Te Fenua Enata
‘Te Fenua Enata’, the Land of Men
In Utah, July 24 is Pioneer Day. Since we have the day off, our family goes down to Liberty Park and we watch a parade. Then after the parade we listen to Tongan bands and walk around and talk with the Tongans who gather in the north end of Liberty Park. The memories of July 24 keep us warm in winter’s cold.
July 24 is an anniversary of another event that has been forgotten: the first arrival of Europeans in Polynesia. 399 years ago, in 1595, Spanish navy ships sailed west from Peru, looking for the islands of King Solomon. They never found them, but on July 22, 1595 they came to an island. They called the island ‘Magadalena’.
Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, the chief pilot, said that the people of Magdalena were beautiful “and they had much cause to praise their creator” (The Voyages of Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, Vol. 1, pp. 15-29.). The people of Magdalena pointed to the northwest and these Spaniards understood that to mean that there were other islands in that direction. So they sailed to the northwest.
They found three more islands that they named: San Pedro, Dominica and Santa Cristina. The Spaniards anchored on the west side of Santa Cristina in a valley that they called ‘The Valley of the Mother of God’. The captain’s wife walked along the beach in this valley, she admired the beauty of the children so much that she touched their heads. When she did this the people of the valley came running forward with horrified looks on their faces and pulled the children away from the captain’s wife. She didn’t know, of course, that these people considered a person’s head to be tapu, sacred.
When the Spaniards were in these islands, they killed two hundred people, by their own count. Some of these soldiers killed because they were scared, some killed because they wanted to punish the people for stealing, some killed because they wanted to. Because of the killing the people in Santa Cristina abandoned their village and fled to the mountains. Using sign language they asked the Spaniards when they would go away. At one point, on July 24, 1595, the Spaniards rowed a boat to shore on Santa Cristina. They were quickly surrounded. The chief pilot, Quiros wrote:
“Our people, wishing to make themselves safe, killed some of them. One to save himself jumped into the sea with a child in his arms. Clasped together, they were sent to the bottom by a shot from an arquebus (a spanish gun)that one of the soldiers fired off. He said afterwards, with great sorrow, that the Devil had to take those who were ordained to be taken. The Chief Pilot said to him that he regretted that he had not fired in the air, but the soldier said that he acted as he did lest he should lose his reputation as a good marksman. The Chief Pilot asked him what it would serve him to enter into hell with the fame of being a good shot?”
The Spaniards called these islands: “Las Islas de la Marquesas de Mendoza” and they sailed away and they never came back.
The islands that they named: Magdalena, San Pedro, Dominica and Santa Cristina already had names before the Spanish came and those names remain, that is: Fatu Iva, Mohotani, Hiva Oa and Tahuata.
The only name that the Spanish left which persists is the name of the whole island group: the Marquesas Islands. But the real name of these islands is ‘Te Fenua Enata’, the Land of Men.
Quiros, the chief pilot, wrote:
Our men were very well received by the natives, but it was not understood why they gave us a welcome, or what was their intention. For we did not understand them; and to this may be attributed the evil things that happened, which might have been avoided if there had been some one to make us understand each other.
I am sad that two hundred people were killed by the Spaniards. I am also sad that we don’t know the names of the people who were killed. If we did we could do something like recite their names once a year or build a monument so that the spirits of these people will know that they are not forgotten. Without knowing their names it is so hard to remember them.
But there is one thing we can do. We can remember the soldier who did not want to lose his reputation as a good shot. He reminds us that in our struggles to be beautiful, to be liked, to be respected, to be wealthy, that we should never, ever forget about right and wrong.
So when you make your choices, choose the right thing. Chose it because you want to be an example to your children, or because you want to make your grandparent’s proud, or you want to bring honor to your home village. But also do it as a sign that you remember those who died in 1595 in ‘Te Fenua Enata’.
Denning, Greg. Islands and Beaches
Hakluyt Society. The Voyages of Quiros, Vol 1.
Revised: February 22, 1996
Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff