Ethnology of Tokelau Islands
The Story of Sinaiono
The Story of Sinaiono
Maliliona Tane and Maliliona Fafine were married and had two children, a boy and a girl, named Mangeleponapona and Sinaleulu. The boy, Mangeleponapona, was married to Lafailafaitonga. She became pregnant and desired some fish.10 When Mangeleponapona heard the request of his wife, he went straightway to his parents' house and told them of his wife's wish. They sent his sister, Sinaleulu, to the reef to catch fish for Mangeleponapona to take to his wife. Sinaleulu had no net to fish with on the reef, so she sat in the inlet facing the current and spread her legs apart, and in this way made a fork trap into which the fish must run. When the fish swam against her, she caught them with her hands. After catching many in this way she took them home to her brother, who brought them to Lafailafaitonga. He cooked them for her to eat, but when she swallowed them she immediately vomited.
Again Mangeleponapona went to his parents with a request for fish for his wife who wished some to eat, and again they sent Sinaleulu to the reef to catch some. She sat as before in the inlet, and when the fish swam between her legs she caught them with her hands and took them to her house. Her brother Mangeleponapona prepared them for his wife, but these too made her sick when she ate them.
Mangeleponapona asked his parents for fish a third time, and watched from a distance to discover how his sister was catching them. When she came back he took the fish from her but did not cook them or allow his wife to touch them.
The next day he went to his parents and told them how his sister had caught the fish. Sinaleulu was lying on the mats in the house when her brother came in and he thought she was asleep. But she listened to what he told their parents and became very angry. As soon as he had left the house she went to a point of the island and pushed it off with a pole (toko) for propelling a canoe in shallow water, thus separating it from the rest of the land. Then she poled her way to the land of Saluelakaniva, whom she married.
Lafailafaitonga had a baby girl, Sinaiono, who married Tinilau and went to his island. Here Tinilau had many wives, the Kaunofoitalau, but Sinaiono became his favorite. The Kaunofoitalau were jealous of her because Tinilau always carried a bonito to her when he returned from fishing but made the Kaunofoitalau get their fish from the canoe. One night these women made a dish of young coconuts, tamokomoko worms, and starfish, which they ground together and then mixed with their urine. When Tinilau was out early the next morning catching bonito, they forced Sinaiono to drink the food they had prepared. She died, and then they examined her body to find out why she was the favorite of her husband. They decided it was because of her well-formed genitals.
When Tinilau returned with a large bonito for Sinaiono he found her lying dead on the floor. He went to the Kaunofoitalau, his spirit wives (aitu), and ordered them to bring her back to life. He told them that they must build an island near his own for her by piling rocks on the bottom of the sea where they were to live and take care of Sinaiono, bring her food each day, and make a fire to give her light at night. The island was small and round, and nothing grew on it but the flowering tiale trees.
After the women and Sinaiono settled on the island they took her soul from her each day and left her alone. They forced the body of Sinaiono to clean up the island and throw the rubbish into the sea each morning and make a fire for herself each night so that Tinilau would believe they were tending her.
One day the Kaunofoitalau went away as usual but forgot to take the soul of Sinaiono. She went about her work, picking up all the dead leaves and flowers and throwing them into the sea. These dead bits floated away and came to the island where page 81 Sinaleulu, her father's sister, was living with Saluelakaniva. Sinaleulu saw these things and wondered where they came from, and set out in search of the land. She found Sinaiono and discovered their relationship.
When the Kaunofoitalau returned at the end of the day, Sinaiono went down to the beach to show her shame before them and perform singo, (sitting crosslegged with the back to the superior people and then sitting forward on the knees so that one's buttocks are exposed to those behind). The Kaunofoitalau told Sinaiono that they were doing all that Tinilau had commanded of them. When Sinaleulu heard this she threw all the Kaunofoitalau into the sea, where they were devoured by sharks and fish.
Then Sinaleulu called all the fish to her and made them carry Sinaiono to Tinilau's island in a house built on a raft. When Sinaiono arrived she found a long house with 10 doors called the Faitutoka o fafine, the doors of which were called pouangafulu (tenth door), pouangahiva (ninth door), pouangavalu (eighth door), and on down to pouangatasi (first door). Behind each door there were as many women as the number marked on the door. When she came to the first door, where Tinilau slept, she went in and lived as his first wife.