The Kaumatua Explains How the Maori Lost Power and Their Land

George P.Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

As the old man who guards the sacred place explains how the Maori have lost their land and power by falling away from the old gods, he sounds strikingly like Old Testament prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah who harrangued the Jews for having abandoned the law of God and their people and thereby brought disaster down upon themselves. The question arises, then, does Hulme draw upon an indigenous strain in Maori thought, or is this aspect of Maori nationalism, ironically enough, also borrowed from the Judaeo-Christian tradition"

I was taught that it was the old people's belief that this country and our people, are different and special. That something very Feat had allied itself with some of us, had given itself to us. But we changed. We ceased to nurture the land. We fought among ourselves. We were overcome by those white people in their hordes. We were broken and diminished. We forgot what we could have been, that Aotearoa was the shining land. Maybe it will be again... be that as it will, that thing which allied itself to us is still here. I take care of it, because it sleeps now. It retired into itself when the world changed, when the people changed. It can be taken and destroyed while it sleeps, I was told. . . and then this land would become empty of all the shiningness, all the peace, all the glory. Forever. The canoe... it has power, because of where it came from, and who built it, but it is just a canoe. One of the great voyaging ships of our people... but a ship, by itself, is not that important. And there are many little gods in the world yet, some mean, others impotently benign, some restless, others sleeping... but I am afraid for the mauri! Aue! How can I make you understand? How? How? How?" (Keri Hulme, The Bone People, NY, Penguin, 1986, p. 364).

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