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Mangaian Society

District and Subdistrict Chiefs

District and Subdistrict Chiefs

During the reign of Pangemiro the island divided into six districts (puna). At the installation of the Temporal Lord, the district chiefs (pava) were appointed from among the successful warriors. The recognition that the position came through prowess in battle is shown by two phrases referring to the right of the pava to his position, "va'arua taiki" (hole made by a taiki weapon), and "ara to'anga," which literally means "the path by which the position came," but which my informants translated as "a scar from battle." Of the district of Vaitatei it was said, "No Motu'anga te va'arua (Motuanga had the spear wound), and of Keia, "No Muraa'i te ara to'anga" (Muraai had the scar). Thus Motuanga and Muraai, both adopted into Ngati-Tane on their tama-vahine (mothers') side, received distinct chieftainship through wounds and scars, either figurative or actual, obtained in fighting on the Ngati-Tane side in the battle against the Ngati-Vara.

The districts were divided up into five to ten subdistricts (tapere), each of which was ruled over by a subdistrict chief. There was no area of land specifically associated with the office of pava. Theoretically, the Temporal Lord selected the six pava, and each pava selected the chiefs to rule over the subdistricts under him. As he selected from his own relations, it was his wound (va'arua) or scar (ara to'anga) that gave to the subdistrict chiefs their right to authority. The pava, however, usually took control of one of the subdistricts and named himself in connection with it.

Each subdistrict had its name and was governed by a chief, whose title, kairanga-nuku (kairanga, "eating"; nuku, "land"), signified that the chief ate of the produce of the land in the subdistrict and also that the people ate through him. He saw to the distribution of the taro lands within the subdistrict. When he took office, he evicted the members of defeated tribes and relegated them to the uplands or the makatea. He might exercise compassion by leaving the conquered certain portions in the taro lands. He helped to readjust distribution on the death of landholders and settled disputes with regard to lands. An injured person could appeal to the pava.

The kairanga-nuku are now referred to as the 'ui rangatira (assembly of chiefs) of the pava. The pava and his 'id rangatira meet to settle disputes page 125regarding land and other matters of district importance. They are responsible for the policy of the district. The chiefly assembly of the Veitatei puna, with six tapere, is called nga ono o Veitatei (the six of Veitatei). This refers to the six kairanga-nuku, one of whom is the pava.