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jeudi 16 octobre 2014

The first Polynesian separatist

Teraupoo from Raiatea
Fifty years before Pouvanaa a Oopa, Teraupoo born Hapaitahaa a Etau has opened the way to the fight against France for independence of Polynesia.

If Pouvanaa a Oopa has now become the symbol of the struggle for independence from French Polynesia, the first Polynesian to have paid himself for this ideal was Teraupoo, half a century earlier.

The head Teraupoo, born Hapaitahaa a Etau

The scene of his fight was his island of Raiatea and Taha'a its small neighbor.

Teraupoo, born Hapaitahaa a Etau
Hapaitahaa a Etau, said Teraupoo, was born about 1855 in Avera, on the east coast of Raiatea in a most modest environment. In fact, his real surname was originally Taraiupoo, meaning "Headhunter". The story would have preferred to keep only Teraupoo, "This Head".

Two important events marked deeply Teraupoo's youth: the death of his fa'a'amu father and his conversion to Protestantism.

Teraupoo's family in Raiatea
This conversion made him to engage in a fierce and never questioned opposition against France.

This relentless fight leads logically him to the armed struggle. Trapped by France, it is tried, convicted and sent to exile in New Caledonia in March 1897, with nine of his brothers in arms by the Governor Gallet. At the same time, one hundred and sixteen others resisters were exiled to Ua Huka, Marquesas Islands, with their wife and children.

Allowed to return home in 1905, he died at Vaiaau December 23, 1918, at the height of the Spanish flu epidemic. His grave would be now sealed under the asphalt of the belt road.

Teraupoo and England

      Toward his fifteenth year, Teraupoo was manhandled by a French frigate captain. Then he swore to revenge on the French.

He turned to the pastors of the London Missionary Society in the hope of getting an active support of Britain; he will never get it. Indeed, if the British have always morally supported all those who refused the French presence, they never furnished any help other than moral to any of them. To Teraupoo less than any other: the English, recently settled in the New Hebrides, had other concerns.

Raiatea in Teraupoo's time
This is however not for lack of trying. His last attempt was in January 1896, again with the queen of Raiatea. That day, they met Robert Simons, the British consul. Teraupoo comes with fifty armed men.

At the request for assistance made by Teraupoo, Simons' answer is straightforward: The Iles-Sous-le-Vent (the Leeward Islands or the Western Society Islands) have nothing to expect from England. His country recognized the French domination. Such support would be an insult to France. Teraupoo then replies that he is determined to maintain at all costs hoisted the British flag, and if the consul wanted to try to take it down, he would use force to stop him...

1887: the revolt of Teraupoo
      During the last quarter 1887, the situation deteriorated in Raiatea. Teraupoo categorically opposes the request protectorate signed by Tamatoa VI (King of Raiatea), the Viceroy of Taha'a and all the heads of Raiatea and Taha'a.

      Therefore Teraupoo officially enters into open rebellion, he even tries to seize Tamatoa VI for dispossessing him!

Out of an estimated population of some 1,500 souls, at the time, the head Teraupoo have managed to form an army of eight hundred men…

In an official report of the time, you can even read "The rebels are about a thousand well-armed, well-ordered. They want for nothing, they have 9/10 th of the land, sell their crops, are trafficking at will. The rebel government of Avera and its leader Teraupoo are masters of the country. "

1888: War of Raiatea
March 16, 1888, Governor Lacascade proclaimed the annexation of The Îles-Sous-le-Vent by France. Teraupoo, himself, declares war on France.

An era opened up in which he makes the law in Raiatea. Six districts of the island of Taha'a and three are acquired to him and fly the "rebel" flag alongside the British flag. He's going to tax on the goods and the vessels operating in areas under its control.

Teraupoo held the high hand to the authorities and the French army until 1896.

 This situation will continue until December 27, 1896. On this day, the governor Gallet gives him four days to lay down their arms and submit completely.

The Duguay-Trouin who participated in the battle
On January 1, 1897, a French expeditionary force of 1,050 men and three warships attack the coastal areas of Raiatea and Taha'a. On January 3, the battle of Tevaitoa resulted 17 dead and five wounded in the resister ranks.

      Teraupoo was captured on February 15, 1897, with his wife in a cave of the Vaiaau valley.

      The Raiatea war is over, it killed 40 people.

The birth of a legend
In March 1897 Teraupoo and nine other resisters, the "Chéfesse"* May vahine of Tevaitoa and her husband, are brought to trial to Papeete and sentenced to transportation in New Caledonia.

  It was not until fifty years before another native of Raiatea intends to fight against the French colonial power: his name Pouvanaa a Oopa. But that's another story...

      If Teraupoo was completely forgotten by the Polynesian official history, he remains the benchmark for militants demanding independence which made him a symbol in the 80s and 90s.

fa'a'amu: customary adoption still used in French Polynesia.
* "chéfesse": en français dans le texte

Sources :
Mémorial polynésien T.4 - Archives de la Marine, Fort de Vincennes - Archives Territoriales, Papeete - La Dépêche de Tahiti -

An article of Julien Gué
Translated from French by Monak

Copyright Julien Gué. Ask for the author’s agreement before any reproduction of the text or the images on Internet or traditional press.

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