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No. 12 (September 1955)
– 48 –

PROVERBIAL AND POPULAR SAYINGS OF THE
MAORI

ETAHI PEPEHA A NGA IWI

Kua warewareta te nuinga o nga pepeha a-iwi inaianei, kaore i te mohiotia e te rangatahi, erangi i nga tau rua tekau ki te toru tekau kua pahemo nei, e rangona whanuitia ana i runga i nga marae, He raungaiti, he wana nga mea nei, etahi he mihi, etahi he taunu, otira hei whakangahau hei whakoakoa to ratou tikanga.

Na ratou ka manahau te tu a nga kaumatua i nga marae, he tohu he mea whakangau ki te paepae tapu o te whare wananga. Na, me ka tupono koe ki te marae o Te Ati Awa ki Oae, tekau maero ki te raki o Nuparemata, ka rongo pea koe i tenei, te mea tuatahi o nga pepeha tekau-ma-waru o tenei rarangi:—

“Ko te ‘Ati Awa o runga o te Rangi”

E hoki ana tenei korero ki a Tamarau te hekenga Rangi, he wairua; ka haere mai ki te whenua nei, ka tutaki ki a Rongouaroa, e kaukau ana i roto o tetahi awa, a, ka mohio ki a ia. Kua whanau te wahine nei i tana tamaiti i a Rauru. No te hokinga o Tamarau ki tona kainga i te Rangi, ka munaia iho ki tana wahine;—“E whanau ta taua tamaiti he tane, tapa tona ingoa ko Awanuiarangi, mo te awa i heke iho ai ahau i te Rangi.”

Kaore i penei te tau o te katoa o nga korero mo nga pepeha nei. Na te nehu tupapaku o mua, na te amo i nga rangatira ki runga i nga maunga teitei tenei, he mea rongonui:—

“Ko te Arawa e waru pumanawa.”

E tautapa ana i nga tamariki e waru a Rangitihi, te mokopuna tuatoru a Tamatekapua. No tenei ra, kua kitea, he tamaiti he hapu, ara, ko Te Kotahitanga o Te Arawa, he paiheretanga motuhake whai mana.

Ko te whakapakanga o te tokowaru nei ko Tuhourangi, he toa, he iwa putu ke tona roa, na ka mate, ka tu mai te mea uaua ko te amo ra ki runga o Rawahia, kei Tarawera. E rua tekau maero te mamao o Ruawahia i te pa i takoto ai ia, e toru mano putu te teitei. “Me pewhea ra,” ko te patai a te iwi, Katahi ka whakatika tetahi o ona tuakana, ka whakamarama, e waru ke nga manawa o Te Arawa, koia nei te pepeha e whakapuakitia nei. “Ko Te Arawa e waru pumanawa.”

Eke pai te kaumatua nei a Tuhourangi, ki te tihi o Ruawahia, ki te warahaara o ona tipuna.

“Ko nga maunga katoa he tangata,” e ai ki ta te Maori korero, no reira ko enei he mea tango mai i te rarangi ara noa atu ke te roa:—

“Ko Tongariro te maunga,
Ko Taupo te moana,
Ko te Heuheu te tangata.”

 

Many tribal mottoes are today forgotten, yet twenty to thirty years ago they were often heard on every marae. They were terse vivid, some complimentary, others critical, but it was customary to accept them in a spirit of fun and good fellowship.

They enlivened the speeches of tribal elders, and were symbolic of a speaker's scholarship in the lore of the Wananga. Thus, if you chanced to be on the marae of the Te Ati Awa at Manukorihi, ten miles north of New Plymouth you would possibly hear the following, the first of a list of eighteen pepeha:—

The ‘Ati Awa of the Heavens’

The origin of this, dates back to one Tamarau te Heketanga Rangi; he was a wairua, and on a visit to this earth, he met and consorted with Rongouaroa who was bathing in a river. She had recently given birth to Rauru. When Tamarau finally went back to the skies, he said to her: If our child should be a boy, name him Awanui-a-rangi, after the river where we first met.

Not all mottoes have as picturesque a story. The custom of carrying the remains of chieftains of rank to lie in caves on high mountain tops has given us the well known:

The Arawa of the eight pulsating hearts

This is a reference to the eight children of Rangitihi the great-great-grandson of Tamatekapua. Each child today forms a sub-tribe and symbolizes the unity and strength, of the Arawa confederation.

The youngest of this family of eight was Tuhourangi, a giant, who was nine feet in height, and on his death the task of carrying him to the summit of Ruawahia near Tarawera posed a problem in transportation. Ruawahia was twenty miles south of the village where he lay, its summit 3,000 feet high; most families would be embarrassed. It was then that one of his brothers referred to the fact that Te Arawa had eight hearts, thus the saying quoted above: The Arawa of the eight pulsating hearts.

Tuhourangi was carried safely to rest in the valhalla of his ancestors on Ruawahia's peak.

“All mountains are men,” say the Maoris of old, and so the next sayings—

Tongariro is the mountain,
Taupo is the sea,
And Te Heuheu is the man.
Hikurangi is the mountain
Waiapu is the river,
And Ngatiporou is the tribe.
Maunganui is the mountain,
Tupaea is the man.
For the Tauranga district.
Edgecumbe is the mountain,

 
– 49 –
 

“Ko Hikurangi te maunga,
Ko Waiapu te awa,
Ko Ngati Porou te iwi.’
“Ko Maunganui te maunga,
Ko Tupaea te tangata.”
Mo te rohe o Tauranga.
“Ko Putauaki te maunga,
Ko Rangitukehu te tangata.”
Mo te rohe o Kawerau.
“Ko Kahuranaki te maunga,
Ko Te Hapuku te tangata.”
Mo Ngati Kahungunu ki Heretaunga.
“Ko Ruawahia te maunga,
Ko Mokonuiarangi te tangata.”
Mo Ngati Rangitihi hapu.

No nga awa rere, no nga taniwha, no nga wahapu moana, no te oneone enei e rima:

“Ko Waikato taniwha rau,
He piko he taniwha, he piko he taniwha.”
“Ka toto te puna i Taumarere,
Ka mimiti te puna i Hokianga,
Ka mimiti te puna i Taumarere,
Ka toto te puna i Hokianga.”

Ka pa te mea ki Taumarere, e pa ana hoki ki nga iwi i Hokianga. E tuhonohono ana nga iwi o te taihauauaru me te tairawhiti o Ngapuhi.

“Ka tere Raua, Ka tere Pikiwhakao,”

Ko Raua kei Te Wairoa, ko Pipiwhakao kei Turanga, he tino whenua mo te kiekie. Rahuitia ai te tawhara o enei waahi. Ka whakaritea te ra, kua hiki te tapu, ka haere ona tini o te tangata ki to kato tawhara, Ano e hikoi ana te ngaherehere.

“Ko Heretaunga hauku nui.”

Mo nga whenua momona o Heretaunga me nga iwi rangatika hoki, taumaha ana nga utanga.

“Ka kata nga puriri o Taiamai.”

Ka paku ana nga ronga korero papai, kua ki a Ngapuhi, kei te kata nga puriri.

He tere te Maori ki te whiu korero ki te tangata ina kitea e ia, ona ahua, pai ranei ahuareka ranei, ina etahi kua whiti mai ki enei rangi no roto waiata, no roto korero:

“Tuhoe moumou kai, moumou taonga,
Moumou tangata ki te po.”

He iwi toa a Tuhoe o Matatua waka, kaore ana tirotiro ki te haere ki te riri. Ko te maia te mea nui.

“Ko Turanga makau rau.’
“Ko te Tukemata whanui o Kahungunu.”
Mo te ataahua o nga kahurangi o Haki Pei. He ingoa takaro enei e rua,
“Ko te Arawa mangai nui,”
“Ngatiporou nuka rau, He iwi moke, he whanoke.”
Hei whakaoti i tenei rarangi:
“Wairoa tapoko-rau.”

Mo te makutu tangata. Ano nei na he mea poropiti tonu mai tenei i te po. No te kawanga o Takitimu whare i te Wairoa, puteretere ana te marae i te marangai. Tapoko ana te Aitanga a Tiki, ka puta te korero a te Pokiha o Te Arawa. “Ina te tikanga o to korero, ‘tapoko rau’ e tapoko nei matou i te paru.”

 

And Rangitukehu is the man.
For the Kawerau district.
Kahuranaki is the mountain,
And Te Hapuku is the man.
For one portion of Hawkes Bay.
Ruawahia is the mountain,
And Mokonuiarangi is the man.
For a section of the Arawa.

Rivers, demons, harbours, forests, and soil fertility furnish the next five:—

Waikato of a hundred demons,
At each bend there is a demon.
A demon is a rangatira.
When the spring at Taumarere bubbles over,
The spring at Hokianga ebbs,
And when the spring at Taumarere ebbs,
The spring at Hokianga bubbles over.

What affects the tribe at Taumarere also affects the tribe at Hokianga. There is a vital link between the East and the West coast of these Ngapuhi tribes.

Raua and Pipiwhakao are on the move.

Raua in Wairoa and Pipiwhakao in Poverty Bay were renowed for their kiekie. Before the tawhara was ripe no one was allowed to enter these places. Only on a day appointed was the ban lifted, then thousands flocked to gather the fruit. The forest moved with life.

It is Heretaunga of heavy dews.

The rich fertile plains about Hastings, and the wealthy Hawke's Bay Maori.

The puriri trees of Taiamai are laughing.

In the Ohaeawai district, when there is good news, the puriri are said to be laughing.

The Maori was often critical of his fellowmen, and personal or tribal characteristics were identified and applied. The following have survived the years, recited in song and story:—

Tuhoe, wasters of food, wasters of goods,
Wasters of men.

The Tuhoe of the Matatua canoe were celebrated warriors, nothing was spared to achieve victory.

Gisborne of a hundred lovers.
The broad handsome face of Kahungunu

For the good looks attributed to Hawke's Bay women.

Te Arawa, garrulous in speech—and
Ngati Porou, the deceivers, and the lonely,
But what dare-devils.

The final motto selected is:—

Oh Wairoa of a hundred pot-holes.

A reference to witchcraft practices.

This proverb was almost prophetic. When Takitimu meeting house was opened at Wairoa, heavy rains reduced the marae to a sea of mud. The visitors were actually bogged in hundreds of places, so the Arawa chief, Te Pokiha in his speech jokingly said:—

Here is the truth of your saying ‘bogged in a hundred places’
We are stuck in the mud.