Old Samoa or Flotsam and Jetsam from the Pacific Ocean
Chapter III — The People of Samoa
The People of Samoa
The population of Samoa, when compared with that of other groups, is large, but there are good reasons for thinking that it was much larger formerly, before Europeans settled amongst them. For many years before the introduction of Christianity, it had been steadily decreasing, principally in consequence of the ferocious and bloody wars in which the natives so constantly engaged. In various parts of Upolu I have often noticed traces of a much larger population, and the general testimony of the natives confirmed this belief. Sites of deserted villages, and remains of plantation walls, could often be seen in the wild bush; and in many parts of the islands places once largely populated have now very reduced numbers.
More than a century ago, 1784, La Perouse, in writing of a district at the east end of Upolu, says, 'At four o'clock in the afternoon we brought to abreast of perhaps the largest village that exists in any island of the South Seas, or rather, opposite a very extensive inclined plane covered with houses from the summit of the mountains to the water's edge.' And again, page 57We saw the smoke rise from the interior of the village as from the midst of a great city.' Since that time this district, in common with many others, has been frequently devastated by sanguinary wars, in which the slaughter was great. The population, at the time I knew it, was extensive, as compared with other districts, but was confined to the coast. The inland districts and settlements of which La Perouse speaks had disappeared. This is the case generally throughout the islands; but few inland villages remain in any island, with the exception of Upolu, where some fifty-four are found; whilst on Savaii there are only thirty-eight.
On the mountains in the neighbourhood of Falelatai, where in 1840 all was bush, there had been formerly extensive villages; whilst the road over the mountain, leading across from that place to Fasito'otai, a distance of nine or ten miles, was at one time lined with detached habitations, so that the natives, in describing it to me, have often said that a child might have travelled from one place to the other alone, the parents feeling no anxiety about it, in consequence of the houses being so near to each other along the whole distance. At the time I often traversed it, the track was quite deserted, not a house being found throughout the whole distance; but ample evidence still existed of former settlements. Even as late as 1829 a populous village existed midway between the two places; the site of which; at the time I visited it, was comparatively clear. Many of its inhabitants were killed in the war which devastated the district of A'ana, in 1830; and the survivors were scattered among other villages. Disease also did its part towards the depopulation of the islands, page 58since the remedies of the people were few, and their habits and mode of life favoured its progress.
Of the population in 1845 it is possible to speak with tolerable accuracy, since a successful census was made at that time. But even then, through native prejudices, it was difficult to obtain correct returns from some of the districts. It was considered that the population at that time was about 40,000; an underestimate, probably, but it certainly did not exceed 45,000.
The Samoans generally are a fine race of men, their average height being 5 ft. 10 in. Many, both male and female, have very handsome figures, and would be fine models for a sculptor, whilst some of the younger females are very good-looking. Their complexion is brown, but it is difficult to name a particular shade as they present a great variety of colour. Fishermen and others much exposed to the sun are darker than those not so much exposed. La Perouse, who saw them before they began to use clothing to any extent, describes their colour as closely resembling that of the Algerines and other nations on the coast of Barbary. Mr. Heath speaks of them as of gipsy brown colour. An olive brown is also a term which correctly describes the complexion of numbers; others, again, are of a darker brown, but still very far removed from the dark chocolate colour, or Vandyke brown, of the Tannese and other islanders of the Western Pacific. The features of the Samoans are rather flat, but their teeth are regular and good. The colour of the eyes, as also that of the hair, is usually black, excepting in a few cases of albinos.page 59 page 60 page 61 page 62 page 63
In their heathen state the cast of countenance of the males was most forbidding, and when at all excited, ferocious; an appearance which was much increased by their long black hair, which either hang loosely over their shoulders, or was worn twisted up in knots of various shapes, on the crown, or back, or sides of the head. Albinos were occasionally found, whose pink eyes and white skins formed a strange contrast to the rich brown colour of their associates, and whose unpleasant and sickly appearance tended to reconcile a European to the tanning he himself might be undergoing. The Samoans disliked the white colour of the Europeans, and often jocularly said to me, when alluding to my sunburnt appearance when much exposed, 'Why, you are becoming as handsome as a Samoan!'
The natives are active, and perfect adepts in the management of their beautifully made canoes, of which they make constant use. They also show great skill in the use of their various weapons; and are expert climbers, so that the ease with which they climbed a cocoanut tree was really astonishing. Stripping a small piece of bark from a bough, the climber made a circlet of the bark and placed each end over his big toe, thus fastening his feet together, at about 18 inches apart. He then clasped the tree in his arms, and by placing the soles of his feet against the rough bark of the tree so as to secure a hold, he drew himself up still higher, his feet being still pressed against the trunk of the tree. A number of such movements successively repeated enabled the climber to speedily reach the top of the tree, often a height of from 50 to 70 feet, when page 64he commenced throwing down the nuts, holding on with one hand only, so as to leave the other free with which to twist the nuts from the stalk. It was a strange sight to see a man thus hanging from such a height, and to watch him pass quite round the tree, or cross over through the middle of the plume to the other side, simply holding to the thick stems of the leaves. Notwithstanding all their coolness and adroitness, the natives sometimes lose their hold through a dry stalk breaking away. Then they fall to the ground with fearful violence, to be either killed or severely injured. Sometimes the grown men cannot muster courage enough to undertake this difficult task; but, on the other hand, it is a common thing to see mere boys climbing the high trees with perfect ease.
The Samoans are expert swimmers, being almost as much at home in the water as on the land. It is interesting to watch the ease of their movements, and their coolness under circumstances which would sorely perplex a European. Their canoes are often frail, liable to capsize and pitch the occupant into the water; but this does not trouble them greatly, as they easily right their canoes, even in a heavy sea. Should a canoe be swamped in very bad weather, as is sometimes the case, the bulk of the crew leap into the sea and hold on to the sides of the canoe, whilst others bale out the bilge quickly, and, when all is ready, the others leap into the canoe and proceed on their way. At times, however, the outrigger breaks, and this is a more serious matter, as it renders the canoe unmanageable, and necessitates the crew swimming alongside and guiding the canoe to the beach, no matter at what distance from the shore page 65the accident may have happened. I have seen the crew of a disabled canoe swim several miles holding on to their canoe, others in a companion canoe keeping alongside of them, in case of greater danger arising.
The natives dive well, and are able to keep under water for a long time, but some more than others. I have watched a young man plunge into a bathing-place, and after searching about take up a large stone, turn over on his back, and stretching himself full length at the bottom place the stone on his chest, and lie motionless as a corpse, and when wearied jerk the stone from him and rise to the surface. The Rev. S. Ella says, 'One of my teachers went down 30 fathoms, and fastened a rope to a lost anchor, with the result that on reaching the deck of the vessel blood burst from his ears and nostrils, and he became permanently deaf.'
The population was divided into five classes, viz.—Alii, Taidāaitu, Tulafale, Faleupolu, and Tangata-nuu. Comprised in these classes are others, as—Songa, Soa, Taumasina, Atamai-o-alii, and Salelelisi, who were all attendants of chiefs, and privileged persons.
The Alii, or chiefs, constitute the highest class, and are of various ranks and authority; but the latter is often slight. The regal or highest title of all was Le Tupu, literally 'the grown'; that of O le Tui being the next in importance. The latter title, O le Tui, always having the name of the district conferring it added, as—O le Tui A'ana, 'the Lord of A'ana'; O le Tui Atua, 'Lord of Atua.'
An interesting fact connected with the Samoans is the existence of a chiefs' language—one, that is, which is used exclusively when speaking to a chief, whether he be addressed by another chief of inferior rank to himself, or a person of low rank. It is never used by a chief when speaking of himself. Persons of high rank, when addressing others, and talking of themselves, always use ordinary language, and sometimes the very lowest terms; so that it is often amusing to listen to page 69expressions of feigned humility from a proud man, who would be indignant indeed were such language used to himself by others.
Some chiefs of high rank were termed Ali'pa'ia, or sacred chiefs, to whom great deference was formerly shown. Twelve of these, viz. O le Tui A'ana, O le Tui Atua, Tonumaipe'a, Fonoti, Muāngututi'a, l'a mafana, Tamafainga, Malietoa, Tamāsoālii, and Natoaitele, were all addressed by the highest phrase, Afio.
Six other alii pai'a were addressed by the term Sŭsū; these were Lilomaiava, Mataafa, O le Manu'a, Fiàmē, Salima, and Lăvāsi'i.
To four other chiefs the word Afio, or highest style of address, was applicable, although they were not alii pai'a. These were Taimalieutu, To'aleafoa, Liutele, and Afamasanga.
|Title.||In the gift of|
|Pe'a, Tonumaipe'a, and Manupufanua||Manono; the former also by Satupaitea.|
|O Lilomaiava||Safotu, Sasava, Palauli, and Nofoa.|
|O le Tui A'ana||Leulumoenga, or A'ana generally.|
|O le Tamāsoālii||Tuamasanga and Safata.|
|O le Natoaitele||Sangana, Tuisamau, Saauimatangi, and Laumua.|
|O le Tui Atua||Lufilufi and Atua generally.|
|O le Manu'a||Sanapu and Safata.|
|O le Fiàmē||Samatau.|
|O le Salima||Vailele.|
|O Lăvāsi'i||O le Fangā.|
Other districts on Savaii doubtless claimed some of these titles, but those given will be sufficient for illustration.
The power of the chiefs varied considerably, and it was often very limited; but some chiefs of high rank possessed a good deal, and have frequently used it in a very tyrannical manner.
The Taulā aitu, 'anchors of the spirits', from taula, 'an anchor,' and Aitu, 'spirit', formed the priesthood, and possessed great influence over the minds of the people. They may be classed under four heads; viz. Prophets or Sorcerers, Family Priests, Priests of the War Gods, and Keepers of the War Gods. Of these a full description will be found in Chapter IX.
The Tulafale were a very powerful and influential class, the real authority and control of districts being frequently centered in them. They were the principal advisers of the chiefs; the orators were usually selected from their number; the Ao, or titles of districts, were always in their gift; and they had the power, which at times they did not scruple to use, of deposing and banishing an obnoxious chief. They were generally large land-holders, and, in some places, as at Leulumoenga, on Upolu, and Matautu, on Savaii, they comprise the leading families, and have the entire control of the settlement. Sometimes they are brought under the power of the chief of the district or settlement; but, as a rule, they are a sturdy class, and do not scruple to speak out plainly to those above them when needed, often saying very unpalatable things, and acting in a determined manner, should the conduct of a chief be obnoxious to them. In many respects the Tulafale of page 71Samoa correspond with the Rangitira of New Zealand. As to their power, there have been instances known in which this class, in combination with the Faleupolu of the district, have banished their chief, or chiefs, on account of their tyranny and oppression. On such occasions the offending chief was taken to Tutuila, one of the more easterly of the group, whither he was accompanied by a large number of the people of his district. Intelligence of such an event being about to take place was always sent to the chiefs and people of Tutuila, who prepared for the arrival of the banished chief and his attendant party. After the latter had met the Tutuila authorities, and informed them of the fact of their having brought their chief to commit him to their custody, the prisoner was landed from his canoe, and made to run the gauntlet from the beach to the settlement; the inhabitants of the district forming two lines, between which the chief ran, whilst he was belaboured with sticks, pelted with stones, or subjected to other indignities. It was a fortunate thing for him if he escaped with only bruises, as sometimes severe injuries were inflicted upon him, and even life sacrificed.
Tradition tells of a chief of Savaii, who was banished for his tyranny, and also of several Tui A'ana. With one of these some very interesting circumstances were connected. The party conducting him reached Tutuila in the evening, and his landing was deferred until the morning. During the night the captive chief signified to some of his attendants his unwillingness to submit to the indignities about to be inflicted upon him; at the same time stating his wish to commit himself to the wide waste of waters, in the hope of finding page 72a refuge in some distant island, or perish in the attempt. He succeeded in exciting the sympathy of his companions, and taking advantage of a favourable wind that was blowing they cast off their frail vessel from her moorings, hoisted their sail, and steered away from the island. Singular to relate, after enduring great hardships and privations, by following an easterly direction they reached Rarotonga, an island 800 miles distant from whence they had started. As they neared the island, they were distressed with apprehensions respecting the reception they were likely to meet with from the people of the unknown isle. They were soon relieved on this head, since they were kindly received, and welcomed, and conducted to the chief of that part of the island, who allotted to them a district in which to dwell. As they became able to hold intercourse with the people of Rarotonga, they were much astonished to find that the island to which they had come was originally peopled by Samoans, their own countrymen. These had formerly emigrated from Samoa, under two adventurous leaders, Tangiia of Upolu, and Matea of Manua. The descendants of these early Samoan voyagers and colonists treated their unexpected visitors with much kindness, and gave them valuable help, the new-comers settling down in their new home, and naming a variety of places and objects in their allotted district after similar places in A'ana, Upolu, from whence they had come.
