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Sunday, 25th September  2022 2:39:am

image001One Foot IslandLong ago, one of the chiefs of Aitutaki, seeing that there was not enough food for his people, created a fishing reserve to protect the resources of the lagoon. In this area, no one was allowed to fish at any time. By doing this, the chief was making sure the lagoon was not over-fished and his people would always have enough food to eat.

Nga was a simple fisherman. He respected the wishes of his chief but his family was hungry. Surely, a few fish for his family would not be too much? The village was preparing for a big dance festival, so Nga made a plan with his son Taongo. While the rest of the villagers were busy dancing and partying, they would slip, unnoticed, into the lagoon and paddle to the reserve where fish were still plentiful.

The journey was long as it was hard to navigate in the dark. When they reached the reserve both father and son were tired but they knew they had to catch as many fish as they could and return to the mainland.

The sun began to rise and back on the main island one of the villagers coming home late from the festival spotted the silhouette of an outrigger vaka in the reserve. He ran and told the chief who was outraged that anyone had dared to disobey his orders. “Send a war party to capture whoever is fishing in the reserve!” he shouted, and the warriors of the village swiftly launched their vaka’s.

Nga spotted the war party in the distance and knew they would never escape in time. “Paddle to Tapuaetui!” he instructed his son, and they made their way as fast as they could to shore. Nga told Taongo to run to the center of the motu, which he did. Nga also ran to the center of the motu but he was careful to step in his son’s footprints as he did. Soon the sounds of the warriors could be heard on the shore. Nga lifted his son high into the arms of a bandana tree, where he could hide. “Do not come down until dark,” he whispered and continued running to the other side of the motu.

Taongo watched from the safety of the tree as the warriors, covered in tattoos and carrying long spears, came running by, following the footprints from the beach. They passed right underneath him and kept running to the other side of the motu. He watched them lead his father back, at spear point, demanding to know if anyone else was with him. “No, it was just me,” said Nga, and the warriors believed him because they only saw one set of foot prints.

After the sun set, Taongo climbed down from the tree and paddled his father’s vaka back home. His mother couldn’t believe her eyes. Her husband had been killed for breaking the chief’s law and she thought her son was also dead. Taongo told her the story of how his father had saved him. In time, the story spread, as stories do, and soon, and forever after, Motu Tapuaetai was known as “One Foot Island”.

Aitutaki Lagoon