Isles of Hiva: Western Contacts and Colonization

Illustration right: Hawaiian petroglyph of a European ship



Hawaiian petroglyph of a European shipThe following dates and events are taken from Greg Dening's Islands and Beaches:

1595--Alvaro de Mendana visited the southern islands of Hiva in July. He killed two hundred islanders and named the group "Las Marquesas de Mendonza" after the Viceroy of Peru.

1774--Captain James Cook spent four days at Vaitahu on Tahuata. One of his men killed an islander for taking a stanchion from the deck of the ship.

1791--The northern islands of Hiva were sighted by American Joseph Ingraham, who was engaged in the fur trade between Northwest America and China; earlier he had been warned against landing in Hawai'i, where the natives had captured two trading vessels.

1797-78--Twenty-one-year-old William Pascoe Crook of the London Missionary Society was left alone at Vaitahu on the island of Tahuata. The first missionary to visit Hiva, he was not well received by the islanders: "They were contemptuous of him for being ignorant of their language.... Crook was stripped of all he had, scoffed at, left outside any system of food distribution in a time of food shortage and never given any means to obtain it."

1811--Captain William M. Rogers discovered sandalwood (puahi) in the islands and collected two hundred tons of wood . Sandalwood continued to be gathered for the China trade until the supply was depleted, around 1821.

1813--American naval lieutenant David Porter, in the Pacific to capture British whaling ships during the War of 1812, landed at Taiohae and allied himself with the Tei'i tribe against their traditional enemies, the Hapa'a and the Taipi of the valleys to t he east. After attacking and subduing the Hapa'a and the Taipi, he attempted to annex the isles of Hiva to the United States in 1814. His claim to the islands was based on "priority of discovery, conquest, and possession." He gathered the chiefs of the is land to sign a petition asking President Madison to be their "chief of chiefs." Madison did not want responsibility for the islands and declined the request. After Porter departed, the contigent he left in Taiohae was attacked and fled to Hawai'i.

1830--Whalers began to make visits to supply their ships during a whaling boom in the Pacific that lasted from 1832-1839.

1832--Haole missionaries from Hawai'i landed at Taiohae with Hawaiian servants. Frustrated by lack of success at converting the people and humiliated by the irreverent attitude of the natives toward the Christian god and morality, the missionaries left af ter nine months, condemning the people as "unthinking," "amoral," and "lazy."

1839--French Catholic missionaries arrived and encountered indifference and ridicule from the people; but the Catholic Church supported the missionaries and they stayed on. Eventually most of the people of Hiva were converted to Roman Catholicism.

1842--The French admiral Dupetit-Thouars landed at Tahuata and took possession of southern islands of Hiva; later that year, he sailed into Taiohae, Nukuhiva, gathered together the chiefs of the island, and had them cede the island to France.

1845--The French met with violent resistance from Pakoko, a local chief of Taiohae. Pakoko ordered the killing of six French soldiers who trepassed on a kapu area, and used one of them as a sacrifice to his god. Pakoko was tried and executed by the French . He came to represent the spirit of native resistance to foreign intrusion: the idea that thunder was a sign of his return circulated among the people. [Another version of the Pakoko story was told to me by one of his descendants who grew up on Nukuhiva, but now lives in Hawai'i: Pakoko's daughter had been raped by a French sailor when she visited a ship anchored at Taiohae. To cleanse her, Pakoko wanted her to bathe in the blood of a Frenchman. He killed a sailor, cut off his head, and threw the body in to a stream. Downstream, his daugther was positioned for a bath under a waterfall down which the blood of the sailor flowed.]

Sporadic resistance against the French, followed by French retaliation, continued through the second half of the 19th century. A rebellion on the island of Hiva Oa in 1880 was violently suppressed. However, Dupetit-Thouars' dream of making the Isles of Hi va a naval base and the crossroads of the Pacific was never realized. In the second half of the 19th century, the French concentrated on colonizing Tahiti-nui, and the islands of Hiva were relatively neglected.

Comparative Dates--Hawai'i

1778--Captain Cook arrives in Hawai'i, the first record of a Westerner visiting the isalnds.

1812-1840--Sandalwood trade begins in 1812; and collapses by 1840.

1820-1860--Whalers use Hawaiian ports for supplies; , the whaling fleets were the largest between 1845-1855 when prices for oil and whalbone were high.

1848--The Mahele begins (division lands to chiefs)

1850--Foreigners are allowed to buy land.

1852--First immigrant laborers to Hawai'i arrive from China.

1860--Twelve Sugar plantations were operating by 1860; the American Civil War cut off sugar from the southern states to the northern states creating a market for Hawaiian sugar. 32 plantations were operating by 1866; 90 plantations by 1885

1868--First immigrant laborers from Japan arrive.

1893--Hawaiian Kingdom overthrown by haole businessmen supported by U.S. Marines.

1900--Territory of Hawai'i established by U.S.

Biological Effects of the Western Contact

When western explorers and traders began frequenting the islands in the 1700's and early 1800's, the population was estimated at 80,000<ETH>100,000 (e.g., in 1798, Crook and Robart estimated a population of 90,000 [Dening 239]).

In 1863, there were probably nine or ten thousand people left (Dening 239); in 1904, only 4,000 remained; in the 1911, 2,890 (Buck 152); by 1920-1, only 1,800 remained, "including a handful of whites, and many mixed bloods--for the most part white and Chi nese mixtures with the natives.ÉThe whites have brought, and still bring, syphilis, gonorrhea, a type of rapid consumption called by the natives pakoko, influenza, and many other minor ailments. Smallpox at one time ravaged two of the northern island and the Chinese brought leprosy." In 1923, the population was at an all time low of only 1200 inhabitants (Handy Native Culture 5).

In 1863, thirty-two natives of Hiva were taken to South America by Peruvian slave-traders. The French government demanded them back, but none returned. Some died on the plantations of South America. Others died of small-pox on the voyage home. Twelve Paci fic Islanders with small-pox were dropped off on the black sands of Taiohae, and the disease spread from there (Dening 232).

Handy writes, "Degeneration of the native physique is due to these diseases against which the natives have been in no way protected; to liquors, drugs, and tobacco; and to an inactive, listless life with decay of native standards resulting in the breaking down of their whole system of life and thought, and the elimination of all their natural avenues for expression--a condition that has been brought about largely by the organized and unorganized forces of white influence" (Native Culture 5)

Western capitalists never imported large amounts of laborers to the islands of Hiva, as they did in Hawai'i, because there was not enough flat land to develop large plantations of tropical crops such as sugar cane or pineapple.

Thus the population today remains small, and predominantly Hivan and French.Because of better health care, the population is gradually increasing: 2,000 by 1926; 5,400 by 1970 (Sinoto 112); in 1990 the population was 7,350.