Background on the Tuamotu Islands

The Tuamotu Archipelago is located east of Tahiti. Dozens of islands stretch in a gradual arc for 1200 km. Except for the island of Makatea, these islands are all atoll islands consisting a series of motus or sandbars encircling a central lagoon. Agricultural resources on these islands are poor.

The old Tuamotuans lacked good timber for canoe-making. Never-theless, they fashioned double canoes that were 15-18 meters long from planks that were sewn together with coconut fiber. Europeans marvelled at their ability to shape and fit planks when they generally only had shell tools to work with.

The Tuamotuans were a very literary culture. Thousands of pages of Tuamotuan poetry and legends have been recorded and are referenced in these stories.

Reference: Revised: June 13, 1996 Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff

  • The Old Woman of Takaroa
  • The Old Woman of Takaroa Part I: Maui and Hina Many years ago there was an old woman on Takaroa. One night when the moon was full she led the children of Takaroa island onto a beach to a place where there was a bit of a wind to blow away the insects. They laid mats out onto the beach and she told them stories about when she was young. Because she was born in the time before the Europeans came she knew much of the ancient knowledge.
  • Moeava
  • Moeava: The Two Cousins (A Variant) In the 1600’s there was this great warrior and navigator in the Tuamotus named Moeava. This is his story. There was a man from Hao island who married a woman from Takaroa island. So he went to live in Takaroa with his wife. (In Tuamotuan culture, it appears that a man would go and live on his wife’s island, not the other way around).
  • Havaiki
  • Havaiki: The Land Under The Land This is a poem from Fakarava island in the western Tuamotus: Havaiki i ruga, Havaiki i raro, Havaiki i Taputapuatea, Havaiki above, Havaiki below, Havaiki at Taputapuatea, This poem talks about a magical land called Havaiki. The old Tuamotuans believed in a land above the land named Havaiki-ki-ruga (Havaiki-Above) and in a land under the land named Havaiki-ki-raro. When someone died, the old Tuamotuans would say: ‘Ua hoki oia i Havaiki’ (He has returned to Havaiki).
  • Tearikituohea
  • Tearikituohea: Cast Out and Poisoned By His Relatives On the island of Hao in the 1500’s there was a man named Nomakaitagata. He had two wives who were sisters of one another. The first wife was named Ruakairoro and she gave birth to a boy named Tearikituohea. Tearikituohea was not a man, but a spirit and he had four eyes. Nomakaitagata slept with his second wife, Tevahinearikituhea, and in time she gave birth to ten children whose names were: Huripapa, Tuteakaumea, Porofana, Tuauta, Tuatai, Rotoroa, Mapunaheiava, Tuhoropuga, Tukopuroatevanaga and Raumea.
  • The Whale Brothers
  • The Whale Brothers: Chapter I: A Terrible, Terrible Deed This is the English translation of a story written in Tuamotuan by Paea a Avehe who was from Vahitahi island in the eastern Tuamotus. This is the family: Tinirau was the father and Puturua was the mother. They had two sons who were named Tutunui and Togamaututu. Although the parents were human these sons were not men, they were whales! These are the daughters of these parents.
  • Tearikimunanui
  • Tearikimunanui: Munanui the Chief This story is from the island of Hao in the eastern Tuamotus. The true name for this island is Haoroagai. There is a poem from Haoroagai which talks about a chief named Munanui who was born about 1600. “He [Munanui] was a king of here in Hao. There is a poem about him and a story also. It is told that some warriors came, kings from other islands.
  • Temauri-A-Keha
  • Temauri-A-Keha: An Ancient Battle Munanui had a son named Tetaukupu, who had a daughter named Atanua who had a son named Temauri-a-Keha, who was a chief in Hao. This is a story that happened there in about 1700 and it talks about how Haoroagai was attacked by enemies from Takoto who were led by a warrior named Fakauhu. Kuranui a Meitai who was a descendant of Temauri-a-Keha tells part of this story:- “I will tell this story about Temauri.
  • Follow the Right Star
  • Follow the Right Star About 300 or 400 years ago the people of Hao set off in a canoe named Tenati to visit an island named Manuagi. Normally no one During their journey two groups on the canoe got into an argument. One group thought that they would reach Manuagi by following the path of a certain star. The other group thought that they should follow a different path. One of the groups won the argument.
  • Tagata Ei Kaito
  • Tagata Ei Kaito: How to become a warrior May 17, 1994 I have noticed that many Polynesian teen-agers like to wear t-shirts with pictures of Polynesian warriors on the back. I sometimes ask, “Who is that?” The replies vary. The usual answer is, “Oh! I don’t know.” However, once I was told, “That is my boyfriend.” Because many people like the Polynesian warrior tradition I will write a few words about Polynesian warriors.
  • Marau-torea
  • Marau-torea the chief (short version) Many, many years ago a warrior chief named Marau-torea set sail from Vavau-Nui to journey to Motu Tapu to visit a young woman, Ruatamahine, whom he wished to marry. The young woman’s mother saw him coming to her island because of her mana (magic, power). She did not want him to come because her son had been killed by a man from Vavau-Nui. So the mother sent fish out into the sea to stop the canoe.