by Marau Taaroa & Henry Adams


I have succeeded in following, after a fashion, the careers of the Papara chiefs until the death of Ariifaataia in September 1798, so that Amo and Purea and even Ariifaataia himself have a kind of reality to me, but as I come to the dark ages of our history, between 1800 and 1815, I find a want of records and traditions that shows how narrowly our family must have escaped the fate of almost every other chiefly race. The successor to Ariifaataia as chief at Papara could not be a descendant of Amo or Purea or Ariifaataia. Their line was extinct. The line of succession had to go back to Amo's younger brother Manea -- who had washed away Purea's blood-feud at Mahai-atea, which is all I know about him. He was probably dead in 1798, but, even if alive, he must have been an old man, between seventy and eighty; and in Tahiti old men were not much regarded. He had a son, Teuraiterai, born probably about 1750, who married Tetau i Ravea, and had several children. The oldest son, Taura atua i Patea, afterwards known as Tati, who died in 1854, supposed himself then to be eighty years old. He remembered having seen Cook, when a child, and as Cook's last voyage was in 1777, the young Taura atua could hardly have been born later than 1774. He had a brother, Opuhara, born probably a year or two later.

When Ariifaataia died in 1798, Taura atua must have been about twenty-four, or twenty-five, years old. He was then unmarried. As far as I know, his relations with Tu were friendly and he succeeded quietly to the chiefery, but I can learn nothing about his doings. He was always a wise and peaceful man, who gained his objects by diplomacy rather than by force, and preferred alliance with the Pomares rather than war.

During the next ten or fifteen years the books and printed records contain hardly a mention of the chief of Papara. Even in the great war of 1802, the war about the God Oro, provoked by Pomare, no allusion is made to Papara or its chief. A single allusion to a Temarre occurs in December 1803, but nothing more.

Vairatoa, the first Pomare, died suddenly, Sept. 3, 1803, about sixty years old, and his son Otoo, the second Pomare, went to Eimeo or Moorea, in the middle of 1804, where he remained till 1806. In January of that year he returned, and in June 1807, he committed an act which made the people of Tahiti, and particularly the whole Teva clan, thenceforward deadly and irreconcileable enemies to the Pomares and all their friends and faiths, as well as to missionaries, Christianity and the English interest, until the final catastrophe of 1815. Far later and even down to this day, the memory of Otoo's treachery and cruelty in 1807 has survived among the people, and perhaps still more among the chiefs.

From day to day the missionaries recorded what they saw or heard, with very little attempt at explanation, and no apparent suspicion that they were in any way parties to the events they deplored:

"Monday. 11 June 1807. The man mentioned as being inspired continues to say that the God Oro is angry and that there must be war. The principal offence, we understand, is that the people of Attahuru have taken some of the bones of the chief Mateha who was killed by them the last war at Taearabu, and made fish-hooks of them, which has been done by way of contempt to the King, as he was a relative to Pomare's family. There are several other things which have displeased the king. Also the people of Taearabu have given some offence possibly by their not wholly leaving the land given to Oro, which the king had desired should not be inhabited. The king and the people in general about us are busily employed in cleaning their muskets and preparing themselves for war, and seem much delighted with the certainty of its taking place.

"Friday. 22. A messenger from Attahuru or Pape Ere brought to the King, who happened to be at our house at the time, a tara aehara, or atonement. It consisted of a branch of plantain, a bunch of red feathers, and a sucking-pig. It is said that it was sent on account of Pepere who is very ill at Attahuru. The king ordered it to be taken to his mother. It is supposed an expedition against Attahuru is in agitation, and that it will take place when certain religious ceremonies are performed.

"Monday 25. Three of the bodies of the slain at Attahuru were brought up during the night; these and the two brought here yesterday afternoon are sent forward to Taearabu to be deposed in the Marae where the God Orois. It is reported that eight are killed altogether... In the course of the day some people came from Attahuru, and they report that Pomare and his people are encamped in Attahuru, and that all the Attahuruans are fled to their Pare. All the houses and plantations have been destroyed by Pomare's party, and much spoil was taken, the Attahuruans not having time to take it with them. Cloth and other things are sent up today in great quantities to the districts of Pare and Matavae.

"Tuesday (?) July 2. Pomare sent us a note signifying that the Attahuruans are entirely subdued and destroyed; that Tata-ru, Poeno, etc., are among the slain; and requesting us to send him some paper to make cartridges, and two bottles of rum. A little of the former was sent him, but the latter was denied; a note also was sent him requesting him not to proceed in destroying harmless women and children. Held our missionary prayer-meeting at the usual time. In the afternoon brothers Elder and Wilson went down towards Attahuru to see whether they can do anything to save those fugitives that are said to be in the mountains. Brother Nott also went down to Pare intending to conduct hither Te Towha, a chief of Attahuru who escaped the late slaughter by running to the mountains, and is supposed to be now in the valley of Hautana. Pomare has promised that on account of his sister (who is the wife of Pare) he shall be spared; at the same time it is supposed that Pomare would be glad of his death.

"Wednesday, 3... In the evening the brethren returned. Brother Nott could not find Te Towha; he is hiding himself somewhere in the mountains. Brothers Elder and Wilson proceeded to Pomare's camp; but when they got there he was on the point of sailing for Papara where most of his followers had gone before... Pomare was standing by the dead bodies on the seaside, giving orders to the people and waiting till all the carcasses of the slain should be put on board canoes to send to the great Marae at Taearabu. The brethren saw only about thirty; the rest had been previously sent away for Taearabu; those they saw were cut and mangled in a shocking manner. The number of the slain is not easily ascertained; the brethren conjecture they might not exceed one hundred. The district of Attahuru presents a horrid scene of ruin and devastation. Pomare appeared as if he was conscious of acting wrong, but was not for entering into conversation with the brethren. They requested him not to proceed in killing the women and children, and entreated him to spare the Attahuruans that are in the mountains: this he promised to do."

Here ends the Missionary Diary. The next letter, dated Nov. 12, 1808, announces their departure from the island in company with Pomare himself, driven away by the universal outbreak caused by Pomare's massacres of June. Other such massacres had occurred, but this was the most atrocious, and the missionaries themselves did not know the full atrocity of the act. Ellis's abstract contains no more facts than the Diary furnished him. Moerenhaut continues the story from the point where the missionaries broke off:

"After having massacred all whom they had surprised [in Attahuru], after having burned the houses, they went on to Papara, where Tati, who is still living [1837] was chief; but fortunately a man who had escaped from the carnage of Punaauia came to warn the inhabitants of Papara, so that they had time, not to unite in defence, but to fly. Nevertheless, in that infernal night and the day following, a great number of persons perished, especially old men, women and children; and among the victims were the widow and children of Aripaia [Ariifaataia], Amo's son, who, surprised the next evening near Taiarapu, were pitilessly massacred with all their attendants. Tati, and some of his warriors, succeeded in reaching a fort called Papeharoro at Mairepehe; but they were too few to maintain themselves there, and were forced to take refuge in the most inaccessible parts of the high mountains, from whence this chief succeeded in getting to a canoe which some of his faithful followers procured for him, arid kept ready on the shore, at the peril of their lives. With him were his brother and his young son whom he had himself carried in his arms during all this time of fatigues and dangers."

Our tradition of the massacre is somewhat different and more picturesque, for it carries the murders back to the old feud of Purea and Pomare's mother Tetuanui reiaite, and the scene on the beach at Mahaiatea in 1768. Whether Tetuanui, whom the English called Iddeah, Idia, and the like, was still living in 1807 is unknown to me; but she was alive as late as 1803 when her husband Pornare Vairatoa died, and the feud lived with her. The island custom required that the chiefs children should be brought up not with their parents but with their nurses, for the etiquette of the island was more than royal; it was hereditary and sacred, and the nurses had a religious right to the charge of the children. In 1807 the children were living with their household at Vaiari. Pomare sent out men from Tarahoi to kill them in order to atone for the blood of Terii Vaetua and Tetuanui reiaite that had been spilt for the insult offered by Purea. The revenge resulted in the murder of two of Tati's sisters and three cousins, but Tati with his cousin Ariipaea, commonly known as Veve, escaped across the mountains to Mahaena on the east coast where they were pursued by the murderers. The chief of Mahaena was a distant relation, and had an old tie of hospitality to requite. He took the two young men under his protection, and defied Pomare. The blood-feud had been wiped away by Manea as far as he or his descendents were concerned, and Pomare did not care for the death of Tati so much as for that of his cousin; but seeing that he could not gain his object, he invited the two to Pare, guaranteeing their safety. They went to Pare, but fearing treachery escaped from there to Borabora where they remained for the next few years. Opuhara was saved by his servants who took him to Papara where he was beyond Pomare's reach.

According to our tradition the Hiva at Papara would not recall Tati. The outrage of June, 1807, had exhausted the last remnants of patience in the islanders, and this time the whole island rose, determined to make clean work of Pomare and all his surroundings. For this purpose they needed a warrior, and as a warrior Opuhara had no superior. So Opuhara became chief of Papara, and soon afterward head chief of the island; for he and his army advanced to Papenoo in 1808, and there, on December 22, Pomare attacked them, and was totally defeated. Pomare and his household, and the whole missionary establishment, without waiting for further notice, abandoned the island, and fled to Eimeo. During the next seven years, Opuhara was the chief personage in Tahiti.

"Upufara", says Ellis, the historian of the missionaries, "was an intelligent and interesting man." Although he was the last hero of Paganism and the chief opponent of the missionaries, the missionaries always spoke well of him, and belived that he meant them no personal harm. Of Pomare, on the contrary, they spoke with horror. I have already quoted enough of their language on that subject, and neither the manners nor the morals of the king were such as one cares to insist upon; but as a politician Pomare offered an example fully as bad as that which he set for private morality. He had never at any time a large following of his own; and outside of his own Pare Arue he had none. More and more his wars came to be carried on by foreign ruffians, either from the Paumotus, or such as Peter Haggerstein, the Swede, who was regarded by all other Europeans, whether missionaries or traders, as one of the most thorough villains unhung. At Eimeo his friends were Paumotuans, Boraborans, Raiateans, missionaries, or outcasts. He lived on what he could beg from European ships or from the missionaries. Even the Raiateans, Boraborans and missionaries at last deserted him. The missionary journal shews that they had long regarded their work as a failure; and, after identifying themselves with Pomare, in spite of emphatic warnings, no other result was possible. So the missionaries, leaving only Mr Nott at Eimeo, sailed away to Port Jackson, or Botany Bay, where the city of Sydney now stands, not daring to accept the proffered protection of the Tahiti chiefs because they could not separate themselves, in the minds of the common people, from Pomare and his interests.

What little we know of Papara and Opuhara during the next seven years, from December, 1808, to November, 1815, comes chiefly from Moerenhout, who must have got it from Tati. What we know of Pomare comes chiefly from the missionary histories. The person whose doings are most difficult to follow is Tati himself. We know that he went to Borabora, having married Tehea, who belonged to one of the three chiefly families of that island. We know, too, that Pomare, not long afterwards, contracted to marry, as his second wife, the elder daughter of Tamatoa, chief of Raiatea; but that the younger daughter, Terito, managed to get first to Eimeo, and was taken by Pomare as queen, in spite of the contract with her elder sister, who arrived only after Terito was fairly installed. The violation of faith was so flagrant that Pomare left to the elder sister the official title of queen, -- Pomare vahine, -- and queen she remained all her life, as far as concerned political energy, courage and control. Tamatoa came up to the marriage with his daughter. The wedding party seems to have been assembling at Eimeo, November 8,1811, when Pomare wrote to the missionaries in New South Wales describing his situation.

"Taheite is in peace", he said; "it is not a very good peace; perhaps it will not be good until there is war again; however there is peace, and we remain in quietness. I came here to Eimeo July the 8th to get timber for canoes, and dwell at Eimeo... Tapoa and party are here at Eimeo, and also the chiefs of Ulitea [Raiatea]. Tamatoa and Pomare vahene are at Huaheine; they only remain of the chiefs. They are to come in Captain Walker's vessel; perhaps they will not come for some time yet. Tapoa and party came in Captain Campbell's vessel. They arrived here at Eimeo September 27th. They brought a good number of men with them, 288."

Tati was one of Tapoa's party, which arrived on September 27th, and numbered nearly three hundred. Other parties from the leeward numbered 461 more, so that Pomare had at Eimeo a formidable army.

"They also are come", he continued, "to engage in the war. I shall send them back again; there shall be no war; there is peace and not war." His reasons for sending them home, he did not give; but he was certainly not yet ready for another war. He had still to work out his plan of carrying over his whole party to open Christianity; a plan which, as his letters show, must have been in his mind for years. Tamatoa arrived soon afterwards, and Pomare then tried to persuade him and the other chiefs from the leeward islands to declare themselves Christians. He came on the 18th July, 1812, to announce his own decision to the missionaries, and shortly afterwards, on invitation from his old district of Pare Arue, he returned to Tahiti, where he was allowed to remain for two years, as an avowed Christian, unmolested by his old enemies.

At the same time, Tati came home and was received again at Papara. Pomare set up his residence at Pare Arue as a Christian chief August 13, 1812, and kept up a correspondence with the missionaries at Eimeo, who sent the letters home to be published. One of these letters, written October 1, 1812, six weeks after his arrival, contained an allusion to Opuhara, whom he seems to have known then as Ariitapoea:

"Dear Friends, War will perhaps soon commence in the district of Papara. We are listening to the reports to find out whether they are true or not. Should war not take place, it will be through fear of us. Enometua is at the head of one party, and Ariitapoea and his brother Tate at the head of the other. Should Enometua be banished from Papara, all Taheite will be involved in war. In this case I shall take Enometua's part, and the Porionuce, which includes all the districts from the isthmus to Tepaerue [Pare Arue?], will join me. Papara and part of Attaharu are for banishing Enometua; but Tacarabei [Ahurai?] and Faa, and part of Attahuru wish to be neuter. We are aware that this war is on our account, and designed to involve us. Perhaps you do not know Enometua, nor Ariitapoea, the brother of Tate who came from Raiatea with Tapoa and party."

This sudden reappearance of Enometua and the old Aromaiterai feud, more than twenty years after it had led to the betrayal of Ariifaa-taia to Pomare (Table VII), rather surprises me, but it led to no harm that I know of. War did not break out. The missionaries returned, and carried on their conversions freely. On the 17th February 1813, Pomare wrote: "Matavai has been delivered up to me. When I am perfectly assured of the sincerity of this surrender, I will write you another letter". The missionaries made a tour of the island; many conversions took place; in Eimeo several idols were publicly burned; there could be no doubt that the Christians were pursuing an active propaganda, and that their success would bring back the authority of Pomare over the whole island; but neither Opuhara nor Tati interfered, and the peace was unbroken.

Yet, after waiting two years at Pare, "vainly expecting the restoration of his government, and endeavoring to recover his authority in his hereditary districts, Pomare returned to Eimeo in the autumn of 1814, accompanied by a large train of adherents and dependents, all professing Christianity". Shortly afterwards, Pomare vahine came up to Eimeo from the Leeward Islands, also with a numerous train of professing Christians. At the same time the Christian converts in Tahiti became an organisation known as the Bure Atua, and everyone could see that Pomare was making use of them, and of his wife's resources, to begin a new effort to recover by force his authority in the island.

War was inevitable, and Pomare with his Christian converts could choose when and where to make it. Pomare himself was not a warrior; he left the active campaigning to his wives, who were less likely to rouse the old enmities. Terite and Pomare vahine came over to Pare Arue in May 1815, with a large party of Christians, and pressed their arrangements for the overthrow of the native chiefs. The chiefs had no choice but to turn them out again, and fixed on the night of July 7 for the combined attack. Opuhara led their forces, and was believed to have given the two queens warning, and to have allowed them time to escape. For his slowness some of the other chiefs charged him with treachery; he replied that he wished no harm to the two women or to their people; that his enemies were the Purionuu; and he marched directly into Pare Arue, and subdued it once more.

While Pomare and the missionaries grew stronger, and, as Ellis expresssed it, became "convinced that the time was not very remote when their faith and principles must rise preeminent above the power and influence" of the native chiefs, the native chiefs themselves showed constant vacillation. In Papara the division became painful. Tati whose connection with Raiatea brought him into close relations with the two Queens, made every effort to prevent war. He could not fail to see that there could be no chance of ever pacifying the islands until they became Christian. With the help of the missionaries and the Raiateans, the Teva chiefs could control Pomare, and the sacrifice of recognising his missionary title of king over the islands, was not so serious, if, at at that price, his ambition could be satiated. If this was Tati's plan, it had the effect of dividing Papara. Opuhara yielded so far as to allow the Christians, within a few weeks, after July 7, to come back to Pare Arue. Pomare himself returned, with all his following, apparently armed and prepared for war. "To maintain the Christian faith, and enjoy a continuance of their present peace and comfort, they foresaw would be impossible ". The native converts were trained to the use of firearms, and the whole missionary interest became for the moment actively militant. The native chiefs, who had no firearms or English allies, and who knew that Pomare meant to subject them once more, still allowed him to return to Pare Arue with a force which had no meaning except for conquest; and to prepare, at his leisure, for the overthrow of their independence.

Under the appearance of religious services Pomare and the missionaries kept their forces under arms. "We had warned our people before they went to Tahiti of the probability of such a stratagem [as an unexpected attack] being practised, should war take place; in conse-quence of which many of them attended worship under arms." With this army numbering "probably about eight hundred" and a war-canoe, with musketeers, besides a second war-canoe "commanded by an Englishman [or Frenchman] called Joe by the natives", and mounting a swivel in the stern, Pomare on November 11, took position at, or near, the village of Punaauia, thirteen-and-a-half kilometres from Pare, and on the edge of Paea and Papara, with pickets far in advance.

This was a challenge which Opuhara, within sight of Punaauia, could hardly decline. He had the best reason to remember Pomare's modes of making war, and there was nothing to prevent Pomare from renewing the surprise and massacre of 1807. Hastily collecting his men, Opuhara rushed towards Punaauia to drive the invaders away. The battle called the Fei-pi -- the ripe plantains -- followed, famous in the missionary annals, and described at length in the missionary histories. From these it appears that Pomare's army, on receiving their scouts' report of Opuhara's advance, which they expected, formed their line on the beach, one flank covered by their war-canoes, the other by a column resting against the hills. Pomare was on the war-canoe that carried the sharp-shooters. The other canoe, with the Englishman Joe from Raiatea, "did considerable execution", and must therefore have taken position to flank and enfilade the attacking party.

Opuhara's attack was violent and broke through the front ranks till it reached the spot where Pomare-vahine and the chief warriors stood. There one of the native missionary converts succeeded in shooting Opuhara, who fell, and shortly afterwards died. His men then broke and retired, unpursued.

This is briefly the story as it is told by Ellis in his "Polynesian Researches" and in the "Missionary Records". Ellis adds:

"Upufara, the last chief of Papara, was an intelligent and interesting man; his death was deeply regretted by Tati, his near relative and successor in the government of the district. His mind had been for a long time wavering, and he was, almost to the morning of the battle, undetermined whether he should renounce the idols, or still continue their votary".

Our traditions tell the story in a different way. According to our old men, Pomare's appearance at Punaauia with his army surprised Opuhara, who had not collected his forces, and would not wait till the men of Taiarapu arrived. He advanced with only half his men, and did not know that the chief of Paea, Temaehuata, had gone over to the Christians without giving him notice of the change. On his advance he met Tati, who had been sent forward to negotiate with him for submission. On coming face to face, Opuhara asked him what he wanted:

"Peace I want with you, my brother!" replied Tati. Opuhara turned away:

"Go, traitor!" he said: "Shame on you! You, whom I knew as my eldest brother, I know no more; and today I call this, my spear, Ourihere, "taeaeneore" "brotherless!" Beware of it, for if it meets you hereafter, it meets you as a foe. I, Opuhara, have stood as Arii on the Moua Temaiti, bowing to no other Gods but those of my fathers. There I shall stand to the end: and never shall I bow to Pomare, or to the Gods forced on us by the white-faced man".

In the ranks of his followers it was firmly believed that Opuhara, few as his forces were, would have won the battle, had not the native missionaries been taught to shoot, as they were taught to pray, and been given guns along with Bibles. The Papara people looked on Opuhara's death as a sort of assassination by a stranger hired and armed for the purpose. They never could understand the white man's system either in war or in peace, and never wholly forgave Tati, although they came to see that Tati was a safer guide than Opuhara. As for submission, they had no longer a choice. When Opuhara fell, their last hope perished. His dying words announced the fall of Papara.

"My children, fight to the last! It is noon, and I, Opuhara, the ti of Moua Temaiti, am broken asunder!"

I am told that Opuhara's spear, "Brotherless Ourihere", is now in the Museum of the Louvre. Even in those days there were among all his warriors only two that could wield it. Among the Tevas he is still regarded as their greatest warrior and hero; and if the missionaries and churches have sometimes doubted whether the natives rightly understood the truths and blessings of Christianity, perhaps one reason may be that the Tevas remembered how the missionaries fought for Pomare and killed Opuhara.

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Tahiti - Marau Taaroa & Henry Adams