ague, and it is highly probable that they will not appear. Whooping cough has done a good deal of damage, as it is so frequently associated with pneumonia.
Many observers not trained in medicine talk about the frightful effects of that “awful scourge” syphilis, and say that the Maori population is saturated with it, and that its fearful effects are seen in the sterility of the race and the astonishing mortality existing among the children. To this disease I have paid special attention and made special enquiries from doctors—the only class of men whose opinion is worth taking-and they confirm me in the belief that, though the Maoris are affected by it, yet its
results are rarely severe. My own feeling (remembering the frightful scourge it proved on its introduction to various parts of Europe) is one of astonishment at the smallness of the evil. Several doctors who practise largely among the Maoris assure me that they never saw true syphilis in a Maori. My own experience is that amongst the large number of Maoris I have seen I have not been able to detect any evils from this cause, yet I am quite sure that in any like number of low-living whites the evidences would be abundant. I have never seen Maori children with any marks of syphilis. Though I have searched everywhere and have tried to seek confirmatory evidence of the reports of the frightful ravages of syphilis, I am forced to the conclusion that they are unfounded, and that syphilis has been a very unimportant one among the many factors leading to the decrease of the Maoris.
On the other hand, I readily admit the influence of a milder form of lues venerea. The prevalence of this disease is so great as really to merit the term universal. It is probable that it existed mildly before we whites came here, and that we imported a severe variety of it. The prevalence of this disease in both sexes leads to sterility, by causing the inflammation of the secretory passages of both races, and especially probably in women, as is seen in a particular class of women in London, where the extension of this inflammation to the Fallopian ducts leads to their occlusion and a consequent sterility. It is my belief that this variety of disease will account for some of the barrenness existing among the women.
Leprosy, formerly common among the Maoris, has now almost disappeared, under the constant supply of nutritious food.
Looking then at the question as a whole, I am inclined to think that imported diseases have not been the chief causes leading to the disappearance of the Maori, but that they have only played a part with others. I think that other causes are more effective; in fact, with a few exceptions of two or three rather severe epidemics, and one frightfully severe, as mentioned by Colenso, that occurred many years ago, there is no evidence to show that, provided other causes did not exist, there would be sufficient power in these diseases to kill the race. Did such new diseases (we will suppose imbibed by us from the aborigines) attack us, our natural increase of population would soon repair their ravages in our ranks. As a matter of fact, the Maoris die chiefly from such diseases as phthisis, in all its protean forms, from bronchitis and pneumonia, and from renal affections, which are not imported diseases, whilst the children die because they are born weakly; and their chief foes are bad food, irregular clothing, and inherited diseases, and their low, damp habitations; whilst the imported diseases are not nearly so powerful in their effects as are these.
I think that, viewed by the light of modern research, which shows that all epidemic diseases are due to the propagation of minute vegetable organisms in our bodies, it is somewhat strange that these organisms, which like vaccine tend to sterility when repeated too often, should not have flourished far more on such virgin soils as the bodies of the Maoris. It has occurred to me, but of this I have no proof, that the phthisis which is so invariably and so speedily fatal to the Maoris, may owe some of its severity to the importation of phthisis germs of a stronger and more virulent nature, such germs finding a most nutrient soil in the bodies of the weakly constitutioned Maoris.
Alcohol has undoubtedly assisted in killing the natives. The liquors drunk by the natives are usually the poorest, the worst, and the most adulterated. Alcohol seems to affect them just as it does ourselves. It kills them indirectly, by leading to various diseases, and directly by leading to severe accidents. Maoris when drunk will lie about anywhere in the rain, or on a damp soil, or with wet clothes on, and this of course leads to more deaths through coughs and colds and rheumatism. The large revenues arising from the sale and lease of their lands are chiefly spent on alcohol. The sexes drink alike, and drink till all the money is gone and the landlords refuse to give them any more credit.
Tobacco is another evil agent: for the incessant smoking of the worst and most fiery brands, by men, women and children, is certainly productive of a lowered vitality, which shows itself in an enfeebled progeny, and renders all classes more accessible to evil influences.
Among all Maori experts there is a consensus of opinion that our mode of clothing ourselves, imperfectly adopted by the Maoris, has been to them a source of disease. Formerly, on entering their whares with wet mats, they simply flung them aside, whereas, now, their modern European clothing they keep on, and do not change until they are dry. Moreover they do not regulate this clothing to suit changes of weather, but will wear warm clothes in the sultriest weather, and in bitter cold will put on any scanty garments they may have. This undoubedly does lead to many evils, and especially in the case of children, and tends to many disorders which eventually end fatally.
I agree with certain writers in thinking that indolence is also a cause of their decrease. Formerly they were forced to work continually for a living, now they lead the laziest of lives; this laziness generates a host of evils. In the United States it has been observed that negro slaves kept at work increased in numbers, whilst freed negroes steadily decreased.
Wars during the past thirty or forty years have destroyed a number of Maoris, but though they lost, in their wars with us, many on the battle-field, and very many more by semi-starvation leading to lowered vitality, and others from diseases arising out of the hardships they endured, yet these wars were neither so long nor so frequent, nor so sanguinary as their former incessant intertribal strifes. Moreover, when we took any Maori prisoners, we lodged and fed them well—only we did not slay and eat them afterwards as was the former custom of the country.
Many writers assert that horses have been a not unimportant factor, in two ways (1) directly by falls, which either killed outright or after a time; (2) by making locomotion so easy as to induce the natives to be always travelling long distances, this carrying diseases far and wide: this easy travelling also induced them (by opening wider their range of pleasure) to neglect necessary work in their fields; it also led to all the evils that spring from clothes wetted on their long journeys and worn till dry.
Natives whose limbs are severely crushed by machinery, in battle, or by other accidents, not infrequently die because they refuse to submit to amputation.
Mental depression is held by many authorities to have a large effect upon the Maoris, and certainly the loss of their former cropping grounds, of their sacred burial grounds, of the rivers and lakes wherein they formerly fished; and the evident decrease of their race does probably affect a few, but most assuredly only a very few. A want of courage, however, in another direction does influence the death-rate: namely, the readiness with which they “throw up the sponge” when attacked by disease. Unquestionably many Maoris die of slight ailments because when attacked they do not fight against the disease and strive to resist its ravages, but quietly coil their blankets round them, and lie down passively to die. They seem to have no pluck, and their friends look on in a listless do-nothing way, accepting their fate needlessly.
Though the adult Maori death-rate is greatly in excess of that of the whites, yet the excess is not so much in excess as to lead to the rapid decrease of the race were it not that the race is so infertile and its children die with such frightful frequency. The Maori race is singularly infertile. This infertility is common to the people in almost all Polynesia. Wallace asserts that the Dyaks are fast dying out, even in places where Europeans have but little intruded, and that the infertility of the women there is very marked, the number of births to each woman being extremely few. De Quatrefages quotes similar statements. In the Marquesas, at Taio Hae, M. Jouan saw the population fall, in three years, from 400 to 250, during
which time only three or four births were registered. In the Sandwich Islands, from among eighty married women, M. Delapelin found that only thirty-nine had children. There were only nineteen children in the twenty principal families of chiefs, and in the same islands, in 1849, the official statistics of M. Renny gave 4,520 deaths to only 1,422 births. The Kanakas, though separated by so many thousands of miles of water, are singularly like the Maoris in appearance, language, and mythology: therefore it is not a little strange to find among them sterility like that which exists among the Maoris. Nearly all the persons knowing the Maoris well whom I have happened to consult, are agreed on this point, viz., that many women are absolutely sterile, and that the others are only moderately fertile, having only one, two, or three children. The Maoris themselves recognize the fact but can assign no cause. Colenso says that children are becoming fewer every year, and that of the seven principal chiefs in Ahuriri, all but one was childless, and of the one who had four sons three were fruitless. Judge Fenton gives some remarkable statistics in his “Observations on the State of the Aboriginal Inhabitants of New Zealand, 1859.” In certain well-known tribes in the Waikato, between the years 1844 to 1858, there were: Deaths, 650; births, 320. He gives the following striking table of results:—
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|—||Ngatitapa.||Ngatikarawa.||Ngatikahu.||Ngatitahinga.||Te Ngaunga.||Ngatikoura, &c.||Ngathinetu, &c.||Ngatiwhauroa.||Total.|
|Number of wives whose issue are now living.||46||8||22||14||32||31||107||15||221|
|Number of wives whose issue are dead||19||2||3||4||10||11||38||2||68|
|Number of barren wives||24||5||11||9||15||8||75||7||154|
Farther on in this book he estimates that the ratio of barren to productive Maori women is as 1 to 2.86. To account for this startling infertility many theories have been invented, but it is more than certain that the great bulk of them are imaginary and baseless. Doubtless this infertility arises from many causes, and not a single cause. I believe that the chief source of this evil is interbreeding; that the Maoris have almost always married in their own or in some nearly adjacent tribe. Nearly all the pure races of men and animals are infertile, as compared with the mongrels. Any reference to Darwin's “Plants and Animals under Domestication,” or his later work detailing his researches into the crossing and fertility of plants, will save the need of cumbering these pages with overwhelming proof of the need of crossing to maintain the fertility of
the race. Galton has demonstrated the infertility of aristocracies whose members married only with each other. These, and a host of other authorities, show that any race of man which breeds in and in, becomes more and more infertile, and the scanty progeny more and more sickly and likely to perish.
When the Maoris came here several centuries ago, they were probably not quite a pure race, but were Malays with an infusion of Papuan blood. This infusion of Papuan blood can, I think, be traced to this day, appearing every now and then amongst their lower classes. Arriving in a fresh and more invigorating climate than that to which they had been used, and finding the supplies of food abundant and easily got, their fertility increased by this slight cross with the Papuans; it was no wonder they multiplied rapidly, but the Papuan blood being only in small quantity, and always shunned and despised, was soon an insignificant quantity, and the Malay blood became purer and purer. As the Maoris spread over these islands and divided themselves into tribes, living far apart, usually at war with each other, breeding in and in was almost a necessity, and hence, as I believe, the chief cause of the barrenness of the race.
Though I am free to admit the existence of other, yet I feel sure that this is the chief cause. It has been alleged that early promiscuity on the part of very young Maori women is the chief cause, but though certainly an important item, it is not the chief, and is not more common now than formerly. Alcohol and tobacco are also credited as evil agents, but for these no proof exists. Syphilis has been blamed by many, but seeing how very slightly it has affected the race there is no evidence to show that it has at all decreased the fertility of the race. On the other hand, I believe that the frequency of the milder form of lues venerea has by its frequency and severity been a frequent cause of sterility in both sexes by inflammation of and subsequent stricture and closure of the various ducts, and especially obliteration of the passage through the Fallopian tubes. In exceptional cases I think that the introduction of horses has caused abortion. Some allege that hard work produces this infertility, but though it may aid, it cannot be an important factor, for Maori women have always had to work and carry heavy burdens, even in past times when the race was fertile. The Maoris thought that all sterility was due to the females, and disregarded the abundant proof that many men were always childless, no matter how many wives they took. Formerly if a woman were childless she took another mate for that reason and no other: now, however, she sometimes remains sterile and faithful. It is probable that the great number of males and the fewness of the women leads to sexual indulgences in great excess, thereby causing a diminished fertility.
I am of opinion too that the abundance of easily-got food which they now have in regular supply—food too which is infinitely more nutritious than anything they had in the olden times before we came to the country—has led to a state of fatness and general plethora which, as in all the lower animals, leads to a lessened fertility, and in others to absolute sterility. On visiting Maori pas we see nearly all the young women very fat, though the old ones are generally very thin. All breeders of domestic animals recognize the fact that over-feeding leads to lessened fertility, and that the remedy is a restricted diet. Maori women now drink fattening beer and milk, and tea and sugar, in lieu of water; and eat meat, and wheat, and oats, and potatoes, each and all of which they get in full supply, and every one of which contains far more nutriment than that in treble or quadruple the quantity of shell-fish, or the roots of the fern and the convolvulus. Though many Maori women still work hard, yet they do not work sufficiently hard to carry off the extra food-supply, and very many of the wives and daughters of the wealthier natives do very little work indeed. Extra food-supply in conjunction with diminished muscular activity is I am sure an important factor among the many leading to the extinction of the race. The very early age at which the girls breed undoubtedly diminishes the fertility of the race.
Disproportion of the Sexes.
My friend Mr. Govett quoted to me from some author a statement to the effect that in all flourishing races of mankind the females were in excess, but that in decaying races the females were in a minority. I have not been able to find his authority, but when applied to the Maoris it is strikingly correct. In Fenton's statistics in 1859 the proportion is, males 31,667 to females 24,303. Colenso's statistics (see above) give a like result. The still more accurate Government census of 1881 shows males 24,370 to females 19,720. Amongst the Kanakas in the Sandwich Islands I find a like disparity between the sexes, there being males 31,650, females 25,247.
It is easy to understand why this disproportion existed in New Zealand before 1840, because then, as Colenso points out, in their devastating intertribal wars the female children (slaves) were sure to be killed first for food; and because in times of hardship women naturally succumb first. No such causes now exist, yet is there still this great preponderance of males; and among another branch of their own race, the Kanakas, the same inequality of the sexes exists. For the existence of this strange phenomenon I feel unable to give any satisfactory reasons, though I believe there are many combining to produce this result—(1.) Male children predominate in mountainous countries, and it is only for about a generation and a half that the Maoris have dwelt on the plains.
(2.) Abundance of food-supply to mothers is found to result in an excess of male offspring. (3.) It is found elsewhere that if the male are considerably older than the female parents, males will be in excess, and vice versa. Among the Maoris the male are usually considerably older than the female parents, and male births do preponderate. The statistics of civilized countries show an excess of male births, this excess being in after-life greatly reduced by the greater death rate existing among male children. Later in life Maori women die from the evils of early breeding, and from their greater liability, whilst pregnant, to take any epidemic diseases.
Reasoning from analogy, it would have seemed probable that if much of the infertility of the Maoris were due to purity of race and interbreeding, a large fertility would have attended a cross with the more vigorous fertile white race: such, however, is not the case. It is true that the marriage of a white man and a Maori woman is often attended with a large family, but considering how very frequent have been and still are the promiscuous unions between the two races, the result is surprisingly small. No accurate census exists of the half-castes, but their number of all ages and sexes is probably considerably under 1,000. The half-castes are often handsome and well made, but they all die young, indeed there is a wide-spread belief that scarcely any attain the age of forty. Young half-caste women especially die very young unless they are well cared for. Both sexes die of consumption; the ravages of the chief destroyer of both parent races seems to attack them with intensified vigour. Topinard, writing on the respiration of various races of men, tells us that the mulattos have a chest capacity inferior to that of either parent race. Even in sultry Hindostan, the Topas, a cross between Hindoo women and French or Portugese men, are far more liable to phthisis than either parent race. Huth (“Marriage of Near Kin”) says the European North American half-breeds near Quebec are peculiarly liable to phthisis, and the greater number die early. I believe that this lessened chest capacity is to be found in nearly all New Zealand half-castes. It is true that many have handsome figures and broad shoulders, but their chests are usually of the shallow type seen in the consumptives of our own race. If, as seems probable, phthisis is largely increased by the presence of bacilli or other organisms, it is highly probable that such European microscopic organism, like introduced European grasses and other plants, finds a suitable nidus in the half-caste, and flourishes with renewed vigour. Be that as it may, the half-castes are a delicate race and succumb early in life to phthisis. The offspring of half-castes by either race are a very feeble race and rapidly tend to extinction. Though the climate is excellent for both races, the crossing does not seem
to result in improved fertility. The cross between a white woman and a Maori man has been so rare as not to afford any data for observation. As white women become more plentiful everywhere, the proportion of half-castes to the two races is steadily diminishing. Early colonists and many theorists believed that the two races might amalgamate; as a matter of fact the two races will never mingle, and any infinitesimal influence that the white race may receive until that not far distant time when the Maori race dies out, will thereafter be at once imperceptible. No New Zealander will boast like some Americans that the blood of Pocahontas still flows in their veins, or that they are connected with that magnificent race “the children of the sun,” the Incas. In another century only the prying ethnologist will be able to ascertain in isolated spots any partial effect of the Maori blood. This utter effacement of the Maori race, its complete inability to engraft itself on the European race, is singular, because the Maoris are a sturdy, powerful people with very distinct race characteristics, which they might have been expected to transmit at least in some degree.
In discussing the rapid decrease of the race, we must not overlook the question of the longevity, the life average, of the Maoris. Spite of all the outcries that medical science helps to depreciate any race, by causing the weak and sickly to survive and breed, the average life of a civilized is far greater than that of a wild people. The Maori race is one whose average duration of life is small: they mature early and wither quickly. Lancaster (“Comparative Longevity”) suggests that, as savages lead very hard lives and die often under the results of accumulated hardships, there may grow up among them, as an inherited quality, a tendency to die at early periods; or, as he puts it, there may be a “disease Eskimo” or a “disease Maori.” This tendency to premature old age and death is marked among the Maoris; their boys and girls early attain puberty, early breed, and quickly attain maturity. Maori women look old and “going down hill” when about thirty, and Maori men of fifty or sixty are not to be compared for vigour with Europeans of a like age. This lessened race longevity by limiting the nnmber of years during which they can breed, and by hurrying them to their graves, assists in hastening the rapid disappearance of the race.
In conclusion, I hope I have made it clear that the Maoris were a disappearing race before we came here; that such disappearance arises from an excessive mortality, such mortality being largely due to the change from living in lofty, dry, well-aired villages, to miserable, damp, low-lying unhealthy whares; that this change has caused an immense increase in the number of deaths from phthisis and other diseases of the chest, and rheumatism;
that this change has acted very severely upon the children; the other great cause being the large amount of absolute sterility and the small reproductive powers of the race. I believe that to these two things is due the rapid decrease of the race; a lessening in numbers hastened somewhat, though only in a small degree, by imported European diseases; and that only one imported vice, viz., alcoholism, has in the least helped to hasten the disappearance of the race.
Taking all things into consideration, the disappearance of the race is scarcely subject for much regret. They are dying out in a quick, easy way, and are being supplanted by a superior race.