Great families of Polynesia: inter-island links and marriage patterns
Definitions of the family ape much the same the world over depending upon the purpose of the person doing the defining. Families are either groups of people eating or living together or they are related by blood as in nuclear and extended families. For present purposes, families are genealogical groupings taking their name or designation from an apical ancestor or founder.
In the main, Polynesian families tend to be patrilineal rather than matrilineal though family headship frequently passed to and through first-born or otherwise high-ranking women.(1) This is often difficult to detect in genealogies where personal names are not necessarily related to gender or where such names have been replaced by the most popular designations or titles. By great families I refer to the ruling and priestly families holding the highest titles in the major groups of islands inhabited by the speakers of Polynesian languages.
From any survey of Polynesian traditional history it becomes clear that the major island groups were not totally separated from one another, though voyages between some of them would only have been possible during exceptional weather conditions caused periodically by the El Nino phenomenon, and sometimes they would have been isolated for long periods because of some other cause of a halt in migratory movements. Certainly the genealogies suggest that many of the ruling families had common ancestors, and homelands were important except in Samoa and Tonga where a strong myth of autochthonous origin was encouraged. What is also clear is that the people thought of themselves in tribal or clan terms united by a common homeland, a common cult and, in some islands and districts, a common canoe tradition.
The importance of duality, and bifurcation in Polynesian culture generally, probably owes much to the dualism or pluralist nature of Polynesian tribal or clan history. Thus in Samoa and Tonga we have the people from Pulotu in the west and from Papatea in the east, terms apparently taken from the religions of two distinct peoples.(2) In Hawaii we have the people from Hawaiki and the people from Kahiki, not to mention other groups.(3) In the Marquesas we have the people from Vevau and those from Hawaiki, two tribal groups from a similar western location who travelled by different routes at different times.(4) In the Society Islands we have the people of Ra from Vavau and the people of Ta’aroa from Rotuma.(5) In the Cook Islands we have the people of Tangiia from Tahiti and the people of Karika from Manuka.(6) And in New Zealand, Ngapuhi traditions, for instance, affirm two major groupings, the earlier pa-builders, ostensibly from the north, and the so-called fleet-people from the east.(7) Some canoe traditions suggest separate arrivals perhaps via the Austral Islands.
While it is popular and even ‘politically correct’ to dismiss this degree of diversity on the grounds of single settlement and anti-diffusionist theory, it is clear that Polynesians thought of themselves in terms of large family or tribal groupings, often mutually exclusive, and that in the larger groups the principal political divisions were based on family alliances and networks often claiming distinct origin. Even in some of the smaller islands this dualism was evident, particularly in missionary times when indigenous teachers found themselves in opposition to other teachers supported by a rival group.(8) Also in many of the smaller islands such as Niue and the islands of Tuvalu linguistic and dynastic evidence reveals that they were colonised from more than one place.(9)
The persistance of the same homeland names such as Hawaiki and Vavau and their variants, and the same tribal names such as Tongafiti, Manahune, and others also testify to the interconnectedness of the Islands though the picture is often of separate peoples moving in harmonious but different ways.
Throughout polynesia traditional history is usually divided into four distinct periods.(10) The first is always the age of the gods. The second is the period of the national or tribal ancestors and is equally legendary. The third is the first genealogical period which is semi-legendary and sometimes chronologically confused. The fourth period commences with an ancestor whose place is firmly fixed in history from whom living chiefs can safely trace their descent without contradiction.
One should not dismiss the age of the gods without reflection. Too often this first legendary period has been distorted by being re-cast in terms of Christian theology. One suspects that is why the Hawaiians speak of ‘a period of darkness when deities were the inhabitants'(11) and why the waters of Tane in Mangaian cosmology have been termed the waters of death instead of the waters of life.(12) Although many of the stories seem unintelligible to modern ears, being often of battles between birds and fish or between small fish and large fish, they may well preserve memories of real struggles between totemic tribal groups.(13) Indeed the more spectacular battles were those of the mind between the shamans who controlled the sources of food supply. Most of the stories of this period only make sense when decoded. Thus a Samoan story of a pigeon with nine heads suggests a shaman or taulaaitu of the highest powers who had access to all of the nine heavens of the Samoan cosmology.(14)
While we cannot rely on the accuracy of the details of inter-island links in the age of the gods the stories contain such frequent references to other groups and islands that one can only conclude that these links go back in European terms to ‘time immemorial’ or, in Samoan terms, mai le vavau. This is particularly so in the western Polynesian triangle where Tui Fiti (the king of Fiji) is a powerful god in both Tonga and Samoa.(15)
In the period of the cult heroes or ancestors we have what appears to be the widespread diffusion of certain divine or semi-divine figures in the general Polynesian pantheon. While the pantheon of western Polynesia is in many ways distinct from that of the east two figures, Maui and Tangaloa, are shared, and others that are strong in the east can be identified in the west. But there are some real difficulties of identification. Is Te Fatu Moana (lord of the Ocean) merely an ancestor from the west, the Tongan god of similar name, or a sobriquet for Tangaloa? Is Nafanua in Samoa and Tonga simply the spirit of the land and therefore identifiable with other gods in the east?(16) Some mythographers have identified Hikuleo in Tonga with Tane in eastern Polynesia and Maui is sometimes equated with Tiki of eastern Polynesia as a variant form of Maui Kisikisi of western Polynesia.(17)
Apart from being widely distributed and virtually pan-Polynesian Maui really belongs to the period of the gods. As the trickster par excellence his mythology is basically shamanic. Rarely does he appear as an ancestor unless he is to be identified with Tiki, Lu, Ru, Rupe and Kupe. Tangaloa, on the other hand, is claimed to be the ancestor of numerous great families in Polynesia.
The name Tangaloa (and variants) has caused more discussion than that of any other Polynesian deity. E.S.C. Handy, in his study of Polynesian religion, suggested a Chinese origin and late entry into Polynesia.(18) Hank Driessen has suggested the meaning ‘long jaw’ which, if not the origin, would have been a play on words regarding the sacrifice-eating maw of the shark god.(19) Another scholar has suggested that Tagaloa as creator was a post-European-contact introduction into Samoa, an unlikely development since the Manu’a stories, linked with lineage history, appear to be of considerable antiquity.(20) However, as Derek Freeman, Futa Helu, ‘Okusitino Mahina and others assert, there is good reason to believe that Tagaloa was introduced or reintroduced into Samoa as a sky god from the east, hence his modern equation with the Christian Jehovah.(21)
The historical evolution would seem to be that Tangaloa was originally a sea god (Lord of the Ocean) from the Sanguir Islands north of Sulawesi who reached the Society Islands via Samoa in late prehistoric times.(22) In the Society Islands Tangaloa or Ta’aroa became the focus of a powerful and fearsome cult.(23) A late introduction into Hawaii, with an evil reputation from the Society Islands, he assumed a comparatively minor but manic role.(24) On the other hand, as the source of thunder and storm in the Society Islands his followers from the east introduced him into Manu’a as a fully fledged sky god more powerful than the important cuttle fish war god O Le Fee.
Certainly the longest genealogies of those families who claim Tangaloa as an ancestor are to be found in eastern Polynesia. In the Society Islands the Ta’aroa Manahune line of chiefs was reputedly established at Punaauia 42 generations before those living in the first quarter of this century.(25) Ta’aroa as an ancestor appears in the 46th generation, although another Ta’aroa occurs in the 62nd generation, and the Takitumu genealogy for Pa in Rarotonga has two Tangaroas in the 95th and 96th generations before 1857 when it was collected.(26)
In Samoa the Tagaloa line of chiefs was the most recent of the five great chiefly lines of Savai’i and Upolu, only going back 21 generations from Augustin Kramer’s time.(27) However Tagaloa as a divine ancestor of the Tui Manu’a line goes back further, perhaps over 30 generations.(28) Similarly in Tonga, Tangaloa Langi is recognised in the official mythology as the father of the ‘first’ Tu’i Tonga, ‘Aho’eitu.(29) There is, however, traditional evidence to suggest that the story of the divine origin of ‘Aho’eitu was grafted onto the genealogy, and that if Tangaloa was an ancestor this was much further back in the Samoan or eastern Polynesian past. Indeed, the longest known Tongan-Samoan genealogy, comparable to those of eastern Polynesia, has 99 names before the first Tangaloa.(30) Like a similar genealogy for the kings of Borabora, in the Society Islands, the more recent names are arranged in dynastic groups of four, thus eight Melei names, four Tangaloas, four Pilis and four Haveas.(31)
The myths connected with this genealogy have the Tu’i Tonga as a son of the Tu’i Manu’a who in turn derived from the Tu’i Pulotu. The myth also identifies the eastern homeland Papatea with La’iatea, the Samoan form of Raiatea in the Society Islands.(32) In the legends collected by Thomas Powell on Manu’a there is a claim of two-way contact with the Society Islands, and the cult of La, breech tattooing and kava appear to have been introduced to Borabora by Samoans.(33) A Cook Islands tradition claims that the first Malietoa arrived in Samoa from the east and was adopted.(34)
The various Samoan and Tongan traditions differ widely regarding Tangaloa. One tradition regards the family or Sa Tagaloa as the gods, Sa Vavau as the earliest race in Samoa and Sa Moa as the race of Moa or royal family of Manu’a.(35) Another tradition, an index genealogy, has Tagaloa, Malietoa, and the chiefs of Tuamasaga, Upolu and Tutuila all as descendants of Fune. Tagaloa was ‘high chief of the government or Malo o Safune while Malietoa was king. The same source refers to a much later Tagaloa called Tumanuvao:
Tagaloa was so cruel to the people that Fune’s government decided to banish him to Tonga, where he died. This incident gave rise to a saying which is still used in reference to the deaths of all chiefs belonging to that family – ‘Ua matagi togaina le Tagaloa’ (i.e. ‘Tagaloa-Tumanuvao was blown by the wind to Tonga’). Tagaloa’s descendants have been kings and members of the Royal Family to this day, as well as high chiefs in Samoa.(36)
There is also a Vava’uan tradition that Tangaloa was the son of the Tu’i Tonga Tokemoana and ancestor of the title holder Tangaloa at ‘Utulei.(37)
The chief Malupo of Ha’apai told the missionary John Thomas that Tangaloa was ‘the God of the Sky, and he who first taught them to build ships, [and] that he was a ship builder’.(38) He asked Thomas if Jehovah was Tangaloa. Another missionary account said that Tangaloa was the god of carpenters and that he taught foreigners how to build their beautiful vessels.(39) Every ship that came to Tonga had been sent by Tangaloa from the sky. A Samoan account recorded by the Catholic missionaries in an area where the Nafanua cult had been dominant stated that Tangaloa had been only a man.(40) The diversity of these stories regarding Tangaloa in western Polynesia tends to confirm the view that different clans and families had their own traditions and that ancestors of the name may have been independently deified.
Legends also link Samoans with Hawaii. Pili is one common ancestor suggesting the antiquity of the link, though a more recent (and doubtful) Samoan myth refers to a migration to Samoa from Hawaii in the time of the Hawaiian king Umi which would have been 23 generations before Kamehameha.(41) The longer major lineages in Hawaii were claimed by Hawaiian informants in the 19th century to derive from the sacred kings of Gilolo in eastern Indonesia, hence Hawaiian names such as Molokai (cf. Indonesian Morotai).(42) Some Polynesianists were quick to see ‘Hawaii’ as a transformation of Java, an identification made plausible by Roland Dixon’s conclusion that the folklore motifs of Hawaii have more in common with Indonesian folklore than with any other region.(43)
Little need be said of many of the other hero ancestors as they are more straightforward. As already mentioned, the principal heroes to found dynasties in Rarotonga were said to be Tangiia of Tahiti and Karika of Manu’a.
The third, or first genealogical, period of traditional history is undoubtedly the most important in regard to inter-island connections since clear marriage patterns emerge. Indeed, at chiefly level there was a long period when the highest ranking chiefs in Tonga, particularly the Tu’i Tonga, took high chiefly Samoan wives. As Samoa seems to have been much more matrilineally oriented than Tonga, and Tonga much more patrilineally oriented than Samoa, one could almost argue that a Samoan dynasty reigned in Tonga rather than a Tongan one, turning the tables on the modern reckoning that the Tongans were frequently overlords in Samoa.
Even the Tu’i’afitu family whose titleholders were de facto if not titular Tu’i Vava’u before being succeeded by the Finau family, was originally Samoan in origin. Although the Tu’i’afitu pedigree in the Palace Office, Nuku’alofa, commences with the Tu’i Tonga Puipui, a Tu’i Tonga who resided in Samoa, the lineage which Tu’i’afitu gave me in 19 70 traces his ancestry further back to a Tu’i Manu’a named Tonga Fusifonua whose daughter Langi came to Tonga. She asked her father how she was to be known in Tonga. He told her: ‘”Make a mound and sit and face the Tongan people” that the Tongan people may know she sits from high above’.(44) This established both her status and spiritual authority and it is not without significance that, unlike other Tongan titles, that of Tu’i’afitu was held by at least two women, a succession recognised in retrospect by the late Queen Salote.(45) The succession of the ‘Ulukalala title held by the Finau family was through a daughter of Tu’i’afitu and the close links between the Tu’i Vava’u and Samoa are well known from the residence of one Finau there in post-European contact times.(46)
Most Tongan historians assert that there was a Tongan empire which not only included the six or so members of the Tongan archipelago but also Samoa, Uvea, Futuna, Niue and parts of Tuvalu. While most of these islands at some time paid tribute in food, artefacts and slaves, a concept of a continuing imperium with bureaucracy cannot be supported. Each Tu’i Tonga made his own conquests and Tongan governors appointed in outlying islands were more like petty Viking kings than feudatory clients.
The important question, however, is how Samoa stood in regard to this so-called empire. The view that Tonga and Samoa were culturally distinct but socially one unit made up of two moieties is probably close to the truth. The social bond was not unlike that of husband and wife; at state level it was an exogamic alliance.
So far we have only looked at the Tongan marriage patterns involving highborn Samoan women. While highborn Tongan women are found in the Samoan genealogies, not least the mother of the great queen Salamasina,(47) we need to look for Tongan men as the consorts of highborn Samoan women in Samoa. While Samoa had fewer ruling women than Tonga had ruling men, several examples of such marriages can be found to prove the point.
One of the most significant was the marriage of the 17th and only female Malietoa, Taiaopo, to Anava’o of Tonga, 10 generations removed from the present Malietoa.(48) Taiaopo had succeeded to the title because of the exceptional high rank of her mother and because she outranked her brothers. She is said to have been one of the great chiefs of her time and ‘ruled supreme as Queen of Tuamasaga, Savaii, Tutuila and Manono’.(49) Despite the alleged descent of the Malietoa family from the Tu’i Samau lineage,(50) there are good reasons for believing that the earlier Malietoa were governors for the Tu’i Tonga in Tuamasaga who, in the manner of the Anglo-Normans in Ireland, became more Samoan than the Samoans.
An extraordinary index genealogy of the Tongaiti tribe (Ngati Tongaiti) of Rarotonga claims that the Malietoa descend from Tunatu, a brother of the first Tamarua of Rarotonga, 25 generations before 1893 and also a brother of several ancestors of the Pomare family of Tahiti.(51) While this is unlikely the name of the first Malietoa, Savea or Havea, and the genealogical connections with eastern Polynesia are reminiscent of the long Tongan-Samoan genealogy which tells the story of the dispersion of the Pulotu people after the war with Papatea.
