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Niuē-fekai (or Savage) Island and its People

Divisions of the People

Divisions of the People

It has already been pointed out that there are two main divisions of the people, termed “Tafiti” and “Motu.” The former people occupy the southern part of the island, from and including the page 34 southern part of the village of Alofi to the village of Liku. Very roughly we may say that the name includes about 1,400 to 1,500 of the population. The inhabitants of the rest of the island are included in the Motu division, and number about 3,000. These two peoples have been constant enemies from time immemorial down to the introduction of christianity. Not that they were always in a state of war, but conflicts were very frequent. The people cannot now tell the origin of these two names, but say they have been so called from very ancient times (tigahau). The frequent state of warfare in which these two peoples existed seems to emphasize the fact of the population having been drawn from two sources, and the probability seems to be that the Tafiti people are a later migration coming from the west, originally, no doubt, from the Fiji group, where the Polynesians sojourned so long. Tafiti is a name given by the Samoans to the Fiji group,* and is equivalent to the name Tahiti in Eastern Polynesia. The other name, Motu, probably applies to the original migration, or people of the island (motu) who came there in much earlier times.

The Maori words Ngati-, Ngai- and Ati- as prefixes to tribal names, meaning the “descendants of,” are not known to the Niuē people. Nor do they know the New Zealand name for sub-tribe, hapu, or a tribe, iwi. The Niuē word corresponding to Maori Ngati-, is ohi, but it does not enter into any of the names of the divisions of the people. The equivalent of the Maori hapu in Niuē, seems to be either Tama or fagai. For example, there are people who are all related to one another more or less, scalled Tama-hamua, Tama-kautonga, Tama-hato-kula, &c., and these names seem now to be applied indifferently to those people, or to the places where they live. The fagai (Maori, whangai, to feed) is also a collection of relatives, but persons stranger to the blood are sometimes admitted in to it. It seems probable that the name originated from the fact of the members of a family “feeding” (fagai) together, to which a more extended meaning has been given as the numbers of the family increased. In the pamphlet called, “Ko e tau poa he mē i Niuē, 1901,” being a statement of the offerings made to the Church in Niuē for 1901, each amount is stated opposite the fagai which gave it, and I find there are 170 of them, in which are included several with the prefix Tama-. But it is possible some of the names given are those of places that are not identical with the fagai considered as a family group of related persons.

* See Dr. Turner's “Samoa, a hundred years age,” p. 12.

Ohi is also an old Maori word equivalent to ai, and consequently has the same meaning as the Niuē word.