Sunday, 9 September 2012

Big River, Big troubles (No. 63)

The continuing story of Ahu and Ahuahu her husband in a Maori village in Aotearoa before European settlement of New Zealand. (Missed an episode? Click on Ahu in the labels bar for previous posts.)

One night Ahuahu came home from a meeting of the village council looking rather depressed. He told Ahu and Hatiti that he had been asked to accompany Paikea and Moana who were to visit Paikea’s sister at Agate Hills south of the Big River estuary. It was supposed to be a family visit and on the way they would pay their respects to the headmen of the villages on the way. The Big River settlement had been very much ignored since the incident some many years ago when a pakeha expedition had been killed and eaten by the people there. There had been rumours from some of their fishermen of more great boats at sea with their enormous sails so their own village chief suggested a courtesy call might be appropriate on the way through their territory to see any had landed there.

Ahuahu knew that once again this was a test for Paikea to see if he was sensible enough to use tact and discretion with their neighbours to find out what was happening with the pakeha. The old chief felt that Ahuahu  would manage but he wanted his son to prove himself in this way. It was some time since their wedding and as Moana had now become pregnant for the first time it was good time to visit well before the baby arrived.

As expected the journey to Big River was uneventful and when they reached the shore of the tidal river they made their presence known and asked to taken to the head man. Ahuahu greeted the chief in the traditional fashion and advised that they were travelling to Agate Hills much further south and indicated that his chief’s son Paikea and his Moana his wife were visiting relatives there. The chief nodded glumly but bade them rest awhile while they spoke of the seasons and of fishing. Immediately Ahuahu realised there was more to this than social chit chat. He nodded his head and indicated that perhaps they had come too quickly for Moana and that a short rest would be appropriate. At this Moana raised her eyebrows in disbelief that Ahuahu should think that but realising it was ploy to talk a bit agreed that a rest would be good and kept quiet.

It was not long before the chief got round to talking to the two men about what really concerned him. It was of course the pakeha, who had made a number of landfalls near their estuary and had boldly camped and tried to trade with them.

“Ahuahu, this is not a good sign. Each year we see more of these pig men visiting us and stealing our crops and even our women. Has this not happened at Black Sands?”

Ahuahu shook his head. “It is to our advantage that our waters are treacherous for large boats. You have a safe harbour and I know they have been here before. Many years ago I visited you and there were signs even then, but your men at the estuary were not keen to tell us of them.”

The chief nodded. “You probably guessed then that all those years ago we killed a few but they are very strong with their muskets and slashing swords. Their boats are so huge they could sail in any weather. I fear they will always return.”

Ahuahu nodded “The wheels of life keep turning. We ourselves came many years ago, and now they see that this is a fine land to settle in too.” He paused and then said quietly, “They are ugly and smell. The only good things they brought were the pigs they left behind…but we ate all the ones we found!”

The chief laughed. “Yes they did not last long. They must have known we needed fattening up. We guessed they would return when they set them loose.”

Ahuahu laughed in turn but then was serious. “I think we should get the council of Chiefs to discuss this. It would be better to have a united front against the pakeha rather fight among ourselves. They would surely want to dissuade them from occupying this stretch of coast.”

The chief shook his head sadly, “Have you not heard there are many already trading with the pakeha. He bent his head over and whispered “It is said they are trading their weapons for supplies.”

Ahuahu had heard but he would not confirm it as he thought that the men from Big River would also do so given half the chance if they did not do it already. “Unless their boats are stranded on our beach we will never see them. A party was sighted on our beach many years ago but apart from scaring us off with their muskets we have not seen them again at Black Sands.”

The chief nodded then turned to Paikea. “How is it you are travelling today and not enjoying your wife at home?” He slapped Paikea on the arm. Paikea at first lost for words, eventually blurted out,”I thought she needed a rest.” The chief roared with laughter and nodded his head to Moana who was sitting with the women and she demurely nodded a reply.

“Your father chose well, Paikea.” Then turning to Ahuahu said, “I will get my men to take you across the river. You may need the rest of the day to reach the Greenstone settlement.”  He nodded at Paikea to fetch Moana and then said while he was alone with Ahuahu. “I heard you were the one that dealt with Rocky Outcrop all those years ago to settle boundaries. Do you think they are trustworthy?”

“Luckily they do not bother us. But let us discuss it in a few days when we return, but I fear there will be some that will think more of the pakeha’s gifts than the blood of our people.”

“Ahuahu, blood will always be spilt.”

After they had rested they were ferried across the river to continue their journey. Ahuahu glanced at Paikea and secretly willed him to note all that he saw.


  1. What an ending..wherever we are and whatever era i guess social chit-chat is always the icing....i love Moana..she is plucky but wise..they make a good pair..jae

  2. the wheel of life keeps on turning. absolutely love how you use this line. it embraces all generations involve in the story. looks like next chapter is a cliffhanger

  3. I'm really starting to enjoy catching up on all the old episodes as well as reading the new ones. Probably by next Sunday I'll have finished all your chapters. Great one this time too.

  4. I like the fact that there is no slacking off of the story line in this series - which means, I hope, that you have plenty more up your sleeve yet. Each episode leaves one waiting for the next.

  5. I like the way you weave the surface talk with the real meanings underneath. Even if we didn't know that all of this would end badly, the signs would be clear.

  6. This story is so true to human nature, much of what we do is deeper undertones above the lightness of everyday interaction. In all generations there is a wariness of what is to come that cannot be prevented. Another great chapter in this saga, Old Egg!

  7. "Big wheel keep on turnin," that wheel of life. The coming revolution will not be started by the island people, in indigenous, but by greedy Eurocentric men who want to have all they can get. So apropos for the prompt. Great, Robin! Peace, Amy

  8. Their world is filling with political intrigue. I hope Paikea will be up to dealing with it.

  9. Yes, Darling, blood will always be spilt.