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The Atoll of Funafuti, Ellice group : its zoology, botany, ethnology and general structure based on collections made by Charles Hedley of the Australian Museum, Sydney, N.S.W.



" Seven of these islands or groups are probably Samoan in origin, with an admixture of Tongese. In some cases the Tongan was introduced at a late stage, in others the Tongan element was almost contemporaneous with the Samoan, but in all cases the Samoan preponderates so much as to have controlled the language. As far as I am able to judge from a comparison of the most familiar words, the Tokelau and the Ellice Island dialects have become practically assimilated to each other. Samoan largely prevails in the whole of the Tokelau and the Ellice Islands; it is the literary language, except in the Gilbert or Kingsmill Island colony of Nui, where the Gilbert Island dialect is spoken with a small admixture of Samoan or Ellice Island words and constructions." Captain Wilkes in 1841 observed of Funafuti that: "It was soon found that they understood the Samoan language, and spoke a purely Polynesian dialect. The Samoan native easily conversed with them."§ Mr. John O'Brien tells me that he remarked

Newell, loc. cit.

§ Wilkes, loc. cit.

page 42thirty or forty years ago that both the natives of Fotuna Island* and the Tokelau Group use the same dialect as the Ellice Islanders but a few words have different meanings.

"A most decisive proof of their history [the people of the Ellice Group] was recently obtained by Dr. G. A. Turner while visiting the missions of the group. He was shown, and he ultimately obtained, a spear or staff, which their orators held while speaking, a Samoan custom indicating the holder's right to speak; this staff was very ancient, and the greatest treasure of their heralds and genealogists; they said they brought it with them from Samoa, and named the valley where they came from thirty generations back. The staff was decayed or worm eaten, and bound together by splints and sinnet. Dr. Turner took it to Samoa, found that it was made of Samoan timber, visited the valley they named, and discovered a tradition there of a large party having gone to sea exploring, and never returning."

The Samoans themselves look down upon the Ellice Islanders as rough, uncultured boors and would not acknowledge them as close relations. Their physical appearance, broad faces, large frames, hair often curly but sometimes straight, and short beards, all support the conclusion drawn from the language and customs that a Micronesian element has here been grafted on a Polynesian stock.

Funafuti is, however, a most unfavourable locality for studying the relations of the Ellice Islanders. About thirty years ago most of the adult population were kidnapped by a Peruvian slaver recruiting labour for the Cincha Islands. The atoll has since received an immigrant population from various sources. Colonists from Samoa, the Tokelaus, Manihiki, and other of the Ellices settled in the depopulated village. There are two half caste families by white fathers and one by an American negro. Altogether there are not a dozen left of tattooed, white headed men and women who remember the Funafuti of forty years ago.

"Tradition says that the place was first inhabited by the porcupine fish, whose progeny became men and women. Another account traces the origin of the people to Samoa. It is said also that the islands were formed by a man who went about on the

* A comparison of the manners and customs of this island with those of the Ellice Group would he of much interest. I have not, however, met sufficient information relating to this French Possession to do so. Fotuna or Horn Island must not be confounded with Futuna near Tanna in the New Hebrides.

W. L. Ranken—Journ. Anthrop. Inst., vi., 1877, p. 233. See also Whitmee—Journ. Anthrop. Inst., viii., 1879, p. 271,

For characteristic figures of Funafuti natives of the pre-Christian time, see Wilkes—Amer. Explor. Exped., v., 1845, pp. 40 and 41.

page 43ocean with a basket of sand on his back, and wherever some ran out an island sprang up."* Under a slightly different guise the latter version of the genesis was repeated at Niutao.

A native tradition related to me names the Kaounga as the first inhabitants of Funafuti and tells that they swam from Samoa. According to Newell a similar legend prevailed in Vaitupu. Among the Kaounga were the chiefs Toa, Touiriki and Moroti, the names of the two former are still perpetuated by the localities in Funafuti called after them. According to Newell, "The people are descended from Samoans, known to posterity as Lafai, Le Fe'e (cuttlefish), Sa Seve (the clan of Seve), and two others, five clans in all."

The following account of the ruling dynasty was given to me, through the interpretation of Mr. O'Brien, by the present king of Funafuti. Terematua, he said, was the first king of Funafuti; he was succeeded by his eldest son, Kisosunga; and he by his eldest son Tiro, and he by his son Tiro the Second. A system long prevailed on the island of government by a king and subordinate chief. The latter succeeding to the supreme office on the death of the former and being succeeded in the subordinate position by the late king's son.

"The so-called king of Fakaofo bears the title of "ariki" (Samoan, alii = chief), and is the only person until quite recently so described. The "ariki" is always the oldest male member of the four principal families of Fakaofo, all of whom trace their descent from the two brothers above referred to—namely Kava and Pi'o. When the "ariki" dies the oldest man then living among these four families becomes "ariki." No others possess this title, and there are no clan names or titles outside this circle. The Samoan custom of conferring the name of the head of the family upon the heir does not exist in the Tokelaus." An arrangement resembling this seems latterly to have prevailed in Funafuti. Turner says of Funafuti, "The kingship alternated in four or five leading families, and when one king died, another was chosen by the family next in turn." Whitmee says of Niutao§ "the king and chief have sole authority on the island. Although the king has the higher title, he pays great deference to the chief, and they live on excellent terms with each other."

Now Tiro the Second and Tibouro were kings together. And Tibouro was killed by his brother Ningi, who assumed the kingship but was killed by a spirit a fortnight afterwards. Takamiti succeeded Ningi. The next king was Palou, the son of Tibouro, who was followed by Touassa. In Touassa's reign the land was

* Turner—loc. cit.

