Volume 33 1924 > Volume 33, No. 131 > An experiment in Tongan history, by E. E. V. Collocott, p 166-184
                                                                                             Previous | Next   

- 166

ANY attempt to reconstruct the past of Tonga, and to assign approximate periods for the few events that dimly emerge from the mists of forgetfulness, will almost of necessity be based on the list of Tui Tonga, kings of Tonga. At the outset a difficulty presents itself; there are different lists with varying numbers of generations.

Laufilitonga, the last Tui Tonga, died in 1865; before him there were, according to various accounts, from thirty-three to thirty-eight holders of this august title. Edward Tregear, on page 670 of his Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary, prints a list of thirty-four Tui Tonga, excluding the first name, Kohai, who belongs to an earlier regime. Mr. Tregear's authority is the late Rev. Dr. Moulton, whose opinion on all matters relating to Tonga is of the greatest weight; but a list of thirty-eight names seems to me not improbable, and this paper will assume the substantial correctness of the following list:—

  • 1. Ahoeitu, c. 950.
  • 2. Lolofakangalo.
  • 3. Fanga-one-one.
  • 4. Lihau
  • 5. Kofutu.
  • 6. Kaloa.
  • 7. Mauhau.
  • 8. Apuanea.
  • 9. Afulunga.
  • 10. Momo.
  • 11. Tui-ta-tui, c. 1200.
  • 12. Talaatama.
  • 13. Tui-tonga-nui.
  • 14. Tala-i-haa-pepe.
  • 15. Talakai-faiki, c. 1250.
  • 16. Tala-fabite.
  • 17. Tui-tonga-maakatoe.
  • 18. Tuitonga-puipui.
  • 19. Havea I.
  • 20. Tatafu-eiki-mei-mua.
  • 21. Lomi-ae-tupua.
  • 22. Havea II.
  • 23. Takalaua, c. 1450.
  • 24. Kau-ulu-fonua-fekai, c. 1470.
  • 25. Vaka-fuhu.
  • 26. Puipui-fatu.
  • 27. Kau-ulu-fonua II.
  • 28. Tapuoji.
  • 29. Uluaki-mata I (Telea).
  • 30. Fatafehi, 1643.
  • 31. Uluaki-mata II.
  • 32. Tuipulotu I.
  • 33. Fakanaanaa.
  • 34. Tuipulotu II.
  • 35. Pau 1777 (met Cook).
  • 36. Mau-lupe-kotofa.
  • 37. Fatafehi Fua-nunui-ava.
  • 38. Laufilitonga, died 1865.
- 167

This list differs from Dr. Moulton's in regarding as indicating separate individuals several names which he regards as alternative designations of the one king. It is the list favoured by the Roman Catholic missionaries, who, having secured the last Tui Tonga as a convert, were probably in a better position to obtain information about this ancient line than were their Methodist contemporaries.

It agrees in the number of generations, though not in all details, with a list published by the late King of Tonga, George Tubou II. 1 It is also, I believe, the list favoured by Mr. E. W. Gifford, who visited Tonga in connection with the Bayard Dominick expeditions of the Bishop Museum, and to whom I take this opportunity of gratefully acknowledging my obligations in this and in other matters. It agrees sufficiently closely, moreover, with what seems to be the most generally accepted number of generations in the Malietoa line in Samoa, which provides one of the most important external points of contact.


Several dates are known with precision. Laufilitonga closed the series in 1865. In 1777 Captain Cook met Pau, whom he estimated to be about 40 years old. Pau is the thirty-fifth, Laufilitonga the thirty-eighth, and consequently the reigns of four kings covered something over 88 years, and the average reign cannot be less than 22 years. Captain Cook enables us also to fix with a fair degree of probability the date of an earlier king. He found that the remembrance of Tasman's visit in 1643 was still preserved, and was informed that Pau, or Paulaho, was the fifth king since Tasman's arrival. Cook calls the kings the Futtafaihe (now spelt Fatafehi), and says: “The Futtafaihes (Poulaho being only an addition to distinguish the king from the rest of his family) have reigned in a direct line for at least one hundred and thirty-five years. Upon inquiring whether any account had been preserved amongst them of the arrival of Tasman's ships…by way of informing us how long ago this had happened, they told us the name of the Futtafaihe who was then king, and of those who had succeeded down to - 168 Poulaho, who is the fifth since that period; the first being an old man, at the time of the arrival of the ships.” 2

This statement, apart from chronological considerations, lends some support to the supposition that the Tui Tonga at the time of Tasman's visit in 1643 was Fatafehi, and the same result is reached by counting back from Pau as the fifth king since that event. Fatafehi was an old man at the time of Tasman's visit, and presumably near the close of his life. From 1643 to 1777 there were five kings, including Pau, still in the prime of life. For this period, therefore, we get the high average of not less than 27 years for each reign. The result is the same if we reckon 1643 as approximately the year in which Uluakimata II., Fatafehi's successor, began to reign, and take the average for the eight kings down to, and including, Laufilitonga. 3

In some lists there is included a name Tapuoji after Fatafehi, and if this be correct Tapuoji would be Tui Tonga at the time of Tasman's visit. That there was a high chief named Tapuoji living in Tonga at this time is very probable, but I am of opinion that he was not the Tui Tonga, but a Fijian, the Tui Lakepa, married to the Female Tui Tonga, the Tui Tonga Fefine, and the progenitor of the lofty lineage of the Tama-ha (Sacred Child).

