Volume 72 1963 > Volume 72, No. 1 > Maori and Pakeha, by Ormond Wilson, p 11-20
MAORI AND PAKEHA
IN THE FIRST VOLUME of the Journal of the Polynesian Society, in 1892, a discussion was opened by A. S. Atkinson on the development of meaning of the word ‘Maori’. This was followed by notes and articles in Vols. 2, 3 and 5. Much later, in Vol. 54, 1945, two further articles appeared, one by Sidney J. Baker, the other by E.H.S. Of Kawhia. Though there were some differences between the writers of the earlier articles, the general pattern of changing usage has now become clear. ‘Maori’ derives from a common Polynesian word signifying ordinary. The inflexion of meaning varies from translator to translator: ordinary, common, usual, normal, native, indigenous, have all been given, and perhaps it has meant all of these. After the arrival of Europeans it was used in association with tangata to distinguish the native people of New Zealand from the strangers. It was in this connection that W. L. Williams summarised its significance: tangata maori, he said, was an expression used by the Maori ‘to denote a man of the description to which they had always been accustomed’. 1
The name Maori was therefore originally an adjective. By the middle of the 19th century, while remaining an adjective, it also came to be used in isolation as a noun, signifying both a Maori person and the Maori language. I have recently come across a number of examples of the word during its period of transition which amplify and in some details correct what was written in previous articles in the J.P.S.
I am indebted to J. W. Davidson for noting, in an unpublished thesis, what is almost certainly the earliest recorded use of the word Maori in New Zealand. 2 In 1801, a number of missionaries travelled from Port Jackson to Tahiti in the Royal Admiral, calling at New Zealand on the way, and spending some two months in the Hauraki Gulf. The missionaries kept a joint journal, and at the end of their stay in New Zealand they wrote a summary of their impressions. In almost the last sentence of this appears the phrase: ‘Tongata Mauri (New Zealanders)’. 3
The next appearance of the word, and the first printed one, is in the work of Thomas Kendall, the missionary, A Korao no New Zealand or, the New Zealander's First Book, printed in Sydney in 1815. This consists mainly of a vocabulary (arranged in a series of lessons) and a series of sentences. The odd thing is that Maori appears only in the sentences, not in the vocabulary, and is given two different meanings: on page 20, the sentence ‘Tara to whi maoude’ is translated as ‘Fetch some good water’, and on page 22, in a longer sentence of religious significance, ‘na tungata maoude’ is translated as ‘black men’.- 12
By 1820, however, in the Lee and Kendall Grammar and Vocabulary of the Language of New Zealand, Kendall had got the word right, or nearly so: ‘te tángata máodi’ appears on pages 97 and 102, translated respectively as ‘the people of their country’ and ‘the people of the land’. It makes its appearance in other phrases, and has its proper place in the vocabulary:
Máodi, a. Indigenous, native; as “E tángata máodi; A native man:” “Wai máodi; Native water:” “Kai máodi; Native victuals.” Also a proper name.
In his very detailed article in the J.P.S. In 1954, Sidney J. Baker says that after 1820 tangata maori ‘becomes increasingly rare in print, maori having become well established as a noun’. This is incorrect. J. S. Polack, who lived in New Zealand, mainly at Korarareka, from 1831 to 1837, quotes Maori speakers as using tangata maori; 4 Edward Markham, who visited Hokianga and the Bay of Islands in 1834 uses the term; 5 it appears in the Maori versions both of Busby's ‘Address to the Chiefs and People of New Zealand’ (1833) 6 and of the Treaty of Waitangi. It appears repeatedly from 1833 to 1887 in the titles listed in Williams' Bibliography of Printed Maori. (After 1851 only the plural form is used. The last entry is No. 739.) The first appearance in the Bibliography of the name Maori as a noun is No. 231 (1851), and the next No. 404 (1865). Thereafter, te Maori and nga Maori gradually supersede nga tangata Maori.
