Volume 28 1919 > Volume 28, No. 112 > Traditions of and notes on the Paumotu or (Tuamotu) Islands. Part V. collected by Pere Herve Audran, p 232-239
                                                                                             Previous | Next   

- 232
PART V. (Continued from Vol. XXVIII., page 167.)

IN the remote past the island was divided into three distinct districts peopled by three families known under the names of (1) Gati-Tane at Gake; (2) Gati-Mahinui at Raro and at Kereteki; (3) Gati-Tekopu (this family probably emigrated to Hao). These three tribes were almost always at enmity and often at war amongst themselves. If by any mischance a member of the Gati-Tane living at Te Matahoa ventured to enter the territory of another tribe, he would certainly be seized and immediately sent to the ovens; such, too, would be the fate of any member of another tribe venturing to enter his district. A trespasser was a prisoner of war. On principle these unfortunates were never spared. The Polynesians knew no mercy so far as the fate of these victims was concerned. According to the testimony of early navigators and of the natives to-day the population of the group was numerous, more vigorous, more industrious, less prone to error and more moral than it is to-day. These facts contradict the law of continuous progress invoked by those scientists who claim for themselves the honour of descent from a simian ancestor, but they are facts all the same. That the race which now inhabits our islands has degenerated more or less under the influence of isolation and of the errors of unbelief, everything, including the beauty and richness of its language, goes to prove. But the most powerful proof lies in the thousand legends which we are gradually discovering, and which are revealing to us the ancient traditions. The investigator is surprised and delighted to find in the midst of a mass of incoherent stories the idea of the immortality of the soul, of judgment after death, of hell, - 233 the idea of sacrifice and of prayer, and the memory of a beneficent superior being who has created men and who, curiously enough considering the prevalence of polygamy, gave the first man one wife, and one only. 2


The ancient history of the Paumotu Islands is in utter confusion, and the most experienced annalist would find himself helpless and at a loss in dealing with the subject. The elders have disappeared, taking into the grave with them the traditions and the greater part of the ancient songs, which are the sole source for a written history in these distant isles where writing was unknown. To attempt, then, to reduce the history of those times of change to the systematic regularity of present times would be to attempt the impossible. It is useless to think of establishing a genealogy of kings of these different districts in the male line of descent, a line of kings who ruled over the whole island. This idea of a united monarchy would clearly be far from the reality, while to prove hereditary occupation of the throne would be an insuperable difficulty. There seem to have been at Fakahina of old three separate tribes, each with its own king: The Gati-Tane at Te Matahoa or Gake, the Gati-Mahinui and the Gati-Tekopu in the west at Raro, and in the south at Kereteki. But these two latter tribes intermingled and lost their identity, so that while nominally there were three tibes in the island, there were in reality only two. The Gati-Mahinui and the Gati-Tekopu joined forces and formed in reality one tribe, although the Gati-Tekopu supplied several distinguished kings, amongst these being Maitupoa, Tagihia, Tu-Garue and Maruake. The latter was chief or king when the Paiore incident took place. The following is a list of kings who have reigned in Fakahina:—

I.—In the tribe of Gati-Tane. II.—In the tribe of Gati-Mahinui.
1. Tane-tupu-hoe 1. Mahinui Te Tauira
2. Te-tohu 2. Marere-nui
3. Toa-rere 3. Te-fakahira
4. Te-mapu 4. Rogo-te-kapu
5. Rua-kai-atua 5. Tai-te-ariki
6. Te-ata 6. Tehu
7. Tane 7. Mahinui
Etc. Etc.

If an average of twenty-two years be allowed for each reign, Fakahina has had kings only for a period of 154 years.

- 234

In pagan times Fakahina contained many marae, the six chief being:—1 Aehau; 2 Oromea; 3 Ragi-te-tau-noa; 4 Pekai; 5 Vai-tomoana; 6 Tugata.

In the Tuamotu Group the chief officiating priest, who conducted, so to speak, divine worship, and represented the archpriest in our cathedrals, was known as the kaunuku. He was a great personage and very holy. Further, he enjoyed the highest privileges. He was exempt from ordinary work and from that forced labour at times so troublesome, such as cooking and the preparation of the turtle, for which the common people were liable. The smoke from the ovens was not to come near him or to touch him. Throughout the whole island there was but one authority (that of the king) superior to his, while at times his influence was as powerful as even that of the king. He alone was responsible for the ordering and carrying out of everything that concerned the celebration of the annual festivals and the performance of the religious ceremonies on the marae. All these were under his sole jurisdiction. It was the kaunuku whose duty it was to regulate them as he thought fit, provided that he preserved the ancient usages. To the high-priest belonged by right the privilege of taking from the fare-tini-atua, corresponding to our tabernacle, the sacred stone, and laying it on the turtle for some minutes before cutting its throat. A few paces distant from the kaunuku stood two other officiating priests called huhuki, who were his assistants and, so to speak, the deacon and sub-deacon, and consequently of subordinate rank. These latter were not the ordinary priests, but were of royal blood. When the turtle was divided up, the head, pepenu, the fat part that surrounds the neck, genegene, and the heart, mafatu, were always set apart and reserved for the kaunuku. The children, young people, old men and the women were rigorously excluded from the marae. It was only those of maturer age, say, thirty years or so, who could cross the sacred enclosure, take part in the ceremonies of the cult, and have the right and permission to eat of the turtle.


The islanders still retain the memory of several famous voyages.

1. MARERE:—The undoubted cause of many Polynesian voyages and migrations was the quarrels stirred up on account of women. This was the case with Marere as with many others. He had relations here with Te-kopu-hei-ariki, a woman of royal blood, and from these relations were born two children, Te-fakahira and Tu-te-ragi-nui. On the birth of her son Te-kopu-hei-ariki raised him aloft, according to an ancient custom among the nobility, at the same time singing a new song, of which the following words are still preserved; “Nafea - 235 vau o Te-kopu-hei-ariki toku ariki.” Shocked at hearing these words from his wife, and in anger at being deceived in her character, he went on board his canoe and fled to Takume. There he formed a connection with another woman named Te-pogi. By her he had also three children, Puraga, Te-taukupu and Te-fau. But a matrimonial experience similar to his former one caused him to leave Takume. He made for Fagatau, where he made a third alliance, this time with a woman named Mahuru, by whom he had a child named Varoa. The name of Marere's canoe is unknown to-day.

2. TEHU:—This man has remained famous in Fakahina not only because of his numerous long voyages of exploration, but chiefly because he presented his country with fruit-trees and food-plants. As a matter of fact it was he who, on his return from one of his voyages on board of his “Katau,” introduced the coconut, the taro, the ape, etc., into the island. Thus he has become the great benefactor of his countrymen, in whose memories his name is deeply engraved.

3. TE-FAKAHIRA:—Doubtless inheriting the qualities of his father Marere, and especially his love for long and perilous voyages, Te-fakahira too traversed all the seas of the archipelago, and visited Takoto, Re-ao and Hao without reckoning the thousand other islands unknown to us. At Hao he became the father of a son named Te-mauri, whom, on his return, he brought back home with him.

4. TE-MAURI:—After having grown up at Fakahina, and, like his father, smitten with a love for travel and adventure, he set out. He went first to Marekau, where, according to the story, he had three wives, Takua, Vero-matau-toru and Te-rapure-ariki. He then went on to Hao, where he became acquainted with Gahina.

5. FARUIA:—According to tradition this man went as far as Vairatea. He was a colossus and an athlete. He lifted his canoe on to the land, and, with the assistance of his crew, he killed all the inhabitants of the island. It was, no doubt, to avenge this massacre that the inhabitants of all the adjoining islands formed an alliance and, on board of seven canoes, came and made war on him. But he defeated them and killed most of them. He had with him his old father, whom he carefully hid in the tap-roots of a pandanus, strictly charging him not to come out of this hiding-place. But the unfortunate old man hearing that his son was scattering the ranks of his enemies, and that he had killed most of them, moved by compassion or some other feeling, came out of his hole. Misfortune soon overtook him, for some of the enemy in their flight chanced to meet him. He was instantly seized and put to death without mercy. As soon as Faruia heard of this he hastened to the bleeding and still warm body of his father. Stricken with grief he threw himself on the body and gave vent to his sorrow. His enemies taking advantage of the - 236 attitude into which his infatuation had thrown him, killed him in his turn.

6. MARUAKE:—This navigator belongs to more modern times. He went to Takoto and seized the wife of Porutu. Because of his desire to take her off with him to Fakahina, or elsewhere, Porutu in anger struck him a severe blow on the head. The would-be ravisher returned to Fakahina in his wounded condition. There by means of cures and frequent washings he succeeded in healing his broken head. Three wells or water-holes, Te-vai-marigi, Te-vai-totomea and Tamunu, where he performed his frequent ablutions, are still pointed out. Naturally he now had but one idea, to take vengeance on his enemy for the wound he had inflicted, by killing him. To accomplish his aim he went to Takume and to Rairoa to obtain help, and then stood in for Takoto. He killed many of the islanders and among them Porutu. He seized the woman once and for all, and returned to Fakahina with her.

The following are the most famous canoes of the Niuhians:—1 Pua-te-nukuroa; 2 Te-vai-tau; 3 Houpo; 4 Marama; 5 Tupou; 6 Takau, whose privateer-captain was the celebrated Tehu; 7 Tekoro, which had as its coxswain Te-ata; 8 Torona, Heko, Te-rate-maro, Te-piri.


1. The first pahi (or ocean going canoe) seen at Niuhi, and one of which there still exists a dim recollection, came from the Marquesas. This was a Nuku-Hiva pahi, according to the natives. The tradition relates that only one person leaped into the water and came ashore by swimming. This was a woman named Mahuru. Some of the islanders wished to kill her, while others wished to spare her. The latter proposition prevailed, and thus she was saved. Some days later her relatives came to seek her, and she was able to be placed once more on board her own canoe.

2. Such, unfortunately, was not the fate of the Paumotu pahi commanded by Manava-rere. This canoe came from the west. The whole numerous crew of fifty were, it seems, massacred and decapitated. The bodies were buried in the marae of Katipa, situated beside the open sea, while the heads were hidden in the marae of Oromea, close to the lagoon. Ua taparuhia ratou e to uta. “They were allured by the dwellers of the island.”

This slaughter was carried out by the orders of Te-ragi-heikapu, the ruling chief, who directed the operation in person. Manava-rere besides being an experienced mariner was a man of great physical strength. In this respect he was a worthy match for Te-ragi-heikapu. It seems that when he was about to be captured beside the open sea, he gave a tremendous leap and found himself on the edge of the - 237 lagoon, and then from there on to the offing. However, he was finally seized by his maro and bound. He was securely tied to a large stone lying in a small lake, nakana, where his enemies tried in vain to kill him. Every morning they went to see if he were not dead. Now, on each occasion they found him still breathing. One fine day he said to them: “Aita vau i higa ia koutou; te tagata ra i higa vau i ana o te tagata i tapu i toku gogo pito naku i tapu.” “You cannot kill me, except by cutting my umbilical-cord;” an expression, which in their language, is equivalent to saying that he himself belonged to Fakahina. Therefore he was spared, and, in due course, became the father of a numerous line, which reckons no fewer than ten generations to the present day.

3. The Takahi, a canoe from Fagatau, had a similar experience. As the inhabitants of Fakahina and of Fagatau are related, the latter were not molested, but, on the contrary, met with a friendly reception.

4. First visit of Paiore to convert the Tuamotu peoples to civilisation. On his first visit Paiore was well received at Fakahina. He gathered the whole population together, and remained with them two or three days. He was entertained in native fashion, and went away delighted with his visit.

5. Second visit of Paiore in 1860. Paiore's second visit ended in a tragedy. His crew was composed of ten or eleven men collected from various places, for he had with him a representative from nearly all the other islands. On this occasion, contrary to his behaviour on his first expedition, Paiore did not go on shore, but allowed or even ordered seven of his men to land. This was indiscreet, and at the same time a grave blunder. He must have seen this afterwards, but then it was too late. Six of the seven men sent on shore were killed. Their names and birth-places are as follows:— 1 Tapahiha of Fakarava; 2 Mahiri of Makemo; 3 Taumata of Taenga; 4 Tuata of Nihiru; 5 Te-hei of Takoto; 6 Tahoro of Reao. The seventh was Turia of Makemo, who owed his escape to his fleet-footedness. Throwing off to his pursuing foe also his vest and hat, he managed in his mad flight to Gake, to outdistance his pursuer, throw himself into the sea, and reach Paiore's cutter by swimming. He, as an eye-witness and a participant in the bloody affair, related the whole story with all its horrible details to Paiore. Under his very eyes Paiore's sailors were pursued, captured and killed, one after the other, on the reef.