Another piece of chronological evidence is the association of Tala-kai-faiki, fifteenth on the list, with the conquest of Samoa, and his subsequent defeat at the hands of the first chiefs to bear the title of Malietoa. Concerning this war Tongan tradition is curiously silent. Repeated inquiries have evoked no glimmer of remembrance. Samoan tradition, on the contrary, is full and circumstantial. Dr. Augustin Krämer compares Samoan tradition of this war with German recollection of the French war under Melac, or the Thirty Years war. 4

The genealogy of the Malietoa line approximately dates this important event, and writers on Samoa seem agreed in assigning it to about the year 1250. 5

- 169

Fatafehi, the thirtieth king, an old man in 1643, is the fifteenth after Talakaifaiki, who flourished about 1250. Between the two dates is a period of 393 years, and thus an average reign of about 25 years is indicated.

Taking the three intervals thus dated by external evidence we seem to be justified in allowing 25 years for each Tui Tonga. This average is very high, and there is tradition, moreover, to the effect that the kings were frequently assassinated in the earlier period by aspirants to the throne, and there are exceptions to the general rule that the succession was from father to son. The dated periods, however, are sufficiently long to include, and allow for, some departures from the normal, and in the absence of definite evidence sufficient to warrant a shorter period being assumed, I accept provisionally 25 years as representing the average length of the reign of a Tui Tonga.

The beginning of the line, then, would be in the tenth century, say about 950. Bishop Blanc (P. Soane Malia), in his Chez les Meridionaux du Pacifique, assumes the tenth century as a starting point for the Tui Tonga line, though he does not state his grounds. 6


The first Tui Tonga, Ahoeitu, was the son of Eitumatu-pua, the Lord of Heaven, and a mortal woman. Heaven was not very distant, and the divine lover could visit his earthly bride by descending a great tree, standing on the island of Ata, whose head pierced the sky.

The names Ahoeitu, and Eitumatupua, both contain the word eitu god, spirit; and Eitumatupua contains also the word tupua, which is of kindred meaning, 7 but in spite of mythological elements in the tradition of the beginning of the kingship, the broad fact of a new dynasty having established itself during the tenth century is probably historical. Tradition speaks of a period before Ahoeitu, when Tonga was peopled from a worm bred in the decayed root of a creeper, planted by one of the Tangaloa, Lords of Heaven. Then follows the visit of the Maui, who brought - 170 wives from the Underworld for the men created by Tanga-loa, and who also fished up certain islands. The Tangaloa and Maui myths are of course older than the settlement of any of the Polynesian peoples in their present habitats, but each of the peoples has doubtless woven some of its more recent history into its memory of the ancient common myths. It is interesting to note that in Tongan tradition the Maui get the hook from a chief of Manu'a, in Samoa, named Tonga, and that they come from thence to Tonga.

Dr. Kramer 8 says that the earliest kings of Manu'a bore the title of Tuimanu'a ma Samoa'atoa, king of Manu'a and All Samoa, and that “all” indicated, not only Samoa, but surrounding islands as well, such as Tonga, Fiji, Raro-tonga, Tahiti, who all brought tribute to the Tui Manu'a. Especially prominent in the Samoan sagas is Fitiaumua, a great conqueror, who “was said to come from the east, was a great warrior, conquered at Fiji, and in his lust for conquest came to Samoa. He subdued all the leeward islands of the group, reached Manu'a and there he dwelt.” 9

An old saga mentions Tonga-mamao (Distant Tonga), and Safulusao (Haafuluhao or Vavau in the Tongan Group) as scenes of his warlike exploits. 10 Tongan-mamao is quite probably not the present Tonga, but Niua Fo'ou.

Dr. Kramer's conclusion from the Samoan evidence is that by about the year 1100 the pre-eminence of Manu'a in Samoa had come to an end, and that, moreover, the active traffic that had subsisted between Samoa and the neighbouring groups was diminishing. 11

A not improbable picture of this part of the Pacific about a thousand years ago seems to be a Polynesian people inhabiting Samoa, Tonga, part of Fiji, and scattered islands, such as Uvea, Niua Fo'ou, and Niua Toputapu. The whole of Fiji may have been occupied by the Polynesians. These people were perhaps more nearly homogeneous than the corresponding populations of to-day.

