TGA–Chatham Islands and Pitcairn Islands

27 04 2010

moko/adams rock/ah cut/allens stone/aute wally/johnny fall

At 7:45 a. m., most Pitcairn residents were outside craning their necks and scanning the skies to follow the progress of a small, blue-and-white plane as it circled around the island several times before continuing on into the wild blue yonder

fridays road/giffords gun/john catch a cow/where minnie off

6 Are Guilty in Pitcairn Island Sex Abuse Case

timitis crack/where tom off/oh dear/old palm/out the small/hulianda

I had thought I might complete this “project” with this entry, and I might.   But I suspect I have one entry left.

that streams through each break/and dreams

I saved studying page 63 of The Dossier until last.  It is a page of text and, as many of us are wont to do, I used Google to search the phrases.  Some phrases

Bruce shot the heifer between the eyes with a .22 and it went right down.

I suspect I should know, but I cannot find nor can I place unless they are linked directly to subsequent phrases such as

Waitingi’s harbor


The jog allows several island nations to be in the same day as the rest of australasia

Plankton Bloom Surrounds Chatham Islands

Because these seem to be about The Chatham Islands

Chatham Island Bellbird, Last seen 1906

Thus far, the Moriori were but a local variant of most flaxen-skirted, feather-cloaked heathens of those dwindling ‘blindspots’ of ocean still unschooled by the White Man

The Chatham Islands are Islands off New Zealand.  Up until the early 1800’s the islands were inhabited primarily by the Moriori, or Rekohu, people.

The Moriori’s priestly caste dictated that whosoever spilt a man’s blood killed his own mana–his honour, his worth, his standing & his soul.

On Chatham, the toll of British colonialism was exacerbated by the New Zealand Maori’s violent colonization of the islands resulting in, essentially, the extinction of the Moriori People  first from disease and then from massacre and enslavement.

The Maori proved themselves apt pupils of the English in the “dark arts of colonization.”

Initially, as has happened so many times it is nearly, but not really, a cliché, the British used the islands as a base for hunting seal, fish and whales and brought disease and death to the indigenous people.  Then, in 1835, two British ships brought approximately 900 Māori: Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama from the Taranaki region of New Zealand’s North Island.  The British colonizers had already involved themselves with local conflicts among Māori and provided the Taranaki Māori weapons and transport.   On Chatham, the Taranaki Māori proceeded to violently overthrow the Moriori. The Moriori refused to kill their killers, and became subject to the Māori.

On Waitangi Beach fifty Moriori were beheaded, filleted

Not half of those Moriori who had seen Old Rekohu’s last sunset were alive to see the Māori sun rise

And, prevented from marrying each other (no Moriori/Moriori couples allowed after the invasion), the pure Moriori line died out in 1933 with the death of Tommy Solomon.

What moral to draw?  Peace, through beloved of our Lord, is a cardinal virtue only if your neighbours share your conscience.

There is simplicity in the idea of a pure line–and of the British, though facilitating, not actually directly killing the Moriori.   Blame the Māori.   It is, however, never so simple.  At the time, the Māori were facing the invasion of their home by the British, and, like the native Americans, they were not a single cultural unit but a diversity of communities, held together by family and clan relationships.   Existing conflicts were influenced and exacerbated by the European settlers.  And, when the settlers ignored treaties (sound familiar?), a series of wars erupted with some Māori clans rebelling against, and others siding with, the European settlers.   The clans that overtook the Chatham Islands were of the Māori, but not all the Māori, and indeed, the Moriori are now believed to have been descendants of Māori ancestors.

And while Māori clans resisted the European influence more overtly than many other indigenous groups, the resistance did not save them–nor did loyalty to Europeans save those clans that practiced it.  The  Māori, like indigenous groups the world over faced serious cultural marginalization the impacts of which continue to this day.

through violence/through the changing guards/through the grinding away

you are castaways


a calm/then the roaring wall of the eye/as we sailed to the world/from an insular life

The lower third of the page is covered with words and phrases separated by “/” like lines in a poem or lyrics to a song.  These words

the rope/timitis rack/toms block/two boars roll

are the names of locations.  In particularly, locations in the Pitcairn Islands– a British dependency, the recognized country with perhaps the smallest population in the world (@ 50 individuals at last count).  I have a personal interest in Pitcairn Islands or at least I used to have a slight obsession over them.

