Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 38, 1905
This text is also available in PDF
(6 MB) Opens in new window
– 193 –

Swamp Burial

As observed above, it was a Native custom to place bodies in swamps and lagoons or ponds, the body being usually thrust down into the mud, and the water-plants, rushes, &c., would soon grow up and so obliterate all sigs of disturbance. There are several such swamp burial-places at Te Whaiti—indeed, they exist in most parts of the Matatua district, being perhaps more numerous in the open country where no forest existed in which the dead might be concealed. Te Korokoro, Wai-pokere, and Te Kowhai are three of these burial-swamps at Te Whaiti. In a good many cases dead were buried near a settlement (where the graves could be protected from enemies), and when the bones were exhumed they would be conveyed to a swamp and there trampled into themud for concealment. This method was common among the Nagti-awa and Ngati-Pukeko Tribes, who inhabit open country.

A small lagoon named Te Roto-tapu (the sacred pond), at Kaka-tarahae, near Rua-toki, has been used as a burial-place by Tuhoe for the past fourteen generations, hence it is a very tapu place. It is said that Toi, a famous ancestor of the Bay of Plenty Natives on the aboriginal side, was the first to be buried in a swamp, at a place called Marae-totara, at O-hope.

When Ngati-Rongo, under Pa-i-te-rangi, attacked Te Kea

– 194 –

(who dwelt in the Titoko-rangi Fort at Rua-toki) they made a slight error, for Te Kea defeated the party and slew their leader, who was buried in a swamp.

Perhaps you are weary of swamp burial, but I want to draw your attention to a singular use of the word “rumaki”. My informant, an old Native, said, “Ka rumakina a Pa-i-te-rangi ki roto ki te repo.” Here rumaki = to bury, a meaning not given to the word in our dictionaries. The Tuhoe people often use it in that sense.