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Ethnology of Tongareva

Kinds and Uses

Kinds and Uses

The houses (hare) now in use in Tongareva differ from the old pattern in that they are made of sawn timber, erected on high piles, and roofed with corrugated iron. No perfect ancient house was seen in either of the two modern villages, but from the rough houses seen in the food plantations and the verbal description obtained, they were evidently built on the same pattern as the common rectangular house of the Cook Islands. They differ in the treatment of the walls and in the names of some of the parts of the framework. The guests of a family were lodged in one of the dwelling houses. Distinguished visitors were housed at the hare nui of the local chief, if he had such a building. A large party received at a social center was lodged among different members of the local community. The local people could always crowd together and free some huts for the use of visitors. No great inconvenience was caused, as the only pieces of furniture needed were a few mats for the floor. To mark the occasion a fresh layer of coral gravel was sometimes spread over the floor. Large parties of visitors were not housed but were given a camping ground. If doubt existed as to the visitors' intentions the camping ground would be removed from the local center, or on another island. The rough shelters of coconut leaves were quickly made by the visitors themselves. Lamont (15, p. 211) remarked that while he was at Omoka, “the people of Matunga came over to see me, and encamped along the water's edge, where they remained for some time, having thrown up little temporary huts very quickly.”

The clear graveled space before the dwelling houses formed the family meeting places. The hare nui of a chief and a clear space at the social center formed the rallying places not only for the members of the community but for the official reception of guests. For religious purposes and the exercise of customs, the stone-inclosed marae was the assembly place.