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Niuē-fekai (or Savage) Island and its People



From the nature of the coast—a coral reef—it may be expected that shell-fish are not abundant, and yet the women are to be seen every day on the reef gathering (fagota) such as may be found. The giant Trydacna (gēegēe) is found, and its solid shell is used, as in other islands, from which to make axes (toki), for which purposes it is suitable, though not so hard as stone; but then the Niuē people have no volcanic stone on their island as other branches of the race have. The cowrie of several varieties is found in Niuē, some of them of great beauty. The general name is pule.* the white cowrie being pule-tea; the brown mottled, and tiger cowrie are called pule-kula. The pule-tea is highly valued for ornamental purposes. This name pule for the cowrie shell appears to be confined to Tonga, Samoa, and Niuē, and in Samoa it is a general name for shells, whereas in Niuē and New Zealand a univalve shell is pu.

There are several species of land shells, of which the natives make great use for adornment, as in necklaces, &c. I am enabled by the kindness of Mr. A. Suter, of the Auckland Museum, to give the scientific names of those land shells I brought from Niuē. They are:—

  • Trumatella rustica, Mousson. The ihi-maka or uho-maka of the natives.

  • Helicina brazierii, Pease. The ihivao of the natives.

  • Melampus fasciatus, Deshayes—fua-rokea of the natives.

  • Melampus cartaneus, Mühlfeldt—fua-hihi of the natives.

  • Melampus lutens, Quoy and Gaimard—fua-hihi of the natives.

* This word as applied to a shell is not known in Maori, but the Moriori of the Chatham Islands have retained it (pure) as the name for the scallop, not having any cowries in their island.