Mori-a-Tararoa: Will You Rule Forever?

Because of the anger of Teakarikitea the power was split between him and his younger brother. The sharing of power then passed to their sons who fought over who would be the supreme ruler of Magareva.

These sons who fought never resolved their disagreement and in time they passed their power and their disagreement to their sons. The descendant of Teakarikitea who would have had all the power if Teakarikitea had not been so bloodthirsty was Te Mateoa. His adversary and second cousin was Mataira.

This is the story of how their struggle was resolved.

In the late 1700’s there were these two second cousins who split the rule of Mangareva. These two chiefs represented two sides who were continually on the verge of going to war against one another. All it took was for a little conflict to set a match to all the dry wood for Mangareva to go up in flames in the fire of war.

One of the cousins, Mataira, held his power because of the support that he received from two warriors, Te Mapukohu and Mori-a-Tararoa. In return, Mataira SHOULD have given gifts of good land to his two warriors so that they wouldn’t have to go hungry and scrounge for food. But INSTEAD Mataira gave the land to his wife’s relatives and they weren’t very good at supporting him.

After trying unsuccessfully to get a gift of land, Te Mapukohu decided that he would be the match to start Mangareva into the fire of war. He started a conflict with one of the warriors of the enemy chief, Te Ma-teoa. Once the conflict started, he took no part in it, so then Te Ma-teoa’s side won.

But this was just the start. Both sides of the conflict mobilized to go to war against one another. The warrior who had started things, Te Mapukohu, then joined the side of the enemy, Te Ma-teoa. Mataira, the chief who had not given land to his warriors was still in a good position because he still had the support of his second warrior, Te Mori-a-tararoa. Or at least he thought that he did.

These are the words of Te Rangi Hiroa (Peter H. Buck) in “Ethonology of Mangareva”.

“The next day mobilization continued. To Marau-tagaroa, besides the Ati-kura, the Maragia, Poroiti, Ati-te-nohu, and Hura tribes came from Taku to support the rule of Te Ma-teoa.

“The Ati-kura supporters of Mataira assembled at Karourua, the Rikitea residence of Mataira. Mataira had sent to Akamaru for the noted warrior, Mori-a-tararoa, and much was expected of him. Ragihuri, a supporter of Mataira, suggested an attack. The different groups were preparing secretly for war.

“Mataira supportes gathered at Karourua and spent the night in controversy (etokotoko) as to whether they should fight or not. The arrival of Mori-a-tararoa was awaited with anxiety to settle the dispute. Moiume and Mamanu (two warriors from the side of Te Ma-teoa) went to the enemy’s camp of Mataira to see if a decision had been reached, but they found the assembly still disputing. During the discussion Mori-a-tararoa arrived from Akamaru, but he went first to pay his respects to Te Ma-teoa to indicate that his sympathies had changed. Later he stood in the midst of Mataira’s assembly with a bundle of spears on his shoulder. Laying the spears on the ground, he addressed himself to Mataira.

E a’a a mea a kotou e, e tokotoko nei, he? Ka karokaro ra ko a koe i ‘ao ake. E te makara koe e tini aoga no koe? E tiki reka koe ki aku e mea ka pa’o. A takao e pi’e e ’eruru i roto ara.

Ena Te Riki-a-hahi ko a tagata tera i kai kia Pumoro. Ovaka koe ki te kaiga ki a toere kopiro ara. E mea ‘omai ‘oki koe ki aku, ka karokaro ‘oki a.

E ‘ia a ’ekega? E rua ra. E ta’i noti ‘oki ’ekega.

What are you all doing, disputing and quarreling here, eh? To fight is why you [Mataira] sent for me. Do you think that you can rule times without number? You indeed sent for me because you are on the verge of war. Words reverberate in my [hollow] interior.

Over there is Te Riki-a-hahi, that man who eats the food of the land Pumoro. You gave the land to something dressed in cloth. Had you given it to me, then indeed there would be fighting.

How many defeats? There will be two. One more defeat in truth [remains].

“The hollow interior refers to Mori-a-tararoa’s empty stomach from lack of the cultivable land named Pumoro, which Mataira refused and gave to a lazy stay at-home named Riki-a-hahi. My informants state that part of the speech consisted of the following words, “Look inside my stomach. All you will see are the legs of land crabs from the rocky promontories of Kamaka.”

“The speech of Mori-a-tararoa was a definite repudiation of military support to Mataira. He clinched it by saying:

Ka kopeke te mea kou’ora o Mapona, e kore e ‘akamaereere i te kiri o te ragatira.

(The plaited mat of Mapona will be folded and no apprehension will creep over the skins of the chiefs.)

“The kou’ora was a plaited mat with wide wefts that was used as protection on sea voyages. Mori-a-tararoa (alternate name Mapona) announced that his sea mats were to be folded for taking aboard a voyaging canoe or, in other words, that he intended leaving the country. His departure would relieve his enemies of any attack from him. Mori-a-tararoa returned to Kamaka with his followers to make preparations for a sea voyage to seek another home.

While Mori-a-tararoa and his people were cooking the underground stems of ti as sea food for their voyage, a party of Te Ma-teoa’s supporters, against his advice, landed on Kamaka, to try conclusions with Mori. Mori appeared on a high rock above the beach where they landed and addressed them as follows: “Why have you come?”, he asked. “You know that it was due to my action in not supporting Mataira that you were able to obtain the rule. It passed to you like a woman without struggle. I am leaving the country when my ti root is cooked. But if you still want fight,” he cried, raising a spear, “you will get fight.” Somewhat shamed by his words, the party returned to Rikitea without attacking. . . .”

“The disaffection of Te Mapukohu, followed by the dramatic withdrawal of Mori-a-tararoa before the council, crushed all hope of immediate success. Mataira had lost both these famed warriors by failing to reward them with pieces of land for which they had begged. Without at least one of them, it was useless to try conclusions. The meeting at Karourua broke up and Mataira went into exile on the island of Aukena like others of his defeated predecessors. The same day the Taku supporters of Te Ma-teoa celebrated a bloodless victory.” (pp. 88-89).

Years later, the daughter of Mataira was still alive. Whenever she thought of her father’s defeat she wept because her family was dependant on the charity of others following her father’s defeat.

The moral in this story is obvious so I don’t need to say anything. But I do want to say that I have sympathy for Mori-a-Tararoa, he had tried to resolve his problems with his chief, Mataira. But finally, in frustration, he knew that he must leave Mangareva and go and seek for a new home. I don’t know if he has descendants somewhere in the Tuamotus who know about him.

There is a great richness in the history of Polynesia, in all the battles, the struggles, the conflicts, the anguish and the pain. There is much that we can learn from the lives of those people.

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

Revised: March 26, 1997

Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff