The Forest Dwellers

There is an often-told story that relates to an early migration to New Zealand. This story, when related, gives rise to little known depths of the history of this land and brings forth the presence of the early comers.

These early arrivals were the people of Waitaha, the Peaceful Nation, who arrived on these shores almost 1900 years ago. They were not the first, as they shared the land with the Stone People.

Sacred Journeys in NZ

The oral history of Waitaha was kept safe in song

The oral history of Waitaha was kept safe in song, and was first shared with all people seven years ago when a part of the ancient traditions were given within the pages of “The Song of Waitaha: The Histories of a Nation”.

Within these pages is to found a description of the three distinct racial groups from which the Nation of Waitaha was founded. The following descriptions appear on page 82 and state:

“They came from the four winds. Some were dark skinned and some were white, yet they gathered at Waitangi Ki Roto  ( Easter Island) out of the rising sun. They learned to speak as one and work as one in the interests of all. We honour forever the three coloured strands that came together in this land to bind the heart, mind and spirit of the Nation…

Uru Kehu were the children of Kiwa, the golden ones, the short people with pale freckled skin, blue eyes and fair or red hair. They came to Waitangi Ki Roto out of the rising Sun.

Maoriori looked back to Hotu Matua, for they were a dark skinned, very tall, big boned people, with dark eyes and long black hair. Their trail began in the lands of the setting Sun.

Kiritea were small and fair skinned and had long black hair and green eyes. Their features carried the marks of the tallest of all mountains, and the enduring qualities of stone.”

And thus the story of the early comers, the people before, has been told in these modern times.

Uru Turehu, Turehu and Patupaiarehe

Maori myth and legend contains much in the way of reference to Uru Turehu, Turehu and Patupaiarehe, forest and mountain dwellers endowed with magical powers and abilities. An illusive people whom, before becoming part of modern folklore, may have well been of the early comers. It would appear quite likely that there was a well established culture on this land before the early waka came from the Polynesian islands 650 years ago, or 46 generations back.

Present day descendants of the early comers can trace their lineage in New Zealand through continuous lines that go back 76 generations and even a staggering 135 generations.

Scientific research using carbon dating and pollen dating techniques have put human intervention and cultivation at 2500 years ago.

It is within the pages of the stories of the history of the Waitaha Nation, that we discover 200 Iwi or tribes lived in peace and harmony for more than 1000 years in New Zealand. What an example this Nation has set for the people who live in this land today.

A story that is as intriguing as it is mysterious

Now, as if in echo of ancient times, I will relate for you a story that is as intriguing as it is mysterious. This story opens much in the way of possibilities and will no doubt create great interest among those who know of the depth and size of our ancient forests. Affidavits have been taken and recorded of two in depth interviews that took place with Martin Doutre and this writer present. The contents of this wonderful tale have roots in deep antiquity, and yet with what we have been told, the story is far from complete.

The man who gave the information has recently passed on, and in deference to his request he will be known by his birth name or Maori name.

His name is Karaka Paikea Ho Rui and he was of the northern tribes and he lived near Whangarei. We now turn the clock back to 1946 when Karaka and his wartime friend Peter were building earth dams on rehab farmland in Waima . Working as a team they operated a dragline and bulldozer unit for many months, in this remote valley.

On some days, after work was finished, they would pick up their 22 rifle and go hunting. Now, in those days there was little thought given to what might have been right or wrong and they hunted for wood pigeon. They took few and the bird was considered a tasty delicacy.

On this particular November afternoon in 1946, the two men had finished work and decided to go hunting. They entered the tree line on the lower slopes of a very steep incline and started their search for the bird. On that day, their quarry was quite elusive and the flight of a pair of pigeon up toward the top of the hill led them further up into an area that they had not previously been. Karaka told us that being young and very fit, they were not deterred by the very long climb.

They came up and over the final rise and found themselves on a large flat area covered in long grass broken by a number of bush clumps.

Resting for a moment, Karaka loaded the single shot rifle and scanned the treetops for any sign of the pigeon. Peter was standing to one side and moved to gain a better view of the trees on the other side of the clearing. His foot snagged, and he stumbled and yelled.

Suddenly, almost from the scrub at his feet, five small figures sprung from behind the bushes and ran away from the two men.

