SOME RECENT PUBLICATIONS
Rangiatea, by Eric Ramsden, 25s.; The Story of Te Aute College, by R. R. Alexander, 15s.; How the Maoris Lived, by A. W. Reed, 6s.; all published by A. H. and A. W. Reed, Wellington.
There is an all-time high in the writing of books about the Maori people, mostly dealing with the past. Although it may be unfortunate that the present does not come in for more attention, this flow of books on the past is by no means superfluous. They all contribute to filling a large gap in our knowledge, for our records of even recent Maori history are very poor.
Mr Ramsden, in Rangiatea, tells the story of Rangiatea church, of life in Otaki in early days, of the Rev. (as he was then) Augustus Hadfield, of Te Rauparaha, the King movement, and a host of other subjects. In his long book one will find a wealth of historical material that could not be found anywhere else in book form.
Rangiatea's founder was the Rev. Octavius Hadfield. He first visited Otaki in 1839. He found very few people interested in his message at first, for the people were at that time at war with Te Ati Awa, who themselves were recent converts to the faith. In spite of the unfavourable reception, Hadfield decided to reside in Otaki and build a chapel there. He managed to introduce English customs and manners and stimulated gardening and wheatgrowing. He had streets laid out and sections alloted; a flour mill and a school came into being. In 1848 Otaki was generally considered a model community.
Mr Ramsden states that the idea of building a church at Otaki, similar to the older one at Waikanae, existed as early as 1839, and that at that time already Te Rauparaha expressed himself in support of the venture to emulate Waikanae in this respect. In May, 1844, Hadfield and Te Rauparaha went together to the bush at Ohau, to select trees for the ridge-pole and the supporting pillars. The trees were hauled a considerable distance to Otaki beach. Here they were left until December, 1847. At the arrival of the Rev. Samuel Williams the weeds were cleared from the trunks, and the enormous task of hauling the trees to the church site with ropes was started. Building was then energetically carried on under the leadership of Te Rauparaha, who had by then returned from imprisonment. Other tribes supplied the builders with food. The church was opened in October, 1849, at the return of the Rev. Hadfield from his illness.
Mr Ramsden carries his account of Rangiatea to the present day, giving in a most interesting chapter, ‘Rangiatea is Restored’, an account of the great hui held in Otaki in 1950. He also gives the text of Sir Apirana Ngata's speech on that occasion. This speech, apart from being Sir Apirana's last, was also a particularly important one.
Mr R. R. Alexander, in his story of Te Aute College, is dealing with a subject of great interest. Like the Rangiatea story, this book was written to mark a centenary. Its main purpose was to leave some record of the college in the hands of the old boys, and those of the general public who might be interested. There is a Roll of Scholars, and a generous collection of photographs of old boys. The history of the building, the sports and the curriculum are all given in great detail. To the general reader the pages devoted to the Te Aute College Students' Association are naturally of special interest.
‘Towards the close of 1896 a circular was issued to old boys, asking them to attend a conference to be held at Te Aute in January of the next year. The invitation met with a most encouraging response. Through the committee and the old boys, the Maori chiefs and leading men in all centres got to know of its objects, and were unanimous in support of this novel undertaking. The object was not merely to link the past and present of Te Aute together, but also to discuss questions bearing on the welfare of the Maori race as a whole.’
Mr Alexander gives an account of the many social questions discussed at this conference and succeeding conferences. He continues: ‘Everyone at this time realised that the main method of approach would be to influence Maori opinion. Ceremonial occasions and football matches were made opportunities for the discussion of Maori problems and the objects and claims of the Association. Meetings were arranged to discuss subjects under the following heads: 1, Social; 2, Sanitary; 3, Intellectual; 4, Religious.’
Although all this is interesting, it is clear that the history of the Te Aute Association and the Young Maori Party has, in the main, still to be written.