Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Mangaian Society

Ambition of the Te-kama

Ambition of the Te-kama

In the time of Te Rau, third priest of Motoro, another group of people under the name Te-kama had developed into a tribe with ambitions for temporal power. Gill (12, p. 45) states that they originally came from the Vaiiria district in Tahiti. They had first landed at Atiu but were driven off by the warlike people of that island. They came on to Mangaia and were allowed to settle in the Karanga district. Probably allied to the Ngati-Tane, they married women of the island and, having increased in numbers, began to plot for more power. They decided to accomplish by treachery what might be in doubt through number:

The Te-kama sent out invitations to the leading men of the districts to assist them in weeding a large taro plantation named Puamata close to the inland cliffs of the makatea wall. The Te-kama were to provide a feast for their guests and the weeding was to be done by moonlight to avoid the heat of theday. Acceptance of the invitations was never in doubt. A great demonstration was made of the preparations for the feast and large numbers of coconut leaflet baskets were plaited to provide the guests with receptacles in which their shares of the feast could be carried away. The preparations were merely a blind, as the food for the guests consisted of pieces of green wood carefully wrapped in green leaves and placed in the ovens with much ostentation.

The guests arrived in small parties. The Te-kama, who were weeding, received each group with expressions of joy and danced the war dance (reru taki) as an official welcome. During the performance they surrounded their guests and smote them on the head, at the same time drowning their death cries in the prolonged yells of the war dance. The bodies of the victims were pressed down in the soft mud of the taro patch for concealment. All went well for Te-kama until an approaching party of guests heard the death yells of some victims who had not succumbed during the war dance. Thus warned, they fled to spread the alarm, and the scheme of the Te-kama was rendered incomplete.

The men of the alarmed tribes assembled the next day under Tirango, a noted warrior of Tongaiti. They attacked the expectant Te-kama where they were entrenched between taro swamps with a path of escape up the makatea cliff at their back. The Te-kama were routed, and in fleeing up the steep rocky path they threw away their heavy clubs. The survivors of the Te-kama gathered again under their leader, but, having lost their ironwood clubs, had to fashion new ones out of a softer wood (mariri), page 44 owing to the need for rapid arming. They offered battle again in the Ivirua district near Putoa but were again defeated. The bad quality of their weapons is given as an excuse for the large number killed.

Again the Te-kama remnants offered battle near Maungarua, but they were out-maneuvered by another party of the enemy, which cut off their retreat while they were hotly engaged in front. The men were practically all slain. The women were spared and married into the Tongaiti tribe. The few children who survived were taken into their mother's tribe (12, p. 48).

In telling the story of Te-Kama Gill (12, pp. 45-48), calls the first engagement the "Battle of Rangiue." He lists all the battles against the Te-kama (12, p. 308), but the order and names are confusing. He gives Parainui as the sixth battle in Mangaia, in which Te-kama were defeated by Tirango. He then interpolates the slaying of Ngati-Tane at the "first oven" of men at Tutaeuu Putoa as the seventh battle, whereas in another place (12, p. 48), he states that the destruction of Te-kama took place after the first oven. He then gives Rangiue as the eighth battle and the last Te-kama battle as the ninth, fought at Areutu, in Ivirua.

In the three battles, Tirango was the leader of the combined forces of Tongaiti and Ngariki. Though he was the real military dictator who won the battles, the title of the recognized Lord of Mangaia went to a member of the ancient Ngariki tribe whose name is not recorded. The series of murders that took place at the taro swamp were not regarded as a battle, so the sixth battle termed Parainui must have been the battle next day which Gill (12, p. 47) called "Rangiue." The next battle, fought with mariri spears, should be the real Rangiue, the seventh battle on the Mangaian list. The final battle of Areutu is thus the eighth, and all three battles precede the first fiery oven in which the Ngati-Tane were consumed.