Prof. Friedrich Ratzel

The Races of Oceania

The Races of the Pacific and Their Migrations

The New Zealanders' songs

Agreement of customs in Polynesia

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The New Zealanders' songs


The songs of the New Zealanders tell us even now the reason for their emigration and their farther wandering. A chief by the name of Ngahue was driven to flight by a civil war which devastated Hawaiki. After a long journey he reached New Zealand and returned to Hawaiki with pieces of greenstone and the bones of a giant bird. Other legends give him the name Kupe - the weaker party in the war that was still going on among the islanders migrated to New Zealand with him. The tradition still preserves the names of the double canoes in which the voyage was accomplished. The legend still recalls how the seeds of sweet potatoes, taro, gourds, karaka berries, dogs, parrots, and rats, and sacred red paint were put on board the canoes, and how, as the emigrant's fleet departed, an old chief exhorted to peace.

Nor is the storm forgotten which got up in the night and scattered the fleet, nor the doubt whether they should steer east or west, nor the little quarrels which arose among the crews of individual canoes chiefly on account of the women. The canoes were repaired on islands as they went along. Finally, what was left of the wanderers reached New Zealand in the summer time, and even before the chiefs had decided on the place to land, certain families landed where pleasant bays smiled upon them, all in the North Island. It was not till later that the Middle and South Islands received their population. Even to this day the north is called the Lower and the south the Upper Island.

Carved boat from New Zealand

Carved boat from New Zealand; actual length 8 ft. 2 in. (Berlin Museum of Ethnology.)

[Click on picture for higher resolution]

The various tribal groups trace their origin to their canoes, the names of which they have preserved, and equally the names of the chiefs and the exact spot where the canoe landed. One canoe sailed round the North Cape, another made its way through Cook's Straits; these two brought the first settlers to the west coast. Wharekauri or Chatham Island, some sixty nautical miles distant from New Zealand [actually over 500 miles - Ed], must have been peopled at the same time.

Agreement of customs in Polynesia

A second starting-point is indicated by tradition in the Tonga or Friendly Islands. The inhabitants of Nukahiva in the Marquesas make their forefathers come with bread-fruit and sugar-cane from Vavau in the Tonga Archipelago. But among the inhabitants of the southern part of that archipelago the Hawaiki legend appears again, although language and customs rather point to Tahiti. In this connection we may remember that in Raiatea also there was once a locality designated Hawaii. The Hawaii or Sandwich Islands offer the same difficulty. Language and customs connect their inhabitants with Tahiti to which, as also to the Marquesas, Hawaiian travel myths point.

On the other hand, place names show a lively recollection of the Samoa group. Tahiti seems to have sent forth emigrants to Hawaii, Nukahiva, Rarotonga; yet the explicit tradition of the Rarotongans makes their island to have been settled almost simultaneously from Samoa and Tahiti. But then from Rarotonga again came the colonists for the Gambier and Austral Islands, with Rapa, and also a part of those who made the great journey to New Zealand.

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