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Volume 22, 1889
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Art. VII.—The Moriori.

[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 4th December, 1889.]

The Chatham Islands are a small group about four hundred miles to the eastward of New Zealand. They were originally inhabited by a race called Moriori, a people akin to the Polynesian Maori not only in appearance, but in language. The Moriori are on the average slightly shorter and broader than the Maori, but the hooked nose sometimes seen on the Maori face, especially in the north, is here very common, and in some cases exaggerated to portentous dimensions. They differ in some customs from the Maori: thus, they do not tattoo, and know nothing of the art; they appear to have had a regular marriage ceremony; and the disposal of the dead was peculiar: If a man celebrated as a fisherman died, he was lashed in a sitting-posture to a canoe and sent out to sea; if a great bird-catcher, his body was fastened to a tree with the face turned towards the locality he had most hunted over in life. The women were married very young in order to prevent any indiscretion: adultery was punished by the offender being beaten nearly to death with clubs. The women ate apart from the men, in the usual Polynesian fashion. The ancient huts were either λ-shaped, like those of the Maori, or conical, and formed by bundles of poles tied together at the top, after the fashion of the North American wigwam. Children were baptised (i.e., named, with sprinklings, &c.) with ceremonies accompanied by the planting of a tree, as in New Zealand. The New Zealand birds to be found in the Chathams are the tui, hawk, pigeon, pukeko, fantail, lark, and titmouse; but formerly they had a kiwi, the bittern, weka, white crane, and kakapo.

In 1832 the Maoris of the Ngatiawa and Ngatimutunga Tribes made a raid upon the Chathams. They found a peaceful and inoffensive people utterly unable to resist them, and they took possession, treating the Moriori like sheep for the butcher, which simile they carried further by devouring them wholesale.

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Several accounts have been given by Maori scholars as to the landing of the Moriori in the Chatham Islands. One tradition states that when they arrived they found the country in the possession of aboriginal natives called Hiti, whom they dispossessed. Captain Mair (“Trans.,” vol. iii.) writes that they came in five canoes—viz., Rangitane, Rangihoua, Rangimata, Ruapuke, and Okahu; that they had set out from the villages of Tahurimanuka and Wharepapa, in Hawaii; that the immigrants were of the tribes of Rongomaitere and Rongomaiwhenua; and that Kahu was captain of the Okahu. Mr. Travers (“Trans.,” vol. ix.) states that the first strangers came in the Rangimata, under Mararoa, and the Rangihoana, under Kawanga-Koneke. The second arrival was the Oropuke canoe, under Mohi, from Awatea or Arapawa (names of New Zealand). Mr. John White (App. to Jour. H. of R., G.-8, 1880) says that in comparatively modern times the ancestors of the Moriori came from New Zealand in two canoes, the Kimi, under Rangihou, and the Rangimata, under Mihiti, the other canoes being lost at sea. A second migration arrived afterwards, under Moe, in the canoe Rupuke. Moe was the first to introduce cannibalism.

I was desirous of ascertaining what was the most valuable source of tradition in regard to this matter, and also of finding out, if possible, the lapse of time which ensued between the different migrations, by acquiring a genealogy of the Moriori. I especially wished to commune with Hirioana Tapu, the last chief of the tribe, and the only reliable source of information now accessible, as he is getting old, and no one conversant with the old songs, legends, &c., will be in existence when he has left us. He gave me much information in the short time at my disposal, but was unable to recite the perfect genealogy of his forefathers. Fortunately, Mr. A. Shand, of Waitangi, who is an ardent student of Moriori, had acquired the wished-for genealogy from Minarapa Tamahiwaka, an old priest, now dead. This Mr. Shand kindly put at my service. I am unable to give the genealogy at full length, as I wish it to form part of the collection of Mr. Shand (who will shortly publish it), but the general information is as follows: It comprises 184 generations, which, if we accept it as authentic, is a most extraordinary and valuable record, reaching nearly 3,700 years, if we allow twenty years to a generation. It commences with Rangi and Papa (Heaven and Earth) as the first parents, and proceeds, through names well known in Polynesian legend, down to Tauira, the thirtieth generation. These thirty generations are called Te Whanau o te Rangi (Children of the Heavens). Thence the pedigree proceeds to the 157th, when Rongopapa was living. At this time came the canoes from Hawaiki—viz., the Rangimata, under Mihiti, the Rangihoua

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(which seems to have had no great chief, but the two most important persons were Tunanga and Tarere), and the Oropuke, under Moe. No interval of time of any great extent appears to have lapsed between the arrival of the Oropuke and of the other canoes. There is a distinct tradition to the effect that Kohu, in the canoe Tane, first discovered the Chatham Islands, but that he returned to Hawaiki. The largest island of the Chathams is called Rekohu (Rangi-kohu) after the name of this explorer. The old Moriori chief Tapu seemed positive that the Moriori were the original inhabitants and true “children of the soil,” and that the three canoes were the first arrivals from Hawaiki. It is evident, however, from their vocabulary (which is a corrupt provincial dialect or patois of New Zealand Maori), from their songs, and from the genealogy, that they are a true branch of the Polynesians, and have come from the same far-off Hawaiki, if any reliance is to be placed upon tradition, and if the Polynesians are not autochthonous.

