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Ethnology of Tongareva



This study of the atoll of Tongareva, commonly known as Penrhyn Island, is based on field work conducted under the auspices of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum in 1929.

Tongareva is served by two trading schooners which sail from Rarotonga. These schooners do not make their first trip until late in March or April, when the hurricane season is over. In November they sail to Tongareva to lie up for the hurricane season within the lagoon at Omoka, the only safe port in this part of the Pacific. I arrived at Tongareva in the end of June by the schooner Tiare Taporo, which left seven days later for Tahiti. Through the kindness of Judge Hugh Ayson, resident Commissioner for the Cook Islands, arrangements enabling me to leave Tongareva with the British sloop H. M. S. Veronica, which called there and left again on July 13, were made by wireless. Seventeen days were spent on Tongareva, all too short a time to do justice to the special problems of that extremely interesting island.

My thanks are due to Sir Apirana Ngata, Minister in charge of the Cook Islands in the New Zealand Government, for his Polynesian welcome conveyed to the group by letter. I am under deep obligation to Judge Ayson for assistance in arranging that my first six days of work should fit in with his official holding of the Land Court in Tongareva. Mr. S. Savage, Registrar of the Court, assisted with the Tongarevan genealogies, and Mr. H. Williams with the recording of anthropometrical measurements. To Mr. Wilson, resident government Agent, I am indebted for accommodation during my stay and, together with W. Phillip Woonton, for invaluable assistance in locating and mapping out the maraes in the various islands. To Captain Viggo of the Tiare Taporo, Mr. Wilkenson, trader, and others I am indebted for many kindnesses. Pa, the oldest inhabitant, with Ma, his wife, Tupou Isaia and others of the Tongarevan people contributed field information for this work, and by recognizing my Polynesian kinship, enabled me to adjust my Maori background to that of Tongareva. To Commander Robertson of H. M. S. Veronica my thanks are due for hospitality and transport to Raiatea, where I was able to connect with a mail steamer to page 4 Rarotonga and resume work in the Cook Islands. My thanks are due to Mr. J. A. Campbell of the Cook Islands Trading Company for promptly clearing up by correspondence some obscure points in ceremonial observances.