Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Samoan Material Culture

Pigeon Netting

Pigeon Netting

A net attached to a handle and termed 'upenga seu was used to catch the pigeon (lupe). Decoys were used to draw the wild birds within reach of the concealed fowler who by a dexterous sweep (seu lupe) of the handle caught the bird in the folds of a bag net attached by a frame to the handle.

The following information was mostly obtained from the chief Etau of Aapo, an inland village of Savaii. He gave me one of three nets left by his page 533father who was an expert and who had instructed him in his youth. In the inland villages, the people naturally concentrated on the foods provided by the forest as their shore dwelling kinsman did on the foods of the sea. It was thus in the inland villages, which are comparatively few, that the sport which was a practical one to them, survived longest after the introduction of firearms. Very few of the older men now living on the coast have ever used the seu net but they constantly use the language of fowling in a metaphorical sense with little actual knowledge of the fowling method from which it sprung.

The pigeon of Samoa is still to be heard constantly in the forest as its natural habitat remains undisturbed by the woodfeller clearing a farm in the wilderness. A large assortment of trees provide berries such as the manaui, talie, 'asi, tavai, 'an'auli, anume, puapua, taputo'i, pipi, aoa, aumanongi, manu-lenga, ma'ali, malili, musoi, mati, and mameloa. Where there were plenty of berries, there were plenty of birds. Each crop brought in its own brood as the Samoans say, "'O le fuanga ma le foanga" (The crop and its brood).

Decoy pigeons. Young birds taken from a nest were more easily taught as decoys, but sometimes older birds caught with the net were kept for training. Captured birds were scratched (fafai) over the eyes with the claws of another pigeon. The birds were kept in a cage and also allowed out with a two branched cord attached to the legs (tauvae). A perch termed a tula consisting of an upright with a bend or a branch was provided for them. They were taught to sit on the branch and coo to attract other birds. They were also taught to respond to the pulls of the cord on the legs, to fly straight up or to either side in response to a movement of a stick on which they sat and come down again on the perch in response to a pull on the string. They were pets as well as decoys and chiefs tended them with affection. Their diet was carefully attended to, cooked talo or breadfruit chewed (mama) and rolled into pellets (mama lupe) the size of the usual berries.

A Savaiian story of the origin of the pula'au kind of talo brings out the importance attached to feeding the decoys.

The chief Pulu-seu of Faasaleleanga on going out netting in the morning told his wife Sina-vai-o-le-malama to chew some mama lupe food for his decoys against his return. Sina had only one cooked talo in the house and while eating it forgot to leave some pellets for the birds. The omission was serious enough to cause Sina to run away from home rather than face the consequences. At Nofoa, she was assailed by labor pains and lay down under a tree by the wayside. Overcome by pain she called out to the chief Mani-laulau, who was passing, for assistance. He duly tended her and she was successfully delivered of—a mama lupe pellet of chewed talo. The pellet was buried and grew up into the pula-au variety of talo.

The myth mechanism of punishing a sin in a form that directs attention to the particular error is a natural process of thought in Polynesia but my informants failed to tell me what kind of talo it was that led to Sina's desertion of her home.

page 534

The morning feed was given at about 8 A. M. and the time was called fanga i lupe le la. The phrase has something to do with the sun waiting for the pigeons. Children who sleep in in the morning are aroused with the cry, "'Ua fanga i lupe le la."

A chief preferred to have more than one decoy. They were called as in the case of decoy doves, manu fonua in distinction to manu vao, the wild bush pigeon.

Netting platforms (tia seu lupe). A good place was selected in the forest usually on the ridge of a spur where the flown decoys could be seen. A space was then cleared and levelled to form the platform (tia) on which the fowling houses to conceal the fowlers could be erected. Ridges that had an upward slope had to be cut down at one end and the spoil used to build up the other end. Unworked stone was used to build up the sides of the earthwork. One was seen near Leone. Some to be more readily seen by the wild pigeons were built up all around with stone to make a raised platform. One near Aopo was on the flat lava in a natural glade between the larger trees. The tia were built in localities much frequented by birds. They received proper names and some become famous in local annals.

Fowling houses (fale seu). The tia remained for all time but the fowling houses were freshly built each season. The houses were merely a shelter of green vines to conceal the fowlers but they received names according to position on the platform. A fully equipped ground tia had four houses set as follows: towards the descending slope end was the fale mua (first house) also termed the fale va-ai (lookout house). At the uphill end was the fale matua (principal house), or simply matua. To the left side looking downhill was the falelele (flying house) and on the right the palalau. Between these houses was the central clear space that allowed a sweep of the net from any of the houses near which the pigeon flew.

The houses in Aopo district were made of the laua vine which is very leafy and thick enough to provide wooden framework and leafy cover in one.

A length of vine was curved in an arch longitudinally towards the center of the platform, with the ends stuck about 4 feet apart and the top of the arch higher than the head of the fowler sitting on a low seat. Another arch was similarly made about 2 fee from the other. A third transverse arch was laid transversely over the middle of the other two and the ends brought vertically down to the ground. One or two more turns might be taken to add to the main framework but the half in front of the middle transverse arch was not covered above. This was to allow the fowler to rise quickly to his feet to make his sweep with the net. The sides and back of the house were also covered with the leaves of a large bush fern called aulauta. The sticks for building the fale seu were termed aufale. The house described was 4 feet by 2 feet ground plan. A round house was formed by placing the middle transverse arch under the two longitudinal ones and spreading out its ends before insertion into the ground. The main principle of the fowling house was to give as much concealment as possible from the sides and the back but to have the front part of the roof open so that the fowler could page 535stand up instantly. Across the front a low crossbar was tied to the lower ends of the arches.

The netting seat (nofoanga). The house is incomplete without a seat made of a solid section of a tree and about one foot high. The Samoan in ordinary life sits on the ground cross-legged and finds no necessity for raised seats. In fowling, however, a seat was used to enable the fowler to assume the erect position as quickly as possible. The seat was used for quick rising and not for the ordinary purpose of rest. Well-made seats of dubbed-out timber, fitted with legs were also made and indicate the importance with which the sport was regarded. A nofoanga, in the Dominion Museum, Wellington, New Zealand, obtained from Savaii, has three legs lashed to projecting lugs on the under side of a neatly shaped seat. The workmanship is good and the technique is shown in figure 295.

Figure 295.—Pigeon netting seat (nofoanga sen lupe) with three legs:

Figure 295.—Pigeon netting seat (nofoanga sen lupe) with three legs:

a, general view the seat (1) is 1 foot 9 inches in width and 11.5 inches from front to back in the middle line; the side and front edges form one continuous convex line with a thick rim (3) 0.9 inch deep, projecting downwards; the back edge is slightly concave. Three legs (2) are lashed to lugs projecting from the under' surface of the seat, of which the front lug (4) can be seen. The legs are strutted with 3 crossbars (5) lashed to each leg with transverse and diagonal turns of sennit braid. The height of the seat is 1 foot 4.5 inches. b, Under surface of the seat, showing antero-lateral rim (3) and 4 lugs. The lugs are cut out of the solid wood with the seat. One lug (4) is in front in the middle the internal to the rim (3), with its long axis in the width of the seat. Three lugs are at the back, one in each corner (6, 6) and one in the middle (7), with their long axis to the width of the seat. The front and corner lugs are 6 inches or more in width; about 1.5 inches thick at their junction with seat and narrowed to about 0.9 in thickness at their lower free edges, while their depth is 1.5 inches. The three lugs (4, 6, 6) have in holes bored through about 2 inches apart. The thickness of the seat is about 0.75 inch in the inner side of the marginal rim. c, Right lateral view of front leg lashing the section of the seat (1) shows the downward projection of the front lug with the right hole through it in dotted line. The front leg (2) has the upper end expanded to in antero-posterior diameter of 2.4 inches and a lateral groove is cut in it to fit against the lug of the seat. Well below the bottom of the groove, a hole (8) is bored through from side to side. The lashing turns (7) are passed through the lug hole on one side, through the leg hole (8) and up through the lug hole on the other side. The braid returns through the leg hole to again pass through the lug hole of that side. After sufficient turns are made, some transverse turns (9) taken around the side lashings of page 536either side and oblique turns (10, 11) are made over the front and back of the leg. d, Front view of front leg lashing. After passing through the leg hole to the left, diagonal upward turns (10) are made over the front of the leg to the lug hole (12) on the right; downward diagonal turns are made on the back and through the leg hole (8) from left to right; from the right, diagonal turns (11) cross upwards to the lug hole (13) on the left. The first two turns cross in the middle, and the subsequent turns above and below the first crossing result in the simple lozenge design being made on the front and back of the leg. The legs are 1 foot 4 inches in length; the lateral diameter at the upper end is 1.6 inches, less than the antero-posterior diameter which has to provide for a groove. The diameter in the middle is 1.5 inches and at the lower end, the antero-posterior diameter is 1.8 inches and the lateral diameter 1.6 inches. The other legs are lashed in the same way as the front leg.

The fowling net ('upenga sen). Kramer, (18, vol. 2, p. 332) figures a net with a short oval frame attached to a long handle with a crossbar near the handle end of the frame, much after the style of one of the nets figured by Demandt (9, p. 46) for catching mullet as they leap over a seine net. Pritchard (24, p. 162) speaks of a bamboo handle 30 or 40 feet long with a net bag attached to its small end. If this type of net was actually used in fowling it is much inferior to the type of net used at Aopo and figured in Plate XLIX, A. This is one of Etau's nets left him by his father and it has been in actual use. The handle was also old but had been trimmed up and restained with charcoal and water.

The net ('upenga) is long and narrow. The frame ('a'au) consists of two rods of tough pliant asi wood sharpened at the lower ends for insertion into the handle sockets. At the proximal end, the meshes are collected into three groups and the cords carried downwards for lashing to the handle.

The handle (na'a) made of fau is only 5 feet, 2.5 inches long with a diameter of 2 inches at the proximal end. It expands to a width of 4.5 inches at the upper end where a slot 2 inches deep is cut in to form a fork.

The lower end of the net is drawn down and the free cords at this end tied around the cross lashing between the prongs of the handle.

The free ends of the cords at the upper ends of the net are tied to the ends of the rods on either side and one cord is brought across to tie to the other rod end so that the ends are kept at 6 inches apart.

The net as thus set up on the frame is 9 feet 5 inches long, 6 inches wide at the top, 27 inches wide at the widest part and narrows down to 7 inches at the handle. The net has a bag of 30 inches at the upper end, but the middle and lower parts are quite shallow.

The side lines of the net are gathered up with one hand at regular intervals of three meshes. The thin top ends of the rods of the frame are pushed through the gathered third meshes. The other side is similarly treated and the net sides spread down along the rods. The characteristics of the net are the shortness of the handle and the length of the net. The total length of the net and the handle is 15 feet. The method of lashing the pigeon net to the handle is shown in figure 296.

page 537
Figure 296.—Lashing pigeon net to handle:

Figure 296.—Lashing pigeon net to handle:

a, the handle has four holes (1-4) bored through in the middle line, the lowest (4) being 2.75 inches from the bottom of the fork. Through these holes, two to three turns of sennit braid are passed and form transverse bands around the handle. The sides of the handle are grooved as far down as the lowest sennit band (4). The bands form loops over the side grooves to assist in keeping the rods of the frame (5) in position. Similar bands of sennit but with more turns are tied around the limbs of the forks (6 and 7). From the lashing at 7, the braid is left long to make the upper lashings around the ends of the limbs. The sennit braid (8) from the lashing (7) at the base of the prong is now carried up and wound three times around the upper end of the left prong (9). It is then carried across to the right prong and makes three more turns around its upper end (10). It is carried back to the left prong from the back (11) and after making three more turns around it, it passes across to the right prong to repeat the procedure. In making the lashings around the upper ends of the prongs, the frame rods are further secured to the handle. The cross turns between the prongs are made on either side front and back so as to provide a set of transverse turns crossing the notch between the prongs. b, Section through prongs of handle. The sennit braid (7) is now carried around the transverse turns at 11 and by drawing them together, tightens up the top lashings. When sufficiently taut the braid is tied at 12. The cross section shows the rods (5) resting against the groove on the outer side of the prongs (13).

The eye shade (taumata). Before the fowler can take his seat in the fowling house he has to screen his head which is uncovered by the absence of the roof in the front part. An ordinary eye shade of coconut leaflets (taumata) is made. (See figure 124.) Some green leaves of the aulata fern are laid longitudinally over the head and then tied on with a circumferential strip of fau bast. This conceals the hair. The eye shade is then placed over the head and conceals the eyes. Some aulata may be run through the shade as well.

Two forms of netting are used; one from a platform on the ground as described (seu lalo), and the other from a platform made in a tree.

Ground netting (seu lalo) was best in the early morning. The birds of that period were called to'anga o le taeao. Fowlers arriving late on the tia missed the early birds. Hence the saying applied to anyone who is late for meals or the ceremonial speeches: "'Ua a sau 'ua te'a le to'anga o le taeao" (You have arrived when the early morning flock has gone).

page 538

The fowler took his decoys with him. The tula bent stick perch was stuck in the ground to one side of the house entrance. A stationary decoy was placed on the perch to attract wild pigeons towards it that had been attracted within sight. A flying decoy with a long cord attached to its legs was taken inside the house. It obeyed signals made by pulling the cord, or moving the perch. The signalling by movement was called tafili and hence the particular decoy was named manu tafili. A special perch was provided for it consisting of a rod about 3 feet long with a hole bored in each end. The near end to the fowler was tied with a short length of sennit braid to an upright of the house. To the far hole was tied the end of the long tauvae string attached to the bird. The perch rested on the ground and the front crossbar of the house.

Having arranged the two decoys, the net was laid on the ground outside with the end towards the center and the handle resting on the crossbar of the house. The fowler duly comouflaged with the eye shade and fern leaves, sat down on the seat ready to pick up the net handle and spring to his feet. This stage is referred to in the saying, Fale seu o lo'o ainga," or "Ainga le fale seu" (The fowling house is occupied).

The fowler then flew his decoy. He did so by holding the near end of the movable perch and by moving it to the right, left or upwards, he indicated by the actual movement itself the direction he wished the decoy to fly. The pigeon flew in the direction indicated by the movement of the perch. A well-trained pigeon would obey the slightest move conveyed in this manner. Wild pigeons which alight out of reach of the net must be attracted by the fluttering decoy, but care was necessary lest any obvious movement of the perch startle it away. Hence, when a speaker wishes to show that some concealed motive of a previous speaker is known to him, he uses the saying, "'Ua 'atangia tanga tafili" (The movement of the decoy is seen).

Sometimes the long cord (fau) became tangled as the decoy flew about. A saying is used to denote an assembly who are not working together but are confused in their plans: "'Ua numi le fau" (The line is tangled).

By flying about on the end of the string, the decoy attracted wild pigeons to the platform. As they flew over the open space they also saw the stationary decoy and came down into its vicinity. The fowler who could judge direction of flight, as a pigeon approached within range, picked up the net handle and rising to his feet, swept the net through the air (seu) to intercept it.

When a pigeon alighted out of distance, the fowler studied it. He noted the direction in which it was facing, for in starting its flight it must go in that direction. Also, a pigeon in starting its flight always swoops slightly downwards before it rises. The fowler studied just whereabouts the line of its first flight would be. He then startled it with a hissing sound and as the pigeon page 539commenced its flight he met it with the net as already planned, with an upward sweep to meet the first downward flight. If missed in the upward sweep, a quick man carried the net around in a backward sweep as he spun around on his feet. He sometimes secured it on the back stroke. The various sweeps with the net receive names such as langatila, with the net held straight up like a mast, fa'aifo, a down sweep, and fa'aifo i tualima, a back-handed sweep.

The captured birds were not necessarily killed at once. They were put in an ola basket or in a small covered stone enclosure (fale lupe) near at hand. The birds which were to be eaten had the long feathers of the wings and tail plucked (futi opa) while the ones to be kept for training as decoys were not plucked.

When two were netting in the ordinary way and both had been successful, it was the correct thing for the second fowler to say, "Fa'afetai, mau lupe oe, mau iupe a'u" (Thanks be! You have got a pigeon, I have got a pigeon).

The fowlers rested at a camping place a little away from the platform where they had their food. The place was called a malolonga (resting place). A little distance away from the tia seen on the ridge near Leone, we found the malolonga marked by the oven site and cooking stones.

