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Na to Hoa Aroha from Your Dear Friend
The Correspondence Between Sir Apirana Ngata and Sir Peter Buck 1925â"50 Volume Three 1932â"50
By M. P. K. Sorrenson
Auckland University PressCopyright © 1988 M. P. K. Sorrenson
All rights reserved.
Colebrook, New Hampshire,
August 15, 1932.
This commences a new phase in our correspondence. The scene has now shifted from Honolulu on the northern outskirts of Polynesia to the New England states, which border on the Atlantic.
We duly arrived in Victoria after a pleasant voyage. On the way over I had the pleasure of occasional drinks and conversation with Coates, Downie Stewart, and other members of the New Zealand delegation including Craig and Park. Victoria is the first port one touches on the western side of Canada. It is situated on Vancouver Island. I went ashore and explored the local museum. It is rich in material of the Northwest Pacific coast but contains no outside material. Many things in the material culture of the N. W. coast remind one of New Zealand in a vague general way; but when it comes to a minute analysis, the affinities disappear. The huge carved totem poles were rarely erected at the front of the houses and are pierced at the lower end to form the entrance into the houses. Though the human figure is carved on the round, the details are totally different to Maori carving. In addition to this many animal and bird figures, which represent the totems of the family, are included in the carving. Throughout Canada I have stood gazing at various totem poles and tried to find some affinity in the carving motifs, but without success. Attention has also been drawn to the weaving, but the differences in technique, which I enumerated in "The Evolution of Maori Weaving" still hold good. Another interesting artifact is the whalebone club which, however, is longer and narrower than the Maori patu paraoa and was evidently used for striking and not for thrusting. The wooden canoes were made of split planks. The wood used was the cedar which splits evenly throughout its length with little difficulty, much like our tawa. The shape and finish of these canoes in no way resemble those of New Zealand. Another affinity remarked upon by some ethnologists was that of the composite halibut hook to the Ruvettus hook of Polynesia. Again in technique these two hooks have nothing in common.
Whilst I was examining the museum the New Zealand and Australian delegations were being fed, libated, and orated at by the local representatives of the Canadian Government. It was quite interesting to see the red coats, spurs, cocked hats, and top hats which were waiting on the Victoria wharf to escort the representatives of the Overseas Dominions to the Governor's luncheon.
The same day we arrived at Vancouver which is on the mainland and not on Vancouver Island. It is Canada's most important port on the Pacific and at the western end of the Canadian Pacific Railway. We stayed over for a couple of days while the delegations moved on to Ottawa. Here I examined two museums. The Public Library and Art Gallery contained an ethnological collection confined to material from Canada. Amongst the Indian stone pounders or stone pestles was one remarkably like a poi pounder from Hawaii. I queried its authenticity, but the curator was able to prove to his own satisfaction that the stone implement was obtained in British Columbia. The University of British Columbia had a South Seas collection, which I was enabled to examine through the courtesy of the President, to whom I had a letter of introduction. The collection was donated by a Captain Burnett who had made various voyages through the South Seas. Much of the material was wrongly labelled, of course; and I was able to check it over with the custodian. There is no Chair in anthropology at the local University. In the New Zealand material there were some fine onewa clubs and a beautifully carved putorino. The putorino was so beautifully polished that the custodian said it was made of copper. I got him to unscrew the case and examination proved that it was of wood, with the usual lashings, and altogether a beautiful piece of workmanship.
We left for the East on the Canadian Pacific Railway, leaving in the morning so as to see the celebrated Rocky Mountains. The scenery is really magnificent, yet it all reminded me of something I had seen before. We passed up the famous Kicking Horse Valley and saw Hell's Gate, where the river swirls through constriction in the rocky bed. Without being unduly provincial it reminded me of the Manawatu Gorge, but there was more of it and it stretched for a longer distance. The Rocky Mountains with snow-capped peaks gave me no thrill. The peaks were merely elevations on the general range and did not stand up so prominently, to my mind, as the Tongariro trio and Mount Egmont. We saw some glaciers, but I imagine they would cause no greater thrill than the Franz Josef. At the top of the Great Divide, from which the waters flow in opposite directions, there is a monument to Sir James Hector. Doctor Hector, as you know, did geological work in Canada before coming to New Zealand. He was with the expedition under Captain Palliser and while passing his riding hack to adjust the loosened pack on a packhorse, his own horse kicked him, which led to his being laid up for a couple of days. The adjacent river was hence named Kicking Horse River. The monument erected to his memory was established by England and Canada. The sight of the memorial gave me a thrill, as New Zealand's memorial to Sir James Hector is the Hector Medal, which I happened to receive this year. We did not stop at the great tourist resorts at Banff and Lake Louise for we thought that these places would again be reminiscent of tourist resorts that we had seen in our own land. Both are expensive and money can be better utilized than in tipping the parasites which infest such localities.
From the Province of British Columbia we passed on through the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Here there are miles and miles of flat land stretching to the horizon on either side. Next followed the Province of Manitoba with similar flat areas stretching as far as the eye could see and beyond. These are the great wheat Provinces of Canada, and one can understand the great possibilities that the country possesses. Canada needs more population and also an outlet for her wheat. It is little wonder that both Australia and Canada need preference within the British Empire against the wheat of Russia. The next Province was that of Ontario of which the main town is Toronto. Here we got off to have a look round the city.
Our trip from Vancouver to Toronto took us four nights and three and a half days. The trip right through to New Haven cost about one hundred thirty seven dollars each, including the sleeping compartment as far as Toronto. The sleeping compartment was very comfortable with two large bunks, hot and cold water laid on to a washing basin, and a flush water closet — all complete within the one compartment. Margaret says that I must be sure and mention the fact that iced water was also laid on for drinking purposes. A negro attendant looked after the compartments and cleaned our boots. The dining saloon provided good food which you selected from a menu card and paid for according to your selection. At Vancouver an observation car with easy chairs and full windows on either side was put on in order that the passengers might have an unobstructed view of the scenery. On passing through the Rockies it was taken off. On the way over I read "The Romance of the Canadian Pacific Railway". It was as interesting as a novel and brought out the great struggle that the founders of the railway had not only against physical obstacles presented by nature, but also against economic and political opposition. It is universally held that the Canadian Pacific Railway helped to develop and make Canada. It is curious in view of this how the Government came to establish the Canadian National Railway at a huge cost from public funds. The National Railway has never paid and has been a huge drain on Government funds. The President, Sir Henry Thornton, looked upon as one of the ablest railway men in the world, has spent money like water. Huge hotels costing millions of dollars have been built in connection with the railway in the various large cities. The latest is the one in Vancouver, which contains goodness knows how many rooms and has not been completed owing to lack of funds. It stands as a monument to high-powered competition. Owing to questions raised in Parliament concerning the excessive spending of money, Sir Henry Thornton has just resigned as a protest against the lack of public confidence reposed in him.
Toronto is a beautiful city with the streets lined with maple trees, which break the usual monotony of the crowded houses of the city. The University of Toronto has a Chair in anthropology filled by Professor McIlwraith, whom I had previously met in Honolulu. They have a magnificent new museum termed the Royal Ontario Museum. The building has just been completed, but the arrangement of the collection is still going on. A unique feature is that the architect has planned the building to suit the two tallest totem poles that exist in Canada. The totem poles are ninety feet high, and as the three stories of the building did not quite reach that height, an extra part had to be added to roof over the top of the poles. The poles have been erected in the well of the staircases leading to the different stories so as to provide them with an uninterrupted site. You can commence a study of the poles at the bottom and then continue the study of the various parts from the steps of the various staircases. The Museum has a fair Polynesian collection, which has not yet been arranged in show cases. I went through their material, however, and again found that a large number of artifacts were wrongly labelled. The material was heaped together; and as I worked through it, I noticed some human hair surmounting what I presumed to be some Melanesian object. You may imagine my surprise when, on hauling it out, it proved to be a preserved Maori tattooed head. There are two of these heads in the collection. This was the first time I had actually handled such specimens, as hitherto I have gazed at them through the glass of the cases in which they reposed. I was intrigued to find that, in removing the brains, a great deal of the base of the skull had been cut away. General Robley's book on "moko" has not been available since this examination, and I do not know whether he goes into any details concerning the method of preserving these heads. If not there is room for further study on the subject. Amongst the Maori material there are half a dozen fine onewa clubs. One of these had a long length of three-ply braid passed through the hole and knotted. The braid looked somewhat foreign and it proved to be made of sennit. Thus, the person who obtained the club in New Zealand had evidently also obtained some sennit braid from Polynesia and linked the two together. Another interesting artifact was a scoop made of coconut leaflet midribs used for catching the palolo seaworm in Samoa. One of these scoops was figured by Krämer, but I was unable to obtain a specimen in Samoa. The Bishop Museum on my advice have made attempts to procure a specimen, so far without success. I was therefore unable to figure the object in my book. It was thus surprising and interesting to come across the missing artifact in Toronto.
