Bones laid to rest in Rima Rau burial caveAsk any Atiuan today if his ancestors were cannibals and he will probably say No. However, the written record speaks otherwise. Atiuans were fierce warriors and terrorised the nearby islands. It was common to demean your enemies after fighting and beating them by then eating them. This was considered the ultimate insult. A lot has been said against the missionaries for what they did to the free loving people of Atiu. But what the missionaries definitely has going for them is that a visitor no longer need to fear of being eaten by the Atiuans anymore. Think about it and praise god.

Sometime after the visit by Captain Cook in 1777 and before the arrival of the first missionaries in 1823 a Mitiaro Islander accidentally killed an Atiuan. In retribution the family of the Atiuan killed 3 Mitaroans. In return the Mitaroans killed 6 more Atiuans. That was enough for mighty chief Rongomatane of the Atiu people. He sailed his war fleet to Mitiaro and slaughtered all the people there. He repopulated the island of Mitiaro with Atiuans. Later after the news of his wiping out the population of Mitiaro had reached Mauke Island, Rongomatane sailed for Mauke. The Maukeans fearful of their lives parleyed peace and accepted 12 of Rongomatane's Lieutenants to rule them. This rule lasted 9 months before the Maukeans got fed up and decided to kill the lieutenants. They botched the job and two escaped. One took a canoe and paddled to Atiu and told Rongomatane what happened. Rongomatane's fleet sailed again. This time there were even more canoes. There is a Mauke song about this invasion that says that there were so many canoes that Rogomatane's warriors ran across them from Atiu to Mauke. When Rongomatane's warriors reached Mauke, none of Mauke's population could be found. The other lieutenant that remained on Mauke helped out and located some of the Maukeans in a cave. These Maukeans were forced to find the other Maukeans prepare a big oven, kill and cook their own island folk. Rongomatane sailed away taking the cooked flesh back to Atiu.

Skulls showing signs of battleThis horrifying story has a sequel. Some time later the missionaries arrived on Atiu. It was a hard sell but eventually they converted Rongomatane to Christianity. Rongomatane then gave up eleven of his twelve wives and kept the youngest, of course, and went with the missionaries to his dominion of Mauke. The Maukeans trembled at his arrival in the tall white sailed canoe and when Rongomatane said 'thou shall not kill' it was instant conversion to the new god and source of all those missionary myths that the Pacific Islanders were just waiting for their word of god.

And there is another sequel. Ever wondered why the women from Mauke Island are so beautiful? Obviously, only the uglies were cooked.