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Mangaian Society

Military Rise of the Tongaiti

Military Rise of the Tongaiti

The Tongaiti tribe had continued to occupy the southern district of Tamarua. Though they worshiped the lizard god Matarau, they were credited with deriving their military prowess from the god Tongaiti, who had been apportioned bravery (toa) and military enterprise (vaingaere) by Vatea. Though defeated in their first battle against the Ngariki shortly after their landing, defeat did not lessen their desire for military power. They produced war leaders of note in Tirango and One. The alliance between One and Panako had prevented their taking the supreme military chieftainship which One's successful battles entitled them to hold.

On the death of One, his nephew Ngauta succeeded to the military leadership of the Tongaiti. Te-karaka, sometimes confounded with the chief of that name exiled by Aeru in the reign of Panako, fomented trouble against Panako on the grounds that but for the Tongaiti he and his people would have starved in the cave of Tangiia. Ngauta assumed the leadership of the Tongaiti with the full intention of enjoying any power to which subsequent campaigns might entitle him.

Ruaika, still holding the office of Inland High Priest, made another bid for military supremacy with his division of the Ngariki tribe. He fought the Tongaiti under Ngauta at the sixteenth battle of Te-rua-kere-tonga in the Karanga district. He suffered defeat and was killed by Ngauta. Among page 51the fugitives was the original Mautara, who lived in the rocks and became a notorious cannibal (12, pp. 103-105). Ngauta after his victory assumed the title of Lord of Mangaia.

The machinations of Te-karaka against Panako also came to a head. Panako, supported by Tata, was attacked at the seventeenth battle fought at Arakoa, in the Keia district. Panako and many of his tribe were slain by Ngauta, who thus settled his right to the supreme military cheiftainship and assumed the government of the island. Thus the title of Lord of Mangaia definitely passed from the Ngariki tribe to the leader of the victorious party in war.

Though Ngauta had definitely obtained the mangaia (office of Lord of Mangaia) at the battle of Arakoa, he evidently still had qualms about the official title, for he allowed a chief named Taia to exercise a nominal holding with him.

Ngauta subsequently gained seven more victories and was regarded as invincible. His next battle was against the Teipe tribe which was a subdivision of the Tongaiti. The Teipe under Maruataiti were defeated in the eighteenth battle of Auruia in the Tavaenga district. After this, Ngauta seems to have dispensed with Taia and enjoyed the supreme chieftainship without assistance.

The Akatauira division of Ngariki under Motu-oro tried conclusions at Iotepui (nineteenth battle) in the Tavaenga district and were defeated. At this time, Akunukunu had succeeded Paeke and become fifth priest of Motoro.

The next battle (twentieth) was fought at Punanga in the Tamarua district. The. defeated people are given as the Tuma tribe under Tiauru (12, p. 309). The Tuma were evidently a section of the Ngariki, for Tuka's war dirge (12, p. 82) shows that Tiauru was seeking revenge against the Tongaiti for his father who was buried in the taro patch at Kumekume where the Ngariki met disaster at the hands of One and Panako. Ngauta's sixth mangaia was against the Ngariki at Te-rua-nonianga (twenty-first battle) in the Keia district.

The Teipe tribe, after their disagreement with the Tongaiti at the battle of Auruia, had been united with it in friendly alliance. In the latter part of Ngauta's sway, someone maliciously injured the yam vines growing in front of Ngauta's house and fouled his drinking pool. Ngauta accused the Teipe and sent a challenge to their chief Are-pee. The battle was fought at Ikuari (twenty-second battle) in the Keia district, and the Teipe were routed. Among those who escaped was Inangaro, who, with some companions, took refuge in the cave of Tungapi. Their unfortunate betrayal is related by Gill in detail (12, pp. 88-98). Gill's battle list (12, p. 310) gives Terea as recognized Lord of Mangaia by consent of Ngauta. This was Ngauta's last success. He thus acquired seven mangaia but did not officially hold the last page 52one. Ngauta was a powerful man, and the spear he used in battle was said to be 30 feet long.

The end of the Tongaiti supremacy came about by an organized plot:

Among the fugitives from the twentieth battle of Punanga were Kauate and his son Reketia, members of the Ngariki tribe. Though exiles, they had many friends who supplied them with food. One morning they slew the notorious cannibal Mautara who was foraging in a taro swamp. Akunukunu, priest of Motoro, had been slain by the Tonga-iti, and his son Rongo-i-mua held office as the sixth priest of Motoro. Kauate and Reketia were accustomed to pay visits to the priest of their god and hold conferences with him and Ngangati, a Ngariki warrior, as to means whereby the Ngariki supremacy could be restored. At these midnight meetings, the priest took to eating human flesh and was nicknamed Mautara, after the cannibal who had been slain by his visitors. One night under the influence of kava, Mautara informed his visitors that the supremacy of the worshipers of Motoro could only be restored if Kauate himself would make the supreme sacrifice by seeking a violent death at the hand of his foes. Kauate, to insure the success desired, purposely took a bunch of green bananas belonging to the enemy and buried it near at hand to ripen. Kauate was the tallest man in Mangaia, and the height at which the bananas had been wrenched off indicated the thief to the enraged owner. Search revealed the ripening fruit near at hand. On the fifth day, after the time required for ripening bananas, Kauate openly went to the pit, well knowing that the enemy would be on the watch. The father begged his son not to accompany him but to live. The son refused to leave his father, and both Kauate and Reketia were slain by their waiting foes. In this way the Ngariki were assured of the success of their subsequent plot, for the wishes of their god Motora had been complied with.

This magnificent sacrifice by a chief of Kauate's high rank is such an outstanding incident that the words of the fête song composed by Tangarerua in commemorating the story are worth quoting (12, p. 107):

Reketia urunga i Mataira Reketia slain at Mataira,
Kauate te 'are o Ngariki. Kauate, chief of the house of Ngariki,
Kua motu koe ia Motoro, ka ta e - ! Thou art slain through Motoro, killed,
O Ngariki 'oki te puanga. That Ngariki might revive.
Pua i Tava'enga, o te Tikute, Born in Tavaenga, [son] of Tikute,
O Ngati-Marua: Belonging to the tribe from the Shades,
Te ivi matakeinanga ia Ngariki e - [Head of] the people of Ngariki.
No'o i Ivirua, kopu tangata o Motoro, Ye lived at Ivirua, the tribe of Motoro,
Amu te tuarangi e- Like Amu of ancient times.
Ei tauka ia Ngariki, Prospective ruler of Ngariki,
O Vaeruarangi au e - I am of Vaeruarangi.

Note: In the last line the singer states that he is of the Vaeruarangi division and thus claims kinship with the heroes of the song.

In the plot carried out under the leadership of Ngangati all the enslaved Ngariki arose at a given time and slew their masters of Tongaiti. The surprise was successful. Ngauta was slain by his nephew, and thus the rule of the Tongaiti came to an end.