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.)
As Ahuahu first predicted the pakeha did not
seem interested in the Black Sands village. They established themselves at the Big River
estuary and were clearly intending to stay as they built houses for themselves.
They built their fires for cooking inside their dwellings with bricks made from
clay and those villagers brave enough to spy on the pakeha’s settlement could
see smoke coming from the roofs of their dwellings hoping they were on fire.
Slowly the pakeha visited the neighbouring
Maori villages, wanting to trade their trinkets and tools for fresh fish,
vegetables and fruit.
Ahuahu was now head man and following the death
of the former chief he invited Hinewai to help him speak to the pakeha when
they came as she knew the language having lived with them for some time. Her
husband Torangi would not accompany her saying that he would kill any pakeha he
saw knowing how she had been used by them. She agreed to come but she would not
stay for more than a day or two at a time; staying sometimes with Hatiti and sometimes
with her father Kamaka and his second wife Hoata.
It was not long before the pakeha exploring
the area came upon the settlement at Black Sands. At first they were curious as
to the trade they could do. After the first two or three visits an arrangement
was made for a more important man to visit the village accompanied by a guard
of several pakeha with weapons. Ahuahu asked the visitor to enter the meeting
house with his supporters if he wished to talk but that the men with weapons
were to stay outside.
This was agreed to and they sat on the floor
facing Ahuahu who had Hinewai just behind him and other members of the village
council in the room as well. After the formal welcome Ahuahu said, “You have
come far from over the sea to make a camp at Big River.
What is the reason you have come here to our village?” Then Hinewai translated
“We come in peace and have come to create a
port for our ships at the river’s mouth. We will trade with you if you have
produce to barter until we can establish our own crops. We think this is a fine
land to farm to produce food and to graze our animals.”
Ahuahu nodded after the translation then
responded. “We are not like other villages. We fish and we grow our crops of
course but here we have special responsibilities to the wider community.” He
paused for Hinewai to translate for the man in uniform and then continued.
“Here we provide a special service for our
people and those from villages far away.” Here Ahuahu indicated with his hands
to the north, the east and to the south. “We have hot springs here that have a religious
significance that can be enjoyed by ourselves and our neighbours to achieve
good health. We are the custodians of these springs and welcome all who wish to
visit and follow our traditions.”
The pakeha chief nodded at the translation as
Ahuahu continued; “None but ceremonial weapons are permitted in our territory.
It is a sanctuary and a place of peace. All our adjoining neighbours have
agreed to the boundaries of our land which extends from the sea to the
foothills of the mountains where the ngerengere settlement is which we also
care for. There is a marker to the north and there is also one to the south. To
the west from these markers to the smoking mountains is our territory.” Once
again he paused to let Hinewai translate then after a nod from her that she had
finished he wound up with this statement.
“We are at peace with our Maori brothers; we
wish to be at peace with you too. It is under these conditions that you will be
The pakeha chief in uniform turned to his
aides and spoke with them. Then he turned back to Ahuahu.
“What do you mean by saying that this place
is of religious significance?”
Ahuahu took in the translation and replied, “The
land, the sea and the sky are all sacred to the Maori people. This place is
especially so for us as the gods of the earth show that they are close by. They
have given us the springs for healing and we have the responsibility to care
At this, the pakeha chief turned and
indicated to another of his party to join him. The man was dressed all in black
with a robe unlike the others of his party who were either in uniform or wore
loose fitting shirts and leggings.
Their heads were bent over in discussion and
after they had spoken the pakeha leader looked up and said that the man he was
speaking to was their holy man who could speak some Maori language and would
like to address the people.
Ahuahu looked directly at the pakeha chief
and said “Your holy man may speak with me and my people when I invite him. I
will send a message to the Big
River settlement when I
wish him to talk with us. But for the moment would you like to visit the Hot Springs with some of
The pakeha chief seemed a little bemused by
the rebuff to the black robed priest moderated by the complete turnaround in the
welcome to visit the rest of the village. So he too was put in a difficult
situation. Eventually he agreed that he and his aides would visit the springs
while the rest of his party could remain in the main village.
Ahuahu instructed his people to provide
refreshment for the visitors while he accompanied the pakeha chief to the
springs. As they approached the pools the white men reached into the sleeves of
their tunics to cover their noses with small cloths to mask the smell. They
were escorted around the pools and warned of the hot ones and were shown the
bathing pools where a few children were playing with their parents. Ahuahu
introduced Kaihutu’s father who was Hatiti’s former father-in-law to the pakeha
and got Hinewai to explain that this man’s family were the traditional
custodians and guardians of the springs that maintained them and were entitled
to the gifts received from the visitors. Finally they were escorted into the
great meeting hall there and were invited to sit and receive a formal greeting.
Ahuahu nodded to Kaihutu’s father who ceremoniously rubbed noses with pakeha
chief and his supporters telling them that they were welcome and hoped they would
return. All the while Hinewai translated as the white man spoke to Ahuahu.
Eventually the Pakeha chief indicated that they should leave and Ahuahu
escorted him and his party back to the main village where they exchanged gifts.
Soon after that the visitors decided to
return to Big River. When they were gone Ahuahu said. “Hinewai,
come and sit with me. Now tell me what else did you hear the other pakeha say?”
“They couldn’t quite make you out,” she said.
“They were shocked that you rebuffed their holy man as though he was not
important, yet you showed great respect to their chief by agreeing to send the
“His aides kept telling him that you were
peaceable and careful not to offend them, but you were clearly protective of
the traditional way of life here, and what you told them of the Black Sands
country confirmed what our neighbours had already told them.” Here Hinewai
paused. She chose her words carefully, “Although you rebuffed their holy man and
did it with dignity so as not to hurt his feelings he was very annoyed. He was
clearly expecting to get his own way. He uttered words like godless savages and
worshippers of the devil.”
Ahuahu thanked Hinewai and said. “I fear that
some will want to change the way we live. They do not look like visitors but
conquerors but it is not the ones with weapons that are the most dangerous. You
can look at a man with a weapon in his hand with respect, but the man in black
would never respect our way of life. These men will never retreat.” He then went on, “Hinewai your life has
been filled with sadness; you have been really hurt, misunderstood and abused.
For all that when you were able to tell me what the white men were saying, I
was so proud of you. You have turned what you have learned in your travels to
great use and from it given us an understanding of the pakeha. You are now welcome
to live here in Black Sands again.”
With that Hatiti entered and walked up to
Hinewai and hugged her and rubbed noses. “Come and see Horowai and Rauora” and
taking by her the hand pulled her away as Hinewai looked back at Ahuahu nodding