Tutaeei: A Story from the War of the Brothers

Here is a story from the wars on Fatu Iva. In June 1879 the people of Hanavave valley of Fatu Iva made a great deal of namu ehi (coconut toddy: wine made from coconut palms). In America people drink beer and eat pretzels. At this time in the Marquesas it was namu ehi and human heads. (Do not condemn them, if we knew their circumstances, we would understand things better). Some of the men of Hanavave made plans to descend into the valley of Ooi in the middle of the night and massacre the people and bring back a few heads to eat with their coconut toddy. At this time there were only 30 people still alive in Ooi, the rest were presumably dead from disease. Everyone was asleep except for a young man named Tutaeei Aumia who had gone fishing. He came back and he heard the sounds of people being killed in their sleep. He understood what was happening so he took a stone and broke the hulls of all the canoes on the beach except for one and he fled to the sea. The men of Hanavave heard him and they ran to the beach and they threw a stone at him and they shot a nail into his leg. He was knocked unconcscious with the stone and he floated in his canoe for a day. He was found by the people of Omoa. They removed the nail from his leg and a tatihi (brain surgeon) cut away part of his skull so that he would not die from his head injury. The old Marquesans practiced brain surgery to save the lives of people whose heads were injured. If one has a concussion, the brain swells and that may cut off the blood supply to the brain so then the person dies. The old Marquesans would cut away a portion of the skull around the injury. Sometimes they sewed a piece of coconut shell to cover the hole in the skull.

‘White Shadows in the South Seas’ by Frederick O’Brien Revised: June 13, 1996 Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff