Volume 11 1902 > Volume 11, No. 3 > Niue Island and its people, by S. Percy Smith, p 163-178
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[See also the picture at the end of the previous article]

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Part II.
The People of Niuē.

FROM what has already been said in the first part of this paper, it is abundantly evident that the Niuē people speak a dialect of the Polynesian language. It is equally evident at the first sight of them that they are a branch of the Polynesian race. There is no mistaking the characteristics of the race as seen in other parts, and which are plainly exhibited by the people of Niuē. They are one and the same people with those who occupy the space included by Hawaii in the N.E., Easter Island in the S.E., New Zealand in the S.W., and Nukuoro in the N.W. So much are they like their brethren elsewhere, that at cursory glance they might be taken for Maoris, Tahitians, Rarotongans, Hawaiians or other members of the race. But a closer acquaintance will disclose certain differences in personal appearance (besides other things) that differentiates them from—at least—the branches mentioned above, but still, to no very great extent. I am personally acquainted, (more or less), with the Maoris, Morioris, Tongans, Samoans, Niuēans, Rarotongans, Aitutakians, Mangaians, Raiateans, Tahitians, Easter Islanders, and Hawaiians, and on a careful consideration of the question, to which branch do the Niuē people bear the greatest affinity in personal appearance, I come to the conclusion that that branch is the Moriori of the Chatham Islands, more especially in the case of the men. In the Ure-wera tribe of Maoris is also to be seen much the same type of face.

It is probable—and has been demonstrated in the case of the Maori and Moriori (and possibly others) by an examination of their skulls—that every branch of the Polynesian race has a slight admixture of Melanesian or Papuan blood in it. But I think that this shows more than usually strong in the Niuē people. I judge, of course, by personal appearance, for I took no skull or other measurements to support my idea. It is certainly the case also, that there are two types of face and figure in Niuē, and generally, it may be said that - 164 the type which I should call the more Melanesian of the two, is to be found in the south part of the island. Here is to be seen a type that is somewhat shorter and broader, with large wide jaws, a low forehead, and a generally more morose expression of face, than the others, who exhibit the characteristics of the true Polynesian, tall, broad-shouldered, intellectual looking faces, of cheerful demeanour, and altogether of a pleasanter mien. It must not be understood that there is any strong line of demarkation between these two types; the one graduates into the other, as is only naturally to be expected from the circumstances under which the peoples would be thrown together in a small island, where inter-marriages were constant. Nor do I wish it to be understood that there has been a migration of Melanesians to the island—not at all; those who exhibit to a larger extent than others, the Melanesian characteristics, acquired them through their ancestors long before they came to Niuē, and probably in Fiji, which was the headquarters of the Polynesian race for many centuries.1

It is due in a larger measure to this sojourn in Fiji that Polynesians have a taint of Melanesian blood in them, and the statements of certain writers to the effect that a prior race—Melanesian, Papuan, Negretto, or what not—was found in many of the islands of Eastern and Southern Polynesia now occupied by Polynesians, is to my mind a mistake, and results from ignoring the history of the race. To most of those who have studied the Polynesians and their history amongst the people themselves, the idea of a prior occupation by a different race in the above locality seems quite unwarranted. The few traditions the Polynesians have of a people prior to them are mere localized recollections of their contact with these strange peoples in times long antecedent to their occupation of their present homes. But this is a digression—ha mena kehekehe, as my Niuē friends would say.

The results derived from a study of the personal appearance of the Niuē people, is borne out by the fact that they have two distinct names for themselves; those occupying the southern parts are called Tafiti, all the others Motu. I shall have to return to this subject when treating of the traditions.

Having said that the people are Polynesians,2 little more remains to be said as to the description of them. It might be said (for the - 165 benefit of my fellow New Zealanders) that the Niuē people are Maoris, and that would obviate further description. But all who read this are not acquainted with the Maoris, and therefore a few points may be mentioned. The people are of the same light brown, copper-coloured tint, as the rest of the race, with good figures, active and lithe. Some of them are much fairer (kili-moka) than others. Their hair is generally very black, but, like the rest of the race, there is occasionally a tint of brown; indeed sometimes almost red or light tawny coloured hair is to be seen, just like many Maoris, especially like the Maori uru-kehu. The hair is either quite straight (ulu-halu)—the true Polynesian hair—or curled (ulu-pikipiki), or in small crisp curls (ulu-ginigini) somewhat like the Melanesian hair, or ulu-fiti, bushy finely curled hair like the Fijians, hence the name; but whether this name is modern or not I do not know, probably it is. Baldness (ulu-kila or ulu-muna) is seen occasionally, whilst grey hair (ulu-hina) is common. Like their brethren of other parts, they are not a thickly or bushy bearded people, though in the old men thin beards (hafe) are common, very often worn braided in thin braids. In former times the men wore their hair long and floating over the shoulders, but sometimes tied up on top of the head (fuhihi), whilst the women wore it short, but occasionally in small twists called penapena. At present it is just the reverse, the men's hair, as a rule, is cropped quite close, the women's long and fashionably made up.

The following story illustrates the length of hair worn by the men formerly: At Alofi, in ancient times, lived a man named Tuhega, who was one of the ancestors of the Alofi people. A time of dearth (hoge) came on, and there was little food left in the land except what the people could secure in the wilds of the forest, so that they were sorely pressed by hunger. Tuhega was a fierce savage (favale) man, and a thief (kaiha), stealing from those he saw had acquired some food for themselves. He used to watch the people coming down to the seashore to prepare (tuhoi) the wild and bitter yams (hoi), and after they had washed it in salt and fresh water, &c., so that the yams became fit for eating, Tuhega, watching his opportunity, used to steal it all. He was so successful in his operations that a band of his relatives, fifteen or eighteen in number, joined him, and then Tuhega extended his operations. He went round the island killing all men whom he met, and thus created much alarm. His relatives associated with him began to fear him, and anticipated from his savage demeanour that he would turn on them at last, and kill them. They made one or two attempts to entrap him, but he was a very strong and active man, and they failed; so they decided to catch him unawares in the house in which he lived by himself. Now Tuhega's hair was very long, but, as was the fashion, it was tied up (fuhihi) on the top of the head. He always slept with his head near one of the posts of the - 166 house. Entering very quietly, his relatives managed, without disturbing Tuhega, to untie his hair, and then lashed it round the post so that he was firmly secured, and then they killed him. Here is the song said to have been sung by his spirit after his death, but it is expressed in language I am unable to translate:—

Kuia Togia ke he toa
Ka e kului i au ki Tapēu,
Potiki tolu to veli he po.
Hoku toa, ti fakavaia.
Tuhi feogo ki a Toga,
Kua hifo e folo kai-tagata,
To manavanava a Niue nei,
Hoku toa, ti fakavaia.
Atu toa he ko Tama ha Makefu.
Tatau e mate i Vailoa,
Atu tefekula kau hagaia ni,
Kua ti kai haofia,
Haku toa ti fakavaia.

The eyes of the Niuē people are like those of other Polynesians, large, and from deep black to dark brown; expressive, and in the women and children, soft.

There are a few albinos amongst the people, which they call mahēle, and they are as unprepossessing as the korako amongst the Maoris. They are said to be the offspring of the god Tu, who caught the original ones in a net at night, hence they blink their eyes in the day-light. Tu himself was a mahēle.3 In Rarotonga, the light haired people are supposed to be the descendants of the god Tangaroa.

Notwithstanding the constant hard work which both men and women alike participate in, they are erect in figure and carriage. I never saw any old women in Niuē bent nearly double with work as was at one time so common with the Maoris; nor are either men or women so obese as many Maoris—their active life prevents this.

As a rule the men are not good looking as compared with other branches of the race, though many have intelligent and very pleasant faces. On the other hand the women are almost invariably fairly good looking, though few are really pretty—their expression is quiet and pleasant. I saw no woman so really pretty as large numbers of Maori women to be seen any day, and they cannot compare with the Tahitian women in beauty. But the Niuē women have one advantage over their Maori sisters—their lips (gutu) are generally as thin as those of European women, which is not the rule with Maoris. This seems rather strange if the people have a stronger strain of Melanesian blood in them than most of their brethren, but on the other hand the - 167 noses (ihu) are certainly more flat, both in men and women, than the Maoris and other branches.

In the chiefs of Niuē (Patu or Iki) I never saw that dignity and “presence” observable in a high chief of Samoa, Tonga, or New Zealand,—such as is describable in Maori as he tino rangatira or he momo rangatira; but in their own way they are chiefs nevertheless, and exercise a good deal of influence over the lalo-tagata, or common people.

Of their intellectual gifts, I did not form on exalted opinion. But then my only dealings with them which could call forth their powers in that respect, were of a nature that ran contrary to all their preconceived ideas, viz., the consideration of laws drawn up for the general good and necessarily expressed in terms as technical as the language admitted of. The whole subject was new to them, and without precedent, so allowances must be made on that score.

In industry, I think the Niuē people compare very favourably with any other branch of the race I have met. They are hard workers; indeed the nature of their island obliges them to work in order to live. They make excellent sailors, and are much sought after in Tonga and Samoa as labourers of all kinds. There are over 500 of the young men constantly away from the island, working for Europeans, a large number being engaged at Maldon (which the natives call Pokolā) and other islands working the guano. This enables them to earn a little money, but, at the same, it is a very bad thing for the island itself in many ways.

Like other Polynesians, they are very hospitable, and appear to be fond of gathering at feasts, when large quantities of food are consumed. A great feast is termed a katoaga,4 which may be translated a “basketing,” but an ordinary feast is a galūe.

In the presentation of the food to guests, speeches invariably are made, just as in New Zealand, and—which is not done in New Zealand—all the articles are enumerated, using of course their honorific names which have already been given. The food is then divided out amongst the various fagai, or related groups, present, which must be done by some one having a knowledge of these groups, or offence might be given.

Divisions of the People.

It has already been pointed out that there are two main divisions of the people, termed “Tafiti” and “Motu.” The former people occupy the southern part of the island, from and including the - 168 southern part of the village of Alofi to the village of Liku. Very roughly we may say that the name includes about 1,400 to 1,500 of the population. The inhabitants of the rest of the island are included in the Motu division, and number about 3,000. These two peoples have been constant enemies from time immemorial down to the introduction of christianity. Not that they were always in a state of war, but conflicts were very frequent. The people cannot now tell the origin of these two names, but say they have been so called from very ancient times (tigahau). The frequent state of warfare in which these two peoples existed seems to emphasize the fact of the population having been drawn from two sources, and the probability seems to be that the Tafiti people are a later migration coming from the west, originally, no doubt, from the Fiji group, where the Polynesians sojourned so long. Tafiti is a name given by the Samoans to the Fiji group,5 and is equivalent to the name Tahiti in Eastern Polynesia. The other name, Motu, probably applies to the original migration, or people of the island (motu) who came there in much earlier times.

The Maori words Ngati-, Ngai- and Ati- as prefixes to tribal names, meaning the “descendants of,” are not known to the Niuē people. Nor do they know the New Zealand name for sub-tribe, hapu, or a tribe, iwi. The Niuē word corresponding to Maori Ngati-, is ohi,6 but it does not enter into any of the names of the divisions of the people. The equivalent of the Maori hapu in Niuē, seems to be either Tama or fagai. For example, there are people who are all related to one another more or less, scalled Tama-hamua, Tama-kau-tonga, Tama-hato-kula, &c., and these names seem now to be applied indifferently to those people, or to the places where they live. The fagai (Maori, whangai, to feed) is also a collection of relatives, but persons stranger to the blood are sometimes admitted in to it. It seems probable that the name originated from the fact of the members of a family “feeding” (fagai) together, to which a more extended meaning has been given as the numbers of the family increased. In the pamphlet called, “Ko e tau poa he mē i Niuē, 1901,” being a statement of the offerings made to the Church in Niuē for 1901, each amount is stated opposite the fagai which gave it, and I find there are 170 of them, in which are included several with the prefix Tama-. But it is possible some of the names given are those of places that are not identical with the fagai considered as a family group of related persons.

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The terms for male and female are as follows: a man is tāne, a woman fifine, which names differ little from those used by the race everywhere, tāne being universal, whilst fifine varies as wahine, vahine, vaine, fafine, &c. Tāne is also a husband, but a wife is hoana, which differs from the term used everywhere else except in Tonga, where it is ohoana.7 A popular form of alluding to either husband or wife is tokoua, which we may translate as “double,” or, as we say, our “other self.” A father is a matua-tāne, a mother a matua-fifine, words common to the race. With regard to the words denoting the interrelationship of brothers and sisters, we find some peculiar differences from other branches. For instance, a man's sister is a mahakitaga, a term which is peculiar to Niuē and not found elsewhere, the word in general use being tuahine, or some form of it. It would be interesting to ascertain the origin of this change, but I cannot suggest any reason for it, unless the word tuahine may at some time have become tapu through forming part of a great chief's name, and so gone out of use. Mahaki in Niuē means very great, excessive, and taga is of course the present participle of a verb—the English termination “ing,” or the abstract noun ending in “ness.” This, however, throws no light on the subject, for apparently mahaki in the word for a sister has no connection with “excessive.” Matakainaga, again, is a man's brother, or a woman's sister; it does not appear to be known in Tonga or Samoa, but is an Eastern Polynesian word. In Rarotonga, mata-keinanga means “the people”; in Tahiti, mata'eina'a is “the subjects of a chief, a certain tribe, clan, or subdivision of the people.” In Hawaii, maka'ainana is the common people in distinction from chiefs. Again, taokete is an elder brother of a brother, or elder sister of a sister, the same as in Tonga. In Maori, taokete is a man's brother-in-law, or woman's sister-in-law, as in Rarotonga. The word is not known in Samoan apparently. Tehina is a younger brother of a brother (and I think also) a younger sister of a sister as it is in Tonga. This is the Maori and Tahitian teina or taina with the same meaning, whilst in Samoa it is tei, and in Hawaii kaina, (Maori, taina). Tugane is a woman's brother, as in Maori, tuagane in Samoa, tua'ane in Tahiti. Tama is a child, both male and female, distinguished by tama-tane for a boy, tamā-fifine for a girl—whereas tama in Maori is a son, tamā-hine being a daughter. In Tonga, tama is “a boy, a child,” but whether the child here is explanatory of “boy,” or includes both male and female, is not clear. In Samoa, tama is a woman's child of either sex; in Tahiti, a child; in Rarotonga, a son; in Hawaii, a child. An infant is muke, or mukemuke, or tama-muke, and a grandchild a pulupulu-ola - 170 or moko-puna as in Maori. A grandfather is tupuna, which means also an ancestor of any degree, which is common to the race. Twins are called mahaga and tugi when girls, la-tugi being the first born of the two. The first of these words is common everywhere, but tugi does not appear to be known outside Niuē. A widow is takape, a Niuē word not known elsewhere. Maā, is a brother-in-law, and femaāaki is marriage between the children of brothers- and sisters-in-law, i.e. first cousins, to which objection was sometimes taken as the degree of consanguinity was considered too near, it was considered incest (tiki).

Tiki is the term for incest, of which the people had great horror. They deduce this word from their story of Māui, of whom there were three—some say five—Māui-matua, Māui-tama and Māui-tamā-fifine. The two latter, who were brother and sister, married, and the child of this union was named Tikitiki, hence the word for incest. Another story is very similar to the Maori story of the creation of the first man by Tiki. It is very brief, as follows: “Mankind are unu,” (i.e. ‘drawn out,’ as a fish from its shell, the meaning being that the first woman was ‘drawn out’ from a man, or from a god, not by natural birth. In fact, the explanation given me was that the first woman was made in the same manner as Eve was from Adam), “and the parent committed incest with the child,” (This is the Maori story of Tiki and Hine-ti-tama) “one of them was called Tiki-matua, the other Tiki-tama, and Tiki-matua made Tiki-tama. And the child was ashamed, and cried, after this manner, “Tiki-matua, mo Tiki-talaga, tikitiki, tiki e, tiki e.” It will be noticed here the confusion between the two stories of Māui and Tiki, which are quite distinct in Maori, i.e. Māui-tikitiki-a-Taranga, becomes in Niuē Tiki-talaga.

The adoption of children (hiki-tama), especially those of relatives, was common as it is everywhere with the race, and such adopted children had all the rights of those born to the parents adopting them.

An old man is euphemistically termed penupenu-fonua or mutumutu-fonna, but the ordinary word for on old man or woman is fuakau; a young man is fuata.

Rank, Government, Etc.

Niuē presents some differences from many of the other groups in the form of its ancient Government, more particularly in the selection of a supreme chief, or king, a rank which was not hereditary, nor has there been a continuous line of kings from ancient times, so far as can be ascertained. It seems to me that the first institution of a king or patu-iki, was due to some outside influence—probably through communication with Tonga or Samoa, of which more than one instance is recorded. Prior to that time there was only chiefs of families, &c. When the occasion which originated a patu-iki arose, one was chosen - 171 by the whole of the people from one of the leading families, and subsequently the villages which were the conquerors chose the king, but his election must be agreed to by all to be valid. The absence of genealogical knowledge in the Niuē people, in which they differ so much from all other branches of the race, makes it impossible to assign a date to the choice of the first patu-iki, but it seems probable that the institution as a systematic part of the polity of the island had not been in force for more than 150 years before christianity was introduced in 1849—that is, excluding the first king of all. The Niuē form of kingship seems to find its nearest analogue in the case of Mangaia Island of the Cook Group, where the kings (ariki) were chosen, and the office was not herediary. It is entirely different to the system that prevails in Samoa and Tonga, the nearest groups to Niuē, and this difference I wish to emphasize, as it bears on the origin of the people (see Part III). The king, as has been said, is called patu-iki, which is a combination of the two word patu and iki, both meaning a chief, and it may be translated “chief of chiefs.” I shall have to refer to these terms again, but in the mean time will now proceed to give the succession of patu-ikis, as written out for me by Mohe-lagi of Alofi, the original of which will be found in Part III hereof, the translation is as follows, but as the original was only placed in my hands the day I left Niuē, I regret I had no time to ask more particulars about it:—

“This is the history of the kings (iki) of old; and this story has now been written about them, but (the knowledge) is retained in the memories of the wise men and those of a clear understanding. Thus: [Tihamau was the first king in ancient times; not mentioned by Mohe-lagi.]

1. Puni-mata, the first putu-iki of Niuē, who was bathed at Papatea, near Hakupu, whence he was borne on men's shoulders to Fatu-aua. He died of old age, and was buried at Hopuo. After him, for a long time there was an interregnum; it is not known how many generations elapsed before another was set up.

2. Patua-valu—Then all the people assembled to consult as to another man as king (iki) of the island, and they fixed on Tage-lagi.8 Then the people gathered to anoint Tage-lagi as king, but he prevented it and proposed Patua-valu instead, whilst he himself would guard the king, for he was a warrior. So Tage-lagi anointed Patua-valu as king; he was bathed at Puato, by Tage-lagi, who then composed the following song for the occasion:

Let us carry a stone and set it up,
Erect it within at Puato,
To annoint the King of Niuē,
Sing with prolonged animation,
Sing with prolonged animation.
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Hoist up the flag,
Let it fly in the breeze,
Sing with prolonged animation,
Sing with prolonged animation.
Patua-valu was king; but he was guarded by Tage-lagi. And Patua-valu died first of old age, and after him Tage-lagi. Then another was set up as a successor to the king.

3. Galiaga (or Galiaga-a-Iki) was the king who was killed by violence. He was bathed by Mohe-lagi at Palūki, when he composed the following song:

The populace has gathered at Palūki,
To bathe the Lord at the tafua,
Look not backwards to Fale-una,
But downwards to the tafua of the island
Now gathered at Palūki.

(Galiaga of Palūki was the last king elected during the times of peace. He was killed by Tikomata. The first time he visited Liku, he went to bathe in the sea, upon which Mohe-lagi composed the following song, which, I may add, was sung as a welcome to me on my first visit there:

Kua fenoga he Iki ki Tama-ha-le-leka,
Iki puna he mata i Halavai,
Kave loa ki Fakahau-leva
Koukou i luga a Tagaloa,
Iki puna he mapua-lagi.
To pakia hifo e muka he kava,
Ke kapiti ua mo e mata he lā,
Folahia ki fakatau la
Mo nofoa a Galiaga-a-Iki,
Iki puna he mapua-lagi.
The chief journeyed to Tama-ha-le-leka,9
To see himself in the waters of Halavai point,10
Tis a long carrying to Fakahau-leva.
Tagaloa11 does bathe up above,
(But) the chief sees himself at the horizon.12
Striken shall be the young shoot of kava,
And be conjoined with the face of the sun,
Let both be spread out together.
As a seat for Galiaga-a-Iki,
The chief sees himself at the horizon.

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After Galiaga came two candidates for the office of king named Fakana-iki and Hetalaga, but as the whole of the island did not approve, neither of them was anointed.)

4. Foki-mata then became king, and was bathed by Fakahe-manava at Palūki, when he composed the following song for him:

The kamapiu shrub that stands at Tafala-mahina,
Broken off were (its branches) by my sister,
And beaten on my body to scent it,
Sweet scented to go to Palūki.

5. Pakieto was also a king, but he did not hold the office for a year, and then died.13 [He was of the Tama-lagau people—and subsequent to his death a war occurred as to who should succeed him—not mentioned by Mohe-lagi.]

That is the story of the Patu-ikis of old in the “period of darkness” (vaha pouli); but the following are the kings of the “period of prayer” (vaha liogi, i.e. since christianity prevailed). The populace sought out a man who was suitable, and of good repute, for the office. Thus:

6. Tui-toga was the first king. He was anointed on March 2nd, 1875, and died 13th June, 1887. This is the song composed for his anointing:

Assembled are the people at the hanging flag,
Seeking are the people for a lord,
This island is seeking for a lord,
Seeking for a lord (like) Patua-valu,
For he was the lord who fell full ripe (in years),
Seeking are the people for a lord,
It is settled to be the weapon-eating lord there,
To watch for the dreaded companies,
Seeking are the people for a lord.

(Tui-toga was also called Ta-tagata, a name now borne by his son.)

7. Fata-a-iki was the next king; he was anointed November 21st, 1888, and died December 15th, 1896. (I learn from Mr. Lawes that Fata-a-Iki was a very superior man, of great force of character, and with a deep knowledge of the Niuē language. His word was law to the people.)

8. Togia-Pulu-toaki is the present king, and he was anointed June 30th, 1898, and was in office when the Resident arrived at Niuē, 11th September, 1901.”

Such is Mohe-lagi's account of the kings of Niuē. The songs (lologo) are probably those sung at the feast (katoaga) held in the - 174 king's honour when he was anointed. The word “bathe” which I have used in the translation of the songs, refers, I think, to the washing of the body with scented (manogi) oils, and the anointing (fakauku, or fakatakai; fakafoufou to crown, foufou a crown) was done by one of the senior chiefs dipping a lau-mamālu14 in a cup of coco-nut oil, and striking the king's head three times. A representative from each village attended, whilst others performed various services, such as providing the stone against which the king sat to be anointed, such stone being called a pēpē (Maori, &c., paepae, but in Moriori pēpē). There are two of such stones in the village of Alofi, where Tui-toga and Fata-a-iki were anointed. They are rough flat coral rocks, about four feet high and two feet broad. At Tuapa, about half-a-mile inland is another, which stands at the east end of an artificial platform (tutu) of rough stones about twelve feet high, sixty feet long, and fifty feet wide. At about seventy or eighty yards to the west are eleven seats formed of upright stones with backs to them, where the chiefs sat in council (fono) with the king. The pillar where the king is anointed and the stone seats reminded me very much of the place called Arai-te-tonga, in Raro-tonga, where is the pillar called Tau-makeva where the ariki or king was anointed and near where is the row of stone seats, of the same kind as those at Niuē, where the chiefs of the island sat. But there is this notable difference, that at Rarotonga the chiefs can tell to whom each seat belonged, and the whole history of the place, and the ceremonies performed there, whereas the Niuē chiefs, including the king, who accompanied Mr. Lawes and myself on our visit to the pēpē described above, knew very little about it—not even the name of the king who was anointed there.

It will be noted in the above songs, that tui is sometimes used for king, chief, &c. This is a Fijian, Tongan, and Samoan title, but not known in Eastern Polynesia. It was probably introduced by the Tafiti people, but it is very rarely used. There are honorific or emblematical names for the king, such as Ulu-he-motu, Head of the Island; whilst Tuapa, where the present king lives, is called Uho-motu, meaning the core, centre, origin, of the island, and inferentially the seat of power. But Tuapa has not always been the “capital” of the island. Palūki, near the centre, seems to have been the great place in former days, though no one lives there permanently now. Fata-a-iki's - 175 paper (loc: cit.) says: “Ko Palūki, ko e uho foki ha mautolu a Palūki. Ko Palūki mo Liua-lagi; ko e higoa haia he motu tapu15 i Niuē nai; ko e toloaga haia he motu nai, ke eke ai e tau kava-atua mo e liogi ai ke mafola e motu.” “Palūki is our origin, centre; Palūki and Liua-lagi are the names of the sacred isle (? wood)* of Niuē; it was the gathering place of all the island, where they made the kava-atua and prayed for peace in the island.”

As to the functions of the Patu-iki, it is now somewhat difficult to say. But the mere fact of their being such a functionary who was in constant communication with all parts of the island through the intermediary of his council (fono), would tend to the general benefit. There was one representative of the king—his agent, as it were—in each village called Alavaka, or Alaga-vaka; but at a fono, it was not only they who attended, but most of the other chiefs also.

In addition to the king there was an officer termed an Alaga-vaka ne-mua, or chief Alaga-vaka, who was a kind of Prime Minister, and may be said to have carried on the business of the island, indeed, to such an extent it is said, that he sometimes usurped the chief power in the land, and carried on the government (pule) himself. He was assisted by another Minister termed a Hagai, but what his functions were I know not. According to Fata-a-iki (loc: cit.) there were a number of Alaga-vaka, but one only, the Alaga-vaka-ne-mua, who had access to the king. I give below his account in the original, for it contains some statements of importance which I should not like to make a mistake in. He says: “Ko e alito he motu nai he vaha tuai ko e palāhega, ti lavahi aki ni e kafa-lauulu, ti afī aki ni e lau-polata mo e tau lau-piu; afī ni, ati maluokaoka fua, ti tahake ni ke tau he aloalo-fale, ti tafu ni e afi he kelekele ke mafana ai e mena ia kua tau he aloalo-fale. Ko e higoa e mena ia ko e ‘toka-motu’—ko e alito haia he motu. Ko Tagaloa haia he mounuina ai e motu. Ka to e tau lā, ti fano e Ala-vaka-ne-mua ke he Patu-iki ke huhū age ki a ia po ke heigoa e mena ne malaia ai e motu. Ti fano a Tokaaga-tala i Mutalau ke kikite; kua fukefuke tuai he Patu-iki e tau afī, ti tiaki, ti haumia ni e alito he motu—nakai mafana ke monuina e motu. Ko Tokaaga-tala e Ala-vaka-ne-mua- Ko e mena loga e Alaga-vaka, ka e taha ni ne mua; nakai o oti ke he Patu-iki, taha ni ka fano ke he Patu-iki ke tă mai he tala ke he motu.” The translation is: “The Alito of this island in ancient times was a palā-hega, which was bound up with a hair girdle, and then wrapped in the inside leaf of the banana, and also a fan-palm leaf;16 - 176 after wrapping up it was completely sheltered, and was then lifted up and suspended on the inner part of the roof, a fire was then lit on the ground in order to warm the object suspended to the roof. The name of this thing is a “toka-motu”—that is the alito of the island. It is Tagaloa; and he blesses (or brings prosperity to) the island. After sunset, the chief Alaga-vaka would go to the Patu-iki to ask him as to what it was that brought misery (misfortune) on the island. On one occasion Tokaaga-tala, of Mutalau, went to see him; (he found) that the Patu-iki had taken off the coverings and thrown them away, and (consequently) the alito of the island was damp through dew—it was not warm, so that the island might be prosperous (or blessed). Tokaaga-tala was the chief Ala-vaka. There were many Alaga-vaka, but only one was chief; the others would not go to the Patu-iki, but one only, that the Patu-iki might give him the information about the island.”

There are some matters in the above which require explanation. The word alito,17 means the core, kernal, in ordinary language, but here it is evidently more in the nature of the mauri of the Maoris, that is, an object of a talismanic kind which centred in it as an objective the prosperity of the island, in the same manner that the mauri represented the tangible form of that which gave prestige, power and vitality to the places wherein they were located. We have no word in the English language to express this; but it may more easily be understood by Mr. Elsdon Best's apt illustration as follows: When the Philistines took from the Children of Israel the Ark of the Covenant, they lost their mauri, and with it their prestige, power, luck, and well-being as a nation. Such is, I think, the meaning of alito in this connection. The visible form of the alito was a palāhega. Now this is a plume, made of paroquets' feathers worked round a central core of wood or compressed dried banana leaves, sprouting from which is a plume of red feathers of the tuaki-kula, or tropic bird. They are very handsome objects, and are bound together with braided human hair.18 In its talismanic capacity it evidently was necessary that it be kept warm (mafana) to retain its virtue, and hence the action of the Patu-iki in allowing it to become bedewed (haumia) caused misfortunes to arise in the island, and originated the visit of Tokaaga-tala to the Patu-iki to ascertain the cause thereof. It will be seen that the palāhega was termed a toka-motu, which, I think, may be translated as the “rock, or foundation of the island.”

There was a special series of words used in referring to the king, or in addressing him, which were not used in other cases or in - 177 ordinary convesration. This of course is a Samoan and Tongan custom also. The paucity of “chief's words” in Niuē again leads me to infer that the institution of king is comparatively modern, and that the introduction of the use of them was due to some communication with Tonga or Samoa. The following is the list which, however, may not be complete:—

Chiefs' Word Common Word Chiefs' Word Common Word
fioia, to see19 mamata, etc. haeleaga, the king's residence fale, kaina
finagalo, will, command loto    
fufuga, head ulu matulei, to die mate
fofoga, face, eyes, etc. mata tugolu, to sleep mohe
haele, to come, or go hau, fano ve and vae, foot hui

Out of these words, two are Samoan, six Tongan, four Futunaan, four Tahitian, three Maori. From so small a number of words it would be unsafe to make any sure deduction; but still, Tongan words preponderate, and the inference would be, were the comparison capable of greater extension, that the institution of king is due to Tonga influence.

The attitude of the lower orders towards the king and chiefs was always one of deference, for which they have a word (maimaina), and this is so at this day. No one of the common people (lalo tagata) approaches a chief, or passes before him without stooping in a humble attitude (tukutuku-hifo, to bow down), and, like the Samoans, they sit down cross-legged (fakatoga, which really means Tonga fashion) to prefer any request. Fata-a-iki says (loc. cit.) “The appropriate (gali) way of speaking in Niuē in former days, was not to stand, but sit cross-legged, or to kneel one knee on the ground.” This latter posture is frequent at the present time. I was often amused in my walks with Mr. Lawes, to see that people meeting us along the road, especially women, generally moved off the highway and squatted down until we had passed. This is maimaina, deference, respect, a word which appears to be native to Niuē, but is akin to the Maori maimai-aroha. There is another Niuē word for this humble attitude, hufeilo, which apparently meant originally, to prostrate, to lie on the ground, to abase oneself to a conqueror, to beg one's life. The conquered formerly acted in this manner, kissing the feet of the conqueror and bringing a present at the same time. This was done in such a manner as not to give the victor time to refuse. Inferentially, if the present was accepted, the life of the petitioner was spared.

- 178

There are a good many chiefs in Niuē, who are called either iki or patu. The former no doubt is the Polynesian word ariki, or chief, lord, or king, though in New Zealand it is also applied to the first born son. Niuē folks are rather given to dropping the letter ‘r’ (or ‘l’) in words in which other branches retain it; in this they resemble the Marquesans, who have lost the ‘r’ altogether from their dialect, and their word for a chief is haka-iki. In Tonga, the word is eiki. Mr. Lawes told me that he thought the iki were chiefs who had risen for some reason, perhaps as warriors, to a higher position, and that the name is possibly of comparative modern use. If so, it would have come from Tonga, and not Samoa, where the form is ali'i. But, though I am loth to question any statement of Mr. Lawes', the fact of this word being found in the ancient invocation called “Ulu lologo o Maletoa,” seems to show it to have been in use for a very long time,—so long that the language of this invocation is hardly understood by most people.

The name patu, which represents the head of a family, is more commonly used than iki. This is no doubt the Eastern Polynesian name fatu, used for a lord or chief, the head or core or centre of authority, and is identical with Maori whatu, the core or kernel, etc. The patus are the heads of the fagai, already described, and they form the local fonos, or councils of each village, and with the ikis fill the various offices required in the polity of Niuē such as (in modern times) the magistrates (fakafili), the police (leoleo), the deacons, and do all the speechifying, which is by no means an unimportant part in every day life. In former times they were the leaders in war, the toa, or warriors, and moreover are the principal land owners, though every one has land of his own by right of ancestral title; at the same time I did hear of cases in which some individuals had been unjustly deprived of their rights by the patus.20

There is no question as to the power the patus and ikis exercised over the lalo-tagata, or lower orders—they were supreme; but I believe all decisions were the result of a concensus of opinion in the fono or council.

(To be continued.)

1  See “Hawaiki”—Journal of Polynesian Society, vol. vii., p. 137.
2  How badly a name is wanted for this race. Maori has become identified with New Zealand and Rarotonga, whose peoples both call themselves by that name. The Rev. Mr. Whitmee, of Samoa, feeling the difficulty, suggested “Sawaiori,” a compound word derived from Sa-(vai'i), (Ha)-waii, and (Ma)-ori. But it has never come into use, and probably never will. The people themselves have no racial name applying to the whole of them. The Marquesians are said to call themselves “Take,” but this is no racial term, as it is not known elsewhere.
3  See Part III. for the native account of the origin of the albino.
4  This word kato, a basket, is interesting as illustrating the inter change of the first series of vowels, i.e. ‘a,’ ‘e,’ ‘o’—for the above word is the Maori and Rarotonga kete.
5  See Dr. Turner's “Samoa, a hundred years age,” p. 12.
6  Ohi is also an old Maori word equivalent to ai, and consequently has the same meaning as the Niuē word.
7  Of course the first part of this word—hoa—is a common term for husband or wife in Maori, originally meaning friend.
8  Tage-lagi's skull used to grin at me from a shelf in my office at Alofi. A skull is uluulu-tagata, gati-ulu, or ulu-poko.
9  Another name for Liku.
10  A point on the coast near Liku—“to see himself”—the word puna in Niuē is to look at one's reflection in the water, the only looking glass the people possessed.
11  Tagaloa, principal god of Niuē.
12  Mapua-lagi, the horizon. cf. Maori pua-o-te-rangi, for the “space of heaven.”
13  Fata-a-iki's paper says that Fiti was fifth king—probably another name for Pakieto.
14  Lau mamālu, the leaf of a fern that is very common at Niuē. It appears to have some special significance attached to it, like the karamu branch, &c., much used formerly in New Zealand in connection with their ceremonies. When vessels approached Niuē formerly, the wise men used to hold a lau-mamālu before their faces whilst they recited their incantations to drive off the strangers for fear of diseases. The use of the fern leaf was to prevent them being afflicted by opthalmia originating with the visitors.
15  The Maori word motu, for a clump of forest seems to be lost in Niuē now-a-days, but the fact of such a clump of tall forest trees growing near Palūki at the present day, named Motu-tapu, seems to show that they once knew the word. It is in this sense probably Fata-a-iki uses the word above.
16  Articles of value are still wrapped up in the silky inner skin of the banana stem (lau-polata), and the folded leaf of the fan-palm is also used as a wrapper at the present day.
17  Maori scholars will recognise the word rito in alito.
18  See plate in part III.
19  Fioia, is probably the passive form of fio, the Tahitian hio. If so, as to see and to know are generally identical terms in Polynesia, the Maori mo-hio, to know, is the same as Niuē fio.
20  I have mentioned the magistrates and police. I ascertained that for the eleven villages of the island with a population of 4,500, there were twenty-three magistrates and one hundred and twenty-five police, who were paid by appropriating the fines to themselves! I found it necessary to reduce the former to five, the latter to eleven, and arranged that they should be paid by the state.