Ethnology of Manihiki and Rakahanga
The Whakaheo Ariki
The Whakaheo Ariki
The term Whakaheo is said to be derived from waka (canoe) and heo (to surround). In the voyages made by the whole population between the two atolls, the ariki holding the title surrounded the canoes with his priestly and supernormal powers and thus insured safe transport. The ariki was therefore termed originally the “waka-heo.” In the course of time waka (canoe) became changed to whaka (the causative prefix), but the title of whakaheo has not changed materially in meaning. It now means “to cause to surround with priestly influence,” and its original application to the voyaging canoes is understood. Of the powers of the position it is said, “Te Whaka-heo, nona te tira.” (The Whaka-heo, his is the tira.) The tira is in contradistinction to the papa of the Whainga-aitu. Just as the papa refers to things terrestrial, so the tira refers to things celestial. The Whakaheo had power over the phenomena of nature. He could demonstrate his power by causing the lightning to flash, the thunder to sound, and the rain to fall. He thus controlled the winds and storms, and it was through this power that he was able to surround the voyaging canoes with his priestly protection and insure a safe passage between the atolls.
The Whakaheo trace their descent through Tianewa-matua, the first of the dual ariki who represented the Huku-tahu division of the people. Under his arikiship were the two tribes, Nu-matua and Tia-ngaro-tonga. Patrilineal descent and seniority decided succession to the title, and women could not succeed to it. The list of title-holders is given in Table 8.page 53
Table 8 is only a list, for the exact pedigrees from Tapaha-matua (2) to Takai-whakaheo (9) could not be obtained. It was assumed that sons followed fathers throughout, but this is not certain. A detailed pedigree from Takai-whakaheo which throws further light on the complications that sometimes arise with regard to succession was obtained. (See Table 9.) Christianity entered the atolls in 1849, and in this year Takai-whakeheo (9) was holding the title. lete was alive in 1898.
Takai-whakaheo (9) had a family of eight, the first child a daughter. Three sons followed. The senior son, Whakaheo-tama, went to Malden Island. During his absence his father died, and the next son in seniority, page 54 Tuteru-utua (10), who was on the spot, was raised to the title. When Whakaheo-tama (11) returned from Malden Island seniority asserted itself, and he was made ariki in place of his younger brother. Tuteru-utua, having had to relinquish office, left the country and went to Tonga. Later, he returned and settled down. Both Tuteru-utua and the younger brother, Tarau, died before Whakaheo-tama, the title-holder. Whakaheo-tama had no children of his own, but he adopted Takai-taupe, the eldest son of his younger brother, Tuteru-utua. Whakaheo-tama is stated to have wished to confer his title on Tairi-orometua, the native missionary who came from Raro-tonga to spread the gospel in 1849. Tairi rightly refused the honor. On the death of Whakaheo-tama, however, Tairi used the strong missionary influence that existed, and the title passed to Iete (12), the son of Whakaheo-tama's elder sister. Had either Tuteru-utua or his younger brother, Tarau, survived, the title would undoubtedly have gone to them. Under the circumstances the rightful heir according to the laws of succession was Takai-taupe, the son of Tuteru-utua, who had been adopted by Whakaheo-tama. Probably Iete was an elder of the church, but certain it is that missionary influence interfered, and succession took place through an elder sister's line. The title ended with lete. Had the title continued, it would have been interesting to learn whether it would have continued down the Iete line or returned to the Tuteru-utua line.