Volume 14 1905 > Volume 14, No.3, September 1905 > The canoe of Maui, from Ira Herewini, by J. Cowan, p 161-162
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- 161

THE expression “Te Waka-a-Maui” (“the Canoe of Maui”), as an ancient name for the South Island of New Zealand, is still occasionally heard from the lips of the old people of the Ngai-Tahu tribe. The notion that it was from the South Island that Maui fished up the North Island (“Te Ika-a-Maui”—“The Fish of Maui”) is, however, a purely Southern concept; it would be hard to convince a Northern Maori of the superior antiquity of the Greenstone Land. “Te Taumanu-o-te-waka-a-Maui” (“The Thwart of the Canoe of Maui”)—on which Maui stood when hauling up his land-fish—is said by the Ngai-Tahu to be the ancient name of a place in the neighbourhood of Kaikoura.

The classic name “Te Waka-a-Maui” is mentioned in the following famous song, which was sung as a mata or prophecy, by a tohunga named Kukurangi, of the Ngati Awa, tribe, at Waikanae, just prior to Te Rauparaha's second and successful raid on Kaiapohia Pa, Canterbury, about 1830. Standing in the marae in the midst of the assembled warriors, and pointing towards the mountain-cape of Omere that jutted into the Sea of Raukawa (Cook Strait), the seer chanted these words:—

“He aha te hau e pa mai nei?
He uru, he tonga, he parara.
Ko nga hau tangi rua-e!
E tu ki te rae o Omere ra
Ka kite koe, e 'Raha
I te ahi papakura ki Kaiapohia.
Ma te ihu waka, ma te ngakau hoe.
A ka taupoki te riu
O te Waka-a-Maui
Ki raro ra!
Tukitukia ha! Rerea ha! Kopekopea ha!
Taku pokaitara—puka
E tu ki te muriwai ki Waipara ra—
Ka whakapae te riri ki tua—ho-o-o!”
- 162
Translation. What wind is this that blows upon me?
The West? The South? 'Tis the Eastern breeze.
Stand on the brow of Omere1 hill
And you will see O 'Raha,
The glare of the blazing sky at Kaiapohia!
By the bow of the canoe, by the handle of the paddle.
The Canoe of Maui will be overturned
Below there!
Then paddle fiercely! Fly through the seas! Plunge
deep your paddles!
See my flock of seabirds
In the backwater at Waipara there!
Beyond that spot will rage the fight!

1  Omere is said to be the original native name of Cape Te Ra-whiti (Cook Strait). The name Te Ra-whiti (“The Rising Sun”), the general Maori term for the East Coast, was, through a misconception on the part of Cook's Tahitian interpreter, Tupaea, in conversing with the Maoris in 1770, set down by the circumnavigator as the name of this point.
[Omere is the point of land just outside and to the South of Ohariu, which people desirous of crossing Cook's Straits in former times used to ascend to see if the sea was smooth enough—hence the lines in the old song:—
Ka rou Omere ki waho,
He maunga tutainga aio.
Where Omere projects outside,
A spying place for calms.
Te Ra-whiti means simply “the East,” which Cook mistook for the name of the point, when asking its name of the Queen Charlotte Sound Natives.—Editor.]