Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Tiemi returns (No. 106)

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 this.”

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 eat.

After the meal Ahuahu said to Tiemi. “Do you wish to speak to Houhia first so that she understands why you have come back here?”

“Does she not want me anymore?”

“Go, show her the horse, she may not like it or you.”

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 walk together.

“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, Houhia.”

“Have you asked Ahuahu?”

“You know I have.”

“I cannot be a pakeha wife, Tiemi. I want to live here.”

“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 for me?”

“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 Tiemi.

“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 welcome.”

“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 making love.”

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.




  1. It's interesting to see them move into the details of how this cross-cultural relationship is really going to work. I hope it doesn't lead to trouble.

    1. I am not sure either! However many deals made 150 years ago turned very sour and traditional ownership was lost in the majority of cases and only a little has been restored to the rightful owners descendants to this day. With regard to personal relationships I am sure Tiemi and Houhia will get on fine.