by Marau Taaroa & Henry Adams


Aromaiterai and Tuiterai were the names of Teriitahia's two sons, and, if our genealogies are right, they must have been born, as I have said, between 1690 and 1700. Aromaiterai was the elder, and naturally claimed his father's position as head-chief. Tuiterai disputed the claim, and, if the family tradition is correct, his plea raised a question worth noticing in these days, when the study of primitive law has become a hobby.

Tuiterai's plea or defence seems to have turned on the idea that the eldest child, whether male or female, was the only heir who could set up an indefeasible right to the succession, and since the eldest child in this case, being a woman, had married and gone off to Raiatea, all the younger children had equal rights, and might with equal justice claim the position of head-chief.

This was one of the cases in which the sub-chiefs or Hiva must have been the judges, and although we know nothing about the reasons for their action or even the time when they acted, we do know that at one time or for a certain period they decided to send Aromaiterai away -- banish him, in fact -- and that they did it.

As usual, the memory of this revolution is preserved only by a song, but in this instance the poet was Aromaiterai himself, and the song is Aromaiterai's Lament. The Hiva had sent him out of the district and had placed him in a house at Mataoae, with an emphatic warning that he must not even tell the people of Mataoae who he was. Mataoae is not to be confounded with Mataoa, the Marae of Papara. Mataoae is a district on the southwest coast of Taiarapu, and a person standing on the beach there can see to the northwest, across twenty miles of water, the mountains behind Papara.

I do not know whether Papara is commonly thought to be one of the beautiful parts of Tahiti. I imagine not. Travelers can find so much that charms them elsewhere, and so much variety in the charm, as to make them indifferent to all scenery but the most impressive. Among a dozen books that have been written by visitors to the island, I am not sure that one of them, except Moerenhout, devotes a dozen words to Papara. To the Tevas and their chiefs, naturally, Papara is the world, and probably no part of the island compares with it for association, pride and poetry. Every point, field, valley, and hill retains a history and a legend. Purea's Marae of Mahaiatea still rises, a huge mass of loose coral, above the level of the plain. Aromaiterai at Mataoae could fix on the spot where his own Marae -- Teva's Marae -- of Mataoa invited him home, where in his time each of the two chiefs had a seat or throne on either side of the altar. At the outlet of a stream where the chiefery stands -- Terehe i Mataoa -- the reef is broken and falls away on either hand, and there in old days, when the shore swarmed with thousands of men and women caring for little but amusement, crowds were always in the water, riding the never-ending surf which seems nowhere else so much at home. Even now, in a cave, somewhere on the face of the precipice above the opening of the valley, Aromaiterai's skull is probably preserved, with those of other Aromaiterais, Tuiterais, Terii-reres, and Temariis, secreted so carefully that the secret is unknown even to us. Aromaiterai's Tianina -- his home-land by the chief's house -- is as familiar to the natives as their own faces. His Moua Tea-ratapu, and his Temaite or Temarua, the mountain side, are still a daily beauty to the Papara people. The stranger who drives along the road which now leads to Vaiari is still shown, three or four thousand feet above, on the slope of the distant mountain, outlined against the sky, the straggling line of trees which are called Aromaiterai's drove of pigs -- his Tiaapuaa, on the Mouarahi, the great mountain. Long white threads, hundreds of feet in perpendicular descent, mark the cascades on the green wall -- the Pari -- of the mountain. The dews or showers gather in the morning on the mountain-tops and spread the cloud -- Aromaiterai's cloak -- that shut them out from his sight.

According to the tradition, the unknown stranger who had taken his abode at Mataoae, when he came out of his house in the early morning, looked across the bay to the distant mountains behind Papara, and repeated his lament until the people divined his secret.


Ei Mataoae au hio atu ai i tau fenua ite Tianina.
Ite moua ra o Tearatapu te peho i Temaite
Tiaa puaa ite moua rahi
Ua tahe te hupe ite moua
Ua ho ra hia tau ahu.
Terara ua e. e ore oe e iriti ae
Ia hio atu au ite moua rahi ra
Aue le pare i mapuhi e tau fenua iti e

Te pahu taimai o nia o Fareura
E iriti hia mai te matai o te toa
Ei tahirihiri no te arii no Aromaiterai.
Ite huru o tou aia.

"From Mataoae I look toward my land Tetianina, the mount Tearatapu, the valley Temaite, my drove of pigs on Mouarahi, the great mountain. Mist hides the mountain. My cloak is spread. Oh that the rain clear away, that I may see the great mountain! Aue! alas! the wall of Mapuhi, dear land of mine!

"The drums that sound above Fareura draw to me the winds of the south for a fan to fan the chief Aromaiterai. [I long for] the sight of my home."

Nothing could well be simpler, and if perfect simplicity is a beauty or homesickness is poetic, even a foreigner who never has seen or heard of Papara can understand that the Tevas, who are not in the least introspective and who never analyze their sensations or read Browning or Wordsworth, should ask no more. "There is my field!" Aromaiterai laments; "There is my hill! there is my mountain-grove, my drove of pigs! How I wish I were there!" Aromaiterai used no more words; but each word calls up a picture to the singer, and what more can any poet do?

Europeans, who are puzzled to understand what the early races mean by poetry, look for the rhythm as likely to explain a secret which they cannot guess from the sense of the words; but Polynesian rhythm is, if anything, rather more unintelligible to European ears than the images which are presented by the words. Tahitian poetry has rhythm, but it is chiefly caused by closing each strophe or stanza by an artificial, long-drawn, é-é-é-é! The song is sung with such rapidity of articulation that no European can approach it or even represent it in musical notation, and as for the sounds themselves, one can best judge of them by glancing at the native words.

Other Polynesian dialects have a way of using indifferently k or t. Tahiti is then Kahiki; Tamehameha, the king of Hawaii, became Kame-hameha. We use t always, and the l becomes r in Tahitian. The Mariage de Loti is properly the Mariage de Roti. The dialect is never guttural or harsh; the verses seem to run off the tip of the tongue with a rapidity impossible to any one but a native. Singing was as natural as talking, and one danced as naturally as one walked.

Now that I am on the subject of family poetry, I must give here another song which was made by Taura atua i amo, and is still a favorite with the Tevas, the more because it is a love-song. The name of Tauraatua belongs to the little district of Amo, in Papara, and has been one of the family names for so many centuries that I cannot say which of the Tauras was the poet; but the motive of the poem was probably common to all of them, for it was common enough throughout the world. The young chief was in love with a girl of lower rank, who lived at the Ruaroa, a cluster of houses near the beach, by the Marae of Mataoa at the western end of Papara. The paepae, as I have said, was the paved. terrace before the house. He calls his mistress Marae-ura in the song. Illegitimate connections were common enough in all societies, but in one way Europe was less rigid than Tahiti in its rules, not of morals, but of marriage. Unequal marriages were not merely unusual; they were impossible. The family would not permit them even in the case of the most powerful chief that ever lived. Illegitimacy was common, but if there was danger that a low-born child should ever take inheritance in the family, the child was put to death. Even if the connection threatened to be inconvenient, the family or the Hiva would interpose and insist on the chiefs return to his own place. This is the subject of Tauraatua's song. The messenger, called the bird Uriri, had come to the Ruaroa, where Taura was living with his mistress, and brought the order for him to return to Papara. The song begins by repeating the message, and closes by a verse in which the lover, who is obliged to leave his mistress, pushes aside the leaves to catch sight of her bathing on the beach.


Taura atua te noho maira i tona ra paepae i te pacpaeroa
E uriri iti au e rere i te Ruaroa
E fenua Papara ite rai rumaruma
E haere a i Teva tena teaia tei Papara to fenua ura e
Moua tei nia Moua Tamaiti
E Outu tei tai Outu manomano te faarii raa ia Teriirere i outu rau ma Tooarai
E tii na vau e turai e atu i teniau para o te Ruaroa e
Ia vai noa mai nau i puu rii o Maraeura tei tai e
"Taura atua lives at the paepae of the paepaeroa
The little Uriri flies to the Ruaroa, for him the loved:
'Come back to Papara, the heavy-leaved;
Come back to Teva, your home, your Papara, the golden land;
Your Moua, the Moua Tamaiti above;
Your Outu, the Outu Manomano on the shore,
The throne of Teriirere of Tooarai.'

Then let me go and bend aside the golden leaves of the Ruaroa
That I may see those two buds of Marae-ura on the shore."

Paraphrase is all one can try for, where languages are so hopelessly different. The native figures have no meaning in English. The Uriri passes the power of translation. Perhaps rumaruma may convey an idea of branches weighed down by their leaves, but the leaves of the bread-fruit and the palm are something different from those of the oak and beech. The Ura -- the reddish feathers of the parrot or parroquet -- may perhaps pass for orange-red or golden; but local terms like Pae-paeroa, Moua, Outu, and the like, need a long education to slip gracefully on the tongue or through the mind.

I do not know what became of Aromaiterai and Tuiterai, or when they died, but they left behind them one of the most complicated puzzles in genealogy that ever perplexed a succession. I will try to finish with the Aromaiterais and clear them out of the way before going on with the main stream of our family history in the Tuiterais; but this is not easy, because the course of the main stream meanders freely between the two. No doubt Tuiterai did drive out Aromaiterai, about 1730, and when Wallis arrived, in 1767, Tuiterai's son, Amo, or Tevahitua i Patea i Tooarai, still held the chiefs authority and headship over the whole island except a few districts; but Aromaiterai had married a wife, Teraha, and had two children: a daughter, Tetuanui, and a son, Aromaiterai who married his first cousin, sister of Amo. These two children carried on the elder branch of the family till it reaches us.

The daughter, Tetuanui, was the channel through which the Aromaiterai name and lands came back to us at last through my mother, Marama. The Table II shows how, in the failure of males, the line passed through Teraiefa of Maraetaata, wife of Marama of Haapiti, to their son Marama, and through him to his daughter, the greatest chiefess and heiress of her day, whose marriage to Tuiterai's heir, Tapua taaroa of Papara, reunited the Aromaiterai and Tuiterai branches in myself, Ariitaimai, who am Aromaiterai and Tuiterai in one.

Table II: Aromaiterai-Tuiterai

Previous Next

Tahiti - Marau Taaroa & Henry Adams