Volume 28 1919 > Volume 28, No. 110 > Rangi-hua-moa, by George Graham, p 107-110
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- 107

IN the “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute” for 1916, page 425, appears an article by Mr. T. W. Downes, dealing with the vexed question of the probable period at which the Moa became extinct in New Zealand. After reading it I at once turned to an old memorandum book, wherein I had made an entry in 1910, of a legend in respect of the Moa in these parts—my informant being old Mereri. The old lady and myself had been talking of the ancient times, as was oft our wont, she being my informant of much ancient lore in which she was well versed. It was from her I obtained a version of “The Korotangi Myth,” vide this “Journal,” Vol. XXVII., page 86, where also appears her whakapapa on page 89, and which is supplemented by a further whakapapa at end hereof. As is often the case in obtaining this kind of information, it was a casual question of mine as to the meaning of her daughter's name, Rangi-hua-moa, that led her to give me the following:—


“This daughter of mine I named so at the request of my relative of Te Aki-tai hapu. It was Taka-anini who asked me to so name her; it was the name of an ancestress of us both. Such was the Maori custom; that naming gave the right to the guardianship as to marriage in due course, of children so named. Hence was my daughter Rangi-hua-moa named, and she ultimately married a younger relative of Taka-anini, when she came of age. Thus were inter-tribal relations cemented, and marriages into foreign tribes discouraged, thereby securing lands and other heirlooms, and preventing a depletion of tribal-membership.

Rangi-hua-moa was named after the mother of Te Ika-maupoho, who married Te Tahuri; these were the parents of Kiwi Tamaki, from whom Taka-anini is descended (as shown in whakapapa). This is the meaning (putake) of that old ancestral woman Rangi's name. She was at Te Pani-o-poa-taniwha at the head of the Paremoremo - 108 creek, a branch of the Wai-te-mata. Her parents were there catching and drying eels for a feast. Such was that place at Paremoremo—a place where at certain seasons they resorted to catch eels, birds; also to collect the edible flower of the kiekie, then plentiful in those parts; and the leaves thereof for mat-making.

On the day Rangi was born a nest (kohanga) of Moa eggs was found by Huri-aka (a mokai or slave of Hine-korako's). The eggs provided a feast; the last time such a feast was held, for no Moa eggs were found after that time. In a few days the child was called Rangi-hua-moa (the day of the Moa eggs). The tracks (ara) of the bird can still be seen on the ridges it formerly frequented, for it avoided the gullies and deep forests, and the ridges lightly forested and open places were its habitat (nohoanga). There on the ridges (hiwi) of the hill top of Te Pani-o-poa-taniwha, is the old poka (pit) wherein that bird was trapped. A Moa having been located on the ridges, a party of hunters gradually drove it along towards the pit; a party also approached from the opposite direction until they drove that bird into the pit where it was easily killed with spears and clubs; for it never attempted to escape into the gullies, nor, if slowly followed, would it run back through the line of hunters. The reason it was so killed was the great speed at which it would run, if too quickly chased, as also the fear of its power of kicking (whana).

When our people first saw the foreign birds brought by Governor Grey to Te Kawau, 1 we called it the Moa, and my cousin, Te Hemara, made a speech to those birds and cried, and we all there cried, for we remembered those old proverbs and laments concerning the past, which likened the disappearance of our dead parents and ancestors to the extinction of that bird, the Moa.

In some parts they hunted the Moa with the long spear (tao-roa), similar to that with which the pigeon was speared. In districts where there were swamps, the bird was driven therein. In Kaipara is a swamp known as the Te Toreminga-Moa (near Te Kapoai at Helensville). A name our people had for the Moa was Te Manu-pouturu (the bird on stilts), because of its peculiar walk, hesitating and awkward, like a person walking on stilts, and looking round every now and again before walking further. Te-rau-a-moa, at Pirongia, is not a name-place given after the Moa itself. At that place a battle was fought, and the slain lay about like the bodies of so many Moas after a Moa hunt, hence that name, ‘The hundreds like unto the Moa.’”

- 109

Such was Mereri's account of the Moa. I regret I did not keep a record of several proverbs and waiata she recited, but my recollection is that they were on very similar lines to those otherwise on record. I recollect, however, she told me that garments of the feathers of the Moa were prized because of their warmth, and that the feathers of the Kiwi and Moa were woven into the flaxen garments in a different manner to other garments, all the feathers being so woven that they stood in tufts outward, and not so that they hung downwards, as with the pigeon and other feather garments.

The pit on the ridge referred to, I have often examined with curiosity, it is about twenty feet by eighteen and perpendicular at the sides, and about five feet deep. There is nothing like it in the neighbourhood. Several years ago crossing from Okura to Pare-moremo, I came across a similar pit on the ridges near the Pukeatua trig station.

The explanation of the naming of the ancestress Rangi-hua-moa, after the last recorded find of Moa eggs in these parts, is interesting, and I see no reason to doubt the truth of the legend. All Maori names of persons and places are derived from some such domestic or tribal event. I am inclined to place the time of Rangi's birth about 1660, allowing thirty years 2 for each generation to the present time. Apparently the feast of Moa eggs was a “red letter day,” from which we may conclude that at that time the Moa was at least in the district of Waitemata-Kaipara districts, on the verge of extinction; otherwise the event would hardly be remembered as the birthday of an important chieftainess.

I have never been able to discover any remains of the Moa myself in these parts, except those relics known as Whatu-moa (Moa stones) and Tutae-moa (Moa droppings), which are the crop-stones of the bird and are found in most districts all over New Zealand. These stones are particularly plentiful on the ridges along which, as Mereri states, are still to be found what are certainly tracks, and where it was not conceivable that there ever was any very extensive human traffic. These tracks are still fairly well defined among the scrub, and are known here, as elsewhere, as Ara-moa, and resemble abandoned sheep and cattle tracks. Old natives assure me that they existed in their youth; before ever cattle came into these districts, and it is along these tracks that the so-called “Moa-stones” are very numerous in small patches of a dozen or more.

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Family Tree. 1660, Rangi-huamoa=Hua, (of Te Aki-tai), 1690, Te Tahuri =Te Ikamaupoho, 1723, Kiwi Tamaki, Te Ahiwera, 1750, Rangimatoru=Moenehu, Urunga-tapu, 1790, Puki te Hau=Te Tihi, Te Anini, Oha-ki, 1820, Ihaka Taka-anini 3, Te Hemara 4, Mereri, 1850, Wirihana and others living at Mangere now, (Descendents at Mahurangi), Rangi-huamoa, Waipaia, Te Ata and others (18 years old).

The above Whaka-papa agrees very closely with such parts thereof as appear in Fenton's “Judgments,” and is supplementary to Mereri's Whaka-papa given in Volume XXVII., page 89 of this “Journal”—see “A Legend of Old Mahurangi.”

1   Sir George Grey had a flock of Emu imported and placed on the Kawau Island, where they are still found, and gave several to John Reid, of Motutapu, where is also a flock of Emus still to be found.
2   Since 1893 the Society has adopted twenty-five years to a generation (not thirty years) in calculating dates. To make Mr. Graham's date conform to this rule, it should read 1675.—EDITOR.
3   A fine, handsome old chief in 1860, who lived near Papakura, Auckland. He was supposed to convey information to the enemy Waikato during the Maori war of 1863, and was consequently interned at Mangere.—EDITOR.
4   Another very fine chief of the Ngati-Rongo tribe living at Puhoi and Mahurangi in the early sixties of last century.—EDITOR.