Other marriages with Tongan males almost certainly took place in Manu’a. Little is known about the early succession to the Manu’a title, but like some other sacred lineages such as those of Borabora and Hawaii succession was either unilineal (depending on the equal – usually incestuous – status of the spouse) or matrilineal.(52) A female Tui Manu’a or heiress could take an outsider as spouse but would have to give up the title. On the other hand, all her children were eligible to succeed. As in Scotland where the kings of Scots regularly became kings of the Picts through their mothers it is likely that something similar occurred in Manu’a.(53) Certainly there are more Tui Manu’a named in traditional stories than are accounted for in the so-called ‘king lists’, which appear to be no more than descent lines for particular Tui Manu’a.(54)
The Tu’i Tonga Takalaua, his sons, and grandsons are all supposed to have lived in Samoa. Some say they were conquerors; some say they were exiles.(55) Elsewhere I have argued that Takalaua’s wife was a female Tui Manu’a.(56) The presence of the family in Samoa suggests preoccupation with Samoan politics. Takalaua’s son Tu’i Tonga Kau’ulufonuafekai also married a daughter of a Tui Manu’a(57) and he and his three sons were probably all Tui Manu’a, though the Tu’i Tonga title would have taken precedence. Certainly Tu’i Tonga Puipuifatu had the right credentials to have been a Tui Manu’a.(58)
This new development would explain changes in the administration of Tonga. With the elevation of the Tui Tonga to the Tui Manu’a title it would have been necessary to create a new title in Tonga, hence the Tu’i Ha’a Takalaua title. Like the Tu’i Tonga these new rulers married highborn Samoan women, a pattern which persisted for several generations after the Tu’i Tonga returned to Tonga.(59)
Marriage patterns were also established in eastern Polynesia though because of the great distances between the major groups the alliances were largely confined to the islands within one group. Thus the rulers of the individual Hawaiian Islands married into one another’s families, though the sacred lines preferred brother-sister unions. Similarly in the southern Cook Islands there was a degree of intermarriage, occasionally varied by the arrival of a highborn Islander on a drift voyage. In missionary times teachers from the Society Islands, no doubt seen as having sacred status, were eagerly incorporated into the ruling families.(60) Perhaps the greatest variety in marriage patterns took place in the Society Islands where Tahitian high chiefs not only intermarried with those of Moorea and the Leeward Islands, but also with those of the Cook Islands, Tuamotus and Australs.(61) As elsewhere in Polynesia and indeed the world, it was usually acceptable for the daughter of a successful warrior chief to marry into a sacred or royal family, thus augmenting the family’s mana.(62)
The fourth period of traditional Polynesian history brings us to the present. The traditional sources for this era are usually so numerous that they can be cross checked for authenticity. As a Hawaiian historian commented, this is a period when ‘all the true chiefs living can begin [to reckon] from [a particular ancestor] without errors’.(63) In Hawaii this ancestor was Umi. In Samoa it was Malietoa Laauli and, more generally, Salamasina. In Tonga it was Telea or ‘Uluakimata I and Ngata, the first Tu’i Kanokupolu. In the Society Islands it may have been the great Queen Taurua of Hitiaa if not her predecessor Hotutu of Vaiari; in Raiatea it was Hiro. In the Cook Islands the arrival of the ancestors was sufficiently recent for the tribal historians to have confidence in descents from such ancestors as Tangiia and Karika.
In several instances these ancestors lived about the 16th or 17th century of the Christian era; they invariably represented a break in the political and religious hegemony of their group, and the systems which developed following their rule more or less persisted to the coming of Christianity. Some of them were undoubtedly interlopers. Scholars must make up their own minds whether or not Hiro was a Spaniard as Robert Langdon postulates,(64) but the Cook Islands tradition of his borrowing the genealogy of the local ruler confirms that he was an interloper and he would have been absorbed into the ruling lineage by marriage.(65)
Almost certainly another interloper was Telea or ‘Uluakimata I of Tonga. By interloper I do not mean that he did not have a claim to being Tu’i Tonga. However, he had to establish his claim by force and there was a break in the regular succession.(66) There is traditional evidence, mostly from neighbouring islands, to suggest that Telea invaded Tongatapu with a force of 500 warriors from Uvea.(67) Certainly the socio-cultural history of Tonga changed dramatically. If the old alliance with Samoa had seemed like a marriage the new one was more like a divorce. The new alliance was with the people of the Lau Islands in eastern Fiji.(68)
New marriage patterns developed immediately. Women were elevated in status even more than under the Samoan alliance, no doubt reflecting the descent of the dynasty from a Tu’i Tonga Fefine and the Fijian chief Tapuosi. The Tameha, the daughter of the Tu’i Tonga Fefine, was elevated to even greater status and buried in the Fijian way. The Fale Fisi or house of Fijian chiefs was inaugurated to supply spouses for the Tu’i Tonga Fefine, and the Fijian custom of vasu (adapted as fahu) replaced the ordinary reciprocal relations of the Samoan alliance.
Perhaps the most significant change was the importance given to the great or principal wife of the Tu’i Tonga who now became known as the Moheofo. At her husband’s death she was strangled in Fijian fashion providing there was someone of sufficient rank to do it. A pattern developed by which the Moheofo was always the daughter of the most powerful chief in Tonga, the hau. With few exceptions the hau was at first the Tu’i Ha’a Takalaua and then the Tu’i Kanokupolu. In this period the hau adopted the Fijian war god Taliai Tupou who gave his name to the present dynasty.(69)
But the importance of the Samoan connection should not be underestimated. Surprising as it may seem, the Moheofo continued to be a Samoan, even under this arrangement, for several generations at least. This came about because the principal wife of the Tu’i Ha’a Takalaua continued to be a highborn Samoan and she would either raise her daughters in Samoa or send them there to acquire Samoan refinements.(70) This pattern ceased, however, when the Tu’i Kanokupolu became hau. Possibly it was felt that the Kanokupolu house was already Samoan since its name and lineage derived from the Samoan mother of its founder. Later Tu’i Kanokupolu married Fijian and Samoan wives but there was no longer any pattern. Taufa’ahau took his Samoan wife when he was Tu’i Ha’apai, but she was separated from him after she became a Christian and before he became Tu’i Kanokupolu.(71)
None of the other Polynesian groups could interact with one another on a regular basis though there were distinct marriage patterns between island districts and other islands. The selection of wives tended to reflect a hierarchical or hegemonic ordering rather than individual choice or economic circumstances. These inter-island marriage patterns were used by the French to argue that Tahiti and the Leeward Islands were one political unit while the British missionaries argued that each island kingdom was a distinct state.(72) Neither view was strictly correct. Each was separate in its tribal culture but all were interdependent.
