I was born in 1930; and I grew up in Maungatautari, near Cambridge. I am Ngati Koroki. I was raised by my Grandparents, and all my Aunties and Uncles. My Mother worked for the Pakeha up the road, and she lived with them in their flash pakeha house. My parents parted. They went their own ways to find work. I wanted to leave with them, but I had to stay. I was the 2nd to youngest in the family; but there were always more whanau coming and going. The whare that I grew up in was one huge room. It was a bare dirt floor, and we kept this clean with brooms that my Nanny made from Manuka. Our floors were covered with whariki.
There was a partition for the "kauta" part, and that had a big open fire; where all our kai was cooked.
My Grandmother had a large 3 legged "Umu"; and we had candles everywhere for our light.
We ate at a large table, that was home made; and we had long forms and barrells and crates that we sat on. Our roof leaked, and I remember the bucket use to get shifted around; but it was a normal house in Maungatautari. When we have visitors, my Grandmother say "grace" before we eat.
Breakfast was repirepi (kororirori), bread and tea. My Grandmother made jams, and we'd also have this on rewena bread for lunch at school. For Tea, it was always meat and vegetables, korau and kamokamo. We had eels quite often, and sometimes rabbit. I hated rabbit. We had pigeons too sometimes. I couldn't stand home made butter, and I was sick of rewena bread. Once in a blue moon we get to have Pakeha bread, brought from the shop.
I can't remember when they got it, but My Grandparents got a brass bed. They cost "the earth" ! We, the children, slept on mattresses on the floor sometimes, but most of the time I shared the bed with two of my aunties. When I got older I got to sleep on a bed by myself, I was also allowed a candle to read my books at night. I love reading the books I got from school. Our sheets and pillow cases were made out of flour bags. "CHAMPION" was one word, we all knew how to spell. Nobody bothered to wash the label out. Just as long as they were clean and we were clean. Our ladies did the washing at the creek, and we bathed at the creek as well.
Our toilet was a long-drop; and always a long way from the house. It was scary at night. Owls hooting at you, and very dark. You'd have to "con up someone to come with you". Sometimes it was better to go to the paddock, "but 'LOOK OUT' if you got caught".
My Grandfather was a farmer. My Grandmother had part time work up the road; working for Pakehas. She also looked after us all, and we all helped with the milking. My Uncles chopped the wood, girls had to do the dishes and the housework. Boys got the water, they cart it in buckets from the springs. We work from dark to dark. You were never bored, there was always something to do. It was a hard life, and yes - Milking cows was everyone's job. We never questioned anything, we didn't talk back - we just 'did it'. That was life, we didn't know any other way, we were all farmers, and we all had cows.
We had paddocks full of gardens, my Grandmother was in the garden "night and day", dont know why they were so huge, we didnt need all that food, and we had heaps of fruit trees. We planted our gardens as a family, everyone came to help; and we would move around the farms of our other whanaunga, helping to do theirs. Helping everyone to plant the kai that we all needed. We were always working - and we were the healthiest kids on earth. My people were workers - toilers ... I dont think they knew how to sit still.
My Grandfather was a hard worker, and a hard drinker. They deserved their drink; it was their release to relax from after all the hard work. My Uncle used to pinch their beer, pinch their smokes; he'd get a hiding but he'd still do it. He was smoking at school, and set a building alight. He was very mischief. We all use to pinch fruit from the Pakeha's apple trees, below the school - they tasted sweeter.
My Grandmother spent all her time working too. My Mother was just down the road working for the Pakeha. I always knew she was my mother; but my place was with my grandmother; and she never interferred with my Grandparents and me. My Grandmother would tell me stories while we were working. They tell you who you should marry. In standard 6, they're picking your husbands. It was to keep the hapu together, cause they didnt want you going out of Waikato. And you werent allowed to marry Ngapuhi.
All our age group married back into Maungatautari. They were staunch Kingitanga people. We didnt know any other way. Girls did not get pregnant. You could be disowned ! It was more than your life was worth. We were "all close". We all milked cows, and thats all we talked about. If your the youngest, you get the easiest cow. As you get older, you move onto the harder ones, the cows that kick. We never went anywhere, so we only knew ourselves, Maungatautari was our whole world. At times our house would be "choca-block". The kids grow up and leave, so the mokopunas come back to work. All the houses were homesteads.
Our family were Pai Marire. Our church was at the Marae. It was all in Maori, and it was important to the old people, and it was the recognised haahi of the Kingitanga. We use to take off, when it started. If you wanted to learn, you stayed. Some stayed. We thought it was stupid, we thought it took "too long", the karakia went on for ages. We respected it though. The religious people would come out to our marae. Mrs Martin used to come up, she'd give us stamps; and thats the only reason we go.
The best times I remember is when we all get together at the Pa. When my Grandparents were alive, we all get together, the whole hapu. The cakes were the real thrill. "Pumpkin cakes". The Kai was laid out on the whariki mats that were laid out on the grass. We did this for birthdays. No presents though, we didnt have enough money for that. I remember we'd have Guy Fawkes at the school.
Our Homesteads were near the Marae, most of the time we have Socials and birthdays and weddings near the Marae. You were told what you could do or you couldnt do. They were strict. Children were seen and not heard, there was an old man with a walking stick who would hit you. From about standard 6, you were helping with the dishes at the marae. Mother's knew to keep you away from the elders - our Kaumatuas on the paepae, and they played the biggest part in our hapu. Most of them couldn't speak English, they spoke a kind of "pidgin English" - broken. They were always there to correct their children. The Marae was a very busy place. We were completely Maori. We were 'submerged' in it. We lived it. We knew our King Koroki, and we knew we were Waikato, and that we were Ngati Koroki.
The Grandparents that raised me were my Mother's Parents. I didn't get to meet my Father's Parents until later in life. My Grandfather was an educated man, and he could speak English. He wished that we all be educated, to go to High School, and to be able to read and write. He was a "self-taught" lawyer. I'm told he handled land issues for the King - on the "tekau ma rua". He pushed me onto High-School. My Grandfather watched over me, I was the only mokopuna that got to High School. I remember when I got to boarding school, I was ashamed of my clothes. I actually thought my clothes were neat before I got there. I got tennis shoes once a Year, we thought they were "golden slippers" when they were brand new. Some of my clothes were made at home, some were from the shop. My earliest bloomers were made from the 50lb or 100 lb flour bag. It was strong and tough material; I laugh now when I remember back to see the girls bending over and you can see the "champion" sign on their bloomers.
I started at Maungatautari School. It was a public school. All the teachers were Pakeha, there had never been a Maori teacher there. We were not allowed to speak Maori at school. Sometimes in the playground, we forget, the teacher would hear us, and call out to us; and we get the strap. We also get the strap for lateness. My Grandparents and all of our parents they know we get the strap. They agreed with the Pakeha, we were told we were at school to learn the pakeha ways. They wanted us to be educated. Thats how they felt, so there was no point telling them that we'd got the strap at school. As long as we went to school, and did as we were told, we weren't punished. I dont think that any of the punishment was undeserved.
When I got the strap, I felt like I deserved it. I knew I wasn't supposed to speak Maori at the pakeha school. My Grandparents supported that. By the time I got to high school I had stopped speaking Maori all together. I think I forgot. I remembered it later. I didn't want to speak Maori. There wasnt any Maori culture at school either. How could there be when they didn't want you speaking Maori. It would have been against the principles.
I liked going to school, it was a change from milking cows. I liked it, cause then I get away from all the work. We play tennis, rounders and long ball, and knuckles bones, marbles and hopscotch. After school we'd go picking blackberries, we ate them as we picked them, so we end up going home with nothing. Our legs would get scratched to bits and we get in trouble because our clothes are stained. There was music class at the school, and the school was where I first heard a radio. There was also a Piano in the hall. We had our own music at home and there was an old gramophone at the Pa.
I liked all my teachers. We lived by the School in a school house. Mr Bird was like a second father. He was a good teacher. I also had Pakeha friends - the Moorheads. We go to their place some times and their parents give you a cake and a drink. They had a better house than us, but it didn't mean anything to us. We still had to be back by milking time, and my Grandparents always had to know where we were. Milking governed our life, I swore I would never let my kids do milking, and I swore that I was never going to be on a farm.
We never had toys either. I had marbles, and we had a board that was made into the shape of a racquet. Someone with a bike was rich. A bike was out of reach. We used to get a ride from Pakeha's. They all had bikes, You make friends with a Pakeha to get a ride. The Pakeha parents didn't know that we were riding their bikes (laughs). Maoris had horses, lunch time come, we swap over; our horse for their bikes. We loved our horses, we got to pet them, and they belonged to the whole family. We knew it was only a dream to own a bike, only Pakehas had them. Pakeha kids had tennis racquets. Lucky the school had tennis racquets as well, so you didnt have to wait.
At school, I learnt that Hone Heke cut down the flagpole. They drummed that into us. At school they taught us that Maori were "bad buggers"; and what wonderful people they were. They fed us pakeha till it came out of our ears. We were primitive, savages and heathens. They drummed it into us that we were saved by Samuel Marsden, and that George Grey was a great governor; and Yes Yes - Queen Victoria was a Great Queen (sarcastically). I think I heard that Queen Victoria was illegitimate, or perhaps a Haemophilliac from inbreeding, maybe both (and laughs). Because we were trouble makers, the Pakeha signed a treaty with us for peace.
There were lots of Pakeha farmers around us. We didn't treat them any different. We took it for granted that they were "just there". A lot of our kids worked for Pakehas on their farms. They liked their jobs, so they like their bosses. We were quite close to them. Our Marae, was a "Cambridge effort", Im meaning the one that was finished in 1978. We liked "our pakehas" - the "True Blue Cambridge People". Some of our kids are named after Pakehas from Maungatautari. On the whole, my Grandparents got on with Pakeha. Sometimes I hear them call them "Pokokohua" - only sometimes. Besides - we mixed with their kids.
My Grandmother was such a hard worker. If it rained she'd do her whariki. She didnt know how to sit still. They always had to be busy doing something, and they don't want you to sit still either. "You knew what you had to do". She had specific ways of doing things - ways we cook kai, baking bread, how to plant kai and even how to know if a water-melon was ripe. They all knew about the different rongoa and the way to treat colds and cuts; but we were the healthiest kids on earth. Never went to the doctors, and no dentist. I went to the school Dental nurse, but there was never anything wrong with my teeth.
Once a year, on a Christmas Eve; we'd go to town - "Pictures if you were lucky"; "we went berserk" just to be in town. Some years we went by taxi, other years we'd walk the 8 miles from Maungatautari to Cambridge town. We did it all together, and we were all the same. My Grandparents worked hard, and drank hard; and our life was about milking, and gardens and keeping our whanau well fed. It was also about family, and helping each other. We didnt go far , because it was who we were.
Ngati Koroki Maori living at Maungatautari.