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Mangaian Society



The single outrigger canoe forms a part of the equipment of every able-bodied man. The fishing canoes are usually small and used by a single person with paddle and without sail. The bluff bow and square-cut stern without an upward projection are post-European changes from the old type which still persists in Atiu, Mauke, and Mitiaro. The simpler form of the hull and the use of steel adzes render the task of the canoe builder easier than in ancient times. Almost every adult can make a canoe for his own use, but there are always experts who are ready to give advice or assistance as to the shape of the hull or the proper set of the outrigger.

Large canoes of the same build as the fishing canoes are made and owned by families or groups acting as a company. These are used for transporting cargo to and from the trading schooners and steamers which call at the island. The people prefer their own form of vessel to the European whaleboats used elsewhere. The company ownership results from the expense of obtaining suitable hull timber from Rarotonga. The canoes also require a crew. The company shares the expenses, which are beyond the means of a single person, and shares the profits of working the freight.

The old type of canoe made with stone adzes required greater care and skill in its manufacture than the modern vessel. The incentive to develop the highest grade of the canoe-building craft was lacking in Mangaia owing to the rare use made of ocean-going vessels. When a sporadic need arose craftsmen were found to handle the situation, but for everyday life the scope of craftsmanship did not extend beyond the building of fishing canoes. Skilled craftsmen, when requisitioned, could command consideration for their services in food and property.