Volume 12 1903 > Volume 12, No.1, March 1903 > Niue Island, and its people: Part IV, by S. Percy Smith, p 1-21
The Journal of the Polynesian Society.
VOL. XII, 1903.
NIUĒ ISLAND, AND ITS PEOPLE.
History and Traditions.
WE now come to the somewhat difficult question of the whence of the Niuē people—difficult, that is, because of the lack of precise traditions amongst the people themselves. In this they differ very materially from all other branches of the race I know of. It has been already pointed out that there appear to have been two separate migrations to the island—the Motu and the Tafiti people—of which the Motu division was, in all probability, the original one.
The traditions of the people say that they came from Tonga, or from Fonua-galo, or from Tulia. Now Tonga does not necessarily imply the island of that name, because to the Niuē people all foreign lands were called Tonga, as are foreigners tagata toga, and ships toga. And the name, as applied to foreign parts, is, I think, not an invention since the arrival of the people in Niuē, but was applied to some country with which the people in their former homes had frequent dealings. This points strongly to a former residence in Samoa, and to the period during which constant intercourse, generally of a hostile nature, took place with the Tonga group. It is at that time I think the name of Tonga arose for a “foreign country,” and in process of time with the Niuē people the name has become general, in the same manner as - 2 Hawaiki did with the Maoris. The second name, Fonua-galo, as that of a place, does not give any indication of locality, for, so far as I know, there is no such island; and moreover, the meaning of the word is “lost-land,” and implies that it is a name signifying the fact that the real name has been forgotten. The other name, Tulia, is not known as that of an island at the present day, and the only thing like it I know of, is the name of a place on the west end of Savai'i Island in Samoa, called Tulia also.
The names of the ancestors who originally settled in Niuē do not help us either. They are Huanaki, and Fāo, as the chief persons, together with Fakahoko, Lageiki and Lagiatea, besides several others, all of whom in process of time have become tupuas, or deified personages. These are the Motu ancestors. The only name recognisable from the genealogical tables of other branches of the race is Fāo, but, from various reasons, this man can scarcely be identical with the Maori ancestor named Whao (which is the same as Fāo). Just prior to the last migration of the Maoris in the fleet of six canoes to New Zealand in circa 1350, there flourished in Tahiti one Uenuku, whose great enemy, named Whena, or Hena—a resident of Rarotonga—had a son named Whao, whose son again was called Whao, and it is of course possible that Fāo of Niuē may be identical with one of these. But it is not likely; for Niuē was settled before this period if I am right in my theory of their origin. It should be noticed also, that Fāo is said by Niuē tradition to have left that island in old age and settled in Aitutaki Island—not very far from Rarotonga, where Whao of Maori tradition lived.
I asked my friend, Mr. J. T. Large, of Aitutaki, to institute enquiries amongst the people of that island as to whether they had any record of Fāo, or his supposed migration, and he replies as follows: “The people of this island know nothing about him, but a Niuē toa, or warrior, named Titia was brought to Aitutaki many generations ago under the following circumstances: Aitutaki was at that time overrun with the Aitu people, said to have come from Mangaia Island. Maeva-kura, who flourished about eight generations ago, i.e. circa 1700 according to the Aitutaki genealogies, sent messengers to his daughter Maine-maraerua, at Rarotonga, to obtain help to expel these invaders. She sent her son Maro-una, who, taking a war-party with him, first made war on all the islands near at hand and also at Niuē, obtaining a toa or warrior from each island, Titia being the man he obtained from Niuē. With them he exterminated the Aitu people in Aitutaki. Some of Titia's descendants are still alive here.”
This incident is also alluded to in the “Autara ki Aitutaki,” as follows: “Maro-una …. would not then land as he was going on - 3 to Vare-a-tao, or Niuē Island, to get more warriors, and after a tempestuous voyage Maro-una arrived there. After a great deal of fighting he succeeded in getting the warrior Titia; and then returned to Aitutaki.”—J.P.S., vol. iv, p. 70.
Fāo appears to be a not uncommon name in Samoa.
In order to arrive at an understanding of the probable origin of the Niuē people, it will be necessary to briefly sketch the history of the race during the period extending from the sixth to the thirteenth century. In doing so, reliance is placed on the Rarotongan traditions as being by far the most complete of any that have been preserved relating to that epoch, and, being written by the last high priest of that island have an authenticity quite exceptional. In about the sixth century, the Samoan branch of the race had already occupied their group. This branch, indeed, was probably the earliest migration from Indonesia. The eastern part of the Fiji group was in occupation of the later migrations, whom, to distinguish, we may call the Tonga-Fiti people, for such is the name they are referred to in Somoan tradition. Tonga, at this time, had in all probability been settled, and maintained a constant communication with the same branch of the race in Fiji. Towards the close of the sixth century, communication was frequent between the Tonga-Fiti people and the Samoans, indeed the former had then commenced the occupation of the coasts of Samoa, which did not cease until circa 1250. High chiefs of the Tonga-Fiti people, were at that time making some of their astonishing voyages all over the Pacific, discovering fresh lands to colonize, and becoming the expert navigators their subsequent lengthy voyages proved them to be. The period extending from the sixth to the thirteenth century was one of unrest and trouble. Tribe fought against tribe in the headquarters of the race in Fiji, and many expeditions started from there to discover homes in other parts of the Pacific, finding no peace at home. About the early part of this period Hawaii and Tahiti were first settled, and somewhere about the middle of the ninth century New Zealand received its first settlers, the same people in all probability that furnished the inhabitants of the Chatham Islands—the Morioris—but not at so early a date as the ninth century.
Now, I take it to be somewhere in the above period, i.e. from the eighth to the thirteenth century that Niuē received its first inhabitants. It was probably after the commencement of the great voyages which led to a knowledge of most of the islands in Central and Eastern Polynesia—and this was approximately the year A.D. 650. We may say tentatively, that Niuē was first occupied by the Motu people in about A.D. 700. The reason I fix on this date is, that the people have many of the traditions common to the race, the period of which - 4 is prior to A.D. 700, but so far as I gathered, none of a later date that are not merely local. Many of the great heroes of Polynesian history are unknown to the Niuē people, because they flourished after the migration to Niuē.
The causes which led to the migration of Huanaki and Fāo are said to be their dissatisfaction at being omitted from the feasts given by their relatives and friends, which was due to their own fault in neglecting to help in the preparation of food for such feasts. This may not appear to be a very serious affair to European minds, but to the Polynesian it was a grievous insult, and the result was that the two chiefs and their followers migrated to find a land distant from that of their relatives, for they were probably not sufficiently strong to wipe out the insult in blood, which would have been the usual course. As to the place they migrated from, there is strong probability that it was the western end of Savai'i, and the emigrants themselves were probably either Samoans of the old stock, or a mixture of Samoans and the Tonga-Fiti people. The use the people make of the word uta for the east, shows that their forefathers dwelt for a lengthened period on the west coast of some country; and their use of the word mounga, a mountain (which they do not apply to any hill in Niuē) shows this country to have had mountains in it, as Savai'i has. The Samoan customs and words, with the Samoan god Sa-le-vao (Ha-le-vao) the Niuē people have, show an intimate connection with Samoa. But this was before the Samoans softened the “h” to “s,” and dropped the “k” out of their dialect. The year 700 was before the incident known as Mata-mata-mē in Samoan history,1 and prior to that time Samoa had no king of the whole group. Hence, when the Niuē migration came away, they brought with them the system then in force in Samoa, i.e. of chiefs, but no kings. At that early period, if I am right in my reading of Polynesian history, cannibalism had not yet been introduced as a custom of the race—it was not until the close connection that subsequently existed between Polynesian and Melanesian in Fiji, that the former learnt this custom from the latter. Hence the Niuē people are not cannibals.
As to circumcision, it is doubtful if any argument can be drawn from the fact of the Niuē people not practising this rite, though they were acquainted with it. We do not know if this is an ancient Tonga-Fiti custom, though probably it is, and brought by some branch of the race from their original home in Asia. There are some divisions of the race who did not practise it; the majority of the Maoris did not, nor the Morioris. Some of the East Coast tribes of New Zealand did, but from the account of its introduction, it is - 5 comparatively speaking modern. It was first known to these people in the time of Tama-ki-te-ra and Tama-ki-te-hau, who flourished two generations before the arrival of the fleet in New Zealand, or about the year 1300. It was no doubt introduced from Eastern Polynesia by some of the voyagers who at that period visited New Zealand. Hence it was probably unknown to the tanyata-whenua, or original inhabitants of New Zealand—who, I have reason for thinking, were of the Tonga-Fiti branch of the race—or the practice had become obsolete, and only resusitated in the case of the Maoris, through renewed intercourse with Central Polynesia.2
The absence of tatooing amongst the Ninē people seems to lend weight to the argument that the Motu people were Samoans. It is known by tradition that tatooing was introduced into Samoa from Fiji, i.e. from the Tonga-fiti people, but the date cannot be fixed. It is, however, certain that there was a period when Samoans did not tatoo, and it was during this time that the Motu people of Niuē split off from the parent stem in all probability.
It is probably due to this Samoan origin that we find the following names in Niuē, which are all Samoan: Hamoa (Samoa), Matafele, Havaiki (Savai'i), Tutuila, Vaea, Tuapa, Avatele, and Tafiti, which latter is a Samoan name of Fiji, whilst Lakepa is the same as Lakemba of the Fiji group.
As to the second element in the Niuē population, those called Tafiti, there can be no doubt that they are much later emigrants than the Motu people. The only account of them I have is as follows, and even then the story does not relate to their first coming. The original will be found under the same paragraph numbers in the native language later on:—
69. Describes the manner, truly marvellous, by which a woman of Niuē named Gigi-fale was conveyed away to some island called Tonga, for which see translation.
70. “Then came down some of the people of the land, who surprised and caught the woman, whom they took away with them and cared for her. She was a handsome woman, was Gini-fale, and was taken to wife by the chief of the island. When the time approached that her child should be born, the husband was constantly in tears. So Gini-fale asked him, “Why do you cry?” Said her husband, “I am crying on your account, because of your child.” Now the custom of that island was to cut open the mother that the - 6 child might be born, but the mother died, This was the reason why Lei-pua was so sorry. Then Gini-fale said, “O thou! I will disclose to thee the way by which the child may be born.”
71. When the time came, a male child was born, and they called him Mutalau. After the child had grown up he learnt that his mother came from Motu-te-fua (Niuē), and he felt a strong desire to visit the home of his mother.”
Mutalau and Matuku-hifi.
72. “Tihamau was the chief of Nuku-tu-taha (Niuē); he built his great house at Hapuga and Faofao, a village at the Ulu-lauta, at Mata-fonua of the Lelego-atua (at the north end of Niuē; there is no such village now). He was the lord of the malē (plaza) of Fana-kava-tala and Tia-tele; and of the stone house built by Huanaki at Vaihoko—he was the first king of the island of Niuē-fekai.
73. Matuku-hifi was the hagai or lieutenant of Tihamau, whose duty was to guard the entrance against the Tongans, lest they seized the island. He dwelt at the upper rock at Makatau-kakala, at Oneone-pata, Avatele. He prepared some white operculii, and bound them (over his eyes) with hiapo when darkness set in, and thus leaned back on his seat. The rock against which he supported himself was opposite the sea. When he had the operculii in his eyes they shone white, as a man who was wide awake, and then he slept soundly until daylight.
74. This was at the period that Mutalau arranged to come to the island, but Matuku-hifi kept strict guard so that it was difficult for Mutalau to land. Mutalau used frequently to come by night, without success, so he waited till daylight at which time Matuku-hifi went away to work, and leaving his canoe at Tioafa, crept up to the resting place of Matuku-hifi to see what kind of a man he was.
75. When the hour of Matuku-hifi's return came, he made his fire, and bound on his artificial eyes and rested in his stone-seat. Then Mutalau saw that it was all deceit; so he waited until Matuku-hifi was sound asleep, then seizing his weapon he went up by the path, and struck Matuku-hifi on the head and cut it off, together with the stone-seat. Thus died Matuku-hifi.
76. After this Mutalau went to Vaono, near Māla-fati, a village between Lakepa and Liku, where he met Tihamau, the king. Here they disputed together, because Mutalau had come to the island.
77. Lepo-ka-fatu and Lepo-ka-nifo were the sons of Matuku-hifi, and they were both small children at the time of their fathers's death; but when they grew up they enquired who their father was. The family told them, “Matuku-hifi was your father, but he was killed by Mutalau who lives at the Ulu-lauta (north end of the island). The family told them, “Matuku-hifi was your father, but he was killed by Mutalau who lives at the Ulu-lauta (north end of the island). The - 7 sons and their relatives now desired to make war, and prepared accordingly, and when the preparations were complete, they went to the north, and killed Mutalau. This was the beginning of war in Niuē, which lasted until the coming of Peniamina, Toimata and Paulo to bring the word of Jesus to prevent further fighting.”
There are some interesting points in this tradition, quite outside its connection with Niuē. It contains fragments—generally perverted—of traditions known to other branches of the race. For instance, the Cesarian operation referred to in par. 70 is part of the story of Tura, an ancient Maori ancestor.3
It is also probable that the first part of the story of Gini-fale, is based on one of the Tinirau legends—is in fact a perverted account of Hina's adventures. Both of these stories belong to the Maori-Rarotongan branch of the race, and hence Niuē people only know them in a sketchy kind of way and have made a local application of them. Tinirau, or as they and the Samoans call him, Tigilau, was known by name to the Niuē people, which is natural, for he flourished before the date of the migration to Niuē, in Fiji.
Now this story, though it only mentions the name of one emigrant—Mutalau—and partakes of the frequent marvellous character of so many old legends, contains no doubt the germs of a true story of a further accession to the inhabitants of the island.
As to the origin of the Tafiti people, it seems to me probable that they were some of the Tonga-Fiti people who occupied the coasts of Samoa, and were expelled from there at the time of Matamata-mē, or when Savea became the first king of all Samoa, and received the name for the first time, of Malietoa. This occurred according to the several Samoan genealogies about the year 1250,4 or about 550 years after the arrival of the Motu people at Niuē. This period is characterised in Polynesian history by the close connection of the Polynesians with the Melanesians in the Fiji group, when intercourse was frequent and intermarriage constant. Hence the greater Melanesian strain in the Tafiti people than in those of Motu. It is due also to this Melanesian intercourse, that the large number of Tongan words, with some of their grammatical forms, was introduced into Niuē, gradually overriding and replacing much of the purer Polynesian dialect spoken by the Motu people, the traces of which are still apparent in their old songs.- 8
Subsequent History of Niue.
The first notice of Niuē Island from an outside source is contained in the Rarotongan traditions. Here we come, for the first time, on something a little more reliable as to dates than anything the Niuē people can furnish. The following brief notice will be found in the Rev. J. B. Stair's “Early Voyages of the Samoans.”5 I quote this account because it is in print, rather than the MS one in my possession, which has not yet been translated. But though Mr. Stair refers to the large number of voyages described in his paper as Samoan, they were only so in the sense that many of them were made from Samoa, but by the Maori-Rarotongan ancestors, who at that date were leaving Samoa for the Eastern Pacific. Mr. Stair says, “Sixth voyage, (under) Tangiia. After this they left that side of the heavens (i.e. that part of the Pacific), and sailed eastward to Niuē and Niua-taputapu (Keppel Island), to Niu-lii, Niu-tala and Iva (Marquesas), and then they sailed to Tahiti, where Tangiia made a settlement at a place called Puna-auia.”
It is easy to prove by a number of genealogies that Tangiia flourished about the year 1250. If the tradition is to be relied on, and I know of no reason to doubt it, the name Niuē preserved in Tangiia's voyage, and not one of the ancient names of the island shows that the voyage of Levei-matagi and Levei-fualoto had already been made to Tutuila, and the coco-nut introduced to Niuē, as related previously. It is possible the East Polynesian name fatu-kalā, for a black stone axe, is due to this voyage.
The next incident in Niuē history was the visit of Veu and Veu from Manu'a in eastern Samoa, as related in the Samoan traditions collected by the Rev. T. Powell and translated by the Rev. G. Pratt and edited by Dr. J. Fraser.6 This tradition refers to the visit to Niuē of Veu and Veu, two people of Manu'a, who were expelled for breaking the local laws. Although the tradition is full of the marvellous, as is common to these old legends, it no doubt relates an historical fact. After recounting the birth of their son, Fiti-au-mua, and the fact of his being brought up by a Niuē woman whose own son was named Laufoli “who was a true Niuēan; he was a warrior,” the story relates the return of Fiti-au-mua to Manu'a in Samoa, where he engaged in a war to punish those who had exiled his parents, and his subsequent warlike visits to Fiji, Tonga, Savai'i, &c., and his death at the hands of Le Fanonga, at Mata-utu. The story then goes on: “Laufoli, wondering why Fiti-au-mua did not return (to Niuē), came in search of him; fought with Manu'a: Manu'a was overcome; went - 9 to Tutuila: Tutuila was overcome; came to Upolu; Upolu was overcome; then he arrived at Savai'i. After that he went back to Niuē, and was not seen again in Samoa.”
From the above brief story, it is evident that Laufoli was a warrior. We will now see what the Niuē traditions say about him. One of the stories will be found in the original later on; from that and another account I have, the following is produced:
The Story of Lau-foli.
