New resting place for Tongan heroes’ ashes

A two-day formal exhumation service in Ha’apai last week honoured two Tongan heroes who helped establish Christianity and formal education in Tonga.

The ashes of the Rev Tevita Tonga Mohenoa and the Rev Pita Vi were dug up on November 12 and moved to their new resting place in Tuʻumoelau, Pangai, Haʻapai the next day.

The two men were buried at Feletoa cemetery in Haʻapai 119 years ago.

The cemetery belonged to King Taufa’āhau I, but is now owned by the Tongan government which is going to turn it into town allotments which will be distributed to locals.

The Rev Tonga Mohenoa was the first Tongan to be formally educated in 1868 after Dr Egan Moulton arrived in Tonga to establish formal education in the kingdom.

It is claimed this was the first of its kind in the South Pacific.

The Rev Mohenoa was first Head Tutor of Tupou College from 1869-1880 and then became the first Tongan Superintendent Minister of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga (FWCT) in Ha’apai District from 1882-1895.

Pita Vī was one of the first Tongan converts to Christianity in Tonga and was a teacher and pastor for King Taufaʻahau I.

The Rev Vī is famous in Tongan history for accompanying King Taufaʻāhau throughout the islands in his attempts to Christianise the kingdom and to free Tongans from being slaves under the absolute rules of the Tuʻi Tonga and his nobles.

The exhumation started with a prayer service and a speech by the governor of Haʻapai, Lord Tuʻihaʻangana,

Dr Rev Tevita Tonga Mohenoa Puloka, who was one of the church leaders who conducted the service, said Rev Mohenoa was the first Dux of Tupou College in 1868.

Tupou College is the oldest secondary school in the South Pacific outside Australia and New Zealand.

It was named by HM King Taufa’ahau Tupou 1 and was established on February 14, 1866.

From Tonga, the lotu (religion) and ako (education) were brought to Fiji, Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

“Such is the significant contribution of Tevita Tonga Mohenoa as the first educated person of the Kau Helohelo ‘o e Matematika ‘a Dr. Molitoni [Dr Moulton’s best scholars in mathematics],” the Rev Puloka said.

After he converted to Christianity, Pita Vi became King Tauf’ahau’s teacher and pastor. The king was baptised by the Rev John Thomas on August 8, 1831, at his home Pulela’ā, Pangai, Ha’apai. Pita Vi died in Ha’apai in 1893.

Mohenoa and Vi’s remains were re-interred at Tu’umoelau, which was named by Queen Nanasipau’u Tuku’aho.

The cemetery is owned by the Ha’apai District of the Free Wesleyan Church in Tonga.

Dr Puloka said the exhumation services respected the Tongan custom of the fonua (land) known as taufatungamotu’a.

The formal cultural part of the ceremony was led by two heralds from Haʻa Tufunga (the king’s carpenters) Ma’u ki Monotapu ‘o Ha’a Talafale and Latu Tufunga ‘o Loto Ha’angana.

The main points
• A two-day formal exhumation service in Ha’apai last week remembered two Tongan heroes who helped establish Christianity and formal education in Tonga.

• The ashes of the Rev Tevita Tonga Mohenoa and the Rev Pita Vi were dug up on November 12 and moved to their new resting place in Tuʻumoelau, Pangai, Haʻapai the next day.

• The Rev Mohenoa was first Head Tutor of Tupou College from 1869-1880 and then became the first Tongan Superintendent Minister of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga (FWCT) in Ha’apai District from 1882-1895.

• Pita Vī was one of the first Tongan converts to Christianity in Tonga and was a teacher and pastor for King Taufaʻahau I.

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