Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 52, 1920
This text is also available in PDF
(839 KB) Opens in new window
– 45 –

[Read before the Otago Institute, 9th December, 1919; received by Editor, 31st December, 1919; issued separately, 4th June, 1920.]

While I was gathering place-names from the southern Maori they gave me a little information about greenstone which may be worth recording in print. Although greenstone is not the technical name of this stone, it is the popular one, and I shall adhere to it.

In his admirable paper in Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. 24, pp. 479–539, Mr. Justice Chapman states that nowhere did the Maori get greenstone in an inland locality, and thus he considers Shortland's statement that it was procured at “Lake Wakatipua” is erroneous. The southern Maori assure me that Shortland's information was correct, and that you can still see the place where the pounamu was got at Te Koroka, a mountain up the Dart River. One old man said, “Pounamu of the inaka kind was found at Te Koroka, at the head of Whakatipu. It was the only place where it was got inland. Takiwai greenstone was found at Milford and elsewhere.” Another said, “Te Koroka, where they got the greenstone, is north of Wakatipu. Taumaro is the name of the mountains between Wakatipu-wai-tai and Wakatipu-wai-maori, and Te Koroka is one of those heights.”

Some of the Maori say “Wakatipu” and others “Whakatipu.” It was explained to me that the word occurs in five place-names. The mountains west of the lake are called Whakatipu, and the lake is known as Whakatipu-wai-maori (Fresh-water Whakatipu). The Dart River is Te-awa-Whakatipu, the Hollyford River is Whakatipu-katuku, and Lake McKerrow is Whakatipu-wai-tai (Salt-water Whakatipu). These last three are all on the track by which the Maori went from the head of Lake Wakatipu to Martin's Bay, on the west coast.

One old Maori said, “Under Te Koroka is a place now called Maori Hill, I believe, but known of old as Puketai, after a chief of note who died there. Near this spot stood a kaika called Puia, and there the Maori lived when getting the greenstone. The general name of the whole district north of Lake Wakatipu was Te-wahi-pounamu.” This last statement conflicts with Mr. Justice Chapman's conclusion (p. 522) that Te-wai-pounamu is the correct form of the name, although there is nothing to prevent the latter form having been applied to the rivers on the west coast. A chapter could be written on the elision or addition of “h” in the southern dialectal usages; and in any case—again to differ from the conclusions of Mr. Justice Chapman—the pronunciations of “wai” and “wahi” by a southern Maori are often so alike as to be indistinguishable save to an acute or trained ear.

Before leaving the subject of greenstone in the Wakatipu district I may add that Mr. James Cowan kindly lent me some notes he had gathered from the southern Maori in 1905, and among them are the following items of information: “Beyond the head of Whakatipu on the road to Martin's Bay, somewhere near Lake Harris Saddle, is the place where the Maori used to get koko-tangiwai.” “Te Koroka is a bold peak at the head of Lake Whakatipu, and the Maori got a sort of coarse greenstone there.”

– 46 –

An old Maori said to me, “Pekerakitahi is a mountain standing by itself at the head of Wakatipu” (Mount Earnslaw). “There is greenstone in it, because Te Ariki, who lived seven generations ago, took some pounamu from Te Koroka and hid it in Pekerakitahi, where it went like the skin of a tuatara. If you break the rock you will find the greenstone inside. A mountain and creek both called Pekerakitahi are at the head of Lake Wanaka, but it is the Wakatipu mountain I mean.”

In regard to how long the Maori have known greenstone, I was told that Kahue (Ngahue), who visited New Zealand thirty-nine generations ago, took some back to Hawaiki with him. One piece Kahue split into three axe-heads—one for himself, called Kapakitua; one for Kupe, named Tauira-a-pa; and one for Rata, called Te-papa-ariari. Rata sharpened his axe-head, attached a handle, and named it Aumapu. With this axe he cut down the famous tree which the “little folk” of the forest erected again, as in the oft-repeated story.

Another story has it that Tamatea-pokai-whenua, twenty-two generations ago, sailed round the South Island in search of his missing wives. Unaware that they had been wrecked off the Arahura River and turned into greenstone, Tamatea landed there, and his slave in cooking some koka birds burnt his fingers, which he licked. This was a violation of tapu, and the slave, Tumuaki, was turned into the mountain since known by his name, whilst Tamatea never found his wives, their petrified bodies furnishing the greenstone, some of which has a flaw known as tutae-koka, or the dung of the birds Tumuaki was cooking when he committed his thoughtless act. Mr. Justice Chapman says (p. 518), “I am unable to obtain a satisfactory meaning for koka. Mr. Tregear suggests koko (the tui), which seems probable.” The bird was the orange-wattled crow (Glaucopis cinerea), whose name throughout the South is koka, although its confrère in the North Island (Glaucopis wilsoni) is there called kokako.