The story of The Bounty–the mutiny and the desertion of a handful of mutineers and their Tahitian friends and lovers to Pitcairn Islands–was what specifically obsessed me.  It was a time when we regularly went to Hana on Maui (staying in the cottage where Charles Lindbegh chose to die) so I had a sense of the South Pacific and also of the people–how the people of the islands were marginalized even when it was not an overt sort of thing.

turn homeword/over seas

And of islands, I have always had…well, anyway.  I can still smell the place.  Even here.  The sea and the islands pull at me, always.

“That, captain Bligh, that is the thing; I am in hell, I am in hell.”

What I learned (I believe I was 14 or 15 at the time–a rough and very lonely age and perfectly suited to a month’s isolation, but that is another story) was that the mutiny I’d watched on the film The Bounty had actually occurred but that accounts varied, depending upon what text one read.

civilian lives

Of course, the one set of voices never recorded was that of the Tahitians.

I found no man to rescue me

What the mutiny was about:  certainly Captain William Bligh’s ship was run to a degree no harsher other British vessels.  That does not mean, however, that the ship was a pleasant place to be.  And, it appears, the actual driving force really was what the mutineers had found on Tahiti–the place and the relationships.  These did not await the men on their ship, laden with breadfruit, nor in their home in Great Britain.  Unlike other sailors that wanted to remain behind and simply deserted, the mutineers expelled their captain and those loyal to him or desirous of returning to England, and took the ship.

there could be no doubt from the directions Tinah had given of the deserters being brought to the ship as soon as the weather would admit canoes to go after them.

Desertion seldom succeeded, for the British captains had relationships with the local chiefs that facilitated the return of the deserters to the ship.  Likely, the taking of The Bounty, and the subsequent voyage and habitation of Pitcairn was the reason the mutineers (other than those that remained on Tahiti and were captured and returned to England) survived outside the arm of the British legal system.

in the crack of the drum/but if the body dies/what is left of the heart/burns

Captain Bligh proved himself an astonishing seaman, sailing those 18 men evicted from The Bounty with him 3,618 nautical miles in a 23 foot launch from the site of the mutiny to Timor in 47 days.  Only one man died, and he was murdered on Tofua.  No one starved to death and no one turned cannibal.  And while his seamanship has since never been questioned, his leadership has.  He appears no great captain of men outside of this incredible voyage of survival–but neither does he appear a tyrant.  The tension on The Bounty seemed to be that tension found within each man over what existed and was acceptable under British law of land and sea and what these sailors, many of them extremely naive and insulated, discovered as an alternative in Tahiti.

Know then my own Dear Betsy, that I have lost the Bounty

Of course, it is never so easy because what we desire is never in actuality what it was upon imagining.  It is not always lesser, although, for most of the mutineers, it was.

Fletcher Christian, master’s mate and friend of Bligh, was the ostensible leader of the mutiny and, after a false attempt at building a colony on Tubai, sailed The Bounty to Tahiti, leaving 16 men, some Bligh loyalists, and gathering on board Tahitian friends and lovers.   Christian married local chief’s daughter, Maimiti, and sailed on to the Pitcairn Islands–lands, at the time, devoid of humans.

call back to the old familiar

please hide me

What Christian anticipated no one knows, he left no text behind.  Certainly he did not expect to die a mere four years after the mutiny, at the age of 29.  His death, along with that of most of the other men, appears to have been a result of the violence that erupted among the mutineers and the Tahitian men over both the imbalanced sex ratio and the Tahitian mens’ virtual enslavement.

In 1808 the first British ship made contact since the mutiny and discovered, of all the mutineers, only John Adams surviving along with his nine wives.  He had become a devout Christian.

I learned a lie/that power breeds/regeneration

In 2004, the descendants of the Tahitians and the mutineers were subject to intense scrutiny over allegations of institutionalized rape and pedophilia.

The charges include 21 counts of rape, 41 of indecent assault and two of gross indecency with a child under 14.

Six men were tried on the islands and convicted; six more tried elsewhere.  One of the convicted was  the Mayor, Steve Christian, a patrilineal descendent of Fletcher Christian.

Cull the silver bodies from the waves

To arrive on the shore of the island

Turn homeward

Give my blessings to my Dear Harriet, my Dear Mary, my Dear Betsy & to my Dear little stranger & tell them I shall soon be home.

Abutilon pitcairnense

Abutilon pitcairnense Presumed extinct, flowered in Dublin Botanical Gardens in January 2010.


Note:A film worth seeing: Once Were Warriors and a book worth reading The Bone People.

Quotes are from Shearwater, Captain William Bligh, Reuters, David Mitchell, Pitcairn Island Study Group




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s