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Mangaian Society

Advent of the Tongaiti

Advent of the Tongaiti

During the period of Rangi a fleet of canoes containing a people termed Tongaiti-akareva-moana (Tongaiti-sailing-over-the-seas) landed on the south side of the island at Tamarua. The newcomers were guided by a priest, Te Ao-roa (The Long-line), so named because during the voyage be held in his hand a vast ball of string which he payed out as the canoe sailed. He had just reached the end of the line when, the canoe made Mangaia. Presumably he would have worked back along the line had he not discovered land. It was held that the ocean was smooth in those days, and the roughness of after ages was due to the shedding of blood and ceaseless wars which disturbed the balance of the elements. Te Ao-roa was the first high priest of the god Turaenga. Another member of the immigrant group was a chief named Te Tipi, the founder of the Tongaiti tribe.

The Tongaiti people brought with them the toa or ironwood tree (Casuarina) and the miro (Thespesia populnea). They made clubs from the ironwood, were very warlike, and soon attempted to take possession of the entire island by engaging the Ngariki in battle. The Ngariki reinforced their troops with warriors from the underworld, or, as Gill (6, p. 287) quotes moderns as interpreting it, they were reinforced by a reserve force hidden behind the rocks. The small force of Ngariki at first apparently deceived the Tongaiti and defeated them. The fugitives fled to the south, where they took refuge in the cave of Tautua. Three of the Ngariki were killed, from which was established, according to Gill (6, p. 288) "the ancient doctrine (ara taonga) that victory and chieftainship of all degrees can only be secured by first shedding the blood of some of the victorious party, so as to secure the favor of Rongo, the arbiter of the destinies of war." The page 37battle was fought at Te-rua-nonianga, in the Keia district. (See Table 5.) Vaioeve, a fugitive from the battle, was overtaken and slain. He was offered as a sacrifice to Rongo, and thus was established the custom of offering a human sacrifice to Rongo after every battle before peace could be cemented. Peace having been made, Rangi consented to the Tongaiti tribe's permanently occupying the southern part of the island where they had landed. The Tongaiti developed into a strong, warlike tribe. Their headquarters were at Tamarua, and the principal marae upon which they worshiped their god, Turenga, was Aumoana.

Gill (6, p. 287) alludes to the newcomers as driftaways from Tonga, but he had nothing to support this statement except the presence of the word Tonga in Tongaiti. Tongaiti has been shown to be the third son of Vatea and Papa, thus a younger brother of Rongo. In the distribution of property by Vatea among his five sons, Tongaiti was awarded bravery and military enterprise. As the Tongaiti were looked upon as the possessors of these qualities and the most stubborn fighters in Mangaia, there was an. implied association between the Tongaiti tribe and the god Tongaiti. Tongaiti, the god, is not a projection back from the tribe, for he is established in the Rarotongan pantheon and occurs also as Toahiti (To'ahiti) in Tahiti. Teuira Henry (14, p. 163) translates Toahiti as "Bordering-rock," under the mistaken idea that the glottal comma represents k, thus making the first part of the name toka (rock), whereas the elided consonant was ng. The Cook Islands form of the name shows that the ng was dropped in Tahitian dialect, and the Tahitian form shows that the h was dropped in the Cook Islands.