- 238

Fanau a raro, ko Mahinui Te-Tauira: ko Niuhi kiukiu, naunau, ragitaka mahiti ake i raro te aka o te henua, ka tagi te pahu ko te rutu ko Mapuna iavaku ki mua i o Rogo. Hopukia te moana, kauria i te moana, te moana uriuri, te moana kerekere, ka higa ki uta i te henua, heuea, te papa ka gatata, Porutu tautua, Porutu tauaro.

Kopekahaga ia o Te-Kura ma te moho ki mua i o Rogo, topa te piri o Manogi, tiraga ruperupe, ki reira, vaitorotoro knriri tagihoro e tagi te avaroa, e tagi te taha o Vavau.

Kapu ko teie Ariki. Taku tahua Kupakupa, ko te tahua ko te vai marigi Maregai ko keha. Tika i a mari Tagaroa ki te tua o te ragi, kapu ko teia Ariki.

Ara mapuhia, Taketake mai Hiva, kapu ko teia Ariki. Mau atu to maro ki mua i a Hau, koutu e tere, kapu to teia Ariki ko Mahinui Te-Tauira, turuturu ki mua i o Rogo ka haruru tana kopu, mitikia tana ta haohoa, ka ririu, tua ka ririu aro. Maeva, ko te pu ko te pahu, ko te raukava ka pupuha nukunuku ma te fakiteragi matereua. Maeva te Ariki. Maeva Te-uho te Ariki ko Mahinui Te-Tauira.


Karihi e karihi nui a kae koi te matau o Rogo fatia fatia e, tara e tara, tahuri mai kona tena te potiki, toa e toa e, toa e. Te hetu ma te marama tena potiki, toa e, toa e kapu korero kapu vanaga tena potiki, toa e toa e, toa e. Kapu iti kapu ai, tena te potiki toa e ko Havaiki, ko Havaiki.

Havaiki tinihi koi ruga, Havaiki tinihi koi raro, piri mataitai ma te nariki, te huru o Te-kura ma te nariki, te mata o Te-kura ma te nariki, te hope o Te-kura ma te nariki, piri mataitai ma te nariki, maro kapu koi ruga, maro kapu koi raro, maro e kapu e Ariki.


Fanaua i raro ko Hoga Tataoa, ko Niuhi paka koru, takurua ki te hekeheke ko purepure, i hiti kapn ko te ie Ariki. Ko te iho, tena kahapu, mai kona, ka turaha mai kona, ka purero mai kona, ka haere mai kona, ka haere mai kona, ko purepure i hiti, ka fanau ai te Ariki Tataoa.

- 239

The following list of the all too scanty flora of Fakahina may be of interest both to the philologist and to the botanist:—

Ancient Paumotu Language. Modern Names. Scientific Names.
Niu Hakari Palma nucifera
Mahame Gatae Pisonnia ombellifera
Piupiu Geogeo Tournefortia argentes L.
Kokuru Uu Suriana Maritima L.
Tou Tou  
Gagie Mikimiki Pemphis acidula Forster
Viri Tima (fara)  
Nono Hora  
Putamagomago Putarau Sesbania grandiflora, Pers.
Gohegohe Kikipa  
Gapata   Scevola konigi
Kahia   Guettaada speciaso


Mauku   Lepturus respens R.B. (Graminée)
Parahirahi   Heliotropium anomalum H. et A.
Toroariki Gaio  
Nau Horahora Lepidium piscidum
Vaianu Ogaoga  


Common Turtles.   Rare Species.
Kurahiva Topitopi  
Marega Tumimi Mokamoka
Kea Kogaga Paku
Gaki Purekau Totoro tika
Igoa-kore Ragihau  
Maunu Tokau  
1   We deeply regret to say that the author of these papers fell a victim to the influenza epidemic of late last year. We have reduced this paper considerably as it contained matter outside that ordinarily published by the Society.—EDITOR.
2   I intend shortly to undertake a study of the numerous points of contact between Polynesian traditions and our knowledge of revealed religion.