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Samoan Material Culture



Traps consist of one self-acting spring trap and two manipulated traps. The spring trap is used for wild fowls. One of the manipulated traps is used also for wild fowls and the other for the dove.

Self-acting fowl trap (mailei moa.) Domesticated fowl (moa) which have gone wild are caught by a mailei trap which is intermediate in form between the rat and pig traps. The material required is a springy sapling, two stakes about 14 inches long with short pieces of branch left at one end to form a hook, a rod as thick as the finger and 18 inches long, three short thinner rods and sennit braid about 6 feet long. (See figure 294.)

An enclosure is made around the trap with an opening on one side of the noose and a bait on the other closed side. The fowl on entering has to cross the trigger to reach the bait. In doing so, it touches the trigger stick which on moving releases the tie stick and the spring flies up, catching the fowl in the noose.

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Figure 294.—Fowl trap (mallei moa):

Figure 294.—Fowl trap (mallei moa):

a, the two forked stakes (la'au manga) which are as thick as the finger, are driven into the ground about 16 inches apart (1) and with the hooks above and facing backwards. The 18-inch rod (2) forms a crossbar (la'au fa'alava) which is fitted under the hooks and is about 6 inches from the ground. A short stake (3) called la'au taofi is driven into the ground about 10 inches in front of the middle of the crossbar. The spring sapling (4) called la'au fa'afiti is driven into the ground at the back at such a distance that when its end is bent down to the required tension, the cord (5) tied to it will be vertically above the middle of the crossbar. The braid is tied to the free end of the spring and a loop made on the other end. A thin piece of wood (6) called la'au milo, about 5 inches long, is used as a tie stick. It is either tied to the braid at the point which touches the crossbar when the spring is bent or it is applied to it in the manner shown. b, The tie stick (6) is held upright and a half hitch turn taken around with the braid (5). c, Holding the anterior crossing firmly against the tie stick to prevent the spring flying back, the upper end of the tie stick (6) is passed behind the crossbar (2), the braid having passed down from the spring in front of the cross bar. a, The tie stick (6) is pushed up so that the crossbar rests against the anterior crossing of the braid and prevents the spring flying up so long as the tie piece remains vertical. It is kept vertical by placing a stick (7) between the short stake (3) and the lower end of the tie stick (6). The third smaller stick (7) of the material assembled is fitted and is about 10 inches long as the stake (3) was placed that distance in front of the crossbar line. The stick acts as a strut and is hence called te'e. It is about 3 or 4 inches above the ground where it meets the tie stick and it acts as a trigger. The noose part of the braid (8) is opened out and crosses above the trigger stick. When the trigger is nicely adjusted, it keeps the lower end of the tie stick in the vertical line and the pull of the spring by keeping the crossing of braid on the tie stick pressed against the crossbar keeps the spring down.

Manipulated fowl trap (fale moa pa'u). A frame built of wood and likened to a house (fale) is propped up on one side by a stick; bait is placed under the house, and a line tied to the prop, the end of which is held by a concealed observer. A decoy rooster may be used also. When the fowl walks under the house to get the bait, the string is pulled and the house falls (pa'u). The trap is also termed fale moa tali, tali meaning to await.

Much superstition exists in Savaii regarding this form of trap. Peoples are said to have seen fowl enter the house and have pulled the string accordingly. On raising the house, however, no fowl was within while a mysterious voice said, "Oh, you are trying to catch fowl." The unfortunate fowler then sickens and dies.

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Decoy dove trap. The Samoan dove (manutangi) was caught in a trap like the tu'u'u fish trap on a larger scale and manipulated on the same principle. The trap was made of 'ie'ie roots duly denuded of bark. The single pair twined technique and the general shape was similar to the fish trap. It had to be large enough, however, to hold a decoy bird and the wild bird which was attracted into the trap. The opening was formed as in the fish trap.

The decoy dove (manu fonua) was preferably caught young on the nest and reared as a pet. Adult birds injured in fighting have been caught and tamed (fa'alata). They were fed on cooked talo or breadfruit mashed and squeezed into pellets the size of small cherries. A cage of the type mentioned above was made for them and hung with the opening upwards. A perch (tulanga) of cane (u) was placed across the inside of the cage. A string of two-ply fau bast termed a lauvae was bifurcated at one end and a part tied to each leg while the other end tethered the bird which is thus enabled to fly about and return to the cage. The bifurcated part of the cord was termed manga lua and the single, long part, autasi.

The fowler selected a part of the forest where wild doves were abundant. The cage which also formed the trap was hung up on the branch of a tree within reach of the ground or it was hung to a prepared horizontal perch set on forked uprights. The fowler concealed himself close at hand. The decoy by its calling attracted the wild bird (manu vao) which lighted near the cage. A good decoy attracted the wild bird to it and like the tu'u'u fish it entered the trap to fight the decoy. A well trained decoy would get above the wild bird in the cage and spread out its wings to close the opening by which it entered. The fowler immediately the wild bird was well within the trap called out in a sharp voice, "'Ae, 'ae." The wild bird startled by the voice crouched down and in a flash the fowler reached the trap and placed his hand over the opening. From this method originated the saying: "'Ae 'ae lea manu ua ulu" (Shout at the bird which has entered). It is no use shouting at what is not in the trap. The application is, therefore, be satisfied with what you have got.

A bad decoy sometimes uttered a warning note which kept the wild bird away. This warning note (tangi to'ia) is applied to orators who estrange their hearers. Hence the phrase, "Ua fa'atangi to'ia le launga" (The speech has taken an inimical tone). Some decoys brushed the wild bird away and prevented it from entering the cage. Such a bird is termed manu tafi manu and the term is applied to a chief who estranges people. In another saying, "'O le a ngase manu vao 'ae ola manu fonua" (The wild bird will perish but the tame bird will live on), the wild bird represents evil minded people from other villages and the tame bird, the people of the home village.

Among chiefs the trapping of doves became a favorite sport and competitions termed fa'atau manu tangi were held for the greatest number caught.