Art. XIII.—The Passing of the Maori: An Inquiry into the Principal Causes of the Decay of the Race.
[Read before the Auckland Institute, 8th July, 1907.]
That the Maori is gradually though rapidly passing away there can be no doubt. Any one who has lived for even a few years in the Maori country, or who has visited the Native districts from time to time, has the fact forced upon him. The large kaingas have shrunk to a fraction of their former size; many of the smaller ones have disappeared altogether; tribal gatherings that ten or twenty years ago mustered thousands now barely muster hundreds; the Native contingent is less and less conspicuous at the race meetings, agricultural shows, and other country gatherings; while the pictursque groups and figures that once gave such interesting variety to the city and town populations are now the exception rather than the rule. In spite of various statements, based on census returns and on local personal observation, that the Maori is holding his own, or even increasing in numbers, the fact is patent that, taking it as a whole, the race is fast dying out, and that, if the decay continues at the present rate, a comparatively short time will witness its extinction, though perhaps for a few generations some gradually diminishing traces of mixed blood may be observable in the white population. The object of the present paper is to try and trace some of the principal causes that have combined to produce this wholesale and rapid decay.
Most of the present Maori tribes trace their origin from the great heke or Polynesian migration which occured some five hundred years ago; but there is abundant evidence that the country was already occupied by a numerous population, with whom sooner or later the Polynesian immigrants came into collision. These original inhabitants seem to have been of a peaceable disposition, and tradition states that they were often the victims of a wholesale slaughter. As is usual in such cases, once the strength of the beaten party was sufficiently broken the remnant of the able-bodied men would be taken for slaves and the women for wives, when the aboriginals would be absorbed in the invaders, who increased and multiplied until they
practically occupied all the open fertile land of the North Island, as well as a considerable portion of the South.
At what period this mixed race—to which the present inquiry is confined—reached its maximum it is quite impossible to say, nor can we even approximately guess the number they may have reached. Doubtless the population was at all times a fluctuating one; and as the tribes grew in strength, a natural desire for expansion, a dispute over territory, or some other cause would bring them into collision, and the quarrel once started would often develop into a war of extermination. In these disputes allies would be sought on either side, combinations of adjacent tribes would be formed, and the fight would go on to a finish, or until both sides were exhausted, and by the time the final battle was fought, or a truce arrived at, a whole district would be almost depopulated. By degrees, however, the tribes that were not wholly extinguished would be nursed up again: new alliances would be formed, and in time, under favourable conditions, the population would be brought up to, or might even exceed, its former numbers.
Captain Cook estimated the Maori population at the time of his visits to New Zealand (A.D. 1769–74) at about a hundred thousands; but his estimate is no more than a rough guess based on very imperfect data. It must be recollected that his observations extended only to a very partial acquaintance with the coast-line, that he never penetrated inland, and that even on the coast he entirely missed some of the most populous districts. Waikato, the Hot Lake country, the Auckland Isthmus, Kaipara, Hokianga, and many other places teeming with population had for him no existence, and any information he might have acquired from Native sources would be too vague to form the basis of an opinion.
There is abundant evidence to prove that Captain Cook's estimate was far too low. This evidence lies chiefly in the marks of occupation which the Maoris have left in the multitude of fortified positions and in the immense area of land bearing traces of former cultivation. The number and size of the pas throughout the length and breadth of the North Island is amazing. Judge Maning states* that from the top of one pa he had counted twenty others within a range of fifteen or twenty miles, and along the Oruru Valley a range of hills four or five miles long has nearly every summit scarped and terraced, some of the works being so extensive that it would take a thousand men to hold the position and probably a far greater number to construct the works. In regard to the area of land formerly
[Footnote] * “Old New Zealand,” Chap. xiii.
under cultivation, practically all the open fertile country of the North Island shows unmistakable signs of agricultural operations. The clay hill-sides of the north are covered with surface drains, the volcanic plains of Taranaki are perforated with the ruas or storage-pits, all over the Waikato delta the pumice land has been excavated for sand to spread over the kumara plantations: every narrow river-valley, every little shingle patch along the coast, and every sheltered nook under the sea-cliffs has been utilised; even on the rocky scoria flats the loose stones have been laboriously gathered into heaps to clear the ground for the early crops.
It is not, of course, to be supposed that anything like the total number of the pas or the entire area of cultivated land were occupied at any one time. Tribes would be driven off, and whole tracts of land would be deserted, perhaps, for a long period; and, even where the inhabitants were unmolested, the land would be temporarily worn out and new pieces brought under cultivation. Many of the pas, moreover, were built only to serve some temporary purpose, while many more would be deserted for a new site to suit the varying fortunes of the occupants. If the fighting strength of a pa was much reduced, a large fortification would be untenable, and a new one of more modest dimensions would be constructed on another spot; while if the numbers greatly increased, a more roomy situation would have to be found. Still, taking all this into consideration—and even allowing that many of the pas may have been of pre-Hawaikian origin—the traces of occupation are so extensive that it is safe to estimate the population before the decay commenced, not at one, but at many hundreds of thousands.
Commencement of Decay.
Some writers, in attempting to account for the rapid disappearance of the Maori, have put forward a theory that the race was already in an advanced stage of decay by the time of Captain Cook's discovery. It is, of course, possible that a period of internecine strife of more than common intensity may have occured which for the moment would have reduced the population; but the Maoris were a healthy, vigorous, and prolific race, and a season of comparative political rest would have soon brought them up to their normal numbers. They had not yet entered on that condition of decadence whose lines are gradually though surely converging to a vanishing-point. However humiliating to the self-esteem of the white man, it must be confessed that it is the contact with European civilisation that has proved the ruin of the race. From the moment that the pakeha found a footing in the country, by an inevitable chain of causa-
tion the thousands have dwindled into hundreds, and the hundreds to tens, until the dying remnant, of lowered physique and declining birth-rate, are the sole representatives of perhaps the finest aboriginal people the world has ever produced.
One of the first steps towards the extinction of the Maoris was the acquisition of firearms. Two or three guns made a war-party practically invincible when the enemy was unprovided with these weapons. When the Maoris heard the report, and saw the warriors fall without apparently being struck, they thought that some of the atuas, or ancestral deities, had come down to join in the fight, and a wild panic and general stampede would ensue, when they would be butchered without resistance with the spear and mere. “We can fight against men,” they said, “but who can fight against the gods?”
The first recovrded instance of the use of the new weapon in Maori warfare was in the case of a small party of Ngapuhi who, with only two old flint-lock guns, made a raid down the west coast of the North Island in about 1818. After every battle they stopped to feast on the slain, and took care that no survivors were left to carry the alarm to the next settlement. About the same time another party of the same tribe made a similar expendition along the east coast as far as Tauranga. But these adventures were as nothing to those carried out a few years later by the great chief Hongi Ika, who about this time became head over the various branches of the Ngapuhi, who extended from the Bay of Islands to Hokianga.
Hongi was well acquainted with the ways of the pakeha, and had already witnessed the effect of his weapons. If he could only secure a sufficient supply of arms and ammunition he could make himself supreme ruler of the whole Maori race. He had helped to welcome the Rev. Samuel Marsden to the country, and had taken the infant mission settlement at Rangihoua under his protection; and when in 1820 one of that body—Mr. Thomas Kendal—proposed to go to England to help in bringing out a Maori dictionary and grammer, he volunteered to accompany him and assist him in the work. On his arrival Hongi was presented to King George IV, and made the acquaintance of a number of influential persons, who were greatly taken with his intelligence and his professed desire for the improvement of his people. His modest request for a bodyguard of twenty soldiers was discouraged, and his attempt to procure any quantity of weapons met with no success. The King, however, made him a present of a suit of armour, while the good people who credited his benevolent intentions gave him a
number of ploughs, harrow, &c., to help him in his work of civilisation.
On reaching Sydney—at that time the distributing port for the colonies—he managed to exchange to his stock of agricultural implements for a number of muskets, which with others that his people had already acquired from the whalers in the Bay of Islands, brought his armoury up to three hundred pieces, with a proportionate amount of ammunition. Landing in New Zealand, he found his own people at war with the Natives of Hauraki, or Thames district, and here for the first time he tried the effect of his new weapons, when, after burning all the villages and killing hundreds on the field of battle, he brought two thousand prisoners home to the Bay of Islands.
This was in 1821, and for the next ten years Hongi kept the whole country in fire and bloodshed, making an expedition every year. If a tribe helped the people with whom he happened to be engaged that tribe would be the next to receive his attention. When preparing for a campaign he would hoist his flag—a red blanket—over his pa, and send messengers to the various subtribes in the neighbourhood; and should any of these have the hardihood to refuse to supply a contingent, they had to reckon with him on his return. In this way he successively raided the Thames, the Waikato, the Auckland district, Rotorua, Poverty Bay, Kaipara, &c., finishing with Whangaroa, where he received a shot through the lungs, which eventually caused his death. It is estimated that at least one-fourth of the total number of Maoris in New Zealand perished in these wars, and probably another fourth were swept away in the raids of Waharoa, Te Wherowhero, and Rauparaha, the latter of whom penetrated as far as Kaiapohia (Kaiapoi), in the middle of the South Island. When we reflect that the warriors engaged were the very flower of the Maori people, we can understand that the loss to the race was quite beyond numerical computation.
The Price of the Guns.
Once the deadly effect of the new weapon had been realised, the possession of a sufficient number of muskets became absolutely necessary for the existence of a tribe, and the whole country—from the northern peninsula to Cook Strait—became engaged in a frantic struggle to obtain the wherewithal to purchase a supply. Dressed flax (Phormium tenax) was the only article of sufficient value to offer in exchange. A ton of this material fetched £120 in the Sydney market, and a ton was the price of a gun worth perhaps half that number of shillings. In order to waste no time, and to be near their work, the Maoris deserted the high and airy situations of the pas, and lived in makeshift whares on
the low swampy grounds where the raw material was to be found; and here, their cultivations neglected, overworked and half-starved, men, women, and children toiled night and day for months together—spurred by the penalty of death—scraping the flax-leaves strip by strip with a sharp shell. The mortality, as might be expected, was appalling. Men and women sickened and died, and few children were reared. In fact, the entire race was put to a strain from which it has never recovered.*
The flax was gathered up by traders from Sydney, who cruised round the coast in smart schooners, fitted with boarding-nettings, and carrying an armed crew. Their logs were not generally published, but many stories are told of the inhuman atrocities they committed in their intercourse with the Natives. Every skipper was a law unto himself, and he settled the “Native difficulty” in his own way as he went along.
One of the heaviest prices paid for the guns—and, in its far-reaching effects, one of the principal causes of the decay of the Maoris—was the institution known as that of the “shipgirls.” From the time of Captain Cook, the unmarried women were always very free in their intercourse with the ship's companies, and as the visits of vessels became more numerous this intercourse took the form of an organized trade. About the beginning of the last century the Sydney whalers commenced to come to the New Zealand waters, and by the third decade they appeared in considerable numbers, as many as thirty-five large ships sometimes lying together off the beach at Kororareka, in the Bay of Islands, where about a thousands white people—escaped convicts, ticket-of-leave men, runaway sailors, and other adventurers—were congregated. The ships usually remained in harbour for several months every summer, victualling, refitting, &c., and during this time it was not uncommon for the captain to take a temporary wife, while a number of girls lived more or less promiscuously with the sailors and with the people on the shore.
Owing to the number killed in battle during Hongi's wars the women greatly outnumbered the men. Every year, at the commencement of the “season,” the chiefs would muster the young widows and girls in the various outlying settlements, and convey them in parties to the Bay of Islands, when they were regularly farmed out, the district of Hokianga alone contributing some two hundred. For several months these future mothers of the race lived in the wildest debauch, the proceeds of the trade being chiefly spent in the purchase of guns and ammunition. Arms had to be got, whatever might be the cost.
[Footnote] * Cf. “Old New Zealand,” Chap. xiii.
Though Kororareka bore such an infamous reputation as to merit the title of the “Alsatia of the Pacific,” the place was not singular in this inhuman abuse. Wherever a ship put in, the same game went on to a greater or less degree. At Hokianga when a ship came for a load of the kauri spars for which this port was noted, she would fire a salute as she sailed up the river, and by the time the anchor was dropped the canoes would be seen paddling down from the tributary streams filled with an excited crowd of men and women, the former to help to load the vessel and the latter to live with the sailors while the work was going on.
Long after the festive days of Kororareka and Hokianga were a thing of the past the traffic lingered on in the timber districts, and even the bushman on the tramp would have considered himself inhospitably treated if on arrival at a Maori settlement a young girl were not allotted to him, along with free lodgings and the best food the village could afford.
It is stated that, contrary to what is usual amongst savage peoples, the Maoris on their first contact with Europeans did not take readily to ardent spirits. On the contrary, they showed such an aversion that they gave them the name of wai-piro (stinking water), and refused to touch them after a first trial. The taste probably first came with the association with the sailors just described, as well as with the shore whalers, who had their stations all along the coast from the extreme north down to Stewart Island. But after a time the craving for intoxicating drink became the ruling passion, and the money no longer required for the purchase of arms was spent in securing a supply. It almost seemed as if the system, weakened by the fatigues of war, privation, and vice, required some kind of a stimulant, and for many years every Land Court, tribal meeting, marriage, and funeral was the scene of unlimited indulgence. The evil would not have been as great as it was had the liquor been of even average quality; but a special brand was supplied for the “Native trade,” which was maddening in its immediate effect and poisonous in its ultimate results. Casks of adulterated beer and kegs of doctored rum were carted out to the pas, while belated stragglers from the publichouses might be seen trying to struggle home, or lying by the wayside in a comatose condition—women unable to suckle their babies, and the men unable to help them along.
This craze went on for more than a generation, more or less, all over the country; but about twenty or twenty-five years ago the habit began to be given up. Wholesale drinking is now
practically a thing of the past, and in most districts a drunken Maori is the exception rather than the rule. Still, the evil was done, not to be undone; and its effect—especially on the children begotten and reared under the conditions described—is incalculable.
Change of Habits.
The partial adoption of European customs and modes of living largely contributed to the decay of the Maori, and that which under other conditions might have been a blessing has only proved a curse. This is nowhere more apparent than in the case of their housing and clothing. It might appear at first sight that a dwelling built in European style—well lighted, floored, and properly ventilated—would be more conducive to health than the dark, smoky whare—hermetically sealed when the door was shut—in which the inmates slept on mats spread on the ground around a smouldering fire. The same comparison might be made between a comfortable suit of European clothes and the scanty waist-mat which hardly covered their nakedness—supplemented in wet weather by a clumsy rain-cloak which might keep the wearer dry, but scarcely kept out the cold. The converse is really the case. The whare was usually built on the sunny side of a hill, in a situation both airy and dry, and it was sheltered from cold blasts by the palisading of the pa. If the weather was damp or chilly, a handful of embers would raise the temperature to any desired degree. There was no trouble about wet clothes or insufficient blankets, and the double or triple coating of raupo which covered the walls effectually kept out the draughts, while if ventilation were needed the sliding door had only to be pushed back. Little inconvenience would be caused by the cramped dimensions of the domicile, as the whare was simply a sleeping-apartment, the porch formed by the projecting gable being used as the sitting room, while the cooking and eating were carried on in a separate building, or, if the weather were fine, in the open air. The European style of dwelling would be very well if the Maori were able to live up to it; but, with the exception of the more fortunate Natives about the east coast who derive an income from the rent of their lands, and a very small percentage scattered throughout the country who have been able to adapt themselves to the new conditions, the Maori's attempt to live like the pakeha is generally a failure. In the first place, the house is usually in a bad situation. For convenience—to be near the cultivation—it is often built on the low ground, probably in the vicinity of a swamp full of stagnant water and decaying vegetable matter. Then, it is seldom finished. It is a bare shell of weather
board or split paling, often unlined and without paper or scrim. There is, perhaps, a chimney of slabs or galvanized iron; but no body of heat can be maintained, and the only effect of the fire is to draw in the cold air from the hills or the malaria from the marshy ground. Moreover, the Maori generally lives from hand to mouth, and has barely sufficient for present necessities. On a cold night, when a crowd of visitors come to put up with him—and his native hospitality forbids him turning any away—he has to share his scanty supply of bedding among them as far as it will go; and when he comes in out of the wet he rarely troubles to change his clothes, if, indeed, he have another suit to change into, but simply takes off his coat and boots, wraps himself in a blanket, and steams until he is dry. What wonder, therefore, that even when a Maori is possessed of a European house he often lives in it as little as possible, and prefers to squat by a fire in an open shed? It is the nearest he can get to the old Native system—the system that suits him best.
The adoption of European methods of cultivation was, of course, inevitable; and the Rev. Samuel Marsden, the founder of the mission to the Maoris, thought that when they were provided with ploughs and bullock-teams they would enter on a new era of progress. The new era certainly dawned, but it was not the era expected by that great humanitarian; or, to be more correct, the new era did not fulfil its early promise. In the pre-European days every kind of work was organized and regulated. Whether it was the breaking-up of land, or the planting or taking-up of the crop, the people worked in gangs under the direction of a leader, who marked the time with a song, to which the workers answered with a chorus. Each class of work had its appointed season, determined by recognised signs and portents, as the age of the moon or the blooming of a certain tree or flower, while in cases of doubt or uncertainty the time would be fixed by the tohunga and the regulation enforced by the chief. Growing crops were under strict tapu, and it was believed that any breach or neglect of the tapu would involve serious disaster. In this way punctuality was secured, the labour was greatly lightened, and the work done with cheerfulness and hope. All hands worked together like a well-ordered team, and each bore his full share of the common burden. For a time the new system seemed to promise very well, and as long as something of the old tribal spirit was kept up large quantities of wheat, maize, potatoes, &c., were grown, with the assistance of European implements, all over the country. But as the authority of the chief declined, the co-operative spirit passed away, while the mere fact that the work was easier induced an element of failure. The fatal indolence and procrasti
nation of the Maori asserted itself, and the crops were often put in too late, or under improper weather conditions, to be neglected during the growing-season; or, perhaps, in the middle of a job a death would occur in the neighbourhood, or some other reason for a hui would eventuate, when all hands would clear out for a week or more, and leave the work to take care of itself. The consequence is that the Maoris have become disheartened, and the whole thing is done in an abortive and slovenly manner. There is less and less cultivation done every year; large areas of fertile land lie waste. In many districts there is a chronic shortage of provisions—often even semi-starvation.
In his original state the Maori seems to have been ideally healthy. As a usual thing he only died of old age, unless he were slain in battle or fell a victim to maakutu or witchcraft. Tradition states that some six generations ago—perhaps 150 years—a plague, which appears to have been a kind of spotted fever, swept over the country with very fatal results. In Taiamai, a fertile and populous district inland of the Bay of Islands, the number of deaths was so great that the survivors cleared out in a general stampede, leaving the place to be occupied by the Ngapuhi, who spread from Hokianga. It is very probable, however, that as many of the deaths occurred from panic as from the effects of the disease. The visitation passed away, leaving no evil results; but with the advent of the pakeha new diseases came, and came to stay. Certain (venereal) complaints which appeared for the first time do not seem to have made the havoc that might have been expected, though there is little doubt that they helped to lower the system and weaken its power of resistance to other maladies. By great good fortune smallpox has never made its appearance among the Maoris, but measles and typhoid fever have proved most fatal. The former has swept through the country on several occasions, sometimes almost exterminating whole settlements—e.g., when only two individuals escaped out of a population of three hundred in a kainga near the Molyneux River. The remedies used for the measles were often more fatal than the disease itself. Finding that a bath in cold water would cause the spots to disappear, whole parties would immerse themselves in a running stream, with—as might be expected—the most fatal results. Typhoid fever makes its appearance every few years, and once it has visited a settlement it is sure to recur whenever the atmospheric and other conditions are favourable for its development. of late years many of the Native-school teachers have tried to cope with this insidious disease. They have supplied the Maoris with medicine,
and have instructed them in the elements of the rules of health, but from want of proper sanitation, and from the impossiblity of getting any course of treatment carried out, their efforts have been mostly unavailing. Besides, the Maori is at all times an unsatisfactory patient. Once his vitality falls below a certain point he loses heart, and frequently dies from the mere want of an effort to live. From an epidemic of typhoid fever a hundred died in a village in the north out of a population of five hundred a few years ago, at a time when almost every settlement had a similar visitation. Asthma and consumption probably always existed among the Maoris to a certain extent, but under the healthy conditions that obtained in their primitive state their prevalence was greatly limited. There is no doubt that the receptivity of the Native for these and their contingent diseases—bronchitis and pneumonia—has proportionately increased with the generally lowered tone produced by the causes already enumerated. At the present time, throughout the north—the region in which the contact between the races has been the longest and most intimate—it is rare to find a really sound Maori. Most of the old people are troubled more or less with asthma, while amongst the young and apparently the most robust cases of consumption develop with marvellous rapidity.
One of the most fatal mediums for the propagation and spread of disease is the modern hui. There have, of course, always been huis. They are, in fact, an essential feature of Maori economy; but the modern hui possesses certain elements which did not obtain in the old days. A hui is a gathering of the tribe, the hapu, or the family, and may be held for any purpose of common interest, whether political, social, or religious—for a tribal meeting, for the welcome of distinguished visitors, for a marriage, or a funeral. Any Maori is free to assist at a hui, and European visitors are always made welcome. In a very large hui, to which parties come from a distance, it is not unusual for them to bring contributions of provisions, but the tangata whenua, or local Maoris, are always considered as the entertainers, and it is a point of honour for them to supply as large a quantity of the very best that the tribe or settlement can afford, even if they have to go short for months afterwards. Up to some twenty years ago it was customary for the entertainers to erect temporary sheds of raupo or nikau to serve as sleeping-places for the visitors, the discussions being carried on in the open air. of late years, however, it has become the practice to have in every settlement of importance a large hall, built of sawn timber, to serve the double purpose of hostelry
and meeting-house. Although the style and dimensions vary considerably with the importance of the settlement, the general plan is the same. The hall is a long building, entered from the end. A bare strip some 8 ft. or 10 ft. wide runs up the centre of the floor, and the space between this and the side walls is littered down with fern or mangemange, covered with mats of green flax. This serves as a sleeping-place for the Maoris, who lie with their heads towards the wall, from which they are separated by a kind of narrow trough filled with fern, which acts as a general spittoon. Each Maori, on entering, takes his place—a kind of seniority being observed—the principal men occupying the upper end, and the women and children gathering near the door. The food which is cooked outside, is set on the floor in the central space, the Maoris squatting in a row along each side. The business—if there is any to be done—is conducted by a sort of informal debate, which is often carried on far into the night; and the hui, for whatever purpose it may have been called together, usually lasts until the stock of provisions shows signs of giving out.
It would be impossible to conceive of a more perfect medium for the dissemination of disease than the hui as it is now conducted. As it is important to have plenty of food, the larger meetings are held, if possible, soon after the crops have been harvested—that is to say, in the late autumn, when the weather is often cold and wet. A crowd of men, women, and children are packed together more closely than the passengers on an emigrant-ship. A large percentage are suffering from some pulmonary complaint, or from some inherited constitutional delicacy which renders them peculiarly accessible to infection. Night and day they are lying in damp clothes—as they never wholly undress—and breathing a mephitic atmosphere, poisoned by the exhalations from so many bodies and from the general spittoon. A person suffering from influenza comes in, and in a few hours the disease has gone the round of the house. Some times a death occurs, and the body is kept for days in the vicinity of the food, while the tangi (mourning) goes on. Diseases contracted at the hui are taken away to the homes of the homes of the visitors, where fresh centres of infection are started; and, although a new supply of bedding is provided, the germs remain about the building, to be nursed into life on the next occasion it is used.
Wars with the Europeans.
It was only to be expected that sooner or later the Maoris would come into conflict with the invading race. This first happened when, in 1845, Hone Heke cut down the flagstaff in the Bay of Islands. This action resulted in a war that lasted
for two years, and included a good deal of sharp fighting. Owing, no doubt, to the spirit introduced by the missionaries, and the influence of their families, the contest was prevented from developing into a war of extermination. It was conducted on new and civilised lines. There was no cannibalism or slaying of the wounded. With the exception of the Kororareka episode, property was respected, and non-combatants were unmolested. It was, in fact, more of a tournament than a war—a trial of strength, which left no sting behind it.
But it was very different with the war of 1860. This war began in Taranaki, and lasted for ten years, spreading over a third of the North Island, including Taranaki, Waikato, and the districts about Poverty Bay. Ten thousand men were engaged on the European side; and it is estimated that some £12,000,000 was expended before the contest was brought to a conclusion. Considering the large forces engaged on both sides, the number of men killed in the field was comparatively trifling; but the effect of the campaign as a factor in the passing of the Maori was deep and far-reaching. Multitudes of the most robust and vigorous men were withdrawn from the work which in normal times was barely sufficient to maintain them in comparative comfort. These had to be fed, and the production and transportation of the food more than taxed the ability of the women and non-combatants. Houses and cultivations had to be abandoned in the country accessible to the troops, and hunting and fishing grounds were deserted. For years this kind of thing went on. The whole population of a vast area extending from sea to sea was kept in a state of unnatural tension, and it would be impossible to estimate the numbers that perished from sickness and privation.
On the conclusion of the war all Native land beyond a certain line was confiscated by the Government, and the Maoris had to fall back and form new settlements as best they could, often with the total loss of any live-stock they might have possessed.
The long delay of the Government in fulfilling their promise to allocate land to those Natives who, though living within the confiscated area, had not taken up arms caused much disappointment and distress. Brooding over their wrongs, and seeing no hope of redress, they at last found a mouthpiece in Te Whiti, who arose as a prophet in 1880, and established himself at Parihaka, a few miles south of New Plymouth. It was assumed that he was about to start on the warpath like a second Te Kooti, and once more the country was got under arms. A large force of Constabulary and Volunteers was got together
Redoubts were built and Parihaka was invested. But the expected uprising did not take place. The prophet had neither arms nor ammunition. He was really a “passive resister,” and was quite willing, if necessary, to suffer martyrdom. Te Whiti had been educated by a Wesleyan missionary, the Rev. Mr. Riemenschneider, and had made a deep study of the Bible, which he seemed to know from beginning to end. He saw in his oppressed and downtrodden countrymen a type of the dispersed Israel, and he applied to them the promises of future restoration. In order to promulgate his doctrine he held meetings every month at Parihaka, with a grand festival in the month of March. To these the Maoris flocked from all quarters—at first the kaingas near at hand, but, as the idea caught on, from settlements several days' journey away in the bush country. They came in hundreds and thousands—on horseback, in bullock-drays, and on foot—bringing cartloads of provisions; and when they returned they would repeat the wonderful message at their homes, and attract fresh visitors to the next meeting. There was to be no weapon lifted against the oppressor. Everything would come right by Divine interposition, when all the Maoris that had been slain in the war would come to life again, and the pakeha would retire into the sea and molest them no more. The only thing that could be construed into an overt act of rebellion was a sort of object-lesson intended to bring their grievances under the notice of the Government, when parties of Maoris were sent out to plough up some of the land in European occupation. This was taken as a declaration of war, and a great excitement arose among the settlers, when the Government, by way of bringing matters to a crisis, poured an over whelming armed force into Parihaka. The Riot Act was read to a peaceable crowd of women and children, wholesale arrests were made, cattle and horses were seized, and houses and crops were destroyed,* while in order to bring the matter within the scope of the law the West Coast Settlements Act was passed, the legislation to have retrospective action. Te Whiti and a number of his followers were sent to prison, but on his return the meetings were held as before. The movement, however, gradually died out, and, although the prophet continues to prophesy, he has long ceased to be an active factor in Maori politics.†
Though no blood was shed in connection with the Te Whiti movement, it had, nevertheless, a very fatal effect on the Maoris among whom its influence extended. Half their time was spent
[Footnote] * Cf. “Long White Cloud,” by Hon. W. P. Reeves, p. 308.
