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Samoa Under the Sailing Gods


page 61


On the far-distant occasion of a Tongan invasion of Upolu, when numbers of Samoans had been enslaved and set to the abhorred task of making roads, a young chieftain roused them to revolt, and the Tongans were at length, in front of fierce fighting, driven into the sea. Preparing to depart, the leader of the invaders is supposed to have made an admission from which the name of Malietoa took its rise. Standing up in the stern of his canoe as it put to sea, he addressed himself to the Samoan leader as follows: "Un malie tau, ua Malie toa"—"I am pleased with your fighting, and satisfied with your bravery. I shall now leave Samoa, and return to Tonga to stay." On this the man thus addressed changed his name, as custom allowed, and adopted that of Malietoa—"Satisfied with your bravery"—in commemoration of the compliment paid to him.

The great Malietoa, Mataafa, and Muangututi'a families constitute the aristocracy of Samoa, to one of whom every chief is allied, no matter what his rank or title may be. The kingship of Samoa rested—and I suppose would still rest—in the title of O-le-Tupu. This comprised the possession by one individual of five distinct Ao, or names, each in the gift of a different important province. For a long period of years the possession of the title of O-le-Tupu was confined to members of the Muangututi'a family; but on the death of the last of that line the title remained vacant for a considerable interval; and was at length usurped by a war-priest of Manono, named Tamafainga. It was the death of this gentleman that had occasioned the good missionaries such wild rejoicing on their first arrival at Samoa.

Some time after Tamafainga's death, and the introduction of Christianity, the five titles were conferred upon Malietoa, who was the first of his name or family to attain to the kingship. His power, says Stair—from whom I obtained most of the foregoing information—although great, was less than that exercised during the reigns that had preceded him.

With the instillation of these titles it appears there was but little in the way of ceremony. The Ao of Aana was usually page 62bestowed first. Two or three deputies for that district would proceed to the residence of the chief selected, and

"whether they found him seated in conclave with friends and attendants in front of his dwelling, or amongst his family within, they immediately entered his presence, and, laying aside the usual etiquette, remained standing before him, whilst they proclaimed his accession to the title, each member of the deputation successively shouting five times running, with a loud voice, the war-cry of U-u-u, the last syllable being very much prolonged. This portion of the ceremony completed, the deputies immediately prepared to return; but they were usually requested to remain whilst some valuable mats were brought forth and laid before them. After this they returned to their companions to announce the fulfilment of their mission, leaving the chief to enjoy the congratulations of his friends upon his having acquired the much-coveted dignity."

After a week or two had elapsed, all the principal chiefs and orators of Aana would go in a body to pay their respects to the recipient of their Ao. They would take with them a quantity of food, a water-bottle made from a coconut-shell, the bundle of raffia used as a strainer, and the tanoa, or kava-bowl: for without kava-drinking no sort of ceremony can be conducted in Samoa. After the meeting the chief was publicly recognized as O-le-Tui Aana, or the Lord of Aana.

Aana having conferred its title, and the other provinces having followed suit, the chief then assumed the title of O-le-Tupu-o-Samoa, and shortly after commenced a circuit of the islands, to receive the homage and congratulations of the various districts. The announcement "Ua afio mai le Tupu"—"The King is approaching"—says Stair, caused great bustle and excitement in the different settlements, in way of preparation for the expected visit.

During the royal progress, he continued, the Tupu was accompanied by a large number of attendants and followers, who were accustomed to act in a very arbitrary manner: damaging the plantations through which they passed and laying violent hands upon whatever they chose to take, whether pigs, poultry, or vegetables.

The king, we are told, was preceded by his cupbearer, who page 63also carried a large conch-shell, which he frequently blew to announce the approach of the Tupu, who followed after at some distance on foot, accompanied by his principal wife, who usually carried a birdcage containing his manu alii or chief's bird. A considerable space then was allowed to intervene between the king and his retinue, who followed according to their rank. Large quantities of food—pigs, vegetables, fish—were presented at various periods to the king by the different districts, in return for which numbers of valuable fine mats were bestowed upon the families which had given the food. These mats were called tonga, and represented the currency of the islands.