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Volume 30, 1897
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Art. IV.—Tuhoe Land: Notes on the Origin, History, Customs, and Traditions of the Tuhoe or Urewera Tribe.

[Read before the Auckland Institute, 4th October, 1897.]

The district generally known as the Urewera country, but officially as Tuhoe Land, extends north and south from Ruatoki, on the Lower Whakatane, to Lake Waikaremoana, and east and west from the head of the Waioeka River to the Whirinaki River and a line running a few miles from the right bank of the Rangitaiki River. It includes the watershed of the Upper Whakatane, with a portion of those of the Upper Waimana, Ruakituri, and Waiau Rivers, as also the right-bank watershed of Whirinaki. The district is rugged and mountainous, the valleys being narrow, and containing little flat land, while the quality of the soil is but second rate. Nearly the whole of this area is covered with forest, which is generally of a light nature, but mixed with rimu, kahikatea, and matai. The higher ranges are covered with forests of tawai, tawari, and tawhero, the tawai predominating; while on the left bank of the Whirinaki, and tributaries thereof, are fine patches of totara.

This district is inhabited by the Tuhoe or Urewera Tribe of Maoris, who are descendants of Ngapotiki, the ancient tribe which occupied this region for centuries before the arrival of the later migration of Maoris from Hawaiki by the historic fleet some eighteen or twenty generations ago. These ancient people of New Zealand were undoubtedly Polynesians—in fact, Maori—being but a prior migration from northern isles; and, without doubt, voyages were made to New Zealand from the Pacific isles between the time of the arrival of the “Aratauwhaiti” canoe, bringing over the ancestor of the Tini-o-toi, and the coming of “Mataatua,” from the crew of which vessel the Tuhoe obtained their strain of modern Hawaikian blood. Among such voyagers were Maku, Kupe, Ngahue, Paoa of Horouta, Taukata of Nga Tai-a-kupe, and Hape of Te Hapuoneone.

An ancient tradition states that the ancestors of the original people came to New Zealand in the “Aratauwhaiti” canoe, about thirty-five generations ago, from a land called Mataora. The principal man of this vessel was Tiwakawaka (see below, Gen. No. 1). His father, Papa-titi-rau-maewa, was another of the crew. After the ancient war between the offspring of Rangi and Papa the kumara was brought into the world by Pani-tinaku; she was the mother of the kumara. Pani married a brother of Whanui, who procured from Rehua

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a piece of kumara, or seed thereof, and caused Pani to give birth to the kumara. As the valuable possession came forth to the world she repeated the karakia, commencing “Pani, Pani heke,” &c. Her children ate a portion of the kumara, and when they learnt the origin of it they were much dismayed, and said, “We have eaten the parapara of our mother.” So alarmed were they that they left their home and scattered to all parts of the world, some of them coming to New Zealand, where they settled in a lone land, and became the origin of many ancient tribes, such as Te Tini-o-toi, Te Kawerau, Tuoi, Te Marangaranga, Tini-o-awa, Te Makahua, Tini-o-taunga, Kotore-o-hua, and others. These were some of the tribes found here by the crews of the historic fleet “Mataatua,” “Te Arawa,” &c. (The origin of the kumara, as above described, was preserved by tradition, though the tuber itself appears to have been unknown in New Zealand before the time of Toi-kai-rakau. When Whanui is seen flashing above the sea-horizon in the direction of the fatherland, then the tohunga pronounces the kumara as ready to be dug. So was this land settled by the children of Pani.)

The Tini-o-awa were a division of the ancient people. A section of this tribe, known as Ngapotiki, held Tuhoe Land, or the greater part thereof. Ngapotiki were divided into hapus, as follows: Te Kotore held the Pukareao Valley; their lands are now owned by Ngai-tawhaki. Te Hokowhitu-pakira-a-romairira occupied Ruatoki; the famous ancestor, Rangi-monoa, was of this hapu. Ngati-ha held the valley of the Upper Whakatane and the head of the Waiau River. Ngati-rakei dwelt in Te Wai-iti Valley; Ngapotiki proper at Maungapohatu; Tuahau at Manana-a-tiuhi; and Tu-mata-rakau on the Lower Waikare. The Valley of Whirinaki was held by Te Marangaranga, and that of Waimana by the ancient tribes of Maruiwi, Maru, and Tama. The first and last of these three were branches of Te Hapu-oneone, who would appear to have sprung from a different migration to that of the tribes which claim descent from and relationship with Toi, the wood-eater. The Hapu-oneone are the descendants of Hape, who flourished about twenty-five generations ago; but if he came from Hawaiki, as some claim, the name of his vessel has been lost. The Tribe of Maru held lands on the northern side of Maungapohatu, and that of Potiki occupied those to the south.

Ngapotiki are descended from Te Maunga and Hine-pukohu-rangi, from whose son, Potiki, the tribal name comes. He lived about sixteen or seventeen generations back (see below, Gen. No. 2). The Tuhoe people are also descended from the “Mataatua” migration—that is, from Toroa. The tribal name of Tuhoe comes from Tuhoe-potiki, third in descent from

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Toroa; and that of Te Urewera from Mura-kareke, son of Tuhoe (see Gen. No. 3). The descendants of Toroa first left the coast lands and settled among Ngapotiki in the time of Karetehe, four generations from Toroa. Karetehe settled at Ruatoki with Rangi-monoa, who gave land to the newcomers. The mixed descendants of Toroa gained certain victories over Ngapotiki, but it is not the case that the inhabitants of Tuhoe Land were ever conquered by the Mataatua migrants or their descendants. The concrete truth is that Tuhoe are Ngapotiki, and should be called by that name. It is, of course, a fact that the Mataatua tribes intermarried with Ngapotiki to a considerable extent, but for all that Tuhoe are mainly aboriginal in blood to this day, and speak far more of their aboriginal ancestors than of those of Mataatua, though alive to the fact of the superior mana of the later Maori.

Table of Generations.

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No. 1.

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No. 2.

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No. 3.

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Among the Tuhoe mountaineers are conserved a large number of archaic and sacerdotal words which do not appear to be known in other parts; also, the traces of many singular ancient customs are noticeable among them, together with traditions which differ materially from those of the modern Maori. The old men of the tribe are well versed in such legends, &c., but appear to be behind other tribes in their knowledge of the Hawaikian fatherland and traditions pertaining thereto. They still preserve the knowledge of many old-time customs and ceremonies, together with the all-necessary karakia. Any person having a good knowledge of the Maori tongue might here collect much new matter anent the customs of the ancient Maori.

The subject of human sacrifice alone might occupy a volume if thoroughly looked into by a competent inquirer, and also lead to many interesting comparisons with similar customs of other lands. The sacrifice for lifting the tapu from the whare potae, or house of mourning, and that on the occasion of the taanga ngutu (tattooing of the lips) of a woman of rank, are probably new to those interested in such matters. The sacrifice of men at the building of a new house, and the launching of a war-canoe, have been placed on record, but are interesting. Probably more so, however, is that made when the tauira, or scholar, leaves his tutor and the whare maire, where all sacred lore was taught (Tuhoe do not use the term whare kura), and comes forth as a tohunga. In order to give mana to his karakia, and also as an equivalent for knowledge imparted to him, he slays by a spell or incantation some person selected by his tutor, and which victim was often a parent or some relative of the scholar. The tohunga retains the privilege of naming the tauira patu, or person to be sacrificed; he selects a relative of the scholar, who, by the sacrifice of such relative, obtains the peculiar mana necessary to make his incantations effective. The sacrifice is led before the scholar, who slays him by means of a karakia makutu, or incantation to bewitch. Should he sacrifice any other than the person selected by his tutor his karakia will never be effective. On being makututia in this manner the victim is dead in a few minutes. It was not permissible for the scholar to pay the tohunga for teaching him in goods of any kind. The body of the victim was buried, for, being a relative, of course it was not eaten. When a man killed a relative or member of his own tribe, either in anger or such ceremonies as the above, he would take out the heart and place it to his mouth, but would not eat it. He would then repeat the mākăkă karakia over the heart, by which the body of the slain is made tapu, so that no one can eat it.

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When the daughter of an important chief had her lips and chin tattooed a day was set apart on which the tribe would assemble to view the work of the artist. A party would be sent forth some time before to secure a member of another tribe, for the purpose of sacrificing such person in honour of the taanga ngutu of the young woman, and also to give strength to the tribe. The body of such sacrifice was eaten by the people. Te Whatu said to me, “It was well to take the victim from another tribe, for it gave us the pleasure of jeering at that tribe for all time by saying, ‘You are my slaves; you were slain for the taanga ngutu of my ancestress.’ Pare-karamu, daughter of Koroki, was the last person I knew of who had a human sacrifice for her taanga ngutu.”

Whare Potae.—This was a mourning-house, and took its name from that of the ancient mourning head-dress. It was sometimes called the whare taua. When a chief of distinction died his widow and children would remain for some time within the whare potae, eating food during the night time only, never during the day. When the period of mourning was over a human sacrifice was made, to take the tapu off the whare potae and its occupants—hai heuenga mo te whare potae, or dispersal of the mourners. The mourners are accompanied to a stream-side by the tohunga, or priest, where the tapu is taken off their heads or mourning head-dresses (ka purea tona mahunga). When Taupoki, of Ngati-Marakoko, died, at Waikotikoti, Tapuku, a slave, was killed for above ceremony, the body being cut up and cooked in a hapi, or oven, on the river-bank, just in front of my tent where I am now writing this article. The cooked flesh was eaten by the people, a portion being sent to those living at the lower Whirinaki.

Whare Kohanga.—This is a house to which a mother and newly-born child are removed from the whare kahu, or fœtus-house, the next day after birth of the child. Such a ceremony was, of course, only kept up by chiefs. The mother remained in the whare kahu during birth of the child. The child was taken by the priest to a stream-side, where he performed the ceremony of tu-ora over the infant, with appropriate karakia. The mother and child were then taken to the whare kohanga, a small house specially constructed for the purpose. The child was tapu, and remained for some days in this “nest-house.” When the end of the iho, or umbilical cord, was severed it was carried to the urupa and there left. In some cases the iho was deposited in a tree or under a rock at some noted taumata, or resting-place, by the side of a track; such a place would ever after be known as “The iho of So-and-so.” Also, it was sometimes deposited at the bounds of tribal lands, to preserve the tribal right and influence over

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such lands. Such places are Te Rahui and Ngaheni, at Waikaremoana. The pure, or whakanoa, ceremony was performed over the child when it was taken from the whare kohanga. Two hapi (ovens) of food were cooked, one for the priest and one for the people. With certain karakia, the priest then took the tapu off the child, who now became noa, and might be carried about by the women.

One of the most interesting subjects in this district is that of the various duties pertaining to the position of the tohunga, or priest, of the ancient Maori. Their duties appear to have been almost innumerable, for the tohunga, in one capacity or another, was in constant requisition. The ancient karakia are without number, and many of them are most interesting, containing, as they do, many words of an archaic type. A close study of the karakia of the Tuhoe priests, if made by a competent person, would throw much light on the beliefs and rites of the ancient Maori.

The word “umu” is prefixed in a strange way to many of the old karakia, such as umu hiki, an incantation to cause a hostile tribe to leave their homes and migrate; umu tamoe, a karakia to render a defeated enemy powerless to obtain revenge; umu waharoa, a karakia and ceremony performed over the dead; umu pongipongi, a ceremony and karakia to bewitch. In this case it is by no means clear that umu = hangi (an oven). It is probably an ancient word, signifying a karakia, or ceremony. In many sacred rites fire was used by the priest, such as the ahi taumata and ahi taitai. Also, sacred ovens were used to cook food, to be used in such ceremonies as the freeing from tapu of a returned war-party, and in this manner the word “umu” may have come to be used as a synonym for karakia.