Baker quotes Markham's New Zealand or Recollections of It and W. B. Marshall's Narrative of Two Visits to New Zealand for early uses of Maori as a noun. He gives no page references, and I have been unable to find the word in Marshall, whose knowledge of the language was in any case very limited. Markham's work is a medley of diary entries, comments and interpolations, and provides a perfect illustration of the way in which the adjective maori became corrupted by Europeans into the name Maori. Markham normally writes of the people as ‘New Zealanders’ or ‘natives’, and uses a variety of expressions, such as ‘Kanger Mourie’ (kainga maori), in which maori appears as an adjective. But he also refers to the ‘Mourie language’ and the ‘Native Mourie Tongue’, and to a document as being translated ‘into Mourie’. When he writes of ‘Tangata Mouries’ the adjective has for all practical purposes been converted into a noun, and in a passage obviously added later he refers to ‘the Mouries’. 7
The earliest dated and unambiguous use of Maori in its modern sense that I have found is in the diary of an Akaroa whaler, Captain Hempleman, printed in The Piraki Log. Though he subsequently uses the terms ‘natives’ and ‘Newzealanders’, on 25 March 1836 he writes, ‘Mowries filling water, &c., &c.’ and on 20 April, ‘Mouries building a - 13 house’. Hempleman's log and Markham's journal seem to provide conclusive evidence that the modern use of the word Maori developed in the mid-thirties, and has its origin in popular and colloquial English usage. It seems likely therefore that when at a later date the word came to be used in this sense by Maoris in Maori, it had been borrowed from the English. 8 The early missionaries, with a better knowledge of the Maori language than people like Markham and Hempleman, did not use the word when writing in English, and only as an adjective when writing in Maori. In his article in the J.P.S. (Vol. 54), E.H.S. Quotes a communication from Dr. G. H. Scholefield who points to Colenso's use of the terms ‘in Native’ and ‘in Native language’ in 1835, and says that neither Marsden nor Archdeacon Brown use the word Maori. There is, I think, only one mention of it in The Early Journals of Henry Williams. On 16 December 1832, Williams recorded: ‘In the evening Warekaua a chief from the Thames came to me, with whom I had a long conversation; he pleaded hard for Missionaries to live in his neighbourhood, as they would never be ora by the Pakeha Maori, they would never obtain peace and quietness by means of the Traders who reside amongst them.’
This is possibly the earliest recorded example of a term which was probably in common colloquial use by both races, and which brings us up against the question of origin and meaning of pakeha—a most controversial matter, and one which quickly arose in the discussion in the early volumes of the J.P.S. on the word Maori. There can be little doubt that its first appearance is in Kendall's First Book. It appears there, in the form ‘Pakkahah’, in the sentence of religious instruction already referred to, where it is given the meaning of ‘white man’. Like Maori, it is omitted from the vocabulary.
In 1817, J. L. Nicholas, who travelled to New Zealand with Marsden in 1814-15, published his Voyage to New Zealand. In it he printed as an appendix ‘A Vocabulary of English and New Zealand Words’, and wrote, ‘The subjoined Vocabulary was compiled by Mr. Kendall, previously to my departure from New South Wales, at which place it has been printed by order of Mr. Marsden, . . .’ 9 though in fact Kendall's vocabulary as printed by Marsden differs in several respects from that printed by Nicholas. In particular, Nicholas, who frequently quotes the use of pakeha among the Ngapuhi in the Bay of Islands, gives the word a prominent position:
Packahâ A white man, (the flea is also called by this name, as they assert it to have been introduced into their country by Europeans—the turnip is likewise called packahâ from its whiteness).
In the Lee and Kendall Grammar, ‘pákeha’ appears (sometimes in juxtaposition to ‘tángata máodi’ in several sentences. In the vocabulary there is this entry: Pakéha, s. An European; a white man.- 14
The French explorer, Dumont d'Urville, who had a good knowledge of Maori and made constant use of the Grammar, noted in his journal for 6 February 1827, after two days' conversation with chiefs on the east coast, in the neighbourhood of Tolaga Bay: ‘The word pakeha is used by them to indicate any whites whom they also call Iouropi (Europeans).’ 10
In Earle's account of his visit to Kororareka in 1827 there is one reference to ‘packeahs (or white men)’. 11 The mention of ‘Pakeha Maori’ in the journal of Henry Williams in 1832 has already been noted. Polack introduces a somewhat different usage. In describing a marriage which he arranged between an Italian carpenter and his Maori concubine at Kororareka in 1833, he remarks—‘the marriage ceremony was duly performed by a member of the Church Missionary Society, and the lady made a wahine pakeha, or wife of a European.’ 12 Finally it may be noted that pakeha achieved official recognition in the translations of the Busby address already mentioned and of the Treaty of Waitangi.