From Toronto we diverged to view the celebrated Niagara Falls. It was worth the journey, but again there was no novelty to me in viewing this marvellous work of nature. The falls themselves reminded me of the Huka Falls in our own country, larger and higher no doubt — but still composed of a river flowing out of a lake over a fall in the river bed. The famous Niagara Rapids below the Falls were a fine sight; and yet I was more amazed and spell bound when I first gazed upon the rushing, swirling waters of the Aratiatia Rapids. New Zealand is indeed a land of infinite variety in its scenery and physical characteristics. Any one of its assets would be featured by the countries nearer the tourist routes. Any country may have one or more of these features on a larger scale but seemingly no other country possesses so many.
On the way back to Toronto we dropped off at the small town of Hamilton to search for some South Seas curios that Prof. McIlwraith remembered to have seen in his youth in the library of that town. The library was duly located and sure enough in a room devoted to curios were a couple of cases containing some Niue clubs and paddles and best of all a beautifully carved ceremonial paddle from the Austral Islands. An inquiry as to who knew anything about the collection led to the lady librarian ringing up a Mr. Childs, who came down post haste. Mr. Childs had made a trip through the South Seas and New Zealand. In contemplating a lecture on Polynesia for their local scientific society he had been referred to me while in Auckland but had missed me on the way through Honolulu. It was curious that I should meet him in his home town. The old man insisted on our having dinner with him and going up to his house.
From Toronto we passed on to the capital city of Ottawa. The chief hotel of Ottawa is the magnificent Chateau Laurier built by the Canadian National Railway. This was fully occupied by the members of the various delegations to the Empire Economic Congress. We stayed a night with Croft, the Canadian Trade Commissioner to New Zealand. He lives in Auckland and is a friend of many years' standing. Ottawa contains many fine buildings built in stone and roofed with copper. The streets again are lined with maples. We gained admission to the House of Parliament. The Chambers are arranged on the English plan with the seats on either side of a middle aisle leading up to the Speaker's chair. Margaret is of the opinion that the arrangement is not as good as in the New Zealand House. There is no university here but there is a national museum of ethnological objects housed in the same building as the Art Society and the Department of Mines. The Government Anthropologist in charge of the collection is a New Zealander from the Lower Hutt named Diamond Jenness. You will remember his article on the Bwaidoga which appeared in the Polynesian Journal. We had a good yarn together and he showed us over the collection. The collection is confined to the Indians of America, particularly Canada, and the Eskimo. The only representatives of the South Seas were two clubs from Fiji. We had dinner with Downie Stewart at the Chateau Laurier. The papers and the air were full of the Economic Congress; and as we had no part in its deliberations, we moved on to Montreal.
Montreal is in the Province of Quebec and is the largest city in Canada. It is a great manufacturing centre, and many of the important Corporations have their factories here. The city is consequently full of soot. It has a hill named Mount Royal from which a good view of the city may be obtained. The hill, which is closely wooded, forms a national park. Well-graded roads lead to the summit. Motor cars are not allowed to ascend. This gives a chance of employment to a multitude of four-wheeled hooded vehicles, drawn by one horse, and termed colloquially "hacks". It is the vehicles that are termed hacks and not the horses. The drivers, like a large part of the population of Quebec Province, are of French extraction. We hired a hack and ascended Mount Royal. The view was not as good as that obtained from Ngongataha. However, the trip had to be made for nobody is regarded as having visited Montreal unless he has seen the view from Mount Royal. Montreal contains two universities: McGill University and the University of Montreal. McGill is old and should have been quite sufficient for the needs of the population; but the French have a population which demanded a university of their own. McGill has no Chair in anthropology but has an ethnological museum. The collection is good and contained quite a number of carved paddles from the Austral Islands. Like other museums, a large number of the articles were wrongly labelled. A number of sharks' tooth weapons from the Gilbert Islands and characteristic clubs from Niue were attributed to New Zealand. Some shell money from Melanesia was also attributed to our maligned country. I saw Sir Arthur Currie, President of McGill, and told him that a University should not promulgate erroneous information. The University of Montreal was closed for vacation, but I was informed that it had no ethnological collection.
Excerpted from Na to Hoa Aroha from Your Dear Friend by M. P. K. Sorrenson. Copyright © 1988 M. P. K. Sorrenson. Excerpted by permission of Auckland University Press.
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