It is hardy credible that any chief could have acquired the real control of so wide an area, but a general recognition of overlordship by the payment of tribute, especially perhaps by the semi-religious presentation of first-fruits, is - 171 quite possible. The predominating influence was, for a time, Manu'a, itself, perhaps, the seat of recently arrived, powerful invaders, but Polynesians like the people they found. After a period of movement and readjustment more compact political groups emerge, and to the south-west power passes chiefly into the hands of the kings of the Tonga tribe, the Tui Tonga, who possibly had not long arrived from Samoa. The authority of the Tui Tonga was perhaps confined at first to the whole, or part, of the present Tongatabu, but was rapidly extended over kindred tribes in the adjoining islands. Although it seems fair to assume that the Tui Tonga was firmly established on his throne by the tenth century, the extent of his domains fluctuated, and his active interference in the affairs of his more distant possessions was probably not great, overlordship being sufficiently recognised by tribute, and especially by the Inaji or Polopolo, the first-fruits, whose presentation was of religious import, and by the performance of tasks at the behest of the king. Obviously the character of the king, and the circumstance of peace or war, would have a vital influence on the amount of local independence enjoyed by the various units of the island kingdom.


The seat of these ancient kings was at Heketa, 12 in the extreme eastern end of Tongatabu. Their lot was not always an enviable one. The throne was sometimes snatched by the hand of the assassin. 13


Little is preserved about the Tui Tonga until we come to Tui-ta-tui, in the thirteenth century; round whom cluster a number of traditions. A trait of his personal appearance is related. So massive was his head that by this feature the stranger might recognise him. Floating stories tend to become attached to well-known names, and scanty as are the legends associated with Tui-ta-tui, some, perhaps, do not - 172 rightly belong to him. There can be little doubt, however, that he was an exceptionally strong and able king. His name may be translated King-strike-knee, and so in fact it is commonly explained. Tradition asserts that, sitting with his back to a rock, he struck out right and left with a long staff, and so cleared a space about himself within which he allowed none to enter. Thus he safeguarded himself against the blow of the murderer. Even if the explanation of the name be entirely fictitious, it seems fair to infer that whatever dangers threatened from internal disorder were overcome, and that his prowess and sagacity secured both his own personal safety, and the peace of his kingdom.


If tradition is to be trusted the period must have been one of real power and prosperity, for towards the close of Tui-ta-tui's reign the determination was taken to build an imperishable monument. The famous trilithon in eastern Tongatabu was the fruit of this ambitious decision. The completion of this structure is by some accounts assigned to Tui-ta-tui's sons. The trilithon is even more imposing on close inspection than to the casual view, for all about the base it is strengthened by a bed of stones, probably pieces chipped off in working the great uprights and cross-piece. It is probable that the cross-piece was lifted into position by being dragged up an inclined plane of soil heaped between the uprights. If our assumptions as to chronology, and the general reliability of tradition be correct, this monument, commonly known as the Haamonga or, more fully, Haamo-nga-a-Maui (Burden carried on the shoulder of Maui), dates from the thirteenth century. The only purpose assigned to it by legend is to be an undying monument, something to see. If that be really its object the question of what inspired its form is still unsolved. Two uprights with a festoon of leaf girdles suspended between them are not uncommon on newly-made graves. All that tradition has to say upon the subject seems to be summed up in this passage from a Ton-gan manuscript, written in 1870: “And (Tui-ta-tui) said, ‘Men do your work, whilst I am still alive,’” meaning to build his burial vault, for he was old. But the men did not consent to this, and so Tui-ta-tui was buried in the earth, thrown out in digging the Haamonga. Tui-ta-tui, however, did not give up his project of building something, and they - 173 agreed to build something to be called the Haamonga in after time that should not be destroyed. In the beginning of the work it was portioned out, foreign groups sharing it, Rotuma, Futuna, Uvea, Niua Fo'ou and Niua Toputapu and Samoa. Three stones were cut, two placed upright, earth heaped up between them till it was level with their tops, and the third pushed up, and put in place. Then the earth was removed and used for little platforms (sia) where Tui-ta-tui was buried; but the Haamonga stood for a sight.” 14

The position of the trilithon suggests a gateway to the royal compound Heketa. Scattered about are relics of the ancient kings. At one point is the Maka Fakinanga, a large upright slab, which, as its name “the Stone to lean against” implies, served as a back rest for the king when he sat down on the little stone-faced mound in one side of which it is set. Hard by are two stone-faced house platforms, one of a single, and the other of three tiers. The blocks are excellently worked, being much superior in finish to the generality of the old Tongan stone monuments. The house which stood on the larger of these platforms had stone posts, well shaped, and with niches at the top to carry the roof beams. They are there today, cast down, alas, and broken. A man who is cultivating Heketa, and acts as a sort of caretaker of the historic spot, says that they were intact till quite recent years. Those who believe that the origin of the trilithon is to be found in the skies may see significance in the fact that the name of Orion's Belt in Samoan is Amonga. From this slight hint it is easy to construct a theory of a structure of religious, or astronomical, import, perhaps due to direct Samoan influence, whose name, become unintelligible to later centuries, was altered into an understandable form. A theory of this sort has a certain fascination, but I know of nothing to support it.

In regard to the general question of whence these, and the other large stones used in the burial vaults of the kings langi, were obtained, there is no a priori reason why most, if not all, should not have been cut out of the Tongan reefs. They are coral limestone, and fairly large pieces are cut from the reefs to-day for burial vaults. So far as I am aware, however, nobody has seen places on the reefs whence - 174 the very large stones used in the old structures have been quarried; but, on the other hand, no systematic search may have been made. Traditionary evidence, however, is suffiently strong to warrant the belief that some at least of the stones were brought from distant islands, notably Uvea.

All these imposing structures are incontrovertible evidence of power. They were possible only to kings at whose command was a practically unlimited supply of labour. The population of the islands may have been little, if any, greater, than at present, but the king must have had the unquestioned right to the labour of every man. The fragment quoted above indicates such a right extending over a very much larger area than the present Tongan group. Despotic power can accomplish much. A tradition relates that two chiefs, brothers, were engaged in hauling a huge stone, which the labourers found quite beyond their strength. Night fell, but the stone had not been moved. In the darkness the brothers took counsel together, and, when the work was resumed on the morrow, threatened with death any man who did not pull satisfactorily. The threat was efficacious, and “the stone ran” into its place, as the Tongan idiom has it.


The two sons of Tui-ta-tui initiated an important change. They were interested in boats, and each possessed a large canoe. Heketa was ill-provided with anchorages, and they shifted their abode nearer to the centre of the north coast of Tongatabu, to the present Mua, or Lapaha (equivalent to Lambasa in Fiji), where they found safe shelter for their boats. Henceforth this site was the abode of the Tui Tonga and his court. Here are the langi, burial vaults, so well known to the modern sight-seer. These vaults stand in a long row, with isolated ones scattered about. The earliest probably dates from about the thirteenth century. The finest of these, with corners of immense single blocks hewn into right angles, stands nearer the sea than the main row of langi. It is associated with the name of Telea, who belongs to about the beginning of the seventeenth century; but its position suggests the probability that its erection belongs to the reign of an earlier king. There have been very recent interments in this langi. It should be remarked that highly competent Tongan authority asserts that the kings - 175 were frequently buried secretly, and not in the vault where the interment ostensibly took place, so as to be secure from violation by their enemies.


Two generations after Tui-ta-tui a curious incident occurred, which seemed to show a reluctance to break through the succession of son to father. Talaatama was in reality succeeded by his brother Talai-haa-pepe. The genealogies show a late example of a king succeeding to his half-brother, though evidently the later king in this case had a very much younger mother than his predecessor. When Talaatama died, however, Talai-haa-pepe took a block of wood, and installed that as Tui Tonga, the Tui-tonga-nui. The wooden king was given a wife, and in due time it was announced that she was pregnant. Later followed the sad announcement that the king was dead. His wooden majesty was buried, and Talai-haa-pepe was installed, one hazards the guess rather as the son of the wooden king, than as the brother of the last real occupant of the throne.


After Talai-haa-pepe reigned Tala-kai-faiki, a noted warrior, ruthless as he was energetic and able. In the thirteenth century he brought a large part of Samoa under his sway, but his cruelty augmented the restiveness which a spirited people always feels under the yoke of the conqueror, and he was driven out by the Samoans, led by Tuna and Fata, whose brother was the first bearer of the title of Malietoa. The defeated king's farewell to Samoa is a model of fair and succinct treaty-making:

Noble courage, finely fought,
Not again shall I come
With strife to Samoa;
But my coming shall be
On a voyage of peace.

There is also a Samoan lament, put into the mouth of Tala-kai-faiki's mother, who supposed that her son was killed, somewhat in the spirit of portions of Deborah's Song in the fifth chapter of Judges. The silence of Tongan tradition concerning this war is not a little strange. Since the event was not favourable to Tonga, the Tongan bards may for that reason have rejected the theme. There may - 176 be a confusion in Samoan legends resulting in the antedating of later wars. The agreement of the Malietoa genealogy with the position of Tala-kai-faiki in the Tui Tonga list, and the fact that Samoan tradition represents the name of the Tongan oppressor as Talaaifei'i, raise strong presumptions in favour of the substantial accuracy of the usual account.


The next Tui Tonga of whom any considerable tradition is preserved is Takalaua, whom I conjecture to have lived about the middle of the fifteenth century. Mr. (now Sir) Basil Thomson, who accepts fewer generations than I have done in the list of Tui Tonga, gives a somewhat later date. 15

Tradition relates in some detail the birth of Vae, of peerless beauty, and of her marriage with the king, to whom she bore several sons, including Kau-ulu-fonua, afterwards called Fekai, fierce, and Motua-mounga. The king, Takalaua, was murdered, and his successor, Kau-ulu-fonua, is said to have delayed his father's obsequies till he had avenged the murder. If this be literally true it would suggest that effective means of embalming were known, as a considerable time elapsed before the assassins were punished. The murderers long eluded capture, and in the course of their pursuit, not only the different parts of the present Tongan group, were visited and defeated, but Samoa, Uvea, Futuna and Fiji. Different accounts do not give all the same list of conquered countries. When the murderers were captured they were taken back to Tonga, cut up to serve as the fono, food, distributed at a kava ceremony, presumably that in connection with the funeral rites of the dead king, who was then buried. The dismembered bodies of the assassins are said to have been burnt.

Samoan genealogies show what is perhaps a perpetuation of the name and early history of the lovely Vae. A Tui Tonga, Fa'aulu-fanua married a Samoan lady, Taupoimasina, who bore him a daughter named Vaetoeifanga; Vae-still-on beach. The original Vae was deserted on the small island where she was born, because her head, or face, was disfigured and resembled a pigeon's. 16

- 177

After his warlike exploits Kau-ulu-fonua made certain arrangements, destined to lead ultimately to the downfall of his house. He appointed kings in the various parts of the present Tongan group and in Uvea. Especially important was his installation of his brother, Mounga-motua, as Tui Haa-Takalaua, King of the Takalaua Tribe; and the delegation to him apparently of a good deal of his own executive power. Other appointments and ordinances are credited to Kau-ulu-fonua, including regulations regarding the royal food and kava. From the orgination of the Tui Haa-taka-laua is dated the gradual decline of the Tui Tonga before the power of the Tui Kano-kupolu, itself a creation of the Tui Haa-Takalaua, and the ultimate abolition of this ancient title. These are not the only instances of the creation of titles of this form, but they are distinguished from others by the power and prestige they acquired.

As a dwelling for the Tui Haa-Takalaua was allotted Fonua-motu, on the sea front adjacent to the Tui Tonga's residence; where either then or later reclamation work was effected, to which a short length of stone drain is witness. 17 A stone pier or mole was constructed running out to sea. The Tui Tonga and his people were Kau hala uta, “land side of the road”; whilst the Tui Haa-Takalaua, and later the Tui Kano-kupolu, were Kau hala lalo, “lower (or sea) side of the road.” The dividing road probably occupied much the same site as the main road running through the village of Mua to-day. 18


The revision and completion of Kau-ulu-fonua's ordinances is attributed to the shadowy Loau, who came none knows whence, but who lived in Haamea, near the site of the present Wesleyan College at Nafualu. When his work was finished he sailed away through the sky.

A brave old saga describes Loau's last voyage:—

They built them a boat in Haamea.
In a place that was far from the ocean.
Loau bade them freight her, and sail her,
In the pool that was hard by his dwelling;
- 178
And the people obeyed, but with murmurs,
“Why comrades such toil to no purpose?”
And Loau heeds the wish of the people;
“Make ready each man for a voyage,
We'll sail to the bound'ry of ocean
And see the famed tree of Bulotu,
The speaking tree of immortals;
Let us leave our dear home-land of Tonga.”
And now they bound over the billows;
“Haapai,” cries the watchful-eyed sailor,
“Vavau appears with its hill-tops.”
“Nay nay,” quoth Loau, “the horizon
Alone is the goal of our voyage.”
And onward he steers the bold vessel,
Right on through the grey-coloured waters,
And the sea that is covered with pumice,
And the sea that is slimy and horrid.
“Why, comrades your plaints and distresses?
Be men; your duty do rightly,
For death is in tears unavailing.”
And their boat reached a spreading pandanus
That stood on the rim of the ocean;
And the mast was caught by the branches,
“Up now Longopoa, and thou Kae.”
They sprang at the word of the captain,
Climbed into the branchy pandanus;
And their feet pressed hard on the vessel;
She bounded out from the branches,
She burst through the sky, and was hidden.

The traditional picture of the result of Kau-ulu-fonua's regulations is that to the Tui Tonga were reserved the dignity and prestige of supreme chiefs, with the material concomitants of abundant food and fair ladies, but little work. A regime of idleness and self-indulgence weakened the fibre of the king, and even descent from the Lord of Heaven proved in the end unable to uphold a house from whom the actual control of affairs passed more and more completely. The vigorous hands which shape a country's destiny are bound, sooner or later, to seize its honours also. But from Kau-ulu-fonua to the final catastrophe is a span of more than three centuries.


