Volume 19 1910 > Volume 19, No. 1 > On ari'is in Tahiti, by Tati Salmon, p 39-46
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[When, in 1898, the account of the Tahitian origin of the great migration to New Zealand in the fourteenth century was first published in this Journal in the paper “Hawaiki,” and subsequently as a second edition in book form, some critics considered the evidence there adduced for this Tahitian origin to be not sufficient to prove the case. But Mr. Tati Salmon now supplies information from Tahiti itself, which confirms the truth of the statements in “Hawaiki,” and furnishes particulars of some of these ancient vessels which crossed Te Moana nui a Kiwa from Tahiti. It is with extreme pleasure that the author of “Hawaiki” recognises the value of Mr. Tati Salmon's vindication of that theory. He, as the head chief of Te Teva clan that now occupies the old home of the Maoris, speaks with an authority that cannot be questioned. We trust he may follow this up by other papers, which will be welcomed by all members of the Polynesian Society.—Editor.]

THESE lines are in reply to the invitation for contributions on the subject of “Ari'is” (or Ariki), which appeared in the Journal of September (Vol. XVII., p. 162).

The meaning of the word “Arii” in Tahiti and the islands of the Society Group is “chief,” and of “Arii rahi” or “Arii nui,” “great” or “head chief.” In Tahiti, all those who trace the origin of their family to the “Maraes” (temples) of Farepua at Vaiari, now Papeari District, or Punaauia at Punaauia District, or the West and South-west Coast of Tahiti, belong to the Opu-huiarii or family of Ari'is. The eldest representative was known as “matahiapo.” This person, whether male or female, was called the “paarae,” meaning “frontal part of the head,” that is the “Great Chief.”

The institution of the Opu-huiarii was of divine origin, and the distinction of the Arii-rahi was made by Taaroa, the god creator. Socially and politically the Arii-rahi was head of the family. The prerogatives of the title were unlimited. Socially, the paarae, as head of the Opu-huiarii, remained as such till death, but as political head he could be superceded by a member of his family.

The laws that governed the acts of the Ariis, both socially and politically, are too many to enumerate in this paper. I will, however, quote from traditions and attempt to give some proofs of the foregoing statements.

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The District of Vaiari, or Papeari, as it is now commonly called, has the honour of being the “tumu,” or foundation, of Tahiti. There exists to this day the “foundation stone,” if I may call it so, “Hiti,” from which the name of Tahiti was taken. Whether it meant “east” and “ta” “the lesser,” or if we take the whole word “Tahiti,” in its meaning as “transplanted,” no one can tell now. One thing, however, seems clear. The god creator, Taaroa, decided that Nuutea Tepurotu, “fairest of the fair,” chiefess of Vaiari, was to be the first possessor of the first temple.

The place chosen by the god creator for the building of this temple was on a piece of flat land facing the sea as well as the valley. The builders were the “Fanau-po.” The word means “born of darkness,” understood by us as the creatures of the gods, therefore priests. The orders they received for the building of this temple were that it should be beautiful and all decorated with “uras,” “decorative feathers,” and that it should be called “Farepua,” meaning “house of whiteness.” The old words concerning this temple are still remembered and sung by our natives.

Farepua ua raaraahia i te ura
E ura te tuturi e ura te paepae
E ura te fata e ura anae a
Tena Marae o Farepua.
Farepua, raised on pillars of ura,
The kneeling stones of uras,
The paving stones of uras,
All of that temple of uras.

When the temple was finished the ordination of the first head chief—chiefess Nuutea—was ordered and the name “Te rii nui o Tahiti” was given to her, and to this day her descendants are the only ones who can take the name and be the social head of the family Huiariis. After the naming of the chief, the creator ordered that the ordination of the high priest should take place and that he should always bear the name “Teao”—the “light of day” or “the wise.” The temple, therefore, was to possess a head chief and a head high priest. The ceremony of ordination of a great chief was described by Captain Cook from what he saw personally at Atehuru in 1772, during his second voyage. It need not be repeated here.

The last person to receive the ceremony of ordination for Arii-rahi was my mother, Ariioehau, “Princess of Peace,” eldest daughter of Arii-manihinihi Marama, only child of Tevaruaharae and Tupua Taaroa, eldest son of Tauraatua (old Tati). She was, therefore, by her birth, the social head of the family. The story of her ordination was told me by a descendant of Teau—the firsthigh priest, in March, 1871:—

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“My father made several trips to the island of Moorea to request your grandmother to come to Vaiari to give birth to her expected child. But your grandfather, remembering the treachery of the Vaiariians when they killed his two aunts—his father escaping only through the faithfulness of his nurses—refused, until the high priest gave his solemn oath that the tapu had been once for all taken off. On the strength of his word your grandfather agreed to bring his wife at once. They left their home at Moorea with a numerous suite and arrived safely in Papeari.

“As the time approached, representatives from the different members of the family began to arrive to adopt the expected child according to old custom.

“Pomare, who was king at that time, sent his wife as a representative of the Raiatea branch of your family. The Mooreans sent Taaroaarii. The Tafana i Ahurai family were represented by Terii Vaetua; the Hitiaa family by Teriitua; the Poraporans by Puni. So that the whole family of Huiariis of Tahiti and the Leeward Islands were to be present at the expected event. The child was born in May, 1822, and the ceremony took place a few days later in the temple of Farepua.”

Less than a year from that date the temple was totally destroyed by order of the “King's Christians”—altar place, idols, and even the famous “paepaes,” “paving stones.” Considering that the last stand made by the followers of the Tahitian god Oro was at the battle of Te Feipi, on November 15, 1815, where our great-great-uncle Opuhara, the commander, lost his life, struck down by the bullets of these Christians under the king and his allies, is it not strange that seven years later such a ceremony, belonging to the rites of the pagans, as that which took place in Vaiari, could have been allowed? The answer to this query is that the king Pomare, although he had, with the help of his Christians, succeeded in obtaining the crown, and had, therefore, become the political head of the island, dared not forbid the ceremony. Such an act would certainly have caused all the members of the Huiarii family to be against him, and his downfall would have been assured.

The chiefess Nuutea 1 then took for her husband the chief of Punaauia, named Nuu, and thus the family of the Opu-arii or Huiariis was constituted.

For the two following generations, the chief of Vaiari remained both socially and politically the head of Tahiti In the third generation, however, was born a second child of the Vaiari—a boy—under very peculiar circumstances, for the legend declares his father to have been a shark god. This boy was named Teva. The meaning of this word - 42 has altogether been lost in Tahiti, but it is hoped that from elsewhere some knowledge of its history may be acquired.

Teva was a restless boy and declared that the little district of Vaiari was too small for himself and his elder brother, Terii Temoanarii, who naturally was the high chief. So he travelled down the coast lazily, fishing for a pastime, and on arriving at Paparia, about eleven miles distant, chose a place which he called Mataoa, to have built for himself a temple, which had for its foundation his stone from the temple of Vaiari to commemorate his ancestry.

Ua hume ihora Teva
I tana Maro i nia i Mataoa
E ua tao ihora e
Ei marotea, tau e hume
I nia, i tau na vaa mataeinaa
Ia Faina, te horo ia paepae uriri
Oropaa toa, i fenua ura.

Then Teva said:

“I will use on Mataoa, my temple,
My girdle of yellow feathers,
And over my people of Faina,
And the warriors of Oropaa.”

From that day the clan took the name of “Teva,” and their gathering (clan) call was:—

Teva te ua, Teva te matai,
Teva te mamari, E mamari iti,
Au na Ahurei!
Teva is the rain, Teva is the wind,
Teva is as the roe of fish,
The roe loved by Ahurei!

From Teva descended the chief Oro of Papara (not the god Oro), of the eleventh generation. Oro was a bold warrior, and, disgusted with the behaviour of the head of his family—the high chief of Vaiari, the leader who should have been great—he prepared to take away from him by force of arms the political headship of the island. He was, therefore, awaiting the slightest provocation to carry out his plans. A cause was soon given—the dishonourable treatment of the daughter of his father's friend. In spite of the fact that the high chief could take to himself as many wives as he liked, he was obliged to observe the rules in force, and if these were once broken, he could only be saved by the strength of his own arms.

Hurimaeivehe, the high chief of the time, believed himself beyond the power of the subordinate chief of his family in any acts he might choose to commit. He was, however, mistaken, for Chief Oro gave ear to the griefs of his father's friend, Panee, and punished the dishonour - 43 to his daughter. He sent the usual challenge to the head of his family, and the chief of Papeari sent his warriors to Papara to take Oro and vindicate the insult. Oro, however, was well prepared and beat back the warriors with great loss. The battles were many and fought desperately, but Hurimaeivehe was conquered, and he lost the political headship which the Vaiari chiefs had enjoyed for fifteen generations, and this was transferred to Papara, and from that day the chiefs of Papara issued their summons to all of the Teva districts and took the political though not the social headship.

This war happened twenty-one generations ago (1897).

The social headship could never be taken away by force of arms, for the god creator had ordained that it should always remain attached to the chief of Vaiari of the temple Farepua. As a result of this war, the limits of the Teva districts were changed to those which actually exist to this day, and the prestige of the Papara chiefs became assured.

During the generations preceding the foregoing story, we have some traditions of the deeds of the members of the family of Huiariis. Some are ordinary and others are extraordinary. Some members have disappeared and their seats in the family temple remain unclaimed. Those members, however, who cared for their social standing, took a stone from their family temple and used it in the same manner as Teva did, as a foundation for the temples they had built for themselves, and this became the title deed of their rank. For the social rank of the chiefs of these islands was so well known and so easily learned that few serious mistakes could be possible. On this foundation, genealogy grew into a science, and was the only science in the islands which could fairly claim rank with the intellectual work of other countries. Genealogy swallowed up history and made law a field of its own. Chiefs might wander off to far distant islands and be lost for generations, but if their descendants came back and could prove their right to a seat in the family temple, they were admitted to all the privileges and property which belonged to them by inheritance. On the other hand, if they failed in their proofs and turned out to be impostors, they were put to death without mercy. Relationships were asserted and contested with the seriousness of legal titles and were often matters of life and death. Every family kept its genealogy secret to protect itself from imposters, and all members of the family united to keep it pure.

From Tahiti went forth Taihia, the favourite of the people, followed by his elder brother—Chief Tutapu—with the pick of his warriors. Although the cause of his pursuit was but paltry jealousy, yet days, weeks, and even months passed without his relaxing his intention of killing Taihia. Even at the request of his men to give up the chase he refused. At last, when they met at sea, hundreds of miles from their home, Taihia ordered his war-canoe to be rowed near to his brother, and respectfully, according to the teaching of his youth, called to him:

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E tau arii, e tau arii, teie taua
Tei, teie uriuri, ua moe eana
Te mata o to taua aia here e
Aita ea, to riri, i maha?
“My chief, my chief!
We are now on this briny sea
Out of sight of our dear home,
Your anger, is it not yet appeased?”

“No,” roughly answered the brother, “the battle must commence at once!” In spite of the fact that Taihia had only one war-canoe to the two against him, he was victorious and his brother was killed. The warriors of Tutapu then joined the victorious band and they all continued on to the next island, which is now Rarotonga, and Taihia made a history for himself. 2

To those men of a different race who have given their valuable time to try to make clear the mysteries of ours, our thanks are due. Concerning those of our ancestors, believed by us to have been swallowed by the sea, we, their descendants, have little to say.

It may, perhaps, be as well to add the story of the canoe “Tainui,” meaning “loud wailing.” 3 This canoe was owned by a chief—Terii Vaetua—official name of the chiefs of the Te fana i Ahurai family, known as a navigator of renown under the name of Taihia, who made several voyages in this same canoe to the Tuamotus and Papatea, the Marquesas. We do not know, however, if he went to New Zealand, but this is certain that the Tainui was sent to the Moananui o Hiva to uphold the prestige of Ahurai as the home of Tahiti's finest sailors. Taihia was the admiral of the fleet of canoes of Tahiti by inheritance, and at the time of Captain Cook's arrival here on his second voyage, a Taihia was again in command of the fleet, which numbered one hundred and sixty-eight large double canoes, attended by one hundred and seventy smaller ones, as certified by Cook (Second Voyage, Vol. I., p. 321) and by Foster (Foster's Voyages, Vol. II., p. 62, 63). He was a member of the chief's family of Te fana i Ahurai—a branch of the Vaiari family. (The Taihia who went to Rarotonga was of a cadet branch.)

The canoe—Tainui—we also know was commanded by the brave Hoturoa; and Hotu-nui followed, since they were twins. We are happy - 45 to feel that they chose with care a last resting-place for that old relic. 4

Another canoe of great renown to us was “Manuatere,” which belonged to Taaroanui Maiturai, who came to Vaiari to court Tetuanui, and gave it to her as a marriage present. History declares that it was built from a tree that grew in Tevaitoa, on the island of Raiatea, so that it was not of Tahitian make, but being owned and sent to sea by a Tahitian Arii, I am within the limits of my subject.

Manuatere was the canoe that carried the high priest Teao to the island of Tupuai to give the meaning of the “piri” sent as a challenge to the deep knowledge of the priest of Tahiti by Chief Raanui of that island. He went to prove to those islanders that their supposed unreadable riddle was as clear as daylight to the chosen priest of the god Taaroa. We know also that on the return of the canoe from this voyage preparations were made for a longer one, for the “rahui” was put on all the food of long-keeping of the district—such as taro, apura, umara, and uhi.

Manuatere left and never returned. 5

There is another noted canoe which ought not to be left out in these lines—being not the least in importance—I mean “Matatua.” We Paparans claim this one to have been the canoe that belonged to Arii Aromaiterai, made from the trees that grew in Taharuu Valley, and named after the chief's fighting spear, “Te raau mata ‘Matatua’ e tu i Moua Tamaiti,” or, “The stick of the godly eyes which stands on the mount Tamaiti.” The skids on which the building was done were stones, and after the canoe was finished and brought to the launching place by the sea at Popoti, a large boulder was cut in the shape of the canoe and placed on the same skids. This stone is still in existence and bears its former name, “Puaneane”—meaning “sliding skids.” Matatua sailed for the Moana nui a Hiva, and never returned. 6

I have given the account of these canoes simply to show that our Ari'is possessed the means of enforcing the power or prerogatives appertaining to their birth. Decisions were made by a court whose judges were composed of the heads or elders of the family having an ancestor from the Vaiari temple. They decided questions regarding themselves both socially and politically. Such questions were brought to their peers, and the judgment of these was final. To this is due - 46 the fact that the limits of a district were never changed after a defeat, etc., etc. The meetings of this court—which I may call the Court of Equity—were held in the famous house called “Fare ura Poumariorio,” which stood within hearing distance of the sound of the Toere from the temple of Farepua, and on the floor, “Tauaa.” These words commemorate it:—

E Fare ura hou Poumariorio
Te tia noa ra i te Tahua i Tauaa.
Poumariorio was a Fare ura,
Which stood on the floor, Tauaa.

I have tried to make it plain that those who could trace back their genealogical tree to the Marae Farepua are Ari'is, and to the head representatives of these belonged the title of “Arii rahi,” which means simply “Great Chief” and “Arii,” “Chief.”

Referring to the statement of Mr. Hammond concerning the term “Tumu-Whakarae,” if this is of the same significance as our word “Paarae,” then this word with us means the “Rahi”—the “Head of the Family of Ari'is.

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1   i.e., Nuutea Te purotu, the first possessor of the temple.
2   See the history of Taihia (or Tangiia) in this Journal, Vol. VIII., p. 30.—Editor.
3   Such is no doubt the meaning in modern Tahitian; but in that case it should be in Maori, Tanginui—whereas it is Tainui, meaning the “great sea.” Maori tradition says the canoe was named after an ancestor called Tainui.—Editor.
4   Hoturoa was captain and Hotu-nui the priest of Tainui canoe, whose crew settled on the West Coast of New Zealand—circa, 1350, and named their tuāhu (Tahitian marae) Ahurei after the Ahurai of Tahiti, named above.—Editor.
5   In the Rarotongan MSS. with the Society is a long account of the voyages of this canoe, which, after several changes of name, finally found a resting-place at Rarotonga.—Editor.
6   It is unnecessary to say to Maori scholars that this is the Matātua canoe that came to New Zealand under Toroa, and that its crew settled down at Whakatane, Bay of Plenty, and are now known as Ngati-Awa.—Editor.