To introduce a fifth or post-European-contact period is to adopt a Eurocentric methodology but it is convenient for the analysis. The creation of the so-called missionary kingdoms in Polynesia was a transformation rather than a continuation of the old polities. In the larger groups small kingdoms were replaced by larger ones.(73) This worked in Hawaii with the union of the several island kingdoms under Kamehameha and in Tonga with the union of the archipelago under Taufa’ahau. It had partial success in the Society Islands where Tahiti and Moorea emerged as one kingdom under Pomare and several kingdoms were established in the Leeward Islands which survived most of the 19th century. Nominal kingdoms were established in Fiji, Samoa, the Cook Islands and Niue though they were shortlived, depended on strong personalities, and were undermined by strong rivalries and tribal factions.
Modelling themselves on petty European kingdoms the Polynesian monarchies sought to establish or renew royal alliances beyond their own shores. Kalakaua of Hawaii even sought an alliance with the Imperial family of Japan, largely as a means of obtaining an important ally against probable U.S. annexation, when he had confidential talks with the Japanese Emperor during his visit to Japan in 1881. His niece and eventual heir Princess Kaiulani was proposed as the bride of Prince Yamashina Sadamaro but negotiations were broken off the following year.(74) According to Beatrice Grimshaw, King George Tupou II of Tonga, ‘when bent upon marriage, applied first to the Kaiser for the hand of any eligible German princess before settling upon a more suitable match at home’.(75)
A pan-Polynesian revival at the end of the 19th century, which also saw the birth of the Polynesian Society of New Zealand, led to what was thought to be a renewal of ancient bonds. When Makea, the paramount chief of Rarotonga, visited Samoa in the 1830s he had been hailed as a distant cousin by Malietoa because of his descent from Karika, thought to have been the Tui Manu’a ‘Ali’a.(76) Malietoa Laupepa whose first wife belonged to Sa Tupua subsequently married Tui Ariki of Rarotonga. The royal Tupua Tamesese family also looked outside for royal marriage partners in Tonga and Fiji.(77)
Several marriages took place between the royal family of Tahiti and the ariki families of the Cook Islands, the most notable being Queen Makea’s heir, the Princess Tinomana Mereana who married John Salmon, a cousin of Queen Marau of Tahiti.(78) Marau’s aunt, the chiefess Ninito, married into a Hawaiian family with royal connections after the death of her betrothed, the Kamehameha Prince Moses Kekuaina.(79) Some of these marriages took place between the European families resident in the Islands who had intermarried with Islands royalty such as the Salmons and Branders of Tahiti and the Cowans and Loves of the Cooks.
In Tonga the young king George Tupou II also looked to wider Polynesia for a consort and appears to have been affianced or married by proxy on 8 December 1898 to the 16 year old Princess Edith Marie Pomare Vahine of Tahiti, but the consummation never took place.(80) Both his wives were Tongan. He also had a traditional liaison with a high ranking Bauan chiefess on her visit to Tonga and sired the late illustrious Ratu Sir Edward Cakobau.
But not all outside marriages were within the Polynesian family. Some also took place between Island chiefesses and European nobility and gentry outside the Islands. A niece of Malietoa married into the Jardine family, baronets in Scotland.(81) Titaua Brander’s second husband, George Darsie, belonged to a notable Scottish family as did the husbands of her younger daughters.(82) A later generation of the Hawaiian royal family married into the Marignola family of Spoleto, Marquesses in Italy.(83)
The Tongan royal family, the only significant Polynesian dynasty with royal power to survive into the 20th century, has turned inwards in regard to marriage alliances, all the royal consorts coming from traditional Tongan lines. By a strange twist of fortune His Majesty King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV’s second son, now the Hon. Ma’atu, who was excluded from the succession in 1980, is the only one to have contracted marriage alliances with persons of royal descent outside the Tongan ranking hierarchy, his first wife, Heimataura Salmon Anderson, being related to Tahitian and Cook Islands royalty(84) and his present wife being a granddaughter of the Samoan Head of State, His Highness Malietoa Tanumafili II. The modern Tongan tradition of endogamic marriages is indicative of a long-term move to sacralise the monarchy.
In conclusion it might be said that the great families of Polynesia exercised authority (either religious or political) over large clan or tribal districts, sometimes whole islands, that when in contact they were mutually interdependent forming exogamous alliances and that despite great differences of origin and culture they came to share a sense of pan-Polynesian identity. The great priestly or sacred families, on the whole, tended to be endogamous usually forming incestuous or at least classificatory incestuous unions. Despite the formation of independent kingdoms and new national states in modern times no such constructs existed in traditional times and it is even doubtful if there ever was such a thing as a Tongan empire. Great families ruled or presided and it would be difficult to say to which island group they belonged except by birth or power base.
This article is substantially the same as delivered at the conference ‘Deconstructing the Island Group’ at the Australian National University in Dec. 1994. I am grateful for the comments of the conference convener Deryck Scarr, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese, Jennifer Terrell and Robert Langdon.
1 For further discussion see Niel Gunson, ‘Sacred women Chiefs and female “headmen” in Polynesian history’, Journal of Pacific History (hereinafter JPH), 22 (1987), 139-71.
2 See George Turner, Samoa a Hundred Years Ago (London 1884), 222-3. Pulotu was t he mirror-image world of those from the west while Papa and Atea were the primal parents of those who returned from the east. Papatea was also the old name for Makatea in eastern Polynesia.
3 The Hawaiian word kahiki or tahiti usually referred to a remote country of origin not necessarily Tahiti in the Society Islands.
4 This is the theme of a song cycle recorded on the island of Hivaoa by Thomas Lawson in 1861-62. Wellington, Alexander Turnbull Library, Papers of the Polynesian Society.
5 Vavau was the old name of Borabora while Rotuma was the homeland of the Faanui people. See Tati Salmon, ‘The History of the Island of Bora Bora and genealogy of our family from Marae Vaiotaha’, MS 1904, copy in the Brisson Papers held by the author; Teuira Henry, Ancient Tahiti (Honolulu 1928), 103, 122, 144,262. Ra was the tutelary deity of Borabora.
6 See, for instance, Stephen Savage and Tamuera Te Rei, ‘An Ancient History of Tangiia’, MS, Canberra, Australian National University, Menzies Library.
7 For a clear expression of this view see A. Cooke Yarborough of Kohukohu, Hokianga, ‘Notes on Maori Origins’, copied June 1906, MS, Wellington, Alexander Turnbull Library, Polynesian Society Papers.
8 See particularly John Davies’s account of the ‘Out-Stations connected with those of Tahiti and Eimeo’ in C.W. Newbury (ed.), The History of the Tahitian Mission 1799-1850 written by John Davies … (Cambridge 1961), 269ff; Niel Gunson, ‘Pomare II of Tahiti and Polynesian imperialism’, JPH, 4 (1969), 65-82.
9 The presence of two distinct political systems in the group (one closer to the Tongan) suggests that not all the settlers came from Samoa. Although linguistic evidence does not support settlement of Tuvalu from Tonga, Robert Langdon believes it can be demonstrated that Tuvalu was settled from Futuna as well as Samoa.
10 See, for instance, Edith Kawelohea McKinzie, Hawaiian Genealogies extracted from Hawaiian Language Newspapers, 2 vols (Laie, Hawaii 1983), 1, 1. Truncated genealogies, most notably Samoan gafa, appear to follow these divisions: the god, the legendary national ancestor, the family ancestor and the family within living memory.
11 McKinzie, Hawaiian Genealogies, I, 1.
12 See, for instance, the ‘Tree of Death’ and the ‘Lake of Death’ in the cosmological diagram in William Wyatt Gill, Myths and Songs from the South Pacific (London 1876), 153. Note also the use of the term Hades to denote the ‘Spirit-World’.
13 For such stories see Augustin Kramer (trans. Theodore Verhaaren), The Samoa Islands … Volume 1 (Auckland 1994), 494-5; Turner, Samoa, 301-3.
14 Kramer/Verhaaren, Samoa Islands, 401-3.
15 Ibid., index; C. Stuebel (trans. Brother Herman), Myths and Legends of Samoa, Tala o le Vavau (Wellington 1976), passim. Fijian gods were credited with introducing tattooing into Samoa.
16 The oldest god in Tonga was said to be Hu Fonua who was appealed to if the early rains necessary for yam cultivation were withheld (John Thomas, Notebook, Canberra, National Library of Australia, and Journal entries, University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies Library, Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society Papers). Some attributes of this god may have been transferred to Hikuleo.
17 Hikuleo and Tane both preside over the ‘waters of life’ in their respective cosmologies. Tiki or Ki’i seems to have different legends from Maui Tikitiki or Ti’iti’i though some of them share an uninhibited erotic character.
18 S. Craighill Handy, Polynesian Religion (Honolulu 1927), 323-8.
19 H. Driessen, pers. comm. For a development of this idea see Niel Gunson, ‘Tongan historiography: shamanic views of time and history’, in Phyllis Herda et al. (eds), Tongan Culture and History (Canberra 1990), 18.
20 D. P. Henige, The Chronology of Oral Tradition: Quest for a Chimera (Oxford 1974), 98-9.
21 For the return of Polynesians to Manu’a from the east see particularly ‘Okusitino Mahina, ‘Myths and history: some aspects of history in the Tu’i Tonga myths’, in Herda, Tongan Culture and History, 44. Some Samoan Christians wish to replace Jehovah in the Bible with Tagaloa.
22 In the Sanguir language tangaloa simply means ocean, and the god would have been datu tangaloa or lord of the ocean equivalent to Te Fatu Moana in the Society Islands and Hea Moana uliuli in Tonga.
23 For a full account of this cult see H.A.H. Driessen, ‘From Ta’aroa to ‘Oro. An Exploration of Themes in the Traditional Culture and History of the Leeward Islands’, PhD thesis, Australian National University (Canberra 1991).
24 Handy, Polynesian Religion, 117-18, 325.
25 E puta tapuna no te arii ra, o Tu-nui-e-aa-i-te-atua, MS previously belonging to Prince Hinoi Pomare, Honolulu, Bernice P. Bishop Museum.
