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Mangaian Society

Ngariki Supremacy

page 48

Ngariki Supremacy

It is recorded that in the battles against Te-Kama, though Tirango of the Tongaiti tribe was the leader of the war parties, the office of Lord of Mangaia was held by a member of the Ngariki tribe. In the two ovens in which Ngati-Tane were slain, the actual leaders and subsequently recognized Lord of Mangaia were both members of the Ngariki tribe.

After the second oven, trouble arose between the Ngariki and the warlike Tongaiti. The Ngariki were led by Ruaika, the fifth Inland High Priest. In a battle fought at Vaikakau in the Veitatei district, the Tongaiti were defeated and their leader, the famous Tirango, was slain. Probably because Ruaika held the position of hereditary High Priest, the position of Lord of Mangaia was given to Te-nau, another member of the Ngariki.

After the battle Vaikakau, the eleventh battle, the Tongaiti sought revenge under the leadership of One. The twelfth battle was fought at Taaonga in the Veitatei district and Ruaika was defeated. Panako, a high chief of the defeated party, with forty warriors, took refuge in the cave of Tangiia, a cavern formed by the exit waters of Lake Tiriara. Gill (12, p. 309) states that the title of Lord of Mangaia was held by One.

Much confusion concerning the Ngariki exists in the historical narrative of this period. It is evident from Gill's account of Panako (12, pp. 72-82) that the Tongaiti had been assisted in the battle against Ruaika by a section of the Ngariki which blockaded Panako's retreating force in the cave of Tangiia and were evidently intent on annihilating them:

A fence of stakes was driven into the lake bottom at the entrance of the cave to prevent the nightly excursions of Panako's men in search of food. A strict guard was also maintained around the lake. Though Panako and One had been on different sides in the last battle, their ancestors had been on good terms. Panako, in desperation, determined to seek One's assistance on the strength of the ancient friendship. On a wet day when the guards were keeping in shelter, Panako managed to get through the blockading fence and, disguised as a woman, eluded the guards. He reached One safely and was promised succor. Again Panako eluded the guards and reached his men to unfold the plan and the night fixed for the relief. In the consultation that ensued, it was decided that the next man in rank to Panako should offer himself as a sacrifice to Rongo to insure success. This happened to be Tiora, the priest of Tane, who was present among the fugitives.

A contradiction is again apparent. Tiroa is listed as the priest of Tane immediately preceding Te-punga (12, p. 313). Te-punga has been given as one of the fugitives of the Ngati-Tane who escaped from the second oven and also as a contemporary of Mautara, who does not come into the historical narrative until a much later time. It is evident, therefore, that Te-punga, Te Vaki, and Te-Ko were the offspring of people who escaped from the second oven and that they were not there personally.

page 49

Tiroa accepted the supreme sacrifice demanded of him by going out openly the next day among his enemies and allowing himself to be slain. His body was laid on the altar of Rongo. His enemies did not realize that the victim had previously dedicated himself to a specific purpose that would lead to their defeat.

The day after, One with his Tongaiti forces arrived at Lake Tiriara with the ostensible purpose of assisting in the blockade. They took up a position in a cave near the opening that led to Panako's retreat. In the night they played the game of pitching wooden discs (tupe) and danced war dances at intervals. Ngariki stragglers visited the Tongaiti cave from time to time to see what was going on. These men were promptly dispatched by One's forces. Panako and his men emerged from their refuge with the bodies blackened and white bands of bark cloth wrapped around their heads to distinguish them. They joined the Tongaiti and assisted them in cutting off the Ngariki stragglers. The bodies of the dead were trampled down out of sight in the taro path known as Kumekume. In this way, the blockading force of Ngariki was largely disposed of and the remnant fled for shelter to the makatea.

Gill (12, p. 79) says that this was the first time that the ancient tribe of Ngariki took refuge on the rocks. The battle is termed Kumekume, the thirteenth on the list. It occurred in the period of Te Rau, third priest of Motoro.