Sunday, 25 November 2012

Hinewai and the pakeha (No 74)

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.)

The purpose of the young priest’s visit to Black Sands was to ask permission to speak to the people about his god in their village. Once again Ahuahu called on Hinewai to help translate the pakeha’s words. Ahuahu assembled his village council with Hinewai by his side and the priest next to her. The young man in black slowly explained, speaking in poor Maori, what his missionary society wanted him to do.

Everyone looked blank so Hinewai said, “He wants to come to talk to us about their gods and we can talk to them here,” started Hinewai; she then continued to translate the words he spoke.

“Does he not know that we have our own gods that look after us and who we thank for providing for us and punish us when they are angry? Does he not know that our gods are all around us; when we fish at sea, when we are in the forest and when are in our homes?” said one.

“When I am in danger at sea, I cannot come back to shore and pray to him here, I am just trying to stay alive,” said another.

“If I hurt myself cutting timber in the forest I cannot rush back to sit where you have talked to us for help. I have got to staunch the bleeding there.” said a third.

The young priest felt it was getting out of control and turned to Hinewai, “Please help me, Hinewai”

She spoke up “What he wants will not be a place to get your wound fixed or to find a better way over a reef. It is a meeting place where this priest can talk to us about his god and what this god can do for us. He says his god is with us always, wherever we are.”

Hinewai then whispered to the priest “Just what do you want to say? Are there no fishermen in your book?  If there are tell us about them.”

Pastor John looked at her in gratitude, “Do you know about the book Hinewai.”

“You do not want to know about me. Just tell them about the fishermen.”

As Pastor John stood up to address them Hinewai pulled him down to sit. “It is rude to stand and talk down to people” she said.

So he sat and started again. “There is a man in my book that was a fisherman and I want to tell you about him.” He then continued as they all settled down. “A long time ago, far away, a baby boy was born and when he grew up learned to be carpenter then later as he walked by the sea and talked to the fisherman there just as I am talking to you now, he said to them ‘Put down your nets come with me and I will make you fishers of men. That man was the son of God. That is who I want to tell you all about. He gathered those fishermen to work with him to tell all the people in that country of the God that loves them.”

This time, all the village council were listening to him properly as he spoke and after each sentence Hinewai would repeat it so they understood it fully.

“This powerful God gave his only son so that whoever believed in him should have everlasting life. Just like those fishermen I am trying to do that job too. I tell everyone of this man whose name is Ihu so that by believing in the father, the God of all, your lives and your family’s lives will be better and when you die you will meet this God in heaven.”

“But you are not a fisherman said one of the men. What are you?”

“No, I am not a fisherman but I was a carpenter so I can help to build a church in this village if you let me. And if I stay perhaps you can teach me to fish.”

“I will help you fish, pakeha,” said one of the council members.

“What else did this man do?” said another.

When the members of the council heard Hinewai repeat what he said; some nodded and others asked what one or other of the examples meant. Another one said “Normally I would spear the man that looks at my wife, should I just knock his teeth out now, is that forgiveness?” And the other men laughed.

Eventually Ahuahu got to his feet, “I think we have talked enough for today pakeha priest. We get so many visitors from far away to enjoy the hot springs. I would not want our traditional visitors to see the pakeha have taken over this village. Would it not be more appropriate to talk to the village people close to the sea which would remind people of what you have just told us, that it is all about being fishers of men? Think on this and we will consider your words.”

“You may call me Pastor John, Ahuahu. May I expect your answer soon?”

“Return in a week’s time to give the council time to discuss the matter among ourselves first. Hinewai will return then too to help us understand you.”

The meeting then broke up. Pastor John left the building and called out to Hinewai as she had already left, “Hinewai, thank you for helping me; why did you do that?”

“Ahuahu asked me to; and for no other reason. I have lived with your people and I hated every one of them. You always take more than you give.”

“I do not understand.”

“You want to build a pakeha building in this village. We do not want that. We know how to build dwellings and meeting houses and stores. You think you are helping us but you are hurting and killing us and harming our way of life. Our chief Ahuahu speaks to you because he welcomes most visitors here and is trying not to offend you. He will talk with you but will always expect you to cheat the Maori people, to take what does not belong to you. I would rather you went back and said that this village is not suitable.”  

“But I am not like those that hurt and cheat you. I want to show you the good things that you can have now we are here.”

“We had what we wanted before you came, Pakeha. We did not want your pigs, or metal axes or knives, or shiny mirrors. We do not like the way you smell, we do not like the way you drink rum and get violent. We do not like the guns you have brought and exchange them for land that does not belong to you so that we kill each other with them. And we especially do not like you abusing us because we are different from you. You do not respect our gods, or our land and you take our women and use them and sell them to each other.”

“No Hinewai we do not do those things. We are establishing law and order here.”

“You know nothing, priest. Your law is for you, not for us. You do not respect us, or our own law, our land or our sacred sites. I know priest because I was sold to the white man for their use in exchange for guns so that the men that sold me could fight other villages to control them. Why do you think I can speak to you in your language? It is because I had to learn it to understand what you say. You are just as guilty as the men that bought me.”

“Hinewai, I am sorry that you have been hurt, I will pray for you.”

Hinewai laughed “I can pray to my own gods. I will pray that a tidal wave comes and wrecks your boats and floods your buildings. I will pray that the smoking mountain will erupt again and burn you with lava and destroy you utterly and every dirty pakeha that ever touched and abused me.”

With that she walked away from him.

A week later Hinewai was sent for again while she and Hatiti were visiting Horowai at the Hot Springs so she returned to the main village. Again she helped Ahuahu speak to the pakeha priest.  Pastor John found it difficult to look at Hinewai who seemed unconcerned about their previous conversation. The village council took him down to the old village that had been flooded by the tidal wave many years before. The forest had reclaimed most of the area except for the path to the sea from the new village. Ahuahu pointed to a tree shaded area and said “This is where the village council will permit you to talk to our people.”

The priest looked toward the sea and could just see the line of blue over the dunes a short walk away and then he turned and looked back up to the village and could just see the smoke of the fires and hear the laughter of children further up the hill.

He nodded the asked “Who uses this path to the beach.”

“Everyone,” was the reply. “It is our main route to the beach.”

“Most of us have our boats stowed in the dunes there” said Ahuahu pointing over to the sea where the trees reached the beach.

“It is good here,” said Pastor John, “I would be happy to build a little church here.”

Ahuahu shook his head. “We do not agree to you building here but only that you may talk to the people that want to listen to you.”

“But I will build it with help. I told you I was a carpenter that works with wood.”

Ahuahu still shook his head. “You want to talk to the village people. They will be told you will talk to them here. But we have not agreed on a building.”

“Pakeha priest, you want more than what is offered,” said another member of the village council. Others were murmuring their dissatisfaction so Hinewai translated.

“They want to know if you want a building to sleep in and bring your wife or just to store food and weapons in,” translated Hinewai. “Ahuahu has agreed to you talking to the village people. That is not enough is it? You want more.”

“But in the towns like the port at Big River we have built a church building.”

“We can tell our people that they can visit you there then.”

“Why do you try to thwart me all the time, Hinewai?”

“What do you mean thwart? I do not know this word.”

“Why do you oppose me? I mean.”

Hinewai shook her head and shrugged. “The people will come and sit on the ground here and listen to you because Ahuahu will tell them you want to talk to them. He did not say you can build a pakeha town like Big River here.” With that she walked away from him.

“Hinewai, Hinewai, please come back.”

Hinewai hesitated, turned and went back.

“I knew a pakeha man once, priest” she said. “He insisted on reading me the bible after he had taken me. But at least he did not hit me. He knew he was doing wrong so he told me about his god to atone for using me. He must have liked me as he read to me a lot.”

Pastor John lowered his eyes as Hinewai continued.

“He told me about that son of God who talked to his friends by the sea and to the hundreds of people who wanted to hear him but it was always in the open air. Why can’t you be like that? This is our land not yours. You will not be satisfied until you stolen everything from us and killed us all. There is no difference between the men that used me and you. You are trying to take something from us that we do not want to give you.”

With that she turned away from him and went to Ahuahu. “I will not speak to the pakeha priest again. He will always try to cheat us. No pakeha will ever respect our ways.”

“I agree Hinewai, we have finished here. I will talk to him.” Ahuahu beckoned the priest.

“I have changed my mind priest, while you have been talking the spirits of our tupuna who died in this village years ago have spoken to me. They will not be happy if you speak here. This is their resting place they must not be disturbed. Find another village for your preaching.” Ahuahu then turned away.

Hinewai turned to the priest “Did you understand our chief, Pakeha?”

Pastor John nodded sadly. He had just lost something that had been given him freely. He just couldn’t understand these heathen people, they were so primitive. As soon as he heard the word tupuna he knew he had been beaten. How would he explain this to the elders?

Ihu - Jesus

Tupuna - Ancestors



  1. I can picture johns face so clearly with that last line..very clever..I wonder who to feel worried for the most..but think I know..Jae

  2. This segment of your story was exceptionally good, Old Egg. The subject of religious superiority and how it was used against the indigenous people of America is one that will forever haunt me. In your story you have well-described the dark undertones that come with such apparently kind-hearted sermons. The people were wise to be wary.

  3. What a shame John didn't learn something from this experience.

  4. Religion of Eurocentric people has often been used to make inroads with indigenous people. Looking down their noses at anything different and calling it "primitive" is the height of White Man hubris. Robin, this chapter is very strong - shows the willingness of Maoris to listen, etc., but as always, the pastor wants more. Great stuff! Amy

  5. Your stories are so great! Am really enjoying reading them.

  6. Go Hinewai! Standing O after that fine, collective recrimination. Father John may or may not be a dupe, but, either way, watch out when he reports back to his pakeha peeps!

    This just goes on getting better and better, Old Egg!


  7. And still, even when they have made eloquently clear to him exactly what is wrong, he can not think from their point of view at all. He must think of his position with the elders instead. How sad.

  8. It is a shame that Pastor John has proven himself such a bonehead! He blew a good opportunity by insisting on having things his own way. I especially liked it when Hinewai told him to sit down and stop talking down to people. It is a lesson many never learn! This is the best episode yet!

  9. I don't care how he explains it to his Elders. They won't be happy till they win and the "savages", the "heathens" are... saved.