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Ethnology of Manihiki and Rakahanga



This study of the culture of Manihiki and Rakahanga represents part of the material gathered on the Cook Islands Expedition of Bernice P. Bishop Museum in 1929.

I landed in Manihiki on May 31 on the schooner Tiare Taporo under Captain Viggo. While I was in Rakahanga, Judge Hugh Ayson, Resident Commissioner for the Cook Islands, convened the Native Land Court to inquire into family pedigrees for the purpose of forming bases for land claims. Through his courtesy and the assistance of Stephen Savage, Registrar of the Court, I was able to acquire a complete set of island pedigrees. To Henry Williams, Jr., I am under obligation not only for maps of Manihiki and Rakahanga, but also for assistance in recording anthropometrical measurements. To Tupou-rahi, Sergeant of Police at Rakahanga, and his family thanks are due for accommodation, hospitality, and much information. The hospitality of the kindly people of Rakahanga manifested itself in feasts and presents of artifacts. The people were eager to impart what they knew, but owing to the exigencies of inter-island transport three weeks were all that could be devoted to the atoll. Only two nights were spent in Manihiki before the schooner moved on to Tongareva. In Manihiki the people of the villages, Tauhunu and Tukou, were also most hospitable and would not let their visitors go without weighing them down with food and presents. The gratitude of Bernice P. Bishop Museum is due to the people of the two atolls whose gifts have materially enriched the Polynesian collection. I have also to thank Mr. Murray of Rakahanga for the replica of a club and Henry Williams, Sr., and his family for hospitality and assistance.

The time spent in the two atolls was all too short to do justice even to the abridged field information available. This study can only hope to record some of the main points in the culture of the people. Details as to spread of the coconut and the ownership of land await the further investigator of land claims, when more information is available.

Meanwhile, the Huru-awatea waves its fronds in the shade of Arai-awa— “Tera pa te Huru-awatea te tahirihiri mai ra i te maru o Arai-awa.”