Whipscars and Tattoos: The Last of the Mohicans, Moby-Dick, and the Maori

By Geoffrey Sanborn | Go to book overview

Introduction
GRAND, UNGODLY, GODLIKE MEN

ON October 9, 1769, apakeha (white person) shot a Maori to death on the north shore of what would become known as Poverty Bay. The next day, three boatloads of pakeha returned to the place where the man was killed, the eastern bank of the Turanganui river. Standing on the other side of the river were between fifty and one hundred Maori warriors. They performed a dance in which “each man jump’d with a swinging motion at the same instant of time to the right and left,” accompanying it with “a strong Hoarse Song” that was evidently intended “to Chear Each Other and Intimidate their Enemies.”1 The leader of the pakeha, James Cook, responded in kind, ordering one of his men to fire a shot across the river. Impressed but not intimidated, twenty or thirty of the warriors swam the river, carrying their long spears and bludgeons with them. They tried to exchange weapons with the pakeha: but all they were offered in return were beads and pieces of iron. One of them, Te Rakau, wrested a sword away from a pakeha and waved it above his head. Two of the pakeha shot and killed him. Upon seeing Te Rakau fall, one of his companions immediately “ran to take [the sword] away from him and was very near carreying it off had not one of the Gentlemen got hold of it before him.” It was an “un parrelled” and “greatly to be Admir’d” act of courage, wrote Lieutenant Richard Pickersgill in his journal. “[I]t has always been remark’d amongst Savages lett them be ever so much usd to fire arms that as soon as they see a man or two fall that they immeadeately fall in to disorder and give way yet these People was so far from shewing any

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Whipscars and Tattoos: The Last of the Mohicans, Moby-Dick, and the Maori
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Glossary xv
  • Introduction- Grand, Ungodly, Godlike Men 1
  • Chapter One- Te Ara’s Scars 16
  • Chapter Two- Cooper’s Death Song 37
  • Chapter Three- Te Pehi Kupe’s Moko 73
  • Chapter Four- Melyille’s Furious Life 93
  • Notes 133
  • Index 175
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