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Ethnology of Tongareva



Characteristic of Tongarevan fishing is the short line, the common use of which was rendered possible by the cultivation of diving abilities, and may have been necessitated by the lack of fiber. The hooks used, however, are not peculiar to Tongareva. The wide U shaped pearl shell hook is found in Manihiki, Rakahanga, Pukapuka, the Tuamotus and Tahiti, and the composite wooden shark hook has a wide distribution. The third form of circular hook used with an ordinary length line from a canoe at anchor also has a fair distribution. The use of but two simple pearl shell hooks in Tongareva is in contrast with the greater number of forms in use in other atolls such as Manihiki, Rakahanga, Pukapuka, and the Tuamotus, where pearl shell material was also abundant. The method of driving flying fish is known elsewhere. Kennedy (13, pp. 61–63) describes its use in the Ellice Islands. Handy (8, p. 176) describes the method of driving porpoises in to the reef in the Marquesas.

That diffusion of the Ruvettus hook into the Society Islands, Tubuai in the Austral Islands, and Anaa in the Tuamotus is comparatively recent has been shown by Nordhoff (19, pp. 224, 225). The contention of the Tongarevans that it is a recent introduction to their islands is also probably correct. In most localities Ruvettus fishing requires a great length of line. Tongareva lacked suitable material for long lines and, though sennit fiber was available, the only line fishing from the surface was from an anchored canoe. Even for this use, the Tongarevan fishing line was comparatively short, the same length as the anchor rope. Nordhoff associates Ruvettus fishing with cannabalism, which, again, seems to have been absent in Tongareva.

The recency of diffusion of the bonito hook is more doubtful. The chief objection to the age of the bonito hook raised by the Tautuan people was that they had no drill. Though the proximal hole in the point base may be displaced by a groove, the distal hole and the hole through the head both require drills. If the bonito hook came by fairly recent diffusion it did not come from Tahiti, as the second lashing of the point is made over a distal prolongation of the point base toward the tail. The bend of the Tahitian hook is equally formed by the shank and the point, whereas in the page 212 Tongare van hook the bend is formed on the point piece by the proximal prolongation of the base. The Tongarevan point has affinity with the Samoan point, but Tongareva and Samoa differ in the principles of the lashing technique. In Samoa (29, p. 501) the snood is tied to the proximal hole of the point base, and an extra lashing element which extends from the proximal hole of the base point to the head hole is introduced. The method of attaching the hackle is also much different. The Tongarevan technique is similar to that of Manihiki and Rakahanga.

On the other hand, Kotzebue (14, p. 219) says, “We obtained from them some fishing hooks, which were two pieces of mother-of-pearl joined together, and wrought in the most tasteful manner, perfectly resembling those of the Sandwich Islands.” The Hawaiian islands (Sandwich Islands) bonito hook has a simple point without prolongation of the base, and the points themselves are of bone. Though the resemblance cannot be perfect, it may have seemed so to Kotzebue, enough at all events to form evidence for the presence of the bonito hook in Tongareva if Kotzebue's hooks can be located and examined. Wilkes (31, vol. 4, p. 287) shows a group of hooks, one of which may be a bonito hook, but Kreiger says in correspondence that the hooks shown are apparently from several sources.