Tangi for Te Puea
The sacred mourning for Te Puea by the Maori tribes lasted five days and five nights. From Monday, October 13, when Te Puea died, until the burial the following Sunday, Maori people all over the island were on the move. Although the habit of leaving work to visit tangis is dying out, the paying of last respects to Te Puea was felt by the people to be a sacred duty. Employers generally showed great sympathy. Many of the people who paid their respects returned to their farms or occupations, and joined the mourners again at the week-end.
During this week it was impossible to find a bus in the Waikato district in which there were not some ladies dressed in black, whose heads were covered with the green leaves of mourning.
The whole of the Maori people had their thoughts centred on the lady of Ngaruawahia, who now lay in state after burning out all the energy she had in work of great wisdom for her people. All recognised that the deepest homage was due to this rare and splendid lady. Te Puea—or Princess Te Puea: the appellation stuck because it was so appropriate—had shown the Waikato people the way out of a very hard situation. Following the words of her grandfather, King Tawhiao, she had, with a great natural sense of leadership, built Turangawaewae Pa at Ngaruawahia out of, literally, noth-
ing. Her combination of charm and force was unforgettable, she gave her people a renewed belief in themselves and in the future.
So the mourners arrived, bus load after bus load, and small private parties arrived, too, and joined the larger ones, for the ceremonial greeting of the dead. So many were the groups of mourners that buses often arrived before the tribe in front of them had finished paying its respects. So the new arrivals waited outside until a messenger came out from the marae, inviting them in.
The mourners then passed under the ceremonial gate, hung with willow branches, and slowly made their way through the tree-bordered lane to the large circle of people silently standing round the centre of the marae.
Of the pain and grief that was expressed during these days it would be indelicate to speak. It is a pain from which all who have not experienced it have to be excluded. ‘The tears roll to avenge Death’, says the splendid old chant.
The best way of recalling these days is perhaps to repeat one chant that was sung by Pei Jones just before the funeral:
Listen, oh multitude:
This is the ancestor of death.
Clinging to me,
It grew at Te Reinga;
It grew also in grief,
It is Rongotaharangi,1
Hovering, whirling about.
I fall and lie
Sleeping, with knees drawn up, sleeping hugged together,
Sleeping with down-pressed head.
Is Mahutonga confused in the cloud;2
I am listless,
A hawk screaming in the eighth month,3
A bittern booming in the marsh.
Many ancient songs like this one were heard on the marae. Old people who hardly ever leave their homes sang them, and to the multitude they were almost, or entirely unknown.
There was no tribe, and hardly a clan that was not represented here. More than ten thousand people paid their respects to the deceased. The women particularly felt the sharpness of their loss. Te Puea had, especially, been their leader. She had shown them what a Maori woman could be; she had been an example to look up to. Particularly those who are active in the Maori Women's Welfare League had been inspired by her work. It seemed natural for the League to come forward and mourn for Te Puea in a body, ignoring tribal differences.
The pakeha was officially represented by the Rt. Hon. S. G. Holland, the Hon. E. B. Corbett and the Hon. Mrs G. H. Ross, and the Rt. Hon. W. Nash. Nearly three hundred telegrams of condolence were received from all over the world. Representatives of the United States, India and Australia,
3Season of scarcity.
and Queen Salote of Tonga travelled to Ngaruawahia to express their sorrow on the marae. In England, the B.B.C. devoted a broadcast to Te Puea's memory, and the British Press published tributes to her.
On the Saturday afternoon, when the local population of Ngaruawahia came on the marae in huge numbers, it was obvious that to the Pakeha, too, Princess Te Puea had been a favourite figure. Most touching of Pakeha tributes was, perhaps, the spruce band of pipers, who marched on to the marae playing time-honoured Scots laments. These pipers, who had particular reason to remember Te Puea's friendship and generosity, although using a pakeha form of lament, managed to speak very well to Maori feeling.
On Sunday morning, after the official party had paid its respects and attended the church service, the body was carried from the marae by eight pall-bearers, representing each one of the ancestral canoes, except Tainui—Te Puea's canoe. A cortege of cars and buses two miles long followed the hearse to the ancestral burial ground, Taupiri, where, without tombstones or any indication where they lie, many famous chiefs and the former Maori kings are buried.
As the cortege approached Taupiri mountain, fierce rain began to fall. All the Maori kings were, it is said, buried in heavy rain, but no rain could have been more violent and powerful than it was on this occasion. It was the heavens weeping. Very many of the mourners who were present on that day, climbed the 300-foot mountain under this weeping sky.
So Te Puea's body was laid in her resting-place.