#13 After Defeat in Fighting: Burying Oneself Alive
     (Ernest Beaglehole and Pearl Beaglehole, 1938)

There is no record in Pukapuka of pitched battles between opposing groups, or of warfare existing within the social structure of a definite institution. The atoll was too small, the total population too few, and the amount of available land too little for institutional warfare to have developed. Informants definitely asserted that warfare was unknown on Pakapuka. They were correct in one sense, but the existence of weapons and stories about fighting shows that the island was not always at peace. Fighting incidents in stories of the fighting at Waletoa, the fighting against Yangalipule to the fighting of Tuiva against the men of Yato, the fighting against Uyo, and the fighting of Te Nana in Yayake, reveal that such fighting was caused by violation of the tapu of the reserves, quarrels over food divisions, personal rivalries, quarrels over division of the reserves, and like matters. The fighting that occurred rarely rose above the level of brawling, but where a pitched hand-to-hand contest resulted, much blood seems to have been shed for little cause. The number of deaths in these contests seems to have been increased by the fact that losers habitually committed suicide by having relatives bury them alive.

Tuiva’s regency was in general a peaceful period. He realized that much of the trouble in the time of Alatakupu was due to the fact that the old men had found time hanging heavily on their hands and invented mischief to make life more interesting. Tuiva therefore refused to admit to the old men’s age grade any person who was not “crawling with age”.

It seems, however, that the comparative abundance following recovery from the effects of the seismic wave did not long continue, because the records speak of another famine in Tuiva’s period. It is likely that the population was again increasing faster than the food supply, necessitating more stringent measures than usual to control the food that all might have a fair share in it. Again it seems that Tuiva’s assumption of the regency was not without opposition. This was centered in the person of another Ngake man, Watumoana, a priest of the god Tulikalo, who dwelt mainly in the god house attached to the sacred enclosure of this god. Watumoana was jealous of the power of Tuiva and wished to procure some of this power for himself, or alternately to become regent of the island in place of Tuiva. The bitterness between the two men, based on their rivalry, only waited for some incident to bring them to open conflict. The story of their conflict is a favorite one of the Pukapukans. The account recorded by Talainga deserves reproduction in full because of the wealth of detail bearing on every aspect of Pukapuka culture:

Tuiva was a child of Taonge, one of the eight of Ngake. Matanga was his lineage. This was in the time after the law of pule pae. It was a period without a chief. Tuliayanga was dead.

Takitini was a Loto man of the Tua lineage. He had been ordered by Tuiva to guard the point of Utupoa against the group who went out along the Ngake reef and who might be up to mischief returning from Ko. It was a time of famine. The island had not yet developed well. The men of the island were few in number; they had been finished off in the pule pae.

The children of Tuiva went to grope for fish along the reef. Takitini watched them coming from the reef. Takitini ran forth, snapped his fingers on the tops of their heads, chased them so that they would go home. Takitini said disapprovingly, “The eyes of the thieves.” The children went, told Tuiva. Tuiva did not listen. Takitini was his brother. Besides, it was he who had placed him (Takitini) to protect the point at Utupoa. These were only the words of children.

Arrived at another day, Tuiva again chased his children, saying to them, “Why do you stay doing nothing? What about us, we are hungry. Why do you not go to fetch some food for us?” The children went again to the Ngake reef. They were seen again by Takitini. Takitini again went forth. He spanked them, spearing them in the ribs with his stick. He didn’t spear them really; he merely frightened them so they would not go again. The children complained again to Tuiva, “We have been whipped by Takitini; he speared us in our ribs with his weapon.” Tuiva again did not listen to the telling of the children. He thought again as he had thought before.

Another day still came. He chased his children, “Why do you only sit around making yourselves hungry? Why have you not gone to get food for us?” The children refused, “We certainly will not go. Takitini spoils our skins.” Tuiva objected, “Why should Takitini hurt you for no reason? I guess he was only frightening you.” His children disagreed, “No, indeed, he really whips us, breaks us to pieces.”

Another day came. The children went out. Takitini watched; it was clear that they were going to the reef, going on to Ko. Takitini ran to the children. He asked them, “Where are you going? You rascals, the eyes of thieves.” The children protested to Takitini, “Not at all, Tuiva sent us to get something for us.” Takitini answered, “What is Tuiva doing? The reserve, according to him, belongs to you, to be eaten only by you. You go back. Don’t you be stubborn. I shall whip you to pieces.” Takitini snapped his fingers on the backs of their heads, sent them to return home.