In the various papers that have appeared in the J. P. S. a number of possible explanations of the term have been suggested. The most authoritative is perhaps that of W. L. Williams who said that pakeha ‘appears to be a shortened form of pakepakeha, which is another name for patupaiarehe . . .’ 13 The following year Hoani Nahe wrote: ‘The word Pakeha is derived from the “gods of the sea,” the names for which are: Atua, Tupua, Pakehakeha, Marakihau and Taewa;’ to which S. Percy Smith, who translated this article, added the footnote: ‘All these names have been applied to Europeans.’ The most detailed examination of the various possible origins is to be found in Baker's article in 1945. It would perhaps not be improper to quote from his New Zealand Slang what is in fact a summary of the material and arguments of this article:
‘The use of pakeha for a white man certainly dates from before 1815, and in an adjectival sense, pakeha Maori, pakeha customs, etc., to before 1840. How the word came into being is highly problematical. Briefly, the current theories may be given as follows:
I am personally in favour of the “flea” or “pig” explanations, but the only one I feel should be scouted entirely is the last. Unfortunately, like a good many things that appeal to popular imagination at the expense of common sense, it will probably die hardly.’ 14
What follow are some points which may suggest that support for the last explanation need not be wholly at the expense of common sense.
When in 1815 Kendall and Nicholas found the Ngapuhi using pakeha as meaning white man, a considerable number of the tribe, especially from the vicinity of the Bay of Islands, had acquired a smattering of English, and some spoke it fluently, as a result of contact with English and American sailors. In his book From Tasman to Marsden Robert McNab gives the names of more than sixty vessels which were known to have called at New Zealand anchorages between 1792 and 1815. The great majority of these were in northern waters, and the Bay of Islands was by far the most frequented harbour. Some of the vessels returned several times, and occasionally for prolonged periods.
In the course of these visits some hundred of Maoris, mainly Ngapuhi, had worked at felling and transporting logs under the direction of the ships' crews; a much greater number, probably running into thousands, had made contact with the ships by way of trade, while an unknown number of women had cohabited with the officers and men. But the closest ‘cultural’ contact was achieved by those who actually joined the ships' crews, or sailed overseas as passengers. The number of those who had, by 1815, lived with Europeans and returned home was probably upwards of a hundred, and may well have been twice that number. Though there were exceptional cases, the normal contact of the Maori who worked his way on whalers, and under the venturesome sea captains who experimented in shiploads of timber and flax, was with the tough and uneducated and brutalised sailors—‘depraved’, as Henry Williams so often commented, in their morals, licentious in their behaviour, and lurid in their speech. The Maori was a lively mimic, quick to pick up the manners of those he consorted with. He liked to imitate English words. Polack wrote in 1838, ‘The natives in every portion of the islands are anxious to speak the English language, and on hearing expressions from the lips of Europeans, they often repeat and treasure them up. I have several times been saluted by the people, on arriving at their settlements with “Haruru my poy, or How do you do, my boy,” . . .’ 15 Nicholas reported that ‘George’ of Whangaroa, who claimed responsibility for the Boyd massacre, greeted him with, ‘How do you do, my boy?’ 16 d'Urville recorded that Frenchmen in Otago - 16 were called Wiwi (‘Oui, oui’) or Yanapa (from ‘Y en a pas’), because these were expressions which they constantly used, and which tickled the Maori ear. 17 What more probable than that Englishmen were called pakeha because this was one of the commonest expressions in their language?
It is apparent that pakeha, pronounced paakehaa, is not an exact transliteration of an English word, as Wiwi and Yanapa are of the French expressions. There are, in fact, two traditions as to what the word represents. According to one, mentioned and rejected by Baker, pakeha represents the expletive ‘Bugger you!’ (no doubt commonly pronounced ‘Bugger yer!’). According to the other, implicitly supported by Edward Morris in his Austral English, it is simply a Maori form of ‘bugger’, a word ‘said to have been described by Dr. Johnson (though not in his dictionary), a “a term of endearment amongst sailors”.’ 18 Obviously there is now no possibility of determining which tradition is more likely to be correct other than on the basis of plausibility. An article in Vol. 44 of the J.P.S. by Bishop Herbert Williams is perhaps relevant. He drew attention to the unhappy transliteration of many English words, particularly those connected with the Bible and Christianity, by the missionaries and others. He added: ‘Sometimes the Maori made the word for himself, preserving some sort of rhythm in the process as . . . kapehu—compass, . . .’ 19 I have found no early reference to kapehu, but it is not improbable that it derives from the early years of the 19th century when Maoris served on whaling and trading vessels. The a of kapehu, like those of pakeha, is long. The vowel sounds of the English words ‘compass’ and ‘bugger’ are similar. It is therefore not impossible or illogical to suppose that as ‘compass’ was the original for kapehu, ‘bugger’ was the original for pakeha.
