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Niuē-fekai (or Savage) Island and its People

Rank, Government, Etc

Rank, Government, Etc.

Niuē presents some differences from many of the other groups in the form of its ancient Government, more particularly in the selection of a supreme chief, or king, a rank which was not hereditary, nor has there been a continuous line of kings from ancient times, so far as can be ascertained. It seems to me that the first institution of a king or patu-iki, was due to some outside influence—probably through communication with Tonga or Samoa, of which more than one instance is recorded. Prior to that time there was only chiefs of families, &c. When the occasion which originated a patu-iki arose, one was chosen page 37 by the whole of the people from one of the leading families, and subsequently the villages which were the conquerors chose the king, but his election must be agreed to by all to be valid. The absence of genealogical knowledge in the Niuē people, in which they differ so much from all other branches of the race, makes it impossible to assign a date to the choice of the first patu-iki, but it seems probable that the institution as a systematic part of the polity of the island had not been in force for more than 150 years before christianity was introduced in 1849—that is, excluding the first king of all. The Niuē form of kingship seems to find its nearest analogue in the case of Mangaia Island of the Cook Group, where the kings (ariki) were chosen, and the office was not herediary. It is entirely different to the system that prevails in Samoa and Tonga, the nearest groups to Niuē, and this difference I wish to emphasize, as it bears on the origin of the people (see Part III). The king, as has been said, is called patu-iki, which is a combination of the two word patu and iki, both meaning a chief, and it may be translated “chief of chiefs.” I shall have to refer to these terms again, but in the mean time will now proceed to give the succession of patu-ikis, as written out for me by Mohe-lagi of Alofi, the original of which will be found in Part III hereof, the translation is as follows, but as the original was only placed in my hands the day I left Niuē, I regret I had no time to ask more particulars about it:—

“This is the history of the kings (iki) of old; and this story has now been written about them, but (the knowledge) is retained in the memories of the wise men and those of a clear understanding. Thus: [Tihamau was the first king in ancient times; not mentioned by Mohe-lagi.]

1. Puni-mata, the first putu-iki of Niuē, who was bathed at Papatea, near Hakupu, whence he was borne on men's shoulders to Fatu-aua. He died of old age, and was buried at Hopuo. After him, for a long time there was an interregnum; it is not known how many generations elapsed before another was set up.

2. Patua-valu—Then all the people assembled to consult as to another man as king (iki) of the island, and they fixed on Tage-lagi.* Then the people gathered to anoint Tage-lagi as king, but he prevented it and proposed Patua-valu instead, whilst he himself would guard the king, for he was a warrior. So Tage-lagi anointed Patua-valu as king; he was bathed at Puato, by Tage-lagi, who then composed the following song for the occasion:

Let us carry a stone and set it up,
Erect it within at Puato,
To annoint the King of Niuē,
Sing with prolonged animation,
Sing with prolonged animation.

* Tage-lagi's skull used to grin at me from a shelf in my office at Alofi. A

page 38 Hoist up the flag,
Let it fly in the breeze,
Sing with prolonged animation,
Sing with prolonged animation.

Patua-valu was king; but he was guarded by Tage-lagi. And Patua-valu died first of old age, and after him Tage-lagi. Then another was set up as a successor to the king.

3. Galiga (or Galiaga-a-Iki) was the king who was killed by violence. He was bathed by Mohe-lagi at Palūki, when he composed the following song:

The populace has gathered at Palūki,
To bathe the Lord at the tafua,
Look not backwards to Fale-una,
But downwards to the tafua of the island
Now gathered at Palūki.

(Galiaga of Palūki was the last king elected during the times of peace. He was killed by Tikomata. The first time he visited Liku, he went to bathe in the sea, upon which Mohe-lagi composed the following song, which, I may add, was sung as a welcome to me on my first visit there:

Kua fenoga he Iki ki Tama-ha-le-leka,
Iki puna he mata i Halavai,
Kave loa ki Fakahau-leva
Koukou i luga a Tagaloa,
Iki puna he mapua-lagi.
To pakia hifo e muka he kava,
Ke kapiti ua mo e mata he lā,
Folahia ki fakatau la
Mo nofoa a Galiaga-a-Iki,
Iki puna he mapua-lagi.
The chief journeyed to Tama-ha-le-leka,1
To see himself in the waters of Halavai point,2
Tis a long carrying to Fakahau-leva.
Tagaloa3 does bathe up above,
(But) the chief sees himself at the horizon.4
Striken shall be the young shoot of kava,
And be conjoined with the face of the sun,
Let both be spread out together.
As a seat for Galiaga-a-Iki,
The chief sees himself at the horizon.

page 39

After Galiaga came two candidates for the office of king named Fakana-iki and Hetalaga, but as the whole of the island did not approve, neither of them was anointed.)

4. Foki-mata then became king, and was bathed by Fakahemanava at Palūki, when he composed the following song for him:

The kamapiu shrub that stands at Tafala-mahina,
Broken off were (its branches) by my sister,
And beaten on my body to scent it,
Sweet scented to go to Palūki.

5. Pakieto was also a king, but he did not hold the office for a year, and then died.* [He was of the Tama-lagau people—and subsequent to his death a war occurred as to who should succeed him—not mentioned by Mohe-lagi.]

That is the story of the Patu-ikis of old in the “period of darkness” (raha pouli); but the following are the kings of the “period of prayer” (raha liogi, i.e. since christianity prevailed). The populace sought out a man who was suitable, and of good repute, for the office. Thus:

6. Tui-toga was the first king. He was anointed on March 2nd, 1875, and died 13th June, 1887. This is the song composed for his anointing:

Assembled are the people at the hanging flag,
Seeking are the people for a lord,
This island is seeking for a lord,
Seeking for a lord (like) Patua-valu,
For he was the lord who fell full ripe (in years),
Seeking are the people for a lord,
It is settled to be the weapon-eating lord there,
To watch for the dreaded companies,
Seeking are the people for a lord.

(Tui-toga was also called Ta-tagata, a name now borne by his son.)

7. Fata-a-iki was the next king; he was anointed November 21st, 1888, and died December 15th, 1896. (I learn from Mr. Lawes that Fata-a-Iki was a very superior man, of great force of character, and with a deep knowledge of the Niuē language. His word was law to the people.)

8. Togia-Pulu-toaki is the present king, and he was anointed June 30th, 1898, and was in office when the Resident arrived at Niuē, 11th September, 1901.”

Such is Mohe-lagi's account of the kings of Niuē. The songs (lologo) are probably those sung at the feast (katoaga) held in the

* Fata-a-iki's paper says that Fiti was fifth king—probably another name

page 40 king's honour when he was anointed. The word “bathe” which I have used in the translation of the songs, refers, I think, to the washing of the body with scented (manogi) oils, and the anointing (fakauku, or fakatakai; fakafoufou to crown, foufou a crown) was done by one of the senior chiefs dipping a lau-mamālu* in a cup of coco-nut oil, and striking the king's head three times. A representative from each village attended, whilst others performed various services, such as providing the stone against which the king sat to be anointed, such stone being called a pēpē (Maori, &c., paepae, but in Moriori pēpē). There are two of such stones in the village of Alofi, where Tui-toga and Fata-a-iki were anointed. They are rough flat coral rocks, about four feet high and two feet broad. At Tuapa, about half-a-mile inland is another, which stands at the east end of an artificial platform (tutu) of rough stones about twelve feet high, sixty feet long, and fifty feet wide. At about seventy or eighty yards to the west are eleven seats formed of upright stones with backs to them, where the chiefs sat in council (fono) with the king. The pillar where the king is anointed and the stone seats reminded me very much of the place called Arai-te-tonga, in Rarotonga, where is the pillar called Tau-makeva where the ariki or king was anointed and near where is the row of stone seats, of the same kind as those at Niuē, where the chiefs of the island sat. But there is this notable difference, that at Rarotonga the chiefs can tell to whom each seat belonged, and the whole history of the place, and the ceremonies performed there, whereas the Niuē chiefs, including the king, who accompanied Mr. Lawes and myself on our visit to the pēpē described above, knew very little about it—not even the name of the king who was anointed there.
It will be noted in the above songs, that tui is sometimes used for king, chief, &c. This is a Fijian, Tongan, and Samoan title, but not known in Eastern Polynesia. It was probably introduced by the Tafiti people, but it is very rarely used. There are honorific or emblematical names for the king, such as Ulu-he-motu, Head of the Island; whilst Tuapa, where the present king lives, is called Uho-motu, meaning the core, centre, origin, of the island, and inferentially the seat of power. But Tuapa has not always been the “capital” of the island. Palūki, near the centre, seems to have been the great place in former days, though no one lives there permanently now. Fata-a-iki's

* Lau mamālu, the leaf of a fern that is very common at Niue. It appears to have some special significance attached to it, like the karamu branch, &c., much used formerly in New Zealand in connection with their ceremonies. When vessels approached Niuē formerly, the wise men used to hold a lau-mamālu before their faces whilst they recited their incantations to drive off the strangers for fear of diseases. The use of the fern leaf was to prevent them being afflicted by opthalmia originating with the visitors.

page 41 paper (loc: cit.) says: “Ko Palūki, ko e uho foki ha mautolu a Palūki. Ko Palūki mo Liua-lagi: ko e higoa haia he motu tapu* i Niuē nai: ko e toloaga haia he motu nai, ke eke ai e tau kava-atua mo e liogi ai ke mafola e motu.” “Palūki is our origin, centre; Palūki and Liua-lagi are the names of the sacred isle (? wood)* of Niuē; it was the gathering place of all the island, where they made the kara-atua and prayed for peace in the island.”

As to the functions of the Patu-iki, it is now somewhat difficult to say. But the mere fact of their being such a functionary who was in constant communication with all parts of the island through the intermediary of his council (fono), would tend to the general benefit. There was one representative of the king—his agent, as it were—in each village called Alavaka, or Alaga-vaka; but at a fono, it was not only they who attended, but most of the other chiefs also.

In addition to the king there was an officer termed an Alaga-vaka ne-mua, or chief Alaga-vaka, who was a kind of Prime Minister, and may be said to have carried on the business of the island, indeed, to such an extent it is said, that he sometimes usurped the chief power in the land, and carried on the government (pule) himself. He was assisted by another Minister termed a Hagai, but what his functions were I know not. According to Fata-a-iki (loc: cit.) there were a number of Alaga-vaka, but one only, the Alaga-vaka-ne-mua, who had access to the king. I give below his account in the original, for it contains some statements of importance which I should not like to make a mistake in. He says: “Ko e alito he motu nai he raha tuai kā e palāhega, ti larahi aki ni e kafa-lauulu, ti afī aki ni e lau-polata mo e tau lau-piu; afā ni, ati maluokaoka fua, ti tahake ni ke tau he aloalofale, ti tafu ni e ati he kelekele ke mafana ai e mena ia kua tau he aloalofale. Ko e higoa e mena ia ko e ‘toka-motu’—ko e alito haia he motu. Ko Tagaloa haia he mounuina ai e motu. Ka to e tau lā, ti fano e Ala-raka-ne-mua ke he Patu-iki ke huhū age ki a ia po ke heigoa e mena ne malaia ai e motu. Ti fano a Tokaaga-tala i Mutalau ke kikite: kua fukefuke tuai he Patu-iki e tau afī, ti tiaki, ti haumia ni e alito he motu—nakai mafana ke monuina e motu. Ko Tokaaga-tala e Ala-vaka-ne-mua- Ko e mena loga e Alaga-vaka, ka e taha ni ne mua; nakai o oti ke he Patu-iki, taha ni ka fano ke he Patu-iki ke tā mai he tala ke he motu.” The translation is: “The Alito of this island in ancient times was a palā-hega, which was bound up with a hair girdle, and then wrapped in the inside leaf of the banana, and also a fan-palm leaf;

* The Maori word motu, for a clump of forest seems to be lost in Niuē now-a-days, but the fact of such a clump of tall forest trees growing near Palūki at the present day, named Motu-tapu, seems to show that they once knew the word. It is in this sense probably Fata-a-iki uses the word above.

* The Maori word motu, for a clump of forest seems to be lost in Niuē now-a-days, but the fact of such a clump of tall forest trees growing near Palūki at the present day, named Motu-tapu, seems to show that they once knew the word. It is in this sense probably Fata-a-iki uses the word above.

Articles of value are still wrapped up in the silky inner skin of the banana stem (lau-polata), and the folded leaf of the fan-palm is also used as a wrapper at the present day.

page 42 after wrapping up it was completely sheltered, and was then lifted up and suspended on the inner part of the roof, a fire was then lit on the ground in order to warm the object suspended to the roof. The name of this thing is a “toka-motu”—that is the alito of the island. It is Tagaloa; and he blesses (or brings prosperity to) the island. After sunset, the chief Alaga-vaka would go to the Patu-iki to ask him as to what it was that brought misery (misfortune) on the island. On one occasion Tokaaga-tala, of Mutalau, went to see him; (he found) that the Patu-iki had taken off the coverings and thrown them away, and (consequently) the alito of the island was damp through dew—it was not warm, so that the island might be prosperous (or blessed). Tokaaga-tala was the chief Ala-vaka. There were many Alaga-vaka, but only one was chief; the others would not go to the Patu-iki, but one only, that the Patu-iki might give him the information about the island.”

There are some matters in the above which require explanation. The word alito,* means the core, kernal, in ordinary language, but here it is evidently more in the nature of the mauri of the Maoris, that is, an object of a talismanic kind which centred in it as an objective the prosperity of the island, in the same manner that the mauri represented the tangible form of that which gave prestige, power and vitality to the places wherein they were located. We have no word in the English language to express this; but it may more easily be understood by Mr. Elsdon Best's apt illustration as follows: When the Philistines took from the Children of Israel the Ark of the Covenant, they lost their mauri, and with it their prestige, power, luck, and well-being as a nation. Such is, I think, the meaning of atito in this connection. The visible form of the alito was a palāhega. Now this is a plume, made of paroquets' feathers worked round a central core of wood or compressed dried banana leaves, sprouting from which is a plume of red feathers of the tuaki-kula, or tropic bird. They are very handsome objects, and are bound together with braided human hair. In its talismanic capacity it evidently was necessary that it be kept warm (mafana) to retain its virtue, and hence the action of the Patu-iki in allowing it to become bedewed (haumia) caused misfortunes to arise in the island, and originated the visit of Tokaaga-tala to the Patu-iki to ascertain the cause thereof. It will be seen that the palāhega was termed a toka-motu, which, I think, may be translated as the “rock, or foundation of the island.”

There was a special series of words used in referring to the king, or in addressing him, which were not used in other cases or in

* Maori scholars will recognise the word rito in alito.

See plate in part III.

page 43 ordinary convesration. This of course is a Samoan and Tongan custom also. The paucity of “chief's words” in Niuē again leads me to infer that the institution of king is comparatively modern, and that the introduction of the use of them was due to some communication with Tonga or Samoa. The following is the list which, however, may not be complete:—
Chiefs' Word Common Word Chiefs' Word Common Word
fioia, to see* mamata, etc. haeleaga, the king's residence fale, kaina
finagalo, will, command loto
fufuga, head ulu matulei, to die mate
fofoga, face, eyes, etc. mata tugolu, to sleep mohe
haele, to come, or go hau, fano ve and vae, foot hui

Out of these words, two are Samoan, six Tongan, four Futunaan, four Tahitian, three Maori. From so small a number of words it would be unsafe to make any sure deduction; but still, Tongan words preponderate, and the inference would be, were the comparison capable of greater extension, that the institution of king is due to Tonga influence.

The attitude of the lower orders towards the king and chiefs was always one of deference, for which they have a word (maimaina), and this is so at this day. No one of the common people (lalo tagata) approaches a chief, or passes before him without stooping in a humble attitude (tukutuku-hifo, to bow down), and, like the Samoans, they sit down cross-legged (fakatoga, which really means Tonga fashion) to prefer any request. Fata-a-iki says (loc. cit.) “The appropriate (gali) way of speaking in Niuē in former days, was not to stand, but sit cross-legged, or to kneel one knee on the ground.” This latter posture is frequent at the present time. I was often amused in my walks with Mr. Lawes, to see that people meeting us along the road, especially women, generally moved off the highway and squatted down until we had passed. This is maimaina, deference, respect, a word which appears to be native to Niuē, but is akin to the Maori maimaiaroha. There is another Niuē word for this humble attitude, hufeilo, which apparently meant originally, to prostrate, to lie on the ground, to abase oneself to a conqueror, to beg one's life. The conquered formerly acted in this manner, kissing the feet of the conqueror and bringing a present at the same time. This was done in such a manner as not to give the victor time to refuse. Inferential if the present was accepted, the life of the petitioner was spared.

* Fioia, is probably the passive form of fio, the Tahitian hio. If so, as to see and to know are generally identical terms in Polynesia, the Maori mo-hio, to know, is the same as Niuē fio.

page 44

There are a good many chiefs in Niuē, who are called either iki or patu. The former no doubt is the Polynesian word ariki, or chief, lord, or king, though in New Zealand it is also applied to the first born son. Niuē folks are rather given to dropping the letter ‘r’ (or ‘l’) in words in which other branches retain it; in this they resemble the Marquesans, who have lost the ‘r’ altogether from their dialect, and their word for a chief is haka-iki. In Tonga, the word is eiki. Mr. Lawes told me that he thought the iki were chiefs who had risen for some reason, perhaps as warriors, to a higher position, and that the name is possibly of comparative modern use. If so, it would have come from Tonga, and not Samoa, where the form is ali‘i. But, though I am loth to question any statement of Mr. Lawes’, the fact of this word being found in the ancient invocation called “Ulu lologo o Maletoa,” seems to show it to have been in use for a very long time,—so long that the language of this invocation is hardly understood by most people.

The name patu, which represents the head of a family, is more commonly used than iki. This is no doubt the Eastern Polynesian name fatu, used for a lord or chief, the head or core or centre of authority, and is identical with Maori whatu, the core or kernel, etc. The patus are the heads of the fagai, already described, and they form the local fonos, or councils of each village, and with the ikis fill the various offices required in the polity of Niuē such as (in modern times) the magistrates (fakafili), the police (leoleo), the deacons, and do all the speechifying, which is by no means an unimportant part in every day life. In former times they were the leaders in war, the toa, or warriors, and moreover are the principal land owners, though every one has land of his own by right of ancestral title; at the same time I did hear of cases in which some individuals had been unjustly deprived of their rights by the patus.*

There is no question as to the power the patus and ikis exercised over the lalo-tagata, or lower orders—they were supreme; but I believe all decisions were the result of a concensus of opinion in the fono or council.

* I have mentioned the magistrates and police. I ascertained that for the eleven villages of the island with a population of 4,500, there were twenty-three magistrates and one hundred and twenty-five police, who were paid by appropriating the fines to themselves! I found it necessary to reduce the former to five, the latter to eleven, and arranged that they should be paid by the state.