[Footnote] † Te Whiti has died since this paper was written.
in going backwards and forwards and attending the meetings, while the hope of a future deliverance left them no interest for the practical work of the present. At the meetings multitudes were crowded together, without proper accommodation and with no attempt at sanitary arrangements. Fever took possession of Parihaka, and resulted in wholesale sickness and death, while the infection was carried home and spread though the settlements; and this, combined with the overstrain and excitement, the irregular living, and unhealthy conditions, caused a shrinkage in the population of Taranaki probably unequalled at any other time or place.
The Land Laws.
By the misconstruing of a clause in the Treaty of Waitangi,* the “right of pre-emption” has always been interpreted as the “sole right of purchase.” This has prevented the Maoris from dealing with a private individual in the disposal of their lands, and has forced them to sell to the Government if they wish to sell at all. The result is that the Government can buy at their own price and sell in the open market, making perhaps 500 or 600 per cent. on the transaction. In the hope of some tardy justice, the owners have largely reserved their lands from sale, although they would willingly part with the greater portion if they could be sure of a fair price; and, though titular owners of vast estates, they are condemned to live in poverty and perhaps destitution.
Under the old régime the land was the property of the tribe as a whole, and the cultivation at each kainga was done on a co-operative system, under the direction of the local chiefs; but since the supreme compelling force has passed away, and the interests and ambitions of the various members of the tribe have become differentiated, it has become necessary to individualise the ownership, so as to secure to each man the fruits of his labour. In order to accomplish this, the Native Land Court was established, and of late years Native Committees elected by the tribal owners have been set up to allocate the various claims, their decisions to be confirmed or otherwise by a Judge of the Court on evidence taken amongst the claimants. The system seems simple and fair enough until it comes to be worked out, but then the trouble begins. The claims are made on such various and conflicting grounds that it is often impossible to come to a decision that will be satisfactory to all parties; while, from the fact that the Maoris are so interrelated, a clever and unscrupulous man, with little or no real right, can often
[Footnote] * See Appendix.
work up a claim that will satisfy the Court. The result is that a rehearing is applied for, and the Court sits again, perhaps after an interval of several months, and with no better satisfaction in the end. Meanwhile all the expenses of the Court come off the land, and as the sessions usually occupy several weeks, or perhaps months, these are very considerable. All this time the Maoris are excited and unsettled. Their home-work is largely neglected. Those who have come from a distance hang about the township in which the Court is held, and live in great discomfort in tents and makeshift whares, many of them spending their enforced leisure in drinking and gambling at the local hotel. It requires, however, a majority of the persons interested to bring a block of land before the Court; and, in view of the great expense attending the proceedings, as well as the frequently unsatisfactory nature of the decisions, it is often years before those who are desirous of having their claims defined can induce rest of the tribe to undertake a step fraught with so uncertain issues. Meanwhile the enterprising and industrious Maori is severely handicapped, as, even if he obtain the tacit consent of the tribe to occupy and improve a piece of land, he has no guarantee that his home will not be broken up and the fruit of his labour go to another claimant whenever the land goes through the Court, as sooner or later it is sure to do. The consequence is that the whole settlement is kept back and discouraged. The man whose enterprise and industry would give a lead to his neighbours loses heart, while the rest are deprived of an example which would help to raise them in the scale of civilisation.
There is another point in which the land laws press very heavily upon the Maoris. In order to substantiate a claim to ancestral land the claimant is required to prove occupation. After much delay and contention—extending perhaps over a number of years—it is finally resolved to bring a block before the Court in order that the rights of the various claimants may be defined. During all this time every one aspiring to a share must have done something to demonstrate the fact that he is an owner. He must make a cultivation, build a house, sell some timber, assent to the making of a road, &c. He must, in fact, “shepherd his claim,” or his claim will be jumped. But the house is not meant for a permanent dwelling; very often the fence is uncompleted, and the crop is allowed to take care of itself. The occupation is for the most part purely technical, but the work has to be done all the same, though it involve much useless labour and frequent journeyings to and fro over long distances; while, as the Maoris almost invariably take their wives and families along with them, these have to endure much
hardship and privation, while the real home is often practically deserted for months at a time, and everything falls to pieces.*
Partly from the unsatisfactory nature of the land laws, occasionally from the failure of his crops, and very often from an innate love of change of occupation, the Maori throughout the northern district betakes himself to the gumfields. The gumfields are scattered over an immense area, extending from the Waikato to the North Cape. Wherever throughout this area the kauri is growing, or has grown in former times, the gum is found in more or less payable quantities. Surface gum has long since disappeared, and the article has now to be dug from the ground, where it has either exuded from the roots of the trees, or, falling from the tops, has been buried by landslips or by deposits from volcanic eruptions. Gum-digging may be roughly divided into two classes—viz., that on the “winter fields,” or the high tea-tree ranges, where the ground is too hard to work in dry weather, and that on the “summer fields,” or low swampy situations, where digging would be impossible during the wet season. Unless very hard driven, the Maoris seldom resort to the winter fields, but throughout the summer and autumn they are to be found all over the Auckland Province wherever the gound is in a fit condition to be worked.
The attraction of gum-digging is, of course, the hope of an immediate cash return, as the gum has a very high commercial value; but the return in the case of the Maori is usually very trifling. In contrast to the European, and especially the Austrian—who work in a more or less energetic and systematic manner—his operations are of a very desultory and superficial character. At starting he is generally in debt to the store, and the output of gum scarcely pays for the cost of the provisions consumed on the field. Meanwhile the living arrangements are most uncomfortable and unhealthy. The Maoris generally go out in parties—men, women, and children together. A calico tent, a light frame covered with sacking, or a raupo whare of the rudest description serves as a dwelling for each family. To be out of the wind it is often placed under the shelter of a clump of tea-tree, in some low, moist situation. Living on scanty rations of unaccustomed and unwholesome food, drinking bad water, working all day in the swamp, and exposed at night to the
[Footnote] * Since this paper was written certain amendments have been made in the land laws, but they have brought no satisfaction. The right of pre-emption guaranteed by the Treaty is not yet recognised, and the proceedings of the Court seem to be more involved and tedious than ever.
miasma from the marshy ground, many of the people suffer from pulmonary and enteric troubles; dysentery kills off the young children, and not infrequently an epidemic of typhoid fever takes heavy toll of the camp. The same thing goes on from year to year, for the Maori will never learn from experience, and there is no doubt that the work on the gumfields is sapping what is left of the vitality of the race throughout a very large section of the Maori people.
There is a very general belief that by a course of education according to European standards the Maori will be enabled to avail himself of the benefits of civilisation, and so raise himself towards the level of the white population. To this end the Government has established a system of Native schools all over the country. These schools are, in fact, the forlorn hope of a large section of the community who have the interests of the Maori at heart. We shall see how this hope has been fulfilled.
Tried by an examination test the system has been successful enough. The attendance is generally satisfactory, and the average of attainment is wonderfully good, especially when we consider that—at the commencement, at least—the teaching has to be imparted in a language imperfectly understood by the pupils. In some subjects—e.g., drawing, mapping, singing, &c.—the average of proficiency is usually quite above that of the country district schools. Tried by another standard, however, the Native-school system is not so satisfactory. In the first place, the school is a “Native school”: the race-distinction is emphasized from the start, and carried on all through. In the next place, there is a good deal of time wasted that might be more profitably spent if a school career is to be considered as a preparation for adult-life. The teacher conscientiously tries to keep up the attendance, and endeavours to attract the children by means of treats, games, singing-classes, and so on, while these, naturally preferring the excitement of the playground and the society of their mates to the dreary monotony of the kainga, have little or no opportunity of practising the duties of the house or the cultivation.
From a hygienic point of view, also, the Native school is generally prejudicial to the welfare of its attendants. The children are often only half-fed and imprefectly clothed, and after walking perhaps a mile or two in the rain, or lounging about on the wet grass of the playground, they have to sit for hours shivering in their damp garments. As a natural consequence the germs of pulmonary troubles are nursed into growth, their general health is undermined, and when an epidemic of typhoid
or measles attaks a settlement it finds its readiest victims among the children of the Native school.
Though there are, of course, individual exceptions, still the vast majority of the Maori scholars find little or no opportunity in adult life of making practical use of what they have learned. The Maori is handicapped from the start, and overweighted all through the race of life. His natural indolence and his love of change and excitement unfit him for the uninteresting monotony of steady effort, while his constitutional diffidence and his fear of putting himself in the wrong act as a bar to any real competition with the pakeha. Thus it is that numbers of young men with a sufficient educational equipment to fit them for employment in a lawyer's or a surveyor's office, or in a banking or mercantile establishement, are to be found cutting flax in swamp, acting as ostler or boots at a bush publichouse, or driving bullocks at starvation wages for a country storekeeper. Nor are the girls any more fortunate. In the early days, when white women were scarce, many a settler found an excellent wife in a Maori maiden—not only as a practical helpmate, but as a refined and intelligent companion. But as European population has increased the race prejudice has correspondingly asserted itself, and, no matter how capable and attractive a girl may now be, she has very little chance of rising in the social scale. Her bright early promise is unfulfilled. Hope is soon lost, and she gradually sinks back to the general level of the tribe.
Looking at the question in all its bearings, it must be admitted that the Native schools have not fulfilled the hopes that have been reposed in them. In the vast majority of case they have failed to bring the Maori into closer touch with what is best in the European civilisation. They have emphasized the racedistinction, and have deprived him of the opportunity of study and practice in many useful directions, while by the inevitable conditions that surround them they have largely contributed to his physical decay.
I have enumerated some of the principal causes that have combined to produce the wholesale and rapid decay of the Maori people. I might go on to show how at almost every point at which the race has come into contact with the new civilisation it has suffered a shock from which it has been unable to recover. As Dr. Von Hochstetter observed more than forty years ago, “Despite the many advantages it has brought to the Natives, the European civilisation acts upon them like an insidious poison, consuming the inmost marrow of their life…
Compared with the fresh and full vigour with which the Anglo-Saxon race is spreading and increasing, the Maori is the weaker party, and thuus is he the loser in the endless ‘struggle for existence.’”*
The case of the Maoris is analogous to that of the New Zealand bush. The magnificent growth that has withstood the storms of countless centuries, and that has been able to renew itself after the ravages of volcanic fires and the deposits of ashes and mud, is gradually perishing before the advance of European settlement. Even the portions that have so far escaped the bushman's axe are unable to support the new conditions. The browsing cattle, the competition with foreign plants, the incursion of imported blights, all contribute their share in the general destruction, while even well-meant efforts at preservation often serve only to hasten the decay.
Doubly decimated by the guns of Hongi, of Te Rauparaha, and Waharoa; worn out with the agonizining effort to secure a supply of weapons and ammunition; their vitality sapped by the liquor traffic and the wholesale debauch of the mothers of the race; utterly wearied by the ten years' war and its disastrous consequences; discouraged by the injustice of the land laws; and disheartened by an ever-growing race prejudice, the Maoris of to-day are but a dying remnant of the once vigorous and populous tribes. The men and women of fabulous age once to be seen in every kainga have died off, and none are taking their place. On a late interesting occasion—the unveiling of the Marsden cross in the Bay of Islands in last March—the only chief within available distance that could remember something of the old times was a half-caste. It is becoming a rare thing in many districts to see a Maori above middle age. Young men and women apparently healthy and robust are cut off at a few days' notice by fever and rapid consumption, while children die wholesale from infantile diseases that would be easily thrown off by their white brothers and sisters, and the shrinking remnant is ever less and less able to resist the doom of their race.
The decay, on the whole, as I have attempted to show, has been rapid, but it has been fitful, and there have been times when it almost seemed as if there was a gleam of hope. Although the Rev. Samuel Marsden and the early missionaries were unable to restrain Hongi from going on the warpath, still, it is unquestionable that their influence largely contributed to the suppression of cannibalism, and helped to secure a better fate for the thousands of prisoners than they would otherwise
[Footnote] * Hochstetter's “New Zealand,” pp. 220–221.
have met with. At the time that the horrors of the “ship-girl” and the liquor traffic were being enacted at Kororareka, order and decency reigned in the mission settlement at Paihia, on the opposite side of the Bay of Islands. The industrial and educational system of the Church station at the Waimate compelled the admiration of Charles Darwin, who visited the place during the voyage of the “Beagle.”* The young women brought up in the missionaries' households were often sought as wives for the chiefs, and the effects, of their training might be seen in afterlife by the habits of order and neatness they imported into the kaingas.
With the gradual development of colonial life the close contact of the missionaries with the Maori came to an end, but its spirit has survived to some extent in other agencies. To the precept and example of the Maori clergy is no doubt mainly due the wholesale stamping-out of the drinking habit throughout the northern district, while the Te Aute College and St. Stephen's School, and the Hukerere and Victoria Girls' Schools have helped to give some of the youth of both sexes a hopeful start in life.
But all these checks, and any other that might be mentioned, have been but temporary and local. Taken altogether, their effect on the general result has not been great. They have failed to arrest the stream of tendency that is sweeping onward with ever-increasing power and volume, ever meeting with less and less resistance.
The Maori has lost heart and abandoned hope. As it has already been observed in the case of the individual, when once the vital force has fallen below a certain point he dies from the sheer want of an effort to live; so it is with the race. It is sick unto death, and is already potentially dead. As Von Hochstetter remarks again,†† “The Maoris themselves are fully aware of this, and look forward with a fatal resignation to the destiny of the final extinction of their race. They themselves say, ‘As clover killed the fern, and the European dog the Maori dog; as the Maori rat was destroyed by the pakeha rat, so our people also will be gradually supplanted and exterminated by the Europeans.’”
According to a census taken last year‡ the Maori population stood at 47,721. This includes 3,938 half-castes living as Maoris.
[Footnote] * “A Naturalist's Voyage in the ‘Beagle,’” Chap. xviii.
[Footnote] † Hochstetter's “New Zealand,” p. 222.
[Footnote] ‡ New Zealand Official Year-book, 1906.
The Official Year-books states that each time the census has been taken since 1896 there has been a considerable increase in the number. A similar statement will never be made in connection with any future census, and for the following reason: In former years it was impossible to arrive at anything more than a very casual estimate. The system of enumeration was more or less rough-and-ready, no particular care was taken in the appointment of reliable officers, and Maori information had to be largely relied on. The Maori mode of computation was based on the number of able-bodied men in a hapu or kainga, the women and children being thrown in by a rough guess; and, as the Maoris were somewhat suspicious of the motives of the Government, their returns were often purposely below the mark. As time went on the enumeration was made with increasing accuracy, but it was only on the last occasion that it was made on the lines of the European census—viz., by a systematic house-to-house visitation by properly qualified officials, who were accompanied on their rounds by intelligent and trustworthy Maoris. The rise in the figures. is therefore only due to the increasing accuracy of the returns, numbers being each time included that would have escaped in former calculations. Finality has now been reached, and the next census will show that the Maori population, instead of increasing, has been diminishing all the time, and that if the present rate of declension continues it must soon reach the vanishing-point.
Article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi.
“Her Majesty the Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the chiefs of New Zealand, and to the respective families and individuals thereof, the full, exclusive, and undisturbed possession of their lands and estates, forests, fisheries, and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess, so long as it is their wish and desire to retain the same in their possession; but the chiefs of the united tribes and the individual chiefs yield to Her Majesty the exclusive right of pre-emption over such lands as the proprietors thereof may be disposed to alienate, at such prices as may be agreed upon between the respective proprietors and persons appointed by Her Majesty to treat with them in that behalf.”