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Samoan Material Culture

Bow and Arrow

page 530

Bow and Arrow

The use of the bow and arrow has been mentioned for shooting fish but a use that was more important in the estimation of the people was the shooting of pigeons. This higher appreciation of pigeon shooting found expression in sayings and references in speeches, whereas fish shooting is not drawn upon.

The bow (aufana). Most Samoan bows were made of fisoa wood and the bowstring of five-ply sennit braid. For ornamentation a piece of the braid was sometimes wound spirally around the bow. The bow string is called fu'a which also means the strand of a rope. A groove was cut transversely around part of the ends to give a grip to the bowstring. (See Plate XLVIII, C, 1.)

The arrows. The arrows are termed u or u fanafana from the name of the u cane of which the shafts are made. The shafts seem long for the bow, being 4 feet long in the general type of arrow and 3 feet in a short type made for a specific purpose. The cane is thin, being 0.3 inches in diameter at the tail end and increasing slightly towards the head end. The end that fits against the bowstring is cut off level at a node and is not feathered.

The arrow points are made of a hard wood, such as pau or olioli and are attached singly or in twos or threes. The wood is rounded to about 0.2 inches diameter but from 6 inches to the point it is left square in section. This is tapered off to a four-sided point and small nicks are cut on the four edges. In the single pointed arrow (Pl. XLVIII, C, 2) a long strip is removed from the shaft back to a node and the near end of the point let into' the natural hollow of the cane. Sennit braid is used for the lashing in close turns with the end turned back under three or four loose turns which are then drawn taut in turn and the end pulled to remove the slack.

In the two-pointed arrow (Pl. XLVIII, C, 3) no longitudinal strip is removed from the shaft but a point is laid on either side and then lashed. The three-pointed arrow (Pl. XLVIII, 4) is dealt with similarly by spacing them evenly around the shaft end and lashing. The three points are shorter than the others. The ends diverge so that the actual points are separated from each other. The long arrows receive names from the number of points as, u mata tasi (1), u mata lua (2), and u mata tolu (3).

A short arrow used for shooting birds near a house is fitted with one long point which has a wider, somewhat flattened, serrated part 1.5 inches long at the actual point. (See Plate XLVIII, C, 5.) It was lashed with crossing spirals and receives the special name of u ta'afale. The sport relies on the knowledge that pigeons frequent the pools left in the beds of rocky streams as the streams dry up. Such a frequented pool is chosen and a convenient perch placed across it close to the water. If there are other small pools at; hand, they are covered over so as to force the pigeons to the one hole. A page 531small bower of green branches is made on the bank close at hand and placed to command the pool and the perch.

The fowler's house (fangai) is just big enough for the archer with sufficient room to draw the bowstring back. The smallness of the archer's house is applied as a figure of speech to Manono, according to Pratt (23, p. 121) in the term, "'O le sauali'i o le Fangai." The term sauali'i is a title and fangai represents the little island of Manono. In the front facing the pool, the house is closed in except for a small hole on either side of the middle line.

Method. A decoy pigeon may be used to attract wild pigeons to the spot but the sport is more often carried on without them.

The long arrows which would be awkward to manipulate inside the house, are left with their points outside and the shaft end just inside the openings of the front wall.

When, therefore, a pigeon lights on the perch, the archer lifts his bow, lays the end of the arrow on the string and draws his bow. The arrow thus comes to the bow without causing the trouble it would in a narrow house if it were inside.

For a clear shot at a bird on the perch, the archer selects the three pointed arrow (u matatolu) or the double-pointed one. Should, however, a bird alight in the branches of a neighboring tree and sit there undecided as to whether it will alight on the perch or not, the archer is tempted to shoot at it without waiting. As it sits in the tree branches, both the double and three-pointed arrows are not desirable as they are more likely to catch on a branch. He, therefore, selects the long arrow with a single point (u mata tasi). Hence the saying,

Au mai le u matatasi e fana a'i le lupe ua i le filifili. Pass me the arrow with a single point to shoot at the pigeon which is undecided.

The moral is to get busy before the other person has had time to make up his mind. To use the long, single-pointed arrow, the bird must be in a favorable position for the use of the bow. Sometimes, however, a bird perches somewhere near at hand where the long arrow cannot be used owing to the cramped position of the archer. It may be above him or to the side. It is then that the short arrow (u ta'afale) is used. It can be used from within the house should the bird be in an unfavorable position. The short arrow is thus likened to a person who can deal with difficulties: "Ua se u ta'afale" (Like the short arrow).

If luck were against the archer, he remained in the fangai all day without getting a shot. The head of the three-pointed arrow remained outside exposed to the sun. In the evening he returned home leaving the arrows and bow which were wet by the dew during the night. It he were again unsuccessful page 532the next day the condition was summed up as a saying used in apologizing to a visitor for a lack of food or presents with which to entertain him. The host referred to his poverty in metaphorical language as follows:

Ua sautia le u, 'ua laina le aumatatao. The shaft of the arrow has been wet by the clew, the pointed head has been shone upon by the sun.

In other words, with no opportunity of using the bow, he therefore had nothing to offer.

Remarks. The bow and arrow were mainly used for the pigeon (lupe) but, on occasion, for wild fowls, the rail, and the flying fox. The rail (ve'a) has been mentioned in a proverb quoted by Schultz (28, p. 125):

Pa I fale ve'a. The space of the ve'a house.

Schultz explains that the archers shot at the rail from specially built shelters placed closely together so that the archers could whisper to one another, as the rails were very shy. The Samoan talking chiefs consulted did not happen to know the saying but they said the ve'a was not sought after for food as were the pigeons, wild fowls, and flying foxes.

Enough has been said to show that the bow and arrow had their most important use in fowling. Shooting fish was less important. No information was obtained as to whether shooting as a mark or for distance entered into any game. The lack of a saying indicating this would intimate that it was not. Its use as a weapon of war was emphatically denied. Roogevein (27), the Dutch explorer who was the first to see the island of Tau from outside the reef, but who did not land, however, stated that the natives had bows and arrows, implying that they were armed with them as weapons of war. Two other statements made from the same distant observation post, referring to their wearing straw hats, and there being a white woman with fair hair on a chief's canoe, show Roogevein jumped to conclusions. The white of lime on the hair and the bleached hair of a tuinga headdress worn by a chief's taupou were sufficient to create straw hats and a white woman. The bows may therefore, be interpreted into orator's and chief staffs or even spears, while the arrows were imagined.