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No. 65 (December 1968)
– 5 –

Te Rangikaheke's Manuscript

The Editor,
‘Te Ao Hou’

Dear Madam:

It is good to have more of Te Rangikaheke manuscripts readily available. Miss Orbell is to be congratulated on her competent editing and translations.

On page 9 of Te Ao Hou No. 62 Miss Orbell mentions the Maori word waahu referring to a very dark person. It was used by Te Rangikaheke, apparently to refer to American negroes. Interestingly enough the word probably derives from the the name of an island in the Hawaiian group, now known as Oahu, a corruption of O Ahu or as a Maori would say ko Ahu ‘it is Ahu’. As a number of early observers noted (including Te Rangikaheke in the selection under discussion) Hawai'ians were among the darkest of the Polynesian islanders. They were known in the Marquesas, and perhaps elsewhere in Polynesian, as Vaahu (or Waahu) after the corrupted version of the name of the island on which Honolulu stands.

In New Zealand, apparently, the word came to mean not just a native of Hawaii, but a person of very dark complexion.

It is interesting to speculate whether Te Rangikaheke's friend Maui Tione, which is to say Maui John, came from the island of Maui, another island in the Hawaiian group.

Yours sincerely


Bruce Biggs

University of Hawaii.