I find it significant that though it was common practice among the early missionaries to adopt such Maori words as karakia, korero, muru and tapu as part of their daily speech—or at least writing—they do not appear to have made use of pakeha. The first to do so, so far as I have discovered, was Richard Taylor, who did not arrive in New Zealand till 1839. 20 He may have been unaware of the reason why his colleagues avoided the term. And it should be noted, incidentally, that the reason for their preference for ‘New Zealander’ or ‘native’ as against ‘Maori’ would be a different one. They were speaking the New Zealand language to New Zealanders long before the adjective maori became converted into the name Maori by Europeans. But pakeha was in use by the Ngapuhi at the time of the first mission settlement in 1815. If the word had a respectable Maori origin there seems no reason why they should not have adopted it, along with other Maori words they found so useful.
The same considerations apply to its omission from Kendall's 1815 vocabulary, while appearing in the version printed by Nicholas, which - 17 he said was taken—and manifestly was taken—from Kendall's MS. Presumably Nicholas added the word which he had heard so often. But Kendall had a far better knowledge of Maori than Nicholas, so how did it come about that he omitted this word from the vocabulary? (He had also omitted maori, but clearly he had not yet properly understood its meaning; about pakeha there could be no doubt, as Nicholas repeatedly makes clear.) If Nicholas perhaps remained unaware of the precise significance of the word, it is hardly likely that Kendall would do so. He must also have become aware of many other words whose meaning would give offence to the missionary. None of them appear in his vocabulary. Prudery rather than ignorance would therefore seem to be the more likely reason for the omission of pakeha.
The popular explanation of the origin of the word would fall to the ground if pakeha were found to have affinities with a Polynesian word in use outside New Zealand. Baker suggests that the Polynesian puaka developed (with the simultaneous arrival of the pig and the white man) into the Maori poaka and pakeha. This is pure supposition. Of much greater significance is d'Urville's statement, quoted by Tregear, that he found pakeha in the Mangarevan dialect during his 1837-40 voyage. Tregear, however, found no other similar reference, and if d'Urville was not in error it could well be that by this date the word had been picked up from the Maori. According to Tregear, ‘the Polynesians generally call an European papalangi, paparangi, babalagi, etc.’ 21
Perhaps the most substantial argument against the explanation of the word here suggested would come from any indication that pakeha was first used before regular contact had been established between the Ngapuhi and English-speaking sailors and whalers, or that its use developed in some area where such contact did not take place. If the term had been used of Captain Cook, for example, then some other explanation of its origin would have to be sought. Unfortunately, even if this were the case, no evidence of it would now exist. But one indication to the contrary is to be found in the report given in The Ancient History of the Maori of the two old men—or was it one man as recorded by two reporters?—who gave their reminiscences of Cook's visit to Mercury Bay. 22 Both Hore-ta-te-taniwha and Taniwha-Horeta (as White calls them) give the same answer: the strangers were thought to be tupua, which White translates as ‘god’, ‘goblin’ and ‘some unknown thing’. It is extremely interesting, and perhaps significant, that the missionaries of the Royal Admiral, who found the Maoris of the Hauraki Gulf calling themselves tangata maori, also quote them as using ‘Tongatta Tubua’ for white men. The juxtaposition of tangata maori and tangata tupua strongly suggests the meaning of ‘normal men’ and ‘strange men’. But whatever the precise significance of tupua in Mercury Bay in 1769 or in the Hauraki Gulf in 1801, it is likely that this was only one of many names given to the strangers in different parts of New Zealand. Percy Smith's footnote to Hoani Nahe (quoted - 18 above) confirms this. Pakehakeha or pakepakeha may have been one of these names, but the link with pakeha is tenuous and again purely suppositious. Archdeacon Williams said no more than that pakeha ‘appears’ to have this derivation.
