Isles of Hiva: Settlement

Photo right: The Valley of Ha'atuatua, Nukuhiva



photo of The Valley of Ha'atuatua, NukuhivaThe earliest archaeologically established date for human habitation of the isles of Hiva is around 150 B.C. (Ottino 16).

Genealogies from the 19th century trace the people of Hiva up to ninety generations back to their progenitors, the gods Atea and Atanua; the first man mentioned in these genealogies is named Tiki. That the settlers came from the west is evidenced by the c ulture, artifacts, language, and traditional Polynesian place names remembered in the chants of the people who settled Hiva (Handy Native Culture 11): For example, Vevau is an ancient name of Atuona valley on Hiva Oa; Vavau is a place name in Tonga and an ancient name for the island of Borabora in the Society Islands. Fiti Nui is the name of a tribe which inhabited a region on the west end of Hiva Oa; Fiji Nui is the Tongan name of the island of Fiji and Hiti Nui was the ancient name of Tahiti.

"Havai'i" or "Havaiki" survives in Hivan chants and traditions as the name of the underworld to which the spirit travel after the death of a person. Hawaiki is the ancient name of the island of Ra'iatea in the Society Islands; Savai'i the name of the larg est island in the Samoan group.

The name "Havai'i" refers in Polynesian cultures to an ancestral homeland to the west; Handy believes that ancient chants and traditions of Hiva indicate that "formerly there was a conception of Havai'i as a land or region where men and gods lived in anci ent times" and the belief that spirits went to Kiukiu at the western end of the island Hiva Oa to leap into the sea to enter the underworld suggests that this underworld may have been a land toward the west (Handy Native Culture 252).

The names of the original settler of each island were given to Pere Pierre as follows: Mohuta settled on Nuku Hiva; Tapu-oko on Hiva Oa; Toheto on Tahu Ata; Mihi-toka on Fatu Hiva; Koki-oho on Ua Huka; and Pahohe on Ua Pou (Handy Native Culture 16).

It is unlikely the settlers came only once, with everything they needed. Two oral traditions suggest that subsequent settlers brought certain plants and animals not already in the islands: pigs and chickens are said to have been brought to Ha'atuatua Bay on Nuku Hiva by a god named Haii; and coconuts were said to have been brought by a god named Tao from an island named Utupu, upwind of Fatu Hiva (Handy Native Culture 10).