At this point a slight digression is necessary. The Tongan justly prides himself on the position of his women. The social rank and actual influence of women are very high. In accordance with the ordinary rules of the social - 179 organisation, the sister of the Tui Tonga is of superior rank to the king himself. She is called the Tui Tonga Fefine, Female Tui Tonga, and would be normally the eldest daughter of the most chiefly wife of a Tui Tonga. Her dignity was held till death, so that, although I have called her the sister of the Tui Tonga, she might as a matter of fact belong to a different generation.

Of the sons of a Tui Tonga the one to succeed to the kingship would naturally be the eldest son of the highest chieftainess amongst his wives. Extant genealogies to not extend far enough to show very ancient practice. The Tui Tonga Fefine would be tabu to every Tongan man, and there is no direct evidence as to whom she actually did marry before the seventeenth century. 19

Similarly, neither the genealogies nor tradition indicate who, in more remote times, was the lady, if any were specially reserved for the honour, who should bear a successor to the Tui Tonga. It is clear, however, that this privilege became the prerogative of the daughter of the Tui Haa-Takalaua, and later passed to a newer house, that of the Tui Kano-kupolu.

It will be convenient at this point to give a list of the Tui Haa-Takalaua:—

  • 1. Mounga-motua (brother of Kau-ulu-fonua fekai), c. 1470.
  • 2. Taneki-tonga.
  • 3. Vaea-ma-toka.
  • 4. Jiu-langa-po.
  • 5. Vaka-lahi-mohe-uli.
  • 6. Mounga-tonga (who was the father of Ngata, the first Tui Kano-kupolu).
  • 7. Fotofili c. 1650.
  • 8. Vaea.
  • 9. Moe-aki-ola.
  • 10. Kafoa.

There is not complete unanimity in lists of the Tui Haa-Takalaua, but the discrepancies occur in the later generations, when the importance of the house had somewhat declined.


In the first half of the seventeenth century we find the first authentic account of the marriage of a Tui Tonga Fefine, to a Fijian chief named Tapuoji, the Tui Lakepa - 180 (Lakemba in Fiji). Of this marriage sprang the Tama-ha (Sacred Child), children of the Tui Tonga Fefine, the summit of Tongan society. After Tapuoji the scions of two houses connected with him, the Tui Lakepa, and the Tui Haa-Teiho, were the husbands of the female Tui Tongas, and their families the Tama-ha. Although the connection of the Tui Lakepa and the Tui Haa-Teiho, with Fiji soon became remote, yet the infusion of foreign blood gave them foreignness sufficient to release them from a tabu that would be binding on every pure-blooded Tongan man. 20


About the year 1650 Mounga-Tonga, the Tui Haa-Taka-laua, made his son Ngata the chief of western Tongatabu, with the title of Tui Kano-kupolu. Ngata was the son of a Samoan lady, Tohuia, the daughter of Ama of Safata. There is a little village in western Tongatabu called Kanokupolu, but the significance of the title is out of all proportion to the importance of its meaning of king of this hamlet. Tohuia, perhaps, brought great prestige with her. It is only in recent years that the express recognition of the connection of the Tui Kano-kupolu with the Tui Manu'a in Samoa has been discontinued. Kupolu is of course identical in form with Upolu, the second largest island of Samoa.

The successful inauguration of the Ngata line, with its great head, the Tui Kano-kupolu, probably signalised the bringing of western Tongatabu into more satisfactory political relations with the lords of eastern Tongatabu, the Tui Tonga, and the Tui Haa-Takalaua. The present Ata, the principal chief of the Haa Ngata, Tribe of Ngata, has told me that chiefs were sent before Ngata to Hihifo (the west), but were slain. Ngata made good his lordship over the westerners. Originally a delegate of the Tui Tonga and the Tui Haa-Takalaua, the Tui Kano-kupolu has ended by acquiring the recognised sovereignty of the whole group.

- 181

Examination of genealogies shows that Fotofili, the Tui Haa-Takalaua and half-brother of Ngata, married a daughter of the Tui Tonga, Fatafehi, who was probably an old man at the time of Tasman's visit in 1643, and that Fatafehi also married Fotofili's sister. About the middle of the seventeenth century, or a little earlier, would, therefore, seem to be the date of the commencement of the Tui Kano-kupolu chieftainship.


It has been already remarked that a daughter of the Tui Haa-Takalaua used to be chosen to bear a successor to the Tui Tonga. A few generations after the inauguration of the Tui Kanokupolu a very significant change occurs. The third Tui Kano-kupolu, Mataele Tua-piko, Mataele Crook-back, contracted a marriage with the Tamaha, Tuimala, the highest lady in the land. This marriage was probably both an effect as well as a cause of greatness. It may be dated about 1700, and henceforth the decline of the Tui Haa-Takalaua is manifest, and the mothers of the Tui Tongas are the daughters of the Tui Kano-kupolu. Gradually the decline of the Tui Tonga himself becomes more apparent. Cook was a witness of the great real power exercised by other chiefs, but he saw, too, the homage paid to the Tui Tonga.


William Mariner, who was in Tonga from 1806 to 1810, relates an instance, not only of disregard of the Tui Tonga's temporal dignity, but of his sacred prestige also. 21

It is evident that by the close of the eighteenth century there was working the leaven of a rationalism, which recognised, however sporadically, the weakness of a king who did not govern, and of a god who did not influence the harvest. The final catastrophe was hastened and determined by the coming of the European and Christianity, but it is interesting to note that purely native forces were at work, which would probably have led, sooner or later, to revolution.

Finau, whom Cook met, and with whom Mariner lived, belongs to the junior branch of the Ngata tribe. He made good his claim to the sovereignty of Vavau, and bade fair - 182 to become the paramount influence in Tongan politics. Ruthless, energetic and ambitious, a notable warrior and leader of men, he failed to established himself in Tongatabu, in spite of successful raids and campaigns.

With the close of the eighteenth century we reach a period whose history has found European chroniclers, and of which the main events and tendencies are well known.

Before going further it will be well to insert a list of the Tui Kano-kupolu:—

  • 1. Ngata c. 1650.
  • 2. Ata-mata-ila.
  • 3. Mataele Tua-piko.
  • 4. Mataele Haamea.
  • 5. Vuna.
  • 6. Maafu-o-tuitonga.
  • 7. Tupou-lahi.
  • 8. Maea-liuaki (1777).
  • 9. Tui-hala-fatai.
  • 10. Tupou-lahi-jii.
  • 11. Mumui (d. 1797).
  • 12. Tukuaho (1797-1800).
  • 13. Muli-ki-haamea (killed in battle 1800).
  • 14. Tupou Moheofo (woman).
  • 15. Maafu-o-limu-loa (not properly of the line, but held the office temporarily).
  • 16. Tupou-malohi.
  • 17. Tupou-toa.
  • 18. Alea-motua (d. 1845).
  • 19. Taufa-ahau (1845-1893). Unga, Fuji-pala (female).
  • 20. George Taufa-ahau II. (1893-1918).
  • 21. Salote Vei-ongo (1918).

It is plain that the descent is not strictly from father to son. The succession was kept within the one family, but the heads of the clan had the power to prevent the title falling into the hands of the young or incapable. At the end of the eighteenth century began a long period of unrest, which effectually prevented dignity remaining with the weak. During this period the tenure of life and office was precarious, and frequently brief. Intermarriages of this line with the Tui Tonga line are common, so that although the title of Tui Tonga is no longer bestowed, yet the blood of the ancient kings flows in full stream in the veins of those who have succeeded them in rule.

It is not my purpose to attempt here any detailed account of the last hundred years. Material dealing with the nineteenth century is fairly abundant and easily accessible. It remains but to indicate briefly the final passing of the kingship to the Tui Kano-kupolu. The consummation of this revolution, of which the germs have been already noted, is intimately connected with the coming of the European and Christianity, and with the life work of a very remarkable man, Taufaahau, baptized George. The nineteenth century - 183 dawned in turmoil and unrest. Christianity was successfully established in Tongatabu in 1826, and spread rapidly throughout the group; but war did not cease. The later wars took on more or less the character of dying struggles of the Tui Tonga, and of the religious system on which depended his peculiar sanctity, against the waxing power of the Tui Kano-kupolu and the new religion. Taufaahau was born towards the end of the eighteenth century in Haapai, and by about the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century was the recognised king of that group. But he was closely connected with the Tui Kanokupolu, his father, in fact, held the title; whilst his connection with Haapai was through his mother. Taufaahau was of herculean stature and strength, excelling in athletic exercises, and in the sterner business of war. Not only was he a redoubtable fighter, but he was also a sagacious general, and a shrewd and clear-sighted statesman. His powerful mind grasped the significance of the religious change, and of the new contact with outside peoples, and he had the constructive genius that enabled him to meet the novel conditions.

The death of Finau of Vavau left Taufaahau king of both Haapai and Vavau in 1833. Alea-motua, the Tui Kano-kupolu, who, like Taufaahau, had embraced Christianity, was too weak a man to grapple successfully with the troubles that beset his throne, and found his safety in alliance with Taufaahau. On the death of Alea-motua, in 1845, Taufaahau became Tui Kano-kupolu, and, although there was still a Tui Tonga, in effect the king of the group. This effective kingship received formal sanction in 1865, when Lau-fili-tonga, the Tui Tonga, died, and the insignia of that ancient title were conferred on Taufaahau. Since then no Tui Tonga has been appointed. The Tui Tonga family has ceased to have any but social significance; kingship has passed definitely to the Tui Kano-kupolu. Fortunately for his house and for his country the life of Taufaahau was unusually long, and at his death in 1893, his kingship was so firmly established that it passed without demur to his great-grandson, who has in turn been succeeded by a daughter.

It would be beyond the scope of this paper to attempt any evaluation of the part played by Christianity in the changes of the nineteenth century, but it seems probable - 184 that in any case the decay of the Tui Tonga kingship would have proceeded till a forceful personality established a new dynasty. Had there not been the controlling contact with the great outside nations, and had the life of the man, to whom it fell to make the change, not been sufficiently long to consolidate firmly his power, the struggle would doubtless have been longer and bloodier. Had Christianity not put into Taufaahau's hands a powerful new weapon, he would still, perhaps, have tried to seize for himself some sovereignty independent of the Tui Tonga. A significant incident is related of him. Before his conversion to Christianity he carried off for himself the chief bride of the Tui Tonga, her, who should be the mother of the next Tui Tonga. This seems an emphatic declaration that he, Taufaahau, was to be the father of kings and source of sovereignty.

In the event the consolidation of the kingdom under Taufaahau has been of inestimable service to Tonga. In the momentous period when the island folk were falling to the lot of this or the other great nation, Tonga, saved from the internecine strife of chiefs of equal power and claims, has moulded a constitution able to withstand the disintegrating shock of the outside world, and, alone of the Pacific groups, lives to-day happy and contended with its native kingship, in a partnership with Great Britain, which is equally honourable to the adaptability and sagacity of the little island kingdom, as to the good faith of the great protector.

Although I have left many obligations unrecorded, I wish to express my indebtedness to Her Majesty the Queen of Tonga, and Mr. E. W. Gifford, to whose joint kindness I owe a copy of the Royal Genealogy.

- i Page is blank

- ii
Photo by J. F. G. Stokes, Bishop Museum. Kilt of unsplit ti leaves from Rapa Island.
Photo by W. Revell-Reynolds Kilt of hibiscus bast from Rarotonga.
1   In the March, 1916, number of “Koe Fanogonogo,” a little paper published by the Methodist Mission, which survived only a few issues.
2   The Voyages of Captain James Cook Round the Word (John Tallis and Company, London and New York), Vol. II., p. 157.
3   Compare Basil Thomson, Diversions of a Prime Minister, p. 306.
4   Die Samoa-Inseln I. Band, p. 259 (Stuttgart 1902).
5   See A. Kramer, op. cit. I. Band, p. 254, S. Ella, J.P.S., Vol. VII., pp. 231-234.
6   P. Soane Malia, Chez les Meridionaux du Pacifique, p. 87 (Emmanuel Vitte, Lyon, Paris, 1910).
7   A. M. Hocart, Chieftainship and the Sister's Son in the Pacific, American Anthropologist, Vol. 17, No. 4, 1915, p. 638.
8   A. Kramer, op. cit. Vol. I., p. 8.
9   Turner, Samoa, p. 224 (Macmillan and Company, 1884).
10   A. Kramer, op. cit. Vol. I., p. 436.
11   A. Kramer op. cit. Vol. I., pp. 9-10.
12   Near by is a place named Haa-Mene-uli, a name which attracted the attention of the late President of the Polynesian Society, but about which, unfortunately, very little information was obtainable.
13   Although little is known with certainty about the early kings, and the manner of their death, yet the tradition that they were frequently assassinated recalls the slaying of Sacred Kings treated by Sir James Frazer in the “Golden Bough.”
14   I am indebted to Mr. E. W. Gifford for a copy of this manuscript.
15   Diversions of a Prime Minister, pp. 306 and 396.
16   A. Krämer op. cit. Vol. I., p. 301.
17   Mr. McKern, of the Bayard Dominick Expedition, called my attention to this.
18   For a similar division in Samoa see A. Krämer op. cit. Vol. I., p. 229.
19   A story of Tala-kai-faiki's incest with the Tui Tonga Fefine is probably of no importance in this connection.
20   For the migration of the Tui Lakepa to Tonga see A. M. Hocart, Early Fijians pp. 44-46 (J.R.A.I. Vol. XLIX Jan. to June, 1919). The linguistic argument on p. 46 is, perhaps, too sweeping. There are traces of the article te in Tongan, and it is in use in Niua Fo'ou, where also is found an exclamation pohopoho, which recalls the Lauan polopolo. The case of Niua Fo'ou, however, does not affect Mr. Hocart's argument, but suggests its close linguistic, and ethnic, affinity with Lau.
21   An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands, by John Martin, Edinburgh, 1827, Vol. II., chapter II.