Chapter III. Discovery of New Zealand--Captain Cook--Food and clothing of the natives
"Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, * * * for this thing the Lord shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto."--Deut. xv. 8, 10.
SIXTEEN centuries had passed away since the Sun of righteousness had risen on the earth, and still His beams were hidden from these Southern Islands; and Ahina-maui still lay in darkness and in misery, its very existence unknown to the Christian nations of the earth.
At length, in the year 1642, the enterprising Tasman, who had been sent by the Dutch governor of Java in search of the supposed Australian continent, after discovering Van Diemen's Land, and bestowing on it the name of his master, turned his course towards the east, and in a few days came in sight of other unknown shores. [Some geographers suppose that this was the country described by Juan Fernandez as being visited by him in 1576; and if so it is probable that he introduced the dogs found there by Captain Cook.]
He found it however impossible to land; the fearless natives, unawed by the appearance of his ships, so different from any they could have seen before, made an unprovoked attack upon his boats; and Tasman, seeing from the number of the canoes that began to approach him, and the determined gestures of the people, that the ships themselves would be in jeopardy [25/26] prudently gave up the attempt, and steered away from the inhospitable coast.
New Zealand, for so Tasman called the country in memory of his native land, was soon forgotten; and more than another century elapsed before it was again heard of.
Our noble-spirited countryman, Captain Cook, rediscovered it in 1769, in the course of his first voyage round the world; and though on his first approach to the island his ignorance of the character and customs of the people led unintentionally to the loss of four New Zealand lives, yet such was the steady gentle discipline he maintained among his crew, and such was the influence his firm, yet friendly conduct gained over the natives, that not one other drop of either English or Maori blood was shed during the five visits he paid the island between October, 1769, and February, 1777. [Would that this could be said in other instates, but even the consort ship of Captain Cook lost some of her men, and some of the Maoris were also killed.]
Captain Cook was much interested in the people; their manly bearing and their bold demeanour attracted his admiration, but he lamented their ignorance and wretchedness, and with the enlightened philanthropy that characterized him, he spared no pains to improve their condition.
Science owes much to the discoveries and accurate observations of this distinguished navigator; the charts he laid down of the coasts have been adopted as the groundwork of all succeeding ones; but the grateful recollection of him that has been cherished by the natives themselves, is a far more fragrant wreath upon his tomb, than any that science can have woven for it.
 Captain Cook was particularly struck with the want of proper food among these islanders. "We have before spoken of the rich abundance of noble trees and lovely flowers with which the land abounded; but notwithstanding the fertile soil and almost unrivalled climate of New Zealand, there is perhaps no country in the world, except the Arctic regions, that is in itself so destitute of sustenance for man. [On the eastern coast the thermometer seldom falls below 40°" or rises above 66°"; on the western the range is somewhat wider, but even in the interior a thin crust of ice on standing water is seldom seen on the lower grounds. The air is singularly clear and transparent, and notwithstanding the frequent rains, is the theme of every traveller's praise.] Neither grain nor wholesome fruit is indigenous there, nor any edible root except that of a species of fern. [Pteris esculenta.] This was roasted and beaten into a sort of cake, and with the addition, at some seasons of the year, of fish, formed originally the only food of the inhabitants. In later times, according to traditionary lore, the kumera, or sweet potato, [Convolvulus Batata.] was introduced by a woman named E Pani, who with her husband once visited these shores from some distant island called Tawai, and pitying the condition of the people, heroically returned again alone in the canoe to her native place, and brought back some kumeras for cultivation. The plant rapidly increased; and E Pani was rewarded for her courage and benevolence by being made an inferior deity, and placed by the side of Maui.
The compassion of our countryman was not less strongly excited than that of E Pani had been, mid at every visit he paid the island he endeavoured to add something to tie comforts of the people, never failing [27/28] to bring European seeds and roots for cultivation. But with the pride and incredulity of ignorant minds, they could not be prevailed on to cultivate any that did not bear some resemblance to those they had already seen. The common potato threw out its tubers like the kumera; the turnip, too, bore a not dissimilar appearance, and these were therefore gladly welcomed. [Neither the turnip nor the cabbage, however, seem to have made their way beyond Cook's Straits, the chief resort of Captain Cook, but there they grew luxuriantly. The cabbage hits now become wild along the Straits, and we are told that in spring the northern shore for some space inland is resplendent with its yellow blossoms, still recording, as it were, in letters of gold, the benevolence that introduced so valuable an acquisition.] The cabbage was not unlike the upper shoot of the Areca Sapida, and this was also admitted into their horticulture; but peas, and beans, and carrots, and wheat, were unlike anything they had seen before; and as therefore they could not be fitting food for man, they were discarded. [Colonel Mundy, writing in 1847, speaks of a very aged chief named Taniwha, who remembered Captain Cook, and who in describing him, "mimics," says Col. Mundy, "a way he had of waving his right hand to and fro wherever he walked. The veteran, then a child of seven or eight years old, has no conception of the meaning of this strange gesture. It remains," continues Col. Mundy, "for us to guess. Our great navigator was sowing the seeds of Europe in the wilds of Ahina-maui, plucking them from his pockets, and casting them on promising soil."]
Captain Cook was more successful in his attempt to introduce the pig; though how, with all their prejudices, they could ever have admitted pork into their bills of fare we are at a loss to divine. Yet so it was, and the rearing of pigs and cultivation of the potato soon spread throughout the island, till by degrees the New Zealanders had not only enough for their own [28/29] consumption, but were able to supply the trading vessels that soon after began to frequent their shores.
Water was the New Zealanders' only beverage, and so averse were they to any intoxicating liquors, that it was many years before they yielded to the persuasions of unprincipled Europeans to taste a second time of "liquid fire."
