Tonga Essay, Research Paper

Tongan Chiefdoms

The Tongan archipelago, located in Polynesia, extends to about 300 kilometres and includes from 150 to 200 islands. The largest islands within the group are Tongatapu, ? Eua, and Vava & # 8217 ; U. Merely three other islands are inhabited ; Eva, Niuafo & # 8217 ; ou, and Niuatoputapu ( Goldman 1970: 281 ) .Tonga is on the western side of the international day of the month line. Radioactive C dating of a Tongan specimen gave us a day of the month traveling back to about the fifth century B.C. This day of the month is the oldest of all of Polynesia ( Lieb 1972: 79 ) .

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Among the Polynesian chiefdoms, Tonga is alone because of its degree of political development and extended travel and exchange ( Kirch 1984: 217 ) . The full archipelago was controlled by a brace of sacred and secular paramount heads. The placing of the islands in a south- West to north-east place made going easy. During the trade-wind season going up and down the concatenation of islands was easy ( Kirch 1984: 219 ) .

Despite the lost coral islets and atolls, the islands have highly fertile dirt. However, certain conditions do impact development. The islands are little with fixed boundaries and are occupied by 10s of 1000s of people. Irrigation is non possible, restricting their agricultural capablenesss to dryland field systems. Bing in the center of the ocean leaves them susceptible to natural catastrophes such as cyclones and drouths ( Kirch 1984: 221 ) .

The rainfall is about 1500 millimeter to 1800 millimeter a twelvemonth which made the islands flourish. Animal farming was good developed as was agribusiness. The Tongans used swidden agribusiness rise yams, arums, and bananas. Although the land was non allowed to put fallow for really long, it was kept fertile through mulching. There was besides an accent on land division. The strength of Tongan agribusiness is good documented by European adventurers as being a fertile booming land ( Kirch 1984: 221 ) .

Socio-Political Structure

Tonga is the most graded signifier of the western Polynesian position system ( Goldman 280 ) . It is besides one of the oldest. The archaeological grounds for political hierarchy foremost appeared in AD 1000. In pre-contact Tonga people were ranked personally and jointly. Everyone was ranked individually and no individual had the same position ( Gailey 1987: 49 ) . Despite the different ranks, all people had mana which was given to them by the Gods. Of class, the higher in rank you were, the more mana you had ( Goldman 289 ) . The higher ranks were therefor able to command the labour and merchandises of the lower category ( Gailey 1987: 49 ) . Tongan people were ranked harmonizing to their intimacy to a common ascendant. Through fabulous narratives, Tongans saw themselves as descended from the Gods ( Goldman 1970: 282 ) .

Status in Tonga was non inactive. Marriages did happen across ranks but the highest ranks were non allowed to get married the common mans. ( Gailey 1987: 57 ) . When a kid was born, it took the rank of the female parent. Power could besides alter if a line of descent was conquered, cut downing heads to common mans ( Goldman 1970: 305 ) .

There were three degrees of position in Tongan society. These degrees are represented in Figure 1. The highest of class was the heads and their immediate relations. There were three paramount heads of Tonga: Tui Tonga, Tui Haa Takalaua, and the Tui Kanokupolu. The 2nd degree was chiefs attenders called matapule and the lowest and most common in society were the tua ( Sahlins 1958: 22 ) .Genealogy was of import through out Polynesia but seemed to be peculiarly of import in Tonga because it was needed to do claims to chiefly rubrics ( Kirch 1984: 223 ) . The Tui Tonga which means & # 8220 ; Lord of Tonga & # 8221 ; went back 39 coevalss ( Goldman 1970: 293 ) . The first 22 coevalss were fabulous nevertheless ( Kirch 1984: 224 ) .

The Tongans highest degree were the Tu & # 8217 ; i Tong and the hau. They were at the top of the hierarchial pyramid and were in charge of the determination devising. Since both the Tu & # 8217 ; i Tong and the hau ruled, the power was split. The Tu & # 8217 ; i Tong served largely as a go-between with the divinities. Through the Tu & # 8217 ; i Tong & # 8217 ; s mediation, he would guarantee the birthrate of the land ( Kirch 1984: 230 ) . The Tu & # 8217 ; i Tong wasn & # 8217 ; t priest or God. He was the highest male head and therefor the most sacred male in the state ( Goldman 1970: 294 ) . The Tu & # 8217 ; I Tonga besides presided over the first-fruits ceremonial which served to adhere outside islands to the nucleus. The hau is the secular paramount main held by the Tu & # 8217 ; one Kanokupolu. The hau held the ultimate authorization ( Kirch 1984: 230 ) .

