Arts and Crafts of the Cook Islands
Hunting is used here as a convenient heading under which to group the activities adopted for catching live creatures of the land for food. The scope was not large, as there were no large native animals. The introduced pig and dog were well looked after and had no chance of escaping to become wild in the small island areas that were fairly thickly populated. The introduced fowl, however, did take to the woods and enough became wild to motivate some method of catching them. The native land birds offered no incentive for hunting as a source of food supplies, as did the larger native birds of New Zealand and the pigeons of Samoa. The red feathers of the parakeet and the tail feathers of the tropic bird were sought after for the decoration of headdresses and the ornamentation of gods, but I have no details of the catching methods. Seabirds were probably procured at times, but no organized methods are known to me. Rats were caught as food in Mangaia. Land crabs were plentiful and in season were caught for food. Lizards were plentiful but were not eaten. Hunting methods narrow down to those used in catching wild fowl, rats, and land crabs.
Figure 155.—Fowl trap, a, set trap: 1, bent sapling acting as spring; 2, cord tied to end of sapling, with cross stick acting as trigger (3), and opened out below into noose (4); 5, arched stick stuck in ground; 6, crossbar at back of hoop a little above ground and kept in position by tension of trigger stick which rests behind it and upper part of arch; 7, three trip sticks resting on crossbar at one end and on ground at other; 8, bait, b, 1, sapling for spring; 2, cord; 3, trigger stick; 4, proximal end of running noose.
In the Cook Islands, rats (kiore) were eaten only on the island of Mangaia. The rats were pierced on a stick and singed ('ina'ina) over a fire, and were then scraped with a strip of bamboo and grilled on the stick until they were cooked. They were eaten by older people who considered them as a great delicacy. Children were not allowed to eat them because they would have their opportunity when they became adults. Owing to disapproval of missionaries and ridicule of neighbouring islanders, rats are no longer eaten in Mangaia. The following methods were once used to catch them on their known tracks.
- Poki: one man sat beside a rat track while others drove rats along the track. When a rat reached the awaiting ratter, he quickly brought down his hand upon the rat.
- Tata: this method is merely a variation of the poki method in which the ratter brought down both hands upon the fleeing game.
- Ko (digging): the holes of the rats were located and the exit hole was blocked with a stone. Digging with a pointed stick at the opening of the hole, the ratter worked along it, pushing the earth along the hole to prevent the escape of the rats. When the rats were reached, their heads were toward the exit hole and they were seized by their tails.
- Kete (basket): old women put bait into a basket which was pegged down on a rat track. The end of a cord threaded around the rim of the basket was held a little distance away and pulled to close it when rats entered.
- Pu'i kiore: a little clearing (pu'i kiore) was made in the bush to attract rats. A fine noose snare of coconut husk fiber tied to the stem of a breadfruit leaf was fixed to the ground in the clearing. A bait of candlenut kernels was laid on the breadfruit leaf to attract the rats, which were snared. After setting the snare, the following was recited:
Te kiore o te maunga, The rat from the mountain, Te kiore o te makatea, The rat from the makatea, Tera mai ta taua maunu Here is our bait E ki-o. O rat. Aua koe e kai tapa'ure Do not nibble suspiciously i ta taua maunu, at our bait, E ki-o. O rat.
Kio is an onomatopoeic word for the squeak of the rat, but in the incantation it is a playful term for the rat.
Catching Land Crabs
In Mangaia the term tautai, as applied to fishing, is applied to catching land crabs with the qualifying term 'enua (land), as tautai 'enua. Land crabs are divided into two groups—the large coconut crabs (unga) and a number of smaller crabs included under the general term karai'i. The smaller land crabs are of four kinds: tupa, papaka uta, 'irave, and mikia.
Coconut crabs are concealed in the daytime in holes under the rocks, but at night they come out in search of food and climb up rocks and trees. They are caught with the aid of coconut-leaf torches. The natives are expert at page 248grasping them by the back and avoiding their large claws which can inflict a severe bite. When seen on rock faces or trees out of reach, they are knocked down with a long pole. A strip of hibiscus bark is used to tie them in such a fashion that their large claws are pinioned to their sides. They are somewhat loathsome looking to the stranger because of their purplish color, but the cooked meat of the large claws is delicate and the oily part of the body is rich and highly esteemed.
All the smaller karai'i are eaten. There is a period of hibernation during which they remain in their holes on land, and they emerge in October and in February and make for the sea to shed their spawn (ami). The process of shedding the spawn is termed ruru i te ami. It is during the months of October to February that these crustaceans are sought as food and then only on the dark nights comprising the first to the fourth (o'iro to 'ainiama 'akaoti) of the lunar month. They are sought on the inland face of the makatea cliff by men with torches. They are knocked off with sticks, picked up, and placed in a basket carried around the waist. The process is termed uru karai'i.