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Ethnology of Manihiki and Rakahanga



It seems necessary to provide a church, temple, or dedicated space of ground where the people may watch the priests perform the ritual to the gods. The gods, the priests, and the people thus come together in their respective relationships to each other. The public religious gathering places were termed maraes in Manihiki and Rakahanga as in the neighboring areas. The maraes were constructed on the islands inhabited by the people, and as the occupied islands were small, the maraes were on the outskirts or actually in the villages of Te Kainga, Tauhunu, and Tukou. The result of this close proximity to villages which continued to be occupied throughout the Christian period was that all the maraes have been utterly demolished. They shared the destruction of the gods. No maraes were built on the other islands, and thus they had no chance of escape as did many of the maraes of Tongareva. The names, however, are remembered, and the sites can still be pointed out by the older men. The names of five maraes are associated with Te Kainga, but accounts from different sources are conflicting. In Manihiki there was one marae at each village.

1. Punariku was said to be the first established marae. It was in existence before the dual arikiship was established but was not built until the people began to increase. When the people split into four tribes, another marae called Huku-wananga was made. According to Pukerua, the Punariku marae was then used by the older tribes of Numatua and Tiangarotonga. The first marae built on Tongareva by the ancestor Mahuta was named Punaruku. The site of this marae was not pointed out to me on Te Kainga.

2. Avarua is on the seaward side of Te Kainga and was said to have been Matangaro's marae. The statement may apply to the Mata-ngaro group as a whole and not to Mata-ngaro, the son of Toa, as the marae was introduced with the stolen gods at a later date. That it belonged to the Mata-ngaro group is substantiated by its situation on their side of the village. The marae later served the Whainga-aitu tribes, Heahiro and Mokopuwai. It was said to have been paved formerly with coral slabs, but no evidence remains.

3. Huku-wananga on the lagoon side of Te Kainga, from its position, must have served the Hukutahu group and thus the Whakaheo tribes, Nu-matua and Tiangaro- page 209 tonga. Pukerua's statement (p. 208) is thus not supported by the site of the marae. No traces of pavement remain.

4. Mua was situated in about the middle of the village of Te Kainga and is still distinguished by a large rounded earthen mound, resembling the turtle ovens of Tongareva. Coral slabs were found lying here and there and were said to have formed part of the pavement of the marae. Mua was a public marae which, from its position, served all four tribes when they united for a common function. Avarua and Huku-wananga were the tribal maraes and Mua, the common national marae.

5. Variu (Whariu?) is the Rakahangan marae stated by Aporo to have been associated with the god Te Uru-renga, and it may possibly have been another name for the Avarua marae.

6. Poututeru, the Whainga-aitu marae at Tauhunu, occupied the site of the present church which supplanted it, and here the god Te Puarenga was established.

7. Te Koutu was the Whakaheo marae at Tukou where Hikatara was established. Aporo gives Hikatara's marae as Marae-okoroa, which may be an alternate name.

Each of the two tribal groups had its own marae in the separate villages on Manihiki, and in their separate divisions in the one village on Rakahanga. In Rakahanga they had, in addition, a common marae, as they lived close together. Undoubtedly, owing to their separation on Manihiki, no common marae was set up there.

Merely from verbal description, it appears that a space was set out and paved to define the marae. There may have been some coral pillars set around the boundaries, but the lack of cut slabs of coral on the neighboring graves indicates that the maraes were not so well made as in Tongareva (29, pp. 148–159). No evidence is forthcoming as to whether raised stone platforms were built to form altars as in Tongareva, but the god-house on the marae was present, according to Aporo.