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The Maori - Volume I


page xi


The data contained in this sketch of Maori life and its activities in pre-European times is the result of an almost life-long interest in our native folk on the part of the writer. In the distant “seventies” of last century, when camped in the dark places of the land, I began to take an interest in the Maori, our predecessor in the isles of Aotearoa. As time rolled on that interest deepened, until the thought grew that it would be well to note down any matter of interest contributed by native friends. That resolve has brought to me the keenest pleasures of a long life, and the shabby old field notebooks now serve as a mine in which I weary not of delving.

In order to produce a volume of this size, and yet make a comprehensive survey of Maori life, it was necessary to omit a great quantity of detail matter, but it is hoped that the following pages contain a fairly well-balanced and explanatory account of the neolithic Maori, his customs, institutions, and beliefs. The writer makes no pretence of presenting a scientific work, but merely sends this sketch forth as the jottings of a bush collector. The endeavour has been to make the picture of old-time Maori life as true and faithful a one as possible. It is no easy task to collect and record correctly such data pertaining to a scriptless people. The matter of differing tribal versions alone is very confusing. With regard to some subjects only a long-continued patience and persistence has brought the light so long sought.

It is hoped that a comprehensive account of native life will be useful to many, and of some interest to those who do not make any searching enquiry into the life of barbaric man.

In many bush camps have these notes been collected, in the depths of the Forest of Tane, in native huts, and in military encampments, in lone places where now is heard the rushing locomotive and the whiring motor car. the comforts of life surround one here by city streets, but the graceless Bohemian mind wheels regretfully back to the 6 x 8 tent, the far-spread forest, the brown-skinned friends, and the life that men live. E! Aku ra ki tua!

page xii

The men who provided the material for this story of Stone Age man I would thank for their assistance, though the majority of them have trodden the Broad Path of Tane that leads to the spirit world. To those who survive, and to future generations, I would say—for errors made I cry your mercy, and, as for omissions, I would quote an old saying of your fathers—He taonga nui te wareware.

Remains but to lay down the skidway and launch the Maori canoe on the darkling waters of Mahora-nui-atea. Adorned with strange devices carved by cunning hands, decked with plumes and fluttering pennant, with her mat sails hoisted and long steer oars swung outboard, she will lift the sea roads laid down by old Polynesian sea kings in the mist-enveloped past. Though launched by a member of an alien race, yet is she laden with the sympathy that recognises and greets the qualities and concepts that render the Maori folk so interesting a study. Haply, in days that lie before, the descendants of the old Polynesian Vikings will greet her as bringing to them the semblance of their courageous ancestors.