In many modern day museums and art gallerys, native weapons are often not prominently displayed. It is almost as though Europeans wish to believe they invaded a garden of Eden of peace loving people in the Pacific. This was clearly not so with most Polynesians being just as warlike as Europeans just differently armed. The native weapons of the Maori can be divided into four classes, Hand Clubs Long clubs, Thrusting weapons and Projectile weapons
“ a defeated party fleeing for their lives, or the ovens filled with the bodies of the slain villagers, a band of slaves being hurried along rough trails…Hence his weapon was the Maori’s constant care in the old fighting days, and was always taken with him” Elsdon Best of Tuhoe-land
The native weapons of the Maori can be divided into four classes:—
Short striking weapons – Hand Clubs
Long Striking weapons-Long clubs.
Thrusting weapons – spears
This article deals with the projectile weapons and thrusting weapons of the maori for clubs see Native Weapons Maori Part 1
In projectile weapons the native Moari armoury was decidedly deficient. As with Polynesians, the Maori made no use of the bow and arrow in warfare.
Tarerarera or Kotaha.
This is the only form of native weapon used by the Maori that could be thrown to any distance. It was a rough undressed spear, and was thrown by means of a whip. It is sometimes termed pere by the old men, and also kopere
When used with the whip (kotaha), the butt of the spear (small end of sapling) was stuck in the ground, the head raised at the desired angle, and facing the direction of the enemy. The operator, holding the wooden whip handle, to the end of which a cord was attached, loosely hitched the free end of the cord round the body of the spear. By a vigorous swing of the whip, the spear was plucked from the earth and impelled swiftly in the direction it had been laid to. The twist of the cord round the spear withstood the forward ‘pluck,’ but was released by the forward revolving movement of the spear, the operator retaining the whip in his hands. On striking anywhere, the impact caused the head of the spear to break off at a ring notch, thus in striking the human body the head would remain buried in the body, causing a wound from which recovery was extremely doubtful. it was the only truely projectile weapon used by the maori
The reti, was a pronged, double-pointed, and the sides of such prongs or tines notched. It was made of ake wood. It was grasped by the hand held at the butt end and thrown at an enemy. A cord was fastened to the butt end and the cord held in the left hand, thus enabling the operator to recover his weapon.
Hoeroa or tatu paraoa
This peculiar weapon was made from the rib of the sperm whale (paraoa) and was about five feet in length, flat and about two inches wide. It was not straight but curved. One end was sharpened but not brought to a point, i.e., the full width of the weapon was carried right through to the end, which, however, was tapered in regard to thickness and brought to a fine edge. The hoeroa seems to have been used as a missile weapon and as a stabbing spear, also possibly as a striking weapon. A cord (taura) was secured to a hole in the butt end of the hoeroa, the other end of the cord being fastened to the girdle of the warrior. This enabled him to recover his weapon when cast. As a stabbing or thrusting weapon it would inflict a dreadful wound. It appears to have been thrown with an underhand cast, and is said to have been a most difficult weapon to parry (karo).
Thrusting or Stabbing Maori Native Weapons
This weapon resembled an enlarged eel spear. The shaft was made of manuka wood, resembled a large fork, and was used for stabbing purposes.
This is the longest fighting spear of Maori. It was from eighteen to twenty-five feet in length, and was much used in the defence and attack of the old Maori forts (pa). In such a defence it was used by one man who inserted his spear between the palisades of the defence, using the horizontal rail (huahua) of the palisading as a rest (pae) for same. In fighting outside two men were needed to manipulate the somewhat cumbrous huata, one towards the forward end of the spear, who acted as a pae, or rest, by loosely holding the spear, the other man at the butt end doing the thrusting. When fighting in the open, the users would remain behind the front ranks, who were armed with shorter weapons, the long weapon being thrust forward between the men in front, as a man using it could not well defend himself.
In attacking a village, these spears were used to slay persons within their houses, by thrusting the spears through the roof of thatch or bark.
In travelling, the long huata were held in one hand and trailed behind, dragged as the long bird spears were.
This is often termed the ‘short huata’ by natives. The tokotoko was pointed at one end, the point being hardened by fire It was made of Manuka wood and was about ten to twelve feet long.
This was a different type of spear. It was a short stabbing spear, about seven feet in length, the shaft being of manuka wood, to which was fastened a sharpened head or point of mapara or of human or whale bone It was often ornamented with a bunch of awe or dog’s hair fastened on by the lashing of the head.
The koikoi was a double-pointed, short spear of manuka wood, and was seven to eight feet long, pointed at both ends
In war the general rule was that each warrior was armed with one long weapon—as taiaha, paiaka or spear—and one short weapon—as a patu or toki. The former were carried in the right hand, the latter stuck in the girdle. When the tapu of the war god was upon the warrior, he would never carry his weapon in his left hand. The reason is this, that the right side of man is the tama-tane, the male side, the tapu side, the side of life, health and strength; whereas his left side is the tama-wahine, the female side or common side, the side of death, of sickness or affliction, of weakness.
In war, should cooked food be passed over or come in contact with a native weapons, that weapon is polluted and has lost all its virtue or piercing power
Warriors fighting with a short weapon, as patu or toki, relied principally on the nimbleness of their legs in order to avoid blows aimed at them. They were never still during such a combat, but always dodging and jumping about. The left arm was also used in parrying a blow the left hand, with the puapua, was used in the parry. This puapua would probably be a garment rolled or tied up into a ball, or wrapped round the arm.
In the latter part of the eighteenth century, iron began to be obtained from the early European voyagers. Iron was utilised as spear heads, and formed into patu. Gridirons were eagerly sought after, the bars thereof being formed into barbed points for bird spears. Iron tomahawks were used with either a short or long handle. But the European weapon most sought after was the gun.
Native weapons of the Maori part 1
Article on Maori Feather box