Ethnology of Tongareva
The weapons used by the Tongarevans were spears, clubs, a short truncheon, and stones. Also, women used a light club.
Generally in Polynesia the term for spear is tao. The Tongarevan spears (to) were made of coconut wood. A non-bearing tree trunk was cut off into lengths of two arm spans (maro). Longitudinal lines were drawn with charcoal along the log and the hard wood was cut down along a line by more than one worker until the soft fiber center was reached. The log was turned over and a similar line was cut down on the opposite side. Wedges of stone or wood were used to assist in splitting the log into halves, then into quarters, into eighths, and so on until the pieces approached the required size of the spear. The wood was rubbed down with the rough skin from the tail of a sting ray (heiheimanu). The skin was fastened to a stick to use as a rasp. When the required roundness was secured, the weapon was smoothed off with a fibrous mushroom growth (kana) that is found growing on the coral rocks in the lagoon. The material, when dried, acts like sandpaper. Lamont (15, p. 155) called this material “poerare,” which in its correct form was probably the true name of the material. The term kana, given to me, is the functional name which seems to have displaced the other.page 213
The spears averaged 10 to 12 feet in length, but some were as short as 6 feet. One end was pointed and the other blunt. The point was either continued by gradually diminishing the roundness of the wood, or widened and made two-edged. Kotzebue (14, p. 219) states that about a hand's breadth of other wood was fastened to the bottom of the long spears (lances) with strings of “cocoa-bast.” Choris (3, pl. 12) illustrates the two types of points, and it is evident from his drawing that the butt pieces mentioned by Kotzebue are also present. (See fig. 64, a, b.)
The Tautuan people stated that the hard point from the base of the tail of the sting ray was used for spear points (hoto heiheimanu). Some of my informants stated that the spears were from 2 to 6 maro in length, but 6 arm spans seems inordinately long. The spears were thrown. The following incantation was used with the spear:
Maireriki ua te tangata tu a—
E tu mai ana ma te to hoto,
Tu, tu, hio.
Maireriki alone is the man to stand—
He stands forth with the sting ray pointed spear,
He stands, he stands, to the end.
The men's club (korare) was made of coconut wood and was as long as two arm spans. It had a wide blade, somewhat paddle-shaped in coming to a distinct point. The blade was thickest in the longitudinal median line where a median edge was formed on either side surface by sloping planes running outward to form sharp lateral edges. (See fig. 63, c.) The club was cut out of a coconut log with shell adzes and finished off with the sting ray rasp and the kana material. The club was used in hand fighting in which thrusting blows (to) with the point, or cutting blows (tipu) with the sharp edges, were made. Lamont (15, p. 155) states that the “coerare” (club) was ornamented with some carving on the blade end.
The women's club (tamutu) was made of the same material and by the same method as the men's club, but it was lighter and had a blunt distal end. My informants described the blade as being shaped like a European oar. It was also shorter, being one arm span in length. The club is not now obtainable, but figure 63, d, reproduced from Wilkes (31, vol. 4, p. 287), shows a weapon that conforms to the native description of the tamutu. It is carved on the blade with paired chevrons with the apices proximal. Lamont (15, p. 133) states, “The long light paddle-shaped club used by the women is called a ‘coerari,’ and is used in battle principally for breaking the spears of the men of the opposite party.” To Lamont, the blunt-ended weapon would be as much “paddle-shaped” as the pointed korare of the men. My informants were definite in distinguishing the women's club as a tamutu. From Lamont's use of the term “coerari” it is quite possible that both forms page 214 were termed korare, but that the women's club, because of its blunt end (mutu), was specially termed ta mutu, which would mean “to strike” (ta) with a blunt-ended club. The distinction in shape is also borne out in the name of the pointed club (korare) by including the word ko (to thrust).
The truncheon (motumotu) was made of the tough ngangie wood. It was about two feet long, thicker at the distal end, and was pierced by a hole through the grip end. A cord loop was run through the hole, by which the weapon was hung round the neck when it was not in use. The korare was used at longer range and the motumotu for close fighting.
Figure 63. Weapons: a, b, spears (to) after Louis Choris; c, man's club (korare) in Bernice P. Bishop Museum (C. 292); d, woman's club (tamiutu) after Wilkes. a, spear with wide two-edged point and b, with simple point: 1, point; 2, butt piece; 3, lashing of butt piece to spear shaft. c, man's club, 7 feet 9 inches long: 1, lozenge-shaped blade 30 inches long, 2.1 inches wide, and 1.1 inches thick at proximal end; 2, well-marked shoulders cut in at right angles to mesial longitudinal line to meet blade, making flare of shaft on surface slightly higher and 0.1 inches thicker than blade; 3, widest part of blade not quite halfway between shoulder and point, 5.1 inches wide and 1.3 inches thick; 4, sharp point; 5, median edges of blade (see section), disappear beyond widest part; 6 shaft, 3.1 inches wide at distal shoulders (2), sloping in to width of 1.55 inches and thickness of 1.1 inches near middle of shaft, median and lateral edges making shaft four-sided instead of round; 7, point 3.2 inches from proximal end, 1.1 inches wide and 1.0 inches thick where transverse cut made; 8, blunt point at proximal end. d, woman's club: 1, rounded distal end differentiating it from pointed club used by men; 2, two paired chevrons incised on shoulderless blades; 3, proximal end of shaft which ends indefinitely in Wilkes' drawing.
Slings were not used, but stones were thrown by hand in warfare. Stones of suitable size were gathered and piled up near the landing places or community centers as ammunition for defensive purposes. They were also carried in the canoes. Thus Wilkes (31, vol. 4, p. 278) records that in the canoes which visited the Porpoise, spears were the only weapons, except page 215 pieces of coral, seen. He also states that after some of the natives had been driven overboard for pilfering, “The moment they got into their canoes, large pieces of coral and shells were hurled on board with great force; two guns were fired over their heads but they took no notice of them and stood up in their canoes, brandishing their spears and yelling defiance.”
The throwing of stones onto Wilkes' vessel is similar to the throwing of spears against the side of Cook's vessel as a Maori challenge to fight.