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Volume 27, 1894
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Art. LXVIII.—The Modern History of a Block of Greenstone.

[Read before the Hawke's Bay Philosophical Institute, 12th November, 1894.]

A few peculiar public occurrences of this present time (the middle of September, 1894) have set me a-thinking at almost, a right angle—in a strange kind of way. But first, and very briefly, of the said occurrences, which are four in number: (1) The death of the Maori king, Tawhiao, at his own village in Parawera; (2) the death of Henare Matua, a chief of the Ngatipahoro family, an able and popular man, well known in the Native Land Courts, and at many public political Maori meetings, both far and near, with whom many of our “early settlers have had extensive dealings; (3) the death at the same time (7th September) of a well-known and respected aged Maori of note, Noa Huke, for several years (1848–53) a useful and faithful Christian teacher of mine; and (4) his burial at Omaahu on the 18th September. These events, taken together, have produced within me “things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme,” and, united, are the efficient cause of my writing this paper, as you may see.

(Here I quote from my old Maori-written relation:) “Of the huge stone: Many years ago this big lump of greenstone =pounamu was purchased from a European in Cook's Strait by the Ngatiraukawa Tribe there residing, and from that time it lay quietly in their possession until the death of Moses Tarapuhi.* When the Hawke's Bay tribe (Ngatikahungunu) heard of his death they arose in a large body from these parts, as far as Porangahau inclusive, and travelled to Manawatu, and on to the west coast to Foxton, to the funeral; and while there the big greenstone was publicly brought forward and ceremonially placed and presented by the Ngatiraukawa Tribe to their visitors from Hawke's Bay, at the same time naming the said stone ‘The Tears of Ngatiraukawa.’ On their visitors leaving, the big lump was put on board of a canoe, which was poled up the River Manawatu to Moutoa. From this village it was fetched by the Ngatipaka-

[Footnote] * Moses Tarapuhi was a chief of some note who had formerly, and for some years, resided in the Bay of Islands. A few years after I had settled in Hawke's Bay he and his wife, who had known me there, arrived here, and, after staying some time, went on to the west coast, near Foxton.

[Footnote] † “Ka tapaetia te tapae, ‘Nga Roimata o Ngatiraukawa.’”

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paka Tribe, and taken by them to the village Te Hautotara, on the Upper Manawatu, where it remained quietly for a long time, the admiration and wonder of all beholders. Some years elapsed, and then it was borne in a litter by Ngatipakapaka to Porangahau, and transferred to Henare Matua; and some time after it was handed over by Henare. Matua to Te Harawira Tatere,* who had it carried to his village at Waimarama (near Cape Kidnappers), where it also remained for a long time in his possession, until finally it was taken by him and his people to Napier, to be sawn, into slabs of proper thickness for the purpose of being afterwards cut up into fit portions for meres (or hand-clubs), after the fashion and taste of the Maoris, he, Te Harawira, having arranged with a white man in Napier to saw up the said block of greenstone for him; but from this time it became wholly lost to the Maori people.” (Thus far the written relation by the Maoris.)

In the year 1878 the said block of greenstone was brought by Te Harawira to Napier, he having arranged with a European named James Rolfe, residing there in Emerson Street, to cut it up for him. Some time after, I, on hearing of this work, visited Rolfe's workshop to see the operation, and found him and his wife closely engaged in carrying on the work. It was a small room; two or three small saws were in brisk movement, worked by steam; and, though I stayed some time, and closely watched their cutting, they seemed to lack power, so that when I left I could not but believe, at the rate; they were then going on, it would take a very long time to accomplish the intended work, their simple and almost improvised makeshift machinery wanting power.

In 1881 Rolfe, having some time before completed his task, and finding he could not get the owner and his friends to come to any satisfactory terms, brought the matter into Court before the Resident Magistrate; but on this occasion Rolfe was nonsuited, on the ground of insufficient evidence.

Two years after, in 1883, 19th February, the matter came again into Court this time into the District Court, before Judge Hardcastle, when Mr. Lascelles was the solicitor for Rolie, and Mr. Lee for Te Harawira.

Rolfe's amended claim (now) was for £190, for cutting up the said block of greenstone. In his statement he said that the block weighed about 3cwt.; that the agreement between himself and Te Harawira was for him to cut up the block into twelve cuts (or slabs), for which work £200 was to be paid by instalments. That on the next week Te Harawira called and

[Footnote] * In the law-courts, infra, he is named Orihau. Like many other chiefs, he bore two names.

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paid him £10, as the first instalment, but that nothing had been paid since. It took him two months to make the first trial cut, and nine months to make eleven cuts. That he had eleven saws at work at one time by steam-power, ten to fourteen hours a day. When the work was finished, and after much talk with Te Harawira and his friends, a compromise was offered of £100 to be paid to him, together with half of the greenstone, and to this he agreed; but, after long waiting, no money was forthcoming. He had also offered to take the stone (slabs) as payment for his heavy labour, but this was refused.

Mr. Cooper, a watchmaker and jeweller of Napier, stated that he was acquainted with similar work—the cutting-up of greenstones—and 1s. per square inch was the usual charge; and, speaking from memory, those cut slabs of greenstone would each average about 24in. × 15in.

Te Harawira (the defendant), in his evidence, stated positively that no final agreement as to price had ever been arranged, and that the charge for cutting was far too high.

Mr. Lee, for defendant, held that no contract had ever been made, and that the charge was excessive.

The Judge took time to consider his sentence, and on the next day judgment was given for £150, and costs £14 3s.*

No money being forthcoming, in the following month (March) the bailiff took possession of the greenstone, under execution warrant of distress, and duly advertised for sale by auction on the 14th, at noon, “12 slabs greenstone; average weight 251b. each.”

I happened to be in town on that day, and in passing by the auction-mart, and seeing some acquaintances standing at the entrance, I went up to speak with them, and then, for the first time, saw the said twelve slabs of greenstone inside on a table. So I went in; and soon after the sale began, when I purchased five slabs, and should have bought more had not my acquaintances expressed their wishes to get some also. The whole lot only realized £20 10s.

No. 1 greenstone *£1 0 0
No. 2 " 0 10 0
No. 3 " 1 2 6
No. 4 " 1 5 0
No. 5 " *2 0 0
No. 6 " *2 15 0
No. 7 greenstone £1 2 6
No. 8 " *2 5 0
No. 9 " 1 5 0
No. 10 " *3 0 0
No. 11 " 1 12 6
No. 12 " 2 12 6

From which sum was deducted: Commission, £1 0s. 6d.; bailiff's charges, £3 13s.: leaving £15 16s. 6d. (From District Court records.) The slabs purchased by me are marked with a star.

[Footnote] * Hawke's Bay Herald, 20th and 21st February, 1883.

[Footnote] † Daily Telegraph, 13th March, 1883.

[Footnote] ‡ Account Sales, Twelve Greenstones.

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Mr. William Broughton; from Renata's village at Omaahu, was present at the sale, and purchased: one of the slabs. At this time the Maori king, Tawhiao, had recently arrived at Omaahu from Wellington, via Waipawa; and I, who had long known Mr. Broughton, gave him one of the slabs I had just purchased as a present to the Maori king, Mr. Broughton taking it away with him in his dog-cart. I should mention that I had been invited by Renata to attend the public meeting and banquet given by him at Omaahu on the following day.

The next day I went to Omaahu. A pretty full description of what took place there, on that occasion was given in the Napier papers, from which I extract one sentence respecting the said slab of greenstone: “A big bell rang. Tawhiao came out of a large whare (Maori house), and was met by Renata, who, with a finished courtesy which, would have done no discredit to a European host, took him by the hand and led him to the seat of honour in the tent, before which stood a large slab of greenstone, a present from Mr. Colenso.”—(Hawke's Bay Herald, 16th March, 1883.)

Dinner over (which was a large one), “King” Tawhiao walked leisurely back to his tent and clan, carrying carefully his large greenstone prize closely laid across his breast. Kings, emperors, and mighty chiefs of other countries and peoples, both Christian and heathen, have often from time immemorial dined off gold plate, but I fancy no Maori chief before Tawhiao ever dined off a flat greenstone dish!—no doubt in his opinion, and in those of his ancestors, of far greater value than gold itself.

Subsequently I got three of them roughly polished on one side by our monumental stone- and marble-mason, Waterworth, who did not, however, readily undertake the work, as such a stone was well known to be very hard, and had not hitherto been worked by him.* Two of those slabs I show here to you this night; one of them, also, being an outer slab of the original block, is peculiarly worn and irregularly rounded on the outside, somewhat resembling some of those big abnormal lumps and nodules of limestone and of flint (pot-stones) found in chalk at Home, and like them in having a thick white incrustation closely investing.

And so it was that on my again visiting Omaahu in September, at the funeral of Noa Huke (as mentioned by me in my “Introduction”), being also the first time since that other public visit of mine in 1883, the place, the greenstones, the circumstances past and present, the men (including the

[Footnote] * I may mention his charge for so doing was £1 15s. for the first and £1 10s. each for the remaining two.

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Maori “king,” Noa Huke, Henare Matua, Renata Kawepo, Te Harawira, and others, chiefs of note, and prominent” speakers and actors on that former occasion—all now gone), afforded ample themes for reflection during my solitary long drive back to Napier in a cab, and in pouring rain.

The New Zealand greenstone, called generally by the Maoris pounamu, of Which, however, they have several varieties, each bearing its own proper name, has always been a prized article among them—indeed, of the highest value as a possession, as riches, as heirlooms, and as a commodity of barter. Many causes combined to make it such, principally its great usefulness among a people that knew not metals—whether manufactured as a weapon in war, as an implement' in house- and ship-building, or as an ornament of personal decoration for their chiefs, to which must also beadded. its rarity (as to habitat), only now found in one known locality in the South Island, from which place it could only be obtained by great perseverance and courage, combined with skill, labour, cunning, and peril. And then, above all, was the ancient superstitious belief that it was a living animal, ika=fish, that could only be secured through the due and unbroken observance of many peculiar and wonderful incantations, charms, and prayers; and, when so acquired, the patient persevering labour and skill requisite in cutting it up and fashioning it symmetrically and suitably for use was really marvellous. I will here give two (out of many) old Maori relations I possess respecting the present habitat and mode of capture of greenstone. My first was written more than fifty-five years ago, and published (with other curious items) in the “Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science,” vol. ii., in 1845 (my paper being dated January, 1843):—

“The wind being light, we had Tuhua, or Mayor Island, in sight. This island appears to be of volcanic origin, and abounds in pumice, obsidian, slag lava, pitchstone, and other vitreous and volcanic substances. I use the word ‘appear’ in consequence of a curious relation which some years ago I received from an old priest residing at Tauranga, in the Bay of Plenty. I had been inquiring of him the place where, and the manner how, they in former days obtained the green jade or axe-stone for ornaments and weapons of war. In answer to my inquiry he asserted that this stone was both a fish and a god;* that it formerly lived at the Island of Tuhua, whither the priests (or tohungas=skilled men) of all the neighbouring tribes used to go to take it, which was done by diving, accompanied with several superstitious ceremonies in order to

[Footnote] * God=atua; better, perhaps, a demon, or supernatural or mysterious thing or personage.

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appease its wrath, and to enable them to seize it without injury to themselves; but that suddenly it made the whole island, and the surrounding sea, its, cloaca maxima, covering every place thickly with excrementitious substances, which still remain, and swam away to the Middle Island of New Zealand, where it has ever since resided, and whence they have been obliged to obtain it. I scarcely need add that those ‘excrementitious substances.’ comprise the different volcanic matter with which the Island of Tuhua is now covered. Perhaps after-ages may verify the tradition related by the old priest, and bring to light the soi-disant god in a buried stratum of axe-stone” (l.c., p. 215).

My second was written by an intelligent aged Maori of Hawke's Bay several years ago, who had collected the information in answer to my inquiries; and, as it is peculiar, I shall also give the Maori verbatim, with my free English translation:—

“To Colenso: greetings. I now despatch [to you] the in formation respecting the pounamu. Te Akapikitia asserts that this thing, the pounamu, is really a fish. (But I say, How did it become petrified?) Better, perhaps, is the statement made by a certain man of the Ngatimarau family, who returned from that place. His name was Hanita te Maero: but he is dead.