Tree netting (seu-a-lunga) was an individual pastime as only a small platform could be built in the tree from which but only one person had sufficient space to sweep a net.

A good-sized tree, usually tavai or manaui, was selected and a platform of branches also called tia was made in it. The tree in which his father had had his tia was shown to me by Etau. He in his turn would have maintained the platform in the same tree but for the advent of guns.

Ladders (ala 'i le tia). The trees used had the lowest branches high above the ground so a ladder or way (ala) had to be built "to the platform" ('i le tia).

Two poles a little apart were tied in an upright position against the tree trunk. One pole was tied, the rope carried across to the other pole and tied, and then encircled around the tree back to the first pole to which it was tied again. The fowler then worked up the poles, attaching wooden rungs between the poles and every here and there carrying a turn around the tree trunk. Fresh poles were joined on and rungs added until the branches were reached.

The tree platform with the house was called tia seu a lunga or fongatia. A suitable place was selected where natural branches if possible formed cross beams.

Timber was hoisted up with ropes and cross pieces tied in position to form the platform or pae. On this one fowling house about 2 feet wide was made in the same way as on the ground except that the ends of the arches were lashed to the cross beams instead of being stuck in the ground. This was covered with green leaves. When dry the thatch was said to be ua afu le lau fale, and the thatch had to be renewed to match its surround-page 540ings. Some of the branches were cleared to get a sweep with the net and a particular branch in a good position was selected against which to lean the net. The net was leant in an upward slanting position. The selected branch was called aupale.

Platforms were often in neighboring trees. Though the tree tops were close together, the way between was long as one had to descend the ala ladder, walk across the ground to the other tree and then ascend the ala. Things which appear close are often far apart in reality and the tree platforms were thus used in a saying applying to such conditions:

'Ua pipi'i tia 'ae mamao ala. The tree platforms are close but the way between is long.

Method. One flying decoy was used as in ground netting. Two stationary decoys might be used. They were tied to the branches above on the aupale. The flying decoy was sent upwards and flew high above the tree top. It attracted birds towards the tree and as their wings were heard, the decoy was drawn down. As the wild birds flew above the tree, they saw the stationary birds sitting on the aupale branch. To fly towards them, they had to cross the clear space and here they were met by the sweep of the net which came forward from the aupale branch to meet them.

When wild birds were plentiful they kept coming above the tia and the expression applies to abundance of anything: "'Ua malu maunu le fongatia" or, "'Ua lavalava le fongatia" (The tree platform is full of birds).

On the other hand when no birds were about, no sound of wild wings broke the silence. The condition is applied to times of dearth: "'Ua lilingo le fongatia" (The tree platform is still).

Other birds such as fuia alighting on the tree near the platform, were regarded as common (vale) or undesirable and no notice is taken of them. A speaker whose rank or status may not be quite up to the standard of those privileged to speak before an assembly, may excuse himself with the saying: "'O le a sosopo le manu vale i le fongatia" (A common bird is about to alight on the tree platform).

Phases of the moon. Pratt (23, p. 177) gives the following words for pigeons caught at different phases of the moon:

Lupeo'atoa. Pigeons caught at full moon.
Lupeofanoloa. Pigeons caught at no moon.
Lupeomanu. Pigeons caught at waning moon.
Lupeopupula. Pigeons caught at increasing moon.

It will be noted that similar terms were used in connection with bonito. The experts of Aopo, Savaii, maintain that the terms apply only to bonito and are never used in connection with pigeons.

page 541

Remarks. The tree method of netting pigeons had the advantage of being conducted at the natural level at which pigeons move about. It was easier to attract them into the tree top than onto the ground. On the other hand, there was less room for sweeping the net and the space admitting of but one fowler, the competition and greater fun of the ground method was absent.

Birds from different forests will come together to a common forest where particular berries are especially plentiful. Their unity is short lived for as the cause which united them is disposed of, they return to their different habitats. The Samoan philosophizing on the transient nature of the unity which has brought people of different districts together compares it to the berry seeking pigeons.

'Ua fuifui fa'atasi 'ae vao eseese. They have flocked together as one but they belong to different forests.