Ethnology of Tokelau Islands
Tokelau fishhooks are of two types: a hook with the point projecting toward the shank, used with bait in line fishing; and a hook with the point projecting upward or outward without a barb, used in trolling with line and pole. The first type belongs to a class of hooks whose principle of construction and use is unique in the Pacific. These hooks are either a single piece or are composite. The parts are shank, bend or fork, point leg, and point, which, in the composite hooks, is formed of a small forked branch having a point and point pin. The shank has either an angular projection or a knob to keep the lashing of the snood from slipping.
The method of securing the fish is more complex than with the simple European barbed hook. The weight of the bait lashed on the point leg holds the shaft at an angle to the line. The fish strikes down the hook toward the bend (fork of the point and point leg), taking the point into his mouth through the clearance between the point and shank with the point directed outward. When the fish closes his jaws on the bait, the tip of the point penetrates the lining of his mouth or throat. The upward pull on the line, given by the fisherman as he feels the fish take his hook, tilts up the point leg which follows through the penetration made by the point and slides the fish down to the bend or fork of the hook. The downward and inward page 101 projection of the point now acts as a barb to prevent the fish from freeing itself (fig. 8, c).
The second type of hook is the widely distributed trolling hook composed of a turtle-shell or bone point lashed to a pearl-shell shank (fig. 8, b). It is trolled by a long rod and line from the reef or a canoe. The shank attracts the fish to the surface, where they are hooked and quickly lifted out of the water. There is no inward projection or barb on the point in this type of hook, for the fish is quickly taken from the surface before it has opportunity to free itself. The straight point is absolutely essential in bonito fishing where the hook must be quickly freed and trolled again.
Figure 8.—Fishhooks, a, one-piece turtle-shell hook (matau sumi): 1, shank, 7/16 inch long; 2, point leg, ¾ inch long; 3, point, ¼ inch long; 4, shank-lashing projection. b, trolling hook: 1, shank; 2, point; 3, tip of point; 4, bend; 5, point base; 6, hackles; 7, snood; 8, lashings. c, Pacific type of hook: 1, shank; 2, bend; 3, point leg; 4, point; 5, shank-lashing projection.
The smallest hook (matau sumu) is used with line and pole for catching sumu off the reef. The hook is made of turtle or coconut shell. It varies from the common Pacific type in having a short shank one half the length of the point leg, a wide angle between these two, and an extremely wide clearance between point and shank. The hook collected (fig. 8, a) does not function on the principle of the Pacific type of bent point hook, for the pull of the line on the shank set at such a wide angle to the longer point leg does not slide the fish into the fork between the point leg and shank. The small sumu is hooked in the fork between the point and point leg and quickly jerked out of the water.page 102
Larger single-piece hooks of the bent point type with narrower angle between shank and point leg and with small clearance between point and shank are made from the strong, lower halves of the hard shells of fully ripened coconuts. The bend, which receives the greatest amount of strain in the hook, is formed from the thick base; and the shank and point from the side of the shell. The point projects inward and downward at an angle of 35 to 40 degrees, a distinguishing characteristic of Tokelau hooks, for the hooks of this type from neighboring islands have wider angles. The shank tapers toward the upper end and is slightly shorter than the point leg (fig. 9, a, d). The end of the looped snood is placed along the inner edge of the shank and lashed above and below the lashing knob.
Figure 9.—One-piece coconut-shell hooks. a, hook with shank end below tip of point, and slight clearance; b, typical hook with straight, angular point. c, hook with curved point leg; d, hook with short shank, possibly remade from the stub of a broken shank, and wide clearance. 1, Shank; 2, bend; 3, point leg; 4, point; 5, shank-lashing projection; 6, looped snood; 7, lashing of snood to shank. Measurements in inches inside and outside (respectively) are: hook a, shank 1¼ and 1½, point leg 1¾ and 2, point 5/16 and 11/16, maximum width ¾ and 1⅛, clearance 3/16; hook b, shank 1¾ and 2¼, point leg 1¾ and 2⅜, point ¾ and 15/16, maximum width 15/16 and 1⅜, clearance ¼; hook c, shank 2⅜ and 2 15/16, point leg 1¾ and 3, point 1 and 1⅜, maximum width 1½ and 2⅛, clearance 7/16; hook d, shank 1 and 1 9/16, point leg 2 and 2 13/16, point ¾ and 1⅛, maximum width 1½ and 1 13/16, clearance 1 11/16.
The hooks described above were the only ones seen that were made of native materials, except for a wooden Ruvettus hook. Most present-day hooks are made from iron rods but the ancient forms have been retained in the iron hooks and are thought superior to European hooks sold by the trading schooners. Four iron hooks retaining the shape of native hooks are shown in figure 10. One hook (fig. 10, a) for catching malau has a double shank lashing now made by notching the projection at the end of the shank. It is more usual to bend over the end of the shank to form a small loop for attaching the snood (fig. 10, e).page 103
The largest one-piece hook (fig. 10, b) seen at Atafu was used for catching fapuku, formerly a sacred fish. In olden days this hook was made of two forked branches, like the Ruvettus hook or the small wooden hooks used by the Tahitians to catch Epinephelus sp. (hapu'u; Tokelau, fapuku) (21). The shank has a lashing knob at the tip. The snood is looped and lashed below the knob and seized by the lashing thread. One end of the loop is divided from the snood and continued as a long sinker line. A short line is lashed to the point leg for binding on the bait. Other iron hooks (fig. 10, c, d) are made in the form of the ring-shaped hooks of bone and shell used in olden times. The points project characteristically downward as in the angular hooks. The end of the shank is doubled over, and a wire snood is looped through.
Figure 10.—One-piece iron hooks. a, matau malau: 1, slightly curved shank with (5) notched lashing projection; 2, bend; 3, rounded point leg; 4, downward projecting point. b, matau fapuku: 5, lashing knob at end of (1) shank; 6, seized double snood secured by (7) lashing around (1) shank; 8, continuation of one end of (6) snood as attachment for sinker. c, ring-shaped hook (matau lulu). d, ring-shaped hook (matau palumalau). e, 5, looped end of (1) shank for attachment of (6) wire snood, characteristic of c and d. Measurements in inches are: hook a, shank 1½, point leg 1⅜, point ½, maximum width 1, clearance 5/16; hook b, shank 3⅜, point leg 3 7/16, point 1⅛, maximum width 2¼, clearance ¾; hook c, shank 2⅝, point leg 1¾, maximum width 1 9/16, clearance 5/16; hook d, shank 2⅛, point leg 1½, maximum width 1 7/16, clearance 9/16.
The Ruvettus hook (fig. 11) is composed of two forked branches of ngangie wood. The larger fork forms the shank and point leg, and the other the point and the pin which is joined to the point leg. The fork of the shank and point leg make an angle of about 40 degrees. The branch of the fork forms the shank, and the stem forms the point leg; the stem below the bend is cut off and thinned down. Both branches are left round in cross section. The upper end of the shank is trimmed and pointed and is provided with two knobs on the inner and outer parts for lashing the snood. A V-shaped groove is cut along the outer part of the upper end of the point leg, and a deep notch is cut in the tip. The inner part of the point pin has an angular face to fit this groove, and the angular under side of the point fits into the notch.page 104
Figure 11.—Ruvettus hook. a, side view: 1, shank; 2, point leg; 3, notched end of (2) point leg; 4, point; 5, pin of point joined to outer part of (2) point leg, lashed and wrapped with (6) coconut stipule covering which is secured by (7) braided sennit binding; 8, bait lashing of sennit cord; 9, heavy sennit snood secured to (10, 11) two lashing knobs, covered by (12) piece of stipule, lashed by (13) sennit braid. b, scarf joint of Ruvettus hook: 1, point leg and 2, pin of point; 3, bilateral facing of inner part of pin of (2) point fits (4) V-shaped groove of (1) point leg; 5, angle of underside of (1) point fits in (6) notch at tip of (1) point leg. Measurements in inches inside and outside (respectively) are: shank 9½ and 12½, point leg 9⅛ and 12¾, point 3¼ and 4 3/16, maximum width 3⅝ and 4¾, clearance between tip of point and shank 1¼, length of snood 18¼.
The scarf joint is lashed securely and wrapped with a piece of the fabric-like stipule of coconut leaves folded on the outer part. This is lashed with light sennit braid three times around the lower edge, twice around the middle, and six times around the upper edge (fig. 11, a). A bait lashing is secured at one end to the point leg outside the stipule wrapping. The snood is made of heavy 3-ply sennit braid ⅜ inch wide. Its lashing to the end of the shank is covered by a small piece of coconut stipule, which extends above the tip of the shank and is lashed spirally. These wrappings protect the inner lashings of the snood and scarf joint from being sawed by the fish's teeth.
Ruvettus (palu) does not hold a large place in the diet of the Tokelau people due to its purgative effect and is therefore only occasionally sought. Only two palu-fishing expeditions took place during the 10 weeks of the field trip to Atafu.
A calm sea is preferred for Ruvettus fishing because the canoe remains still and the fisherman can distinguish the pull of a fish from the drag of the heavy sennit lines. For this reason the expeditions go to the banks on the protected lee side of the island. But if a wind rises it blows the canoes away from the island. Therefore expeditions are held on moonlight nights when the fishermen can see the island to get their bearing.