“Now, this is his relation: Whenever a man residing there has a great desire to go [and take pounamu], he first says to his wife to pound some prepared fern-roots to carry with him as food for the long journey thither [over lands with no inhabitants]. In his sleep at night he dreams, and on awaking at daylight he relates his dream. Then he says to his wife to give to him the prepared lump of beaten fern-roots; and this is then carefully wrapped up in leaves of kawakawa and kokomuka shrubs.* He then starts on his journey, first placing a succulent shoot of tutu in one ear, and of kokomuka in the other ear. And he travels until he reaches Poutini; there is Arahua, the water in which the pounamu, dwells. Then at the fit time he dives, and, lo! there it is found lying. He then fastens on to it a prepared noose rope, and it is forcibly dragged out by those waiting on the bank of the water, and it lies on the ground. Then it is carried away to the village and worked up at leisure. The pieces of greenstone that are collected, cut up, and used by Europeans are not the same kind as those found in the water, or below in the very bed or bottom of the water. These [of theirs] are very common

[Footnote] * Piper excelsum and Veronica salicifolia.

[Footnote] † Coriaria ruscifolia.

[Footnote] ‡ An old name for the greenstone.

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pieces, found scattered on the land in places where they have been heated and dried by the sun.

“Further, it is constantly asserted in the fabulous stories of the tribes of these parts that the greenstone is truly a fish. (But how did it become hardened—stonified?) That fish, the greenstone, is said to have come to this land from abroad [far off on the other side]. On its first coming hither it made Tuhua [island], when the dark rocky barriers of tuhua [obsidian] grinned fiercely in defiance, showing their teeth; so greenstone kept off, floating away at a distance, and not coming near the shore until it reached the open space between Whareama and Motuairaka*—that is, to Takiritane. There also the teeth of those rocks showed themselves fiercely. Still floating away at a distance from land, it was finally drifted on shore at Kaikoura, where also is Poutini Arahua, the water in which lies this fish, the greenstone.

“Here is yet another relation [respecting it] by Himiona te Aka. When the men-workers of greenstone go thither, on arriving at the spot some remain on the shore [banks], and the man who has been prepared to dive goes [into the water], taking with him the end of the long rope, the other end being with the men on the bank. He dives and goes right down to shell-sand [to the beds of shell-fish], to the very bottom. He looks up above, lo! the greenstone pendent over and above him. Then he casts the rope prepared with a running knot, and it is secured, and then [the greenstone] is dragged out and lies on the bank of the water. It is carried off on [their] shoulders in a litter to the village, and worked up; and when finished [they] go to dispose of [their] riches. Here ends the information [I have received] concerning the greenstone.”

While the general meaning of these last-written communications may be understood by the English reader, there is much that remains unknown to him, partly owing to the different idiom, but mainly to the brief mention of, or merely allusions to, Maori matters, beliefs, customs, and habits, so well known to the Maoris themselves. And it would take some considerable time and much writing fully to explain all those allusions. Not unfrequently has a Maori relation of ancient doings, especially when containing brief notices or

[Footnote] * On east coast, near Castle Point.

[Footnote] † The same curious, rare, and highly descriptive-term (here-taniwha) is used here that was used in the account given to the capture of the big and fierce mako shark (Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. xxiv., p. 448). This further tends to show their fixed belief in the greenstone being a living creature; ika = a fish. The same name was also invariably-given by the old Maoris to bitumen, which was only (and rarely) found in large abnormal black lumps on the sea-shore, and used by them as a prized masticatory.

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hints of superstitious ritual observances, reminded me of a beautiful torso dug out of the earth, possessing but a small part of its pristine elegance of form and expression; but when the portions that are lacking can be supplied from classic tale, then all (as it were) is revealed. Even the apparently trivial circumstance of the man, when setting out on his journey to obtain greenstone, ceremonially placing the two sprigs of named shrubs in his ears, has a deep meaning; besides, some such simple observance, of using sprigs and branchlets and leaves of certain herbs and shrubs, was always made use of by the tohunga in all the various lustrations and charms and performances connected with the laws of the tapu—tending to show the natural simplicity of their more recondite or sacred actions. Moreover, similar shoots or sprigs of various and named British trees were also used by the Druids in their religious ceremonies, according to the Triads; and so by the Jews under the Levitical ritual were sprigs of hyssop.


The Maori Relation referred to above.

“E koro, e Te Koreneho, tena ra ko koe. Tenei ka tukuaatu te korero, o te pounamu. E ki ana a Te Akaipikitia: He ika ano tenei mea te pounamu. (A, he aha ra i maro ai?)

“Engari, pea, ta tetahi tangata o Ngatimarau, i hoki mai, i reira. Ko Hanita Te Maero tona ingoa; kua mate ia.

“Ko tana korero tenei: Ka hiahia te tangata o reira, ka kii atu ki tana wahine, kia patua he aruhe hei o mona ki reira. I te po ka moe. Moe rawa iho ia, e awhiawhi ana raua ko tetahi wahine i te po, wahine pai o te poo. Oho ake te ao, ka korero, taku moe. E awhiawhi ana maua ko Mea.

“Ka kii atu ki te wahine, kia homai te pooi-aruhe. Ko nga takai o te pooi aruhe, he kawakawa, he kokomuka. Ka haere, ko te pitau tutu, ara ko te rito o te tutu, ki tetahi taringa, ko te kokomuka ki tetahi taringa. Ka haere, ka tae ki Poutini, kei reira a Arahua, te wai i takoto ai te pounamu. Ka tae, ka ruku; na, e takoto ana; ka herea te taura; ka tooia e nga mea i uta; ka takoto ki uta. Ka mauria ki te kainga, ka mahia. Ko nga pounamu e mahia nei e te pakeha, ehara i te mea no roto no te wai, no raro ranei no whakatakere rawa o te wai; kaore, no uta noa nei, no te wahi whitinga ra nei.

“E. kiia ana, e nga korero parau a nga iwi nei: He ika tonu te pounamu. (He aha ra i maro ai?) Haere mai ana taua ika nei, te pounamu, i raawahi, tae rawa mai ki Tuhua, e pakiri atu ana nga niho o te paretao o Tuhua. Haere tonu i waho, tarewa tonui waho, kaore i tata mai ki uta; tae rawa atu ki waenganui o Whareama, o Motuairaka, ara ki Takiritaane,

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e pakiri mai ana nga niho o tena kowhatu. Tarewa haere tonu i waho, pae rawa atu ki uta, ko Kaikoura; kei reira hoki a Poutini Arahua, te wai i takoto ai te ika nei te pounamu.

“Tetahi korero ano a Himiona te Aka. Ka haere nga tangata mahi pounamu ki reira. Ka tae atu, ka noho etahi i uta; ka haere te tangata mo te ruku, ka riro ano tetahi pito o te taura i a ia, tetahi pito ki nga tangata i uta. Ka ruku, ka tatu ki te onepipii, ka titiro ake whakarunga, e! e tarewa iho ana i runga ake i a ia; katahi, ka herea taniwhatia, ka mau; ka mea, ka hutia, ka takoto ki uta; ka amohia ki te kainga, ka mahia, ka oti; ka haere i te kaitaonga. Ka mutu te korero mo te pounamu.”

“He Waiata tenei mo Poutini Arahua.—‘Ehara hoki au i te tangata kite i a Poutini i Arahua* ra, ee, i te wai ra i takoto ai koe e hanga. Taria koe e ahu mai, ii, kia mataotaoo, ka hoki mai ai koe ki a hau.’

“E hoa, kai te miharo ahau ki te parau o te Maori—he ika te kowhatu! He aha ra i ngawari ai te maro nei?

“Heoi ano. Ka mutu.

“Na Ha. te Rangikaheke.”

[Footnote] * This is the third time in this memorandum that this name is so spelled, “Arahua,” but I think that Arahura is the proper term.

[Footnote] † An ancient ditty of great depth and meaning, often used by chiefs at their formal meetings at times of death or calamities; heard so sung by myself.