As stated, the karakia of the Maori were innumerable, and were used for almost every act and occurrence. Karakia were repeated by children at their games, and they had special ones for spinning potaka (tops), kite-flying, and for the karetao, porotiti, topa, pakuru, and other toys, as well as for games played with the hands, such as the hapi tawa, upoko titi, and kura-winiwini, as also for the wi, tatau manawa, tatau tangata, and tatai whetu. Though styled karakia, these are in many cases a mere jingle, equivalent to our nursery rhymes, and sometimes are in the form of a dialogue.

The more serious form of karakia cover a great scope. The ancient tohunga had karakia in his budget for causing a flooded river to subside, to blast trees and shatter rock, to harden himself for the fire ceremony, and to cause crops to grow. In commencing a journey he would karakia to cause the land to contract, so as to shorten his journey, and would request that the land might not be drawn out lengthways. If

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doubtful of reaching his destination before nightfall he would repeat a karakia to hold the sun in its course, so as to give him a start, a most useful thing. When pursued by an enemy he would repeat the hoa tapuwae over himself to render him fleet of foot, while at the same time he would repeat the punga to make his pursuer slow to follow. If overtaken, he recited the tu-mata-pongia, which rendered him invisible. In wrestling he used the tuaumu incantation, and when going to battle repeated the hoa rakau over his weapon. The moremore-puwha was to force the knowledge of the art of weaving into his womankind, and the rotu to calm the waves of the ocean. When reciting a karakia to subdue an unruly taniwha or the ocean he would pluck a hair from his head (ka unuhia te tai-o-makawe) and cast it into the waters. The toko was a karakia used to separate a wife from her husband; it was made use of by a second wife at times, to cause a favourite wife to be parted from a common husband. The kai-ure and others were karakia of the class known as matapuru, which were used to ward off witchcraft. If a man came to know that he had been bewitched, or that some evilly-disposed person was trying to take his hau, he would immediately procure some strips of harakeke, or flax, and tie them carefully around his body and limbs. He would then recite the matapuru to render harmless the spells of his enemy.

Rua torino (Ngatiawa).—This is a ceremony by which persons are slain by witchcraft (karakia makutu). The tohunga forms a mound of earth in the shape of a man's body. He then makes a hole in the supposed body with a stick. He then recites an incantation to draw the wairua, or spirit of the man he wishes to slay, into the hole. The wairua may be an invisible essence or it may be in the form of a fly. The kopani karak'a is then used to close the rua torino, and confine the wairua therein, where it is destroyed, and with it, of course, the earthly body, wherever it may be.

Rua-iti.—This appears to be the Tuhoe term for the rua torino. When a tohunga wishes to kill a person by means of the rua-iti he procures from the home of the doomed person a piece of cord or string, which he takes to the rua-iti, and there places one end of the cord in the hole; the other end he holds in his hand. This cord serves as a takutaku, down which the priest causes the wairua (soul) of the victim to pass into the rua, where it is destroyed by the karakia known as whakaumu.

The counter ceremony for the above was described to me by Te Whatu, of Tuhoe, as follows: “Should I become aware that a tohunga is bewitching me so as to cause my body to waste away—and I should know at once if he were—I send some one to his place to bring me a piece of cord, of any kind.

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I take the cord and smear it with blood procured from an incision in the left side of my body. I then kindle a fire and burn the cord; also, I cook a single kumara or taewa at that fire. The cooked kumara I give to the ruwahine (a childless woman employed in various sacred rites), who eats it. Friend! That man is dead!

“Another method of averting the effects of witchcraft is to place the kumara beneath the paepae-poto (door-sill) of my house and get the ruwahine to step over it.”

The paepae-poto is one of the most sacred parts of a house. The saying is, “Kia wehi ki te paepae-poto a Hou.”

To describe the various rites, customs, and ceremonies of the natives of Tuhoe Land as they obtained in pre-pakeha days would require a volume, and also much care and patience on the part of the compiler, combined with a thorough knowledge of the Maori tongue, or, at least, the vernacular thereof, a qualification which I myself, unfortunately, do not possess. It is greatly to be desired that these matters should be placed on record during the next few years, for the present generation is the last which will retain such knowledge, and, indeed, only a few old men of this time can tell of the countless ceremonies of the ancient Maori. Much has been lost beyond recall, but much may yet be saved if a few capable persons will but take the matter up.