Art. LVIII.—A Maori Pa at Lake Te Anau.
[Read before the Hawke's Bay Philosophical Institute, 12th June, 1893.]
As I am unaware that any record has been made showing that in comparatively recent times certain Maoris were living on the eastern shores of this lake, and knowing that any signs of Maori habits or customs in the olden time are increasing in value as time rolls on, no matter how seemingly trivial these signs may be, I will attempt a description of what I saw at the latter end of the year 1859, or early in 1860—after a lapse of thirty-three years, or thereabouts.
When visiting my friend, the late Donald Hankinson, Esq., who then had a large cattle - station between the Mararoa River and Lake Te Anau, he took me to the shore of this magnificent lake, the eastern boundary of which consists of rolling downs, at that time covered with fern, and in one place a large flat close to the lake densely covered by manuka scrub, in which already a small herd of his cattle had become feral, taking to this cover immediately a horseman came in view. Mr. Hankinson told me of the remains of an old Maori village on the south side of the Upukarora River at the junction of the lake, but said that a fire had of late years passed over it and
left little to be seen. I expressed a wish to see the place, and he at once guided me there.
The signs of habitation consisted of charred posts, the uprights or supports of several whares; in one or two places the battens and thatch of a roof lay on the ground, having partly escaped the burning. Several pieces of a broad flat board, some 2 ½in. thick, were near by, and may have been part of a canoe. It was pierced by holes in several places, some square in shape, others circular, and one large square hole about 3in. in diameter, which might have been a place to step a mast. Of the remains of tools was one small iron adze, which had been so much sharpened that all the steeling was ground away. From the eye of this adze it was evident that its smallness was not owing altogether to frequent sharpenings, but that it originally was of a small make. For chisels were half a dozen large spike-nails, bevelled on one edge only; and some very curious remains of knives were lying about. My first opinion was that they had been made from old hoop-iron, partly from their decayed appearance, and also from the peculiar way in which they had been fitted into handles, of which latter remained no vestige. The blades were either filed away or otherwise sharpened to a flat four-sided apex at the proximate end, which had then been driven into a hole in the handle; the outer end was rounded like a dinner-knife. They were large and clumsy, and gave the idea of a primitive make. In reference to these knives, I seem to have somewhere read an account of travels among the islands, where this entry is made: “The cooper was set to work to make knives from hoop-iron, to barter with the natives.” Perhaps these were of such make, and given to those Maoris by the people of some “whaler” many years ago. Of the use of spike-nails as chisels we have Captain Cook's evidence that the Maori had found them of more utility than their former implements of stone or bone. In Cook's First Voyage, he says of the Maoris near Cape Campbell, “They came on board with very little invitation, and their behaviour was courteous and friendly…We soon perceived that our guests had heard of us, for as soon as they came on board they asked for whou [whao], the name by which nails were known among the people with whom we had trafficked; but though they had heard of nails it was plain they had seen none, for when nails were given them they asked Tupia* what they were. The term whou, indeed, conveyed to them the idea not of their quality but only of their use, for it is the same by which they distinguish a tool, commonly made of bone, which they use both as an auger and
[Footnote] * A native of Tahiti, who acted as interpreter between Cook and the Maoris, the Tahitian and Maori languages being cognate.
chisel…. However, their knowing that we had whou to sell was a proof that their connections extended as far north as Cape Kidnappers, which was distant no less than forty-five leagues, for that was the southernmost place on this side the coast (east) where we had any traffic with the natives.” Cape Campbell is the other side of Cook Strait, being the north-east cape of the South Island, whereas the Kidnappers is on the east coast of the North Island.
This treasure trove of the old Maori village had most likely been left hidden in one of the thatched roofs, and the burning had caused them to fall to the ground, where they remained, as I saw them. At one spot seemed to be a workshop for making stone implements, as there were numerous scales of a peculiar light greenstone, clouded as it were with a glassy look—not the genuine greenstone, for this was brittle, and inclined to fall into useless flakes; yet seemingly it had been put to some use by these people, probably for want of a better material.
Who the inhabitants of this pa were I have no knowledge, or why they should, presumably, have left the coast where fish and mutton-birds were in plenty and come some eighty miles to this inland sea, unless it was for a change of fare, such as large eels, flappers (young ducks), kiwi, weka, kakapo (night-parrot, po = night); and in this district was obtained one of the few living specimens of that rare bird the Notornis, of which neither I nor my friends the Hankinsons ever saw a sign when residing in these parts. Two specimens of Notornis were found here some years after we left—a live bird and the skeleton of another. Possibly these people of the pa were natives from Riverton, who came up the Waiau River in the summer time, returning to the coast for the winter season. That they trafficked with the “old whalers” these remains of iron tools give evidence.
I should suppose that Maoris were living in this lake-coast village some fifty years ago (yet there is no reason why the time may not extend to eighty years), which would give seventeen years previous to my visit to the remains. The buildings would remain most probably intact, being well thatched, till the white pioneer settlers set fire to the surrounding country, and so destroyed this relic of the past.
In 1859, and ten years subsequently, no Maoris came inland to either Lakes Te Anau or Wakatipu, and I never saw sign of their previous occupation other than as mentioned above.