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Mangaian Society



The native culture of Mangaia has been profoundly affected by Western culture for more than a century. The inferiority of many of the old customs and institutions was so impressed upon the minds of the Mangaians by their new teachers that they not only gave them up, but even tried to forget they had ever existed. When I asked an old man what the old people (ai metua) thought of a certain native institution, he replied, "Pe'ea taua e kite i te manako a te 'etene?" (How can you and I understand the thoughts of the heathen?)

The field worker is forced to seek for details in the printed pages of early observers, many of whom present biased pictures. The Rev. Wyatt Gill, a resident missionary who was able, because the old men alive in his time had grown up before the advent of the first missionaries in 1823, to record much of the history of Mangaia and many of her songs, wrote largely to interest the British public in the work of the London Missionary Society. In his eight published books (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12) there are more detailed stories about murders, human sacrifices, and cannibalism than about the more constructive institutions of Mangaian culture. Yet Gill has covered Mangaian history from the first native settlements to the advent of Christianity. I have used Gill's material freely in order to piece together the details scattered through his different books to form a continuous historical narrative which serves as the basis for my study of the rise of military power in Mangaian social organization.

In estimating the duration of occupation of Mangaia, Gill used lists of priests, though his informant, Mamae, had full pedigrees of the Ngati-Vara tribe. These pedigrees, supplied by Aiteina, are here used for the first time. Much valuable information compiled by the Ngati-Vara bards is contained in the songs given by Gill in connection with historical events. I have not only page 8introduced the hamzah into the texts, but for most of the songs quoted I have used my own more literal translations. The native text regarding the mythological origin from Vatea is given in full in this paper, both to show the points of difference from Gill's English record and to supply a native text for the use of students of linguistics.

I have also had access to a manuscript by Mamae, an informant of Gill and former pastor of the church at Mangaia.

A source book drawn principally from government records was compiled for my use under the direction of Sir Apirana Ngata. The information concerning the periods immediately preceding and following the proclaiming of the British Protectorate has been of invaluable assistance.