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The hamlets were little groups of four or five or sometimes more houses clustered together somewhere on the land which bore the same name as the hamlet (for example, Aurakeia or Manga). Each hamlet was theoretically descended from the same common ancestor.

The people of the hamlet owned much of the land around it, though through the marriage of the women of the hamlet to men of other kainga a good deal of the land came, as the years passed, to be owned by residents of other kainga.

Each hamlet had its special boti or sitting place in the Uma n Anti and the Maneaba and the descendants of that hamlet had the right of sitting in their boti at all ceremonial functions irrespective of where they were actually living at the time.

The people of each kainga considered themselves to be an Utu and all called each other brother, sister, etc. There was an unimane in each hamlet who was the eldest descendant of the founder.

If a kainga such as Aobike wished to give a feast to any individual or group word would be sent out and all related to Aobike would come from all over the island to bring food and assist generally. Also if any man in the hamlet wished to give a feast all the kawa would have to assist him.

Again if any member of the kainga was honoured by being given a feast by any other group all his kainga relations would assist in the eating.

When a present was given to any village group or kawa it would be divided out among the various kainga comprised in the group.

The Maniba (presumably an alternative name for the Bangabanga) were owned by the kainga or in some cases by several kainga jointly and when the maniba was opened all the relations would come and assist.

For marriages and deaths the whole kainga acted as a unit and to a certain extent in births though there was no elaborate ceremony attendant upon this event.

In all the various village ceremonies, feasts and activities (thatching the Uma n Anti, etc.) each kainga had its own exclusive rights and duties, which were jealously prized in the old days. In the ceremony of Te Kairua or the welcoming of the stranger, one village (or perhaps two or more jointly) would have the duty of calling the man to the maneaba. One would tie in his flower wreath, one would anoint him with oil, one would see to his food, one would keep him engaged in conversation, etc. tie on his flower wreath, one would keep him engaged in conversation, etc. This ceremony was last done to the Chief of Tarawa Island when he was expelled to Rotuma by Resident Commissioner Telfer Campbell.

According to Eri, the Chief of Uma, there were no real kainga between Te Aonoanne and Toakira. There were hamlets but they were not true kainga because they were inhabited by people from both village districts. When there were dances or games in one of the village districts the people of the Aonoanne and Toakira joined together as a single team.



There were the following Uma n Anti on the island:

Tabwewa: Te Karia, called Bun Tiritiri. Both moities used this at first until Na Ning built a second Uma n Anti for the Karieta folk.

Te Karieta, called Te Karawa Ititi. This was built by Na Ning, who was made a chief for this. It was used, when first built, as an Uman Roronga for the young people of Te Karieta, but the people of Uma and Tabiang began bringing the stranded porpoise and other fish there and so it became used as an Uma n Anti.

Tabiang. Called Tieraki n te Bong.

Uma. Called Nei Karibaba. The timbers for this Uma n Anti were brought by Na Manenimate from Beru. He built the Uma n Anti.

Toakira. Called Tabera n Nene.

Te Aonoanne. Called Tokia I-Matang.

The Uma n Anti looked exactly like the Maneaba but held a more important place in the life of the people, being used for magic and ceremonial purposes. Here all food offerings were made to the various Anti.

They were large communal eating houses in which everyone had their boti. The boti which were divided by the Oka, or roof-beams, were apparently exactly duplicated in the corresponding maneaba

All ceremonial feasts took place inside the Uma n Anti. The food offerings for the Anti were collected from the various utu and put together in one place outside the Uma n Anti.

The food etc. was distributed in order of clans exactly as in a Gilbertese maneaba.

Certain boti had the right of making the thatch for the Uma n Anti.



Bun Tiritiri had the following boti:

Te Koturu
Bukiniwae (belonging to the kainga Mangati).
Te Inakin Rian I-Matang
Te Inakini Mane
Te Inakin Te Rieta
Te Inakin Nukuao
Te Inakin Abero
Te Inakin Te Maneaba (Kaing Te Maneaba).


Te Bukiniwae was in the south-west corner after the first Oka.

Taberan Nene. The only boti remembered is called Te Inakin Te Rieta and was on the north-east corner after the first Oka.

Tokia I-Matang. The only boti remembered was called Te Inakini Bakatere and was on the south-east corner after the first Oka.

The old Maneaba Tabwewa which stood at Kamatua (at the bottom of the village and to the west of the railway) before Tawanang or the Uma n Anti were built had the following boti:

Inakin Kabwara
Inankin Te Bakoa
Inakin Karongoa
Inakin Bukiniwae
Inakin Nei Tabaobao
Inakin Baraua
Inakin Nukuao

The Kainga Of Tabwewa

Eri, Chief Of Uma

Auriaria and Tabuariki were the anti of the kainga of Aurakeia, Uman Nakainnako and Te I-Namoriki, associated with Marakei. Neither Auriaria nor Tabuariki had Rabata, but only their Bangota.

Auriaria was the Ancestor of these kainga and Tabuariki their Anti. The Anti of the kainga of Karongoa and Te Kainga was Bakatau.

The Head of the Te Karieta Uma n Anti was Aurakeia. It was the privilege of the Head to be the first in speaking at the beginning of proceedings, and to have the first share in feasts.

The dividers of the food in the Uma n Anti were Aurekeia Mainiku and Aon te Bonobono. The thatch was put on by all who had inaki (boti or sitting places) and each kainga thatched its own inaki.

The cutters of the eaves in the Uma n Anti were also Aurakeia and Aon te Bonobono, and in addition they had the work of putting on the ridge capping.

The weavers of the mats were all the kainga who had inaki in the Uma n Anti.


Te Kairua (Welcoming The Stranger). The Stranger is summoned by Te Karia kainga of Te Maiu, where his feet are washed, and he is garlanded and fed. After that he arises and is taken to the place of the stranger in the Te Karieta kainga Aurakeia (presumably in the Te Karieta Uma n Anti ) where he has his first talk and is questioned by Te Maiu. When the ceremonial is over, thought is given as to where the stranger will live and will be given his food.

The Preparation Of A Turtle At Tabwewa. If a turtle is brought to Tabwewa it is not killed at once. The various utu are summoned to consider when it should be killed: and a decision is reached that it should be on such and such a day.

Nei Teinimakin

The Killing. Someone from the kainga of Te Bun Tiritiri arrives when it is time to kill the turtle. He gets his stick ready, rubs it with oil, wraps it in a mat and conceals it in his hand. When he is close to the turtle he takes his stick and beats the turtle until it dies.

Cooking. This is the work of the kainga Tekerau Meang and Te I-Namoriki and when the turtle is cooked the dividers are called.

The Distribution. The dividers are the kainga of Aon Te Bonobono. There were two shares: one for the various kainga of Te Karieta and the other for those of Te Karia. Te Karieta gets the head and half the side and Te Karia gets the bones and half the side.


The Atua of all Tabiang was Nei Tituabine, with Taningawarebwe and Temamang her sons. They are the Atua of Tabiang because they are the Ancestors of the people of Tabiang.

The Rabata of Nei Tituabine is the Giant Ray (Kerentari of Baimanu). If one meets with a Kerentari in the ocean when fishing one gives it an offering of things that are in one's canoe, such as tobacco, food, etc. The people of the Tabiang kainga also always set aside a portion of their food when they eat as an offering.

If anyone interferes with the Rabata of Nei Tituabine nothing can be done to help him.

The Head of the Uma n Anti is the kainga Tabiang, the kainga of Nei Anginimaeao. The work of the Head is to organize the activities of the Uma n Anti, including the feasts which take place in it; and also to give the first word conerning the carrying of any stranded fish to Tabwewa.

The dividers of the food in the Uma n Anti are Teitiatia and Etani Banaba; the cutter of the eaves is Teitiatia and the disposer of the rubbish is Abauareke. The mat weavers are Teitiatia and Etani Banaba.


There are five kainga in Uma which are especially distiguished: Nangkouea, Rarikintekawai, Bwibwintora, Tetarine and Tereineaba. The first three kainga are associated together for most purposes, as are also Tetarine and Tereineaba.

Bwibwintora was distinguished because it is her that Na Manenimate landed and the Uma n Anti was built. Nangkouea was celebrated because the Uma n Anti was later moved here from Bwibwintora. Tetarine was well known because the head of the Uma n Anti came from here. Tereineaba and Rarikintekawai were distinguished because they were the kainga of Na Manenimate's descendants.


The Procedure For Assembling In the Uma n Anti. The initiator of meetings in the Uma n Anti is the kainga of Tetarine, followed at a later stage by Rarikintekawai. Bwibwintora was then called, with Tereineaba next, and last of all Nangkouea.

The work of Tetarine was to divide the food into two shares, the first being the share of Rarikintekawai and its associated neighbours, and the second the share of Tetarine, Bwibwintora and Tereineaba.


The terraces were not made for performing the kauti magic, which was done on the small individual kauti places, but for playing the games with the frigate birds which were very important in the old days.

A line of coconut string was always kept stretched across the boundary of each terrace to prevent any women getting near when the frigate birds were there, as it was absolutely forbidden for women to have anyhthing to do with the birds.

As, however, it was so important in the proper performance of the kauti and other magic to be sure that one did not sleep on the same mat as a woman or have any intercourse with one and as the kauti places were on the rocks close to the terraces, people who intended to learn or perform the kauti used to live on the terraces for a few nights at a time. The only time that the terraces were visited for longer periods was for playing with the frigate birds, a game in which the entire male community took part.

A few men who were performing the kauti exceptionally seriously with a particular object in view, for example to become a champion fighter, might stay on the terraces for long periods until they felt themselves to be in a fit state, bodily and mentally, to return. In some of the harder types of the kauti magic it was necessary to abstain from sexual intercourse for a year at a time, i.e. to become a champion at any pursuit involving intense physical strain.

Each village had its own terraces, and a boy would never visit that of another village.

The terrace pictured (see Maude and Maude 1932:301) belonged to Buakonikai. Boys would not be sent to the terraces until their hair grew upon their chests and under their arms. It was the custom to await the time when a boy's trials by fire (and hair cuttings) took place. When this was done he was sent to sleep on a terrace, probably with his grandfather (either paternal or maternal) and prepare himself for manhood by the kauti ritual.

The upright stones, surrounded each by four flat slabs, were 'seats' where a youth or man sat to do his kauti. Each youth had his own seat, made by himself. He leaned back on the upright stone.

Near the terraces are to be seen, in some places, large altar-like structures, built up of flat stones, and called Buatarawa. There is one near Tabwewa some four feet high and eight feet square. These were also used for kauti incantations. In Uma village there were once several, now destroyed, which reached the height of 'two men'. They were either square or round; their sides were quite straight. They were used only by those who built them. On top they were flat. On high, as on a tower, the kauti was performed.

The time for kauti was always the point of dawn. The direction faced was always eastward.

In the traditions of Auriaria, this ancestral god is mentioned as a continual performer of kauti.

A string, having knotted leaves of the coconut palm hanging from it at intervals, was tied to the trees at the back of the terraces to prevent women from coming near.

The reason why no women should come near was that they might be menstruating and a menstruating woman had a lethal effect on any magic ceremony.

Women when they were menstruating were put apart in a small house which was a normal adjunct to every living house and was called a Uma n Teinako. Here they ate separate food from separate dishes and bathed from a separate part of the reef by themselves.


The first hair-cutting took place when the child could walk, i.e. when he was about 2 years old. After that the hair was cut about every 3 or 4 moons, on the first appearance of the new moon, but it depended really on the rate at which the hair grew. The last cutting took place when the boy began to grow hairs on his face, i.e. at about 14 years.

In the ceremony the fire was used, not for cooking food, but for burning the child's hair.

Ordinarily when the hair was being cut the child could get up as soon as the cutting was over, but on the occasion of the last cutting ceremony he had to stay on his stone until the sun had passed the zenith. He got up about 1 p.m.

At the time of the ceremony the child could not eat the head, belly or buki of a fish.

Two swords only were used in the ceremony; when not closed they were pointed from opposite sides of the child at his forehead.


The Tattooing Instrument was called Te Win Taitai, the tattoo marks being termed Taitai.

The handle of the win taitai was made of Tarine wood (the wild Almond) and the points of sharpened turtle shell.

When tattooing, the win taitai was hit with any suitable piece of ba (midrib of the coconut frond), the hammer being termed Te Kai n Oro.

The Turtle shell was cut with a large Te Batino (sea urchin) which had previously been sharpened by rubbing it against a stone from the reef known as Te Em.

The win taitai was then inserted into a slot in the Tarine wood. It was not bound at all with string, but the inserted end was wasted.

The tattooing ink is made from the ashes of the coconut known as Te Wae (Banaban Te Aba), which has no kernel, mixed with salt, or occasionally fresh water.

The pattern is drawn by a straight length of Te Noko (the midrib of the coconut leaf) being pressed on the skin.

The ink is put on with a length of Te Noko bent into a triangle.

One side of the triangle is dipped into the ink and drawn along the line already made. The win taitai is then hit down with the hammer along the inked lines.

The designs are as follows:

Te Atu Ni Kua. Four feathered lines from the shoulder blades to the top of the thigh, ending on the back of the thighs.

Te Kana Ni Kua. Extending from where the Atu ni Kua leaves off to the top of the ankle, going down the side of the thighs and legs.

Te Manoku Ni Wae. Extending from the back of the ankle, straight up the back of the leg and thigh to the top of the buttock.


Te Moa Ni Wae. Extending from the chest above the breasts to half way down the thighs. Only the ends at the thighs are known as Te Moa ni Wae, the continuation upwards being called Te Kua n Nanoa.

Te Kua N Tarawa or Te Moani Kua is the continutation upwards of Te Atu ni Kua as only the ends at the back of the thighs are rightfully called Te Atu ni Kua.

Te Kuan Nanoa. The continuation of the Moani Wae upwards.

Te Nanon Nange. Situated on the inside of each thigh.

Te Uba. Ran up the shin bone of each leg, starting at the top of the ankle and going straight over the knee and ceasing at the top of the thigh.


A properly tattooed man would also have three or four lines running up his foot from his toes to below the ankle. There was always a gap at the ankle, or around. The face was also tattooed and if the man was bald, the top of his head. There was also a necklace line tattooed around his neck.

Women were also tattooed. They had no Te Nanon Nange but instead had a line going right around their legs at the bottom of their riri and known as Te Korea N Riri.

A well tattooed man or woman was termed Aekia and if tattooed all over as Bonotia (shut).

All tattooing consisted of a single or a double straight line with feathers going out on either side, sometimes straight and sometimes bent.

The reason given for tattooing is:

To beautify the person.

When a man or woman dies and his spirit is wandering on the way to the lands in the west, his part is blocked by Nei Karamakuna who had a face like a bird and pecks out the man's tattoo marks. Should the man not be tattooed the bird pecks out his eyes instead and he has to proceed on his way blind.

There were only tattooed men and no women on Banaba in 1931: Te Baiti, Na Ewantabuariki and Kabunginteiti.


If there are only daughters in the family, the eldest daughter would be called Chiefess but the nearest male relative will do the work until the son of the Chiefess will be old enough to take it on.

The oldest son will under normal circumstances be made chief in preference to younger ones.

If the eldest child is a daughter she will be called Chief but her eldest brother will do the work until her eldest son is old enough to take it on.

An adopted child could become Chief in exactly the same manner as a natural child.

One could become Chief through the father or the mother. In other words succession to the Chiefship passes to the eldest child, either male or female, but if the eldest child be a female the eldest male descendant or relative will perform the functions of the Chiefship until the daughter has a son who can do the work. The daughter will be called Chiefess until her death when the son will take on the title as well as the duty of the office.


The Chief had definite and limited powers. He did not decide what each individual was to do in house building, game, etc., but in all major communal activities he decided what was to be done and when to start.

Should there be much sour toddy drinking or other trouble on the island the chief would call a meeting of all island chiefs and landowners to decide on the steps which should be taken to stop it.

The Chief would call the meeting but the people themselves would decide, after discussion, on the steps to be taken. When the question to be decided affected one village group alone, such as the day for a feast, the chief of that village would call and preside over a meeting of the inhabitants of that village group.

The Chief had the right of speaking first in the Maneaba.


Girls and boys were treated equally in the division of paternal and maternal lands. That is to say, neither sex was more favoured than the other by custom. The eldest child, whether girl or boy, generally inherited the greatest share of land.

The communal or family system of land tenure, so strongly developed in the Gilberts, does not appear on Banaba. Land is, as was apparently always, the property of the individual. Once given a piece of land, the Banaban is entirely the master of it and can give it away to a complete stranger, if he wishes.

Land is usually divided up among children before the death of their parents - most usually when the children became old enough to fend for themselves. The formality of apportioning land among children was called Te Katautau: it consisted of collecting the various heirs and walking with them around the parental land, to point out to them the boundaries of their respective allotment. This formality was rarely gone through in the presence of but one of several children; it was distinctively understood that all had the right to be present, even if all did not get their share at the same meeting. Further, it seems that even a child who was given no share at all in the maternal or paternal estates could demand injustice that he be allowed to attend the partition at which his brothers and sisters profited to his exclusion.

Generally a husband and wife made their Katautau on the same day, but this was by no means an unbreakable rule.

Again, it was the usual custom that each child should get some of the paternal and some of the maternal lands, but a special arrangement between the parents was often made, by which the children were divided into two groups, one of which inherited the father's and the other the mother's estate.

The Katautau was a final act. Once a child became thereby endowed with land, he was its unconditional master and could dispose of it entirely as he willed.

Te Aba n Tara was equivalent to Te Aba ni Kuakua in the Gilberts, that is given to one who cared for you in sickness. A stranger might thus acquire all your land to the exclusion of your children.


Te Wa n Tieke

The chief of Tabwewa had the right of boarding all visiting canoes or ships before anyone else.

If he thought fit he could issue an edict that no one except himself was to visit a particular ship or canoe, but once he sent out word that the canoe or ship could be visited anyone on the island could launch his canoe and go out.

The chief of Tabwewa had the prior right over anything that arrived on a ship or canoe.

The chief and village group of Tabwewa had the duty of entertaining all canoe crews and other visitors. The crew of the canoe would be brought to the maneaba and divided out among the various kainga who would provide them with food, lodging and entertainment until their departure. The owner of the canoe would invariably stay with the chief himself.

Te Kana n te Ika, the turtle or the kua or the urua.

If a porpoise or other fish is stranded on the foreshore of Buakonikai it is taken by the people of that village group to the Uma n Anti of Te Karia folk.

If it is stranded on the Tabiang or Uma coast it is taken to Uma n Anti of Te Karieta folk.

If either case the people of the moiety would take the fish and divide it up among the various kainga included in their moiety but before doing so they would give the village group who brought the fish a present of food in exchange.


There were certain amusements and games for which the people of Tabwewa had the sole right of fixing the season. These were the Ruoia, the Oreang, the Karetika and the Karemotu. If another of the villages took the initiative in opening the season for these games, it might lead to bloodshed.

The term "season" used in this connection is perhaps too precise. There were no regular recurrent period at which the amusements were cultivated. They were entirely guided by the sentiment of the Tabwewa folk. When they decided that the time was ripe, they appointed a date for a particular game. When the game had been played for the first time in Tabwewa, then and only then might the other villagers might also follow suit.

Often the villagers would compete with one another in all the games mentioned. They would, however, never meet in advance to discuss proceedings; nor would one village send word to the other that it would visit it on a particular day. If a community felt that it was highly proficient in a particular sport, it would call a meeting and decide that on a particular date it would be ready to compete with all comers. No invitation to any chosen village was sent out; the news simply trickled through informally to the other communities. Any or all of the latter were then free to consider this general and unofficial challenge. In their turn, they decided, in public meetings, upon the teams that they would send, and on the appointed day proceeded without further notice to the challenging village, where the contests always took place. There, the visitor would be feasted during the whole course of the tournament; but they were also expected to bring presents of food with them.