They invented their strange trick. They come, talking as they walked. They arrived at Te Walatapepe. One of the children among them suggested, “You make a fake, O Wakitula (the oldest); you are the one Tuiva favors. Pretend to have broken your arms and your legs; when we reach the place where Tuiva is, you cry out, pretend to be in great pain.” Finished the discussion, they wrapped the arms and legs and body of Wakitula in the “bark” of the vavai creeper, so that it would seem that these were parts hit by Takitini with his weapon, so that Tuiva would go to kill Takintini. Finished wrapping up Wakitula, they carried him. When they drew near to the place where Tuiva was staying, Wakitula cried, raising his voice high, “Awei, my arm is broken, and my side is pierced, and my leg broken. How it hurts! You carry me carefully, don’t shake.”

When Tuiva heard, he recognized that this was the voice of Wakitula. He looked out with both his eyes, the hand was hanging, the arms and legs were wrapped up. Tuiva became stiff with shock. He got up, seized his weapon and his spear. He did not question the children. Tuiva thought Takitini had struck him, from the reports of the children on the other days. The children only said to Tuiva, who was running with the weapon, “Your reason for sending us was not this.” Tuiva ran on. Takitini was staying in the space between Utupoa and the Motu of Te Tali. Takitini looked at Tuiva, who was running with the spear. Takitini did not know the reason Tuiva ran there. But indeed it was because of the deceitful trick of the children, which they had played on Tuiva. Takitini watched the spear of Tuiva shooting towards him from above him. Takitini warded off the blow with his stick. The hurling of Tuiva was mistaken. Takitini was a skillful person. Takitini ran away.

Tuiva chased him through the ngaya bushes of the place Te Kalele. Takitini climbed on top of the ngayu, came down in another place. He was speared by Tuiva from behind with his spear, tight in the side of the back. Takitini seized the spear, pulled it out, threw it at Tuiva. Takitini ran to Watumoana, who stayed in Te Newu. He crawled up to the front of his body. Tuiva ran there, flourished his weapon, he was going to hurl it from above. Watumoana objected, “What’s the matter? You do this for no reason? That’s enough. You have come to me here. You are not showing me proper respect.” Tuiva did not listen to Watumoana, “You get out of the way, just push aside, this man did not show respect for me and my children.” Tuiva speared Takitini, hard. Takitini died. If only Takitini had turned to explain to Tuiva. I don’t know, it is not known which was the man of the two of them who would get the worst of it, Takitini was a strong and skillful person. From his having killed Te Ki and Kaleva in Uta, his mind had been made dull. Then too Tuiva did not listen to the words of Watumoana. He had known that Takitini was strong, therefore Tuiva had taken revenge; he did not show respect.

Finished, Tuiva went back to his house, to his children; they were certainly all right; it was indeed only lies of theirs. Hence the saying, “The death-bringing lies of the children.”

Finished the death of Takitini, Watumoana went to the crowd of Yato, they were going to kill Tuiva. Watumoana was a man of Matanga of the sub-lineage Angialulu. These are the names of the Yato group: Uikele, Vakaua, Vakauli, Payaka, Te Kele, and Watumoana, a Ngake man. They talked in the evening. This was their talk, they were going to kill all the men of the island, so that they were finished; the women of Pukapuka would be for themselves. This was the further decision of theirs, they were going to make Tuiva the first, he was the strong man of the time. They were going to make the rest of the men last. Finished the discussion in the evening, they went to prepare, they girt on their malos, sharpened their weapons with pala jawbone knives, and did their other things.

Uikele went away to his and Matautu’s house. Matautu was the wife of Uikele. He climbed up on the platform, prepared his things. Matautu was sleeping below. His knife fell on the breast of Matautu.

Matautu asked, “What are you doing there? Aren’t these nights for the people to sleep?” Uikele did not answer. Matautu was figuring it out of her mind, “What is the thing of this group?” Finished the doing of Uikele, he jumped down, went to the place where they were gathering. When Uikele moved outside, Matautu also went to the side of their house. This was what Matautu figured out, “Isn’t this group going to kill the group of all the men?” Tuiva was a cousin-in-avoidance of hers. Besides, Katinga, the wife of Tuiva, was a blood-sister of hers.

Matautu went to Matala, where Tuiva lived at that time. She did not get right up to the house, she stood just at the side. She threw stones to the side of the house. Tuiva and Katinga were sleeping in the deep midnight sleep of the people. Tuiva was a person who slept wakefully, the sleep of the strong. Tuiva heard the stones rattling. He wakened katinga, “Just you get up to see what are the things rattling there.” Katinga stood up to look, “Nothing.” Katinga came back inside their house. Katinga said it was nothing, “It’s nothing probably.” They listened again, rocks were being thrown. Tuiva said again, “There they are rattling again. You get up.” Katinga got up again to look. Katinga again said to Tuiva it was nothing, “Why, there’s nothing.” Tuiva said, “Just walk out to the front.”

As to the doing of Matautu, she was sheltering in the back in case Tuiva got up, because they were cousins-in-avoidance. Matautu looked, it was katinga. She showed herself to her. Matautu said to Katinga, “Tell the group of all the men there, he is going to be killed by the group of Yato.”

Katinga came, told Tuiva, “Why, you are going to be killed by the group of Yato.” Tuiva listened, he did not delay. He got up, tore the net matting. He girt on his malo. He ran to his brother, Kilika. He went to Kilika, who was making pretty his voice (singing), he was lying chanting with his mates in the young men’s house (wale lopa). Tuiva objected, “While you make happy the voice, your death is being planned. Why, we are going to be killed by the crowd of Yato.”

Kilika listened to the speech of Tuiva. Kinlika arose, told his companions to come carry their fighting sticks. His companions arose, girt on their malos. Tuiva said to one pair of them that they come with him to trap fish at night, so that they would have some food to go with their talo pudding made by Katinga in the night. They went to the small channels; they got one net full with the net of laiva and vete and some other fish. They came, brought them to Katinga, who baked them in the night.

They prepared their weapons. Their food cooked, they ate their food. The night was cut into two (half gone). It would soon be dawn. The group went to search for the Yato group.

The six of Yato: the preparing of their weapons was over. They went to tie the several stone representations of the gods with coconut leaves, so that their going-out would be lucky. They went to Te Mangamaga and Talitonganuku, and Taua, and Mataliki and the other gods. They also went to collect the weapons in the several weapon houses of the various lineages and the weapons in other places.

The preparation of their things over, they went to kill Tuiva first. They came along to the talo garden of Valua. They came on to the Moru-o-Kaikole. A Man was steeping there, Tuanunui was his name. They struck him dead. They came to the reserve at Matala, to Tuiva. The man they had killed came to life again, he was brought back to life by the gods. It was not right for him to die, he was a man of their side.

They came to the house of Tuiva. They broke into the house. They had finished arranging this plan in advance. When they reached the house of Tuiva, they climbed on top, speared, struck with the weapons from on top. They thought Tuiva was inside. Why, no indeed, he was gone. They looked for him. They said, “He will pay for this, without a doubt. Where has he gone? Come, let’s search.” They went, searched in Ngake for Kilika and his companions. They looked there, they were gone. They said, “They have gone too. Who told?”

They went to search for Tuiva and Kilika. They searched at the point of Ngake, searched on, they were missing. Then too Tuiva and Kilika were searching for them in Yato. They went to look at the several god houses. They went there. They finished tying up their coconut leaf. They tore down the coconut leaf of the eight. They had also not yet seen them. They encircled the bush in the search. Dawn was quickening.

Meanwhile the group of Yato had also thoroughly searched through Wale. They didn’t meet the group during the night. Tuiva and Kilika reached the point in Ngake.   The Yato group also arrived at Walepia. Still they hadn’t been seen. Dawn was quickening. The skin of a man could be seen. They returned in their encircling search. Tuiva and Kilika returned to the shore of Paepae. The Yato group also came to the shore of Kailia. The crowd saw each other. Tuiva and Kilka saw from Paepae. They were seen by the Yato crowd from Kailia.