Their general habits remained unchanged from the time of Captain Cook's visits till they were brought under the modifying influence of Christianity and civilization. Their dwellings were constructed of a framework of wood interwoven with reeds and rushes (called raupo). This interweaving was often painted in patterns of black and red, and the upright posts and the ridge pole of the roof were frequently elaborately carved, especially in the southern part of the island, where the carvings were intended to represent the ancestors of the family; and as at the death of each successive occupier of the house, his figure was added to the group, the dwelling became a sort of genealogical tree.
The end of the roof usually projected some space beyond the walls, and, supported by carved pillars, formed a portico, in which the family took their meals; for the interior apartment was tapued from any other purpose than sitting or sleeping in, or the weaving of the mats. There was no aperture but one low door, and though the raupo walls admitted no inconsiderable amount of air, yet the dirty habits of the inmates, added to the smoke from the fire in the centre of the hut, rendered the atmosphere at times intolerable to an European.
Their food was cooked by slaves in a separate hut, [29/30] and when the time of meals arrived, let the weather be what it might, the family assembled out of doors, in front of their dwelling. The slaves having divided the food into equal portions, and placed each portion in a separate little basket made of flax, brought it round and duly distributed it. When all had finished, a slave again came round with a calabash of water, and poured some into the mouth of each one present.
One of the most singular customs of the Maoris was that of tattooing, invented, we should suppose, not only to make the men look more terrible in battle, but also to test their power of endurance. The operation was exquisitely painful--the person to be tattooed was laid on his back; a pattern more or less intricate, according to his rank and pretensions, was first traced on his face, arms, and breast, with a charred stick; incisions were then made, according to this pattern, by a sharp kind of chisel, made of bone, driven in by a mallet till the blood flowed freely; and the chisel-like instrument having been previously dipped in some dark pigment, the lines remained indelibly fixed. It was but seldom that the whole could be done at one time, the suffering was too great to bear; and it often required weeks and even months to complete the tattooing of a man of superior rank or courage--pre-eminencein these qualities requiring pre-eminence in self-torture. [Rutherford, a sailor, who was taken prisoner by the natives in 1816, and who, after all the rest of the crew of his ship had been murdered and eaten before his eyes, was made a chief, and consequently had to submit to this initiation, had the fortitude to undergo the whole at once, but did not recover the effects of it for six weeks. After a forced residence there of ten years, he made his escape, and on his return to England published a full and authentic account of his own extraordinary adventures, and of the manners and customs of the natives. He must have been residing somewhere in the south-eastern part of the island. We believe he afterwards took up his residence in one of the Polynesian Islands.] There seems to have been no particular age at which this painful honour was conferred. Sometimes boys of eight or ten were tattooed; sometimes it was deferred till grown up; and a very few instances are mentioned in which it was not submitted to at all. [One of these was Ruatara, of whom we shall hereafter speak.] The barbarous custom extended also to the women; some aspiring ladies were tattooed like the men, only in simpler patterns, but all had their lips performed upon; the redness of lip, so prized in civilized countries, was there held in disrepute.
The dress both of men and women consisted of, so-called, mats, i. e. large squares of woven flax. One of these was fastened round the waist and fell just below the knees: the other thrown over the shoulders nearly covered the upper part of the body. These mats were manufactured exclusively by the women; they prepared the flax, twisted it into a sort of twine, and then, after winding this thread backwards and forwards over pegs fastened into the ground and thus forming a warp, began the tedious process of weaving with the hand. It was no wonder that with such inadequate implements the work was slow, that a common mat required six months to finish it, and that one of a superior kind could rarely be completed in less than two or three years.--And whatever we may think of this people's deficiency in mechanical invention, we cannot withhold from their women the meed of praise for industry and patience. The women in the neighbourhood of the river Thames were renowned for their skill and [31/32] taste in this manufacture, and some of the borders of their mats, woven in elaborate patterns of black, red, and blue, are very handsome even in European estimation.
Both men and women frequently wore grotesque figures of jade round their necks, but their favourite ornament was feathers, and Mr. Marsden relates an amusing incident that occurred during his first visit to the island, that shows the love of dress is not confined to the polished nations of the earth.
In an exploring expedition he made along the coast towards the south, he was accompanied by several chiefs of the Bay of Islands, some of whom thought it a good opportunity for trade, and provided themselves with nails, fishing-hooks, &c., and one of the party took also with him a supply of choice feathers prepared in a manner peculiar to the northern part of the island. In the course of barter the chief observed a very handsome mat worn by the wife of one of the Thames chiefs; and determined, if possible, to procure it for his own wife, but found the owner unwilling to part with it, and not to be moved by any of the ordinary articles of traffic. He then thought of trying his feathers, and taking out a few of the least valuable, placed them in the hair of some of the other women present, where, as they gracefully fluttered in the breeze, they soon attracted the attention of the lady o the mat, who became impatient to possess herself of so becoming an ornament. The chief in vain offered to give her some in exchange for the mat, but she still refused, till taking some of the choicest feathers from his box and displaying them before her to the greatest advantage, he adroitly laid them at her feet. The [32/33] temptation was irresistible, she threw off the mat and seized the feathers; nor could any young lady of fashion in London or Paris have boon more delighted with a diamond aigrette, than was this Maori matron with her plume from the snowy albatross. [It is however a remarkable characteristic of this people that, though very fond of their own native ornaments, in their subsequent dealings with Europeans no articles ever attracted their notice unless they were useful. Beads and gew-gaws they utterly despised; while a nail, a fish-hook, or even a piece of iron hoop, would purchase a good supply of food, and a hatchet was irresistible.]