The contact with Europeans has brought religious, political and social changes. Thus, have resulted in the loss of the primary functions and collective utility of the canoe.

First of all, with the rise of the new religion, people gradually forgot the rituals before the construction of the canoes. The sacred canoes disappeared at the same time when the marae were destroyed or abandoned.

After that, the occidental technology replaced the polynesian expertise and the ships, schooners, whaleboats and European canoes has brought the decline and later on the disappearance of the polynesian sailing canoes. Only the lagoon canoe or fishing canoe has survived.

But in the 1850, the canoe reapeared.

Perpetuating the tradition of the pre-europeans naval parades, the canoe is decorated for the annuals celebration: celebration for the Queen Pomare, celebration for the Emperor, and national celebration of July 14th or Tiurai.

During these celebrations the paddling races gain popularity but it got stuck as a seasonal practice and was restricted to the lagoon.

  1. Canoe decorated for the Emperor celebration. Engraving, Around 1859.
  2. Canoe – Swedish illustration, around 1860.
  3. « Indians from Moorea, 1846 » – Drawing from Cl. Ch.
  4. Decorated canoe for the Queen Pomare celebration – Anonymous drawing.


Tahitian landscape with a canoe – drawing from J-L Lejeune


Natiion celebration, around 1885 – Photography from Ch. Spitz.