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Derivation of the name "TEVENE'I MARINE"

We chose the name TEVENE'I MARINE (pronounced TEV-EN-EH-EE) while reflecting on the interesting possibility that a white-skinned race of people may have colonised the Atolls of the Pacific Ocean from South America about 500AD.

Raroia Atoll, Eastern French Polynesia.

"The chief's first request was to see the boat which had brought us ashore on the reef alive. We waded out towards the Kon-Tiki with a string of natives after us. When we drew near, the natives suddenly stopped and uttered loud exclamations, all talking at once. We could now see the logs of the Kon-Tiki plainly, and one of the natives burst out:

'The Tiki isn't a boat, she's a pae-pae!'

'Pae-pae!' they all repeated in chorus.

They splashed out across the reef at a gallop and clambered up onto the Kon-Tiki. They scrambled about everywhere like excited children, felt the logs, the bamboo plaiting, and the ropes. The chief was in as high spirits as the others; he came back and repeated with an inquiring expression:

'The Tiki isn't a boat, she's a pae-pae.'

Pae-pae is the Polynesian word for 'raft' and 'platform', and on Easter island it is also the word used for the natives' canoes. The chief told us that such pae-paes no longer existed, but that the oldest men in the village could relate old traditions of pae-paes."

"Then, Tupuhoe asked me to say a few words to the people as to why we had come across the sea on a pae-pae; they had all been counting on this. I was to speak in French, and Teka would translate bit by bit.

It was an uneducated but highly intelligent gathering of brown people that stood waiting for me to speak. I told them that I had been among their kinsman out here in the South Sea islands before, and that I had heard of their first chief, Tiki, who had bought their forefathers out to the islands from a mysterious country whose whereabouts no one knew any longer. But in a distant land called Peru, I said, a mighty chief had once ruled whose name was Tiki. The people called him Kon-Tiki or Sun-Tiki, because he said he was descended from the sun. Tiki and a number of his followers had at last disappeared from their country on big pae-paes; therefore, we thought he was the same Tiki that had come to those islands. As nobody would believe that a pae-pae could make the voyage across the sea, we ourselves had set out from Peru on a pae-pae, and here we were, so it could be done.

When the little speech was translated by Teka, Tupuhoe was all fire and flame, and sprang forward in front of the assembly in a kind of ecstasy. He rumbled away in Polynesian, flung out his arms, pointed to heaven and us, and in his flood of speech constantly repeated the word Tiki. He talked so fast that it was impossible to follow the thread of what he said, but the whole assembly swallowed every word and was visibly excited. Teka, on the contrary, looked quite embarrassed when he had to translate.

Tupuhoe had said that his father and grandfather, and his fathers before him, had told of Tiki, and had said that Tiki was their first chief who was now in heaven. I asked the old men if there was, in the traditions, any hint of the direction from which Tiki had come. No, none of the old men could remember having heard that. But after long and careful reflection the oldest of the three said that Tiki had with him a near relation who was called Maui, and in the ballad of Maui it was said he came to the islands from pura, and pura was the word for the part of the sky where the sun rose. The old men knew that their forefathers had also used big pae-paes, but these had gradually gone right out of use, and now they had nothing but the name and the traditions left. In really ancient times they had been called rongo-rongo, the oldest man said, but that was a word that no longer existed in the language.

This name was interesting, for Rongo - on certain islands pronounced Lono - was the name of one of the Polynesians best known legendary ancestors. He was expressly described as white and fair haired. When Captain Cook first came to Hawaii he was received with open arms by the islanders, because they thought he was their white kinsman Rongo, who, after an absence of generations, had come back from their ancestors' homeland in his big sailing ship."

Thor Heyerdahl (1950). The Kon-Tiki expedition: by raft across the South Seas. Penguin Books.


Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati), Central Pacific

"The loving kindness of the Baanaban islanders, in common with the whole Gilbertese race, towards Europeans sprang from no feeling of inferiority, but on the contrary, from a most gracious sense of kinship. Their chief ancestral heroes had been, according to tradition, fair-skinned like ourselves. Au of the Rising Sun with his sister-spouse Titua'abine of the Lightning; Tabuariki the Thunderer and his consort TEVENE'I of the Meteor; Ri'iki of the Milky Way, Taburima'i the White King, and the woman Nimananoa, the Navigatress - all of these heroic beings, sprung from the branches and roots of a single ancestral tree, were of the red-complexioned, blue-eyed strain called 'The Company of the Tree, the Breed of Matang', from which the race claimed decent in the male line. The Land of Matang, where they dwelt eternally, was the land of hearts desire, the original fatherland, the paradise sweeter than all other paradises, never to be found again by the children of men. Sometimes its forests and mountains might be glimpsed in dreams, but when the dreamer strove to land upon its smiling shores, they faded away before him and he was alone on the empty waters.

Yet, though Matang was lost forever, a cherished tradition said that Au of The Rising Sun had promised to return to his children one day, wherever they might be, with all the heroic company of Matang around him. So, when white men were 'first' seen in the Gilbert Islands nearly 200 years ago, the people said (I quote the words of old Tearia of Tabiang, which themselves had become traditional), 'Behold, the Breed of Matang is returned to us. These folk are also the Company of the Tree. Let us receive them as chiefs and brothers among us, lest the ancestors be shamed.' Europeans have been called I-Matang; Inhabitants of Matang - ever since, and treated always, whatever their faults, with the proud brotherliness due to kinsmen."

From: Aurthur Grimble (1952). A pattern of Islands. Penguin Travel Library.