Volume 3 1894 > Volume 3, No.4, December 1894 > The origin of the words 'Pakeha' and 'Kaipuke' by Hoani Nahe, p 235-236
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- 235

IN the Journal, vol. iii., p. 27, I explained the origin of the words “Maori” and “Tangata-Maori,” that which follows below endeavours to seek out the origin of the words “Pakeha” (a white-man) and “Kaipuke” (a ship) which seems to be lost.

These words are both modern, since the days of the white people. Kaipuke is from puke, a hill, pukepuke, a hillock, maunga, a mountain, motu, an island, motu-tere and mou-tere, dritted-islands. When the Maoris first saw a ship—the canoe of the Pakehas—they thought it was a hill, hillock, or mountain, in consequence of its loftiness above the sea, and an island, because a drifting-island is a portion of the land within the sea. It was said to be an island or drifting-island because it was carried along by the sails. The word drifting-island (mou-tere) is an old word applied to the little islands near the mainland, and the other name for drifting-island (motu-tere) describes the portions of land carried away by the floods of the rivers to a different place. Kai-puke (to eat on board ship) was applied because the people on board actually did eat on the Kaipuke (ship). The following would be said: “This people of the sea, kai-puke, eat on board,” and hence the name Kaipuke adhered to the canoe of the Pakeha. All these words were used for a ship: “The hill, the island, and the drifting-island.” The reason the word Kaipuke has been retained is because of the Pakehas eating on board (Kai-puke) in distinction to the Maoris who never ate on their canoes when at sea or at anchor, on account of the Karakias or invocations of the priests, which had been said at starting, for fear they should be rendered ineffectual. It was not until they landed that they ate.1

It cannot easily be explained what the people did on their voyage here from Hawaiki, whether they ate or whether they did not, but this is what I should be inclined to say, viz.: that the priests who came in the canoes from Hawaiki were priests of a high order, such as the Pukengas, and Wanangas, and their Karakias were harmless to man and had been authorised by the gods of the rain, wind, the sky, and sea—they had free communion with these gods. Hence those priests were able to secularise (whakanoa) their Karakias so that they could eat whilst at sea. Some of the priests of this country were disciple-priests and inexperienced, and their Karakias were tapu—recently taught; thus their Karakias were tapu in order that the gods might approve of them; their Karakias had been taught them by word of mouth (and not by the gods?) If the disciple-priests said the Karakias wrongly they were of no avail, for teaching by word of - 236 mouth cannot be properly accomplished, hence were the Karakias made tapu. A child knows the way to its mother's breast (but its knowledge is confined to that?)

The Pukengas, the Wanangas, and Tauiras (disciples) were all invoked in the Karakias for the felling, severing of the stump and head of the tree in building the canoe called Tainui; that Karakia will be printed in a later number of the Journal.

The word Pakeha is derived from the “gods of the sea,” the names for which are: Atua, Tupua, Pakehakeha, Marakihau and Taewa;2 they were the gods of the deep sea, and in appearance like men, and sometimes even fish. Also, the Maoris called the sailors “the people of the sea,” and these Pakehas (Europeans) were called by the names above given.

Pakeha is derived from Pakehakeha3, the apparition gods4 of the deep sea. Pakehakeha is an enormous god, he covers the sea, either by his size, or his numbers, that is, the ocean whose bounds cannot be seen, for we can see the sea bounded by the horizon where the clouds appear to touch, but it cannot be said that is the end of the sea, for it is far beyond; it cannot be measured, nor can its depths be sounded, hence it is called the Moana-uriuri, the deep sea.

As for the sky which stands above, although the Maoris have never been there, they have a knowledge of it through their traditions relating to the things of old, and have some idea of its elevation above us. I refer to the sky which is occupied by the sun, the moon, and the stars. Although the Maori has no knowledge of the number of miles it is distant, they are able to appreciate its distance by the eye; there is no “beyond.” No man has been there or can contradict them when they say, “How great is the elevation of the heavens!”

The deep sea (Moana-uriuri) is not that which we see the end of, but that beyond, beyond, beyond. If any one goes there, he will find out, but not to the same degree as if it had been sounded; it is because the Maori cannot sound it he calls the deep sea the Moana-uriuri.

1  After the Karakias the canoe was tapu, or sacred, and to have eaten food would have destroyed the efficiency of the Karakias. Many canoes were so tapu, that food was never eaten in them.—S.P.S.
2  All of these names have been applied to Europeans, besides others, such as Piharoa, Urekihau, Maitai, etc.—S.P.S.
3  See Archdeacon W. L. Williams' derivation of the name from the same source, Vol. ii., p. 63. In that note the Archdeacon states that he is unable to ascertain when the word was first applied to white people. It is used by Dr Marshall so early as 1834.—S.P.S.
4  I cannot find a good English equivalent for the word pokepokewai; poke or pokepoke, is to appear as a spirit, but it means more than that, it is to be, as it were, enveloped, enclosed by, a spirit, with malicious intent.—S.P.S.