Newell—loc. cit.

Loc. cit., p. 282.

§ Whitmee—loc. cit., p, 22.

page 44first portioned out, every individual receiving a share. But after Touassa's death, Erivada the priest instituted a redistribution in which the adult males or fighting men alone participated. The conflicting land titles granted by Touassa and Erivada breed dispute to this day.

Touassa's son Sirimiou succeeded him and was in turn succeeded by his son Jira, who was followed by his son Sikamani. Tarafo, another grandson of Touassa next ruled Funafuti; followed first by his son Taturi and then by his brother Teriki, who was reigning when Mr. O'Brien arrived on the island about forty years ago. The next king was Matavai his cousin, followed by the latter's eldest son, Yakoba (Jacob), in whose reign the people adopted Christianity. Manu his brother succeeded and was followed by the reigning king.

Another native gave me a story of the Tongan invaders who harassed the Ellice in bygone times. The marauders sailed from Tonga in two or three war canoes,* each holding a hundred men, and were accustomed to make the circuit of the entire Archipelago landing at each atoll and massacring the people. Their object was not head hunting or to procure the means of a cannibal feast, but merely slaughter to indulge their lust for bloodshed. On their return south they habitually carried with them a boy captive to Tonga, to serve, when he grew to manhood, as a reminder that the northern islands were ripe for another foray. When it is considered that these feats of navigation were performed without sextant or compass, and with but the rudest of charts, they may well be held to eclipse the boasted deeds of the mediæval Venetians, Genoese, or Portuguese, and to rival alone in daring or in seamanship the voyages of Scandinavian vikings.

Borouselif, the son of Toua and grandson of another Toua, the latter of whom was killed by the Tongans, was a great warrior. He drove back several of the Tongan incursions and slew many Tongans, including Tinaman, a celebrated Tongan warrior, but was at last slain in battle by the Tongans. The last Tongan invasion, which occurred before the grandfather of my informant was born, is represented as having been repulsed with much slaughter. A spot in the reef is still pointed out where a fugitive was speared while swimming back to his vessel.

The Rev. J. E. Newell thus writes of the neighbouring atoll of Nukufetau: "A full and explicit account is given here of a Tongan invasion. Unfortunately I could get no clue as to the probable date of that invasion and the war which ensued. Two

* For a description of one of these vessels., see Cook's Second Voyage, ii., 1777, p. 17.

Probably the Tinaimanu of the Nukufetau legend.

Newell—loc. cit., p. 608.

page 45large war canoes were sighted, and with one of them, the warrior of Nukufetau, named Laupapa (evidently a Samoan name), was speedily in contact. After a parley a battle took place in which two Tongan "chiefs" named Savea and Tinaimanu were engaged. Tinaimanu is referred to as the breeder of wars in the "Eight Islands "—i.e., the Ellice Group. The Tongans were driven off and went to Funafuti. There one of the Tongan chiefs (it is not clear whether this was Tinaimanu or not) established himself, but Savea and his people returned to Tonga. The chief who remained at Funafuti very quickly acquired a reputation for savagery. He practised cannibalism to such an extent that very shortly there were none but women and children left. Ten young boys, who were attached to the chief as his servants, when they grew up, formed a plot to murder the cannibal, which they successfully accomplished, thus ridding the Eight Islands of a scourge…. At Fakaofo, too, I heard that they had a tradition (which I could not obtain) of a war which had, hundreds of years ago, been waged between the Tokelau Islanders and the Tongans."

In the early days of the present king (say forty or fifty years ago), a feud existed between Funafuti and Nukulailai. To avenge the starvation of some Funafuti travellers on Nukulailai, a war party from the former island sailed across to Nukulailai and killed many men.

The Funafuti natives have long ceased to make or use any weapons,* but to resist the Tongans spears were fashioned of split palm tipped with shark's teeth. A shark toothed sabre, like that made in the Gilbert Islands, was called "kei;" another with a bristling knob of sharks' teeth was "kekana." An aged, white haired and tatooed man, made for me models of a war missile, "tiapa," and a club, "lakoutoua," also a slender unarmed spear, as formerly used by his people.

In the canoes which put off from Funafuti to the "Peacock," "Their spears were only poles of coconut wood, pointed at one end; and their knives made of small shark's teeth, inserted into a stick with gum and fine sennit, and are about a foot long.

"Clubs and great double-edged wooden swords, fifteen feet long, and edged with sharks' teeth, were kept in the larger temples for display on festive occasions in honour of the gods, and taken occasionally to the rocks at the landing-place to flourish about and frighten away any party from a ship, or from another island attempting to land" at Nanomana.

* Whitmee wrote in 1870 (loc. cit., p. 27), "On some of the islands wars are unknown. An old man on Vaitupu brought me a hatchet made out of the back of a turtle, and I asked if it ever had been used in war. He replied that he had never heard of war on Vaitupu."

Wilkes—loc. cit.

Turner—loc. cit., p. 290.

page 46

In some of the Northern Atolls the natives were adepts at singlestick and wrestling. Some of these men showed me a variety of adroit tricks, whereby an unarmed man might safely seize a knife from his enemy's hand, break down his guard, or trip him. This skill at fence was taught them by the Gilbert Islanders.

A British Protectorate was proclaimed over the Ellice Group in Sept., 1892, by Captain Gibson of H.M.S. "Curacoa."