26 Henry Nicholas (trans.), ‘Genealogies and historical notes from Rarotonga, Part I’, Journal of the Polynesian Society, 1 (1892), 20-9.
27 Kramer/Verhaaren, Samoa Islands, 644-7.
29 Edward Winslow Gifford, Tongan Society (Honolulu 1929), 52, 75; Tongan Myths and Tales (Honolulu 1924), 25-9. This Tangaloa was also known as ‘Eitumatupu’a.
30 Genealogy from a MS book belonging to Ata submitted by Fetuani of Kolovai to the Tongan Traditions Committee. Copy in Bott Spillius collection, Auckland University Library.
31 In the Borabora genealogy (Tati Salmon, ‘The history of the island of Borabora’, 1904) the successive prefixes are Rai and Moe.
32 These myths may not be very old as the change from Rangiatea to Ra’iatea is thought to be quite recent.
33 John Fraser, ‘Some folk songs and myths from Samoa’, Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales, 25 (1891), 112-19; Handy, Polynesian Religion, 106.
34 Te-aia, ‘Genealogies and historical notes from Rarotonga Part III’, Journal of the Polynesian Society, 2 (1893), 271-8.
35 Cf Fraser, ‘Some folk songs’, 96-7, 116, 140.
36 ‘The ancient history of Samoa: an excerpt’, Wellington, Alexander Turnbull Library, Grattan Papers.
37 Pers. comm. Samuleataufa of Neiafu, 16 May 1970. Although there was no Tu’i Tonga Tokemoana, a brother of Tu’i Tonga Tu’i Pulotu I, named Tokemoana, did reign as king with the title Tu’i Ha’a ‘Uluakimata. His name (tokemoana = sea worm/sea snake) suggests that he may have been more fecund than his brother and therefore better able to preside at yam harvests. This is circumstantially confirmed by the fact that Tu’i Pulotu I left no direct heir and the story that his Moheofo saved the succession by claiming she had adopted the son of her favourite fokonofo, perhaps sired by Tokemoana who was buried face down on top of his brother, her husband.
38 John Thomas, 3 June 1830, Journals vol. 3, 266, University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies Library, Methodist Missionary Archives (hereinafter MMA), box 654.
39 Elijah Hoole (ed.), Friendly and Feejee Islands: a Missionary Visit to Various Stations in the South Seas, in the year  by the Rev. Walter Lawry … with an Appendix … (London 1850), 250.
40 A. Monfat, Les Premiers Missionaires des Samoa (Lyon 1923), 134-42.
41 Hellmut Draws-Tychsen, article trans. as ‘A so far unknown legend about the origin of the Samoans’, Ethnos, 4(1947), 137-40.
42 Poepoe et al, ‘Papers on the priesthood of the gods: Principal Hawaiian Deities and their functions’, MS, Honolulu, Bernice P. Bishop Museum.
43 Roland B. Dixon, Oceanic (Vol. IX), in Louis Herbert Gray (ed.), The Mythology of all Races, 13 vols (Boston 1916), 96-8.
44 Pers. comm. Sionatane Tonga Tu’i’afitu of Makave, 15 May 1970.
45 Elizabeth Bott [and Tavi], Tongan Society at the Time of Captain Cook’s Visits: Discussions with Her Majesty Queen SMote Tupou (Wellington 1982), 76.
46 John Martin, An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands …, 2 vols (London 1817), I, 86, 160.
47 Vaetoe i faga, daughter of the Tu’i Tonga Fa’aulufanua. Kramer identifies him as Kau’ulufonua II. For Salamasina see Augustin Kramer, Salamasina, Scenes from Ancient Samoan Culture and History (trans. Brother Herman) (Pago Pago 1958, repr. 1970).
48 Accounts differ as to whether or not Taiaopo was designated Malietoa but she was clearly head of the family. Kramer does not list her as Malietoa (Kramer/Verhaaren, Samoa Islands, 318) but most other lists do. Anava’o was either a Tui Lakepa or member of that family.
49 ‘The Royal Family of Samoa’, TS copy of original MS dated 1899 formerly in British Consulate, Tonga, in author’s collection.
50 ‘Samoa 1887. Genealogy of the Malietoas’, TS copy of original MS ‘from Public Archives of Hawaii’ in author’s collection.
51 Te-aia, ‘Genealogical and historical notes’.
52 See Gunson, ‘Sacred women’, 148-9, 153-6.
53 For the matrilineal succession of the Picts see H. Pirie-Gordon of Buthlaw, ‘The succession in the kingdom of Strathclyde’, in 10 parts, The Armorial, 2:2 (1961), 96-7 (table 3).
54 A king-list for the family of Le Vao (fl. 1830) was collected by Thomas Powell and published in Fraser, ‘Some folk songs’, 138.
55 For the interpretation that the Tu’i Tonga were rois faineants or even exiles in Samoa see Phyllis S. Herda, ‘The Transformation of the Traditional Tongan Polity: A Genealogical Consideration of Tonga’s Past’, PhD thesis, Australian National University (Canberra 19 88), 51ff.
56 Gunson, ‘Sacred women’, 150.
57 Kraimer/Verhaaren, Samoa Islands, 394, 649. The classical matrilineal succession of three brothers contrasts with the otherwise rigid patrilinearity of Tu’i Tonga succession.
58 Although Kau’ulufonua II had more links with Manu’a than his half brother, Puipuifatu was his father’s choice as successor and appears to have lived in Samoa. Tu’i ‘afitu claimed to be descended from both Puipuifatu and Tu’i Manu’a in alternate genealogies which otherwise appear to be contradictory.
59 Although the names of the wives of the first Tu’i Ha’a Takalaua title holders have been omitted from the genealogies their daughters were brought from Samoa to become Moheofo or royal wives to the Tu’i Tonga.
60 Taira Rere, Genealogy of the Papehia Family (Suva 1974); Taira Rere, History of the Papehia Family (Suva 1977).
61 Henry, Ancient Tahiti, 121-2, 267ff.
62 War leaders also married the daughters of war leaders for the same reason. The missionary L.E. Threlkeld referred to ‘the old heathen custom of taking the government from the father when the daughter became a wife, and giving it to her husband’ (Reminiscences, 1853-55, p.50, TS from Sydney newspaper articles in author’s collection).
63 McKinzie, Hawaiian Genealogies, I, 1.
64 Robert Langdon, The Lost Caravel (Sydney 1975), 159ff.
65 Stephen Savage, ‘The period of Iro-Nui-Ma-Oata and Tangiia-Nui-Ariki’, Journal of the Polynesian Society, 26 (1917), 52-3.
66 This scenario was developed in my paper ‘Tu’i Tonga: the case for dynastic sequence’, delivered at the Tongan History Association conference at Laie, Hawaii, in 1992. According to this reconstruction ‘Uluakimata was the son of the ‘Fijian’ Tapuosi and a Tu’i Tonga Fefine while his Moheofo was the daughter of his defeated predecessor as Tu’i Tonga, a woman greatly humiliated by her husband yet required to bear his children and legitimate the succession.
67 E.g., Edwin G Burrows, Ethnology of Uvea (Wallis Island) (Honolulu 1937), 163.
68 Almost certainly there was a large influx of maritime people into Fiji in the late 16th century as most of the Fijian dynasties appear to have been founded, by genealogical rec from about 1584 onwards. Known as the ‘people of the tapa cloth’ (Ko ira na malo) they probably introduced the kalia and new bark cloth technology.
69 According to John Thomas the god’s name was first taken as an additional dynastic name by the Tu’i Kanokupolu Mataeletu’apiko (Tongatabu or the Friendly Islands, MMA, TS extracts, 73).
70 In ‘An account of the Tuikanokupolu’, by Sakalaia Fusiuliuli recorded by the missionary J.E. Moulton (Anon MS, Notes on Tongan History, copy held in Records Room, Division of Pacific and Asian History, Australian National University) reference is made to a son of the Tu’i Ha’a Takalaua going to Samoa to bring his sister to ‘sleep with’ (wed) the Tu’i Tonga.
71 Niel Gunson, ‘The Tonga-Samoa connection 1777-1845: some observations on the nature of Tongan imperialism’, JPH, 25 (1990), 183.
72 For the French case see Documents relating to the leeward islands (14 items, 1849), Musee de Papeete, Societe des Oceanistes collection; for the British case, see documents prepared by L.E. Threlkeld in 1849 for the British Government, Sydney, Mitchell Library, Papers of the Congregational Church.
73 War leaders and district chiefs could often aspire to paramountcy through strength of arms while sacred chiefs or kings could also acquire paramountcy through the acquisition of titles and marriage alliances Tu u in Samoa and Ari’inui in the Society Islands referred to such paramounts who reigned rather than ruled. The word for ‘king’ in Hawaiian (moi)is thought to be a late introduction though the individual island states of Hawaii were the closest political units to ‘kingdoms’ in traditional Polynesia.
74 William N. Armstrong, Around the world with a King (London ), 62-3; Kristin Zambucka, Kalakaua Hawaii’s Last King (Honolulu 1983), 52.
75 Beatrice Grimshaw, ‘Tonga and its Queen’, ABC Weekly, 8 Apr. 1944.
76 Malietoa met Makea in Samoa in Oct. 1832 when genealogies were exchanged.
77 Two taupo of Sa Tupua sought royal partners’ Taefali daughter of Leutele Faletui of Falefa married Ratu Ainiu of the Cakobau family of Fiji, and Lepetimalo, daughter of Lauluoa of Moata’a, married the widowed father of King George Tupou II of Tonga.
78 See entry for Jules William Salmon in Patrick O’Reilly and Raoul Teissier, Tahitiens. Repertoire bio-bibliographique de la Polynesie Francaise (Paris 1962), 420.
79 Henry, Ancient Tahiti, 270.
80 This announcement appeared in some court calendars for 1899 but was promptly replaced by his marriage to ‘Lavenia psse de Tonga’ on 1 June 1899 (Almanach de Gotha, Gotha 1900). Court poets had already linked his name with royal ladies from Fiji, Samoa, Rarotonga and Hawaii. See ‘A Royal Marriage in Tonga’, by ‘a special correspondent’, undated newscutting, Rodger Page Scrapbook, Records Room, Canberra, Australian National University, Division of Pacific and Asian History.
81 Sana Solia (1856-1923), said to be a niece of ‘King Malietoa’, married Frank Lascelles Jardine, of the Baronets of Applegirth, Dumfries, on 16 Oct. 1873 in Torres Strait Islands.
82 Henry, Ancient Tahiti, 271; also entries for Brander and Salmon families in O’Reilly and Teissier, Tahitiens.
83 Princess Esther Kapiolani married the Marchese Filippo Marignola of Spoleto.
84 For her commoner status and Tongan background see Pacific Islands Monthly, Nov. 1980, 15; Mar. 1981, 9; June 1981, 7.
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