MAORI EPITAPH - March 05-2019

Soloman's Song  Bryce Courtenay

The following could stand for any indigenous peoples in the world under the yoke of imperialism.


April 1866

My friend Black Hawk

     We shall no longer sit together by the evening fire or eat again from the same pot. I have now seen sixty summers and it is time for me to join my ancestors.

     I am writing this letter to you, Black Maori, so that you will hold my life on the page and be its custodian and then, perhaps some day, history will judge me for what I tried to do and failed.

     I have had a long life for a Maori man, who does not often see his hair turn white, and who is usually dead while his seed is still strong in his loins. In my time too many of our brave young men have died from some foolish tribal war fought out of false pride or from seeking retribution for some imagined insult.

     When I was a boy my father sent me to the missionaries to learn the white man's language and his ways. 'You must see if they have lessons for us,' he instructed.

     I studied hard and learned to read and write and spent much time with the pakeha's Bible. But I was soon to discover that it was the white man's Sunday book only and all the remaining days of the week the pakeha felt free to disobey the commandments of his own God.

     It was then that I first realized that the pakeha's word could not be trusted, not even on Sunday, for it was not founded in his mana. That his God was good only for births and burials and his word was as worthless as a broken pot.

     I knew then that the Treaty of Waitangi was like the white man's word, and that the Maori would never have justice under the pakeha Queen Victoria or the laws she makes.

     When I came to my manhood the Maori people had killed more of their own kind than the pakeha. We have killed more than twenty thousand of our people while the pakeha stood by and watched the Maori die, thinking that soon there would be no Maori to come up against them and they could take all our land for their spotted cows.

     And so I grew to be a man and I became the peacemaker among the tribes and then kingmaker, joining all the Maori under King Potatau te Wherowhero so that we could speak with one voice.

     Alas, the pakeha did not want us to stop killing our own and they forced us to go to war with them. It was here that you, Black Hawk, became a Maori warrior and gained great distinction, so that you became a rangatira to be forever honoured in the Ngati Huau tribe and among all the Maori people.

    Though we fought with honour the pakeha had too many guns and too many soldiers and we forsook the clever ways of our previous guerilla war, the runaway fighting you taught us and we went back to defending the pa and so were beaten, but remained proud in defeat, a worthy opponent.

     Now, as I lay dying, I know that the pakeha, in defeating us, has taken everything from us but one last thing. Our warriors will fight in the hills where no pakeha dare go. They have created a redoubt that holds within it Maori pride. While we have our pride they cannot destroy our race. I pray that it is always there. Ake ake ake. You must speak for us, you must be my elbow and my backbone, General Black Hawk.

     I shall die with a curse on my lips for the white man, for what they have done to my people....

     I go to my ancestors knowing that the Maori mana is the spirit of Aotearoa and that it will prevail. Ake ake ake. In our hearts we cannot be defeated until the earth sinks into the sea.

     I go to my ancestors now, where I shall watch over you like a father watches over his beloved son.


Wiremu Tamihana

Chief of the Ngati Haua Maori