Volume 25 1916 > Volume 25, No. 98 > Kuranui as a name for the moa, by Hare Hongi, p 66-67
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- 66
See Notes and Queries, No. 203, Vol. XXV., No. 1.

THERE is very little doubt that Moa-kura-nui is the name applied to one kind of Moa bird, as the following references clearly show. The list also shows that many different kinds were discussed by the early Maoris, in particular by the Ngati-Kuri branch (Whangape to Ahipara, West Coast, North Auckland). I give the meanings which the names convey:—

  • Te Moa: The Moa (generally).
  • Te Moa-nui: The Great (largest sized) Moa.
  • Te Moa-kura-nui: The Large-feathered, or large-quilled Moa.
  • Te Moa-rau-nui: The Large-feather-clustered Moa. (“Rau,” cluster or crest of feathers, other than tail-feathers which are named “Remu.”)
  • Te Moa-kura: The Handsome (most-prized, rare) Moa.
  • Te Moa-kura-rua: The Double-feathered, or double-quilled Moa.
  • Te Moa-huru-nui: The Hair-covered, or hairy Moa.
  • Te Moa-riki: The Little Moa.

Some forty odd years ago I lived with my heinga, Ngakuku, at a small but important kainga named Waitaha-Kuranui, between Here-kino and Whangape. In all that related to the Maori world Ngakuku was certainly the best informed surviving old chief of that and the surrounding districts. He also had the most măna, for his word was law from Whangape to Ahipara. This, for the fact that he conducted and directed the survey which Mr. James Simpson, C.E. (of the Awanui) made on behalf of the Government, along the whole of that part of the Coast, in the face of the strongest opposition, “whakatete.” So strong did this become that the survey was held-up, as some of the Whangape and Herekino natives arming themselves with guns, took possession of the survey lines. Despite all this, Ngakuku stood to the survey and it was completed in so far as the full measurement of the Coast was concerned and the cutting out of several blocks of land. So much for the status of Ngakuku amongst such high chiefs as Papahia, Te Huhu, Te Paraihe, Ngawaka and Te Puhipi, and others of that generation. At the time Ngakuku lived the life of a - 67 recluse, and as I had become his favorite mokopuna he induced me to stay with him as sole companion for the better part of two years, his daughter, Unaiki, ministering to our wants. He spoke freely of the Moa bird, and of the pounamu (greenstone) of the South Island. He said that ever so many generations ago (“I era whakatupuranga tangata noa atu”), a party of his people set off in a canoe or canoes from Waitaha to the South Island with the object of procuring green-stone and Moa birds, and that that party settled in the south and never returned. He said that subsequently his people made many trips across, and that these had safely returned laden with greenstone and Moa, huahua (preserved), and feathers, hairy ones. He said that it was finally reported that the Moa had disappeared, and as they already had large quantities of greenstone their voyages across ceased: as far back as the time of my grandfathers; “I te wa ano ki tooku heinga.” He said that owing to its great speed the bird could not be caught, excepting by a lucky spear-thrust from ambush; and that it was noosed with an arrangement of torotoro vines and specially prepared flax which was adjusted over well defined tracks along which the Moa sped when disturbed by man. One winter's day when he and I were out gunning he pointed to an immense Rata tree, the lower part of which was quite open and hollow, and said: “He whare-Moa tena!” (that is a Moa's house). I asked him what he meant by that, and he explained that the Moa bird used those kind of trees as a house or for shelter. Thence, he said, is the saying: “Whare-moa te rakau, ka mahue” (a tree which is suitable only for a Moa house, is abandoned). Meaning that when a Kauri or Totara tree was selected to be hewn into a canoe, and when that proved hollow when cut into, it was of course abandoned as being suitable only for a Moa's house. From his recitals I gathered that the North Island Moa disappeared before that of the South Island Moa.

When in Taranaki, in 1888, I was struck by the name “Puke-Moa,” which is the name of a hill at Mangamingi. I asked my old friend, Te Manukarioi, who was well versed in the lore of his people, and who was an owner in this and the adjoining blocks of Pukengahu and Te Ngaere, what the name signified. He promptly replied: “Ko te puke tena i tau ai te manu nei, Te Moa”; or, that is the hill which was frequented, ‘settled upon,’ by the Moa bird. He said that the Moa bird lived all about the district in olden days, and spoke of its disappearance without regret; as being in the natural order of things, or, what is, is. But his eyes lit up when he added: “Ko Ngati-Ruanui te iwi poupou i nga iwi kuwha nei, hei pou rohe-whenua; a te roroa!” or, my Ngati-Ruanui people stuck up the thigh-bones for land-boundary posts; O, the length of them!

I cannot think of any more which might throw further light on this subject of the Moa.