166th blog … hokitika, hokitika!

Abel Janszoon Tasman was born  in the Netherlands in 1603. He signed up with the Dutch East India Company and left for the east to fulfill a three year contract.

On 13th August 1642 Tasman received instructions to find the mysterious and supposedly rich Southern Continent, which had been eluding and tempting explorers for centuries.

This unknown land, Terra Australis Incognita, was said to stretch across the Pacific.

Tasman’s instructions were to take possession of all continents and islands discovered and set foot on in the course of his voyage on behalf of the States-General of the United Provinces”.

On 13th December 1642, the coast of New Zealand came into view, and Tasman noted in his journal “a large land, uplifted high”. Tasman named this land “Staten Landt”, which refers to the “Land of the Dutch”.

The area of New Zealand which Tasman sighted was in the vicinity of the coast between modern Hokitika and Okarito, on the west coast of the South Island.

Communication with the natives was impossible. Tasman noted that the men in the canoes “had black hair tied together right on top of their heads, but was longer and thicker.

On the tuft, they had a large, thick, white feather. They were naked from shoulder to waist.

The Dutch fired on Māori, but the canoes were already near the shore and out of firing range. The Dutch ships immediately weighed anchor and set sail.

By this time, twenty-two native canoes were massed on the shoreline, and 11 more, “crowded with people”, were swiftly paddling towards the Dutch ships.

Tasman waited until the canoes were close, before firing only one or two shots at relatively close range. One Māori, standing in a canoe, was hit. This immediately caused the canoes to turn and return rapidly to the shore.

Because of this incident, Tasman named the bay “Moordenaers Baij” – Murderer’s Bay.

After this unhappy first encounter, the Dutch ships continued in a northerly direction, passing by and naming the Three Kings Islands, in honour of the biblical Three Wise Men, as Tasman anchored here on Twelfth Night Eve at the northern tip of the North Island, where the South Pacific Sea and the Tasman sea meet.

From the end of the 1600’s onwards the Dutch began to lose their supremacy at sea.

France and England became the new sea powers. However, Dutch charters were still consulted by other European explorers, as the Dutch were reputed to have established the best maritime charters in the world at that time.

Once it was discovered that the “Staten Landt” of Tasman was not part of State Landt, the name Nova Zeelandia, or Nieuw Zeeland became attributed to this country within the decade.

The name Zelandia, or Zeeland, appeared on maps for the first time around 1645.There appear to be no records which explain precisely how New Zealand received its name.

One theory is the possible link between New Zealand and Hollandia Nova, the original name given to Australia.

The two Dutch provinces of Holland and Zeelandt were separated by sea, the same as Hollandia Nova (Australia) and Zelandia Nova (New Zealand).

The province of Zeeland is located in the south-west of Holland. It consists of a number of islands, hence the name of “Sea-land”. It includes a strip which borders Belgium. The capital of Zeeland is Middelburg.

Denmark’s largest island is also called Zealand.

When Maori arrived in New Zealand/Aotearoa they gave kiwi its name. Kiwi were hunted for skin, meat and feathers, which were used for chiefly ceremonial cloaks.

Special chants and rituals took place before a kiwi hunt, as the kiwi are under the special protection of Tane Mahuta, god of the forest.

It may be based on the sound of the kiwi’s call, or it may be derived from the Polynesian name, kivi, used for the bristle-thighed curlew. This large brown wader has a long decurved bill that makes it superficially resemble a kiwi.

Several kiwi have specific Maori names. Little spotted kiwi are known as kiwi pukupuku. Great spotted kiwi are roroa, or roa.

Rowi is now the accepted name for what was formerly known as Okarito brown kiwi. And tokoeka has been adopted as the formal name for the kiwi taxa living in Fiordland and on Stewart Island.

The hidden bird of Tan

Maori hunted kiwi for meat, skin and feathers, using dogs/kuri and traps, but did so sparingly and with great ceremony – special chants and rituals took place before a kiwi hunt began.

This is because kiwi are under the special protection of Tane Mahuta, god of the forest. The bird’s ceremonial name is te manu huna a Tane – the hidden bird of Tane.

To cook them, birds were preserved in their fat and steamed in a hangi/earth oven.

Treasured cloaks – kahu-kiwi

Maori used kiwi feathers for chiefly ceremonial cloaks – kahu-kiwi. These are made of a flax fabric with the feather shafts woven securely into the flax. Usually feathers are sewn on with the fluffy underside of the feather facing outwards. Sometimes whole kiwi skins are sewn together to make cloaks, with the feathers still attached.

Kahu-kiwi are nearly always named and are great taonga/treasures usually reserved for chiefs. They carry the wairua/spirit of the birds themselves. At significant times – deaths, marriages and other great events – a kahu-kiwi is drawn over the shoulders as a privileged symbol of chieftainship and high birth.

Today, the tradition of kahu-kiwi is continued using feathers gathered from kiwi that die naturally or through road accidents or predation.

Kiwi kaitiaki

Today Maori no longer hunt kiwi and many are actively involved as kaitiaki/guardians, protecting and restoring kiwi populations in their rohe (territory).

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