Volume 27 1918 > Volume 27, No. 107 > Notes on the Mangareva, or Gambier group of islands, eastern Polynesia, by S. Percy Smith, p 115-131
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WE are indebted to the Rev. Père Hervé Audran for a copy of an “Essai de Grammaire de la Langue des Iles Gambier ou Mangareva,” by the Catholic Missionaries of that Archipelago, published at Braine-le-compte, France, in 1908. The work consists of 197 pages of grammar, 14 pages of dialogues, and 124 of Dictionary in double columns. This latter part is of very great interest, as it is full of references to the traditional history of the Group, the manners and customs of the natives, and other matters which should appeal to our members. Some of the matter contained therein is translated and given below in addition to some notices of visitors to the Group in the early years of last century. We feel that the Reverend Fathers who have preserved this material are entitled to the thanks of Polynesian scholars for having, not only recorded so much of the language spoken by the Mangarevans, but specially for the historical and traditional information to be found in the Dictionary.

In 1899 the New Zealand Institute published a Dictionary of the Mangareva dialect, translated from the French by Ed. Tregear, and, no doubt, based on the collections of the Catholic Missionaries (though the author does not mention this). And Père Audran tells me he has a MS. Dictionary of the same dialect of some 1062 pages in double columns, so that this dialect of the Polynesian language is well provided for from the lexicon point of view.

Studying the Dictionary under review, one is struck by the amount of important information the Mangarevans must have been in possession of at the time of the landing of the French Missionaries in 1834, and, while thankful for what has been preserved in this work relating to bygone times, we at the same time regret that the traditions in full have not been collected, or, at any rate, not given to the world, as far as I know.

Dr. P. A. Lesson in his little book of 165 pages, “Voyage aux Iles Mangareva,” Rochfort, 1844, gives a good deal of information that he obtained from the resident Missionaries in 1840, but much more is wanted. Dr. Lesson is also the author of a large work in four volumes, entitled “Les Polynesians.”

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The Mangareva Group is situated lat. 23° 20' S. (and therefore just outside the Tropics), and in long. 134° 45' W. The group forms very nearly the most south-eastern termination of that long chain of islands named the Paumotu (modern name Tuamotu), which extends from north-west to south-east, for a length of some 1,500 miles—from Matahiva to Ducie Island, while in a continuation of the same S.E. direction is Easter Island, 1,450 miles from Mangareva. With the exception of the little, low and uninhabited island of Sala-y-gomez (175 miles north-easterly from Easter Island), the latter is the nearest Polynesian land to South America, from the coasts of which Easter Island is distant about 2,250 nautical miles.

The Mangareva Group consists of four principal islands, all high—Mount Duff is 1,248 feet high—with a number of smaller ones, all contained within an encircling coral reef, about 24 by 23 miles in extent. The group was discovered by Captain Wilson, commanding the ‘Duff,’ the ship that took the first missionaries to Tahiti and other islands in 1797, who named the islands Gambier, quite ignoring the fact that they had a name (Mangareva) given by the real discoverers—for Captain Wilson could not have been the discoverer if there were people there; it was his part merely to report the existence of the group to Europe. Wilson, did not, however, land on the group.

In 1825 Captain Beechey, R.N., of H.M. ship ‘Blossom,’ 26 guns, made a survey of the group, and covered it with blossoms, in the shape of English names to the entire exclusion of native names—his Chart, otherwise excellent, does not contain a single native name, though he was in daily communication with the people for some time, and might have learnt their proper names. One cannot help condemning this ignoring of names given by the original discoverers, in which our sailors have somewhat distinguished themselves, in contra-distinction to other celebrated navigators, as for instance, Dumont D'Urville, the French commander, who always adhered to native names when he could obtain them. 1 Later on we shall see who was the probable discoverer of the group. Captain Beechey was the first person to give to the world any account of the islands and their inhabitants from personal knowledge. The group is under the administration of the French Government at Tahiti.

Captain Beechey gives a very interesting account of his stay at the islands, which lasted from 29th December, 1825, to the 13th January, 1826, and he describes the people, some of their customs, etc., etc.,

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(From Beechey's Voyage.)
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which account is too long to reproduce here. A thing that strikes one very much is, that the people had no canoes at that time, but used rafts instead. 2 In these rafts they apparently made long voyages (see under Poatuto and Tupou infra), yet, according to Beechey, the islands had large trees on them. His discription of the rafts is as follows: (p. 142, Vol. I) “As we were putting off from the ship in the boats to make this interesting discovery, several small vessels under sail were observed bearing down on us. When they approached we found they were large katamarans, or rafts, carrying from sixteen to twenty men each. At first several of them were fastened together, and constituted a large platform capable of holding nearly one hundred persons; but before they came near enough to communicate they separated, furled their sails, and took to their paddles, of which there were about twelve to each raft. We were much pleased with the manner of lowering their matting sails … and working their paddles, in the use of which they had great power and were well skilled, plying them together, or, to use a nautical phrase, keeping stroke. They had no other weapons but long poles, and were quite naked with the exception of a banana leaf cut into strips and tied about their loins, and one or two persons who wore white turbans.” They were much surprised at some dogs on board, having no quadrepeds but rats of their own. Tattooing was extensively used, and Beechey says it was much like that of the Marquesas islanders. The accompanying copy of one of the plates illustrating his voyage shows a raft and some of the tattooing also.

Beechey describes the trouble they had from the stealing habits of the natives when first met with, which seems to have ceased after a time. The productions of the islands in the matter of food plants were the ti-plant, sweet potatoes, appé (ape, the giant taro) plantains, bananas, sugar cane, water-melons, coco-nuts, bread-fruit, and the taro. The number of inhabitants was estimated at 1,500. The “Annuaire de Tahiti,” 1897, says the population was 508 at the census of 1892, and in 1840 Lesson learned from the missionaries that they numbered between 2,200 and 2,300. Mr. Thompson in his account of Easter Island, “Te Pito-te-henua” 3 (Smithsonion Institution, 1891), says, p. 46: “In 1878 the mission station [of Easter Island] was abandoned, and about 300 people followed the missionaries to the Gambier Archipelago.” The inhabitants of Cresent - 118 Island, of the Paumotu Group, were also moved to Mangareva prior to 1840.

After Captain Beechey, the next visitor to the group who has left anything on record in relation to it, was the Belgian merchant, J. A. Moerenhout, who for several years cruised about the Eastern Pacific in pursuit of his business. He had his headquarters at Papeete, Tahiti, where he also acted as Consul General for the United States. He published a work in 1837 at Paris, entitled “Voyages aux iles du Grand Ocean,” in two volumes, which are full of interesting information about a large number of islands, their inhabitants, customs, beliefs, &c. He visited Mangareva in February, 1834, and spent some days there and found the inhabitants much changed since Beechey's visit in 1826, for they were quite friendly at that time; nor does he mention their stealing habits so much complained of by Beechey. This amelioration he ascribes to intercourse with traders who for the last few years prior to his visit had made many voyages there from Tahiti in search of pearls, of which a good many were secured in the extensive lagoon of the group. Some of these enterprising traders were Captains Ebrill and Henry, well-known names in the Eastern Pacific.

Moerenhout describes the people as a fine race, and says of them, “The inhabitants of Gambier are positively of the Polynesian race properly so called, that is, of the race which extends from Easter Island to Tongatabu, and from New Zealand to the Sandwich Islands. The race is generally handsome, and the men especially are not exceded in elegance of form, the regularity of their features, their strength, and their stature by any of the other branches” He seems to think the language approaches most nearly that spoken by the people of Rapa, Laivavai (Raivavai) and Tupuai of the Austral Group. The author speaks of seeing several mummies in caves, (a subject which has occupied our pages a good deal lately) and describes the process of preserving the bodies. He agrees with Beechey in saying that the people had no canoes, but used rafts made of three tree trunks tied together, and, in running before the wind several rafts are fastened together producing “a singular and picturesque appearance.” Many of Moerenhout's observations are of great interest.

The next visitor to leave an account of the Mangareva Group was the distinguished French navigator, Captain Dumont D'Urville, with the two frigates, the ‘Astrolabe’ and the ‘Zelee.’ A long account of his visit is to be found in the “Voyage au Pole Sud et dans L'Oceanie,” Paris, 1842, Vol. III., p. 138 to 213, and a large number of notes by officers of the expedition. D'Urville was at Mangareva in August, 1838, four years after the arrival of the missionaries in the group. With his usual care the French captain (afterwards admiral) - 119 has given an excellent account of the group, of which his officers made a survey, and describes, with some minuteness, the trials of the missionaries on their first arrival in August, 1834, and the complete success accomplished in civilizing these wild islanders. The language, the author thought, was more like that of New Zealand than any other of the islands. He says that the natives used the word pakeha for a white man as we do in New Zealand, but this word is not to be found in the Dictionary; and that the missionaries told him the natives used the word pihe for a “national chant as they do in New Zealand.” The pihe, however, is a karakia said over the dead. The Mangareva Dictionary says: “Pihenga, invocation to the national dieties of the night to announce the death of any one.”

D'Urville's account is full of interest, and the large number of notes abstracted from the officer's journals give much detail on manners, customs, etc., etc., of the people. His work has a large number of illustrations of places and people.

The next writer I have a record of was Dr. A. Lesson, who, in the work quoted on the first page hereof, has much of interest to tell. He visited the islands in the brig of war ‘Pylade,’ in April, 1840. Among other remarks he says, page 54: “M. Latour, one of the missionaries, spoke to me of an ancient wall which the natives regard as having been built by a race which preceded them in Mangareva …… . He added a fact that would be curious to verify, that these walls had been built with mortar, and that the natives were quite ignorant of the use of such a thing prior to the arrival of the missionaries.” It may be noted here that E. H. Lamont, in the account of his shipwreck and residence on Penrhyn, or Tongareva Island in 1853 (see “Wild life among the the Pacific Islands.”), on page 159, has the following reference to some ‘composition’ of which some ancient buildings were made. He says: “Some distance beyond this were what appeared to be the foundations of stone walls, many of them intersecting our path. I afterwards saw similar erections in other parts of the island, but could never get a proper explanation of them, the natives merely saying they had been houses, but apparently knowing nothing more of them than I did. These remains, like the huge stones of the maraes, that are evidently made of composition, though the natives believe them to have come out of the sea, and led me to believe that another race must have at one time inhabited this little portion of the globe.” Lamont in another part of his work describes further stone remains, but does not describe the stone itself.

I have a note, but do not remember its source, that the stone work in the forts at Rapa-iti Island, southward of Rarotonga, also have concrete work in their composition.

In these three instances there is an opening for further investigation, for such works in which concrete, or mortar are used are probably - 120 not of Polynesian origin, or the present inabitants would surely know something about them; the forts at Rapa are perhaps an exception.

It is impossible to say from the information to hand which branch of the Polynesians the Mangarevans belong to. Dr. A. Lesson, who was Chief Medical Officer of the French establishments in Oceania, and who had a knowledge of many branches of the race, seems to think they are nearest akin to the Marquesans by customs, language, and tattooing. If one may judge by what follows (see under Te Tupua), some of them came from Rarotonga. Notwithstanding the distance between the two places, it is probable communication was at one time not infrequent, and we have the record of one Rarotongan voyager who visited Easter Island, on the way to which Mangareva is situated. The traditions the people have of Harangi are probably very ancient, and refer to Indonesia. Some of the above Rarotongan migration were massacred at Atiaoa, a bay in Mangareva Island. Their canoe was named ‘Te Tuamomono.’

Lesson notes the entire change in the character of the people since the visit of Captain Beechey in 1825, who found them wild, theivish savages, whereas the former describes them as a docile kindly people, which change he attributes, no doubt correctly, to the influence of the missionaries.

The above notes do not pretend to be a history of the Group, but merely a few words extracted from works that are probably unknown to many of our members, and are intended to give some rough idea of these islands, which have not been previously mentioned at any length in our “Journal;” and for the use of future students. The following are the extracts translated from the dictionary.

In what follows I have inserted the ‘n’ before the ‘g’ in all cases, for it is always so sounded though not written in this dialect, in which it resembles that of Paumotu, Samoa, &c. I have also separated the article from the noun, and my observations are shown in brackets [].

We shall see that these people had an extensive knowledge of the Pacific before the arrival of the missionaries, and that they, like all of the race, were accustomed to undertake long voyages, which, considering their frail craft, exceed the exploits of early European navigators.

Morimoringa, a pagan ceremony which took place on the birth of the eldest son or daughter of the king (akariki). To besprinkle. The people assembled in the place dedicated to the god Tu, and the most learned men among the Rongorongo (priests, prominent men) chant their songs of joy in the presence of the chief priest (Tahura-akaao), who gives the infant, as for a blessing, a stroke with two young leaves - 121 of the coco-nut tree, after which the people retire. Eight days afterwards the chief priest, and his suite of priests, assemble in the same sacred place (marae), to which the infant is brought, and then the same chants as referred to above are repeated. The nurse expresses some of her milk on to a leaf which is given into the hands of the chief priest, who himself feeds the infant with it, at the same time pronouncing a benediction. Afterwards a great distribution of food is given to the people.

After that ceremony has taken place, the infant is sacred, and it is taken up the mountain, where it dwells for six or seven years, separated from communication with the common people. After the lapse of these years, the child is brought down from the mountain during the night to a place decorated for the purpose. This place is surrounded by eight hedges, or enclosures, close together, with eight gates adorned with garlands of leaves. The people are ranged in a double row—on one side are some who hold stretched from hand to hand pieces of papyrus (? tapa); while on the other side are stationed people who hold in each hand four coco-nuts. Then the child, carried by a man, passes between the two ranks, and in the same order proceeds to the same sacred spot where the two previous ceremonies took place, and after a simulated besprinkling of the child the people disperse.

Tahura, a priest, in Paganism. Tahura-akaao, high priest.


The chief priests, the only ones who exercised public functions, were taken from the royal family, or from those of the highest rank. The secondary order of priests were only present at the sacred place in attendance on the chief priest who performed all the public ceremonies. They only acted in cases where some particular individual was concerned, and under the orders of the chief priest. The following was the igogo (ingongo) or ordination, according to Iakopo (uncle of the king Maputeoa), when he was ordained. There were three to receive ordination in this case. Iakopo received from his father Mateoa, at that time king, the order to become a priest. He was therefore presented to the then high priest, Mateangaiatui. “I fear,” said the latter to the king, “that he will not practise what the profession demands, and that he will fall into luxurious ways.” “He will never do that,” replied Mateoa; and the high priest accepted him on that assurance.

The king Mateoa ordered the collection of a large quantity of food from the four islands, which was to be deposited in a ‘granary’ in the earth, 24 feet long and 75 feet in circumference. All that amount of food passed into the hands of the chief priest whose duty it was to offer it to the minor god Teagiagi (Te Angiangi), in order that the latter might present it to the chief god Tu. It was rigorously ordained - 122 that no kind of fish were to be caught in certain different parts of the sea, so that there might be the more for the day of ordination of the king's son, to be held four months afterwards.

When the time arrived, the provisions were prepared; afterwards the hair of the three acolytes was cut. Then the high priest conducted them to the sea where they passed over his back. That done, he took the hands of the three acolytes, while he stood erect, and offered them to the principal god Tu, and his subordinates, saying at the same time the customary invocations: “Behold these men, thy priests.” Afterwards they returned ashore to put on the white mantle and proceed to the sacred place and receive the powers of priests. The commencement of the ceremony is called akau (offering).

Conducted by the chief priest and arrived at the sacred place named Tekeika [a celebrated marae at Rikitea constructed by Tupa, for whom see infra], shaded by large trees and isolated from all habitation, the three followed after him up the great heap of stones, where priests alone are allowed. The high priest told them to stand upright, and in that attitude each took his white mantle, that would afterwards serve him as clothing, and offered them in their uplifted hands, with the eyes upturned to the heavens, to the great god Tu and his subordinates. After this they were told to sit down. This part of the ceremony is named maro.

They then proceeded with the part of the ceremony named akakakao (to support). The three acolytes standing near the chief priest, who was sitting, asked of the god Tu, and his four subordinates—Koruanuku (Ruanuku), Marin, Tairi and Viringa—if they would deign to support them in their functions of priests. After the usual invocations they passed on to the place of ceremony named pare (hat). The priests' hats are in shape like a turban. The chief priest gave them the necessary explanations of their rights to use these hats, and then, crying with a loud voice, he offered each acolyte and his hat to the god Tu and his subordinates already mentioned. After these invocations the chief priest tore his sacred hat in pieces, giving each of the acolytes a portion, and preserving one for himself.

Immediately the assembled people raised cries of joy five different times to falicitate the acolytes on having acquired their hats. Subsequently came the principal part of the ceremony, named touma (to consecrate).

The chief priest took part of the food that the new priests had brought, and, holding up his hand containing it towards the heavens, looking at the acolyte, he consecrated the food by addressing in a low voice the god Tu.

Then came the most essential part of the ceremony, the igogo (ingongo) (to cause the divinity to enter into the acolyte). The chief priest, chewing the food he had consecrated, then taking it out of his - 123 mouth put it into those of the acolytes, saying to each of them, “Receive it! This is Tu; this is Koruanuku; this is Mariu; this is Tairi; this is Viringa; this is Teagiagi (Te Angiangi); this is Marupo-ruanuku.” After that communication the chief priest thus addressed the new priests standing before him, “If thou art true to thy gods thou wilt live; if not thou wilt be punished. Rest five days without eating, so that it may not be necessary to attend to a call of nature before the great god Tu and his subordinates have taken root in thee.”

After this the new priests retire to a new house (? hare-tapu) specially made for them, and out of which they are forbidden to issue until the second day after a visit from the chief priest, when he performs the ceremony named nohorima. He calls on the same gods, and thanks them for having passed into the newly made priests. After this he paints his knees in yellow and sends his pupils to bathe in the sea, from whence they return to their sacred home for another ten days.

On the expiry of the ten days, a new ceremony named Turau (to burn) takes place; in which the three novices took each a banana and cooked it near the sacred place. When cooked and peeled each took one in his hand and elevated it towards the heavens, while the chief priest called on the god Tu and his subordinates, the acolytes each offering their bananas. The three bananas remained, and became food for the rats.

Subsequent to the above ceremony, the three novices bathed in the sea, and on their return they were allowed for the first time to leave their house.

Two days afterwards took place another ceremony, the Akaheke-oho (hair cutting). The hair of the new priest was cut at the sacred place so that it should not be profaned; they went to bathe without the chief priest, calling on their gods and offering their hair.

Then followed another ceremony named Tomaoho, in which they addressed the same gods, holding each the end of a sugar-cane in hand. On returning ashore, their house was finally closed, and they occupied another, to remain there three months, at the end of which the chief priest visited them, carrying in his hand the end of a coco-nut leaf with which he struck each novice so as to remove the sanctity (tapu) which prevented their communicating with their fathers, mothers, wives, children, or other people. This last ceremony was termed Tea. 4 - 124 It is thus that priests were made at Mangareva in pagan times, and whosoever had not passed through those ceremonies was no priest, nor could he fulfil the functions of one. The people had a great idea of their priests and respected them greatly. In their eyes the priest came before the king.

Tu. The supreme being among the Mangarevans. He was a sort of trinity; Tu was also Atu-motua, Atu-moana, and Atea-Tangaroa. The natives have given to that great god many subordinates. All sacrifices and the sacred spots (? marae) belonged to Tu. Also in the invocations and public prayers made by the chief priest alone, Tu was always named as being the final end of the sacrifices and offerings, invocations and prayers. The minor gods only appear after him and as his associates to whom are communicated some of his powers. Tu is a collective and common name, the being including the three—Atu-motua (the father-core); Atu-moana (the ocean-core); Atea-Tangaroa (the vast-Tangaroa), which is attested and proved by the invocations of the chief priests ever since their origin, for although he addresses the three others, the sacrifice is always made to Tu. Atu-motua, Atu-moana and Atea-Tangaroa are all powerful gods of the same genus and without father or mother. After invocations to them they end by that made to Tu, to whom the sacrifice is offered. The most exact signification of these three names is this: atu, eye-ball; motua, father; moana, the sea, that is, great; atea, vast, immense; tanga, white, beautiful; roa, long to infinity; and Tu is the being comprising all three.

Marae, offering made to the gods; the altar where they are made in heathen times; sacrifice; v.t., to sacrifice. It was Tupa [see infra] who made these marae; there are nine of them. Te Keika at Rikitea, and Hau-o-te-Vei; Ruanuku at Gatavake (Nga Tavake) and at Kirimiro; Tangaroa at Taku; Marae-erua at Taravai; and Anga-o-Tane at Angakau-i-tai. Of these the great maraes are constructed of stone, 5 and the smaller ones made of coral.

Marama, the moon …… These are the days of the month:—

  • 1st day Maema-tai
  • 2nd day Maema-rua
  • 3rd day Maema-toru
  • 4th day Maema-riro
  • 5th day Kore-tai
  • 6th day Korekore-rua
  • 7th day Korekore-toru
  • 8th day Korekore-kaha
  • 9th day Oari
  • 10th day Ohama
  • 11th day Omahara
  • 12th day Ohua
  • 13th day Oetua
  • 14th day Ohotu
  • 15th day Omaure
  • 16th day Oturu
  • 17th day Orakau
  • 18th day Omotohi
  • 19th day Korekore-tai
  • 20th day Korekore-rua
  • 21st day Korekore-toru
  • 22nd day Korekore-riro
  • 23rd day Vehi-tai
  • 24th day Vehi-rua
  • 25th day Vehi-toru
  • 26th day Vehi-riro
  • 27th day Otane
  • 28th day Omouri
  • 29th day Ohoata
  • 30th day Tunui
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[These names differ somewhat from those formerly used in other islands, though several are common. It would be interesting to know how these differences arose.]

Motahu, sons of kings, deified. The akarata (sorcerers), false prophets of heathenism, desiring to be fêted and honoured by the kings and obtain large presents, became inspired and declared they had had communication with such and such infants of their family dead before birth, and consequently they (the sorcerers) were gods. The king, parent of the child, who was still alive, understand, at the time of these revelations, would give the inspired one a great quantity of food and all that he could in fêting his deified child before the eyes of the people, and every one believed and rejoiced at the distribution of food, exalting this new and secondary god from the family of the king. That infant ever after received divine honours.

[Akarata, is, in New Zealand Maori, whakarata, to tame, and is probably connected with Malay rata, which means to hypnotise—a sort of taming—and possibly it was through such powers that the sorcerers frequently worked their swindles.]

Tupa. Tupa and Noa were sons of Ai-pikirangi. That family came from a foreign country from which they had been driven, and came by aid of canoe, raft or vessel to Rauao (petit pays de Tupa, the little country of Tupa). [Meaning not clear to me. Possibly Rauao is the island Reao, or Napuke of the Paumotu Group. Lat. 18° 36', long. 136° 20'.] They were chiefs of the people in that [original] country; they disputed and fought. Tupa was conquered and exiled; he landed on an island where he found nothing to eat, and came from there to Mangareva.

The people who accompanied him were his son Nau, Rangi-tukao, Tavake, Ariki, Oka, Kiekie, Aneane; the wife of Tupa, named Maho, the only woman known of the expedition, Toerau, Puamea, Keke-ruerue, Iku, and Rouara; Oka was killed. Tupa touched first at one of the low islands surrounding this Archipelago. His first action was to offer a sacrifice to the great god Tu. From there he came with all his suite to the main island named Mangareva. There he erected, in honour of Tu, an alter of stones brought from a distance. The missionaries have seen that heap of stones situated under large trees in an isolated spot. The baptised islanders destroyed that sacred place, using the trees to burn lime with, and the stones in building their houses, thus using these objects which, in former times, they dared not have touched, and access to which was limited to the priests. After the principles [teachings] of Tupa there could not be any other place where to offer the sacrifices and other acts of the public religion.

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The tradition which Tupa left to posterity is that there is another great country below, where kings reign, and from whence came their ancestors. That land has, down to our times, been called Avaiki, that is below, under, and “the keel of the land”—takere no te henua—by which we may understand it seems, Europe and Asia.

[It is suggested that the missionaries who recorded this tradition have confused the two meanings of raro, ‘below,’ and that the natives used the word in the same manner as Tahitians, Rarotongans and others, as meaning ‘to leeward,’ that is, the west, towards which direction the trade winds blow. If this is so, Avaiki is probably Savai'i of Samoa (perhaps Ra'iatea, which was originally called Havai'i) or the western Pacific, for the Rarotongans call all Samoa, Fiji, etc., Avaiki-raro, or Leeward-Avaiki.]

The other countries known to the natives [are as shown in the table below, which I put in that form to allow of my own notes. This table compares in length with that showing the knowledge the Rarotongans had of islands other than their own, and with Tupaia's Chart showing the Tahitian knowledge in the time of Captain Cook].

New Zealand, Te Ika-a-Maui, the fish hauled up by Maui. One would much like to know for certain if the Mangarevans really were aware of this Maori name of New Zealand in heathen times.
The other islands to the west of Tahiti, such as Kotahanga Kotahanga is undoubtedly Taha'a, the island just north of Ra'iatea—the ‘Ko’ is not part of the name. The island is known to the Rarotongans as Taanga.
Rangiriri Rangiriri by New Zealand Maori tradition is the source of all fish, a spring, but may be the name of an island also.
Rangimoke, a land where god caused food to fall from the sky which had to be quickly gathered if it be wanted, and fish which came from another horizon This is like the biblical story of manna. Query: Is it really an ancient tradition?
Rangiura This is an island somewhere to the north of the Fiji Group according to Rarotonga tradition.
Autuna Possibly one of the islands known to the Rarotongans, see “Hawaiki,” p. 171.
Tarava This is probably Tarawa Island of the Gilbert Group. Lat. 1° 20'N., long. 172° 55' E., due north of Fiji Group.
Te Uata  
Vavau Either Vavau of the Tonga Group or Porapora of the Society Group, the ancient name of which was Vavau, the Wawau of the northern tribes of New Zealand.
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Makatea Makatea, or Saunders' Island, also called Aiha in ancient times, 60 nautical miles west of Tahiti.
Tonganui Possibly Tongatapu, but the Rarotongans knew of an island of that name which is not Tongatapu.
Kohuko-manuka Query, is this name right? Possibly a printer's error in the first part of the name. Possibly Kohukohu-manuka. It may be a name for Manu'a of the Samoa Group.
Rurutu Rurutu of the Austral Group. 325 miles S.S.W. of Tahiti.
Mukuhau Query? Nukuhau.
Manuke Probably Manu'a of the Samoa Group, called Manuka by the Rarotongans.
Raeīne Probably Ruahine of the Society Group.
Porapora Porapora of the Society Group.
Tehiti One of the Mangarevan forms of Tahiti.
Te Hiti-paraua Possibly one of the Fiji Group.
Nukuhiva Nukuhiva, Marquesas Group.
Ruapou, the island of the Mangarevan ancestor Pou Ruapou, is the Marquesan Island Uapou. (The letter ‘r’ is not used in that archipelago.)
Okuporu Upolu of the Samoa Group. It is known to New Zealand Maoris and Rarotongans as Kuporu.
Tehiti-nui. The Mangarevan name for Tahiti The main island of Tahiti is called Tahiti-nui, and the S.E. peninsula Tahiti-iti. This Mangarevan name, however, may be the New Zealand Maori Tawhiti-nui, which is one of the Indonesian islands, probably Borneo.
Roenga, an island frequented by the Mangarevans in ancient times.  
Tehiti-rekareka We should translate the second word as ‘pleasant,’ and therefore it may be an emblematical name for Tahiti, and probably is the Mangarevan rendering of the Tahitian name, Tahiti-nui-mare'are'a, ‘Great Tahiti, the golden.’ The Tahitians were acquainted with Mangareva, as the following quotation from an old song will show. “I tae na Hitiaa i te Tuamotu, e i Ma'areva.” (“They went east to the Tuamotu Isles and to Ma'areva.”)
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Te Manga-Turu-turu-a-rima  
Harani-te-keo Harani-te-pipi Harani-te-tai Harani-tu Te Tiarere It is suggested that these names beginning in Harani are identical with the N.Z. Maori Herangi and Rarotongan Erangi and Hawaiin Holani, a very ancient land indeed connected with some of their oldest myths. This name is also applied to French men; possibly because it was thought they came from Harani.
Vaihu Easter Island. The Easter Islanders, however, call their island Te Pito-te-henua.
Vavao, Tehiti Probably the island Vavau, of the Society Group, now Porapora, see ante Vavau.
Tongatapu, that island was well-known to the Mangarevans No doubt Tongatapu of the Friendly Islands.
Atia. Asia, which the Mangarevans name Tekere no te henua, the “keel of the land.” One would like to know for certain if this name is really a Mangarevan word, or is it their pronunciation of the word Asia. The most ancient name of the original Fatherland known to the Rarotongans was Atia. But it is not intended as a form of Asia, of which they knew nothing.

Other names for Easter Island are Mataki-te-rangi and Kairangi.

In the latter countries [those before Nukupere], according to the traditions of the Mangarevans, are to be found high mountains, where the priests of the great god Tu were killed. They still show the passage in the reef called Tupa, where the latter entered the Archipelago. That celebrated ancestor imported into the Gambier Group several trees and the cult of their gods. He did not die at Mangareva, but passed away to Takoto, with coco-nuts. [Possibly this is the island in the Paumotu Group called Tatakoto, lat. 17.22 S., long. 138° 25 E. It is probable that many of the islands, names of which commence with ‘Nuku’ (which means ‘land’ or ‘island’) are situated in the Gilbert, Ellice, and Tokelau groups. Though none of the names are actually identical, most of the names of islands in those groups have ‘Nuku’ as parts of their names.]

Nati=haka, signifies the death of someone; the pagan priests brought it about—n. stranglement with a running knot, made of plaited coco-nut. The priest used to signify the death of anyone by making a running knot on a string of coco-nut fibre; at the same time announcing the name of him who would die. The latter would immediately purchase his life by taking his most valuable property to the priest who had received the revelation of his death. After receiving the present, the divinity recalled his sentence; and the priest, contented with his present, untied the knot, and the individual who had made the offering no longer feared death.

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Noumati, the son of Anua-motua. The fables attribute to him, subsequently, the act of producing dearth or famine, which, in effect, bear his name and are called Noumati.

Poatuto, a traitor, who with Tukauhoe, both from Mangareva, went with a number of people from Akamaru to Easter Island, where they exterminated most of the inhabitants.

Raka, a mythological name—the Eolus of the Mangarevans, who gave birth to Tokorau, Tonga, Moake, and Tiu [all names of winds in various parts of Polynesia].

Rana, a volcano. [Here we notice the word so frequently used in Easter Island for a volcano—e.g., Rana-Raraku, &c.]

Te eke, offerings to the family god on the death of one of the members, praying the god to fetch his soul. When death comes they say to the dying, “Go! my friend! to the place of thy relations.” They do not use these words on the death of one who has used imprecations towards the divinity. In their eyes the sin alone was punished in the other world.

Tekeika [? Te Keika] a celebrated marae at Rikitea built by Tupa. He also built many others in the Group.

Tekere, keel of a canoe; tekere no te henua, keel of the land; Europe, Asia; that is, according to the ancient Mangarevans the most important part of the world.

Te Tupua, name of a man who came from Rarotonga to Mangareva before the planting of the great trees in the archipelago; Ua, his sister accompanied him. Epopo had beaten Te Tupua in a quarrel about land in Rarotonga, causing the latter to emigrate. Ua married Nono at Mangareva after her brother had returned to Rarotonga.

Tiki. The first man; word for word, “The Statue.” He is the Adam of Mangarevan traditions; god, in effect, made him as a figure out of earth. Ina was his wife.

Toapere, an ‘honest’ pagan who announced the arrival of the envoys of God. “The mouth (?) of that God,” said he, “touches the sky and the abyss of the seas.” Two men dressed in white would bring in his peaceful reign in the archipelago, under the reign of the king Maputeoa, whose grandfather, Mateoa, was then in power. “But,” added he, “this will not take place till after my death and that of the King.” That which he foretold more than thirty years before came true when the ship that took the missionaries to Tahiti - 130 [The “Duff,” in 1797] was taken for the one he had announced, and was realised truly by the arrival of our two Fathers at Mangareva in 1834. Toapere is buried at Tokani, a bay in Akamaru. [See also under Ororo.]

[The following is the list of the ‘Kings’ of Mangareva, but the Dictionary omits the names of four of them, though in all cases the number from the first one is given. Unfortunately, in most cases we do not know if the descent is from father to son, and this prevents us arriving at a date for the settlement of the Mangareva Group.]

  • 1. Atu-motua [It will be seen (under the heading ‘Tu’) that these are gods. In this respect it is like many Polynesian genealogies which commence with the gods, or, perhaps, deified ancestors.]
  • 2. Atu-moana
  • 3. Tangaroa-mea
  • 4. Tangaroa-hurupapa
  • 5. Tu-te-kekeu
  • 6. Oroki
  • 7. Vaiamo
  • 8. Not given
  • 9. Not given
  • 10. Turu-kura
  • 11. Turu-rei
  • 12. Taivere and Taroi, sons of Ua, who came from Rarotonga with her brother Te Tupua, and married Nono of Mangareva. It is said that it was in their reign, Tupa [q.v] arrived bringing the coco-nut.
  • 13. Not given
  • 14. Taki-marama
  • 15. Toronga
  • 16. Popi, or Popi-te-moa
  • 17. Angi-a-Popi
  • 18. Tipoti, son of Angi-a-Popi and Te Puru-on u
  • 19. Tahau-mangi
  • 20. Pono-te-akariki, son of Makoha-iti and Raui-roro, nephew of Tahaumangi
  • 21. Not given
  • 22. Tama-keu. His son Etua-taorea, had a daughter, Toa-te-Etua-taorea, an unfortunate queen whose throat was pierced to introduce water she had demanded to quench her thirst. Her body, and that of her child, were eaten after her death.
  • 23. Reitapu, of Rikitea, son of Tae-Tamakeu and Tuareu; his death at Raramei-tau (at Kirimiro), where he was assassinated, occasioning the loss of Taku.
  • 24. Mahanga-vihinui, father of Ape-iti.
  • 25. Ape-iti, of Rikitea, the conqueror of Taku. Under him the great migration that peopled Reao, Pukaruha, Takoto, Vahitahi, Hao, Fakahina, Fangatu, and partly Hikueru by supplying women, took place—these are Paumotu Islands.
  • 26. Meihara-tuharua
  • 27. Pokau
  • 28. Okeu
  • 29. Makoro-tau-eriki—in whose time there was peace, no wars.
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  • 30. Mangi-tu-tavake, son of Makoro-tau-arike and his wife Makutea.
  • 31. Te Ariki-tea, son of Mangi-tu-tavake; reigned only in name. His brother Te Ariki-pongo was preferred by the people.
  • 32. Te Oa, son of Te Ariki-tea and Toatau.
  • 33. Te Mateoa (or Mapu-rure). His wife was Purure.
  • 34. Te Ika-tohora
  • 35. Mapu-te-oa, died 30th June, 1857

Tupou, a king of Taku, vanquished by Ape-iti [see No. 25 in list of kings]. Nearly all his people were killed. He took refuge in the Tuamotu (Paumotu) Islands with those of his people who were saved. They went in seven rafts. Maru-iti was his son-in-law.

Vaka-tupapaku, a raft on which the natives sent their dead bodies to sea; “for foreign countries,” say the natives. [This is important as connecting this people with the Morioris of the Chatham Islands, who had the same custom, as had the Niuē Islanders to a certain extent. D'Urville mentions that he found off the Fiji Islands a small canoe distant from the shore, with a dead body in it, evidently sent to sea as a mode of burial. The three places mentioned are where the Polynesian element is much mixed with some other race—Melanesian, or some other.]

Maui-matavaru, the mythology of the country states that he stopped the sun in its course with a rope made of hair, and he also fished up the Mangareva Group with a line (see Ika-na-Maui).

Anua-motua, father of Te Angiangi, came from the Sandwich Islands, and to Easter Island (Mataki-te-rangi), but after having left several children, born of his wife Kautea at Mangareva, he died at Easter Island, also called Kairangi. His sons Puninga and Marokura, and sometimes Te Angiangi, lived in that island which he left to them. His son Noumati is accredited with the droughts. Te Angiangi died at Easter Island.

Ororo, a name given by the Mangarevans to a vessel that brought some Tuamotu divers [? divers for pearl shell] in heathen times, which was taken to be the predicted vessel, prophesied by Toapere. [It is strange that there existed in Tahiti and in New Zealand a somewhat similar prophesy as to a large ship to arrive with atua, gods, on board, long before the people knew of Europeans.]

Maori, the right, as opposed to the left hand. A pig is Puaka-maoi, and the latter is the Marquesan form of Maori. Does this indicate that they derived their pigs from the Marquesas? For the Mangarevans had no pigs originally.

Taputapuatea, name of a marae at Mangareva. The Mangarevans constructed one of the same name at the village of Opoa at Ra'iatea Island [Society Group] in an expedition. [This is a statement that I think the Tahitians and Ra'iteans would not assent to, i.e., would not allow that this, perhaps the most celebrated marae in Polynesia, was made (and consequently owned) by the Mangarevans.]

1   M. Lesson supports my view of this matter, He says: “Beechey usant, ou plutout abusant de le coutume des marins, baptisa de noms de personnages anglais les diverses iles et ilots qui constituent cet archipel. Il ne parait pas s'etre enquis des noms que leur ont donné les naturels” …… . “Voyage aux Iles Mangareva,” page 13.
2   Lesson, however, 14 years after Beechey, saw large canoes at Mangareva, which they call ao, a word that is not, however, in the dictionary.
3   Te Pito-te-henua means “the navel of the land,” or, the last of the land; and as a matter of fact Easter Island is the last of the islands forming the Paumotu Group. Did the Polynesians so call it because they found no lands beyond it?
4   The dictionary gives the meaning of tea as white (the same as everywhere else in Polynesia), but it probably has the same meaning as in the name Patea, ‘free from burdens or restraint.’ When the migration under Turi arrived at the Patea River, N.Z., after their long march from Aotea, carrying burdens, they threw them down exclaiming, ‘Ka patea tatou!’ We are relieved of our loads—and hence the name of the river.
5   ? Volcanic stone.