Many Tongan young men wear t-shirts with pictures of Polynesian warriors on the back with big muscles who stand in front of the Haamonga-A-Maui holding a snake with the words ‘Ivi Kehe’ written on the back. By wearing these shirts they are honoring their Polynesian warrior tradition. I think that if one of those warriors came to the homes of the young men that these young men would be really surprised. Then after their surprise was over, they would give their chair to the warrior and ask him if he wants any food. They would do this to show respect to the warrior because of his big muscles and his club.
Sometimes, when some young men wear these shirts to honor their Polynesian warrior tradition it is funny. Because I see that some of these young men mock young women and treat them like they are not important. I usually say nothing, but once I said, “Faka’apa’apa!” This surprised that young man because he did not expect me to speak Tongan. When I see the young men being disrespectful to young women or to their mothers I am reminded of the following story.
In January 1837 there was a war in Tonga between the heathens and the warriors of Taufaahau. The heathens conquered the fort (kolotau) of Hule which is near the village of Nukunuku. The warriors of Taufaahau attacked the fort and they overthrew the fort. This was a good thing. But then a bad thing happened. The warriors of Taufaahau killed everyone in the fort. I don’t want to say that these warriors of Taufaahau were bad. But they did a bad thing. Maybe they did this because they were excited. If you are angry and excited be careful what you do, you may do a bad thing that you will be sorry for later.
When the fort of Hule, was conquered only three people escaped: a mother and her two children. They hid in a tree. The warrior who had led the warriors of Taufaahau was looking for people who may have escaped. He was approaching the tree that this woman and her children were hiding in. This mother was scared that he would find her and her children. So she jumped out of the tree and attacked this warrior. She killed him. The warriors who were with this warrior who had just been killed attacked this woman and she was killed. But her children escaped. Now some people might be surprised at this story. They may wonder how a woman killed a warrior. Was the warrior sick? Was he weak? I don’t think so. This warrior did not lose because there was something wrong with him.
Because this mother was protecting her children, she had an inner strength that was greater than this warrior’s outer strength. She deserves as much respect as any warrior with big muscles and a club.
If young men wish to honor their Polynesian warrior tradition it is fine if they wear t-shirts with warriors on them. But I think that young men should give as much respect to mothers, grandmothers and to young women as they would to a Tongan warrior with big muscles and a club, because you see, women sometimes have an inner strength that is more than the outer strength that comes from big muscles and a club. That strength is the women’s mana and mana is a greater thing than big muscles and a club. Papaihia
Latukefu, Sione, Church and State in Tonga
Conversation with a young man from Nukunuku who was told the story. There is a contradiction in that some other people from Nukunuku have told the author different versions of the story. Revised: February 26, 1996 Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff