My name is Awaii, my father Takai was the chief of our old village on the island of Uoleva. Because of warring between tribesmen, we left Uoleva, vanishing into the waves at night like sea turtles
It was sad to leave our village, but tribes were attacking and killing villagers and my father said he did not want his people to live this way. My father called what they do evil. It is strange that evil can drive away good. Our village followed him in ten, carved out rigger canoes, called waka amas.
As I am yet a man, I traveled with my mother, Ophir. Father ordered each canoe to be supplied with dried fish and fern roots for food and coconuts for water. One boat had been set aside for beginning our new life on the island my father has called Maori.
This canoe contained such things as the sweet panaus, tubers of taro, yam, arrowroot, and turmeric. There was breadfruit and bananas as well as the mulberry for making of bark cloth and pandanus for its fruit and its leaves for making baskets and thatch for our new homes. Much had been stored in hollowed gourds and kept moist with seaweed.
We brought other things as well. Mother brought fragrant sandalwood roots; hushing me with her lips that father might see her foolishness. I do not think it foolish as its smell reminds me our old home. Someday, I think, we will all thank her for stealing this away; for this new island is frightening and it is good to have things from home that comfort us.
I kept my mother’s secret because she also kept mine. Under the palms leaves, stowed to shield our skins from the sun, I hid two yellow birds in a cage I’d woven with the bark of a Kapuka tree. I named the birds Totara and Toatoa.
Others brought things special to them, too. My friend, Aoraki, brought two lizards and his sister, Rahapeau, two dogs once given to her by a distant voyager from a far away island. In the provision boat, two pigs were also carried, traded to our village by the same man.
My uncle, Koppe, found our new island upon my father’s orders. It took him many moons and we were frightened he would never return from his search. But when he did, we were excited because the killings had become more often and we are a people of the field and not the spear.
When I first saw Maori it was by the light of the moon. White waves crashed upon black rock, the waves were as giant claws shredding the dark muscle of a mighty beast, its blood spilling out in white foam.
But Koppe said it was a beautiful and peaceful island, even more beautiful than Uoleva. Now that I am here and have explored much of the land and its hidden coves I trust what he says. Within the mountains there is a rumbling as of a snoring giant. Sometimes he turns in his sleep and the ground shakes by his movements. Sometimes smoke spouts from the mountain as if the gods are preparing a great feast.
Yesterday I found a new plant and brought it my mother. She boiled it to eat. It tastes much like the fern roots. She calls it whanak. She calls it a good omen, much like a moonless night when the sky is bright with stars. Even when the moon is gone, other things appear to light our way.
By the whanak, I also found a cave. It looks over a peaceful cove and is hidden by many vines. It is cool but dry, a good place to rest when the sun is high. When it is night, the moon rises at its mouth, filling the darkness with gold. Sometimes I wish I could collect this light in a gourd and take down to my village.
Today I am making marks upon the walls of the cave. Marks colored by the juice from berry plants and crushed rock and seashells. Marks carved deep with lava rock that they might last.
I am drawing our voyage across the waters to our new island. Marks showing sea turtles and men in waka amas. A smoking mountain with our village beneath growing crops and Rahapeau chasing her dogs. I will also draw Totara and Toatoa I will draw it all and wonder if another will ever see and understand our journey to Maori.
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