The first fruit of the coconut, pandanus and almond trees belonged, in Uma village, to a certain utu. Eri's grandfather was a member of it. The first fruits were taken by members of the utu to the village Uma n Anti where the people sat in their respective Boti. The head of the utu fetched the first fruit from his koraki on behalf of Nei Titutiabine to whom they belonged of right.

The coconut and pandanus cult was confined to the section of Uma village descended from Na Manenimate but no one on the island could eat of the fruit of the wild almond tree until they heard that this particular utu of Uma village had commenced the season by offering the first fruits to Nei Tituabine in the Uma n Anti. The ceremony only took place once a year as far as the Tarine or wild almond first fruits was concerned.

The cult was brought by Na Manenimate from Beru and it was held that the first fruits belonged of right to Nei Tituabine.


If a boy or girl is to undergo the bleaching process (kakoaki) one must first make several sleeping mats for screens (perhaps eight or nine). After that a small enclosure is made inside which the person being bleached must stay. He or she must not come out from the screened enclosure until the end of the time which has been decided on by the parents.

The length of time to be spent inside the screens may be two or three months, according to the rule concerning the bleaching process. The person must eat inside the enclosure and perform all other functions, such as urinating, there. The time when one may come out is from four o'clock to five.


Marriage may be arranged as soon as the children are born or even while the child is still unborn but expected. This is known as an engagement. The parents of an engaged boy should frequent and punctual in bringing food to the parents of the girl and to invite them to their home. For if this duty is not performed the engagement can be annulled.

It is also the custom that when you have been engaged to a girl you can live with her when she is thirteen, provided that you are at least twenty and sometimes thirty or more.


It is not our custom in former times to bury the dead in the ground. If a person died the body was laid out under the house until the flesh had decomposed. After that, the body was taken to the sea to clean the bones. When this had been done, the bones were collected but the skull was laid apart. The bones were laid under the house but the skull was placed under the Ati ni Kana lest it might be offended. The Ati ni Kana was a flat stone on which the boys of the family were seated during the Ati ni Kana ceremonies.


The Bangota (Taburakana) is a place where the dead are put and buried together. The place where they can be properly put may be well known for some reason, or an ancestor who is considered to be sacred may already be buried there.

A sick child may be taken to such a place and magic rituals (tabunea) performed to make him well. Also, you may invoke in prayer the name of a woman you desire to be attracted to you. You may take a stone from the place for Te Wai Rakau involving a woman or a sick person. These are functions of a Bangota.

The Bouan Anti (Taburakana) is similar to a Bangota. It is the place of a single Anti sufficiently well-known to be petitioned in prayer, for example Te Rakunene, Nei Karua, Nei Tituabine, Nei Tewenei, Nei Kanna, Tabuariki, Auriaria, and many others. They can be petitioned there if there is something you want.


Te Kabaneitei. Twenty or more birds were tamed. When tamed they were set free and served to decoy other frigate birds who were brought down by the Ao ni Kabane.

The Ao ni Kabane were stones with strings attached to them. The stone alone was called Te Atau.

The thrill in the game was in the skilful throwing of the Ao ni Kabane so that it fell over the bird's wings and body and brought it to the ground.

No woman might touch the frigate bird under any circumstances. There were big Kai Ni Katiku or platforms for the birds built on the terraces, where the sport always took place and a string was kept stretched behind the terrace on the landward side which no woman might pass.

There are various special movements to secure a bird according to whether it is flying level, wheeling, scaring or descending.

Te Kabae. Four frigate bird feathers are attached to the end of a stick in the form of a cross. They are well attached to each other. The stick and feathers are thrown up into the air but the stick falls and the feathers, being loosely attached, float off and are caught with the Ao ni Kabane.

The feathers of the frigate bird are used on the Karanga poles during the Karanga. (Check Bibliography for sources)

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About Banaba
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