“A long time ago there lived in this island a man named Laufoli who was famed in his day for his skill, and the adventures he met with. He was a tall man, a warrior, and a chief in his generation. He was possessed of a staff which was his constant companion, and with which he performed some astonishing deeds—it was in fact a magic staff. It frequently occurred that the high tops of the Pandanus trees were found cut off, but for a long time no one could ascertain how this was done, or who did it. Finally it was discovered that Laufoli struck off the tops of these trees with his staff. On one occasion a party of Tongans came to Niuē (not necessarily from Tonga), and they were surprised at seeing the Pandanus trees without tops. “What has been done to the trees?” asked they. “Laufoli has cut them off,” was the reply. The chief of the Tongans was so taken with Laufoli that he persuaded him to accompany the visitors on their return to their own country. Before departing in the large war canoe, Laufoli carefully wrapped up his staff in the leaves of the tefifi plant and concealed it in the canoe; and so they departed for Tonga.
On arrival in their own country, the Tongans decided to put Laufoli's powers to the test. They first asked him to cut down a species of banana called a hulahula.7 Laufoli dispatched one of the Tongans to the canoe to fetch his staff; but after searching he could not find it, so returned with a paddle. Then Lau-foli himself went down, and after carefully unfolding the tefifi leaves in which the staff was wrapped, he ascended to cut down the banana. But a piece of iron (lapatoa) had been inserted in the core of the banana, so Laufoli failed at his first attempt. He then took the staff in his left hand and with one blow cut down the banana together with the iron core, “and the Tongans turned pale with astonishment.”8- 10
The Tongans having failed to foil Lau-foli, now proposed another test of his powers. They took him to a wide chasm and told him to jump it, expecting to see him fall and be killed; but Laufoli succeeded in jumping the chasm in safety.9
The Tongans now decided on another test of Laufoli's powers. They sent him to a certain cave in which dwelt Toloa-kai-tangata, or Toloa-the-cannibal. When Lau-foli got there, Toloa was absent, but his wife was at home. Lau-foli asked her, “Where is Toloa gone?” The woman replied, “He has been gone a long time, fishing.” Said Lau-foli, “At what time will he return?” To this the reply was, “When the rain falls, and the heavens thunder, will he arrive with his back-load of human-flesh.” Lau-foli said, “The man smells!” As Toloa came back he looked, and saw Lau-foli waiting at his cave; he stepped forward, smiling in glee on beholding a victim for a feast. but Lau-foli struck at his feet with his weapon, and cut off both of them, and then his hands. Then the cannibal begged of Lau-foli to spare his life, promising that he would never return to man-eating again. Lau-foli said to him, “Put out your tongue!” Which he did; and then Lau-foli cut it out and burnt it in the fire. Thus died Toloa-kai-tagata, and the Tongans were able to live in safety.
After three nights, the Tongans arranged that Lau-foli should ascend a certain mountain, and attack the people living there. So he ascended, and as he did so the people on top rolled down great stones, which he avoided by stepping on one side, but continued the ascent all the time. When smaller stones came rolling down he straddled his legs and let them pass, but he continued to ascend. At last he arrived on top, and then with a sweep of his weapon towards the north he upset all the people in that direction; then he turned to the south, to the east, and to the west, and did likewise. Then all those left alive begged of him to spare their lives, which Lau-foli agreed to.
Lau-foli now descended, and remained with the Tongans until he was an old man. He married the king's daughter and had three children born to him, after which he abandoned his wife. This angered the Tongans, who all cried out: “Exile him! Kill him! Exile him!” For this reason Lau-foli returned to Niuē.”
The story then goes on to describe the death of Lau-foli, who fell or jumped into a ti-oven, and there perished. The account will be found later on in the original and translation.
Taken in conjunction with the Samoan tradition, it is no doubt an historical truth that Lau-foli visited Fiji and Savai'i, and there - 11 occurred the last scene of the attack on the mountain. At that time possibly one of the volcanic vents was active, for I believe volcanic action in the west part of Savai'i has only ceased in comparatively modern times.10 It is clear that the people with whom Lau-foli left his home did not come as enemies.
This, however, was not always so, for there are plenty of signs that indicate frequent visits of “Tongans” on warlike expeditions. It is highly probable that the Tonga, or Vavau people, were amongst these warlike visitors, for they are celebrated all through Polynesian history for the extent of their voyages and their wars with other islands.
At a later date than the adventures of Lau-foli occurred the incident of the Ana-Tonga. This place is a cave in the great longitudinal chasm that lies on the east side of Niuē. From the Niuē account, it appears that an invasion of Tongans took place, much to the alarm of the local people, who finally decided to attempt by stratagem what they could not perform by open fighting. A path was made leading from the coast, right up to the deepest part of the chasm—now about 35 feet deep—and here a bridge of slight branches was thrown across and covered with earth, whilst the Niuē people waited below. The Tongans advanced, and as soon as a good many of them got on the bridge of course it gave way and they were precipitated into the chasm, where, according to Niuē story, all the party were killed. But the story is an absurdity. The chasm where bridged is only about ten feet across, and therefore but few people could stand on the bridge. No doubt there is foundation for the story, but clearly the whole party could not have been killed as the Niuē story says.11
We hear of one Nini-fale, a woman, who in former days led a party from Tonga and settled on the coast near where Tama-kau-toga village is now situated. There are at the present time living in Niuē great-grandchildren of some Tonga women who were captured during a Tongan raid on Niuē. Moreover, Mr. Lawes informed me that a few years ago might be seen not far from Liku the rotting remains of a large Tongan canoe.
It is obvious from these incidents that Niuē had frequent communication with the outside world, albeit that communication was generally of a hostile nature. It was no doubt, after one of these - 12 visits that some fell disease was left behind that affected the Ninē peeple very seriously, and caused them to oppose the landing of any foreigners. This was their reason for opposing Captain Cook, whose visit will now be described as copied from his second voyage, a publication which is rare, and I therefore think it may be acceptable to our members to see it.
Captain Cook's visit to Niue, 1774.
Vol. II, 1777.
“Thursday, 16th June, 1774 (page 2).—From this day to the 16th, we met with nothing remarkable, and our course was West southerly; the winds variable from North round by the East to S.W., attended with cloudy, rainy, unsettled weather, and a southerly swell. We generally brought to, or stood upon the wind, during night; and in the day made all sail we could. About half an hour after sun-rise this morning, land was seen from the top-mast head, bearing N.N.E. We immediately altered the course and steering for it, found it to be another Reef Island, composed of five or six woody islets, connected together by sand banks and breakers, inclosing a lake, into which we could see no entrance. We ranged the W. and N.W. coasts, from its southern to its northern extremity, which is about two leagues; and so near the shore, that at one time we could see the rocks under us; yet we found no anchorage, nor saw we any signs of inhabitants. There were plenty of various kinds of birds, and the coast seemed to abound with fish. The situation of this isle is not very distant from that assigned by Mr. Dalrymple for La Sagitaria, discovered by Quiros; but by the description the discoverer has given of it, it cannot be the same. For this reason I looked upon it as a new discovery, and named it Palmerston Island, in honour of Lord Palmerston, one of the Lords of the Admiralty. It is situated in latitude 18°4′ South, longitude 163° 10′ West.
(Page 3). At four o'clock in the afternoon we left this isle and resumed our course to the W. by S. with a fine steady gale easterly, till noon on the 20th, at which time, being in latitude 18°50′, longitude 168° 52′, we thought we saw land to S.S.W., and hauled up for it accordingly. But two hours after, we discovered our mistake, and resumed our course W. by S. Soon after we saw land from the mast-head in the same direction; and, as we drew nearer, found it to be an island which, at five o'clock, bore West, distant five leagues. Here we spent the night plying under the top-sails; and, at daybreak next morning, bore away, steering for the northern point, and ranging the West coast at the distance of one mile, till near noon. Then, perceiving some people on the shore, and landing seeming to be - 13 easy, we brought to, and hoisted out two boats, with which I put off to the land, accompanied by some of the officers and gentlemen. As we drew near the shore, some of the inhabitants, who were on the rocks, retired to the woods, to meet us, as we supposed; and we afterwards found our conjectures right. We landed with ease in a small creek, and took post on a high rock to prevent surprise. Here we displayed our colours, and Mr. Forster and his party began to collect plants, &c. The coast was so overrun with woods, bushes, plants, stones, &c. that we could not see forty yards round us. I took two men, and with them entered a kind of chasm, which opened a way into the woods. We had not gone far before we heard the natives approaching; upon which I called to Mr. Forster to retire to the party, as I did likewise. We had no soon joined, than the islanders appeared at the entrance of a chasm not a stone's-throw from us. We began to speak, and make all the friendly signs we could think of, to them, which they answered by menaces; and one of two men, who were advanced before the rest, (page 4) threw a stone, which struck Mr. Spearman on the arm. Upon this two musquets were fired, without order, which made then all retire under cover of the woods; and we saw them no more.
After waiting some little time, and till we were satisfied nothing was to be done here, the country being so overrun with bushes, that it was hardly possible to come to parly with them, we embarked and proceeded down along shore, in hopes of meeting with better success in another place. After ranging the coast, for some miles, without seeing a living soul, or any convenient landing-place, we at length came before a small beach, on which lay four canoes. Here we landed by means of a little creek, formed by the flat rocks before it, with a view of just looking at the canoes, and to leave some medals, nails, &c., in them; for not a soul was to be seen. The situation of this place was to us worse than the former. A flat rock lay next the sea; behind it a narrow stone beach; this was bounded by a perpendicular rocky cliff of unequal height, whose top was covered with shrubs; two deep and narrow chasms in the cliff seemed to open a communication into the country. In, or before one of these, lay the four canoes which we were going to look at; but in the doing of this, I saw we should be exposed to an attack from the natives, if there were any, without being in a situation proper for defence. To prevent this, as much as could be, and to secure a retreat in case of an attack, I ordered the men to be drawn up apon the rock, from whence they had a view of the heights; and only myself, and four of the gentlemen, went up to the canoes. We had been there but a few minutes, before the natives, I cannot say how many, rushed down the chasm out of the wood upon us. (page 5). The endeavours we used to bring them to a parley, were to no purpose; for they came with the ferocity of - 14 wild boars, and threw their darts. Two or three musquets, discharged in the air, did not hinder one of them from advancing still further, and throwing another dart, or rather a spear, which passed close over my shoulder. His courage would have cost him his life, had not my musquet missed fire; for I was not five paces from him, when he threw his spear, and had resolved to shoot him to save myself. I was glad afterwards that it happened as it did. At this instant, our men on the rock began to fire at others who appeared on the heights, which abated the ardour of the party we were engaged with, and gave us time to join our people, when I caused the firing to cease. The last discharge sent all the islanders to the woods, from when they did not return so long as we remained. We did not know that any were hurt. It was remarkable, that when I joined our party, I tried my musquet in the air, and it went off as well as a piece could do. Seeing no good was to be got with these people, or at the isle, as having no port, we returned on board, and having hoisted in the boats, made sail to W.S.W. I had forgot to mention, in its proper order, that having put ashore a little before we came to this last place, three or four of us went upon the cliffs, where we found the country, as before, nothing but coral rocks, all over-run with bushes; so that it was hardly possible to penetrate into it; and we embarked again with intent to return directly on board, till we saw the canoes; being directed to the place by the opinion of some of us, who thought they heard some people.
The conduct and aspect of these islanders occasioned my naming it Savage Island. It is situated in latitude 19° 1′ South, longitude 169° 37′ West. It is about eleven leagues (page 6) in circuit; of a round form and good height; and hath deep waters close to its shores. All the sea-coast, and as far inland as we could see, is wholly covered with trees, shrubs, &c.; amongst which were some cocoa-nut trees; but what the interior parts may produce, we know not. To judge of the whole garment by the skirts, it cannot produce much; for so much as we saw of it consisted wholly of coral-rocks, all over-run with woods and bushes. Not a bit of soil was to be seen; the rocks alone supplying the trees with humidity. If these coral-rocks were first formed in the sea by animals, how came they thrown up to such an height? Has this island been raised by an earthquake? Or has the sea receded from it? Some philosophers have attempted to account for the formation of low isles, such as are in this sea; but I do not know that any thing has been said of high islands, or such as I have been speaking of. In this island, not only the loose rocks which cover the surface, but the cliffs which bound the shores, are of coral stone, which the continued beating of the sea has formed into a variety of curious caverns, some of them very large: the roof or rock over them
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being supported by pillars, which the foaming waves have formed into a multitude of shapes, and made more curious than the caverns themselves. In one we saw light was admitted through a hole at the top; in another place, we observed that the whole roof of one of these caverns had sunk it, and formed a kind of valley above, which lay considerably below the circumjacent rocks.
I can say but little of the inhabitants, who, I believe, are not numerous. They seemed to be stout well made men, were naked, except round the waists, and some of them had their faces, breast, and thighs painted black. The canoes (page 7) were precisely like those of Amsterdam (Island); with the addition of a little rising like a gunwale on each side of the open part; and had some carving about them, which shewed that these people are full as ingenious. Both these islanders and their canoes, agree very well with the description M. de Bougainville has given of those he saw off the Isle of Navigators, which lies nearly under the same meridian.”
The place of Captain Cook's second landing where he had the affray with the natives is at Opāhi, about a mile west of the mission house at Alofi. The accompanying picture shows his landing place and the rock (on which the people are) where the marines were drawn up. At the present day the people can tell very few particulars of Captain Cook's visit; but they insist that their object in opposing him was to prevent the introduction of disease.
Rev. John Williams' Visit, 1830.
The next known event in the history of Niuē was the visit of the well known missionary, John Williams (the martyr), who, when on a voyage in his home-made little vessel, the “Messenger of Peace,” called at the island with the intention of landing native teachers from Aitutaki. The account of his visit will be found in his “Missionary Enterprises,” published in 1846. The following was given to me by the Rev. F. E. Lawes, and is derived from the natives: In July, 1830, the mission vessel brought to off Falekula, near Tuapa, where the present king lives, and after a time, some of the teachers on board with Mr. Williams came ashore (Williams himself implies in his book that he did not land) where they were met on the reef by two Niuē young men named Tokolia (afterwards called Heremia) and Hikimata, who conducted them up the steep bank to near where the king's house now stands. They then got some taro and proceeded to cook it, and when ready Williams had prayers and divided out the food. By this time other natives had come up with no very friendly feelings towards the new comers, but seeing the food divided out they came to the - 16 conclusion that Williams had no evil intentions towards them. Before the meal was ready they heard a large party approaching with much noise, and with war cries, who turned out to be the inhabitants of Makefu. They came up with a rush, evidently with the intention of killing the party. The two young men commenced to dance about, flourishing their arms, as is their way, in defiance of the new comers. Williams, thinking matters looked serious, now returned slowly to the seaside where the boat was waiting. On his way he asked the name of plants, &c., wishing to show he had no evil intention. On the reef they were met by an old man (father of Mrs. Head) having a very savage appearance, and who made at Williams with a spear; but Williams laughed at him, and took hold of the spear and attempted to pass it off as a joke. Then the body of people followed down to the reef, which induced Williams to put off in the boat. At this time some of the people had been off to the vessel and had returned with some pearl shells which they had obtained on board, and which they considered very great treasures. Many others now went off to the ship, induced to go by the desire of obtaining more pearl shell. A large number went off, but there was no disturbance. Mr. Williams, at page 252, thus describes the appearance of one of these redoubtable Savage Islanders: “An old chieftain was however at length induced to venture into the boat, and with him they hastened to the ship. His appearance was truly terrific. He was about 60 years of age, his person tall, his cheekbones raised and prominent, and his conntenance forbidding; his whole body was smeared with charcoal; his hair and beard were long and grey, and the latter plaited and twisted together, hung down from his mouth like so many rat-tails. He wore no clothing except a narrow slip of cloth (i.e. hiapo) round his loins for the purpose of passing a spear through, or any other article he might wish to carry. On reaching the deck, the old man was most frantic in his gesticulations, leaping about from place to place and using the most vociferous exclamations at every thing he saw. All attempts at conversation with him were entirely useless, as we could not persuade him to stand still even for a single second. Our natives attempted to clothe him by fastening round his person a piece of native cloth; but tearing it off in a rage, he threw it upon the deck, stamped upon it, and exclaimed, “Am I a woman that I should be encumbered with this stuff?” He then proceeded to give us a specimen of a war dance, which he commenced by poising and quivering his spear, running to and fro, leaping and vociferating as though inspired by the spirit of wildness. Then he distorted his features most horribly by extending his mouth, gnashing his teeth, and forcing his eyes almost out of their sockets. At length he concluded this exhibition by thrusting the whole of his long grey - 17 beard into his mouth, and gnawing it with the most savage vengeance. During the whole of this performance he kept up a long and continuous howl.”
