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Old Samoa or Flotsam and Jetsam from the Pacific Ocean

Chapter XII — Early Samoan Voyages and Settlement

page 271

Chapter XII
Early Samoan Voyages and Settlement

Samoa was the birthplace of much Polynesian settlement. Of this I think there can be little doubt. From Samoa as a centre, population spread for many generations, until a vast expanse of ocean had been visited by her colonists and many lands settled from her shores. In the past Samoa has sent forth band after band of hardy navigators and leaders, who have left their impress and names upon many groups and peoples. North, south, east, and west they spread. Samoan names of places and people, given in memory of their visits, testify to this intercourse; whilst the ancient traditions and genealogies of many widely separated lands tell of the visits of those old leaders and navigators who for many ages and generations made their names famous, and their memories revered by their descendants. Records of these voyages state that these leaders of men visited the Sandwich Islands to the north; Marquesas, Tahiti, Raiatea, Huahine, and other islands to the east; Rarotonga, Tonga, Fiji, and even New Zealand and Chatham Islands, to the south and south-west, and also other lands scattered over the vast Pacific. The records are precise, and in, many cases details are given page 272describing the progress and fortunes of the adventurous colonists, whilst the islands stated to have been visited afford abundant evidence of such fact in the names given by them to places in the newly discovered lands.

One strange fact is the manner in which the name Savaii, one of the sources of these successive colonizations, under the varied name of Hawaiki, Awaiki, or Hawaii, seems to have eclipsed the mother name Samoa, as the name cherished in the different lands as the island whence their ancestors came. This is difficult to understand, since both Manu'a and Upolu, the latter especially, sent forth frequent, and well-equipped, and carefully arranged expeditions. One reason may be the fact that the large sea-going canoes were mostly, if not entirely, built on Savaii, and it would also appear that the different expeditions started from Savaii. Thus possibly the voyagers were led to speak of themselves as having come from Savaii. It has been suggested that the fact has arisen from Savaii, or some form of the same word, being, perhaps, the name of the more ancient home of the Samoans; but the former reason appears the more likely.

The Mss. from which these records were taken describe not only the first settlement of Rarotonga by Samoans, but long-continued and extensive voyages undertaken by successive generations of Samoans, extending over many years, and covering a vast expanse of ocean. The record purports to be 'The history of the peopling of Rarotonga: with the generations of the people of Samoa, whence they sprang.'

The record commences by stating that Tangaloa, or, as he is also called, Tupua, was the first chief of Upolu. page 273It then proceeds to give a connected list of seventy-three names of chiefs or rulers, the last of which is Tangiia, one of the two famous voyagers who first settled one portion of Rarotonga. This list of powerful chiefs, who successively, or perhaps in some cases contemporaneously, ruled on Upolu, or other parts of Samoa, is most interesting and suggestive. In it are found the names of chiefs who held sway on Savaii, as well as those who were supreme on Upolu. Rata, with Atonga, Iro, and Karika, to give the Rarotonga pronunciation, were chiefs of Savaii; whilst Tangaloa, Tealutanganuku, and his successors were chiefs of Upolu, who in a series of years made long and distant voyages to all parts of the compass, Tahiti, Marquesas, Futuna, Uvea (Wallis's Island), Fiti1, Tonga, New Zealand, Chatham Islands (olioli), Matatela, and Rarotonga, with many other islands, being in turn visited-in some cases more than once-and also in part colonized, by those enterprising leaders.

The first canoe spoken of in the record was built on Savaii, in a forest belonging to Rata, by Atonga and his two brothers, Olokeu and Olo-i-nano; the name of Atonga, the elder brother, appearing sixty-eighth on the genealogy, and coming immediately before that of Tealutanganuku, Lord of A'ana, who made the first voyage spoken of, and standing sixty-ninth on the list; Tangiia, who made the last of the series, appearing seventy-third on the list, thus covering a period of some five generations, or 150 years, during which these voyages were made.

The brothers Olokeu and Olo-i-nano were the first to page 274move in building the canoe, being impelled thereto by the harsh treatment of their brother Atonga. Smarting under his unkindness, they determined to build a canoe, and thus provide themselves with the means of seeking other lands. They went to a forest on Savaii belonging to Rata, and cut down a tree without getting his permission, which brought them trouble later on. Having cut down the tree they went to the coast, intending to return the next day. Meantime Rata appeared on the scene and resented this felling of a tree without his permission. Exerting some supernatural power inherent in him, he commanded the re-connexion of the several parts. When Rata reached the spot and saw the tree cut down, he said, 'Head of the tree, approach, with the branches, leaves, bark, and chips; let all be joined again to the trunk of the tree;' and it was so. All the different portions came together. Rata then said to the tree, 'Stand upright! I am Tuta-maota-mea;' on which the tree arose and stood upright, and Rata returned to the coast.