The following degree was the falefa which was known as the & # 8220 ; four houses & # 8221 ; . They were joined with the Tui Tonga as curates ( Goldman 1970: 299 ) . Sahlins refers to them as & # 8220 ; executive AIDSs who were besides chiefs & # 8221 ; ( 22 ) . The Tu & # 8217 ; I Kanokupolu besides had his ain Falefa. They served as the in-between land between the Tui Tonga and the matapule. They were frequently of foreign descent and there is non much information as to their intent ( Goldman 1970: 299 ) . The four houses were split into two groups. One group had the undertakings such as sounding huntsman’s horns, singing funeral coronachs, and pull offing the funeral and dances at the decease of Tui Tonga. The other group were aliens and were in charge of administering nutrient and delegating occupations in the royal funeral ( Goldman 1970: 300 ) .

The following rank below the falefa were the matapules. They were non chiefs but had contact with them ( Gailey 1987: , 86 ) . The matapule were of foreign beginning, normally coming from Fiji, Samoa, Rotuma, or Tokelau. They were preponderantly ceremonial attenders but they besides served as warriors, trade specializers, sailing masters, and low degree decision makers ( Gailey 1987: 86 ) . They were directors of ceremonials and were frequently defined certain responsibilities such as membranophone whipping or dance ( Goldman 1970: 298 ) . They were besides seen as the go-between between the upper and lower ranks.

Figure 1. Political Hierarchy of the Tongan Chiefdoms

Another rank mentioned by some is the mu & # 8217 ; as. The mu & # 8217 ; as are a controversial rank. Mariner references mu & # 8217 ; a as an intermediate between eike and matapule. However, overtime mu & # 8217 ; as could unify into the rank of tu & # 8217 ; a. Tu & # 8217 ; as are the common mans and they are at the really underside of the societal graduated table. Harmonizing to Sahlins, & # 8220 ; The common mans position was created through the normal procedure or primogeniture and the progressive lowering in position of posterities of younger brothers & # 8221 ; ( 159 ) . At the clip of European contact, the division between heads and common mans were great ( Kirch 1984: 232 ) .


One of the most absorbing ranks in Tonga society is that of fahu. The term fahu can be translated & # 8220 ; above the jurisprudence & # 8221 ; or & # 8220 ; beyond usage & # 8221 ; ( Gailey 1987: 60 ) . The first-born boy took the rubric, societal place, and the leading in the household. It was a general regulation that the higher you were in authorization, the more of import the primogeniture became. As of import as primogeniture was, the sex of a kid could besides find rank. The sister out-ranks her brother in formal award ( Goldman 1970: 288 ) . Although non chiefly work forces and adult females had no power, a chiefly adult female was able to exert societal authorization. Not merely did a sister outrank her brother but so did her kids. Brothers and sisters would be given to divide from each other but their kids would interact with each other and even marry.

Chiefly adult females could command production over lower superior adult females, merely as work forces controlled production of lower ranking work forces. Womans besides held power over her maternal uncle & # 8217 ; s chi

ldren and stuff ( Gailey 1987: 60 ) . They besides had the power over her brother’s kids and could forestall them from get marrieding. She could besides command labour over her brother’s partner and follow her children’s brothers ( Gailey 1987: 60 ) .


Early histories of Tonga addressed Chief & # 8217 ; s brutal control. Gifford did non happen much grounds of unneeded power exercised by heads but harmonizing to some missionaries, heads seemed to hold arbitrary power over the rights and life of inferiors. One illustration of this is a narrative of a Chief slaying a common man to see how good his gun worked. Despite this fact, people still respected their heads with obeisance and entry. In warfare, heads were really powerful. They were the 1s who initiated action and the lesser heads and attenders transmitted the orders to the common mans. Warfare was of import in order for heads to maintain their chiefly position. Mariner recorded an event in which a head used his council to hold other heads killed because they had been moving out against him ( Sahlins 1958: 27 ) .

Early European perceivers suggest that warfare in Tonga did non take topographic point until after contact. Perceivers recognize early wars with foreigners such as Samoans, Fijians, Futunans, and Uveans. It is said that it was from Fiji that the Tongans acquired its military engineering and megalithic tradition ( Goldman 1970: 280 ) . Cook, an early perceiver of Tongan society, found that they were peaceable but shortly after he left Tongans spend two old ages contending in the Fijian islands. In the late 18th century, domestic civil wars were all over the Tongan islands. Goldman 1970: provinces that:

Fortifications sprang up everyplace, naval fleets were constructed, weaponries were obtained from Europeans, military confederations were sealed and broken, able warriors were sought out and promised wagess. War had become a deathly involvement and the organisation of land and naval powers a undertaking of critical urgency. & # 8221 ; ( 300 )

Early perceivers tell of astonishing tactics, accomplishments, and dare of commanding officers. Commanding officers were non chosen by ranks but by accomplishment and art. Combat units were led by different heads, some by an ordinary heads and others by territory. A greater head was in charge of the full conflict.