To continue the native narrative: Mr. Williams secured two young men from the island named Uea and Niumanga, and took them away with him. (His intention was to teach them and then return them to their own people). The vessel went to Tonga, then to Samoa. The lads were very much frightened directly the vessel began to draw off the land, and more so when they saw the crew taking lumps of flesh out of the harness cask to eat, for they thought it was human flesh, and that they would be served up in a similar manner. After a time, finding no harm was intended them, they quieted down. After Williams' visit to Samoa he tried to land the youths at their own island, but the winds being against them, he carried them on to Ra'iatea, which the Niuē people call Rangiatea, as do Maoris and Rarotongans. Here the youths were taught many things, and something of Christian doctrines. After several months they were returned to their own island, but they do not appear to have been able to accomplish any good amongst their own people. They introduced to the island the loku or papaya. Unfortunately the ship that brought them back introduced some disease into the island, which caused many deaths, and this led to reprisals. Uea, one of those who went away with Williams was killed by Hopo-he-lagi, the father of Iki-lagi, one of the respected chiefs of Alofi at the present time. This induced more fighting, in which Hopo-he-lagi and some ten others were killed by the Liku people. The other young man, Niumanga, belonged to Alofi, and his life was spared. Subsequently this young man together with Niukai and Peniamina left Niuē in a timber ship for Samoa, where Peniamina fell into the hands of the missionaries, and became a servant of Dr. Turner, who taught him a good deal. He was a clever man, and could both read and write. About 1844–5 Peniamana returned as a missionary to his native island and began to teach the gospel, but he “fell from grace,” and eloped with another man's wife. He went off to a calling vessel, just like any other of the wild islanders, with long floating hair, &c., which was their custom. He was not altogether a success as an evangelist.
It was then decided by the mission in Samoa to send Paulo, a native Samoan, and evidently a man of superior character, who arrived in Niuē in October, 1849. He became very popular and won the hearts of the Niuē people; he taught them many things, amongst others to build churches and the substantial lath and plaster houses now so common. He lived at Mutalau, and gradually christianized these wild people. The Mutalau people at that time were in the ascendant, and through their means he got the people of the island - 18 together at a place between Liku and Lakepa, and there persuaded them to make peace, which has lasted to this day. Afterwards other Samoan teachers came: Samuela, who was teacher at Avatele; Sakaia, at Tuapa; Mose, at Alofi, &c.
The Avatele natives told Mr. Lawes and myself, that about the year 1840 a ship arrived off that place, and a number of white people landed from her, many of whom were dressed in red coats—no doubt marines—and they formed up on the beach at Oneonepata. The natives in the mean time lined the cliffs above, and then commenced throwing down stones at the strangers, who thought it best to return to their vessel. What ship this could be, I know not? This vessel landed and left a pig ashore.
Between the date of Captain Cook's visit in 1774 and Williams' in 1830, there must have been occasional visits from whalers, but there is no record of them, except in one case which Williams mentions (with his usual neglect of names and dates), when the natives had seized a boat belonging to a vessel which had touched there a few months before his visit, and murdered all the crew.
The Rev. William Gill (not Dr. Wyatt Gill) says in his “Gems from the Coral Islands,” that the next visitor after Williams in 1830, was made by “an assistant missionary of the Samoa Islands in 1840 in a small schooner not more than twenty tons burden, having many Samoa natives on board. On reaching off shore a numerous company of islanders came to the vessel, all of whom were armed with clubs and spears, and who might easily have taken possession of it and murdered the strangers … they had their confidence increased in the objects of our mission.”
In 1842 the island was visited by the Rev. A. Busacott in the missionary brig “Camden.” He had intercourse with the people, and in his attempt to land a teacher he well nigh lost his life, for it was ascertained that the natives laid a scheme to sink the boat, destroy the property, and murder the missionary.
Subsequent visits were made by the Rev. A. Murray and others. At this time many of the young men had engaged themselves on board whale and merchant ships that called at their island, and were brought to Tahiti, the Sandwich Islands, and Samoa. Among those who reached Samoa was Fakafiti-enua (sic? Fakafiti-fonua) and Peniamina.
Mr. Gill says, “On a missionary voyage in the ‘John Williams’ in 1846, we called at Samoa and found Fakafiti-enua and Peniamina not only willing, but by Christian education prepared to return home and use their influence to secure the location of a teacher on the island. We arrived at the island in the month of October, 1846, with these two men on board. … Fakafiti-enua, who was a man of some influence on shore, arranged that Peniamina should remain and prepare the way for others. We have already seen what was the - 19 result, but he did some good apparently, for when the Rev. A. W. Murray visited the island in 1852 he found some progress had been made.
In 1861 the Rev. W. G. Lawes, brother of the Rev. F. E. Lawes, the present worthy missionary, arrived to take up his residence in the island, when he found six churches erected, and only eight heathen left!
Mr. Gill says, “In 1852 a ship of war called at the island in search of the crew of a vessel wrecked on a near reef, and intercourse was had with the people of the last formed Christian station, most of whom were yet under the influence of heathenism. (Paulo had come from Samoa in 1849). Natives were admitted on board to barter, and all passed on without difficulty, until it was found that some of them had stolen articles belonging to the ship. Upon this discovery, the whole party was thrown into confusion; some of them who were on board were secured at once, and boats were lowered to follow those who were returning to the shore. Canoes were capsized and broken; the natives were pursued and fired upon, and beaten in every direction—one man died in the sea of shot wounds, and several others were detained on board the ship for two days; when, early in the morning two of the natives thus confined were released, while the ship was near the shore, and they landed in safety, but later in the day others were put over-board, three of whom landed half dead the next day; but nine of the party lost their lives. One of these nine was a chief who only a few months before had give his protection to the native Christian teacher; his wife, through grief on account of his death, threw herself from a high precipice and was killed. The guilty man, who had been the thief on board, escaped to the shore; but his own people were so enraged at him, that they compelled him to go out in a small canoe and he perished at sea!”
I learned quite recently from Mr. Maxwell, that the visit of this man-of-war was to search for the crew of a Spanish or Portuguese vessel which foundered off the coast, and the crew of which reached Avatele on a raft, and it was from them that the natives procured their first dog (referred to in Part I hereof), and not from the timber-laden ship. These shipwrecked people afterwards reached Samoa, but in the meantime the British man-of-war, alluded to in Mr. Gill's narrative, had heard of the disaster and came to Niuē looking for the crew. Owing to a misunderstanding, and believing that the crew were detained prisoners inland, many natives were detained, others killed, as Mr. Gill says.
In my account of the Kermadec Islands,12 at page 15, I mentioned the fact, copied from Sterndale, of a large number of Tokelau natives - 20 (since known to be Niuē natives) having been taken to Sunday Island by a Callao slaver in 1861, where nearly all of them died. I got the Niuē account of this affair through the Rev. F. E. Lawes. It was not very long after the arrival of the Rev. W. G. Lawes at Niuē that a Peruvian slaver appeared off the coast at Alofi, under the command of an American. They succeeded in getting a large number of the people on board and induced them to go below, when they clapped the hatches on and secured them. There were about 200 of them. The people on shore, seeing the others did not return, began to understand that something was the matter. So Fata-a-iki, who was an enterprising and determined chief (but not then king), got a large number of people together and went off in their canoes, with the intention of over-powering the ship and releasing their fellow-islanders. But the crew prevented their getting on board, and fired on them to keep them off—one man being killed and others wounded. The crew manned and lowered an armed boat, and gave chase to the canoes, which made for the shore. A big fat man in Fata-a-iki's canoe wanted to cease paddling and offer up prayers for their safety; but Fata-a-iki said, “Leave your prayers till we get ashore,” and insisted on urging their canoe to its full speed. Some time after this an Irish sailor came ashore to the mission house to fetch some medicine, and Fata-a-iki wanted to make him prisoner as a hostage for their own people, but Mr. Lawes dissuaded them, thinking the captain would not wait for his sailor. Soon after the vessel sailed, and before very long dysentry broke out amongst the unfortunate prisoners, when many died, and were cast overboard. Things got worse, so the captain, being then near Sunday Island, landed most of the others in Denham Bay, and there left them to die, as all the unfortunates did. Some few were taken on to Peru, where they were made to work as slaves in the mines and other works. Some years after this an American whaler manned by Aitutaki natives arrived at Callao. Two of the younger Niuē people determined to escape by her if they could, and communicated their desire to the Aitutaki crew, who arranged with the captain to take the young men, if they came off dressed in their best, and hid somewhere near the shore. When the whaler's boat came ashore, the heart of one of the young men failed him, thinking they would be recaptured by the Peruvians, but the other went off in the boat. The coast-guard suspecting something gave chase, but the boat reached the ship, and the captain being all ready put to sea at once. This young lad was landed at Oahu, from whence he managed to communicate with his relatives at Niuē; but he was afraid to come back on account of his father, who he knew would hold him responsible for his brother left in Peru. He married at Oahu, but in the end made his way back to Niue- 21
The notorious Bully Hayes also managed to kidnap a number of the Niuē people and carried them away to Tahiti, where he sold them. It will thus be seen that the Niuē experiences of civilized nations has not been altogether of a character to give them an exhalted idea of our people or our methods.
I must refer readers to Dr. Turner's “Nineteen Years in the Pacific,” for particulars of his two visits, from which will be gathered the progress of the islanders at various dates since 1840. The island has received visits from some eight men-of-war, including those which brought Commodore Goodenough, Sir Arthur Gordon (in 1879), Lord Ranfurly, &c.
In November, 1887, the natives applied to Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, to be taken under her protection and have a Commissioner sent to reside. This request was repeated on February 12th, 1898, and also October 10th, 1899. Mr. Basil Thompson was dispatched from Fiji to hoist the British flag and bring the island under the British Protectorate, in H.M.S. “Porpoise,” and did so, 20th April, 1900. In October, 1900, His Excellency, the Earl of Ranfurly, Governor of New Zealand, visited Niuē and proclaimed the British sovereignty over the island, 19th October, 1900. On the 11th June, 1901, the island was annexed to New Zealand by a proclamation made at Auckland by H.R.H. the Duke of Cornwall and York. The first Government Resident (the writer hereof) arrived at Niuē from New Zealand 11th September, 1901.
The following are the traditions I collected whilst at Niuē. Like all such productions, they should have questions asked on them, in order to clear up obscure parts; but I had not the opportunity of doing so very fully, for they came into my possession too late. I have endeavoured to follow the native writers as closely as possible in the translation, but feel that I have sometimes failed to grasp their meaning. They are worth preserving in the native dialect, as nothing of the kind has ever been attempted before for Niuē Island; nor has any matter of a secular nature (not educational) ever been printed in their language. Their printed literature consists of the Scriptures, hymns, &c.
1 See Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. viii, p. 231.
2 The idea that it was an old custom renewed is born out by Hawaiian tradition, which, whilst assigning it a very ancient origin, also say that it was introduced or became more universal in the times of Pau-matua, one of the leaders of the many parties of immigrants into Hawaii from Southern Polynesia in the twelfth century.
3 In the usual story of Tura, according to Maori history, he is shown to be a contemporary of the Polynesian hero, Whiro. But it is clear this latter Tura is quite a different person from the more ancient Tura, who visited the country where natural birth had to be assisted by an operation.
4 See this Journal, vol. viii, p. 6.
5 Journal of Polynesian Society, vol. iv, p. 104.
6 See this Journal, vol ix., p. 125.
7 There is a species of plant in Samoa called sulasula (identical with hulahula), and one in Fiji called sulisuli, but not apparently in Tonga.
8 Lapatoa is the word used for iron in Niuē. In another account the word toa is used, and this is probably correct, for the toa or iron wood tree (Casuarina) grows on all the groups near Niuē, i.e. Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, &c., but not on Niuē itself.
9 In one of the songs about Lau-foli's deeds, this jump of his is said to be over the tapi vai afi, which I can only translate as over “the crest of fiery water,” which may mean a volcanic vent.
10 Since the above was written, a volcanic outburst has again occurred in Savai'i.
11 Since writing this story, I have seen Mr. Basil Thompson's “Savage Island, an Account of a Sojourn in Niuē and Tonga,” John Murray, London, 1902, in which is the Tongan account of this affair, which occurred under the chief Kau-ulu fonua fifteen generations ago, or about the year 1525. The Tongans claim to be the victors, as is natural.
12 “The Kermadec Islands: their capabilities and extent,” by S. Percy Smith, Assistant Surveyor-General. Government Printer, Wellington, 1887.