Sunday, 30 December 2012

The New Priest (No. 78)

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.) 

Black Sands heard no more of Pastor John with his defiant attitude and of him wanting to talk to the people in their village. However a month or two after his visit another priest from Big River called in to pay his respects to Ahuahu.

The man who was quite old and grey was taken to Ahuahu and approached him respectfully by removing some clothing and his shoes and walked up to Ahuahu from the side rather that in front of him and knelt down. Ahuahu nodded and asked him to sit down by his side. Ahuahu offered him some refreshment and Hatiti brought him water and some fruit to eat.

“You have not been here before priest. I am Ahuahu headman of this village. Did you want to see the village and its hot springs?”

The old man grinned, “No, Ahuahu, I have heard much about the hot springs and the many visitors you have here. There is a lot of talk about the place both by your Maori neighbours and by the pakeha that have been here too. I do not need to know any more now; later perhaps. I have another reason to visit you.”

Ahuahu nodded, “Tell me the purpose of your visit then, priest.”

The old man, smiled “Call me Rapata, my pakeha name is Robert but it is not a word it easy for you to say, so in Maori it is pronounced ra-pa-ta.”  

Ahuahu laughed “We had another priest here we did not like saying his name which was John. It did not sit well on our tongues.”

Rapata laughed as well “He knew his name was Teone or Hoani here but would not use them. Yes, I know this man.”

“Have you come to ask for what he wanted?”

Rapata laughed again and slapped Ahuahu on the shoulder. “No Ahuahu, I come with much more important request.”

Ahuahu was amazed this man was acting just as though he were a Maori himself, respectful, laughing a lot, slapping in a friendly way and apparently telling the truth.”

“I will hear you, Rapata.”

“Good, Ahuahu. I have been told you care for the Ngerengere people in the foothills. Is that the case?”

“Yes, it was agreed many years ago that when the boundaries of our land were settled with our neighbours we would be responsible to provide food and clothing for the ngerengere people there. Our women have always visited them and tell them what is happening in the world outside.”

“Good, good, Ahuahu. We would like to help you do this. Would you agree to our church setting up a mission to help these people to live their lives in peace and safety with pakeha workers caring for them and tending them especially if they are sick and dying? We have people that are experienced in this a work and may be able to relieve their suffering and make their lives more fulfilled. Did you know many ngerengere often hurt themselves because they cannot feel the cuts and breaks they do to themselves? So they have missing fingers and toes and wounds that do not heal.”

“You should talk to my wife Ahu. She goes regularly as do other women from this village. They can take you but first this must be discussed with the village council. Will you stay the night and visit the ngerengere another day? They may be frightened of you as you may be the first pakeha they have seen so someone from the village must be with you at all times.”

“I will stay here until you give me permission to go there Ahuahu.”

“Just why would you do this for them, Rapata?”

“Ahuahu, there is a lot more that the pakeha can do for the Maori people. It is not just us saying you must do this or do that. It is also showing what we can do for you. You may like us better if you see that we can give you something without taking anything from you.”

“I want to believe you Rapata, but one pakeha that is good still leaves hundreds that are bad. However let us see what the village council think tomorrow. Tonight you may talk to Ahu and Hatiti with me; their two heads may be wiser than my one. The children however will stare at you as though you are a sea monster.”

With that both men laughed together.

“We will not need the woman that can speak English then, Ahuahu?”

“Hinewai?  She does not live here but in a village in the forest.” Ahuahu pointed to the hills to the west. ”You speak our language very well so we will all be able to understand you.”

“One day, I will meet her perhaps.”

“One day, perhaps, Rapata. She, like many of us has a heavy load to bear.”

“Most of us do, Ahuahu, most of us do.”


  1. A move in the right direction by the rapeha,perhaps; or is it the start of another 'white man's' con?

  2. Sorry! For 'rapeha' -read, 'pakeha'. Careless, Leigh!!

  3. Good to be back in Black Sands..and a nice breeze blowing through..of course it is an intrusion of sorts but there seems to be a common ground..we do indeed have our own little backpacks of woe to heft through life wherever we may be..happy new year to you..long may there be scribbles..jae

  4. I've missed a few episodes, but I am hoping this priest is on the right track. I don't trust him yet, though. He must prove himself.

  5. This one seems nice enough. I hope he really is helpful, and not just trying to slip in to give last rights.