Volume 11 1902 > Volume 11, No. 2 > Niue Island and its people, by S. Percy Smith, p 80-106
                                                                                             Previous | Next   

- 80
Part I.

By way of preface, I may say that I resided on Niuē Island in 1901 for nearly four months, having gone there at the request of His Excellency the Earl of Ranfurly, Governor of New Zealand, to introduce a form of government somewhat more consonant with British ideas than the existing one, a proceeding which was rendered necessary by the annexation of this and many other islands to New Zealand under a Proclamation made by H.R H. the Duke of Cornwall and York at Auckland on the 11th June, 1901. The position I occupied during my visit, as Government Resident, put me in a favourable position to obtain information from the natives, but although possessing a fair knowledge of several of the dialects of the great Polynesian language, that of Niuē is so divergent from the others that it took me some time to acquire a sufficient knowledge of it to enter freely into communication with the natives. Hence the sketchy nature of many of the notes I have preserved. I am very greatly indebted to my friend the Rev. F. E. Lawes for a large amount of matter contained in the notes to follow; but for his knowledge of the language and the people, I should have acquired but little matter relating to their customs. So soon as I could speak freely to the chiefs in their own language and they found that I was interested in their history, &c., I began to find that there was a great deal of interesting information to be obtained, but my early departure prevented my availing myself fully of this. It is to be hoped that my successor as Resident, on acquiring the language, will make use of his exceptional opportunities of recording as much as possible of the history and beliefs of this people, before the day is past for so doing.

- i
Niue-Fekai From the Admiralty chart
- 81

On the whole, the history of the people obtained is unsatisfactory, for the Niuē people differ very much from most branches of the race, in that they have few historical traditions, and, what is really very strange in a branch of the Polynesian race, no genealogies of consequence, and hence there is lacking the means of fixing chronologically the events which will be described. I have entered at some length into the description of the fauna and flora of the Island, having taken special care to obtain the correct native names. Failing traditions, I look on these names, when compared with those in other islands, as affording the surest way to discover the origin of the people. And, moreover, though many of the notes herein printed may not have much interest at the present day, the time will come when the descendants of the present inhabitants of Niuē will be glad to have even the little that I have gathered about their forefathers.

The Island: Geographical and Physical.

Niuē is the common name by which the Island is known to the people themselves and to those of the adjacent groups, but its proper modern name is Niuē-fekai, used on formal occasions, in songs, &c. The origin of this name will be given later on. In the meantime it may be mentioned that it has a probable connection with those of other islands in the Western Pacific, such as Niuā in the New Hebrides, Niua-fou north of the Tongan Group, and Niuā-taputapu, Keppel Island.1 It is somewhat remarkable how difficult to English tongues is the pronunciation of this name, and how often it is misspelt. It is pronounced in English letters “neeooway,” with a strong accent on the “way.” But this was not the original name of the island. Apparently its earliest name was Nuku-tu-taha, which was given by Huanaki, one of its earliest discoverers, from the fact of its being a solitary island, not one of a group, nuku being a very common Polynesian name for an island, or land, whilst tu is to stand, taha (Maori tahi) singly; one, &c. If, as is probable, the original discoverers came from the groups to the west, this would be an appropriate name to apply, as distinguishing it from the many-isled groups to which they were accustomed. Another old name of the island is Motu-te-fua, to which the natives now attach the meaning of sterile (tufua), but as there is a fairly strong accent on the te, this is probably the old Polynesian negative not now used by the Niuē people, and might perhaps be translated by “the island without fruit, or offspring.” A fourth name of the island is Fakahoa-motu, which again the natives - 82 do not appear to be able to explain, beyond saying that it means that one of the original discoverers helped the other, any more than they can that of Nuku-tuluea, its fifth name. All these old names have gone out of use, except in song and on very formal occasions, being replaced by Niuē. It is perhaps needless to add that the most modern name is Savage Island, given to it by Captain Cook when he discovered2 it in 1774—a name the natives do not like, for they feel it to be not appropriate in their present condition, and say that Captain Cook by applying this name gave them an unnecessarily bad reputation, for they never injured any of his crew, but merely made a demonstration to prevent his landing, fearing he would introduce disease amongst them.

The north end of the island has a general name, Mata-fonua (the front of the land), as has the south end, Mui-fonua (Muri-whenua in Maori, Muli-fanua in Samoa—meaning the “land's end”—in both of which countries the names are found—in New Zealand at the North Cape, in Samoa at the western end of Upolu Island. If my recollection serves me right, the east end of Rarotonga is also called Muri-enua). In addition to the above names, the north end of the island is called Ulu-lauta and the south end Hiku-lauta.

The sketch map accompanying this paper is taken from the Admiralty chart, to which I have added the names, villages, tracks, &c. The notice of the Hydrographer Royal should be drawn to the shape of the south-east end of the island, which is apparently a good deal out of position, and requires rectification.

The south point of Niuē is situated in south latitude 19° 10', west longitude 169° 17'. The nearest land is Vavau, of the Tonga group, distant nearly west 240 miles. Tongatapu Island is distant S.S.W. about 300 miles, and Tutuila, of the Samoa group, N. by W. 270 miles. To the east Palmerston Island is the nearest land, about 360 miles E. by N., all directions given being true.

The island is about 40 miles in circumference, the extremes of length and breadth being about 17 and 11 statute miles respectively, whilst its average height above sea level is about 220 feet. It belongs to that class termed a “raised coral island,” and has a fringing reef (uluulu) quite close to the shore, the width of which is about 60 to 80 yards. Intersecting this reef in numerous places are narrow—and often deep—chasms (ava) which, under ordinary circumstances, afford good landing places, at any rate on the leeward side, which is towards the west. On the east side, where the prevailing E.S.E. trade winds blow home for eight months out of the twelve, landing is extremely difficult, if not impossible.

- ii
- 83

The island has been raised by several efforts of the subterranean forces, as is plainly visible in the terraces which surround its shores. These elevations have been unequal in character and extent, and practically may be reduced to two.3 The earliest caused the central part of the island to rise about 130 feet, and thus it remained for ages, the wide terrace on which most of the villages now stand, being at that time the encircling or fringing reef. The other great elevation raised the island a further height of about 80 to 90 feet, since which time little change appears to have taken place beyond the eating of the surf into the cliffs of coral. There are indications here and there that the island was once an atoll, with probably a very shallow lagoon, now shown by the brown reddish earth of the centre of the island, which is formed of very much decomposed coral rock. This reddish earth is a feature of other raised coral islands, as noticed by both Darwin and Dana. Where not occupied by this reddish earth, the surface of the island is extremely rocky, the grey weathered surface of the coral showing in fantastic rugged masses, that makes travelling off the paths very difficult indeed. The island may be likened to an inverted soup-plate, in which the rounded edge represents the lower terrace, the rim the old margin of the lagoon, and the bottom the level or undulating surface of the old lagoon. Coral (feo) is the only rock to be found on the island—there is no sign of any volcanic rock whatever. It decomposes into a fertile soil in the hollows of the rocks, more so than the reddish earth, which is not so rich but yet often supports a dense vegetation.

The second elevation of the island appears to have been of a more sudden character than the first, for it was probably during that period that the series of longitudinal chasms were formed that so frequently are found at the foot of the higher terrace—the old shore line, in fact, before the second elevation. Some of these chasms are very picturesque, overhung as they are by the rich vegetation of the tropics, and frequently containing pools of water in the bottoms, which serve as the water supply of the people. A particularly picturesque spot is Matapa, where the chasm that runs along a considerable length of the east side of the island (here and there) runs out to sea.4 It appears as if the lower terrace had fractured, with a tendency to split off, leaving these chasms to mark the points of weakness. It is along this lower terrace—which may average about one-third of a mile in width—that six out of the eleven villages are situated, all shaded by coco-nut groves, and presenting a very pretty appearance with the gleaming white coral houses of the natives showing amongst the dark green foliage.

- 84

The island is so rocky that cultivation, in the ordinary sense of the word, is extremely difficult; and yet the natives, by hard labour, produce from the soil abundance of food, of which the talo is the most plentiful, and is most excellent of its kind. It is extraordinary to see how well this plant, together with bananas (futi) and other food-plants, flourish amongst the rocks in places where it would generally be deemed impossible to grow anything. In the interior parts where the reddish earth prevails, certain kinds of food are also grown, such as sugar-cane, talo, &c., but the soil is generally not nearly so productive here. All over the interior the coral rock crops up here and there, even amidst the reddish soil, and often the finest trees on the island grows where there is most coral rock. It is difficult to get a view of any extent in the interior owing to the vegetation, and it was not until after much searching we found a place from which to take a photograph. Here an extent of about five miles was seen, and as in all other parts, there was no elevation visible above the general surface of more than 25 feet. The whole interior plateau is, in fact, a very gently undulating plain, from which the edges slope off somewhat steeply on all sides to the lower terrace. The edge of this plateau, or upper terrace, is about three-quarters of a mile distant from the sea.

It may be said that the whole island is covered by forest, although there are places here and there where the vegetation degenerates into scrub. But these places have apparently been burnt and cultivated in former times, and the forests destroyed. The general name for the inland parts is tafagafaga5 or vao, whilst the second growth of forest is called koukou-motua, and the wild native forest vao-motua.

From what has been stated above as to the source of the water supply, it will be understood that fresh water is scarce. The sole reliance of the islanders in this respect is upon the pools of water in the caverns (ana, or aloalo), for there is no such thing as a running stream in the island. The water is often deep below the surface and has to be hauled up by lines, but usually the supply is to be obtained not much below the level of the land. Many of the caverns contain brackish (māē) water (vai)6 which rises to a level of 60 to 70 feet above the sea level, and is affected by the tides at that height—such water is used for washing, bathing, and sometimes (in dry seasons) for drinking. It follows from this scarcity of water that the variety of - 85 talo grown in the island is of the kind that requires little moisture, unlike the taro of Eastern Polynesia, which requires periodical floodings with water. The Niuē talo is the best, to my mind, grown in the Pacific. The people depend largely on the milk of the cocoanut for drinking.

Villages, Population, &c.

It has already been stated that six of the villages are situated on the lower terrace of the island. There are eleven villages in all, as will be seen from the following table. The numbers of the population are as supplied by the Rev. F. E. Lawes, from data obtained in 1899:

Alofi, on the west side of the island 719
Alofi, on the west side of the island (students) 49
Tamakautoga on the west side of the island 275
Avatele on the west side of the island 401
Fatiau, on the south-west side of the island 104
Hakupu, on the south-east side of the island 456
Liku, on the west side of the island 383
Lakepa (or Tamalagau), on the west side of the island 234
Mutalau, on the north-west 524
Hikutavake (and Tamahatokula) on the north-west side of the island 248
Tuapa (or Uhomotu), on the west side of the island 426
Makefu on the west side of the island 196
Absent at the guano and other islands 561
Total 4576

To these may be added—at the time of my visit—nineteeen Europeans.

Of these villages, Alofi is the capital, in the sense that the Government Resident has his office here, and it is also the residence of the Missionary and site of the higher school in which the students are trained for the mission service in New Guinea and other islands. From its position, on the leeward side of the island, and being about mid-distant between the N.W. and S.W. points, Alofi is also the surest anchorage. Avatele is the next best anchorage and landing. Vessels sometimes anchor off Tuapa, which is the residence of the Patu-iki or so-called King. Whenever it may be necessary to ship cargo from the other villages, vessels lie off and on.

The Niuē villages (māga), like all those in the islands of Eastern Polynesia which are under the spiritual care of the London Mission Society, are substantially built and very picturesque. The houses (fale) are formed of lath and plaster, for which purpose the coral makes excellent lime (puga), with roofs thatched with pandanus leaf (lau fa) or sugar cane (lau to). They are oblong in shape, and present a very pretty appearance amongst the deep green vegetation, and are over- - 86 shadowed by tall coco-nut trees. 7 These houses are, of course, modern in design; the old native house of coco-nut (niu) leaves, oblong in shape, with projections at each end under the gable, are still to be seen occasionally, and especially away from the villages where the houses of the people now are. A Niuē village occupies a considerable space, for the houses are usually separated one from the other by intervals. Many have neat enclosures (kaina) with a few favourite sweet-scented or flowering plants growing about, amongst which the gardenia (tiale) and the Frangipani are frequent, whilst the scarlet hibiscus (kaute, the single or male flower; kaute-fifine, the double or female flower) is often seen, but perhaps more often near the graves. The village of Alofi is about one-and-a-half miles long, the houses scattered along the main road. In each village there is a substantial lath and plaster or solid stone chapel, a school-house, and the teachers residence—always the most important house in the place. Near the chapel is usually to be found the malē, an open grassy space where the people assemble and young Niuē plays cricket. The native grass (motietie; matietie in other islands) a species of twitch, forms a smooth sward—it is common to all the islands of Polynesia proper I have visited. It will be noticed here that the malē, or plaza, is similar to the Maori marae and Samoan and Tongan malae, but quite different to the Tahitian marae, which was a pyramidical structure of stone used for religious purposes.

The cultivations (māla) of the people are generally situated away from the villages, often considerable distances. They are usually in newly-cleared land, and it is through this process of clearing that a good deal of the island is now in scrub, or a second growth of wood. The people pass most of their time away in the vao, or wilds, getting food, so that during the day few people are seen about the villages. They may be met each evening returning to their homes with all kinds of food carried on a pole over the shoulder (hahamo), just like the Chinese method—this is the Eastern Polynesian custom also, but not that of the Maori.

It is apparent from a document written for me by Mohelagi, a chief of Alofi, and which will be found in Part III. hereof, that each village has a “saying” with reference to it—such as we apply to some of our towns, for example, “the Imperial City,” “the Eternal City,” and “the Empire City,” &c., &c. This is a Samoan custom and is, if I remember, called Fale-upōlu, at any rate so far as the island of Upōlu is concerned.

Roads, Tracks, &c.

Considering the very rocky nature of the island, the people are deserving of praise for the main road round the island, which passes

- iii
- 87

through eight of the eleven villages. Its length is between 35 and 38 miles, and is suitable for wheeled traffic except in two places where it ascends from the lower terrace to the plateau. The greater part of its length is under the shade of the forest, either of coco-nut or the vao-motua, and is therefore pleasant to travel in hot weather. Occasionally it is very pretty. As a rule this main road (hala-tu) runs very direct from point to point, a remark which equally applies to the minor tracks (hala, or puhala). These latter are all available for horse traffic, but are frequently exceeding rocky. There are horse tracks of this nature leading into Alofi from Hakupu, Liku, and Lakepa. It is said they follow the old war trails used by the kau-tau, or war parties, of former days. The track from Alofi to Liku has been converted into a carriage-way for three-fourths of its length by the energy of the Liku people. It passes the old settlement (māga) of Palūki, which appears at one time to have been the residence of the kings, and is often mentioned in the songs. There are but two vehicles (a buggy and a cart) on the island, but horses are numerous—very sorry steeds generally speaking, which have mostly been introduced from Tonga. Roads are made by the combined efforts of the different villages, but in modern times offenders against the law are required to work out their sentences on the roads.

Vegetation (Trees=akau, Shrubs=lakau).

Situated as the island is, within the Tropics, it is natural to find many tropical plants growing there. The characteristic of the vegetation is the large size of the leaves and the fruits or seeds. It has already been stated that the island is practically wooded from end to end, and in some parts of the vao-motua, or original forest, the trees grow to a large size and have a very majestic appearance. These original forests are not too dense to allow of easy travelling in them—that is, where the rocks do not prevent it—for the undergrowth is not thick as compared with a New Zealand forest. There are many handsome ferns growing beneath the shade of the trees, amongst which the Kapihi is conspicuous by its beauty and frequency. Its leaves turn a bright yellow when dry, and are therefore much used by the natives for ornamental purposes in their dress on gala occasions. The Luku is also a very handsome plant (? fern), the bright shiny leaves of which grow sometimes to a length of 6 feet, with a width of 6 inches. There are two species known to the natives—Luku-fua, the leaves of which are eaten, it has the midrib green; and the Luku-la-ua, of which both roots and leaves are eaten, it has the midrib black. Many creepers are seen climbing up the trees, of which the Fua-kanai, with handsome purple-black berries as large as a walnut is very ornamental. There is a kind of cane, or liana, that sometimes reaches the very tops of - 88 trees 120 feet high called Va. Of the forest trees the Banyan (Ovava) is the largest, but it is not common; the largest seen was about 130 feet high, with a circumference, outside its many stems, of about 60 feet. The Kafika is the finest timber tree, and it is very common, growing to a height of 150 feet or more, with a diameter up to 4 or 5 feet. It is a very useful timber tree with tall straight stems, the wood of a light brown colour. The Moota or Maota is also a fine tree used in canoe building, with very handsome foliage like the shumach—it appears to me to be identical with the Samoan Maota.8 The Tavahi is also common, with handsome foliage somewhat like the Maota, and also like the locust or thorny acacia of Africa. It will be remembered that one species of the New Zealand Tawai, or Towai, has the young foliage like the locust, and probably herein is to be found the identity of name, Tavahi=Tawai—the Niuē people often insert an “h” in Maori words. (See this Journal, vol. x., p. 180.)

To mention all the names of trees and other vegetation, specimens of which I obtained, would be tedious, for there are over 150 of them; and, as with the Maori of old, these are known to everybody, even to the little urchins of 10 and 12 years of age. Every plant, however minute, seems to have a proper name, some of which are worth mentioning. Although the sandalwood tree does not now grow in Niuē (if ever it did), the people have retained its name—ahi—in place names, as Fale-ahi, &c. It is known by that name in several islands—i.e., Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, and Futuna, asi; Tahiti and Hawaii, ahi; Marquesas, pu-ahi. The Fou, or yellow Hibiscus, is as luxurious, and its flowers as handsome in Niuē as in all other islands of Central Polynesia; its bark is used for string, for titi or kilts, and other purposes. The Ifi or Tahitian chestnut grows there, but is not at all plentiful; it is the same as the mape of Rarotonga. The Tuitui, or candlenut, is fairly common, and has the same name all over Central Polynesia; the seeds are used for lights by threading them on a stick, and the soot from them in marking the hirpo or tapa. The Tamanu tree has also the name of Fetau, as in Tonga, Samoa, &c., but it is not known in Eastern Polynesia by that name. The sweet-scented Tiale (gardenia) is known by that name in all Central Polynesia (in Maori—obsolete—the word means scent), and a variety—the Tiale-tafa—has a handsome tubular white scentless flower. The Oluolu is a tree with hard, white, close grained wood, much used in making the katoua or clubs, the wood becoming dark by age. The Brazilian plum Vi has the same name as in Tahiti, Samoa (Spondias dulcis), Tonga, Futuna, &c. It is a handsome tree, but rare in Niuē. The Pandanus or screw-pine (Fa) is common; it is known by some variant of that name— - 89 fala, fara, haro, ara—in most of the islands. The leaves are used in thatching, for the making of baskets, hats (potiki), mats, &c., and sections of the large seeds are strung on string as an adornment to the person on gala occasions, its strong scent being pleasant to the natives. The coral tree (Gate)9 is somewhat rare, and the fine spike of scarlet flower seen in other islands is much smaller in size in Niuē. The name is much the same in other islands—i.e., Ngatae, Gatae, 'Atae, &c.

The Le is a tree with broad handsome leaves, the wood being of service in canoe building. The Mati is a small tree, bearing on its stem rows of reddish fruit very like one of the species of mandarin orange, the fruit of which is little larger than a pea. The name Mati has been used in the Niuē scriptures as the equivalent of fig. The Futu is the Hutu or Utu of other islands, it has fine broad handsome leaves. There is a Puka and a Pukatea, both trees of some size, the latter not unlike the Pukatea of New Zealand. The Tohi-hune, or Tai-hune, or Tavāhi-kaku, is a mimosa-like tree, probably identical with the Toromiro of Rarotonga. The Toi is useful for its wood of a mahogany colour; it is not at all like the Toi of New Zealand, the foliage being not unlike the New Zealand Pomadarris Tainui, and the fruit half an inch in diameter, purple in colour. The Pua and the Pao are trees of considerable size growing near the coast, the latter of which bears a large oval seed 4 inches by 2½ inches in size, eaten in time of scarcity. The Kalāka is so like the New Zealand Karaka in its habit that the one might be taken for the other at a short distance, but they are different species. The Kānomea is a handsome tree with large seeds like plums, but not eatable. The Kieto is apparently a species of ebony, for the wood is very like it. The natives use it for barbs to their spears, and for other purposes. If it grew larger in size it would be worth exporting as ebony. The Fekakai, or Fikakai, is a medium sized tree bearing pretty crimson flowers, like the New Zealand Rata, and a very agreeable fruit coloured pink and yellow, in shape like an elongated apple. The Fua-ai bears a nut which, in my opinion, is equally as good as a walnut.

Of the shrubs (Lakau) may be mentioned, the Kava-vao, a species of Piper, as is the Kava-atua.10 The Niuē people, however, did not make or use the well-known Kava drink, though the latter shrub appears to me to be the same species as that from which it is made in other islands. The only use to which it was apparently put, was to - 90 fasten little pieces of the root on to their spears, which caused much irritation in the wounds made therewith. The Fou-mamāla is a handsome shrub, from the bark of which their fishing-nets (kupega) are made. The Cape gooseberry has been introduced, but there is a smaller species called Fua-manini, which is said to be native to the island. The Nonu, or Morinda citrifolia, is a very common shrub, it bears the same name in Tonga, Samoa, Rarotonga; Tahiti (Nono); Futuna and Marquesas (Noni). There are four species of Polo, a solanum:—Polo-kai, Polo-miti, Polo-magaiho, and Polo-iti, the first and the last are, if not quite identical, very like the Poporo and Poro-iti of New Zealand. The name Poro-iti contains an interesting survival of a word; iti, for small, is no longer used in the Niuē dialect, tote (probably the Moriori word toke) having taken its place. Iti, however, is the common Polynesian word for small. The Niuē people use ikiiki for very small, showing the same change from “t” to “k” that has taken place in Hawaii and Samoa.

Amongst the shrubs may be included the Talotalo, a very handsome lily-like plant, with leaves 3 feet long by 4 or 5 inches wide, and with a sweet scented head of white flowers. There are innumerable creepers, several species of convolvulus, a prickly creeper called Talamoa, very like the New Zealand Tataramoa, and one—the Pomea, or Malakamea—with very pretty red and black seeds, used for necklaces. The Maile also is a pretty creeper, but not scented like the Hawaiian Maile.

Ferns are fairly numerous; some I have already mentioned. In the open parts of the island a fern like the New Zealand Piupiu (Lomaria procura) covers the ground, and is called Mohuku (the Maori Mouku, or Mauku, also the name of a fern, but a different species). The Palatao is very like the New Zealand Paretao, and is probably a variety of the same species. There are several orchids called Pupu-kalei; the only one I saw in flower was a very pretty one, purple and white.

It is said there are four palms indigenous to Niuē (including the coco-nut), of which the Logologo is the most conspicuous from its large fruit, which grows in the centre of the stem from where the leaves sprout; it is like a gigantic pineapple in appearance. The leaves are not unlike the date palm. The Piu is the fan palm, a very handsome tree indeed. Another tall palm, growing to a height of 50 or 60 feet, I unfortunately have mislaid the name of, but it is not unlike the fan palm in appearance.

I believe there are five species of Dracœna, but I only know the name of one, Ti-mata-alea, about which there is a tradition that will be referred to later on. Ti is the general name in Niuē, as it is - 91 everywhere the Polynesian Race is found, but Niuē people pronounce the word tsi. The Ti above mentioned has a pretty spray of purple flowers, but its root, unlike the others, is not eaten.

Food Plants.

The coco-nut will be referred to later on, but next to it in importance is the Talo (Arum esculentum), of which there are many varieties, some of which are:—

Talo-matāgi Talo-pogi
Talo-pulekau Talo-mātau
Talo-toga Talo-matāga
Talo-maga Talo-fati
Talo-pako Talo-kula.

Of these all are said to be Talo-tuai (from of old), except the Talo-futi and Talo-kula, which, together with the Talo-kiamo introduced from Aneityum, have been taken to the island in modern times. Kiamo is the name the Niuē people give to Aneityum Island of the New Hebrides; why, it is difficult to say, for it does not appear to be a corruption of the name of the island. This species of the Talo is yellow inside and particularly good eating. The Talo enters as an ingredient into many of their made dishes to be referred to later on. It is usually baked in the native oven (umu), but sometimes boiled. The Talo had a god (tupua) of its own named Mana-tafu-e-ika.11

The giant Talo (Kape)12 also grows at Niuē; it is the Colocasia of the Botanists. There are three varieties known to the natives, viz.:—

Kape-matamata, a tall one

These are all eaten, but only in time of scarcity. The flower is like the arum, but smaller and yellow. It is a handsome plant, but not nearly so luxurious in growth at Niuē as at Tahiti. Pulaka is its name in the northern islands.

The yam (Ufi) is common in Niuē, but I saw none of the immense size grown in Samoa, Tonga, &c. There are nine varieties known to the natives, as follows:—

Ufi-lei Ufi-toga Ufi-tuā
Ufi-kavekave Ufi-fetēka Ufi-kamo
Ufi-kokau (wild yam) Ufi-pia Ufi-pāka
of which Ufi-pia and Ufi-paka are introduced kinds. It may be men- - 92 tioned here that the Maoris had a species of Kumara (Batatas), which they named Uwhi-rei, identical with the first name above, which no doubt is a recollection of the times when their ancestors knew the yam of the islands—indeed their traditions say that their forefathers brought the yam with them to New Zealand, but that it did not flourish, and so died out many generations ago.

Of the wild yams (Hoi, species of Dioscorea) there are four varieties, all more or less bitter, though the natives say of the first three mentioned below that they are magalo, sweet. They are:—

Hoi-tua Hoi-tea
Hoi-vakili Hoi-kona (or bitter)

This species of yam is prepared (tuhoi) by scraping, washing in salt water, and then in fresh before cooking. Their handsome convolvulous-like foliage is to be seen constantly creeping over the shrubs in the forest.

The sweet potato, know more generally as the Kumara (Batatas) is grown in Niuē, but they call it Timala or Fua-timala (pronounced Tsimala).13 There are several varieties, but my informant failed to supply me with the names before I left, so I only know two, viz: Mala-kula and Mala-tea. The particular kind that I saw tasted much like the old Maori Tukau variety of Kumara.

The sugar-cane is common and seems to do well in the more open parts of the island; it is of course a cultivated plant. Its native name is To, as it is in most other islands inhabited by the Polynesians; the people chew the stem, and use the leaves for thatching. The following varieties are known to the natives:—

To-gatatea To-hiata To-kula
To-hega To-maka To-fua

The Pia or native arrowroot is very common everywhere. It springs up abundantly wherever the wood has been burnt. There is a variety named Teve, with which I am not acquainted, but it is said to be acrid in taste. The Pia enters largely into the foods of the natives. It is very good, but, prepared in their way has not the bright white appearance of the arrowroot of commerce; it is light purple in color.

The banana (Futi) is almost as important a food-plant as the Talo. It grows everywhere, i.e., by planting, even in the most rocky part it seems to flourish as well as elsewhere. Some varieties have been introduced, but others are native and wild. There are quite a number of kinds I believe, but the only names I have noted are:

Futi-maholi Futi-hulahula Futi-pili-kolo
Futi-tea Futi-hai Futi-tolo
- 93
Futi-kula Futi-ume Futi-pāpā
Futi-uli Futi-mamei Futi-hehefaga
Futi-moamoafua Futi-toga  
of which the first is very large, and the mamei particularly good eating.

The Futi is largely used in the made dishes of the people. The name given by the Niuē people to the banana, differs from that of Eastern Polynesian a good deal; the names in various islands are: Tonga, Fuji14 (which is the same as Futi); Samoa, Fa'i and Mo'ē; Futuna Futi, Rarotonga, Meika; Tahiti, Fe'i—the wild mountain variety=Samoan Fa'i, and Mei'a, the cultivated variety; Marquesas Fahoka; Hawaii Mai'a, Fiji, Vudi, which is the word Futi no doubt.

The bread fruit, Mei, so largely used in Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti, Rarotonga, &c., is not nearly so common in Niuē, and the trees have the appearance of being comparatively young; it seems probable therefore that it is an introduction of modern times. The name is identical with that used in Tonga, Futuna, and Marquesas, but in Somoa, Rarotonga, Tahiti and Hawaii it is Kuru, Uru, or 'ulu; in Fiji it is Uto.

The pandanus (Fa) has already been mentioned; its drupes are only eaten in time of scarcity. The pine-apple has been introduced; but is not so plentiful as in many of the other islands; the natives give it the same name as the pandanus (Fa) from the similarity of leaves and fruit in appearance.

The papaw or mammy apple (Carica Papaya) called in Niuē Loku, flourishes well, and is to be seen everywhere. The Samoan name is Esi, Tonga, Oleji, Tahiti, Rarotonga, Mangarewa and Paumotu, Ninita, Hawaii, hei. From the diversity of names, this tree is evidently of modern introduction in the islands,15 and, so far as Niuē is concerned it was first brought there from Raiatea in 1831–2.

Pilīta is a creeper having a tuberous root, which is eaten in time of scarcity. It is probably the same or allied to the Pilita of Samoa (Dioscoria pentaphylla). The same name is given to the root of the Ieie (Maori Kiekie) in Tahiti, and from the tuberous root and climbing habit of the New Zealand supplejack it probably received the name of Pirita in remembrance of the above or a similar plant in the “fatherland.”

The orange (M˘lĭ) grows well and bears fine sweet fruit, but the natives have not planted it to any extent. It bears the same name in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Futuna, Rarotonga, and Tahiti. The lemon, lime, citron, and shaddock also flourish very well in Niuē, particularly the lemon (Tipolu). The tamarind, mango, cotton (Vavae, which is - 94 its name in Samoa, Tonga, Rarotonga, and Tahiti), the kapoc tree (also called Vavae), the date palm—its fruit does not ripen properly—and numbers of other useful and edible plants have been introduced, and all seem to do well. The grenadilla (Niuē name vine, which is probably the English word vine), grows well; its handsome foliage and flowers are seen climbing over the shrubs, together with its large vegetable-marrow-like fruit, very delicious to eat. In the more open parts of the island the yellow guava (Kau-toga) is spreading fast, and already covers many hundreds of acres, as it has done in Rarotonga, Tahiti, Hawaii, and Samoa, but to a much larger extent, especially in Hawaii.

The Coco-nut (Niu).

But of all the trees that grow at Niuē the coco-nut is by far the most important, as it is in all the islands inhabited by the Polynesians. There are four species known to the natives—Niu-tea, with light-coloured fruit and stem; Niu-kula, the fruit of which is dark brown; Niu-hiata, with yellowish fruit, not so dark and smaller than Niu-kula; and Niu-toga, a variety introduced in modern times.

The coco-nut is to be found all over the island, but very sparsely in the interior; it grows to perfection on the lower terrace, and here it forms a dense forest nearly all round the island, overshadowing the roads and villages, and tempering the heat to the inhabitants, whilst at the same time serving as food, drink, and for innumerable other purposes. Every tree on the island has an owner, and they have a considerable value, not only for the purposes named but as forming the principal export of the island in the form of copra, of which about 600 to 800 tons are exported annually, most of it going to Tonga, where it is transhipped to Hamburg, the rest to Sydney, where it is used in the manufacture of Sunlight soap, &c. I need not speak of the beauty of the coco-nut palm, its praises have been sung by far abler pens than mine. It is seen to perfection in the bright moonlight, and especially in Samoa, where it seems to grow with more luxuriousness than elsewhere. For the benefit of our New Zealand members it may be added that the leaf of the coco-nut is so like our New Zealand palm—the Nikau—that at a little distance the two could not be distinguished the one from the other. But the fruit is utterly different. Clustering under where the leaves branch from the stem, the great nuts—brown, yellow, or green—are seen, often over one hundred in number, and in all stages of growth, from the tiny nut no bigger than a walnut to that of the largest size, and they are very large indeed in Niuē—larger, it is said, than anywhere else in the Pacific. In a 35-mile drive in Tonga, I saw nothing to equal the Niuē nut, either in size or prolificness. A large Niuē nut will contain as much as two to three pints of its deliciously cool milk (so called). - 95 It is amusing to see with what ease the little boys of from eight upwards will walk up a coco-nut tree to break off the fruit from the loholoho, or stem, on which it grows. The nut is thrown down, and then with a stick sharpened at the upper end (often pointed with the teeth) and the lower stuck in the ground, a few blows of the nut on the point serves to detach (hē, to husk) the thick outer husk (pulu), and a few taps on the end of the nut breaks off (fela, to open) a small portion of the shell sufficient to allow one to drink the delicious contents. The white flesh (kakano) of the nut is largely used by the natives in their made dishes, of which they have several, referred to later on.

For certain purposes the coco-nut trees are often preserved for a time. This is shown by a part of the leaf tied round the stem of the tree. Such a proceeding is termed fono, and is equivalent to the rahui of the Maori and eastern Polynesian. At all feasts and presentations of food the coco-nut is an important adjunct, but in the speech presenting the food it is not referred to by its ordinary name of Niu, nor indeed under similar circumstances are any of the foods alluded to by their common names. This custom is somewhat akin—but not identical—to that of the Samoans, who give honorific names to the individuals forming the kava ring which are not used at any other time. These names in Niuē are:—

The Coco-nut, ordinary name Fua-niu; feast name, Ulu-ola16

The Talo ordinary name Talo feast name, Tafuna-fonua17

The Banana ordinary name Futi feast name, Lau-malika

The Sugar-cane ordinary name To feast name Lau-lelēva.

We may probably trace in this observance the old Polynesian idea that everything has a spirit form of its own, and in feasts, &c., the occasion being great, the spirit or honorific names are used.

It is a Niuē custom that on the first visit of a stranger of any note to their villages to present them with a few living coco-nuts, the idea being apparently to give the visitor the “freedom” of the village. Thus on my first visit to Liku an old Patu, or chief, presented me with five young coco-nut trees, which were afterwards duly planted, and the fruit of which could be used by me on subsequent visits.

It may be of use to state, for comparison, the various names of the parts of the coco-nut. The fibrous husk of the nut is called pulu, and it serves a good many purposes, the most important of which is - 96 in rope or sinnet (toua) and string (aho) making. It is of course the “coir” of commerce, a name which is probably derived from the Polynesian name for a rope (kaha). On the occasion of one of the students leaving Niuē in October, 1901, to join the New Guinea band of Missionaries his friends gave him 1,400 fathoms of braided sinnet to take with him for purposes of exchange. The sinnet is very strong and durable. From the shell, after being scraped and sometimes polished, the ordinary drinking vessels (kapiniu) are made, and the whole shell is used as a water-bottle.18 Soon after the nut begins to grow the interior is filled with a spongy mass called uho-niu, which is sweet and pleasant to eat. A young coco-nut with but little pulp in it is named kola and pona-niu. The nuts grow on a stem called a loholoho, whilst the flower stem is termed tomē, and the young shoot muka, which is the Maori name for the white scraped fibre of the flax plant. The main midrib of the leaf is palelafe, and the rib of each separate branch leaf is kaniu. The leaf itself is used in thatching, to make baskets (kato), mats (potu), and in various other ways. The kaniu is used in several ways, such as for making brooms, combs, &c. The coco-nut wood is hard and heavy, and when polished makes handsome sticks, &c. From the white pulp of the nut, oil (puke-lolo) is made by scraping and pressing, which is used for anointing themselves with, and it is ofted scented (manogi). Land covered with coco-nuts is said to be niuniu. The tree grows to about 60 or 70 feet high in Niuē, and is very healthy as a rule, though it is occasionally attacked by a disease called pao, but does not appear to be affected by the blight common in Eastern Polynesia, which turns the leaves yellow and prevents the trees bearing. The ground underneath the coco-nut trees is kept clear of scrub, &c., in order to see the nuts when they fall, and the natives usually light fires every year under the trees, which, they say, causes increased productiveness. Probably the same reason induces them to hack the trees about with an axe, causing their otherwise handsome stems to appear unsightly.

Origin of the Coco-nut on Niuē

The Niu, or coco-nut, is not indigenous to Niuē—I mean indigenous in the sense one may use it of many other islands, i.e., that it has been growing there a long time; of course it is not truly indigenous in any part of Polynesia, though it has been so long in most of the islands that the natives have no traditions of its being brought to them. De Candole, the great authority on cultivated plants, states (apparently with some doubt) that its native habitat is Central America. What - 97 an interesting history lies behind that statement, could it be unravelled! Whatever may be its true origin, however, does not affect the question so far as Niuē is concerned, for the coco-nut has been introduced there within historical (Polynesian) times. There are several accounts of its introduction, and if we may believe the story told to Mr. Lawes, it cannot have been on the island more than 200 years, if we allow that to be a fair estimate of the life of a coco-nut tree. It is said by the natives that the first coco-nut brought there only died since Mr. Lawes has resided on the island, or during the last 30 years. Taken in connection with the tradition to be related directly, I would suggest that the above statement may refer to one species of the coco-nut only, not to the original introduction of the first tree. Taki-ula, a well-informed man of Tuapa, told me that the first coco-nut drifted ashore, and was planted at Mutalau. The Avatele people have a tradition that a coco-nut was found on the shore, having been washed up by the sea. The man who found it, not knowing what it was, took it to his house and placed it in a corner under a floor-mat (potu). He then went away to help in one of the wars at that time constant, and was absent some time. On his return he discovered that the unknown article had put forth leaves and roots. He planted this, and their coco-nuts are derived from that source. Now as to these two stories: It would seem probable from the prevalence of the trade wind, that these nuts must have come from the East—the variable winds would scarce allow of the drift from Tonga or Samoa. If so they must have drifted at least 500 miles, if not more. Dana, in his work on the Coral Islands, makes the statement that the coco-nut will not germinate if it is very long in salt water, though it seems probable nevertheless that some of the smaller atolls have received their coco-nuts in this manner—that is a very popular belief, especially of those who are quite ignorant of, or ignore, the extent of the Pacific covered by the explorations of the old Polynesian voyagers. It is known that they invariably carried coco-nuts in their canoes, and naturally planted them wherever they landed. In this manner I believe many an island now uninhabited has obtained its coco-nuts, rather than by accidental drifting. I hold that there are extremely few islands in the Pacific within the temperate zone that have not been visited by the Polynesians during the high-day of their nautical enterprise, which practically ceased some 500 years ago, through causes which I have detailed in “Hawaiki.”19 It is with this strong belief that I think the following tradition assigns the true origin of the coco-nuts on Niuē, the original story in the native language will be found later on. After describing two places in Niuē - 98 named after the two heroes to be mentioned, the story says:—

“Vai-matagi and Vai-fualoto dwelt at Kulanahau and Kaupa. Kaupa is near where the first chapel was built by Paulo (in 1849) the teacher from Samoa that came to Mutalau. Now Vai-matagi and Vai-fualoto went on a journey to visit various different islands. Their expedition brought them to an island named Tutuila, the king of which island was named Moa. This chief never lifted up his eyes, for fear if he did so and looked on the trees, they would die. It was the same with all things on the face of the earth, the same with all animals that crawl, the same with all mankind. He ever kept his gaze directed to the earth, never turning from it, lest the land and all things on it he cursed.

“So the expedition of Levei-matangi and Levei-fualolo arrived at this island of Tutuila. (Note the change in the names of the two men). Then the chief of the island asked of them, ‘You two men, whence do you come? Make me acquainted with the name of the island of you two, what it may be, and what have you to eat and to drink there?’ Then they spoke and related their story unto the chief Moa: ‘Our expedition has come from Nuku-tu-taha, from Motu-tē-fua, from Fakahoa-motu, from Nuku-tuluea. We drink of the waters which are good, and eat of certain fruits of small trees from the earth. Kuenaia!’ (That is ended.)

“The chief now made a feast unto the expedition, and they tasted of many luscious and sweet things with their lips, and then they praised these things, and felt their lips and their hands for they were greasy with the oil of the coco-nut, and then they said, ‘We do not possess anything like this in our island.’

“After the feast was over they proceeded to gossip, and then after a time the chief gave to them two coco-nuts; the first one was a Niu-kula, which he gave to Levei-matagi, but afterwards gave another to Levei-fualoto, a Niu-hina. And the chief said, ‘Ko e niu ē ma mua,’ ‘these coco-nuts are for you two; take them with you, and dig the ground at your island and plant them; but guard them carefully as they grow—take great heed of them until they fruit. From them will come fruit, first in quality, and very useful to your bodies and those of your relatives. Let there grow from them plenty for all succeeding generations.’ * * *

“It was these two men, Levei-matagi and Levei-fualoto—which are the same as Vai-matagi and Vai-fualoto—who called this island Niuē-fekai. Huanaki and Fāo gave the first four names, and these men the present name.”

In this tradition we see the origin of the name Niuē. In the dialect of the island “e” is almost equivalent to nei; hence Niuē may - 99 be translated as “this Niu” in the same manner that Hawaii is frequently called Hawaii-nei, “this Hawaii.”

On my asking the natives how the two Niuē men reached Tutuila, seeing that their canoes as at present constructed would be incapable of such a voyage (unless under very exceptional circumstances), they told me that in former times they used much larger canoes, which were double. Vaka-hai-ua is their name for a double canoe. To the Polynesians in the high-day of their powers as navigators such a voyage—270 miles—would present no difficulty whatever. It is unfortunate that no date can be assigned for this voyage through the genealogical descent from either of the voyagers. Nor does the name of the ruling chief of Tutuila (Moa) help us, for that is the family name of the Tui-Manu'a, or king of Manu'a Island, situated some 70 miles east of Tutuila, a family which has held the chief position in rank in Samoa from time immemorial, and whose mana extended over the whole group, though the kingship of Samoa has been held by the Malietoa family since about the year 1200-1250. The statement in the foregoing tradition as to the power of the “evil eye” of the Samoan chief is borne out by Samoan tradition. Tangaloa-a-ui, a semi-divine ancestor of the Manu'a kings, evidently possessed this power, according to the Samoan traditions,20 as did his descendants, the Moa family of Manu'a.

Although we cannot assign a date for the expedition of these two men to Samoa, it is clear from other things that it occurred in the “long ago,” and probably not long after Niuē was first settled; but still long enough to have allowed a generation to have grown up that knew not the taste and appearance of the coco-nut, except probably by tradition.

It has already been stated that the coco-nut, in the shape of cobra, is the principal article of export. Another vegetable also forms an export to a small extent; this is the pakapaka-atua (or pakapaka-aitu), or fungus, which goes to the China market, just as the hakekakeka (fungus) of New Zealand does.

The Fauna of Niue (Animals, manu).

There were no animals (manu, general name for all animals), on Niuē when the first intercourse with white people commenced, except the rat. Unlike most of the other branches of the Polynesian Race, they possessed neither pigs nor dogs, though it is clear they once - 100 knew of the former, for the common Polynesian name for pig (puaka) is retained in the names of places. Pigs are numerous enough now, but were introduced in the middle of the nineteenth century. The first dog the Niuē people became acquainted with was one that came ashore from a ship; probably the vessel that was wrecked on the East Coast, which was laden with Oregan pine, of which large quantities are still to be seen, having been used by the natives for doors, windows, furniture, floors, &c. This dog received the name of Taafu; but he did not live long as a settler on Niuē, for he was discovered eating the dead bodies in the burial caves, and consequently came to an untimely end. The natives have plenty of dogs now, and call them kuli, which seems to imply that they were introduced from either Tonga or New Zealand.

The rat, common on almost all Polynesian Islands, has always been an inhabitant of Niuē, and, from descriptian, it is the same species as in other islands. Its name in Niuē is kumā (Samoa, 'imoa, 'iole, isumu; Tonga, kuma; Futuna, kimoa; Rarotonga, kiore; Tahiti, 'iore; Mangareva, kiore; Paumotu, kiore; Marquesas, kio'e; Hawaii; 'iole; Maori, kiore; Nukuoro, kimoa). It is plentiful still on the island—its great enemy the Norway rat having not yet made its appearance there. As elsewhere, it formed in old times an article of diet, and being a vegetable feeder, it would be as good as rabbit. An amusing story about the rat and the flying fox will be found later on.

Birds (manu-lele).

The most important of the Niuē birds is the common domestic fowl called moa. It has been on the island from ancient times, and was no doubt brought there by the early inhabitants, for it is a very ancient possession of the Polynesians. The fowl bears the same name in Tonga, Samoa, Futuna, Fiji (toa), Uea, Rarotonga, Tahiti, Paumotu, Mangareva, Marquesas, and Hawaii, whilst in New Zealand, where the Maoris had no fowls, the name is applied to the Dinornis. The following are the birds of Niuē:—

Veka.—This bird is extinct; the natives told me it is now impossible to get a specimen. From their description it must have been very like the New Zealand and Samoan bird (weka in New Zealand, re'a in the latter dialect—Rallus pectoralis). It was from six to eight inches high, and mottled brown in color; was a dirty feeder, fond of offal, &c. In Tonga there is a bird named veka; and in Futuna, a veka of grey color, with long tail.

Kalē, or Kulē.—A species of Porphyrio; in plumage and size, apparently exactly like our New Zealand pukeko, or pakura (Porphyrio, melanotus), and very nearly like the Samoan bird (manu-ali'i, and manu-sā, Porphyrio Samoensis). Like its New Zealand cousin, it steals - 101 the roots from the cultivations. This bird has many stories connected with it in various islands of the Pacific. In New Zealand it is connected with the Māui myths. Some Samoan stories about it will be found in “O le tala i manu,” by the Rev. Thos. Powell, F.L.S., p. 189. The Niuē people have the following brief story: “The Veka and the Kalē once met and had a conversation, during which the Kalē derided the Veka on account of its filthy living; whilst the Veka accused the other of its predatory habits of stealing from the cultivations. The two birds then went down to the reef, where they found a great clam (Gēegēe)), and the Veka told the Kalē to tickle it near the hinge of its shell, which it did, thus causing the clam to open wide its shell. The Veka now induced the Kalē to put its legs into the open chasm, and as soon as he did so the clam closed its shells and held the Kalē tight. Thus he remained, to the amusement of the Veka, until the tide rose, when the clam opened his mouth and allowed the Kalē to escape; but in his struggles to free himself the Kalē's legs were drawn out quite long and became red, which they remain to this day.”

Lupe.—A large wood pigeon, about the same size as the New Zealand pigeon (kereru, kuku, kukupa, and emblematically rupe, Carpo-phaga Novæ Zealandiæ.) It is very like the kereru in coloring also. There is a lupe in Tonga, a pigeon; one (lupe, C. Pacifica), in Samoa; also pigeons having the same native names (lupe) in Rarotonga, Tahiti, Futuna (lupe), Fiji, rupe or ruve; whilst in Manga-reva the pigeon or ring-dove is kuku, in Hawaii monu, and in Nukuoro manu-nono (a dove). Formerly these birds were caught by decoy birds and nets, and it was an occupation or amusement of the chiefs, as it was in Samoa.

