I remember what it is to have, and be content.
We were children then; a big family, with aunts, uncles, and all the host in and around the pa, and for miles. What we had was the sun and rain and the passing seasons. Out of the land and the sea our fathers and mothers brought us our plenty. And listen: they had the true counsel of our old people, who loved the wisdom of the Bible.
In those days, perhaps it was that democracy was being kind. Anyway, our parents managed life simply. As a part of communal living, they pooled their profits. They gathered together their resources of man and horse-power to build on their lands, which were not extensive. And they found out the tools and knowledge, and goodwill of the Pakeha. Surely for them it was not unrewarding struggle, or poverty.
We children were educated, barely but somewhat comfortably, holding our teachers in awe. They were Pakeha — beings apart; but did teach us to lean a little on books and learning. Though I remember someone saying they did not know everything!
Outstanding in my memories of those childhood days is that we did not miss the money that we lacked. Possibly a few had an amount saved up in an old tin, which they trusted better than the bank. Just as likely would be debt and mortgage, that is, such as could be held on Maori land. But most pleasantly, we had all we needed, even to abundance.
Other wider horizons our people did know. Some went away, and a few came back to enrich our scope of living. Many a time a bus was hired to take us to far places to mourn or to celebrate with others. Or to a race-meeting. Today it is said that these occasions have become our addiction; but thus it is how the years have wrought to us. In those days they were just natural to a lively culture.
Yes, that short time ago, we had a culture and its vital language. Maybe primitive, perhaps simple, but our tipunas (our forefathers) knew its value, that gave them pride and standing when first a people of civilisation confronted them. Nor were they overwhelmed. And does it not speak for them that they so quickly reached out towards the Gospel?
In my memory are some of those tipunas who rated Truth so highly. Day and night they studied it. And so did they test and try it. Strangers and travellers walking by on the road were brought into the pa to share all our abundance, and to pass on only when they were rested and refreshed. Those tipunas of ours gathered all the tribe together for daily worship. Then when the young ones pushed out onto the land to bring up families, those elders still kept us to remember our God.
Now our old and wise have passed away. We did mourn them for a little, those old white heads and beards and dark mokomokos; but some day even their tokotokos, the walking sticks that were their strength and support in harangue and oratory — and on our mischievous child legs — will even they be cast away?
So do we impoverish ourselves.
Authoresses beheld little beauty in those my people of the generation and two past, but sometimes tears for them fall in my heart. They left to us a heritage of some worth, and we could not — nay rather, will not defend it! Our Maoritanga is dying in us; it is so little our pride to hand on. Do I not see this careless generation taking it to their grave?
And oh! What then for the children bearing our brown skin?