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Niuē-fekai (or Savage) Island and its People

War, Arms, &c

War, Arms, &c.

According to their own account, wars were frequent in Niuē in old times, either as one village against another, or as a combination of several, such as north against the south, which in reality meant the Motu people opposed to the Tafiti people, the two divisions already referred to. But it was not so originally; it seems obvious from the following part of a legend, the whole of which will be found in Part IV, that the first war in the island arose through one of the Tafiti killing one of the Motu tribe. In very early times there was a high chief named Tihamau who was of the Motu tribe, and he had a hagai or lieutenant named Matua-hifi, residing at Avatele, whose business it was to guard against incursions of strange people on that side. A chief named Mutalau, who was probably of the Tafiti tribe, came to Niuē and killed Matua-hifi, as the latter hindered him from landing on the island. Trouble followed between Tihamau, the high-chief of the island, and Mutalau, but after a time this came to an end. Years after, when the sons of the slain Matua-hifi grew up, they determined to be revenged, so gathered their relatives and, proceeding to the north end of the island, there killed Mutalau; and now, says Pule-kula, “commenced the wars in the island which lasted even down to the time when Christianity was first introduced.” (see paragraph 72 et. seq. in Part IV.) As already pointed out, the absence of genealogical tables amongst the Niuē people prevents a date being assigned to this event, but it is clear that it was very long ago.

page 60

Judging from several exhibitions of the manner in which they used to fight, I do not think their wars were ever on a large scale or very disastrous in character. They were rather a series of ambuscades and skirmishes, in which probably no very great numbers were killed. Occasionally a tribe or the inhabitants of a village would be driven to seek safety in a tauē or fort, but those I have seen were incapable of holding more than a mere handful of people, though there is said to be one on Te-pa Point, near Avatele, access to which is only obtainable through a hole in the rocks, and which can contain a large number of people, as it often has done on occasions when it was besieged (pa-takai). The tauē I have seen were mere natural strongholds in rocks, to which probably art added a little strength by rolling other rocks to fill up holes in the natural defence. The want of water must have been the great drawback to these forts, as it was with the Maori pas.