Seketoa and Niuatoputapu

Seketoa watches over Niuatoputapu

These are some stories from Niuatoputapu.

There is this shark-spirit who lives in the sea around Niuatoputapu who is named Seketoa. The descendants of Maatu, the chief of Niuatoputapu have the right to call on Seketoa and Seketoa will help them. When Maatu wants to speak with Seketoa he sends out his matapules (assistants) and they throw some kava root into the sea. Then two remoras will come to the kava roots. (Remoras are fish that live and will even ride on sharks). These two remoras are the matapules of Seketoa. After the two remoras come they will go away, then a small shark comes and goes away. Then a larger shark comes and goes away. Finally a great big shark comes. This is Seketoa. Then Maatu, the chief, will speak with Seketoa.

One night some Samoan ghosts stole the mountain from the island of Niuafo’ou. There is now a lake in the middle of Niuafo’ou where that mountain was at. These ghosts were taking the mountain by pulling it to Samoa. When they passed Niuatoputapu Seketoa saw what they were doing. He sent his matapules to go near the ghosts and crow like roosters. Seketoa’s plan was to fool the ghosts so that they would think it was almost morning. Then they would leave the mountain where it was at and hurry home to Samoa. When the Samoan ghosts heard the matapules of Seketoa crowing they said to themselves, “Hurry, it is almost morning” and then they started to pull the mountain even harder.

When Seketoa saw that his trick was not working, he swam to where the ghosts were pulling the mountain. He showed them his anus (mata tuungaiku) which was red. When the ghosts saw it, they thought that it was the sun coming up, so they put down the mountain where it was at and hurried back to Samoa. When they discovered that they had been tricked by Seketoa, they were so embarrassed that they never returned. The mountain that they left in the sea has now become the island of Tafahi which is several miles north of Niuatoputapu.

I tell you that Seketoa helps Niuatoputapu. You see that he protected Niuatoputapu and Niuafo’ou from being bothered by the Samoan ghosts. He was able to do this because he is a shark spirit. However, Seketoa was once a man who lived on Niuatoputapu and he helped Niuatoputapu more when he was man than after he became a shark. This is his story.

The first chief of Niuatoputapu who had the title of Maatu had a concubine named Falefehi who bore him two sons: Moimoi and Seketoa. The older son, Moimoi, was jealous of Seketoa because he thought that Maatu loved Seketoa more. Because of his jealousy Moimoi decided to kill Seketoa. Moimoi sent a messenger to Seketoa and commanded him come to his house. Seketoa came and then he sat down on the ground outside Moimoi’s house. He crossed his legs, put his hands in his lap and bowed his head as a sign of humility to Moimoi. Moimoi called for Seketoa to come inside the house. But Seketoa knew that Moimoi wanted to kill him so he called to Moimoi, “I will not come in. Tell me what you want me to do and I will go and do it.” Moimoi called to Seketoa to come closer to the door. But Seketoa still responded, “Tell me what to do and I will go and do it.”

At this point Moimoi decided to kill Seketoa even though Seketoa was still outside. Moimoi grabbed a club, the kind that is called a povai and he threw it at Seketoa. But Seketoa was too quick and he dodged the club. Then Seketoa grabbed the club and started to chase his brother Moimoi. Seketoa called out, “You are a bad guy! You should die! Why did you throw the club at me?” All Moimoi could say was, “Do want you want. I am helpless.”

When Seketoa heard this he thought and he felt sorry for Moimoi, so he threw down the club and he said, “I will go and drown myself in the sea.” And Seketoa did. Then he became the shark that watches over Niuatoputapu.

I have just told you a story about two brothers who fought. Stories like this are common in Polynesia. Wars started by brothers who argued sometimes lasted hundreds of years in the Marquesas Islands, in Samoa, in Rapa, in Mangareva and in Tonga.

I tell you that Seketoa did a great thing for Niuatoputapu. You see, Moimoi and Seketoa probably had other brothers. If Seketoa had not forgiven Moimoi and killed him instead, the other brothers would have fought Seketoa. This would have been the start of a war between brothers which would have probably lasted for generations. When Seketoa threw down the povai and forgave his brother Moimoi, he was preventing a terrible war from starting in Niuatoputapu. That is why I say that he did a great thing for Niuatoputapu before he ever became a shark. He was a chief that we should all respect, not because of his strength but because of his heart, because he forgave his brother. Papaihia,

Reference: Revised: February 22, 1996 Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff