In the 1870’s there was a whaling ship that came to the valley of Hanamenu on the island of Hiva Oa. One of the sailors had a fight with the ship’s captain and he abandoned the ship. The people of Hanamenu were kind to him and they hid him until the ship sailed away.
This sailor stayed on in Hanamenu and he married one of the local women. The first part of her name was Tahia. We will call her Tahia’uepo in this story. This sailor lived with Tahia’uepo in the house of her father.
Everyday people would go about their work, but this sailor would not. No matter what they tried to convince him to do, he would not work. The most they could get him to do was sleep in the canoe while Tahia’uepo did the fishing. That was it.
Hanamenu is a drier valley than others because it is on the western end of Hiva Oa. Sometimes there are famines because of the lack of rain. A time like this came to Hanamenu. There was not enough food and this sailor would still not work.
The men of this valley had a meeting one night to decide what to do. The father of Tahia’uepo, that is, the father-in-law of the sailor, said, "When the rats get to be a bother, then you eat them." Everyone understood and agreed with this decision.
Early the next morning the people of Hanamenu sent Tahia’uepo on an errand that would take her up the valley where she would be gone all day. Then they set to work digging a pit for an umu (an underground oven) below her house. The sailor noticed what they were doing and he came down the hill to inquire to see what they were doing.
They told him that it was an oven for what they called puaka ‘oa (long pig). But it wasn’t really for pigs. That is what they called it. The sailor probably didn’t understand that they were not talking about the four legged kind of pig. That is just as well, perhaps he knew no fear or surprise when they knocked out his brains with a club.
They cooked this puaka ‘oa who would do no work. In the evening Tahia’uepo returned from her errand in the mountains, tired from climbing up and down the hills. She asked where her sailor husband was gone and they probably told her that he was gone somewhere. At this point they were splitting up the meat that they had cooked and they offered her some. She was tired and she was hungry so she ate some.
They laughed because they knew who she was eating and she asked them why they were laughing. They told her. She stood up, turned around and headed back to the mountains. After three days they went to look for because she had not returned. They found that she had hung herself from a tree.
If you go to Hanamenu these days it is empty. Those people are all dead now. But, sometime, maybe you can hear the voice of Tahia’uepo, weeping in the night.
The last paragraph is my speculation. The story is from ‘Eastern Pacific Lands’ (?) by Frederick W. Christian.
Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff