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The Material Culture of the Cook Islands (Aitutaki)



Weapons of wood were generally made of the heart of iron-wood, which was called taikura. The genealogy of iron-wood, toa, is as follows:—

A black and white diagram showing the genealogy of iron-wood from Atea and Papa down to Te Toa.

Weapons were also made of miro, of the gnarled, twisted tree known as mingimingi. From this came the saying applied to weapons,

"E aha ra? E miro takamingimingi no Vairota."
"Oh, what is it? A twisted miro from Vairota."

Vairota is near the hare karioi that stood in the old village of Vaitupa. The twisted, tough kind of miro was much sought after for weapons.

The usual names of the longer weapons were ko, paheru, tokotoko, and taitea. These names are synonymous. The act of thrusting or stabbing was ko, and the cutting stroke with an edge was tipu.

Long Weapons.

The names given for the long weapons were:—

(1.) Tara tahi. The tara tahi was a spear about 6 feet long, made in one piece. It was used for thrusting, and was also thrown.

(2.) Hiku tuna. The hiku tuna was about two spans in length. It was pointed, kohekohe. The other end was bulged out into a long oval, but with the edges sharpened. This latter end resembled somewhat an eel's tail, hence the name of the weapon, hiku tuna, an eel's tail. The wielder of the weapon stabbed to the front and struck to the back page 350if an opponent approached from that direction. The weapon was also thrown. See Fig. 295.

Figure 295.The kiku tuna weapon.

Figure 295.
The kiku tuna weapon.

(3.) Puapua inano. The puapua inano is somewhat similar to the hiku tuna, but the barbs are in sets of four. The points are made in the solid. They are distributed round the axis, so to speak, and so resemble the male flower of the pandanus, inano, which has a number of pointed leaflets arranged in a similar manner. There are two forms of arranging the points, as in Fig. 296. In some
Figure 296. The points of the puapua inano weapon.

Figure 296.
The points of the puapua inano weapon.

cases the barbed end is made separately and then tied to a handle. The weapon may be used in hand-to-hand fighting, or it may be thrown.
(4.) Noho mou. The noho mou is a long weapon, three or four spans in length, according to the strength of the wielder. The point was four-sided, tapa ha, and the other end was somewhat paddle-shaped, with sharp edges for striking, Fig. 297. This weapon was not thrown. It was
Figure 297. Point of noho mou weapon.

Figure 297.
Point of noho mou weapon.

wielded by a skilled warrior, who, thrusting or striking in either direction, held his ground and stood fast. From the method of wielding the club, it was called noho mou, to remain fast.

(5.) Tu-a-rupe. The tu-a-rupe seems to have been a form of weapon localised in the village of Tautu, or rather page 351in its predecessor, Taravao. It is said to have been something like the puapua inano, but shorter, and with a separate head that was joined to a handle or shaft.

Short Weapons.

(1.) Stone axe. One informant stated that a stone axe, toki, mounted on a short handle, was used in fighting. There was no information as regards the short thrusting weapons like the mere of New Zealand.

(2.) Dagger. There were no regular short stabbing weapons of the dagger type. On one historical occasion, however, an iron-wood autui needle was used with effect. According to Aitutaki tradition, a giant from Mangaia, named Tahiri-te-rangi, overran the country. Pukenga of Tautu disguised himself as a woman and concealed an autui needle in a bunch of Dracaena leaves used as a fan. As Tahiri-te-rangi approached Tautu, Pukenga met him and invited him to stoop and exchange the customary greetings. As Tahiri stooped down, Pukenga stabbed him in the eye with the thatching needle and slew him. He then raised the hakariro, or cry of exultation.

Pukenga toromata kia Akamake,
I toro ai te mata o Tahiri-te-rangi.
E Kenga e! Te kuramea,
Kuramea ka hei ki taku rima.
     E ha ha.

Pukenga, eye-stabber of Akamake,
Through whom the eye of Tahiri-te-rangi
     Was pierced.
O Kenga! Behold the giant fish,
The giant fish caught by my hand.
     A ha ha.

In an account by Wyatt Gill1 there is quite a different version. However, the people of Aitutaki can point out the hollow in the ground where Tahiri-te-rangi is said to have been buried.

Projectile Weapons.

(1.) Bow and arrow. The bow and arrow was not known in battle. There is no definite account of it in the old historical narratives. It has been used lately by the children in play. The bow was made of orange or guava and the arrows of teka cane. The bow was called tokini.

page 352

(2.) The Sling. The sling was used in Aitutaki, as throughout the Cook Group. My informants were not too clear about the name. They held that maka applied to the sling stones, and the sling itself was probably titiri, as the word of command to sling was "Tiria," "throw."

The sling was made of hibiscus bast, in exactly the same manner as the cocoanut oil wringer, taka hakari. The two examples shown in Fig. 298 are from Rarotonga. The plaiting started one one side of the band that was to enclose
Figure 298. Slings, Sling Stone, and Carrying Net. (Auckland Museum.)

Figure 298.
Slings, Sling Stone, and Carrying Net. (Auckland Museum.)

the stone. When the opposite side was reached the wefts were bent back to form an edge, as in the taka. The plaiting proceeded towards one end, until half the length of the band was completed. The width was narrowed by incorporating two wefts as one. When narrowed down sufficiently, the wefts were plaited, either as a three-ply braid or a four-ply round plait, as in the taura puna. The other end was finished off in the same way.

In the small sling on the left of Fig. 298 the pouch, or band, is 5 inches long and 1 inch wide. The cords are plaited in the four-ply round plait, and are 2 feet 3 inches and 2 feet 4 inches long. The end of one cord has been doubled over and tied with an overhand knot. This leaves a loop big enough to fit over the thumb.

In the longer sling in Fig. 298 the band is 7 inches long and 2½ inches wide. The wefts are somewhat narrow, being page 3536 to 1 inch. The cords are three-ply braid, with the ends finished off by binding with a fine cord. The cords are fairly thick. In one the wefts at the end have been divided into two lots, and two smaller cords plaited on for about 7 inches. These two small cords were for tying round the wrist. The cord with the bifurcated end is 3 feet 2 inches in length to the bifurcation, and the other is 3 feet 5 inches.

The sling stones, maka, are seen in position on the two slings. They are of the dark pohatu maori stone, and have been worked, hakaonu. They are shaped into the round.

On the right of Fig. 298 is a netted bag for holding sling stones. The netting material is sinnet braid, and the netting cord is the weaver's knot. A cord runs through the circumferential meshes, so as to close the bag. The ends are long for tying round the waist or suspending over the shoulder. It is said that in battle the women carried up fresh supplies of stones.

In using the sling, the loop of one cord was slipped over the thumb. In the larger sling, the cords at the bifurcated end were tied round the waist. The stone was placed in position in the pouch and the other cord held in the hand. The sling was swung round and round the head and the held cord let go. The stone flew with great velocity, and much accuracy was attained in ancient times. The sling was much used in pursuit of a disorganised enemy.

In battle, an incantation called nuku was used by the priest to promote good marksmanship on his own side and cause the stones of the enemy to miss the mark.

Nuku Incantation.
E Rongo, e Tane, e—
Moria to tangata ki te rima.
Kavea tahau pohaki
Ki te mata i katau.
Kia hinga tiraha.
Tiria tana pohaki
Kia ava i te one.

O Rongo! O Tane!
Support thy man in thy hand!
Direct your stone
To the eye on the right,
That he (the enemy) fall face upwards.
Direct his (the enemy's) stone
That it may furrow the earth.

page 354

It will be noted that the priest ingratiates himself by saying that the stones on his side are the gods'.