An old Maori, usually well informed, gave me a peculiar version of this tradition. He said, “I think that story about Tamatea and his three runaway wives is false. Tama-taku-ariki, often called Tama, went to Arahura in search of greenstone, which was then in human shape. He killed one, and was cooking it in an umu, when his companion burnt his finger and put in in his mouth. In consequence of this act the greenstone disappeared and they came away disappointed.”

Mr. James Cowan writes, “The wives of Tama-ki-te-Rangi (captain of the Tairea canoe) deserted him, and he searched for them from Cook Strait to Piopiotahi (Milford Sound). The flax-like kiekie (Freycinetia Banksii), which fringes the fiord for miles, sprang, according to legend, from the shreds of Tama's shoulder-mat, torn off in his forest travels. Here he found one of his wives, but she had turned into greenstone, and as Tama wept over her his tears penetrated the very rock. This is why the nephrite found on the slopes of Mitre Peak, close to Anita Bay, is called tangi-wai (the water of weeping, or tear-water). If you take a clear piece of this stone and hold it up to the light you will sometimes see marks like water-drops in it. This is the true tangi-wai, for these are the tears of Tama-ki-te-Rangi.”

Whoever the chief was who pursued his fugitive wives, it is fairly certain it was not the captain of the Takitimu canoe, who bore at various times in his own proper person the names Tamatea-ariki-nui, Tamatea-mai-Tawhiti, Tamatea-ure-kotia, Tamatea-muriwhenua, and Tamatea-pokai-whenua. This illustrious chief resided for some time in southern New

– 47 –

Zealand, and at least three places near Dusky Sound perpetuate the memory of his voyage of exploration in that vicinity, but his name and fame have never, that I know of, been associated with greenstone.

Mr. Cowan has given a tradition accounting for the name tangi-wai, but the Memoirs of the Polynesian Society, vol. 4, page 138, say the name was bestowed on one kind of jadeite because of the tears of Hine-ahu over the death of Tuhua, whom her jealous husband, Tama-ahua, killed. Tama-ahua, twenty-nine generations ago, led a party to get pounamu at Arahura, and not only was tangi-wai named then, but two other kinds of jadeite were named also—kahurangi and kawakawa; while through a fire that occurred the kahotea kind of pounamu was burnt, which accounts for its peculiar marking.

The same authority states that Kupe, thirty-nine generations ago, was the first to discover the jadeite, or pounamu. The locality was the Arahura River. The river at the time was swarming with whitebait (inanga), which the party proceeded to catch. Kupe's daughter picked a stone out of the river to act as a sinker to the net, and the one she seized was different from any they had seen before, and so it was called inanga, this remaining to the present day the name of this valued kind of pounamu.

I have a note as follows: “Piopiotahi was a canoe which came from Hawaiki. Kahotea was the captain and Tangiwai one of the crew, and two kinds of greenstone now bear these names.”

The conflicting evidence regarding the discovery and naming of the various kinds of pounamu occurs because the accounts are gleaned from different tribes, who each have an explanation based on ancestral lore, although it must be admitted that all the traditions are not of equal probability and merit.

The first settlement of people of Maori blood in the South Island of which we possess reliable information is that under Rakaihautu, a chief who flourished forty-two generations ago. His people were called Waitaha, and their descendants were numerous in the South Island when the last and principal influx of Maoris occurred, twenty-two generations ago. This Waitaha people used weapons of bone and wood, and the late Tare-te-Maiharoa said of them, “They did not know greenstone, but used a glassy stone known as takiwai.” Takiwai is the southern pronunciation of tangiwai, said to be the most transparent variety of jade and to come from Milford Sound, so that apparently my informant did not class it as a proper greenstone, which, of course, is scientifically correct.

Pounamu was classed with fish, according to Dr. Shortland, (and there are numerous legends in this connection outside the scope of this paper, but the only reference I have to the Rapuwai people knowing any form of greenstone has a distinctly piscatorial aspect. A sub-tribe of Rapuwai known as Kati-Koko, said my informant, went round to Milford Sound, and, finding a huge piece of greenstone in the sea, set out to drive it round to Foveaux Strait. Three canoes followed it—one on each side and one behind, and yet it nearly escaped several times. They almost got it ashore at Oraka (near Riverton), but it dodged on till it settled where it is, and it now forms Motupiu (Dog Island, near Bluff). My informant added that if you went down into the interior of that island you would find it hollow and supported on three legs, or columns, of greenstone.

When the Kati-Mamoe Tribe were pushed out of the North Island some time after the arrival of the six canoes, twenty-two generations ago, they spread southward and intermarried with the Waitaha and Rapuwai Tribes

– 48 –

One of my informants, a descendant of these tribes, said to me, “There are four kinds of greenstone, but the Kati-Mamoe never used them. The North Island people did not make trips for greenstone as early as they say, for the first expedition to get it went from Kaiapohia and fought the Patea people in Westland. The people of Raumano who settled on the West Coast had greenstone before either the Kati-Mamoe or Kai-Tahu Tribes came to this island.”

A Maori of Kati-Mamoe descent says, “The Kati-Mamoe remained on the east and south sides of the South Island, and had no greenstone weapons until the Kai-Tahu brought these among them. In some of the old encampments at Kawhakaputaputa and elsewhere in Murihiku you can find the uri, or slatestone axes, and parahi, or flint knives, of the old people of the Kati-Mamoe before they used greenstone.”

Greenstone was brought under the notice of the Kai-Tahu Tribe in Canterbury by a woman named Raureka, who, accompanied by her dog, found a way through the dividing range between Westland and Canterbury. Both Stack and Wohlers call her a mad woman, but I should scarcely like to infer that she was, seeing she is an ancestress of an esteemed old friend of mine. She married a man called Puhou, and by the genealogy furnished me I note she flourished ten generations ago. The Kai-Tahu invasion of the South Island took place in the year 1650 approximately, and ten generations back from 1900 places the birth of Raureka as about 1650 also; so if we allow she was twenty when she made her exploring trip, we can put down a.d. 1670 as somewhere near the time when Kai-Tahu became interested in procuring greenstone.

I was told that two West Coast Maori, named Pakiha and Taka-ahi, came over to Canterbury and were acting as brigands, pouncing on solitary wayfarers, whom they killed and ate. Rakitamau killed them, but before doing so elicited information as to the route to the West Coast. He and his sons (Weka and Marama) followed the directions and arrived at a lake where was a store of greenstone, guarded just them by only an old man and woman. They killed the old couple and used them as provisions on the way back to Kaiapohia, which they entered in triumph, carrying as much greenstone as they could bring. The time of this occurrence is not stated, but I take it to be before the war expedition led by Rakitamau at the time when he killed Uekanuka.

The possession of greenstone weapons was an advantage to Kai-Tahu in their conflicts with Kati-Mamoe, but the latter gradually acquired the valued pounamu. It is said that one of the weapons of Marakai, one of the most valiant Kati-Mamoe, chiefs, was a pounamu toki. For a long time the Kati-Mamoe, a tangata-whenua people, were inferior to Kai-Tahu, who belonged to the conquering strain, whose achievements in Maoriland were analogous to the Norman Conquest in England. They were inferior both in weapons and prowess, but as they were pushed back from Canterbury into Otago and Southland they roused themselves, and, to quote one of my informants, they “fought like tigers,” with a result that the two tribes amalgamated and were so found by the white people.

That the Kati-Mamoe possessed greenstone is evident from the traditions concerning the Otaupiri pa, on the north side of the Hokanui Hills. After Tu-te-Makobu killed Kaweriri at the fight of Waitaramea (also known as Tarahaukapiti) he lived at Otaupiri. Of the presence of greenstone in this pa I have been told no fewer than eight times. “There is, or was, a spring close to the pa,” said the first man who told me of this famous piece of pounamu, “and it is, or was, covered over with a greenstone slab,

– 49 –

which has never been found yet.” Another said, “There was a well in the pa of Tu-te-Makohu, and its top was covered by a celebrated slab of greenstone”; and another added these details: “I will let you into a secret. In a creek near Taupiri eight valuable mere are buried under a slab of greenstone which was concealed in the creek-bed. There is also in that hidden store a beautiful greenstone taiaha, which is said to be 3 ft. long. I have never heard of any one making a proper search for that buried treasure placed there by our ancestors.”

In regard to the last remark, one old man said to me, “Several people, including the late Tame Parata, once went up to try and get Tu-te-Makohu's greenstone at Otaupiri, but the search was without result. Tu-te-Makohu died at that pa and was buried on a hilltop which can be seen for miles round. His maipi was put upright in the ground to mark his burial-place.”

One old man gave some information which may refer to the foregoing, or it may be a different incident altogether: “In a creek up about the head of the Waimumu Stream, in the Hokanui Hills, is a big hole that was used in old times to get water from. Somewhere near it a noted greenstone mere was buried in the creek-bed. This mere is said to have once belonged to a great woman, and it was secreted to preserve it from falling into strange hands. It was buried by a woman who was the only one of her family left at that place, and she hid it secretly so the rest of the people would not know, and it has never been found to this day as far as is known.”

The hiding of valued pieces of greenstone was quite common. Rawiri-te-Awha had once lived at Lakes Manapouri and Te Anau, and he buried some greenstone there. One of my informants was up there with Rawiri and some other Maori in 1872, and one night a companion and he went to the site of Rawiri's old whare and dug up the greenstone and had a look at it. They carefully replaced it, and as the party came away without it my informant considered it would be there still, although he has never been back in the locality to ascertain the changes made by the white man's occupation.

At one point near Port Molyneux, tradition says, a whare stood many generations ago, and that when the chief called Makatu was killed on the headland above his heart was brought down and roasted before this ancient dwelling. My informant had dug down at the spot and found traces of habitation, coming on an old bone mere, beautifully carved, but unfortunately half burnt. He also found a greenstone weapon of unusual design, and this he gave to Captain Bollons, of the s.s. “Hinemoa.” The hill behind the old pilot station at Port Molyneux is called Kaoriori, after a block of greenstone of this name which had been brought there and broken up to manufacture. A rivulet running from the hills near Kaitangata is called Te Waihoaka because in it, according to a correspondent of mine, “were found large quantities of a hard stone (hoaka) much sought after by the Maori for grinding greenstone and other stones and fashioning them into ornaments, as well as for making tools and other implements, an art in which the Maori attained truly marvellous skill.”

It was natural, of course, that greenstone should be used as a medium of exchange, and two of these barters were mentioned to me. The first was that some valuable pieces of greenstone changed hands for the right to squat (noho) on certain lands in Otago at the time Rauparaha was raiding the people of North Canterbury. The other recorded that a fast canoe, named Kura-matakitaki, was made at Matainaka (near Waikouaiti) by Rimurapa and Horuwai some time before the whalers came. Pahi was anxious to secure it, and this he did by giving greenstone in exchange. He

– 50 –

took it round south with him to Foveaux Strait. The whalers subsequently named a place (Pahi's, near Orepuki) after this chief.

Te Horo is the name of the place in Milford Sound where the takiwai (tangiwai) greenstone is got. It is a cliff-face behind Anita Bay. Piopiotahi, as I understand it, was originally the name of the Cleddau River, but is now applied to the whole sound. The Maori went round in canoes from Murihiku (Southland) to Piopiotahi to get takiwai up to about fifty or sixty years ago. It is said by the southern Maori that, although the greenstone at Milford was inferior, good pounamu could be got at Barn Bay, some distance farther north.

One old man said to me, “In 1841 Anglem, Gilroy, Stirling, and others started trading with Sydney in flax, and they also opened up greenstone-quarries about Milford. The flax was properly dressed (whitau). They had natives getting greenstone at Piopiotahi, and they took this greenstone to the North Island and exchanged it for plenty of flax, which they could sell at Sydney for £70 or £80 a ton. While getting the pounamu at Milford a boat, overloaded with the stone, capsized and sank between two rocks.”

Some years ago I had a chat with Mrs. Gilroy, who was a daughter of Captain Anglem, and was born on the west coast, near Puysegur Point, about the year 1832. She narrated: “After taking flax to Sydney my father came back and took one lot of greenstone to China. The stone was got at Piopiotahi, or Milford, and neither Stirling nor Gilroy had anything to do with it. My father was living at the Bluff then. Captain Waybone(?), of the schooner ‘Success,’ was washed overboard one stormy night off the Bluff, and the vessel came in and lay here five or six weeks. Johnny Jones, who was part-owner, got my father to take the schooner back to Sydney. My father came back in a brig, ‘The Royal Mail,’ and, picking up all the old natives here, he took them round to Milford to get greenstone. I was a girl at the time. The owner of ‘The Royal Mail’ came over in the ‘Anita’ and sailed round to Milford, and after they got a cargo of greenstone both vessels proceeded to China.” Here the narrative unfortunately ends. I was gathering Maori place-names—Mrs. Gilroy gave me a long and valuable list—and did not pursue the subject of greenstone further.

One thing that has always struck me is the great number of greenstone tools, weapons, and ornaments that has been found in Otago, and also the very wide extent over which the finds range. Either the population was much larger at one time, or the limited number of inhabitants worked unceasingly to produce such a quantity of manufactured stone. Then, again, the Maori must have been very happy-go-lucky or indifferent in their care of possessions so valuable to a people in the Stone Age. Although much may have been buried with the dead or hidden in the earth for safety and left there through the owners dying, yet a large quantity has been found lying on the ground as if carelessly thrown down by travelling parties and left unretrieved and forgotten. As already inferred, these greenstone articles (“curios,” the pakeha calls them) have been found in most parts of Otago. Among other localities where such have been found, I see I have a note that an axe-head was picked up on the top of the Old Man Range, near the Kawarau end. Many farmhouses throughout Otago possess greenstone curios picked up in the neighbourhood, and if the whole could be gathered in one place, together with museum collections and private collectors' hoards, it would, I am sure, make an array of astonishing extent. Several days ago, too, at a place near where I am writing in Gore, a big adze-head was dug up, and much more may still be found.