The Atafu method of fishing for Ruvettus with a single hook corresponds identically with Ruvettus fishing at Vaitupu in the Ellice Islands, as described fully by Kennedy (13).
Composite hooks made of a pearl-shell shank and a turtle-shell barbless point are employed for casting from the edge of the reef and for trolling from canoes. The hooks used for casting and shore trolling are made in different sizes and are modified in construction for the different species of fish for which they are used. But they all adhere in general to the pattern of the single type of hook used in trolling for bonito.
The principal parts of these hooks are shank (pa), point (manga), hackle (senga), line or snood (afo), and lashings (alaloaloa). (See fig. 8, b.)
This type of hook is made to represent a small fish. The shank is cut in a long strip from the shell with the thick base portion left to make a raised head on the upper or concave side. The point is lashed at the tail end—the thin outer portion of the shell—through two holes in the point base. The distal lashing includes a hackle of feathers which project as a broad tail from the end of the shank. The end of the snood is looped through the proximal hole of the point base and seized. The upper part of the snood is secured along the head by a lashing which passes through a hole in this thicker part of the shank.page 106
The smallest hook of this type (pa si malau) is used for fishing with a long pole and line from the edge of the reef on moonlight nights for a reddish fish called malau. The shank is made of a transparent, amber-colored shell called fole. The head and tail of the shank are broadly rounded (fig. 12, a). The greatest width is across the under side of the head. The top is rounded between the flatter sides of the head. The flat, thin, turtle-shell point has only two perforations in the short base in order not to weaken it. The proximal point lashing and the snood run through the proximal hole. The malau hook differs from the type hook in having a feather attached from each side of the eye of the head to represent gill fins. This was the only hook seen with this type of hackle, but it is evidently not an abnormal form, for Lister (14) noted similar hooks in Fakaofu. He says, “In some cases the feathers are so fastened that the front ones resemble the two lateral fins; and the end one, the forked tail fins of the fish.”
Figure 12.—Fishhooks. a, malau hook (pa si malau), upper surface and side views: 1, shank; 2, head of shank, broad and rounded on upper surface; 3, point with two lashing holes in point base; 4, feather head hackle; 5, feather tail hackle; 6, snood. b, shank of takipalu hook, upper surface and side views: 1, shank with slightly concave upper surface, convex lower surface and beveled side; 2, raised head of shank with (3) eye for lashing snood; 4, feather tail hackle.
A small hook is used for trolling from a canoe along the edge of the reef for takipalu. The hook of this type collected at Atafu had lost its point (fig. 12, b). The shank is made of a dark brown shell proportionately thicker and broader in body than the shanks of larger hooks and is cut with the edges of the upper surface meeting in a single mesial ridge over the head. This shank has a single black feather hackle lashed on the under surface of the tail.
A slightly under-sized trolling hook (pa si aseu), identical in construction with the bonito hooks, is used in fishing for aseu. The shank of this hook (fig. 13) is made from the discarded ends of the pearl shells which are too short for shanks of bonito hooks. The different lusters of the pearl shell attract the fish. The hinge at the end of the shells is narrow and makes a small and abruptly formed head. A thin piece of shell which has no section of the shell base to form the raised head has been used for the shank of one hook (fig. 13, b). Two holes have been bored at the head end through the flat surface of the shank for the lashing of the snood.
Figure 13.—Aseu hook (pa si aseu). a, top and side view of hook with raised head shank; b, top and side view of hook with flat head shank: 1, shank; 2, head of shank with (a) transverse eye, (b) with two vertical eyes; 3, concave belly or upper surface of shank; 4, lashing of snood; 5, snood; 6, turn of snood through proximal hole of (3) point base; 7, tip of point; 8, proximal lashing of hook through middle hole of point base; 9, distal lashing of point through distal hole of point base; 10, thread hackle; 11, feather hackle; 12, back of shank; 13, point base of hook.
Aseu are trolled for with a long line and pole from the edge of the reef. The fisherman stands on a head of coral projecting beyond the outer line of the reef. He whips his hook over the breaking waves and flicks it over the surface like a small fish in flight from a larger one. If a fish does not rise for the hook, he changes it for a differently colored one and tries again, moving along the reef if his hooks do not attract fish at the first place.
At Atafu the largest of the trolling hooks (fig. 14, a) vary in length from 2.5 inches to 3.5 inches. All are made with pearl-shell shanks and turtle-shell points, but at Fakaofu Lister (14) observed bone points as well.