Kulukulu.—The dove, a pretty little bird, whose sweet “coo” is constantly heard in the woods. It is green on the back, greyish-green on the breast, red on top of the head, and yellow under the tail—from 6 to 8 inches long. There is a dove called kulukulu in Tonga; in Samoa a species of Columba, whether identical or not I cannot say, called fiaui; in Futuna a dove called kulukulu; whilst in Tahiti there is a species of Columba called 'u'upa = Maori kukupa, the name for the pigeon. The yellow feathers of the kulukulu on Niuē are much prized for purposes of ornamentation.

Henga.—The parroquet, which is a pretty little bird very like the New Zealand species (kakariki) but smaller; it has blue feathers on the top of the head, red on the throat and lower part of the belly, and all the rest dark green. In Tonga the parroquet is called kaka, the Maori word for a parrot. In Samoa the senga is the Coriphilus fringillacous, a parroquet about the same size as its Niuē cousin. In Futuna the senga is a red and green parroquet.

- 102

Moho.—A small land rail, about 5 or 6 inches high, brown on the back and sides, shading off into grey on the sides. It has a loud note, and is not unlike the New Zealand moho, or rail (Rallus-philippensis). There is a Tongan bird named moho, a Samoan bird mosomoso, Futuna moso, a small-back bird, Rarotonga mo'o, Hawaii moho, but whether of the same species I know not.

Peka.—The flying fox, which appears to me to be the same species as in Rarotonga with the same name. In Tonga and Fiji the bat is beka, and in Samoa the flying fox is pe'a (Pteropus, three species), and peka in Futuna. In Nukuoro peka is a bat, as it is in New Zealand. A story about the peka will be found later on. The bird (or beast, for of course it is an animal), is common, and large flocks of them are sometimes seen flying overhead. They are too fond of fruit.

Pekapeka.—A little swallow-like bird, black and grey in colour, that is constantly seen darting about after flies, &c. It seems to me to be the same bird as that of the same name in Tonga, and the pe'ape a in Samoa (Callocalia spodiopygia). In Tahiti the same bird is called ope'a.

Miti—A small speckled brown bird, very common. In Tonga there is a bird named miji; in Samoa, three species of miti, the mitisina (Lalage terat), the miti-uli, and miti-rao (Aplonis brevirostris); Futuna, miti, three species.

Heahea.—A small black and grey bird, about the size of a sparrow, very common—a pretty little bird. The name appears to be local, for I cannot find it in any other dialect.

Lulu.—The owl, a very fine handsome bird, silver-grey mottled plumage, standing about 10 inches high. This bird is semi-sacred, the natives seem rather to fear it and object to catching it, though one was brought to me by a boy. This name for the owl is common in the Pacific. New Zealand, ruru (Spiloglaux Novæ Zealandiæ); Samoa, lulu (Strix delicatula); Tonga, lulu, the owl; Futuna, lulu, the screech owl; Fiji, lulu, the owl; Rarotonga, ruru, the white heron, or the albatross; Tahiti, ruru, the albatross, also a land bird; whilst in Hawaii the owl is pu'e'o=Maori pukeko, the Porphyrio.

Motuku.—A sea-shore bird, a crane. There is another species, the motuku-tea, or white crane, but I saw neither. The equivalents in other islands are: New Zealand, matuku, the crane; Tonga, motuku, a sea gull; Samoa, matu'u, the crane (Ardea sacra); Futuna, amatuku; Nukuoro, matuku, blue heron; Tahiti, 'otu'u (=Maori kotuku, the white heron); Rarotonga, kotuku, heron; Mangareva, kotuku, white heron.

Tuaki.—A handsome white gull, with two long white tail feathers, a species of man-o'-war, or tropic bird. The tail feathers are prized for ornamental purposes. There is another species, the tuaki-kula, - 103 which visits the island occasionally, that has two long red tail feathers, much prized by the natives. It is, I think, identical with the amo-kura of New Zealand, whose red tail feathers are equally highly prized by the Maoris. Sir W. L. Buller's description21 of the tail feathers of the New Zealand bird fits exactly those from Niuē. He gives the name as Phaeton rubricauda, or red-tailed tropic bird. In Samoa, the same bird is called tava'e-ula (in Maori tawake, an ancient personal name). In Tonga there is a bird called tu and taviki, but of what species I know not. In Rarotonga the frigate-bird is tavake. In Futuna the tavake is the “paille-en-queue”; in Mangareva it is tavake; whilst in Tahiti the tropic-bird is mauroa.22

Taketake.—Is a species of seagull, very like the above, beautifully white, but without the long white tail feathers. It is a very pretty little bird, about 8 to 10 inches high, and is often seen flying over the coco-nut trees. The name (though probably not the bird) is local, for I do not know of any bird's name like it in other dialects except New Zealand, where it is also the name of a gull, but I cannot say if the two birds are identical.

Gogo, kalāgi and kalūe are sea birds, which I did not see. A gull in New Zealand is also called ngongo.

Kiu—There are four species of this bird (at least four names)—kiu-ulu-fua, a reef bird, dark grey, about 10 inches high, long-legged; kiu-valuvalu, with long tail; kiu-hakumani, and kiu-uta. They are probably plovers.

Neither of the New Zealand cuckoos visit Niuē, though one—the kohoperoa—goes much farther away, to Tahiti, &c.

Fish (Ika;)

Niuē possesses a great variety of fish, of which some are richly colored, and many good to eat, but dry, as compared with New Zealand fish. I obtained a list of 52 fish that are eaten, but it would be tedious to enumerate them all, though a few may be mentioned. The whale is called tafua; the shark, magō; the turtle, fonu; the sword-fish, haku and haku-piu; the takua is the bonito; the hahave and hipa are flying-fishes; toke is the conger-eel; loli, a sea-slug; feke, the cuttle-fish; whilst tuna is a little fresh-water fish, a name applied to the eel in most parts. Cray-fish are to be found (called uo), but I imagine are not common, for I saw none, though crabs of many kinds are plentiful; and, in addition to the salt-water crab, there is one (the uga) which is a land crab that is often seen about the houses, roads, - 104 &c.; it is eaten by the natives. There is also a sea-snake called katuali, but I saw none; it is quite harmless. The Niuē people are great fishermen, and nearly every night when the moon is not too bright their little canoes may be seen passing along the coast with their bright torches, making a very pretty scene. I was told by the master of a vessel who formerly traded to the island that he was never apprehensive of “running the island down,” because he was invariably able to see the coast lighted up by the torches of the fishermen. The canoes will be described later on.


From the nature of the coast—a coral reef—it may be expected that shell-fish are not abundant, and yet the women are to be seen every day on the reef gathering (fagota) such as may be found. The giant Trydacna (gēegēe) is found, and its solid shell is used, as in other islands, from which to make axes (toki), for which purposes it is suitable, though not so hard as stone; but then the Niuē people have no volcanic stone on their island as other branches of the race have. The cowrie of several varieties is found in Niuē, some of them of great beauty. The general name is pule.23 the white cowrie being pule-tea; the brown mottled, and tiger cowrie are called pule-kula. The pule-tea is highly valued for ornamental purposes. This name pule for the cowrie shell appears to be confined to Tonga, Samoa, and Niuē, and in Samoa it is a general name for shells, whereas in Niuē and New Zealand a univalve shell is pu.

There are several species of land shells, of which the natives make great use for adornment, as in necklaces, &c. I am enabled by the kindness of Mr. A. Suter, of the Auckland Museum, to give the scientific names of those land shells I brought from Niuē. They are:—

Trumatella rustica, Mousson. The ihi-maka or uho-maka of the natives.

Helicina brazierii, Pease. The ihivao of the natives.

Melampus fasciatus, Deshayes—fua-rokea of the natives.

Melampus cartaneus, Mühlfeldt—fua-hihi of the natives.

Melampus lutens, Quoy and Gaimard—fua-hihi of the natives.

Lizards (Moko) and Insects.

Lizards are very common indeed, and are seen everywhere. A little brown one about 4 to 5 inches long is the most common. The moko-lauulu is larger, about 8 inches long, and somewhat hairy; hence the name lauulu, hair. There are, I believe, several species, such as the mokolā, moko-maga, moko-mogamoga, and moko-taliga, but I did not - 105 see them. The Niuē natives do not appear to have the same intense dread of the lizard as the Maoris have.

Of the insects, there are some pretty varieties of butterflies—about four kinds that I noticed—the native name is pepe. The moko-va is a large green mantis about 8 inches in length. The cockroach—said to be introduced—is called mogamoga; it is very common and very objectionable. The mosquito is very rarely seen; its native name is namu. The dragon fly is kitekite-rai, the spider (numerous and some handsomely colored), kufani and kaleveleve,24 the ant atare; the common fly is lago, but Niuē is happily almost free from this, the greatest pest of tropical Polynesia, for they died off a few years since, apparently having been affected with some epidemic. Lago-fufu is the mason wasp, and lago-meli the bee, both the latter introduced. Moko-tafatafa is the black beetle, the same as the Maori kekerengu. Kili-kili-mutu is a worm, and kutu a flea or louse; whilst tuma is the clothes louse. The grasshopper is he.

Niuē is particularly free from insect pests—more so than any other island I have visited. I am not aware of any poisonous insect on the island, or of one that stings sufficiently to cause pain The rango-patia, or big wasp of Rarotonga, Tahiti, and Hawaii, has not found its way there yet.


Situated as Niuē is, three degrees of latitude within the tropics, the temperature is naturally warm. Whilst I was there from September to December the thermometer varied from 74° to 94° during the day in the shade. But this heat is a moist heat, which is felt more than a dry heat. So long as the S.S.E. trade winds (maragai) last—i.e., from the end of March to end of November—the sky is very frequently overcast sufficiently to temper the direct rays of the sun. But as soon as variable winds set in from north (tokelau) or west (lalo), or north-west (laki), the heat increases a good deal—such at least is my short experience—and is trying to one accustomed to a temperate climate; not that the heat prevents exertion, for white people in Niuē seem just as active as elsewhere, but it naturally induces a profuse perspiration, which is the disagreeable part of it. There seems to be a very fair rainfall, but it has never been measured that I am aware of. At the same time, it is said the talo crops do suffer from drought occasionally.

- 106

Niuē is just on the borders of the hurricane belt, so they are occasionally felt there, but are not frequent. The native name for a hurricane is afā-tokai-maka. Thunder (pakulagi) storms are not infrequent, and sometimes the lightning (uhila) strikes the coco-nut trees. Earthquakes (mafuike) are occasionally felt, but never of any violence. The Niuē name for them is identical with those of Samoa (mafui'e) and Tonga (mofuike, and is the name the Maoris give (Mahuika) to the father of Māui, who resided in the nether regions. This is perhaps not very strange, when we consider the stories about Mahuika; but why the Niuē people should call a rainbow Tagaloa, which was the name of their principal god in old days, is incomprehensible. The Tongan name is umata; Samoan and Futunan, nuanua; Tahitian, Mangarevan, Marquesan, and Rarotongan, anuanua; in Hawaii, anuenue and in New Zealand, aniwhaniwha. The Fijian name (ndrondrolagi) is apparently from a different root, which might be expected. The Maori name is easily connected with anuanua, so we have Niuē occupying a solitary position amongst Polynesian peoples in regard to this name. The only thing at all like it that I know of is that the Maoris have a god of the rainbow, or rather the rainbow is the manifestation of their god Uenuku, sometimes called Kahu-kura. These two gods, however, stand on quite a different footing to Tangaroa, who was with many branches of the race their supreme god and creator; whereas Uenuku and Kahu-kura hold, even with the Maoris, quite a secondary rank, even if they are not deified ancestors.

In Niuē there are two seasons, or tau—i.e., tau-tuku, spring time; and tau-mati-afu, autumn.

(To be continued.)

1  The letters a and e are constantly interchangable in the Polynesian language. It was stated to me that fekai should really be faikai, food-possessing, but this requires confirmation. The word fekai is lost in the Niuē dialect, but in Tonga and Samoa—which are the dialects most akin to that of Niuē—it means “fierce.”
2  That is—discovered it, so far as Europeans are concerned. Of course, the Polynesians had discovered and occupied it ages before Captain Cook.
3  The terraced formation may be seen, though not distinctly, in Plate No. 1.
4  See Plate No. 2.
5  It is as well to explain here that the Niuē “g” has always an “n” before it. Thus tafagafaga is pronounced tafangafanga (cf. Maori tawhangawhanga and whanga, a district, place, space, also the big ocean rollers.
6  Vai or wai is the common word for water wherever the Polynesian language is spoken, but the Maoris distinguish fresh water as wai-maori, or common water. The Niuē people have no such word as maori (native, common, in the ordinary manner) in their dialect, though it is found in several others.
7  Plate 3 gives a good idea of what all the villages are like.
8  See plate 4, which however is from a bad photograph.
9  The Niuē “g” has always an “n” before it, thus gate is pronounced ngate.
10  There is some confusion in my notes here, I am not now sure if the species of Kava used for making the drink of that name is called Kava-atua, as it is in Rarotonga.
11  From Fata-a-iki's paper, which was written by the King of that name (1888–1896), which I shall often have to refer to later on.
12  The Samoan name is 'ape, which is also the name for a blunderbuss. How is it the Maoris use the same word (kope) for a horse-pistol? for kape and kope are identical.
13  To save repetition, it may be explained that in the Niuē dialect, wherever the “t” is followed by “i” or “e” an “s” is introduced. The Rev. Geo. Pratt in his Samoan Dictionary says this change only occurred some 15 years before 1876.
14  In the Tonga dialect, the letter “t” is frequently replaced by “j.” This approximates to the Niuĕ “ts.”
15  Rev. Wyatt Gill says it was introduced from Rio.
16  In a document written by Fata-a-iki, already referred to, Ulu-lo-tuna is given as another name for the coco-nut. This name is very interesting, as it probably contains a reference to the East Polynesian story of the origin of the coco-nut, which sprung from the brain of the eel (tuna). Lo in the name here given is probably an abreviation of lolo (or roro), the brain. For the full story see “Myths and Songs from the South Pacific,” p. 77, by Dr. Wyatt Gill, B.A.
17  The Talo is also referred to as Efu-tu and Efu-mau.
18  The Niuē people do not possess the gourd (hue of the Maoris) as some other branches of the race do.
19  Journal Polynesian Society, vol. VII.
20  See “Some Folk-songs and Myths from Samoa.” Translated by Rev. G. Pratt, with introduction and notes by John Fraser, LL.D. (Transactions Royal Society, N.S.W., volume for 1891.) I cannot just now lay my hands on another authority, which gives an account very similar to that of the Niuē traditions as to the power of “blasting” by looking at, possessed by the Moa family.
21  “Birds of New Zealand,” vol. II., p. 186.
22  From the fact of there being a place in Niuē called Hiku-tavake (the tavake's tail) it would seem that the tropic bird, although now called tuaki, was once known as tavake, as in other islands.
23  This word as applied to a shell is not known in Maori, but the Moriori of the Chatham Islands have retained it (pure) as the name for the scallop, not having any cowries in their island.
24  This name probably illustrates a change in syllables (metathesis) well known to philologists. The Maori name for a spider is pu-nga-werewere. If we take the last part of this word and the last in the Niuē word, ka-leveleve, we shall see that in the latter the “l” has changed places with the “v,” or in the Maori word the “w” has changed places with the “r.” Of course, “w” and “v,” “l” and “r” are identical.