by Marau Taaroa & Henry Adams


The younger Tuiterai, whose birth I have ventured to date, like that of his brother Aromaiterai, between the years 1690 and 1700, married Teroroeora i Fareroi; that is to say, a daughter of the chief of Haapape; and this was the relationship which made the Papara family at home in Haapape when Wallis and Cook appeared there. The marriage must have taken place about 1720.

The eldest son of Tuiterai and Teroroeora or Aroroerua was Tevahitua i Patea, who must have been born about 1720-1725. Besides this son, Tevahitua, there was the daughter Tetuaunurau, already mentioned as marrying her cousin Aromaiterai; there was a Tauraatua of whom we know nothing; and there was another son Manea, from whom we are directly descended in the fourth generation.

Tevahitua seems to have been recognized as head-chief of the Tevas, although his cousin and brother-in law Aromaiterai may have had an equal seat in the Marae of Mataoa and quite as much influence with the Hiva. The only tradition left in the family from this long division in the last century is that there were always at Papara an Aromaiterai and a Tuiterai, and that they never could agree. Probably they agreed still less after Tevahitua's marriage, which must have taken place about 1750.

If a family must be ruined by a woman, perhaps it may as well be ruined thoroughly and brilliantly by a woman who makes it famous. Te vahine Airorotua i Ahurai i Farepua, and of most of the other highest connections in the island, was a very great lady. Standards of social rank differ a little in different countries and times, but in any country or time a woman would meet with consideration when she and her husband could control a hundred thousand people; when she could build a pyramid for her child, and take for him the produce of a swarming country; when she was handsome, with manners equal to the standard of countries where the manners of Europe would be considered barbarous; and finally, when she had an unbroken descent from chiefs as far back as human society existed; and the consideration would not be the less because, like a large proportion of the more highly educated ladies and gentlemen of Europe, her views on some points of morality were lax and her later career disastrous.

Airorotua, familiarly called Purea, was a daughter of Terii vaetua, chief of Tefana i Ahurai or Faaa, the tail of the fish, close to the modern Papeete and partly including it. The district of Faaa, though it contained only about seven miles of seacoast, was for many reasons very important. It stood, as an independent little nation, between the great Teva alliance on the south, the Porionuu and te Aharoa on the east, and the large island of Eimeo or Moorea, some twelve miles to the west. As Tefana leaned toward Papara or against it, the chiefs of Papara were apt to be less anxious about their enemies or more anxious to win friends. At the time when Amo married Purea, in the middle of the last century, Tefana was particularly strong in its connections.

Terii vaetua, Purea's father, had married one of the Vaiari family -- Te vahine Airoro anaa te arii ote maevarau of Vaiari, marae Farepua, born literally in the purple or scarlet of the Ura. They had seven children: (1) Tepau i Ahurai, known in the English books of travel as Tubourai Tamaide; (2) Terai mateata; (3) Hituterai; (4) Te vahine Airorotua, or Oberea, Berea, Purea; (5) Teihotu; (6) Auri; (7) Mareiti. Of these seven children three were persons of no small concern to us -- Purea, Teihotu, and Auri. Purea married the chief of Papara and became mother of Teriirere; Teihotu married Vavea of Nuurua and was grandfather of King Pomare; Auri married Tetuaraenui of the Punaauia and Vaiari families and was grandfather of Marama. Thus King Pomare was second cousin of my mother, Marama Arii manihinihi, and as in Tahiti cousins are regarded as brothers and sisters, Pomare always called my mother sister, which had a curious effect on our lives and fortunes.

With such connections as her father and mother and husband gave her, Purea had no serious rival in the island, and when her son Teriirere was born, somewhere about the year 1762, he became at once the most important person in the world in the eyes of his mother and of Tahiti. The son always superseded the father, whose authority after the birth of a child was merely that of guardian. As often happened, Tevahitua took a new name from the child, and called himself Amo, the winker, from a habit of winking which seems to have amused him in the infant Teriirere. The same cause that superseded the father gave the mother often an increase of influence and freedom from restraint. Purea, after the birth of Teriirere, was emancipated, and the relation betwen her and Amo was from that time a political rather than a domestic one. They were united only in the interests of Teriirere.

They then asserted the child's supremacy by undertaking what no other great chief had ever attempted, and what still strikes us with astonishment as it struck Captain Cook and Sir Joseph Banks in 1769. They not only imposed a general Rahui for the child's benefit, as Tavi of Tautira did for his unfortunate son a hundred years before; but they also began a new Marae for Teriirere, in which he was to wear the Maro, and they set their people to work on the enormous task of piling up the pyramid at Mahaiatea which was an exhibition of pride without a parallel in Polynesia.

