This week in Pukapuka marks the end of the New Year’s celebrations. The Kau Wo Wolo or Island Chiefs and the Island Council held their annual meeting to review the rules for the upcoming year that govern the island and the fines imposed for breaking those rules. After the Kau Wo Wolo finished, they went to visit each village to share their rules and everyone could ask questions and discuss them. It is a very democratic process.
Each village then held their individual annual meetings over three days to review the rules for the motu, ecological food reserves, for the upcoming year. Each village shared their census and mentioned who had become an akawawine and an akatane of the village passing from childhood to adulthood. Loto village spent an extra day on its meeting in order to come up with new rules and fines for caretaking the new Pukapuka Cyclone Centre. Ngake village announced the closure of the kaveu on Motu Ko for the next two years so that the kaveu could grow undisturbed and the motu can replenish its resources. The fishing on each motu also received careful review and the village reminded everyone that pigs that roam the motu disturbing the delicate ecological balance get shot and the owner fined. The Pules or rotating caretakers all watch the motu to enforce the rules. The protection of the motu involves age-old environmental wisdom that protects and ensures the equal distribution of resources.
Ngake, Loto and Yato then held the celebratory vananga where the men of each village go to the other villages to share the rules for their village motu, have a village feed and dance with the women of the other village. During the all-day affair, everyone can comment on the rules, and playful inter-village banter occurs. “Loto is so slow, taking so long on their rules,” laughed one man. In response to the closing of the kaveu on Motu Ko some of the airport workers asked, “What if we accidentally run over a kaveu with the tractor? Can we take it home or do we leave it?” Long discussions ensued about all the rules that govern the delicate balance of life in Pukapuka. And then, everyone danced.
After the vananga, each village held their annual imukai to celebrate and share food. Yato shared kaveu and birds, Ngake shared over three hundred fish and Loto shared fish and mawu (twice-baked imu taro mixed with coconut milk). The cooking of the mawu took over three days. The first day involved going to the taro patch and peeling and grating the taro. The second day involved gathering coconuts on the motu and making all the fresh coconut cream. The third day involved wrapping the mixture in banana leaves and baking it twice in the imu. Everything tasted delicious.
The end of the village New Year festivities means the motu will now be open after having been closed for the last season. Now everyone can escape the busy, modern life on wale and sleep out in the kikau huts, maintaining the best of both worlds.