Many years rolled on, and at length a descendant of this very banished chieftain, named Malie, came to Samoa as a native teacher and evangelist, and especially charged by his family to inquire into the particulars page 73of the banishment of their ancestor. I had the pleasure of hearing from Malie the foregoing narrative, and recording the details. I was also interested in observing the delight Malie exhibited on finding that there were in A'ana names of places corresponding to those he mentioned as having been named in Rarotonga by the banished king and his party. The name of this teacher was originally Tuia'ana, after his ancestor, the banished chieftain; but he informed me, that on the return of John Williams from Samoa, he found that Malietoa was then the Tui A'ana, on which his name was changed to that of Malietoa; but his name was usually contracted, and he was called Malie, or, as he himself pronounced it, Marie, changing the l into r. He was also at times called Matatia.
The tradition of Tui A'ana having been banished in the olden times was well known to the chiefs from A'ana who accompanied me when we met with this teacher; but they knew nothing of his ultimate fate, or of his party, who were supposed to have been blown off the island and perished in the moana uli, 'the deep blue sea.'
The most recent case of banishment of chiefs by the people of A'ana, was that of the two brothers of I'amafana, Tupō and Tupua, who were banished to Tutuila, as the result of the war of succession waged by the adherents of the three brothers; I'amafana, the eldest brother, being victorious.
'Taima e, talitali mai,
'Tai-ma-e, wait for me,
Le vaelua, ua a'u an mai.'
The separated two I am bringing.'
The Fale Upolu (house of Upolu) are the next in rank and importance. They are also considerable land-owners, and possess much influence. They supply the chiefs with food, receiving from them native property in return, which payment is called Tōnga, and consists of mats, siapo, or canoes. Sometimes foreign property is given instead of native, when the payment is called Oloa. Individuals of this class sometimes take part in the discussions of their public assemblies, and in a variety of ways make their influence felt.
The class called Tangatā nu'u (or men of the land) are a useful class, although in some sense looked down upon. Their employments are varied: bearing arms in time of war, or cultivating the soil, fishing and cooking, in time of peace. In the distant past their lot was often a hard one, and they smarted under the tyranny of their masters, but of late years things have changed, and their position has been greatly ameliorated. They often attached themselves to some particular chief, varying in numbers according to his influence. The Tulafale, Fale Upolu, and even some chiefs, were accustomed to pursue the different handicrafts common to the people.
The attendants attached to the families of some of the higher chiefs occupied an important position, and claim a distinct notice, although they are included under one or the other of the classes before alluded to. They were known under the special names of Songa, Soa, Atamai-o-alii, Taumasina, Fa'atama, and Salelelisi. These officials sustained among them the offices of barbers, cupbearers, messengers, confidential advisers, trumpeters or shell-blowers, and buffoons, as well as constant personal attendants upon chiefs of high rank. page 75They were not very numerous but were considered as a whole quite a privileged class.
I do not think that direct slavery can be said to have existed amongst the Samoans at any time, though perhaps at times the conditions of the tangata nu'u, and especially of the captives taken in war, tangatā taua, was little if any better than slavery. These unfortunates were looked upon with great contempt by their masters, and many a haughty chief of the olden time would have thought much less of taking the life of one of this class than that of a favourite pigeon.
There were also hereditary family names, but the Ao, or titles, given to chiefs of rank, were in the gift of constituencies, i.e. the different settlements or districts to which they belonged. If the head of a family holding a title was supposed to be near death, his friends and relatives were summoned, when he conferred his family name upon his eldest son, or upon an adopted son, in the event of his being childless. The bestowment of the Ao, or title of the higher chiefs, was a much more difficult matter, and often required much consideration. Upon the death of a chief of rank, his Ao, or titles, always reverted to the district or settlement conferring them; the authorities of which were very tenacious of their right to bestow them. Sometimes the dying chieftain nominated his successor or successors, but, unless these nominations were agreeable to the holders of the titles, they would not accede to them. The late widely known Malietoa, the first of his family to hold the regal office, held amongst other Ao, those of O le Tui A'ana, and the Tui Atua. On his death-bed, he nominated his successors, but as the nominations did page 76not give satisfaction to the different constituencies represented, they refused to sanction them, and left the matter in abeyance. In A'ana the parties were divided, but, as the chief nominated was backed by a powerful following, his title was often acknowledged in courtesy, although it was not formally bestowed upon him. At other times the nomination of the chief was completed without difficulty; but as there were often many competitors for the honour, especially for the higher ones, they have always been fruitful sources of contention and difficulty, and at times of bloodshed.
Until a comparatively recent period, the government of Samoa appears to have approached more nearly to that of Tahiti and the Sandwich Islands, which is monarchical, than would be supposed from its present condition. Perhaps it may be best described as a combination of the monarchical and patriarchal forms. Although for a long series of years, perhaps for ages, the whole group was nominally governed by one head, in whom the supreme authority was vested, the different districts were governed to a considerable extent by their own local authorities and chiefs, who in many respects were independent of each other. Heads of families also possessed great power over their relatives and dependants, which they used as they pleased, and were irresponsible to any other authority.
When the five distinct titles of the O-le-Tupu were centered in one person, his power was great, and extended over the whole group; since although Tutuila and Manu'a do not appear to have any distinct title to bestow in the election of the Tupu, they were fully represented by Lufilufi, the Laumua, or leading settle-page 77ment of Atua, the district most in contact with the eastern islands. Manono, also, although not appearing to have any title to give, was always consulted as to the choice to be made.
There are three great families which comprise the aristocracy of Samoa, whose ramifications spread more or less through the whole group, and to one or the other of which every chief is referable, no matter what his rank or title may be. These three families are: Sa Mataafā, Sa Malietoa, and Sa Muangututi'a. I am not certain if this statement holds good with respect to Manu'a, but I rather think it does. For a long series of years the possession of the much coveted title of O le Tupu, was confined to members of the Muangututi'a family, but in the case of recent Tupus this restriction has been broken through.
Upon the death of Safe-o-fafine, the last king in the line of the family of Muangututia, the title remained vacant for a considerable time, but was at length usurped by a taulāaitu, or war-priest of Manono, named O le Tamafainga, who not only assumed the attributes of king, but also those of a god. He was a tyrant, and from his being worshipped as a god his authority was great. Although this was keenly felt and smarted under, in the hope of, in some measure, escaping from his tyranny the people of A'ana were led to confer their title of Tui A'ana upon him; but they soon found out the mistake they had made, as his rule became more oppressive and his tyranny worse. The remaining titles were, however, soon obtained, and he was proclaimed O le Tupu-o-Samoa, and thus for the first time for many generations this dignity passed from the family which page 78had so long held it. Not only did A'ana lose the dignity she had so long held, the district also lost the honour of being the royal residence, as the Tamafainga continued to reside on Manono, of which place he was priest or war-god. He did not long enjoy his honour, for as his tyranny increased so did the hatred of the people of A'ana, until at length his conduct became so hateful that they rose against him, and killed him in the year 1829, just before John Williams visited Samoa for the first time. A fierce and bloody war was the consequence, during which the power of A'ana was broken, and the beautiful district laid waste and devastated.
Some time after Le Tamafainga's death the Ao or titles were conferred upon Malietoa, the first Tupu of that name, and the first of his family who had been raised to that dignity; but his power and influence, although great, were less than that exercised during the reigns which had preceded him. Malietoa had long striven to obtain this much-coveted dignity, but he did not long enjoy it. At his death he endeavoured to adopt the unusual course of dividing the hitherto united five titles held by one person, expressing a vain wish that no other Tupu should succeed him in the dignity. His desire was that, as he was the only one of his family who had attained that dignity, his name might descend to posterity as the last King of Samoa and that after his death the Ao should be divided amongst the three relatives he named. His brother Tai-ma-le-langi succeeded to the family name of Malietoa, and was, I believe, elected as O le Tupu-o-Salafai by Savaii; but A'ana and Atua long declined to recognize the claims of the aspirants to their titles, further than as a matter of courtesy.page 79
For several years after I left the island in 1845, the largest amount of power was held by the Malo or conquering party, which was represented by Manono and Safotulafai, but in many things the different districts acted independently of each other, being represented by their Laumua, or leading settlements. These were five, viz. two on Savaii, Saleaula and Safotulafai, with three on Upolu, viz. Leulumoenga, representing A'ana; Sangana, or Sa-aui-matangi and Laumua, representing Le Tuamasanga; and Lufilufi, representing Atua and the islands to the eastward. These five Laumua with Manono might at that time be considered as holding the balance of power throughout the group, the authorities of the eastern islands being very much led by the decision of the larger islands.
Of all these centres of influence, Manono at that time was the most powerful, having obtained that position through the prowess of its people in naval warfare. They have long been famous for their prowess on the sea, and are able to command the services of a large fleet of canoes, as well as being the owners of the strong natural fortress of Apolima, whither they could retire in case of defeat. For a long period Manono was a firm ally of A'ana, which place was celebrated for its prowess on land; so that the two, when united, were usually a match for the rest of the group. During the last fifty years great changes have taken place in the political condition of the group.
But little ceremony was used in the installation of chiefs, even of the highest rank, this being the separate act of the several districts conferring the Ao. The Ao, or title of A'ana, was usually bestowed first, page 80and, upon agreeing with the other settlements upon whom they should confer their Ao, they dispatched two or three of their number with authority to perform the ceremony of conferring the title, viz. to Alanga, or proclaim him. These deputies proceeded to the residence of the chief selected, and whether they found him seated in conclave with his friends and attendants in front of his dwelling, or amongst his family within, they immediately entered his presence and, laying aside the usual etiquette, remained standing before him, whilst they proclaimed his accession to the title, each member of the deputation successively shouting five times running with a loud voice the war-cry of U-ū-ū, the last syllable being very much prolonged. This portion of the ceremony completed, the deputies immediately prepared to return; but they were usually requested to remain whilst some valuable mats were brought forth and laid before them. After this they returned to their companions to announce the fulfilment of their mission, leaving the chief to enjoy the congratulations of his friends upon his having acquired the much-coveted dignity.
After a week or so had elapsed, the whole of the principal men of the district conferring the title proceeded in a body to pay their respects to their newly elected chief, taking with them a large quantity of food, as also the Tualua (water-bottle), O le To (strainer), and the Tanoa (ava-bowl), the different articles required in the preparation of the Aua—the drink essential to the proper carrying out of subsequent ceremonies—the presentation of which concluded the inauguration ceremonies, after which the chief was publicly recognized as O le Tui A'ana,' Lord of A'ana.'page 81
In an old tradition relating to Atua mention is made of a mat being thrown down in the presence of the assembled Tulafale and chiefs, on which the chief-elect was to seat himself, in token of his acceptance of the appointment; but whatever other ceremonies were used, the principal one was the Alanga, or public proclamation of the chief, that is, his open recognition by the deputies.
Upon the title of Le Tui A'ana being conferred, the other districts soon followed the example, and upon the whole number of titles being acquired it was said of the possessor, Ua tafa'i fa, ua o'o-i le Tupu (four centre in one)! 'He has attained to "the grown."' Upon this the fortunate chief assumed the title of O le Tupu-o-Samoa, and shortly after commenced a circuit of the islands, to receive the homage and congratulations of the different districts. The announcement, Ua afio mai le Tupu, 'The king is approaching,' caused great excitement and stir in the various settlements, in the way of preparation for the expected visit.
During this royal progress the Tupu was accompanied by a large number of attendants and followers, who were called O le Aumānga, who were accustomed to act in a very arbitrary manner, damaging the plantations through which they passed, and laying violent hands upon whatever they chose to take, whether pigs, poultry, or vegetables.
The king was preceded by his Songa, or cupbearer, who carried his drinking-cup either hanging from his neck or suspended from a piece of young cocoanut-leaf (i uiu-launiu). This official also carried a large Pu, or conch-shell, which he frequently blew, to announce the approach of the Tupu, who followed page 82after at some distance on foot, accompanied by his principal wife, who usually carried a birdcage containing his Manu alii, or chief's bird. A considerable space was allowed to intervene between the king and his retinue, who followed according to their rank. Large quantities of food—pigs, vegetables, fish—were presented at various periods to the king by the different districts, in return for which numbers of valuable mats were bestowed upon the various families who had given the food. These mats were called Tonga, and when they were to be given, the districts were summoned to tali Tonga, or receive property in payment for the food given, a custom which is connected with a very curious system of exchange of property which prevailed extensively throughout the group, but which is gradually changing in consequence of altered custom. The native property thus distributed was furnished by the family connexions of the Tupu, who frequently smarted severely under the burdens laid upon them by the many demands made in order to support the dignity of their head. In the discussions which always preceded the final decision of a district as to the eligibility of the chief upon whom they were about to confer their Ao, the extent of wealth in native property as well as power of the candidate's family were topics freely discussed.
Certain kinds of fish were considered sacred to the Tupu and the leading settlements. In the event of the Ao being still in the keeping of the district, the Laumua, or leading settlement, claimed the right to receive the sacred fish. Various kinds of food were also taken to the king, which offering was called O le Taro pa'ia, 'The sacred taro.'