Canoe Building


Canoe Life

Polynesian Migrations

Isles of Hiva: Social Structure at Contact

Illustration right: Design by a Tuhuna Patu Tiki (Master Tatooer)



Design by a Tuhuna Patu Tiki (Master Tatooer)Tribes: Some valleys were inhabited by a single tribe; some larger valleys were inhabited by more than one tribe. Each tribe was ruled by a chief (haka-iki). Although a strong chief might have influence over an entire valley, with subchiefs under h im, there were no "kings" ruling over entire islands. Political power was decentralized. The people or the tribe were called mata-ei-nana (cf. Hawaiian maka'ainana). Some evidence indicates that class distinctions were developing between a chiefly class o f haka-iki, and a class of common people called mata-ei-nana, though the social distance between chief and commoner was not great at the time of contact because the chief was still seen as related by blood to his tribe, rather than of separate ancestry, a s in Hawai'i. According to one early observer, if a chief struck someone, the person could strike him back (Handy Native Culture 35-39). A person became a chief because he was the head of a large and wealthy family, who had allied itself with other powerf ul families through marriage or adoption, or by trading names (Handy Native Culture 45).

Households: The typical living area consisted of a sleeping house (fa'e hiamoe); a kapu eating house for men (fata'a moe, nahua); a cooking house (fa'e tumau) with an umu, or earth oven, in the floor; and a place where family religious rites were p erformed, either a platform or an enclosure where corpses could be treated, or food offered to the family god. Five or six related families might live together in such a compound. Nearby an ua ma, or pit for storing fermented breadfruit could be found. Br eadfruit, coconut, and bananas were planted around the compound. Other structures included a small enclosure for sugar cane and paper mulberry (ute) and a pig pen (though pigs often were allowed to roam freely) (Handy Native Culture 61-67).

Men and Women: As in Hawai'i and in other Polynesian cultures, distinction was made between men, who were kapu, or privileged, and women, who were me'ie, or free (literally, "clear sky"). However, a woman could become a kapu chiefess of a tribe or a sacred priest, based on her abilities and genealogy.

Occupations: According to Handy, differences in prestige had more to do with one's function in society or expertise than in one's genealogy. Next to the haka-iki, or chief, was the tau'a (Hawaiian kaula), the inspirational priests whose functions w ere to care for the remains of the chiefs and priests deposited at temples, preside at tribal religious ceremonies, and discover and speak the will of the gods (Handy Native Culture 224). Next in prestige was the tuhuna o'ono (tuhuka o'oko), a chanter who presided over lesser religious ceremonies. Toa (Hawaiian koa), or war leaders were highly respected in civil affairs as well. Other experts included planters, fishermen, canoe-builders, net-makers, house-builders, tapa-makers, mat-makers, tatooers, and t he like. (Handy Native Culture 36). These groups of specialists were called tuhuna, or experts, with a modifier describing what the person did. The following list of tuhuna is found in Handy (Native Culture 144):

Tuhuna Hakatu Fa'e, or Tuhuka Atu Ha'e--master housebuilder.

Tuhuna Hakatu Paepae, or Tuhuna Upeupe Paepae--master platform builder.

Tuhuna Tekai Ke'a--Stone cutter, one skilled in cutting stones for platforms, houses, sacred places, and feast places.

Tuhuna Ua Ma--Digger of ma pits.

Tuhuna Pehe--Professional skilled in making string figures and applying them in decoration such as ornamental sennit designs.

Tuhuna Ha'a Tiki Tiki--Skilled wood carver.

Tuhuna Keana Moena--Skilled mat maker.

Tuhuna Tekai Ke'a Tuki Popoi--Maker of pounders for popoi (breadfruit paste).

Tuhuna Ko'oka--Maker of popoi dishes.

Tuhuna A'aka Pahu--Drum-maker.

Tuhuna Ta'ai, or Tekai, Vaka--Master canoe carver.

Tuhuna Ta'ai Tiki--Image carver.

Tuhuna Ta'ai, or Tekai Papa, or Tuhuka Tao--Coffin carver.

Tuhuna Ta'ai Tokotoko Pio'o--Staff maker.

Tuhuna Titi Ouoho--Maker of hair ornaments.

Tuhuna Tutu Tapa, Tutu Kahu--Skilled bark-cloth maker.

Tuhuna A'aka Tahi'i--Fan maker.

Tuhuna Hana Pa'a Kea--Maker of tortoise-shell crowns.

Tuhuna Pu Taiana--Maker of pu taiana ear ornaments.

Tuhuna Tehe--He who cuts the foreskin.

Tuhuna Fainu, Tuhuna Apau, or Tuhuka Haika--Medical expert.

Tuhuna Nati Kaha--One skilled in witchcraft.

Tuhuna Patu Tiki--Master tattooer.

Tuhuna Ava-ika--Master fisher.

Tuhuna Upena--Master netmaker, the same as the Tuhuna Ava-ika.

Tuhuna Ha'akekai--One learned in legends.

Tuhuna Mata Tetau--One learned in genealogies.

Tuhuna Pu'e-- Ceremonial priest who taught and chanted the pule.

Tuhuna Vavana--Ceremonial priest who taught and chanted theVavana.

Tuhuna O'ono--Ceremonial priest skilled in the last four named branches of learning (legends, genealgoies, pule, chants).

Tuhuna Nato--He who composed nato chants. (Similarly with other kinds of chants: Tuhuna Pope, Tuhuna Rari, etc.)