Falling the Tree

We all met in the morning at the Kapinga village. Tools were gathered up and loaded into trucks. Kosen and Depit went with Retty in the jeep, the others rode with me in the pickup; Boaz, Aisea and Etsuo (the Japanese assistant), Bondaig, and Jimmy. The drive from Kolonia to Kiti took over an hour. The tree we were going to use was on land Retty's family owned. After turning off the main road we traveled up into the hills for about ten minutes. We stopped at Retty's uncle's house and they discussed locating a tree. A decision was made on one of the options that had been suggested. The tree that was chosen was a satuc, not a breadfruit tree as was traditional for a Kapingamarangi canoe. The breadfruit trees on Pohnpei are different than thoes on the atoll and it was determined that a food bearing tree should not be used for the canoe. We parked the trucks and unloaded the gear. The area around the tree was cleared and general preparations were made. before the start of the work, a prayer was called to bless the canoe and protect the carvers.

Depid leads a prayer prior to the start of the canoe 


Prior to the introduction of Christianity the ceremony of canoe making was quite different.


Canoes, since they were to travel on the sacred ocean of the gods, must be consecrated by the ariki through a major ceremony at the cult house. Unless they were for the priests, canoes were never consecrated singly, but a number, sometimes as many as 20, were consecrated at one time. One canoe of each group must have been made for the priest or the assistant priests, to serve the gods of the cult house. (Emory, 1965. P.270)

Traditionally, the first cut of falling the tree held particular meaning and required the use of a sacred adze. (For more information concerning the old ceremony of canoe carving please see Appendix I, (Emory,1965. p.270-275).)



 Each of the ariki koa, or regional priests, had a sacred shell adz used to initiate the cutting down of a tree for a canoe hull. Tokirati told me that he and Kipero, with whom he was one of two ariki pahi, kept their adzes hung over the wall beam of the house sacred to Mongotohhoro. Kamure and Tuhira, the two ariki kuongo, kept their adzes at Hare Mihe. These were adzes of ordinary size and type and were not decorated. (Emory, 1965. p.223)


The tree was close to the road on the downhill side. The plan was to drop the tree toward the road. The cutting was started with the axes. I was not sure if this was because we were filming the process or was for some other purpose; I expect the filming was the cause. After twenty to thirty minutes of cutting with the axes it seemed enough was had of traditional tree falling, the carvers were ready to use the chain saws. The rate of progress increased. A warning was sounded and the area surrounding the tree was partially cleared. Using an axe, Boaz made the final cuts that fell the tree.