The crowds ran toward each other. Tuiva and Kilika ran to Wumalolo. Tuiva stamped, both feet were firm in the ground, the coral reached to the ankles. Kilika also stamped, firm. But he didn’t stand well (his feet were not planted deep in the sand). The Yato crowd was approaching. They were aiming the spear and their koko (throwing weapons). Kilika said to Tuiva, “O Tuiva, my standing is not right. I shall be badly hurt. Is it bad if we two run to Te Wunui? Besides, we are fast-footed.” Tuiva felt sorry for his brother, lest he be hurt dead. The two of the pair ran along Waula. One of their weapon carriers fell down. Yakilia was his name. He was speared from on top by the six of Yato. One of their own men, Uikele, warded off the blow with his stick. This was why he was saved by Uikele: Yakilia was a tuanga tau of his (a person whose village membership Uikele sponsored). Tuiva and Kilika arrived at Te Wunui. Kilika stamped, firm. Tuiva also stamped, it was not right. The talo bed was soft.

Tuiva had earlier informed Kilika that when he saw Puyaka he was not to hit him, for he was a man who understood the ancient stories and the various fishing signs, and the island genealogies and other things. That was the reason the Yato group was not finished off. This was the other: if the two of them had stayed planted in the place first stamped down by Tuiva, I guess it would have been only the wink of an eye for the (Yato) crowd to be completely finished. Because they took the fight to Wunui, therefore others lived.

The group of Yato arrived there. They hurled at each other with weapons. Tuiva threw first at Watumoana, who was their strength; he died. Puyaka, Vakaua, Te Kele were Kilika’s. Watumoana, Uikele, Vakauli were Tuiva’s. They threw at each other with weapons. When Tuiva looked at the weapon of Kilika, he noticed that it was turned on its side. Tuiva said to Kilika, “Why, I guess your weapon is tilting sideways, turn it straight.” The weapon of Kilika was straightened. Tuiva ran for Vakauli, he died. The dead were two in number.

Tuiva had not seen the flying-up of the spear of Uikele. He guarded himself, he was speared in the groins. He struck his club straight at the end of the spear to deflect it, but unsuccessfully. The point was broken off inside the groin of Tuiva. Tuiva was in great pain. It made him fall, he lay with his stomach on top of Vakauli, of his man who was dead. He bit on him. He only knew that he was going to die. There was Vakaua, he was standing turned toward Tuiva. He was going to hit with his club. The thing was that Tuiva was shielded by the women who crowded on top of Tuiva. Therefore the bad thrusts of Vakaua. Kilika, on the other hand, had washed his forehead, which had been injured, in the pool at Taumalanga, bandaged it with avlo bark. The voice of Tuiva shouted out to Kilika, “Kilika, oh, I am indeed dying.” Kilika jumped over, Vakaua was feinting over Tuiva. Kilika pierced him in the heel; he fell down on the base of his skull. Vakaua died. The dead were three in number.

Meanwhile Uikele had stayed off to the side. The other three ran up: Uilele, Te Kele, and Puyaka. They went to bury themselves alive. They buried their elders who had died first. Meanwhile Tuiva and Kilika were taken by the women and their weapon bearers to take care of their injured parts so that they would be all right. They were all right. They went to look for the group who lived. When they went there, they were already finished burying themselves.

Tuiva informed the whole island, “Listen you to me, O the island. Kilika shall have charge of the back of the island, while I stay in the central island and the point of the island to protect it, so that no bad ideas grow.” The people were to increase; the number of the men reached in the time of Tuiva to a thousand and one hundred. He also made as his old men’s group, men crawling with age; they were old men. Thus it has come down to the time of light now; no other fight has arisen.

Obviously Tuiva was a hot-headed man, led astray by his excessive feelings for his children. Where their welfare was concerned he had no mercy on his brother. He was undoubtedly at fault in violating the tapu of the sacred enclosure, where Takitini had taken refuge, and Watumoana was quick to take the excuse to alarm men from Yato in an attempt to wipe out Tuiva and his supporters, and incidentally to secure the women of the island for themselves—a characteristic Pukapuan touch. However, kinship ties cut across ties based on village groupings. Tuiva was informed in advance of the plot against him and managed, with the aid of his supporters, to defeat and kill the Yato men. Those not killed in the fight committed suicide by having their relatives bury them alive, a not infrequently mentioned method of self-destruction.

The name of the sacred enclosure of the god Tulikalo.

[#13] Ernest Beaglehole and Pearl Beaglehole, “After Defeat in Fighting: Burying Oneself Alive”, Ethnology of Pukapuka (Honolulu, HI: Bernice P. Bishop Museum, 1938), pp. 373-398.

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