As to whether pakeha may first have been used elsewhere than in the north, the only evidence is again negative. d'Urville's discovery of the word on the east coast in 1827 is the earliest yet noted outside the Bay of Islands. But d'Urville also found the word Iouropi in use there. He remarked that those he met were well acquainted with Europeans, and it would seem likely that the term Iouropi would be picked up from Europeans. It is not impossible that it was also from Europeans that these east coast Maoris had picked up the term pakeha. There is some support for this in the remarks of W. L. Williams. After his statement, quoted earlier, that pakeha appears to be a shortened form of pakepakeha, Williams went on: ‘Where it was first applied to white-people I have been unable to ascertain. The use certainly did not originate with any of the Ngatikahungunu tribes, who regarded it as a name used by the white-people for themselves. The Ngaitahu and others in the South Island used the expression tangata pora (or ship-man) instead; and this expression had not been superseded, a few years ago, and perhaps has not yet been entirely superseded by the now universal pakeha.’
One last point may be mentioned. John Savage visited the Bay of Islands in 1805, and took back to England with him a young Maori named Moehanga. Moehanga learnt to speak a mixture of English and Maori, and still did so when Nicholas located him in the Whangarei district in 1815. Neither Savage nor Nicholas record his having used the word pakeha, but Savage says that though he found ‘England’ difficult to pronounce, he had no trouble over ‘Europe’. 23 Nicholas quotes him ten years later as using ‘Europee’ as an adjective. 24 Would it be permissible to make any deductions from these scrappy bits of information? I cannot help thinking that if pakeha had been established as a good Maori word of reputable ancestry, Savage would have learnt it from Moehanga, and Moehanga would not have bothered to use ‘Europee’. The absence of any mention of pakeha suggests that it was not in use or that it was not respectable. In either case a derivation from pakepakeha or any similar term seems improbable.
The known facts are that pakeha was first recorded as being used by the Ngapuhi after some twenty years of contact with seamen; that it was noted by Nicholas but omitted from the vocabulary of Kendall's First Book; that it had reached the east coast, on d'Urville's evidence, by 1827, but was not used in the South Island, according to W. L. Williams, till much later. It would appear that the early missionaries avoided the term which they must have known. While there is no direct evidence for the popularly accepted derivation of the word, neither is there for any of the alternatives which have been put - 19 forward in the pages of the J.P.S. There is on the other hand much to suggest that in applying the term pakeha to the sailors and whalers who visited the Bay of Islands, the Ngapuhi would be imitating an expression common among the sailors themselves.
In the preparation of this material I am much indebted for various suggestions to Mrs. R. M. Ross, Dr. Bruce Biggs, Professor Arnold Wall and Mr. R. A. L. Batley. This expression of appreciation is not, of course, to be taken to imply that any of them necessarily concur in the views I have expressed.—O.W.
1 Williams 1893:63.
2 Davidson MS.:53n.
3 Royal Admiral MS: entry for 19 June, 1801.
4 Polack 1838:I 75, 236.
5 Markham 1963:30, 53.
6 Reprinted as an appendix to Marshall 1836.
7 Markham 1963:29-31, 46, 53, 71.
8 This view is the opposite of that expressed in the Williams' Dictionary (1937) under the entry ‘Maori’.
9 Nicholas 1817:II 323.
10 d'Urville 1950:124.
11 Earle 1832:146. There is a similar reference to ‘Pakeha (or white men)’ in the version of Ensign McCrae's Journal for 12 March 1820, as printed in Turnbull Library Bulletin No. 3, in which korari maori also appears as ‘Conradé Mauvre’. The printed version is, however, taken from a ‘copy’ of the original journal which apparently no longer exists. A second MS. ‘copy’ differs materially from the first, and includes ‘Pakeha’ but not ‘Conradé Mauvre’. ‘Pakeha’ may therefore be an interpolation.
12 Polack 1838:II 155.
13 Williams 1893:63. This explanation was also accepted by Percy Smith in Smith 1910:10.
14 Baker n.d.:16.
15 Polack 1838:II 279.
16 Nicholas 1817:I 137.
17 d'Urville 1955:30.
18 Morris 1898:338.
19 Williams 1935:233.
20 Various references in Taylor's Journal, e.g.:II 88, 92, 119.
21 Tregear n.d.:305.
22 White 1888: (English text) 121-130, (Maori text) 105-112.
23 Savage 1807:105.
24 Nicholas 1817:II 3.