Tukopana: The Two Statues

In the 1800’s there was a native priest on Fatu Iva named Tukopana. One day he took the people of his tribe with him up the valley into the jungle and he showed them a stone platform that he had built there in the jungle. On this stone platform he had placed two stone statues: a large dark one and a small white one. He told the people that the large statue was him and that the small statue was his daughter who was already dead. He told the people that the spirit of his daughter had entered into the smaller statue and that after he was dead his spirit would enter into the large statue. Then he told the people to take care of the two statues and to keep the stone platform clear from leaves and moss and to keep the jungle from growing over this place. If they did that he told them, then the spirits of his daughter and he would continue to guide the people of Fatu Iva in the generations to come. After Tukopana died the people of the valley cared for the two statues like he had asked them. They would rake the leaves around the statues and keep the jungle from growing over those two statues. Many years later there was a French governor on the island of Hiva Oa. He heard about those two stone statues standing in the jungle of Fatu Iva and he thought that it would be nice to have those two statues standing in front of his bungalow on Hiva Oa. So he hired some laborers and they took the government schooner down to Fatu Iva and they hauled those two statues out of the jungle onto the schooner and they sailed back to Hiva Oa. Those two statues were hauled up to the governor’s bungalow on Hiva Oa and they were placed there right by the road in front of the governor’s bungalow. The governor probably thought that those statues were his and belonged where he wished to put them. But those two statues belonged back in the jungle of Fatu Iva not in front of his house. One day it started to rain. It rained hard for days. Way up in the valley above the governor’s bungalow a flood broke loose and sent a wall of water down the valley and it washed right over the governor’s bungalow. Everything was a total loss. The next day the sky was clear and it was bright and sunny. When they went back to clean up what was left they found that the two statues had washed away. They have not been found since.

I have a friend whose mother is from Fatu Iva. Once he went there to visit his grandmother. In a couple of places on Fatu Iva there are skulls laying out in plain view. My friend’s grandmother warned him, “You can look at the skulls, but you better not touch.”

‘Fatu Hiva: The Return to Nature’ by Thor Heyerdahl. Revised: June 13, 1996 Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff