Saturday, 6 April 2013

The winds of change (No. 92)

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)

Tiemi the botanist who had come to record the plants that grew in the Black Sands area had come to the end of his work. He had been treated with respect but despite this Ahuahu’s family had made it clear to him how much the land meant to the Maori people. No matter what he said about the wonderful things the pakeha could do for them they were stubborn in their attachment to their traditional way of life. He knew that hundreds possibly thousands of new settlers would spread out through New Zealand as his people called their land over the next few years and it would change regardless of the Maori people whether they fought the intruders as many communities in the north island did or quietly tried to hang on to their own way of life as they did here at Black Springs. Ahuahu wondered whether his attitude had changed in the weeks he had been here and whether it was Houhia that was the cause. She was strong and outspoken unlike any woman or girl he had ever known even in his home country Britain. Even though he had clearly upset her and Hinewai he still looked at her with affection…and she knew that he did. After writing up his daily record for the last time he spoke to Ahuahu.

“My work here is finished, Ahuahu. I want to thank you for letting me visit you and to see your land. As we are alone may I talk to you in confidence?”

Ahuahu nodded but then said “What if there are words you speak that I do not understand would it not be best to have Hinewai or Houhia here to listen too?”

“Not Hinewai, she is too eager to use her dagger. Better it be Houhia as she will only cut me with her words which are sharper than any knife.”

Ahuahu laughed. “She is very proud and will fiercely defend our land, you are lucky her words are her weapons.”

Houhia was called in and she tried unsuccessfully not to look at Tiemi.

So Tiemi began to speak. “Ahuahu, each year there are hundreds of pakeha coming to your country to settle and to farm in their own way. Whether you do nothing or whether you fight like so many other villages do is not my concern. There will soon be more pakeha than Maori and they will govern the land. Our chiefs will be your chiefs our ways will become your ways. Already there are many Maori that work for us and many live in the settlements we have established. When I return and report on the land here and the plants and any crops that could be grown very few will be encouraged to come. The hot springs and the black sand beach and the poor soils will not attract settlers. My report that will be seen by the pakeha governor of the colony  who may well discourage settlement here and as far north as Gannet Island.”

“You have not mentioned Rocky Outcrop, Tiemi,” said both Houhia and Ahuahu together. Ahuahu then said “Our families are linked and we work together and share our land.”

“Some white men have already found gold there a few miles from the coast,” answered Tiemi.

“So what will happen to us then?”

“I expect you will be left alone as you are some way from the roadway north to the main city we have established at Auckland. Already the authorities know you are not aggressive to the white man”. He paused here to say with a smile “Except Hinewai perhaps. You will be allowed to continue your traditional way of life.”

At this “Houhia smiled and said “Thankyou Tiemi.”

“Please do not thank me, Houhia. What it will mean if you do not integrate is that you will be isolated and it will be hard for you to survive. For hundreds of years you have traded what you need to exist with other communities. These soon will be few and you will need pakeha money to buy goods or trade what you do have with us. Even your own people will want money before they give you what you want. The richness of your life will disappear as even your neighbours will want payment for the timber you need for building, or the agate for the jewellery, or the fruit you cannot grow here.” Tiemi paused. “Your fishing grounds feed you but it is not sufficient for your neighbours too. You are surrounded by the pakeha. Your young men will leave for the pakeha towns to earn money but they will spend it there and not bring it back home. One day perhaps things may change but there are hard times ahead for you if you want to retain your traditional way of life.”

Ahuahu nodded, “I hear you Tiemi. I thank you for being honest with us. I will discuss this with the village council.” He then turned to Houhia “Houhia, you will discuss this with no one, yet.”

Houhia nodded and tears formed in her eyes.

Tiemi then said, “I want to thank you for letting me stay here Ahuahu.” He then brought out a purse and placed it in front of Ahuahu. Here is some pakeha money that I offer to you for your hospitality to me. I am sure that Hinewai can explain what each piece is worth.”

He then turned to Houhia, “You will see many changes in your lifetime Houhia. Try to make use of them and do not fight everything we do. Remember one day when we are at peace you may even say that you have learnt from us too.”

Houhia kept her head bowed as he talked to her. She just whispered, “And if we ever need to speak to you, where can we find you?”

Tiemi took out a card with writing printed on it “This says, James Harcourt, Botanist on it. You will find me in Auckland.” He then turned to Ahuahu to say goodbye and bent down and rubbed noses with him then turned back to do the same with Houhia but she had already slipped out the room.

Houhia had gone to her sleeping quarters and lay down looking at the card whose writing she couldn’t understand and she cried. She cried more than she had when she had her tattoo done. She had lost something today that was very precious but she had found something too that she thought was hope. She didn’t know which one she really wanted or if they were both the same thing as they both hurt.


Authors note.

In 1840 when the treaty of Waitangi was signed by many chiefs to establish peace, most of the North Island of New Zealand was in Maori ownership. A few years later most of that land had been bartered, mistakenly sold or stolen from the original occupants by the pakeha settlers. I like to think that the small strip of land with the Black Sands settlement on and their hot springs was but a few that remained in Maori control along with Gannet Island. It was many decades before some of the stolen land was returned to their rightful Maori owner’s descendants.

At the early census to count both the pakeha and the Maori inhabitants plural marriages were frowned upon and such families were often ignored and not counted. Luckily Hatiti was told to say she was a widow with two children under the protection of the village chief. Ahu agreed that she would allow Hatiti to sleep with Ahuahu for a whole month for denying that he was her husband to the pakeha. As Ahuahu’s son Tangaroa had married Hatiti’s daughter Horowai many years ago the pakeha did not query the arrangement as they knew the Maori punished incestuous relationships.

This is the last chapter that will appear about the inhabitants of Black Sands as a regular serial. Occasional stories of their lives will appear at intervals if the prompt fits and provided they are still talking to me!


  1. I love "You are lucky her words are her weapons."

  2. This has been a brilliant historical/romantic series, which you obviously researched thoroughly.

    It is a shame it has to finish, but we hope you will return from time to time with an update episode.

    Consistently well done throughout.

  3. Another great read, oldegg. I agree with the comment above. Shame it is over...or is it?

  4. Such a touching last paragraph..loss and gain are never clear cut..but in time she will know the symbols on the card as well as her tattoos..perhaps they will mean as much as each other..

  5. you have put a lot of time and effort into this saga and it is a tale worth reading. I hope that some day you will be able to publish it as a book...It has great value and should be available for future generations to read so as to better understand that part of history.

  6. The last one? Whaaaaaaah.

    Well, at least there's hope - much like for Houhia - for something in the future. At least now and then.

    This ending was really well done. Thanks.

  7. Stop crying Alice, I shall use the Serialists site to post any news!

  8. What an amazing journey you took us all on. I'll really miss it - my weeks won't be the same without it.

  9. This has been a rich serial! When will it come out in book form?

  10. An amazing story again Oldegg!
    ( Keith's Ramblings grandson)