When the two brothers returned early in the morning they found the tree standing upright; but they sought and found it by the hatchets left at the butt of the tree. Nothing daunted, they cut it down again, divided the butt, and prepared the tree for being dragged to the coast. After this they returned home. On their way they encountered another marvel, as they were brought face to face with a combat between an owl and a snake. The owl, who claimed to be the lord of the forest in disguise, said to them, 'Friends, my brothers, come you here, and put a stop to this quarrel between myself and the snake.' But the snake said, 'Chiefs, proceed, and do page 275not interfere in the quarrel of the snake and the owl;' on which the two brothers prepared to go forward, not caring to interfere; but the owl immediately said to them, 'Behold, I am the lord of this forest, in which you two cut down the tree; if you do not come and put a stop to our quarrel, you shall never paddle in your canoe.' On this they thought upon the fact of the tree which they had cut down being caused to stand upright again, and turning back they killed the snake by cutting it asunder. On this the owl said to them, 'Go, you two; prepare your canoe, a vaatele (large canoe), with its outrigger, and seats, and set of paddles.' After a time, when the canoe had been built, they prepared to drag it from the forest and take it to the sea; but when they reached the tuasivi, or ridge of the mountain, they both died.

When Atonga found that his brothers did not return, he sought and found them in the mountain, lying dead on the ridge, and buried them. He then took the canoe for himself. A mystery hangs about this Atonga, who had something to do with the building of the canoe. He is represented as having two sides—one side spirit, the other side man. The canoe was said to be built in a night, but the brothers did not know it. The man side worked as a servant, the spirit side building the canoe, which was finished in the night. When the canoe was built it was first called O le va'a fau po (the canoe built in the night).

The fame of this wonderful canoe soon reached Upolu, and a chief named Tealutanganuku longed to possess it. After some intriguing with his wife and Atonga, the latter presented the canoe to Tealutanganuku, and sent him the following directions by his wife: 'Go, tell your page 276husband to prepare a house for the canoe. Summon all Upolu to come and build a house quickly, for the canoe shall be taken to him to-morrow morning. Command that none of the people stand upright, but that all sit down and look at the canoe as it is taken, and listen to the song of the birds bearing it.'

The woman returned in haste to her husband, who summoned the people, so that the canoe-house was built and finished by daylight, when the song of the birds was heard approaching with their burden. Atonga had sent his commands to all the birds that they should carry the canoe to its destination, and instructed them what song to sing when they lifted the canoe. 'This shall be your song when you take the canoe:—

'Kipongipongi i le tine o Kupolu;
I le matakitaki e nopo oe e!
Chorus—Olo-keu e; Olo-i-nano e!
Olo-keu e, Olo-i-nano e!

The thousands of Upolu;
In the early morning assemble and behold!
Chorus— Olo-keu e;
Olo-i-nano e! Olo-keu e, Olo-i-nano e!'

Atonga had changed the name of the canoe to that of Manu-a-lele (birds about to fly). The canoe was landed on Upolu and safely housed, to the great delight of the chief, who changed the name of the canoe to that of his wife, O-le-puta-o-le-peau (the fullness of the wave), which was the third name of the canoe. After this, preparation was made for the first voyage of the canoe.

On the first voyage of the canoe it visited all the lands on the south-south-west and west side of the heaven, but did not go to the upper side of the heaven, or towards page 277Tahiti; and when the year was finished the chief gave the canoe to his son, Tealutangalangi, who made the second voyage.

On the second voyage the name of the canoe was again changed to O-le-folau-loi-i-Fiti (the voyage direct to Fiti), but did not go to the eastward. At the close of that year the chief gave the canoe to his son Kaukulu.

On the third voyage, under Kaukulu, the canoe visited Fiti and the lands his father had visited. He also went to another land, which was then known for the first time, called Tongaleva. After this he returned in his canoe to Upolu, when he saw that it was opening in the joints. He anchored it beneath the water and named it Tunamoevai (eel sleeping in the water). When a season had passed he gave the canoe to his son Malu, who again changed its name to Numia au (confusion of currents).

On the fourth voyage, under Malu, the canoe sailed towards the upper side of the heavens (east or north-east), whither he went, as also his father Kaukulu. They discovered a small island named Tokutea, where Malu left his father. He then sailed about by himself and his men, and afterwards returned to Samoa. The birth of Tangiia is now described. On his return to Savaii, Malu married a woman named Ruamano, by whom he had two girls. One of them married a man named Tutapu and had a son, who was adopted by Malu, as he had no son, and who named him Teuenga. The boy fell sick, but two aitu came, who were Tangaloa and Tongaiti; these two looked at the boy. Tangaloa said, 'Alas, poor boy!' and, addressing his companion, said, 'What do you say, suppose we let the boy live? If he lives he will be our rejoicing.' On this they called the page 278boy Tangiia, which means in Samoan, compassionated (literally, cried over), because of the sympathy of the two spirits to the boy when near death.

Some of the family of Malu determined for a fifth voyage to sail to the lower side of the heaven (south-south-west and west), and these are the lands they visited: Tonga, Fiti, Nuku, Ololilo, Nu'u, Angaula, Kulupongi, Alamati'etie, Matatela, Vaelua, Tikinuku, Uvea, Amama, Tuma (Rotumah), with all the islands visited by the family of Malu. Whilst the party were at the island of Nu'u they built a canoe for the chief. It was small, and only the chief sat in it; and it was guided by a man who walked along the shore. It was called O le vaa-tapa-langi (canoe beckoning the heavens) That was the reason why they proclaimed Tangiia to the chieftainship; and now also the dignity of his father was first of all given to him. He became chief, and obtained the idols whom he and his family worshipped.

After this they left that side of the heavens, and for a sixth voyage sailed eastward to Niue (Savage Island), and Niutaputapu (Keppel's Island), with Niulii, Niutala, and Iva (Marquesas), and then sailed to Tahiti, where Tangiia made a settlement at a place called Punaauia. This was a settlement of the four classes of people who were called the diminutives. It is said they were so short that they could not be seen when they walked in the high grass or undergrowth. Whilst Tangiia and his party dwelt here he married the daughter of Maono, named Aleiuaia, by whom he had a child called Pouteanuanua (supporting-posts of the rainbow) and two others, all of whom were adopted by the father of the woman, who was then discarded by Tangiia.

page 279

The tradition describes another amour of Tangiia with a woman of Raiatea, by whom he had three children, after which he returned to Tahiti. On returning to Tahiti, Tangiia found that war had broken out between Maono, the father of his former wife, and Tutapu, a chief from Iva (Marquesas), in which Maono was defeated. At this place Tangiia found a man from Huahine, who married his sister Rakanui, on which Tangiia gave her the canoe which had been brought by the birds from Savaii in which they sailed for Huahine.

The seventh voyage was by the Marquesan chief Tutapu, who sailed for Rarotonga, and on reaching there he and his party set to work to drain the swamps of the island, and settled at the side of the island where Buztacot afterwards lived. Here they made a great mound and called it Ivatele, after the name of their land.

On the eighth voyage Iro and company from Samoa also settled at Rarotonga. When Tutapu and his company reached Rarotonga, they found that another company of settlers had preceded them, Iro and his company from Samoa having settled on another part of the island. When Iro knew that Tutapu had arrived, he went to visit him and salute him, for they were old friends. In Iro's company there was a man named Kaukulu, who had been left by his son Malu at Tautea, or Tokutea, on the fourth voyage. After he had been there some time Iro headed a party from Samoa and visited Tautea, where Kaukulu was staying, and induced him to join his company and sail for Rarotonga. During the interview of Tutapu and Iro, the former proposed to the latter that they should sail in company, to which he agreed. Iro then placed two of his gods on board of Tutapu's canoe, viz. Rongo page 280and Tane; but a third, called Tutavake, he kept on his own canoe. They sailed together, but finally parted company, Tutapu reaching Tahiti, and Iro going to the Marquesas.

As soon as Tangiia heard of Tutapu's arrival at Tahiti he divided his land with him, but subsequently they disputed over a breadfruit-tree, which laid the foundation of a long and bitter quarrel. After a time word was brought to Tangiia of Vailaka, the daughter of Keu, the King of Rapa, on which he determined to visit her. He sailed thither in a canoe which he had built at Tahiti, after giving his sister the old canoe. He named the canoe Ai soi (soi-eater) because it was built during a famine, when there was nothing for the builders to eat but soi, a small species of wild yam. This was the ninth voyage. When Tangiia reached Rapa he found that Iro had preceded him, the same Iro that left Rarotonga with Tutapu. When they met they conversed about many things, and Tangiia told Iro of the object of his visit, when Iro told him that the lady was ugly. Iro wished Tangiia to remain until after a great feast which was to be held shortly, to which he consented. Tangiia tried to persuade Iro to return with him to Tahiti, but he preferred returning to Samoa; however, at length he consented to go to Tahiti. On reaching there they found that Tutapu had killed and eaten the two sons of Tangiia, adopted by Maono, and as they were chiefs, a war was the result; but it did not last long.

The tenth voyage, to Mauke, arose from news having reached Tangiia about the daughter of Auli, chief of Mauke. Tangiia sailed thither. The tradition describes page 281the interview of Tangiia with the two daughters of Auli, the one ugly, the other handsome. Tangiia returned to Tahiti and found that both Tutapu and Iro were still there. Iro proposed returning to Samoa, when Tangiia asked for and obtained one of Iro's sons to adopt, so that after his death Tahiti might not be without a king, and that the four classes of 'little people' might still have a chief. Iro not only gave his son to be adopted by Tangiia, but he also gave him two idols, named Tangaloa and Tutawake, and a female idol called Taakulu. He also gave him some musical instruments described as belonging to chiefs. They were a drum and pipes.

On the eleventh voyage Iro returns to Samoa.

The tradition now proceeds to give a long account of the renewal of the war between Tutapu and Tangiia, in which Tangiia was not only defeated, but relentlessly oppressed by Tutapu. In his despair Tangiia sought the counsel of his sister who sympathized with him in his distress, and gave him back the original canoe that was brought by the birds from Savaii, because his own canoe was small. Tangiia left his own canoe with his sister, and renamed the old canoe she gave him O le tika o le tuafafine (saved by the sister). Tutapu again followed Tangiia to Huahine, who fled to Polapola, Borabora, still chased by Tutapu. At length, in despair, Tangiia consulted some of the wisest of his people, who advised an immediate return to Samoa, which was reached safely.

After a time Tangiia and his party started on another (the twelfth) voyage, sailing south. He is said to have left Manono and Apolima on the right hand of their canoe as they sailed, and after a time reached Nu'u and Angaula, with Aramati'eti'e and Matatela, as also page 282Uvea-five islands which are named as having been visited in the fifth of the early voyages by the family of Malu many years before. At Uvea (Wallis's Island) they met a man named Teratuanuku, who had just arrived from Vae-roto. Tangiia induced this man to accompany him, when they sailed to a land called Takinuku, where they dwelt for a time, and certain things took place which are recorded.

Again Tangiia and his company started, and reached Rurutu, thence they sailed to Papau, also called Rimatara. At this island the man Teratuanuku, who had accompanied Tangiia, and whose name had been twice changed, remained and settled; but Tangua sailed ilunga (north and north-east), and reached an island called Maketu, where he first of all met with another navigator named Karika, a chief from Iva, or Marquesas.

Karika's canoe was hostile, and Tangiia prepared for battle and waited the approach of his opponent. As the canoes neared each other, two men leaped from Karika's canoe and swam to Tangiia's vessel. Their names were Tuitealii and Tenu'ufaaaliilota. They were presented with food, some masi, and a fish, the a'u. After partaking of this food with the crew, Tangiia inquired the name of their leader, when they said, 'This is Taetonga; he has two names, viz. Karika, and the other Le Taetonga, the latter being his name of terror, because his is a vaafasifolau (a canoe which slays voyagers).' On this Tangiia asked them to what land they belonged, when they said, 'We are men from Savaii.' Tangiia demanded why they came in that bad canoe, when they said they were out fishing and met the canoe, and determined to join her. On this Tangiia page 283gave fresh names to the men. which are stated to be held by their descendants at Rarotonga, where they afterwards settled.

The canoes approached, and Tangiia prepared for battle. His crew consisted of two hundred men, who were divided into two divisions, one hundred being placed in the forepart of the canoe, and one hundred in midships. When all was arranged, Tangiia awaited the approach of the pirate canoe. As they neared each other Tangiia commenced an oration, describing his prowess and lineage; when Karika, being apparently alarmed at the number on board of Tangiia's canoe, which were more than his own, he having only seventy, leaped into the sea with his daughter, and swam towards the canoe of Tangiia. As soon as they were come on board, Karika presented his daughter, called Mooloaiaitu, to Tangiia as his wife.

When Tangiia saw that Karika made his submission to him, he took off his own pale, or coronet, which he wore as an insignia of his rank, from his own head, and was about to present it to Karika, when one of his crew darted forward and snatched it from his hand, and climbed up the masthead of the canoe with it; but it fell from his hand into the sea. Another pale ula (red coronet) having been brought forth, Tangiia gave it to Karika, saying, 'I hereby adopt you.' The reason why he gave him the crown was because he had given him his daughter, and because of his desire to get his help in his attack upon Tutapu at Tahiti, whither he was going, hoping with his fresh men from Samoa to crush his old enemy.

The two canoes then sailed in company, but after-page 284wards separated. Tangiia, at Karika's suggestion, sailed to the left of his companion's canoe, the latter hoping to see his friend drawn into the fafa, this leader not being able to forget the crown that was snatched from him by the man of Tangiia's crew. Tangiia was nearly engulfed, for he felt his vessel getting within the influence of the whirlpool, and on putting his hand into the sea to ascertain as to the set of the current, he was astonished to find the water hot, when he knew that Karika had endeavoured to engulf him into the fafa. He at once put his canoe about, and shortly after, on putting his hand into the water, was glad to find it had become cold again, and that his canoe was safe.

On this he rejoiced greatly, and heading his canoe for Rarotonga soon reached there, landing at the harbour or entrance to the reef called O le vai Kokopu, where the canoe was anchored, and the party went on shore to establish themselves, for Tangiia had decided to settle there.

The history then proceeds to detail the steps taken by the immigrants to establish themselves on that part of the island, and describes how, on going to the other side of the island, they found that Karika's company had preceded them, and were settling themselves there also. The parties embraced and fraternized. After this, Tangia returned to his own district, and proceeded to complete their arrangements for settling there; when, in the midst of all their busy preparations, they were astonished to see the canoe of the much-dreaded Tutapu sail into the harbour, and anchor near to where Tangiia's canoe was riding at her anchorage.

The narrative describes many very interesting details page 285of the after proceedings of the colonists and their subsequent adventures, which are too long to be given here. The writer concludes as follows:—

'I now finish this history of the growth of the people of Rarotonga from Samoa. The Samoans say we are of a different race, but they do not understand. We are sprung from Samoa, and are their brethren!'

Apart from these long sea voyages, the Samoans were accustomed to make frequent voyages to groups around in the distant part for trading or pleasure. Of late years these trading voyages have ceased, apparently in consequence of a settled and more frequent intercourse with Europeans, and also in consequence of the disuse of the large sea-going canoe.

I have often asked the natives how they managed as to cooking, storage of water, and sleeping during a voyage. Provision was made for a fire by building up stones and earth in some part of the hold or shed, whilst the water was taken in bamboos, or water-bottles made from gourds or cocoa-nut shells. In answer to my query whether they did not often run short of water, they told me the early voyagers always took a supply of leaves of a certain herb or plant as a means of lessening thirst, and that these formed a valuable stand-by on a voyage. By chewing the leaves of this plant, they declared that to a certain extent they could drink sea water with some impunity, and thus assuage thirst. I made many unsuccessful efforts to obtain the name of this shrub and ascertain its character. The natives said that they themselves did not know what it was, as the custom had fallen into disuse, but they were confident such a custom had prevailed in the past, when voyages page 286were more frequently made by their ancestors. I questioned many men of intelligence about the matter without effect. The constant reply was, 'We do not know what it was ourselves, but we are certain our forefathers were accustomed to use it.'

Cocaine has the power of so deadening the sense of feeling in the palate and throat, that sea water might be swallowed without inconvenience so far as taste is concerned, but the consequences of drinking it for any length of time would be disastrous. In many cases the time occupied in passing from island to island was short, sometimes only a few days, and it is possible that some plant of the cocoa species may have existed in Samoa, or some of the Tonga group. In Peru the leaves of the cocoa tree are chewed with wood ashes or lime, and used by Indian travellers and sportsmen to remove the sense of thirst and hunger. Some such custom would appear to have been prevalent amongst the early Samoans.

The sleeping accommodation must have been very scant and uncomfortable, but the natives were not particular in these matters, and would pack closely together; whilst by dividing their crews into watches they would manage to get some rest. Certain constellations were their guides in sailing, and to which they trusted with confidence and success: the Amonga, or burden, Orion's Belt, being the usual guide for voyagers bound for the Friendly Islands. In many cases, as shown in these records, they were accustomed to take their idols or teraphim on board with them, as a protection and shield. In several instances the names of the idols taken are recorded in the old traditions, and at times fresh ones were obtained at the islands visited.

1 Fiti is the native form of the name.