Rure: A Chief in Exile is Better Than A Commoner in Power

In 1650 or so, in Magareva (ESE of the Tuamotu Islands) there was a king named Temagitutavake who asked too much taxes from his people. Because taxes were payed as food, and because there was not an abundance of food in Magareva, these taxes were a burden. So the people of Magareva united themselves behind a man named Teiti-a-tuou and they drove Temagitutavake out of Magareva. (This paragraph is the start of three or four other stories but I am just telling this one today.)

After the war a king’s father in-law, Te Ma-Hakahema was forced to leave. His sons and his son’s wives were also required to leave. Fortunately for them, they were given enough time to properly prepare a canoe for the voyage.

The new king of Mangareva, Teiti-a-tuou, was a commoner. He only had power because he had the support of several warriors. Teiti-a- tuou was in love with one of the daughters in-law of Te Ma- Hakahema. Her name was Rure and her husband was from a chiefly family.

Teiti-a-tuou sent her a message in which he told her that if she left her husband and married him, then she could stay in Mangareva and would not have to go into exile to look for new lands. She turned him down saying that it was true that she was going to leave Mangareva, to go into exile with the hope to find land before they perished at sea, but she said, “a chief in exile is better than a commoner in power.”

When the canoe was prepared, Te Ma-Hakahema and his sons and their wives put on their nicest clothes and they danced. They danced to say good-bye to Mangareva and to say hello to the new land that they were going to find. Then they sailed away and they never returned.

Many years later a canoe came to Mangareva. On the canoe was man named Ragai and his four sons. These people stayed in Mangareva.

One day the two youngest sons of Ragai were playing a game. They pointed their toes in and they walked funny and they said:

These are the club feet of Te Ma-Hakahema,
Stumble to the right,
Stumble to the left,
Club feet, club feet, club feet!

These are the club feet of Parai,
Stumble to the right,
Stumble to the left,
Club feet, club feet, club feet!

A man was watching them and he asked them, “Who are those people with club feet?” The boys answered, “These are people on our homeland of Hao. They came on a canoe to our homeland. One of them had club feet, another coughed a lot.”

This man was a relative of Te Ma-Hakahema and he recognized from the names and the descriptions that these were the people who had sailed with Te Ma-Hakahema and that they must have reached safety and not died at sea.

Ask yourself, what if you were descended from this woman, Rure, who choose to stay with her husband even if it meant that she might die at sea? What if you didn’t know that you were descended from her and then one day, you found out. Would not that knowledge of your ancestor be greater than a treasure?

Unless your ancestors are from Hao, Raroia or Taega and the other islands of the eastern and central Tuamotus; unless you are a descendant of Mariteragi; then, you are not a descendant of this woman.

But you are descended from someone. Do you know what they were like? May be there are treasures waiting for you that you need to go and discover.

from Ethnology of Mangareva by Te Rangi Hiroa [Peter H. Buck].

Revised: March 26, 1997

Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff