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Mangaian Society

Coming of the Ngati-Tane

Coming of the Ngati-Tane

After the arrival of the Tongaiti and still in the period of Rangi, another group of voyagers arrived on the east coast from Iti (Tahiti). They were worshipers of the god Tane. Gill (12, p. 65) states that Te Rangai was the original founder of the existing tribe of Tane and that he came from Tahiti. Other chiefs of the original canoes were Vairanga, Kaki, and Mataroi, who are mentioned in the following song composed by Tuka (12, p. 59):

Kua kake te uri a Vairanga The descendants of Vairanga arrive,
O ngati Kaki, te takina i te ra nei. The tribe of Kaki now prosper.
Takina i te ra ia 'Iti The sun shines upon [the people from] Tahiti,
Te ra ia Roi, ei tukirua Upon Mataroi, despite the two attacks
I te pou ta'i o Tane e, reia. Against the single post of Tane.

Some confusion exists as to the period of Mataroi, for he is also stated to have been companion of Ue, a much later arrival from Tahiti (12, p. 58).

Traditions from Aitutaki, Atiu, Mitiaro, and Mauke show that waves of page 38people from Tahiti descended upon the coasts of the islands and fought with the people already in occupation. In some islands they obtained a footing and became merged with the local population, but in other islands they were driven away. They are everywhere alluded to as the Aitu or Ngati-Tane, worshipers of Tane. Tahitian tradition shows that after the god Tane was superseded by Oro in Raiatea, the cult of Oro spread to Tahiti and other islands. It is probable that adherents of Tane who refused to go over to Oro migrated to the near-by Cook Islands. Aitutaki, Atiu, Mitiaro, and Mauke acted as an intercepting fringe to Rarotonga, and the Ngati-Tane never reached that island. The canoes of the Ngati-Tane that directed their course farther south arrived at Mangaia. Some were held to have come on to Mangaia after being driven from other islands of the Cook archipelago, upon which they had failed to establish themselves. There appear to have been three distinct incursions of Ngati-Tane people. The first wave came in the period of Rangi.

The god Tane was worshiped under a number of different names, but all worshipers of Tane were regarded as belonging to the same tribe. The Mangaian myth gives Tane-papa-kai (Tane-piler-up-of-food) as the fourth son of Vatea. It would be inconsistent to admit that this god was introduced by the newcomers from Tahiti, as he was stated to be a local production. Tane-papa-kai must have been later accepted by Ngati-Tane, for his image in ironwood was among the four forms of Tane kept in the god house. The next Tane was Tane-ngaki-au (Tane-striving-for-power), who was worshiped at the marae of Maputu by the second wave of Ngati-Tane. Gill (6, p. 30) further complicates matters by saying that Tane-ngaki-au was a brave warrior who gave important assistance to Rangi in the first battle fought against the Tongaiti at Te-rua-nonianga, and as a reward received the chieftainship of Ivirua. He was subsequently deified by his family, and the marae of Maputu was erected to him. Tane-ngaki-au must, therefore, have belonged to the Ngati-Tane visitors and, to reconcile the statements, a first wave of Ngati-Tane must have landed in Mangaia before Tongaiti fought the first battle of Te-rua-nonianga. Under what name Tane was worshiped by the first Ngati-Tane settlers is thus not apparent. The priest of Tane who accompanied the first wave from Tahiti was Turuia.

The Ngati-Tane were also known as the Aitu (God) tribe on Mangaia, and on the other islands of the Cook archipelago. They evidently established themselves and conformed to the laws and customs that had been laid down by the Ngariki tribe. While still in the period of Rangi, disaster overtook the Ngati-Tane:

Tui, the original Shore High Priest, died and was succeeded by his son Tamatapu. The Ngati-Tane, living on the east coast, prepared for a feast in honor of the gods by page 39fishing. In the day they were all in the sea, and at night they slept in the large cave of Te-ana-nui (Big-cave). Having caught a large turtle, custom demanded that it should be taken to the Shore High Priest, Tamatapu, at the marae of Orongo on the west coast. About a mile from the marae, the two carriers of the turtle perceived a fragrant smell and one of them made a disparaging remark about Tamatapu, little thinking that it was heard by Tamatapu, who had concealed himself on hearing approaching footsteps. The incident is mentioned by the warrior poet Koroa in one of his many death laments:

Kua 'akarongo te ariki Tamatapu, The high-chief Tamatapu heard,
"Aua e kai i te ua i te ika, I te 'onu a Rongo; "Why should he eat the fish, the turtle of Rongo;
"Kua, va'ia te 'aunga puariri paoa, "Ah, the fragrance of sweet-scented flowers comes,
No taua tae ra." From that fool."

Tamatapu in a towering rage went to his mother's tribe, Te Tui-kura (The Red-marked), in the southwest where they resided. He called them together with his triton shell trumpet and told of the insult. With candlenut torches concealed in scooped-out green calabashes, a war party under the warrior chief, Matataukiu, set out at night for Te-ana-nui to slay the Ngati-Tane. In passing through the district of Tavaenga they slew Turuia, the priest of Tane, by clubbing him in his sleep. This was the propitiatory offering to Rongo to insure success, and the next day the victim was laid on the marae of Rongo. In the district of Karanga they slew two more chiefs of the Ngati-Tane. The cave of Te-ana-nui was blockaded and the Ngati-Tane within slaughtered. One man, Papakea, escaped from the cave but was killed on the reef. Another named Te-rua-tonga obtained exit through a hole in the roof, and the guard, recognizing him as an old friend, allowed him to escape. This massacre was looked upon as a surprise and not counted as a battle. The details are given by Gill (12, pp. 17-23).

The remnants of the Ngati-Tane and a number of friends were gathered together by Ivi-tu, a nephew of Rangi. To the number of 140, they gave battle to Matataukiu and Tamatapu at Tangikura in the Veitatei district. The leader and most of the warriors were killed and the first wave of Ngati-Tane almost annihilated. Two fugitives, Te-moa-akaui and his son, Uri-ite-pito-kura, escaped to the makatea in Tavaenga. Their history is related by Gill (12, pp. 24-31). Tangikura constituted the third battle in Mangaian annals (Table 5). The victors are bracketed in the records as Rangi and Tamatapu. The battle constituted the first battle defeat of Ngati-Tane, but the tribe was later reinforced by fresh arrivals from Tahiti.