Figure 14.—Bonito hook and rod. a, hook (pa atu): 1, shank (pa); 2, head of shank (ulu pa); 3, tail of shank (siku pa); 4, back or lower surface of shank (tua pa); 5, belly or upper surface of shank (alo pa); 6, eye of head of shank (fao); 7, point (manga); 8, tip of point (matamanga); 9, bend of point (mulimanga); 10, point base (tapuvae i manga); 11, snood (afo); 12, seizing of the snood (kofekofe); 13, lashing of the snood (alaloaloa); 14, lashing thread through (6) eye of shank (fausanga); 15, lashing of hook through middle hole (fausangaloto); 16, lashing of feather hackle (fusienga); 17, thread hackle (senga atautunu); 18, feather hackle (senga); 19, hole in head of (10) point base for attaching (11) snood; 20, hole in middle of (10) point base for lashing (7) point to (1) shank; 21, hole in tail end of point base for attaching (7) point to (1) shank and (18) feather hackle. b, rod (kofe): 1, pole (kofe); 2, butt, with (3) groove and (4) elbow; 5, net-hook holder (safenga); 6, lashings of pole and butt.
The tip of the head of the shank is usually round and blunt. The two sides are sloped from a mesial longitudinal crest which diverges at the lower tip into the edges of the lower surface of the shank. From the distal slope of the head the ridge diverges and descends to the edges of the upper surface. A hole is bored transversely through the head with a pump drill or a shaft tipped with a pointed shell which is twirled between the hands.
The turtle-shell point with the base extending proximally is of the western Polynesian type, as distinguished by Hiroa (30). The point base has three holes: the proximal or head hole for the loop of the snood, the middle and distal or tail holes for the lashings which secure the hook to the shank. The sides and the outer edge, which rests against the upper surface of the shank, are made flat. The points differ in form; some are flat-sided, some flat-sided and beveled, and others round. The longitudinal axes of the point and point base vary from an almost parallel position to a divergence of 40 degrees. The inner curve of the point varies from a sharp form to a broad bend, and the outer edge is either straight or curved from the edge of the base.
In assembling the hook, the point is laid at the tail end of the upper or concave surface of the shank. The lashing is commenced by running a thread of fau bark through the middle hole in the point base and around the shank four times, knotting an end on each side with a half hitch. The lashing thread for the snood is next passed through the proximal hole, and one end is secured by a reef knot around the head of the base. The long end of this thread is brought to the head of the shank on the side on which it extends from the pole of the base. It is passed through the eye of the shank and back through the proximal hole in the base, and is knotted around the two strands leading to the head of the shank.
The snood is looped through the proximal hole of the point base and brought back to the head of the shank. The lashing left at the head of the base is given two half hitches about the snood. It is wound spirally with eight turns up the snood to the head of the shank and is passed through the eye and around the snood again. The lashing is seized about the end of the snood and brought four times through the eye again, being given one turn around the snood each time. It is finally secured by four half hitches below the seizing.
The hackle is made of the quills of two feathers which are inserted in two running half hitches at the tail of the shank while one end of the thread is held loosely in the teeth and then drawn taut with the free hand. The quill ends of the feathers are held with the convex side against the back of the shank at the tail while one end of the lashing is passed through the hole of the tail of the point base and brought around the shank and quills five times. This end is temporarily secured by a half twist around the tip of the point; the other end is similarly run through the hole and around the quills. The ends are given a half hitch around the lashing and knotted together at the end of the hook and left long as part of the hackle.
The only variation in the construction of this bonito hook from the Samoan hooks described by Hiroa (28) is a third hole at the head of the shank in the Tokelau hook, which is used only for the attachment of the snood. In this characteristic it corresponds to the hooks of Vaitupu, Ellice Islands, described by Kennedy (13).
The bonito fishing rod is composed of two pieces, a pole of puka, fetau wood, or imported bamboo 14 to 18 feet long, and a butt of kanava wood which is a combined handle and attachment piece for erecting the rod for trolling. The attachment of the two pieces is shown in figure 14, b. Along the upper end the butt has a groove which receives the lower end of the pole. The lower end of the butt turns into a short elbow which hooks into the socket of the stern seat when the rod is stood in the grooved block of the stern cover of the canoe. Around the butt is a small net of sennit cord for holding the several bonito hooks, each of which is attached to a separate line.
The shell used for shanks is valuable and the supply has grown less as succeeding generations comb the lagoon for the precious material. If a man paddling over the lagoon sees a shell at great depths and is unable to obtain it at the time, he claims it by announcing his discovery and its location on his return to the village. The discovered tifa shell is then tapu. In former times any man who removed it and hid it in another spot in the lagoon to recover it later as his own could be cursed to death by the original finder.
Formerly the making and keeping of a bonito hook was strictly an affair of the fishing captain, and his materials were not to be contaminated or his work interrupted. Each fishing captain (tautai) kept a wooden bowl in which he bathed his hooks in fresh water after each expedition. This water was kept in coconut water bottles and could not be used for any other purpose. His bowl and mat were also tapu.