This was more than Purea's female relations could bear, and it set society in a ferment. The island custom provided more than one way of dealing with pride. Though Purea and Teriirere were admitted to be political superiors, they were socially no better than their cousins, and custom required that if during a Rahui any relative or guest of equal rank should come to visit the chief who had imposed it, the Rahui was broken, and the guest received by courtesy all that the Rahui had produced. Such an attempt to break the Rahui was of course an act which could not be ventured by any ordinary chief within the direct control of Papara; but Tefana i Ahurai was independent, and if Purea's own family chose to set up such a claim, Purea would resist it at her peril. Not even she could afford such a quarrel.

The first person who undertook to break the Rahui was probably Purea's sister-in-law, no doubt the wife or widow of Teihotu, on behalf of her son, Terii vaetua. She set out from Faaa in her double-canoe, with the house or tent, called fare-oa, in the prow, which only head-chiefs could use; and a crew of fifty men or more paddled this barge of state, with all the show of a royal ceremony, along the coast to Papara, some twenty miles away, until, opposite to the Point of Mahaiatea, they turned in to an opening in the reef which had on some pretext become sacred, and was known as the sacred pass, through which only sacred chiefs might go. Purea was then living on the Point, and probably was superintending the work on her great Marae. She came out on the beach, and as the double canoe, with its royal tent, passed through the opening and drew towards the land she hailed it:

"Who dares venture through the sacred pass? Know they not that the Tevas are under the sacred Rahui for Teriirere i Tooarai? Not even the cocks may crow or the ocean storm."

"It is Terii vaetua, Arii of Ahurai"

"How many more royal heads can there be? I know none but Teriirere i Tooarai. Down with your tent!"

The Ahurai chiefess wept and cut her head with the shark's tooth till blood flowed down her face, which was the custom of women in sign of great emotion, and meant in this instance revenge as well as grief; but Purea was inexorable, and Terii vaetua was obliged to turn round and go home like any ordinary stranger.

The quarrel, opce begun, was extended by another of the Ahurai family, a woman who proved to be more than Purea's equal in most forms of energy. She was Purea's niece, the daughter of Teihotu and sister of the insulted Terii vaetua. Her name was Tetuanui rea i te Raiatea, and she was or became the wife of Tunuieaiteatua i Tarahoi, Cook's friend Otoo, and the missionaries' friend Pomare. A very famous woman in Tahitian history, much talked about by Captain Bligh in 1788 and by the missionaries as Iddeah, Tetuanui i Nuurua was not even mentioned by Wallis or Cook, although the latter, in 1774, frequently mentions "Tarevatoo, the king's younger brother," whom I take to be Terii vaetua, the king's brother-in-law, who had begun the attempt to break the Rahui. Indeed, Cook never saw even Pomare until August, 1773, when Pomare was already thirty years old.

After the repulse of Terii vaetua, this sister undertook to pursue the quarrel. The matter had become uncommonly serious, for a feud between Papara and Ahurai might upset the whole island. Nothing more would then be needed to overthrow the Papara supremacy than the alliance of Ahurai and the Purionuu with Vehiatua, whose fortunes had been made a hundred years before by a similar combination to break a similar Rahui. Tradition has preserved the precise words used by the family to avert the peril into which Purea's pride and temper were pushing them.

Tetuanui in her turn made her appearance in the state canoe off the point of Mahaiatea, and as she approached the beach was received by Purea with the same order, "Down with your tent!" Tetuanui came ashore and sat on the beach and cut her head with the shark's tooth till the blood flowed down into a hole she dug to receive it. This was her protest in form; an appeal to blood. Unless it were wiped away it must be atoned by blood.

Then the high-priest Manea interposed. Manea was Amo's younger brother, from whom we are directly descended in the fourth generation, and probably we owe our existence in a double sense to him, for his act wiped out the blood-feud as far as his own descendants were concerned.

"Hush, Purea! Whence is the saying, 'The pahus (drums) of Ma-tairea call Tetunai for a Maro-ura for Teriirere i Tooarai. Where wilt thou wear the Maro-ura? In Nuura and Ahurai. One end of the Maro holds the Purionuu; the other end the Tevas; the whole holds the Oropaa.'"

Manea quoted the maxim of family statecraft in vain. Purea replied only that she was going to allow no rivalry to her son. "I recognize no head here but that of Teriirere." Then Manea dried the blood of Tetuanui with a cloth, wiping away the feud as far as he was concerned; and so long are these things remembered that forty years afterwards, when the Purionuu savagely raided Papara, Manea's great-grandchildren were supposed to have been spared in memory of Manea's act.

This scene must have occurred at about the time when Wallis discovered the island, and had he taken forty-eight hours to make the visit to Papara which Purea invited him to make, perhaps he might have seen the preparations for the great feast at which Teriirere i Tooarai was to wear the Maro-ura for the first time in his great new Marae at Mahaiatea. Thus far I have had to depend mainly on tradition, but here Captain Wallis and Captain Cook begin their story from the European stand-point.

Table III: Ahurai-Papara

Previous Next

Tahiti - Marau Taaroa & Henry Adams