Saturday, 9 March 2013

Houhia and the pakeha botanist (No. 88)

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

After Hoku’s and Aotea’s wedding at Rocky Outcrop, Hoku came back to live with Aotea at Black Sands. The plan was that they would eventually re-establish the village of Gannet Island which had remained largely deserted for years except as a base for the men from Rocky Outcrop to fish in the rich waters around the island. However the fishing there was shared between Rocky Outcrop and Black Sands now that the villages two head men had children that were married.
Hoku wasn’t sure that she wanted to go to Gannet Island as she wanted to stay with Aotea and his family at Black Sands. She loved them all. She had never experienced such a free life in a family that had so much love between them. However Ahuahu explained that it was their idea to try to preserve the country there from being taken of by the pakeha.
“We are lucky” he said, “The road from Big River misses us so we are cut off and ignored. We must be sure to use all the land that is ours so the white man does not come and steal it just by giving us some of their coins. That is just a trick to say the land belongs to them then.”
So the village was Gannet Island village was rebuilt and the remaining people from Fern Gully were invited to join the settlers from Black Sands and Rocky Outcrop to establish an effective and self sufficient community. The existing meeting house was repaired, new homes were built and safe storage for the fishing canoes was arranged in the wooded area clear of the high tide mark. It became a popular meeting place for the villagers from the villages to the north and south and soon the fish drying racks were full again.
Ahu and Houhia used to travel up to Gannet Island regularly. Although they went to visit Hoku and Aotea they also went through the forest to collect herbs and plants and Ahu taught Houhia all about their use for medicine. It was not long before Houhia went by herself into the forest with her bag slung over her shoulder and like Ahu before her she would relish her time in the forest talking to the trees and observing the wildlife there. One day on her way back to Black Sands she heard a noise in the forest. Her first instinct was to sit down and keep very still, listen and keep her eyes open wide to see what it was. She had heard the old stories of the pigs that had been set free many years ago by the pakeha and thought it may be one of them. She waited in silence hoping for whatever it was to go away.
Suddenly she heard a movement behind her. A man laughed “I thought that there was someone else in the woods here with me.” He said in pakeha talk. Immediately Houhia reached for her knife and spun round to see a young pakeha man with a floppy hat and like her had a satchel over his shoulder and stick in his hand.
“This is Maori land pakeha. You are not welcome without the approval of the head man,” she said.
The pakeha nodded his head. “I understand, but I have permission from the governor of the colony to record the wild life in this area.”
“This is the land that belongs to the villages of Black Sands and Gannet Island and as far as Rocky Outcrop, stranger.”
“All I am doing is noting what plants and animals and insects are here and what trees grow well. See, I have taken specimens.” With this he opened his satchel and showed his collection of samples.”
“Why would they want to go with you, you cannot use them, they belong here in the forest,” protested Houhia.
“Don’t you use the bark and the leaves and the flowers in your medicine? Some of the birds and the insects here we have never seen before, may we not look at them too to see if they can help us as they help you?”  At this he paused, “My name is Tiemi.”
“Good, that sounds better than James, I know a little of your language pakeha…Tiemi,” She smiled a small smile. “Do you want to see the head man’s son he is living over that way.” She pointed towards The Gannet Island settlement.
“Should I, now that I have spoken to you?” Tiemi smiled at her “All I am doing is seeing what lives and grows here.”
Houhia became serious “Don’t you realise Pakeha, your footprints on our land is just like kicking us, crushing us, hurting us?”
Tiemi looked at her, at her proud face and her brown arms and the way her toes wriggled slightly when she talked to him in anger. He particularly liked the way she was so strong and not afraid of him but he knew that she probably had a weapon and would kill him if he dared touch her.
Houhia knew she was being looked at but said nothing; she liked the way he looked. His face was kind not cruel, so she lowered her eyes lest he notice.
“What is your name?”
“My name is Houhia, daughter of Ahu, the headman a Black Sands,” she said staring at him again. “You should have spoken to him first before coming here.”
“I know. Yes, that is the name I was given but I was tempted to enter the forest first.” Tiemi paused then asked her, “What do you have in your bag?”
Houhia laughed outright. “You know you have done wrong, but now you want to see the herbs I have collected for our medicine. You are brave pakeha; my knife is itching to enter you. I do not know why, but I like you. We will walk back to Black Sands now and I will tell you what I have collected and then you can ask permission of my father to visit the forest. I will say you asked me first.” She then smiled a little shy smile at him.
“If I tell you that I think you are beautiful Houhia, you won’t kill me will you.”
“No, not today Tiemi,” she said blushing,” But be careful there are many others that may.” 

Tiemi - James, Jimmy (borrowed word)


  1. Can there be a good outsider who will not use his friendship to exploit the people and their land? I am fearful despite his friendliness and charm. Even if his intent is not to do harm, those to whom he answers surely plan otherwise. History has told us that such things never turn out well for indigenous people. Another intriguing episode, Old Egg!

  2. A woman in control of the situation is always to be respected. Re-building requires care and attention..

  3. not today, that's a great end to a chapter

  4. You are such a good writer. I've missed reading your stories. I know you've been writing these for a while but this is the first one that I've read.

    I think that this is full of suspense. I do not trust this outsider but the two of them seem drawn to each other. I hope that you will continue and show us what happens.

    Excellent, excellent writing!

  5. I suspect we have a love affair blossoming but I'll have to wait and see..this story fits well for the prompt...these people had to use their intincts to survive.

  6. your footprints on our land is just like kicking us, crushing us, hurting us?”I love how she puts this I hope Tiemi doesn't betray her trust.

  7. "No, not today." LOL. I love it. But she makes them sound so much more bloodthirsty than you have shown them to be.

    He has the appealing curiosity of a young scientist.

  8. You are playing with our minds! haha!

    I think trust is precious but sometimes you need to doubt, or follow your instinct. Whew!