From Tapu I obtained the old names of the months as follows:—

January Te Tuhe a Wairehu or Ko Tuhe a Wairehu
February Ko Moro
March Mihi to Rekau
April Te Upoko o Tchtcheao
May Tuma Tchihae
June Kohu
July Ko Rongo
August Tae he
September Ko Kaitanga
October To Inapota
November Wairehu
December Tuhe a Takarore.

These names differ from those used by the Maori, and are all names of persons. The “tch” written above is peculiar to Moriori, and is only met elsewhere in Tonga and the other Friendly Islands. The Maori word tamaiti (child) becomes tchimitchi, or even tchimitch, the Moriori being fond of clipping the last vowel off a word. The name of the people originally owners of the Chathams is given as Tch amata.

The nights of the moon are as follows: 1, Omutu; 2, Owhiro; 3, Otere; 4, Ohewata; 5, Oua; 6, Okoro; 7, Tamate tutahi; 8, Tamate turua; 9, Tamate nui; 10, Tamate hokopà; 11, Ohua; 12, Owaru; 13, Hua; 14, Mawharu; 15, Outua; 16, Ohotu; 17, Maure; 18, Oturu; 19, Rakaunui; 20, Rakau motòhe; 21, Takirau; 22, Oika; 23, Korekore tutahi; 24, Korekore turua; 25, Korekore hokopau; 26, Tangarò a mua; 27, Tangarò a roto; 28, Tangarò kikὶo; 29, Otane; 30, Orongonui; 31, Orongo mori.

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I was pleased to find that the Moriori had legends as to the existence of an enormous bird, which they state once existed on the largest island. Its name was poua, a word which one has little difficulty in recognising as being akin to Pouakai, the gigantic man-eating bird of the myths told in the South Island, New Zealand. This does not seem, however, to have been a huge flying bird, but to have resembled some great Apteryx, since the last survivors of them were driven by the natives into Te Whanga lagoon, and there drowned. No bones, however, are procurable, and the poua's skeleton is unlikely to attract interest in our museum for some time.

Some little time ago I saw in the Australian papers a discussion as to the date on which the last aboriginal native of Tasmania died, a question having arisen whether a certain woman recently dead had been a full-blooded native or only a half-caste. Information respecting a kind of native census, which had been made long before, was produced in the effort to settle the question. Thinking that, as the Moriori are rapidly dying out, scientists at the end of the next half-century might be interested in knowing what was the exact state of the native population in 1889, I made a census-inquiry, with the following result:—

Chatham Islands, 23rd September, 1889.

At Manukau.

Men: Hiriona Tapu, Tiritiu Hokokaranga, Heta Namu (half-caste, Maori and Moriori), Horomona te Rangitapua, Apieta Tume, Te Karaka Kahukura, Te Ohepa nga Mapu (half-caste, Maori and Moriori).

Women: Rohana Tapu, Paranihi Heta, Pakura te Retiu, Himaira Horomana, Harireta te Hohepa, Ruiha te Hira (half-caste, Maori and Moriori).

Children: Tame Horomana (boy), Mika Heta (boy), Ngana Riwai (girl).

At Kaingaroa.

Men: Hoani Whaiti Ruea, Te Ropiha Rangikeno (an old man), Riwai te Ropiha, Tamihana Heta.

Women: Eripeta Hoani Whaiti, Kiti Riwai (a quarter-caste pakeha—i.e., child of pakeha and half-caste woman), Emiri Parata (half Maori, half Moriori).

At Waitangi.

Men: Pumipi te Rangaranga (a very old man), Heremaia Tau, Wi Hoeta Taitua, Te Teira Pewha, Timoti Wetini, Taitua Hangi, Temuera Numi.

Women: Hipera te Teira, Paranihi Taitua, Ereni Timoti (or E Puti) (half-caste, Maori and Moriori).

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Making twenty-seven of pure Moriori descent, and five half-breeds. The Maoris on the islands number about two hundred and fifty souls, and there is roughly about the same number of a white population.

The island (Rekohu) is an exceedingly pleasant place of residence. The sea surrounding it equalises the temperature very much, and prevents extremes of heat and cold. The island in many places is extremely fertile, and I never saw more beautiful soil than-the land at Owhenga, on the eastern side, near the large Moriori Reserve.

It would be desirable, if possible, for the society to acquire the large collection of axes, clubs, &c., of stone now in the possession of Mr. Clough. They could be obtained, I believe, for a very moderate price, and it would be a pity for such a collection (which could never be replaced) to find its way into the possession of private persons and tourists. Among other curiosities is a bone dagger, about 9in. long, the blade being about 4½in. in length, with a double edge. I do not know of any other Polynesian people having used the dagger except the Hawaiians (of course I do not refer to the common bamboo knife of the South Seas), but Tapu assured me that the weapon was known and used by the ancient Moriori.