An advantage to contending in war was addition in position. Commoners were able to do themselves known through conflict. He was frequently rewarded with a rubric, land grant, or the fleeting right to imbibe from a main & # 8217 ; s kava cup. Although warfare could be good for the common man, finally it was the head that benefitted the most ( Goldman 1970: 301 ) .


The archaeology of the Tongan islands has shown through radioactive C dating that they are the oldest inhabited islands within Polynesia. Their first memorial sites appeared in AD 1000. The hills of Tonga are the most conspicuous archaeological characteristic of Tonga ( Goldman 1970: 285 ) . There were hills up to 100 pess in diameter and 7 pess above the land ( Lieb 1972: 92 ) . McKern identified five types of hills. The Esi hills were raise round hills on which heads and households went to loosen up. Not merely did they typify the head & # 8217 ; s separation from the people but they were high plenty to catch an ocean zephyr. Pigeon mounds like the name implies were used for heads to trap pigeons. Commoners had to trap them from the land which gave the heads more of an advantage. Tanuanga were little burial hills for common mans. Faitoka were big hills shaped like cones which chiefs were buried in. The organic structures were placed in rock vaults. These hills were rather big with the largest holding a diameter or 110 pess at the base and 40 pess at the top which a tallness of 15 pess. The 5th hill was called Langi. Langi were burial hills for the highest superior paramounts and their immediate relations ( Goldman 1970: 286 ) . There are besides native garrisons on the islands. The garrisons are usually round with walls and fosses to help in defence. The garrisons are representative of Tongans war accomplishments ( Lieb 1972: 92 ) .

In order to honour the first born boies, Tongans erected a wall across an isthmus on Vavau. When the first-born boy was born a rock was put into the wall. The wall was to honour all the senior scions of the territory ( Goldman 1970: 287 ) .

Tongan & # 8217 ; s megalithic tradition picked up from Fiji led to their ain alone constructions. The Trilithon was knows to Tongans as & # 8220 ; The load of Maui carried on a stick & # 8221 ; It is an archway composed of three immense slabs of rock. It was built by Tuitatui as a message to his boies non to dispute ( Goldman 1970: 286 ) .


Like many facets of Tonga, their attack to trading is alone. Their south-west to north-east place was good because of trade air currents that made going up and down the islands easy ( Kirch 1984: 219 ) . Trade finally spread to Somoa and Fiji where heads acquired prestige goods and partners. Exchange was of import in adhering the other islands to the cardinal civil order. It besides gave the head more power because he gained prestige goods and other goods which he could redistribute ( Kirch 1984: 238 ) . Harmonizing to Goldman 1970: , & # 8220 ; The issue in Tonga, as in Samoa, was aggressively focused on the ability to give and the power to demand goods & # 8221 ; ( 301 ) . Tongan exchange was equal. They exchanged goods for goods and nutrient for nutrient. Exchange could besides be of import for keeping position through adult females. Tongan work forces would frequently get married adult females from outside of Tonga to guarantee that their rank was non lowered ( Kirch 1984: 238 ) .

In the trade universe, Fiji became more of import to Tonga than Somoa. The exchanges were more frequent and greater. Fiji was able to supply Tonga with many prestige goods such as ruddy and green parrot plumes, sandalwood, canvass, clayware, and other points. In exchange Tonga provided Fiji with Whale & # 8217 ; s dentitions, all right mats, decorations, and barkcloth. One of the most of import points that Fiji provided Tonga was canoes. Canoes from Fiji were particularly valued because there was a deficiency of suited lumber in Tonga ( Kirch 1984: 240 ) .

Friendly islands Today

In Tonga & # 8217 ; s ranked society today, the term? eiki refers to anyone of a superior rank to their household of community. Most Lords today are no longer effectual because they are less involved with their people and community. Chiefs today besides include 11 cabinet curates appointed by the male monarch. Merely four of the members are familial Lords but the others have close blood ties.

Females still have penchant over males of the same coevals. The male parent is the caput of the family with authorization over his married woman and kids. Even so he still must reply to the wants of his older sister who in some ways is a & # 8220 ; main & # 8221 ; ( Lindstrom and White 1997: 49 ) .

Mentions CITED

Gailey, C. W.

1987 Kinship to Kingship. University of Texas Press, Austin.

Goldman, I.

1970 Ancient Polynesian Society. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Kirch, P. V.

1984 The Development of the Polynesian Chiefdom. Cambridge University Press, New York.

Leib, A. P.

1972 The Many Islands of Polynesia. Charles Scribner & # 8217 ; s Sons, New York.

Lindstrom, L. and G. M. White ( editors )

1997 Chiefs Today. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.

Sahlins, M. D.

1958. Social Stratification in Polynesia. University of Washington Press, Seattle.


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