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Document: George French Angas, Savage Life and Scenes in Australia and New Zealand (London: Smith, Elder, and Co., 1847), pp. 332-339. Some Notes about the Transcription

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Document: George French Angas, Savage Life and Scenes in Australia and New Zealand (London: Smith, Elder, and Co., 1847), pp. 332-339.

Some Notes about the Transcription

The following general editorial principles have been followed in this transcription. Where original text has been excluded, it is indicated with ellipses (<. . . .>). In some cases, editorial summaries of the excluded text are provided; these editorial summaries of the excluded text are distinguished from the original text by being italicized and placed within brackets (< >). For significant historical terms or references in the original text that require some clarification and elaboration, hypertext links to relevant and informative websites have been inserted in order to encourage further historical exploration and contextualization. Regarding footnotes in the transcribed text, some of the original texts also used footnotes. In order to distinguish any editorial footnotes from the footnotes provided in the original text, the editor has adopted the same strategy as that of the editorial summaries: the text of the editorial footnotes is italicized and placed within brackets (< >). Continuous footnoting was used for each source regardless of whether or not the footnote was from the original text or was an editorial one. Thus, the footnote numbers do not align with those in the original texts.


The New Zealander has a fixed and settled habitation: he resides either in his pah, which is a fortified stockade; or in a Kainga Maori, or native settlement, which is not enclosed, where the houses are scattered about as in a village. In times of warfare the whole tribe seeks refuge within the pah, which is often erected on the summit of a steep hill, or on an island, or along the bank of a river. The pah is surrounded with a strong, high fence, or stockade; and the interior is divided, by lower fencings, into numerous court-yards, which communicate with each other by means of stiles; in each court stands the house and cook-house of one or more families, and also the patuka, or storehouse for food. The dwelling-house, and frequently the storehouse, is ornamented with grotesque carving, and coloured with kokowai, or red ochre. The cook-house is merely a shed, built of posts or slabs of wood placed several inches apart, so as to admit the air and wind, and roofed with beams, over which is a thatchwork of raupo: in these houses the domestic operations of cooking and preparing food, corn, &c. take place during wet weather; at other times they are carried on in the open air. The houses are partly sunk in the ground, and a true native house is always built with a gable roof and a portico or verandah, where the occupants generally sit. The inner chamber, which extends a long way back, serves as a sleeping apartment, and towards evening is heated by means of a fire; after the family enters for the night, the door and window are tightly closed, and in this almost suffocating atmosphere they pass the night: when day comes they creep out of the low door into the sharp morning air, dripping with perspiration.

Within the enclosure of the pah also stand the wahi tapu, or burial-places of the chiefs, which, being coloured red and ornamented with rich carving and a profusion of feathers, are attractive objects to a stranger. As the natives at certain seasons of the year are constantly in their plantations and potato-grounds, they erect in them temporary sheds, and long thatched buildings, beneath which to repose in wet weather, and also for the purpose of cooking their food. In the plantations, patukas or storehouses, are also frequent, in which they deposit the seed during the winter; these patukas are always raised upon a pole, or placed between the forked branches of a tree, to preserve them from the attacks of the rats which overrun both islands.

Some of their pahs are very extensive, and contain a population of 1000 to 2000 people; others are much smaller, and are inhabited merely by one chief, with his family and dependents. Since the introduction of Christianity amongst the New Zealanders, the use of the fortifications is become less constant, and in whole districts the natives may be seen dwelling at peace in their scattered houses, without either wall or fence to protect them from an enemy. As Christianity spreads, wars cease amongst the various tribes, and even those formerly the most belligerent are now quiet cultivators of the ground: the New Zealander finds it more to his advantage to produce pigs and potatoes, which he barters to the Europeans in exchange for other commodities, than to be carrying on an endless and mortal strife with his neighbours for no accountable reason whatever.

Although fire-arms have now almost entirely supplanted the native implements of war, a notice of the latter may be interesting. In battle a chief always carried a staff of hard wood with a carved head, the sharp point of which, designed to resemble the human tongue thrust out in an attitude of defiance, was urged forwards as a mark of insult towards the enemy; the eyes were made of small pieces of pawa, or pearl shell, inserted on each side, and the staff was still further ornamented with red parrot’s feathers and tufts of dog’s hair. This staff, called e hani, is not only used for the purposes of war, but is also carried in the circle of debate: the chief, whilst speaking, runs up and down before his hearers, holding in his hand the ornamented hani. The use of a rod or staff of this sort, as an emblem of authority, is of remote antiquity, and there is a passage in Homer which alludes to a similar custom. The meri, or war club, is a flattened weapon, from one to two feet in length, which is used in single combat: it is commonly made out of a bone of the whale; when formed of green jade it is called meri ponamu, and is valued exceedingly. This weapon is fastened round the arm, suspended by a string, which confines it to the wrist when in use. None but chiefs carry the meri; and on the death of a chief, his meri is either buried with him, or it descends to the nearest male relation of the deceased.

The tomahawk was introduced by the European and American whalers, and is used in the same manner as the meri. Like the Red Indians, the New Zealanders have mounted the heads of these tomahawks upon handles of their own manufacture, either of wood elaborately carved, or of human bone adorned with grotesque devices. In the interior, a small wooden dagger is occasionally to be met with: it is carried for purposes of self-defence, by native travelers who go alone through the woods. Another weapon, called a patu, is a light wooden instrument, about four feet long, having a semicircular head resembling a bill-hook or chopper, which is sharp towards the edge; it is ornamented generally with a bunch of kaka feathers, and the handle is sometimes adorned with carving. A spear, about twelve feet long, is mentioned by Captain Cook as being in use amongst the New Zealanders in 1774, but it has now become obsolete. In Cook’s Straits, I met with one (of which I made a drawing) exactly similar to those mentioned by that celebrated navigator: it was ornamented with grotesque human figures, and the natives said it was the work of men long since dead.

The domestic animals reared by the New Zealanders have been introduced at various times by the Europeans who have visited their coasts. The pig, which is bred in great numbers throughout the country, is said to have been first left on the island by the Spaniards, before the period of Cook’s visit: the native name for it is poaka, a word resembling in sound the Spanish term puerca (a sow), and the English porker. The dog is likewise called in some parts of the island by its Spanish name, pero; though it is more usually termed kuri. The horse, the goat, the cat, and domestic poultry are frequently to be met with amongst the natives; especially those on the Waikato, and towards the northern districts. Every pah abounds with dogs, which are used principally to hunt the wild pigs that run loose in the woods.

The population of the islands of New Zealand has never been correctly ascertained. The census of both islands, according to a computation made by the missionaries, does not exceed 120,000; though others have estimated it as high as 200,000. Of this number, by far the greater portion belongs to the Northern Island; the only remaining inhabitants on the Middle Island being those under Rauparaha of the Nga ti toa tribe, who inhabit the shores of the Straits, and a small tribe at Otago, whose chief, styled “Bloody Jack,” is recently dead. The last mentioned people are making rapid strides towards civilization: their late chief, though designated by so savage a name, was one of the most intelligent and Europeanized of the natives of New Zealand. The east coast swarms with natives, especially about Hawke’s Bay. On the Waikato and Waipa they are also very numerous: the Waikato tribe alone can bring 6000 fighting men into the field. The Nga Pui tribe, to the north, including the Bay of Islands and Hokianga, is an extensive tribe; and under E Hongi, their celebrated warrior, they carried on a series of wars which depopulated many once numerous and flourishing tribes. A colony of New Zealanders, headed by Pomara their chief, emigrated some years ago to the Chatham Islands, nearly 300 miles to the south-east of New Zealand; where they still reside, having conquered the aboriginal inhabitants of those islands, who are a distinct people.

The New Zealanders are universally friendly and hospitable to Europeans, and they exhibit traits of character worthy of the most highly civilized and enlightened of the human race. Their change from barbarism to Christianity has been rapid; and it has also been complete, and will prove permanent. From a people addicted to cannibalism, and giving loose to the worst and wildest passions, they have, in a period of but a few years, become an intelligent and superior race, worthy of holding a high position in the scale of the human family, and frequently, by their noble and consistent conduct, putting to blush the more educated and advanced European.

The ever-galling question of land-claims is the only cause of all the various disputes that have arisen between the Maori and the stranger; and with reason. The Maori has now his eyes open: he looks forward; and in the perspective of a dark and gloomy future, he sees his children’s land no longer their own, and his proud and swarthy race disappearing before the encroaching European. He broods over this; for he loves his country and the rights of his ancestors, and he will fight for his children’s land. He reasons thus:--as the red Indian has been driven back into the far west, and the mungo mungo, or black man of New South Wales, has dwindled away before the civilization of the white man, so his nation—having no outlet, no untrodden wastes and silent forests, still further away, to which they may retreat—must pass into oblivion. It is this that rouses his feelings into jealousy and mistrust; and this feeling it is, which among ourselves would be called patriotism, that kindles in him the seeds of so-called rebellion. When first the stranger came to dwell amongst them, he was well received; and, as long as there was no fear of his encroaching on their cultivations, they were glad to have the benefit of his aid and superior knowledge; but when avaricious and greedy men, who had never set foot upon the land, claimed whole districts and territories as their own, and had (almost before the natives themselves were aware of it) purchased for a mere bagatelle the choicest of the soil, the natives saw the approaching crisis, and the future result flashed at once upon their discerning minds. Sad and fearful as have been the effects of a simple, but brave and intelligent native population endeavouring to resist by force the tide of European immigration, it is still to be hoped, that, under the wise and prudent legislation of the present Governor, things may be so ordered and arranged that the original possessors of the soil may enjoy all their former rights and privileges; and that the natives and settlers may live and amalgamate together, so as to form a powerful and a distinguished nation, combining the good qualities, physical and moral, of two fine races of men.

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