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Volume 32, 1899
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Art. XLI.—About the Native Names for Places.

[Read before the Hawke's Bay Philosophical Institute.]

The Maori of New Zealand having left us no written records, it is a very difficult matter to collect fairly reliable evidence of the past history of this people. Certain old legends, songs, and tribal pedigrees have been collected and written down by a few of the early colonists, and these scanty contributions are all we are likely to obtain, unless some new method of gaining information be started and followed up successfully.

A useful study may possibly be in the collecting and analysing the original names of places, rivers, or localities, as a means of obtaining some insight into the thoughts of those from whom such names originated. In this paper I will endeavour to show that we still may find a part of the history of the Maori people in local names.

Take, for instance, the three names Tautane, near Cape Turnagain; Manawatu, the name of a large river and district; and Ruahine, the central mountain-range of the Northern Island of New Zealand. These names are found within a radius of some forty miles, and at first sight would seem to have no connection one with the other; yet, by the light of an old custom among the Maoris, it is evident that all three

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names originate from the different operations of the one ceremony. A fourth name, Whangaihau. is also connected with the above, and is, I think, to be found in the altered name Wangaehu, near Cape Turnagain. It would seem reasonable to expect that all the names pertaining to the ceremonies above referred to should be found in use, rather than that three should be found and one absent.

Dr. Shortland, in “Traditions and Superstitions of the New-Zealanders,” published in 1854, page 247, gives, “Tarapipipi's Narrative “on customs of warfare, from which I quote as follows:—

“Of the slain, some are cooked and eaten. The first man killed is made sacred to the Atua (‘Spirit’ or ‘God’) in order to propitiate him. He is called the mata-ati, and is thus disposed of: His heart (manawa) is immediately cut out and stuck on the top of a post (tu) = Manawatu. His ear and some of the hair of his head are preserved to be used at the ceremony called whangai-hau (‘feed-wind’). The ear is for the female ariki of the tribe to eat in the ceremony called rua-hine (old woman), by which the war-party are made noa (made common, not under tapu or other restriction). The heart is for the male ariki to eat at the ceremony called tautane. The second person slain, called mata-tohunga, is also sacred, the priest (tohunga) alone being permitted to eat of his flesh. When the war-party return to their own settlement they perform the ceremony of whangaihau, after which they are noa, and are at liberty to go about their ordinary business. As for the remains of the flesh which the war-party had been eating, it is thrown away in the bush, for it must not be eaten by women. Such food is sacred; the males alone may taste it. If any of it were eaten by a woman some misfortune would happen to the tribe.”

Of the cannibalistic habits of the Maori we have proof, therefore, in the place-names Manawa-tu (“heart standing up”), Rua-hine (“old woman”), Tau-tane (tane, “a male,” probably the oldest chief of the tribe, or male ariki), and Kaitangata (“eat-man”), near Dunedin, in the South Island.

The ceremony performed after the birth of a child also includes the names Tautane and Ruahine, described by Short-land thus: “The infant comes into the world an exceedingly sacred object, and must be touched by none but the sacred few present till the tapu, or restriction, has been removed. The ceremony attending the removal of tapu from a child is as follows: A small sacred fire being kindled by itself, the father takes some fern-root and roasts it thereon. The food so prepared is called horohoronga. He then places the child in his arms, and after touching the head, back, and different parts of its body with the horohoronga, he eats. This act is

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termed kai-katoa i te tama-iti ('eating the child all over') and is the conclusion of the ceremony performed by the father. The sacred restriction, however, is not yet completely removed from the infant, but nothing more can be done till the following morning, when, at daylight, the child's eldest relative in the direct female line cooks fern-root over a sacred fire, precisely in the manner the father had done, and, having similarly touched the head and various parts of the body of the infant with this dressed food, afterwards swallows it.”

The part of the ceremony performed by the female is called rua-hine (“old woman”), and when it is ended the infant is quite noa, or free from restriction, and may be handed about among the persons standing by, to be danced in their arms. The ceremony performed by the father is called tautane or tamatane, and at its conclusion the child receives its name.

One of our volcanic mountains is named Rua-pehu, or “the blow-hole,” a most appropriate name. A stream which takes its rise on this mountain is named Wanga-ehu, or “the bay, or canoe-landing, having muddy waters.” This latter name is similar to the one on the East Coast, which I hinted might be corrupted from the original Whangaihau. A stream may be known by the same name as the bay where it flows into the sea, and the West Coast Wanga-ehu is evidently correctly named, as the following extract from the Hawke's Bay Herald will show:—

“With reference to our articles on the outbreak of Ruapehu, a Moa-whango” (“hoarse-voiced moa”) “resident writes: 'There was also another outburst some years after Tara-wera '” (“hot peak”), “'when an overflow from the hot lake took place, and, by melting the snow, caused a big fresh in the Wanga-ehu…. I sent down a bottle of the Wanga-ehu water a few days afterwards, showing how largely it was charged with minerals. The Wanga-ehu is always affected by any extra volcanic energy on the part of Ruapehu. On Sunday, the 10th March last [1895], when a great outburst of steam occurred, which was noticed from different parts of the Island, a shepherd whom I know well was close by the mountain, and simultaneously with a tremor of the earth and the rising of a column of steam from the summit there were several small vent-holes which threw out earth, rock, and steam, accompanied by a loud whistling sound. These vents are on the eastern side of the mountain, about parallel with the course of the Wanga-ehu.'” Probably these vent-holes give the name Rua-pehu, or “the blow-hole,” to the mountain.

To compare with Wanga-ehu we have Wanga-nui (“big

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bay”), the name of a landing-place and also of the river emptying therein. Whanga-ra, on the east coast of the North Island, is said by one writer to be so named because the Maoris on arriving there were reminded of a similar place in the land from which they had migrated. But its position gives proof of the origin of the name “east bay,” or “bay facing the rising sun” (ra, “the sun,” also “the east”), and there is no more necessity to assume it was so named from any fancied resemblance to any other place than to suppose East Cape was for a similar reason so named by Captain Cook.

Whanga-paraoa is by tradition said to be so named because the voyagers in the “Arawa” canoe found a certain kind of whale stranded on the beach when they arrived, and a quarrel occurred with the crew of the “Tainui” as to which were the rightful owners of this waif from the sea.

Whanga is often written as Wanga, and is accepted as correct in either form, according to the spelling originally used to denote any particular place; and I believe the Maoris of certain districts are in the habit of omitting to sound the h in several other words also.

In the names of places and streams we often find the compound word wai, “water,” as in Wai-nui, “big water,” a very common name (the Wainui of Hawke's Bay is now known as Herbertville, named after the first pakeha who built a house and lived there); Wai-paoa and Wai-pawa, “smoky water,” some say in allusion to the misty vapour arising from the water of the river during certain conditions of the atmosphere; Wai-pukurau,* “the water near which grows the edible fungus or mushroom”; Wai-tangi, “the water where the crying or wake was held” (this, you will remember, is the place where the celebrated treaty or compact was signed between the early settlers and the Maori, and the name Waitangi has become historical thereby); Wairarapa, “rippling water”; Wai-makariri, “the cold water.”

Awa, “a river,” is also used in place-names, as Awa-nui, “large river”; Awa-tapu, “river made sacred”; Awa-kino, “the river of misfortune or evil”; Awa-huri, “the rolling-over river” (perhaps of whirlpools).

Ara, “a road or track,” as Ara-tapu, “the forbidden road”: At times a renowned chief, when desirous of protecting the people of a neighbouring pa or fortified village from the

[Footnote] * In the Otago Witness a sale of sheep is mentioned, by Mr. D. Murray, of Puke-rau (no doubt a mistake for Puku-rau), literally “the mound-leaf,” or “swelling leaf,” a mushroom, or fuzz-ball (Lycoperdon fontanesei).

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hostility or revengeful attack of his allies, would claim that the road leading in that direction was iwi-tua-roa (his backbone or spinal column), after which assertion any hostile party who went by that road or ara-tapu would incur the penalty of a reckoning with the protecting chief. But, owing to the Maori greatly fearing any sort of tapu, there was little risk of any authorised form of tapu being broken.

Puke, “a hill,” gives the folowing place-names: Puke-tapu, near Napier, “the sacred hill”; Puke-kohe, “the hill where grows the kohe-tree” (Dysoxylum spectabile); Puke-atua, “of the Spirit (or God).”

Maunga, “a mountain,” from which comes Maunga-turoto (probably short for tu-roto-waenga, “standing within, or in the midst or middle of, or near, a lake”): This may be a hill surrounded by a plain, or a hill between two other hills. Maunga-tua, “a mountain with a ridged top,” south of Dunedin.

Manga, “a branch stream,” gives Manga-one, “the stream of the sand or of earthy water”; Manga-rangiora, “the stream of the rangiora shrub”(also called wairangi, a shrub sometimes eaten by cattle, but said to be poisonous to the horse); Manga-kuri, “the stream of the dog.” This word is often shortened to “Ma,” as Ma-harahara, “the small stream”; also Ma-kuri, “of the dog”; Ma-karetu, “of the sweet-smelling twitch-like grass”(Hierochloe redolens).

Pa, “a fenced village (or fort),” gives Pa-toka, “the fort on the rock”; Pa-i-kaka-riki, “the village of the green parrot” (i.e., parrakeet), on the Wellington—Manawatu Railway-line; Pa-karaka, of a small fruit-bearing tree (Corynocarpus lævigata); Pa-kowhai, of a tree (Sophora tetraptera).

Of miscellaneous names are Kiri-kiri, “the place where gravel or small water-worn stones are abundant”; Kiri-paka, “the place of the flint-stone”; Kai-kora, “little to eat,” or “fragments of food”; Kai-koura, “the feast of crayfish.”

Kai-manawa, the name of a range of mountains (“eat heart”): This name may have the same origin as Manawa-tu, described previously. [Note: Manawa-nui= patience; as Bunyan says in “The Pilgrim's Progress,” “Keep a good heart, Mr. So-and-so.”]

Tara-rua (Mountains) may mean, “having two peaks or cones.” A noted chief of olden times was named Tara, and, according to the Rev. W. Colenso, the Te Aute Lake was called, after him, “Roto-a-tara,” or “Tara Lake.” Mr. Elsdon Best tells us that Wellington Harbour is also named Whanganui-o-tara, “the large bay of Tara.” At the same time tara is the name for several kinds of seagulls, as tara-nni, tara-iti, &c. The latter writer also says that the chief Tara at one time occupied an extensive pa near the place we now name

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Tara-dale. Previous to learning this I supposed Tara of the dale had some relation to “the harp which hung in Tara's halls.” Can any of the members of our Institute explain the origin of the place-name Tara-dale ?

Kaweka, a word meaning “a mountain-range.” Porangahau, the name of an ancient pa, belonging to Tawheta, in Hawaiki.

Kuri-pa-pango, which you all have heard of, would seem a very singular name. I suppose it “the dog with the litter of black pups,” the word “pa,” in one sense, being “a litter of pups.” Marae-kakaho, “a court (or yard) fenced round with toe reeds.”* Tutae-kuri, Tutae-nui, Tutae-kara, are names having an unsavoury meaning; but at the same time let not such words be exchanged for inexpressive names of European origin, as has been the case elsewhere, for the original names of places aid us in following the history and the thoughts of the Maori people, whom we, in a measure, have robbed of their right of occupation. Why alter them ? It is only the student who is likely to consider their original meaning.

[Footnote] * This whaka-tauki, or proverb, partly illustrates the name: He takakaho ka kitea, tena-ha te no te ngakau e kore e kitea (“A crooked part of a stem of toetoe can be seen, but a crooked part in the heart cannot be seen”). Toetoe is a large grass, Arundo conspicua.