Both Peter and Karaka were just as surprised as was the group that were running. They ran diagonally away toward the heavy forest on the other side of the clearing.

They had disturbed an unexpected quarry, and one after the other the five people ran swiftly, stooping low, for the nearby tree line.

Karaka thought that they had come across a group of kids wagging school. The afternoon sun was still high and the light good enough to note some intriguing features that soon dispelled the first notion that the runners were 9 or 10-year old school kids.

The men could soon see that they were not children, but in fact were small, slightly built adults, and the stooping posture was to adopt a low profile as they ran.

The angle of flight was more or less across the widest part of the clearing and all five people displayed a side view as they moved.

Karaka noted that the figures had blond shoulder length hair and white skin. He was startled to notice that two of the group had white close-cropped beards. These were not children at all. He could not tell whether the group was mixture of male and female.

The fleeing figures were naked to the waist and wore a short skirt like garment around the middle made from a sharp elongated leaf. The leaves were layered and bounced as they ran and were green in colour and appeared to have been freshly cut. Karaka is sure the leaves were from the Puwharawhare or Kia Kia plant.

Some within the group also carried small baskets with long straps that crossed the torso on a diagonal from shoulder to hip. These objects appeared to be made from the leaves of the Cabbage or TiTi tree.

The fleeing figures crossed through two clear patches and were estimated to be in view for up to 40 seconds.

When the group reached the forest edge, one of the figures stood fully erect and turned to look back to where the two men were standing. And then, as if satisfied that they were not being followed, disappeared following the others into the trees.

Karaka’s first comment, was “Boy, how they could run for such small people”.

It was decided that they were not children, lost or otherwise, and the two men did not follow them into the forest.

They turned toward the clump of bush, all thoughts of pigeon hunting gone from their minds. Moving through the brush that had hidden the small folk from view, the men  made a startling discovery. Behind the natural screen of small trees and brush was a mound of stones. Moving around to the other side they saw that this was a structure rather than a stone heap.

The stones had been built into an interlocking dome that measured about 3 meters across.

A low set door was soon found, but the narrow entrance was not accessible to either man because of their shoulder width.

Karaka poked his head through the door and saw a perfect domed structure without any internal beams or supports. The stone used in the building were all of a similar size between 100 to 150 mm (4 to 6 inches) across.

The floor was earthen and angled upward to the back wall opposite the door. Scattered on the floor was an assortment of berries, including Tairere fruit. There was also a piece of a plant known as Poutangatanga that is taken from the center of the Kia Kia.

Karaka said that this plant had many uses, the leaves for weaving and the center a nourishing food. He helped himself to this feed of bush tucker.

A further search found another domed building, and the vicinity revealed a scattered pile of Tawhara leaves. This is another plant that when the outer layers are peeled back, provides a very delicious and tasty food. The flower of Tawhara is also edible and the leaves can be fashioned into clothing etc.

Another pile of leaves contained a number of Kiore or rat bones.

We have been given a location for the place at which these events happened. That is another journey and another story for another time.

Research over the past 5 years by Martin Doutre and this writer has uncovered similar descriptions of stone dome like structures, a few still standing, many fallen and scattered.

Modern day stories pertaining to mysterious forest dwellers are few, but are worthy of ongoing research. I have many anecdotes on hand, but prefer to discuss first hand verifiable accounts.

There are many stories telling of individual encounters with the Fairy Folk of the forests and other beings.

My research constantly brings me in touch with many such stories. I have taken upon myself to listen and look at all that comes my way. However, there is always the problem of sifting through the vast amount of material I have gathered and to place it in a semblance of order. I often liken my work as to that of assembling a very large jigsaw puzzle, with many of the pieces not yet on hand, and those that I have  give only a partial picture or view of the ancient landscape and the people who lived here so long ago. Much of the work I do has become instinctive and finely tuned to the wonder of the natural landscape.

The Wisdom of all ancient people is more relevant today than many may imagine. There is much to be learned from our ancestors and those of other races. We have but to take the time to seek, to ask and then to listen.

And when we have listened, we too will have stories to tell. As you read these words, you can acknowledge your place as an Elder, as a keeper of the stories.

And as such it is beholden on you to tell the stories and keep alive the message of hope the Tangata Whenua, The Waitaha, have placed in our trust. Not to be hidden and kept quite, but rather to be told and retold.