A story of Ahu and Ahuahu and their family in a Maori village in Aotearoa during European settlement of New
Zealand. (Click on Ahu in
the labels bar for previous posts)
It was some weeks before Tiemi returned to
Black Sands but when he did he was driving a horse and cart which was loaded up
with tools and equipment. Many of the children and a number of adults rushed
out to see him and to look at the horse that they had heard of before but few
had seen up close. It was not a soldiers or gentleman’s horse for riding but a
sturdy beast for working.
He left the horse and the wagon tied to a
tree with a nose bag filled with hay and went in to see Ahuahu. Ahuahu smiled
at him “So you have finally made up your mind. We will now have to see if
Houhia has changed hers.”
Tiemi looked crestfallen. He knew he had been
away some time but he had to find out whether by marrying Houhia the land could
be bequeathed by her to any children they had or if the law of the British
settlers would override the Maori custom of ownership by women. He hoped that
she had not been talked out of marrying him. However Ahuahu was smiling.
“I need to speak to you Ahuahu. The situation
with our people is a bit complex. Perhaps it might be best for me to unharness
the horse and then and provide shelter for him and then we can sit and discuss
The cart was moved to the back of Ahuahu’s
whare and for most of the rest of the day an enclosure was made for the horse
with fodder and water to prevent it from wandering off. When they had finished
with the help of Rauora and Houhia they went inside the whare to sit down and
After the meal Ahuahu said to Tiemi. “Do you
wish to speak to Houhia first so that she understands why you have come back
“Does she not want me anymore?”
“Go, show her the horse, she may not like it
Finally he understood that he was to ask her
to marry him formally even though he had already asked Ahuahu and had an
understanding with Houhia. So he glanced at Houhia and suggested they go for a
“Do not go far.” Ahu called out and Houhia
turned and nodded at her mother.
When they had walked a little way and
approached the horse munching at his feed Houhia asked him. “Do you wish to
talk to me?”
Tiemi was puzzled. “I want to marry you,
“Have you asked Ahuahu?”
“You know I have.”
“I cannot be a pakeha wife, Tiemi. I want to
“That is why I have brought the horse and implements
and some building material. Did not Ahuahu tell you?”
“Is that a present for my family in exchange
“No, I am to farm the land adjoining the
pakeha road between Big River and Auckland.
Surely you have been told this.”
“Tiemi, you must tell me. Tell me where we
will live, what whare I will live in. You must tell me if you want me dress
like a pakeha and turn me into one of them.”
“If you want to wear pakeha clothes you may
wear them, but not if you do not want to do so.”
“Hinewai has told me that pakeha men kiss a
woman’s lips. We do not do this. How can I sing to you if you cover my mouth? I
cannot tell you where you should touch me if my lips cannot open,” she teased shyly.
“There is so much for me to learn,” moaned
“There is much for both of us to learn. Tell
me about the horse. It is very smelly isn’t it?”
“We will keep it some distance from our
house… I mean our whare. We can build a shelter for it to sleep in at night and
have a paddock for it to run around in during the day when it is not working.”
Tiemi paused then asked “How may I touch you then Houhia.”
She reached up and rubbed noses with him.
“This is a hongi, a greeting of friendship between us and all our relatives and
friends. It is polite to do this with visiting guests so they may feel
“How else may I touch you?”
Houhia smiled shyly, “When we are married you
can touch me anywhere but Hinewai has told me pakeha men think too much of women’s
breasts. They are important for the children we have but not necessarily for
Tiemi coloured up and Houhia squealed with laughter
and said, “Rauora said you had a red face, you have one now.”
“Why are you willing to marry me Houhia when
there are so many differences between us?”
“We have the same interest in the plants and
the land, you are gentle but determined. I could see the love in your eyes for me
despite the differences between us right from the moment we first met. I know
you want to wrap me up in your arms and will protect me from any danger.”
Tiemi reached over and touched her face
tenderly stroked her hair and fondled her ears. She touched his face in return
and said “We can tell each other what we like and perhaps one day you may even
kiss my lips…if you rub my body with oil.”
Tiemi knew then that she definitely was the wife
for him as he couldn’t imagine a girl from England saying those words with her
eyes looking directly at him.
Later discussing the land he was to rent he told Ahuahu that he had been advised to not to exchange money but to rent the land from Ahuahu at a peppercorn each year.
"What is that?" asked Ahuahu.
"Nothing." Tiemi replied. "The land is in your ownership and because Houhia will be my wife I give you nothing but share the produce with you and my extended family on the understanding that the land becomes Houhia's when you die. It is written on this piece of paper."
"How do I know this is what is agreed?"
"We will get Hinewai to witness the paper and explain the words to you so that you can make your mark to agree the lease."
Ahuahu nodded then said "We will walk around the bounds of my land so there is no mistaking it for land that is not mine."
"A government official will survey the land that will be leased using the markers on the road" replied Tiemi.
Ahuahu nodded, praying to the gods that they would not be cheated.