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Ethnology of Manihiki and Rakahanga

The Whainga-Aitu Ariki

The Whainga-Aitu Ariki

The Whainga-aitu title was a full ariki title, but the special term must have been developed locally, for it does not appear, so far as I know, in any other part of Polynesia. The term is said to be derived from the words whai (to follow), nga (the), and aitu (gods). The title thus stresses the priestly functions of the office, for the Whainga-aitu was the principal medium between his people and the gods. The word whai has been translated “to follow,” but it seems to carry the additional meaning conveyed by the Tongarevan word “hai” which means to recite in the religious inclosures ritual whereby the gods are placated and success is assured. Thus the phrase, “kua whai i to ratou atua,” does not mean so much “to follow,” as that “they had conducted the regular ritual to their god.” Of the powers of the Whainga-aitu it was stated, “Te Whainga-aitu nona te papa.” (The Whainga-aitu, his was the lower stratum.) The papa is here translated as the lower stratum because it includes the sea as well as the land. The Whainga-aitu had powers over things terrestrial, as opposed to things celestial. He was supposed to concern himself with the welfare of the land and the page 49 food growing thereon, as well as with promoting the food-productivity of the sea. He ruled over the two tribes, Heahiro and Mokopuwai, but did not interfere in the sharing out of land, which was left to the tribal heads, or whakamaru. The Whainga-aitu was the spiritual head and could command the assistance of the supernormal powers that commanded the productivity of land and sea. The whakamaru were the executives who superintended economic details.

The list of Whainga-aitu from Temu-matua is given in Table 6.

Table 6. The Whainga-aitu Title Holders

Table 6. The Whainga-aitu Title Holders

The list shows 15 title-holders, but Mr. Savage, in a table compiled for me, omits Munokoa, Utua, and Putuhonu and makes the next holder of the title Maraerau, a son of the first ariki, Temu-matua, by a wife named Teraro-puka. In evidence given before the Court, Haumata-tua gave Munokoa and Utua as sons of Temu-matua and title-holders. The relationship of Putuhonu was not given. From Putuhonu to Whaitika the names follow page 50 as a list, but from Whaitika the pedigrees are given. The pedigrees illustrate the rules governing succession to the title, which eliminated female succession and considered male seniority.

The 9th holder, Whaitika, had three children. The first-born was a female, so succession went to the senior male child, Whairoa-enemea. The 10th holder, Whairoa-enemea, had four children, but as the first two were females, the title went to the third child, Whaireka. Whaireka, the 11th holder, had two families, but as his younger brother, Whaipoto, appears on the list as the 12th title-holder, Whaireka must have died before his children were old enough to hold office. Whaipoto would thus have succeeded as a regent until the heir of the senior line was old enough to assume office. The title went to the family of Whaireki's first wife, of which the first two were females. The third child, a son named Tupou-ma-te-tika, succeeded as the 13th holder. He had three wives. The first wife had one daughter, and the second wife had five daughters. Neither had a son. The succession therefore passed to the family of the third wife, Makirau, who had a son named Tupou-aporo. Before Tupou-aporo was old enough to assume office, his father died. The privilege of maintaining the position was thereupon assumed by Whaireka's second family, and Ieremia acted as regent for ten years. Tupou-aporo and Ieremia really acted together, and at the end of ten years Tupou-aporo, having reached man's estate, took over full control of the office. Ieremia objected, but as he was not supported by the families concerned, he left the island.

A story in connection with the first Whainga-aitu, Temu-matua, illustrates the connection between the temporal and religious sides of the office. Temu-matua was a weakly child, so his maternal uncle, Rikiriki, was sent for. Rikiriki was the male representative of the Matangaro stock, which again shows how the Matangaro division had concentrated attention on Temumatua as their particular representative in the ariki families of his father, Tautape. Rikiriki took the child before the god Hikahara. The child recovered health. Some time afterwards, Rikiriki built a voyaging canoe (kua tuki pahi) with the object of visiting foreign lands (heaheake). He selected his party (tere), which included his nephew, Temu-matua, and went through the appropriate ritual before the god Hikahara to insure success (kua hakairo ia ratou i mua i taua atua). On the date of departure from Tauhunu in Manihiki they sang a song (pehe) in the channel or lagoon at Awanui. The tribe then realized that Rikiriki was taking the boy away with him on his travels, so the people begged him to allow the boy ashore that they might press noses (hohongi) with him in farewell.

This story has a significant bearing on the creation of the Whainga page 51 aitu title. The Polynesian historians have a habit, at times, of telling a straight narrative of a historical incident instead of discussing the details of the origin of an institution. Rikiriki was the eldest brother of Hei-tutae and the eldest son of Poupou-whenua's first wife. (See p. 47.) He was therefore head of the strong Matangaro group, and he cured his nephew Temu-matua. That he had prepared to go on a voyage to other lands and take his nephew with him shows that the dual arikiship had not been established at that time. It is probable that the ambition Rikiriki may have entertained for his nephew had not received sufficient whole-hearted support to result in tribal action. The intended voyage, therefore, may have been due to spleen. The singing of the song in the channel drew full attention to the voyaging canoe. When it was perceived that Temu-matua was on board, the two Matangaro tribes realized that they were about to lose him. They were galvanized into action then by the imminence of a disaster. They begged that the boy be allowed ashore that they might press noses with him in farewell. The historian states that, on getting him ashore, “Kua tohi te matakeinanga.” The matakeinanga is the large group or tribe, and the tribe evidently went through a ceremony termed tohi in order to detain Temu-matua. Rikiriki, seeing what was happening, called out, “Ka tohi kotou, ono reka iho. Kua whakairo au i taua tamaiti ki te atua.” (You are doing the tohi, he may remain. I have, however, already dedicated that boy to the god.) I did not get the full meaning of tohi in Rakahanga. In New Zealand tohi refers to ceremony performed over a new-born infant or over adults on certain occasions to make them successful. The tohi over Temu-matua was undoubtedly a ceremony proclaiming him high chief over the Matangaro matakeinanga, and so making it impossible for him to leave. Rikiriki had probably achieved what he desired, to establish Temu-matua, and he volunteered the further information that the child was already in close connection with the god and so fitted for his position.

At this time the two Matangaro tribes, Heahiro and Mokopuwai, were affected by a serious sickness (uiha). No one had been able to relieve (tunoko) them. The tribes, as shown by the story, were living on Tauhunu. Temu-matua then devised a plan for alleviating their distress. He went to the island of Te Puka and sought out a coconut that grew singly on one flower stalk. This nut (tautahi) he took, with some puraka, to Tukou as an offering to the god Hikahara. The disease thereupon cleared up (moki). This incident established the custom of traveling from Tauhunu to Tukou via Te Puka. The marked success of Temu-matua proved that he had power with the god and confirmed his authority. He became kana or tutara to the gods, or in other words, he became priest as well as ariki.

page 52

Table 7 gives the pedigree of the three families of Tupou-ma-te-tika in full to show the manner in which succession passes over female issue.

Table 7. Manner in which Succession Passes over Female Issue

Table 7. Manner in which Succession Passes over Female Issue