Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Mangaian Society

Restoration of the Ngariki

page 53

Restoration of the Ngariki

The rise of the Ngariki consisted of a number of simultaneous murders, and though not dignified by a common name, it is counted as the twenty-third battle. The flower of the Tongaiti were slain and the tribe never regained prominence. Though Ngangati was the virtual victor, he allowed the mangaia to be held by Tuanui.

Iro and Tuavera of the defeated tribe planned to kill the leaders of the Ngariki, but one Tia revealed the plot and the ambuscade failed. The plotters would have been put to death if the god Motoro speaking through his priest Mautara had not announced that "the sacred clothing of the gods must not be defiled with human blood." As making the bark cloth known as tikoru mata'iapo," as thick as cardboard," for use in clothing the wooden images of the gods, the great chiefs, and the priests, called for a technique known only to Pati, the priest of the Tongaiti, the interpretation of the fiat of Motoro was that Pati could not be killed. The restriction was made to include his fellow tribesmen. Tuanui, in his position of supreme Lord of Mangaia, ordered that the remnants of the Tongaiti be exiled from the island.

Two large double canoes were built in Tuavera. They were 60 feet long and were provisioned. The movable property of the exiles was also taken on board. During the whole time of preparation, the Tongaiti were not molested in any way. A farewell feast was given by their friends on the morning of departure. One canoe was commanded by Iro and Tuavera and the other by Akaina and Pati. Just before leaving, Iro called aside his nephew Are-kare and exhorted him to avenge his expulsion by splitting up the Ngariki into hostile factions. Are-kare's mother was the sister of Iro, and Are-kare thus remained on Mangaia with his father's tribe. Taora, who remained behind at the request of his uncle Manini, was slain by Tuanui as a sacrifice to Rongo. According to Rarotongan sources, the canoes reached Rarotonga and the exiles settled at Titikaveka on the southern side of the island, where their descendants are to be found to this day.

Are-kare obeyed the wishes of his exiled uncle by deliberately stirring up strife among the chiefs of the Ngariki and so splitting them into jealous factions. After some years of Tuanui's reign, Are-kare with a number of friends made a night attack upon those concerned in the expulsion of Iro. The killing of a number of people with powerful friends led the Ngariki to divide into two parties who sought battle at Maueue (twenty-fourth battle) in the Tamarua district. Tuanui, Are-kare, and others to the number of 60 warriors were slain. Among them was Ronga-ariki, whose father Una was an expert in carving and sennit work and who had arrived at Mangaia on a drift canoe from Tahiti (12, p. 222). In the battle Rongo-ariki's son, Rori, stood behind him, spear in hand, to fill his father's place should he fall. In the rout which followed, father and son escaped to their house with pursuers hot on their trail. The father urged Rori and his other children to flee to the makatea. Rori escaped while his father nobly engaged the enemy and thus delayed their movements to give his son the start that carried him to safety. The expert skill of the master craftsman, Una, had been taught to Rori, who occupied his many years of exile in the raei kere (black makatea) on the eastern side of the island in making stone adzes and other objects.

This story of the "exiles" is given more fully by Gill (12, pp. 130-142). "Rori, the Hermit" is one of the popular stories of Mangaia (12, pp. 222-239). Tauii was the leader on the victorious side and he assumed the supreme chieftainship (12, p. 310). Ngangati, the warrior chief of Ngariki, does not appear in the narrative on either side.

page 54

The twenty-fifth battle was fought between the Ngariki under Ngangati and the Vaeruarangi under Namu at Ariki in the Veitatei district. The Ngariki were victorious and Ngangati assumed the title of Lord of Mangaia for the first time. Three days later (12, p. 310) another battle was fought by Ngangati against the small tribe of Tangiia on the same battlefield of Ariki (twenty-sixth battle). The origin of the Tangiia tribe is not clear, but they worshiped Tangiia, the fifth son of Vatea and Papa. The tribe lived on the shores of Lake Tiriara, where their marae was situated. A former priest named Tangiia had demanded from Marere, a former chief of the Akatauira division of the Ngariki, his little son to be eaten with his bowl of kava. To save his son, Marere poisoned the priest by mixing three vegetable poisons in his kava. Ngangati was a descendant of Marere. On taking up his abode in the district, he determined to exterminate the remnant of the Tangiia tribe, whose leader at this time was Tangi-kaara, a direct descendant of the priest Tangiia.

Ngangati, therefore, called a feast at which kava was to be drunk and invited the Tangiia people to it. The kava was prepared, a host sitting by each guest. On the signal to drink, each Ngariki host seized his guest by the hair as he lowered his head and killed him. Tangi-kaara, however, refused to drink at Ngangati's invitation. When Ngangati seized his hair, Tangi-kaara, a man of giant size and strength, ran toward the lake with his assailant clinging to him. As he was about to leap into the lake to drown his assailant with himself, Ngangati let go and Tangi-kaara escaped. (See 12, pp. 143-148.)

This massacre was regarded as a battle and counted as Ngangati's second mangaia.

A third battle was fought at Ariki by Ngangati, and a tribe named Kanae was almost exterminated. There seems to have been some connection between the Tangiia and Kanae tribes, for they are grouped together in a death song composed by Koroa. (12, p. 147). Tangaka, the cannibal (12, pp. 108-114), was a member of the Kanae tribe and probably fled for refuge to the rocks after this engagement instead of an earlier one, as stated by Gill (12, p. 310).

These three victorious battles fought at Ariki by Ngangati firmly restored the Ngariki to power.

The Ariki battles were followed by an attempt of the Tongaiti under Kotuku, father of Ngauta, to defeat the Ngariki. The battle took place at Te-au-papa (twenty-eighth battle) in Veitatei, and Ngangati added a fourth mangaia to his list. Another battle took place at Te-au-papa (twenty-ninth battle) in which the Vaeruarangi tribe under Kaoa tried conclusions and failed. This formed the last of Ngangati's successes. He was regarded as a brave warrior and held the mangaia five times.

During their period of supremacy the Ngariki fought among themselves and twice against the Vaeruarangi who were descended from the same stock.

page 55

The fall of the Ngariki was brought about by Akatara, a nephew of Ngangati. While his uncle was tending his yam vines one evening, Akatara killed him treacherously. Probably some of Ngangati's closest supporters were similarly disposed of, for this incident is alluded to as a night surprise and the thirtieth official battle takes its name from Aua in the Keia district where the slaying took place. Akatara declared himself Temporal Lord and thus held the mangaia.

Akatara's chief adviser, Aro, was a man as treacherous as himself. Mau-tara, the sixth priest of Motoro, had a family of six sons of whom the first two were on the way to become warriors of renown. Aro told Akatara that if he wished to hold the mangaia for any length of time, he must dispose of Mautara and his two sons. A plot was hatched to murder them at a feast to which they should be invited. (See 12, pp. 160-167.)

A woman named Karua overheard the plot. Her sister was married to Raumea, the second son of Mautara. The next night she slipped away from a fishing party, made her way over the makatea track, and reached Raumea's house. Laying a large fish before Raumea, she told him it would be the last he would ever eat if he accepted the invitation to Akatara's feast. She regained her party with a satisfactory explanation of her absence.

When the food for the feast had been gathered, Aro went round with the invitations. Both Mautara and his eldest son Te Uanuku accepted, but when Aro reached Raumea's residence he found Raumea with his foot bandaged up with rolls of bloodstained bark cloth. The story given was that Raumea's foot had been pierced by the sharp, circular-edged shield guarding the hole of an ungakoa, a marine animal that is found on the coral reef. Aro expressed a wish to see the wound so the matted bandages were slowly unwrapped. Raumea, however, begged them to desist before the last layer was reached, as he was in great pain. From the dried blood and the offensive odor that arose from the bandages, Aro was satisfied that the foot was really injured and that Raumea could not attend the feast. He did not suspect that the blood was from freshly killed rats and that a decayed rat was included under the last layers for his deception. The guests duly arrived and the feast was postponed as long as possible on the chance that Raumea would turn up. Akatara and Aro realized that it was useless to kill Mautara and Te Uanuku while the warrior Raumea remained alive. As Raumea did not appear, the plot was deferred for another occasion.

Mautara and his sons had had a warning, however, and their only chance of surviving was to dispose of Akatara. A return feast was accordingly prepared at Tapiti in the Keia district. As the Mautara family was small, they drew reinforcements from the fugitives of the previous battles who were only too eager for a chance to revive their fallen fortunes. The site of the feast was cleared, and banana and coconut leaves spread over the ground. Upon them the food was heaped, but weapons were concealed underneath. As the guests arrived, they were courteously invited to be seated, and the hosts arranged themselves to sit beside the individual guests. Akatara came last of all to make an impressive arrival befitting his high rank. As he approached, Te Uanuku advanced to greet him saying, "Ua ta'ata'a rava koe e tao i to mangaia." (You are putting on overmuch style, O, Brother-in-law, with your rank.) The hosts were scraping taro with pipi shells and they awaited Te Uanuku's next words as the signal for attack. Te Uanuku, as he approached Akatara, said, "Era te pipi ra, e mau." (There are the pipi shells, grasp.) At the same time he seized Akatara by the hair and, jerking him to the ground, killed him. Simultaneously the hosts turned on their guests and slew them all save a single survivor.

page 56

Among the supporters of the Mautara family was Kanune, the Shore High Priest. He had been supported in his elevation to the title by Mautara's two sons, in order, as the astute father told them, that he might sound the drum of peace after their victories. Kanune and Raumea were both men of enormous strength. Before the attack, Raumea had on his right a guest of whom he was rather fond. When the signal was given, he seized the neighbor on his left by the head and swung it under his left thigh under which he pinned him to the ground. He did not touch his friend but waited to see what he would do. When he saw him groping under the leaves for a weapon as he had seen the other hosts do, Raumea grasped him also by the head and pinned it to the ground under his right thigh. Kanune, having killed two men and seeing Raumea still seated with two struggling men, picked up his victims and throwing them in front of Raumea said, with a swaggering air, "O Raumea, mine are both dead." Raumea killed his men, but Kanune's words rankled in his mind. He saw that Kanune was boastful and would be a possible danger in the future.

The massacre at Tapati ranks as the thirty-first battle, but it did not carry the decision of the supreme chieftainship, though Akatara was killed. It formed a preliminary skirmish to the battle that followed.

Mautara mustered his family and their adherents and marched over with his small force to Ivirua to give battle to the Ngariki. The Ngariki, though dispirited at the death of Akatara, had mustered a large army which stood eight deep instead of the usual two or four deep. This gave rise to the expression, koapa kaka'o (like the reeds in the walls of a house). The Ngariki were under the command of Ruanae.

Though the Mautara party was small, both Te Uanuku and Raumea were tried warriors who had proved their prowess at the battle of Maueue. The Ngariki preliminary war dance shook the ground, but Mautara coolly exhorted his men, informing them that it was either victory or the cooking ovens. The usual formation in battle was for the two sides to arrange themselves opposite one another in parallel lines. Owing to their small number, however, Mautara's force advanced down the slope in column and suddenly fell upon the enemy center, cutting them in two. After a desperate battle, the Ngariki were defeated and the fugitives with Raunae sought shelter in the Cave of the Tern (Te Ana Kakaia). The opening of the cave is some distance up the cliff side and can be approached only by a narrow track, thus rendering it impregnable to attack. (See 12, pp. 166-167.)

This defeat of the Ngariki is listed as the battle of Arira (the thirty-second in Mangaian history). In this battle the official priest of Motoro occupied a unique position, fighting against his employers. The Ngariki, on the other hand, could not kill Mautara, as they would have forever cut themselves off from communication with their tribal god. Mautara himself knew this and went through the battle without a weapon but with an enormous coconut leaflet fan. Gill (12, p. 310) states that the tribes defeated in the battle of Arira were the Tuokura and the Teipe. The Tuokura may have been a section of the Ngariki, and some members of the Teipe division of the Tongaiti tribe may have been present. The main forces, on the enemy side, however, were Ngariki, who were determined to avenge the death of Akatara and retain their military supremacy. After their defeat, the mangaia passed to the victors. Mautara himself preferred to remain priest of Motoro, page 57and the supreme chieftainship was conferred on his eldest son, Te Uanuku. Through the miscarriage of Aro's plot to murder Mautara and his two sons, this priestly family not only ended the military power of the Ngariki but also forced upon themselves the acceptance of the temporal power that had by this time become identified with military success.