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Ethnology of Manihiki and Rakahanga

Marriages of Toa

Marriages of Toa

The human population is referred to in Rakahanga as the kura tangata, the line of descent as the katiri tangata, and the biological family as the puna. Toa and Tapairu and their four children are referred to historically as the puna mua (the first family). In New Zealand puna means a wife and puna rua, a second wife. In Hawaii punalua means the two wives of one husband or the two husbands of one wife. The two husbands of one wife may be regarded as a late development with a limited distribution. To the Polynesian in general the dominant reason for marriage was the procreation of children to perpetuate the line of descent. Though to the native mind the term puna may apply particularly to the offspring, the parents are not entirely disassociated. The very mention of the puna recalls the parents, and the puna cannot be described without mentioning the parents—“Te puna mua a Toa raua ko Tapairu, e wha tamahine: ko Kae, ko Poe, ko Naunau, e Nanamu.” (The first family of Toa and Tapairu consisted of four daughters: Kae, Poe, Naunau, and Nanamu.) The children of this marriage were all girls, and their names are given in order of birth. Some pedigrees give a different order, making Poe first and Naunau last. Gill (10, vol. 2, p. 281) gives their names as Vai, Navenave, Pae, and Nannau, but as every consonant must be followed by a vowel, Nannau at least has been spelled incorrectly. Throughout this early period considerable confusion exists in the pedigrees given by different families.

It is obvious that in the settlement of an uninhabited island by one biological family the perpetuation of the human stock must be continued through incestuous marriages. The members of Toa's first family were all females and he desired male issue (kua hinangaro ki te kapi tane). Had some of the first family been males, it is probable that brother and sister marriages would have been consummated to meet the problem. No sons having been born to Tapairu, Toa married his eldest daughter to obtain male issue (kapi tane) whereby the line of descent (katiri tangata) might be continued.

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With a few exceptions, as in Tongareva, close marriages were favored by Polynesians. In the highly sophisticated cultures of Hawaii and Rarotonga brother and sister marriages took place for the purpose of perpetuating chiefly lines of high rank. The theory that peoples of lower cultures have an instinctive horror of incest is not substantiated in Polynesia; where prohibitions exist they may be attributed to a cultural development. Father-daughter marriages probably would not have occurred in Rakahanga, however, except that there was apparently no other solution to the difficulty. The eldest daughter, Kae, bore a female child, and the problem remained unsettled. The child was named Tupunoa, which carries the idea of “growth to no purpose” and bears witness to the disappointment that must have been engendered by the birth of a girl child. Any psychological inhibition against a father-daughter marriage having been once broken down, Toa married his second daughter in search of male issue. Again the child was a daughter. He married his third daughter, Naunau, and, according to some authorities, the issue was again a daughter. Other genealogists state that male issue was born. Toa then married his youngest daughter, Nanamu, in his determination to obtain male issue. Later, he even married his daughter-granddaughter, Tupunoa. The necessity of providing male issue to perpetuate the human species was the dominant consideration.

The people of Manihiki and Rakahanga do not express any repugnance at the action of their ancestors, for they say that had such marriages not been made there would have been no kura tangata. By both Nanamu and Tupunoa, Toa had male issue. The problem of the perpetuation of the stock having been settled, father and daughter marriages ceased and were not repeated from Toa's period to the present day.

Considerable contradiction exists regarding Toa's families by his daughters. Gill, who visited the atolls in 1852, recorded the following genealogy (10, vol. 2, p. 281):

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Ikutau (Hukutahu) married his first cousin and had five children, whose sexes are not given. Attention has already been drawn to the incorrect spelling in this list. The Ikutau family given cannot be traced by the present generation.

From a manuscript written in the native language by Tairi, one of the two first Rarotongan missionaries who went to Rakahanga in 1849, Gill records the following genealogy (13, pp. 143, 144):

The parentage of Hoturangaranga and Tutonga is not given. They may have been among the retainers of Toa, if he had any retainers. After male issue had been produced by Toa, any restriction that may have existed against marrying with retainers' stock may have been relaxed.

Kairenga gave his own pedigree from Matangaro. He stated that Matangaro married his aunt, Poe, but Gill's pedigree showing that Matangaro married Poe's daughter is more likely to be correct. Kairenga gave Matangaro's family as consisting of two daughters, Paevaka and Horoeka, and a son, Rua-ariki.

Haumata-tua gave the pedigree in Table 2 before the Native Land Court. page 26
Table 2. Issue of Toa

Table 2. Issue of Toa

If this pedigree is compared with that given by Gill, the confusion is apparent. In the two tables, though the names of the mothers are reversed, the brothers Matangaro and Hukutahu are given as the sons of the youngest daughter.

Of the second families, those who became most important were the male children of the youngest daughter. Of these, Te-pori-o-kaivai evidently died young and without issue. The outstanding ancestors are the second and third sons, Matangaro and Hukutahu. On the evidence adduced, Table 3 probably represents more nearly what took place with the main characters in the second group of four families.

Table 3. Second Families

Table 3. Second Families

In the second generation, except for the marriage of Toa, incest was avoided, as first cousins were available for marriages. It is likely that other first cousin marriages took place, but the records are as confused. It may page 27 possibly be, as Kairenga maintained, that aunt and nephew marriages took place and that the confusion in the pedigrees is but a reflex of the confusion that actually existed at that period. Matters subsequently righted themselves and it is now immaterial which daughter of Toa produced which family. Certain it is that Matangaro and Hukutahu are the outstanding ancestors from whom descent is traced. Their brothers and cousins, whose alliances are not clear, nevertheless had families whose offspring formed the mass of the community which clustered around the more dominant, or chiefly, lines.