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Mangaian Society



The men built the houses, prepared the irrigation patches for taro and maintained them in repair and upkeep, made lines and hooks, nets, and canoes, and used them in procuring the family supplies of fish. They made tools and weapons and defended the family life and lands. The women planted the food, brought it in, did the cooking, including the collection of firewood and leaf covers for the ovens, and made the bark cloth for clothing and bed covers. Sea fishing from canoes occupied a good deal of the men's time, and a fair amount of attention to land crops devolved upon women. Mangaia differed from the other Cook islands, where the men did the cooking and the women had the extra craft of plaiting mats from coconut and pandanus leaves. Yet men assisted in grating coconuts and taro for the special food preparations when extra quantities were required for feasts. The women caught fish within the lagoon by groping with torches at night.

The menial labor in powerful families was done by poor relatives, some of whom were usually members of conquered tribes ('ao) occupying the position of serfs for the sake of protection.

For tasks requiring more labor than the family could supply, recourse was had to a working bee (o'u). The head of the family sent out an invitation and his own family caught fish, grated coconuts and taro, and prepared a feast for the working guests. On the day appointed the guests did the work and, on its completion, the hosts fed them so liberally that they were able to take food away with them.

For public works within a subdistrict or district, the labor of providing food for the feast fell on the whole community or tribe. An important public work was the digging of a water race to irrigate a system of terraced taro patches. The water race (matavai) had to be dug from the main stream (kauvcri) at some distance up the valley to get the fall, and with the wooden digging sticks considerable labor was involved. As the area to be brought into cultivation was divided amnog a number of families, the labor, too, was shared. Roads over the makatea and steps down the cliffs on either side all involved community labor.

The large houses of chiefs were built by the united efforts of the tribe. Though a tribe was able to attend to its own public works, a social event page 131was sometimes made by inviting another tribe to do the work. The home people had the pleasure of acting as hosts and the honor associated therewith, factors which never fail to give psychological satisfaction to the innately hospitable Polynesians. The guests enjoyed the outing and subsequent feast. They usually did harder work than they would at home, being stimulated by the desire to make a name for themselves.

The Te Kama tribe made a weeding o'u the means of treacherously slaying their guests in order to secure the temporal power (p. 43).