siu was the most sacred canoe of Kapingamarangi. The carving
and use of a waka siu was strictly under the control of
the ariki, the religious leader, and the sacred cult house.
The importance of canoes to the Kapingamarangi cannot be overstated.
Where even the smallest of canoes during their building required
numerous celebrations, only the construction or repair of the
cult house brought any type of ceremony to land-based projects.
Carving the waka sui, historically, was extremely important.
(See Appendix I)
THE SACRED CANOES
The ariki had a canoe shed on the south side of the lagoonward
marae at Touhou. In this were kept two sacred canoes called waka
siu (literally, "wet canoes," that is, sea-going
canoes). They also bore the name Ti-pupu-I-hanga, which seems
to have been the name of Utamatua's canoe. Should anyone brush
against these canoes, he must immediately go to dip his head
in salt water. In the time of Keweti and Rimari, there were only
two waka siu, but in earlier times there were more.
These were used for bonito fishing, and to initiate young men
into this fishing so that they would become muri waka
(at the rear of the canoe), and be eligible for entering the
services at Hereu. The canoes were of breadfruit wood and undecorated,
and each held seven to eight people. A three-pronged stool of
wood, like the prop (ranga) of a canoe, was lashed within
the stern to hold the legs of the man handling the fishing pole.
This prop was called ti rongorongo (see Fig. 41). While
fishing, these canoes were paddled, never sailed, hence the man
handling the pole would always be in the stern. These canoes
were furnished also with a frame on the platform of the outrigger,
to hold the coconut offerings. While paddling at sea the occupants
chanted constantly uru or tauaroho chants, such
as Ko ti waka Mongohenua. (Page #212, Emory, Kenneth P.
Bishop Museum Bulletin 228, 1965)
canoes were of the general construction mentioned earlier with
slight modifications. The hull of the waka siu had a sleeker
length to beam ratio. The coconut-offering frame that was usually
placed on the front of the platform was instead located on the
stern end of the platform. There was also the addition of a brace
toward the stern of the canoe which helped to stabilize the man
Figure 41.-Model of the sacred bonito canoe
of the cult house, made by Tomoki, in 1951. Such a canoe was
called a waka siu (wet canoe). They were never sailed,
paddled. The three-legged stool (ti rongorongo) was to
hold the legs of the fisherman with the bonito pole (nia manu)
thwarts. The pearl-shell points or knives were called ti mata
niga pa (pearl-shell tooth). Their function was to serve
as offerings should the sea monster Ti Kiga appear. They were
the offering (ti mata o), the price (ti hui). The
crate on the outrigger platform is the koromanga, the
place for the offerings of coconuts presented to the gods. (Emory,
Nothing could contrast more with a triggerfish expedition
than di waga diu "the dipped canoe", the ultimate
in sport fishing on this island. Done once or twice a year by
a priest or a tomono fortunate enough to own a bonito
canoe, it was the most prestigious and economically the least
important of all fishing methods. It was the pinnacle of a man's
career. The canoe was specially equipped with a seat and a frame
for holding the fisherman's legs steady. Few men had the clout
or the resources to pay for having one built. The closest most
men ever got to bonito fishing was being taken along to paddle
while someone else fished.
Bonito are plentiful toward the end of tuna season, and the fisherman
went out when the tide was high enough to allow the canoe to
get over the reef. Fishing was done with a six foot pole and
the traditional pearl shell shank and turtle shell hook, lashed
with breadfruit bast and left with one shredded bast end for
a lure (see Buck 1950:238-239). The fisherman stood facing the
stern of the canoe to fish, trailing the hook in the water between
the wakes left by the hull and the outrigger float. Bonito fishing
took great strength, as the fisherman not only had to keep a
steady pressure on the line but also to hold the fish steady
at the side of the canoe while a partner clubbed it before pulling
it into the canoe.(Michael D. Lieber, "More Than a Living"
1994. Page 80-81)