September 9 1842, Tahiti becomes a French protectorate, and it is necessary for the French leaders to obtain the adhesion of the local population. Little by little, polynesian canoes races will become the focal event of the French patriotic festival.
Patriotic Festivals (1842-1877)
The prohibitions on traditional amusements enacted before the protectorate are withdrawn. The dances start again and canoe races are created.
The Colonial Administration notice that the traditional va’a races are a real success with the natives and therefore decide to institutionalize this activity. The European races were distinguished by rowing, sailing and whaling mounted either by Europeans or by the « natives », without ever competing against each other, to avoid conflicts.
To the Tiurai (1881) from the Heiva (1984) : The local celebrations
1st celebration of July 14 simultaneously in Tahiti (Papeete and Taravao) and Moorea (Papetoai), under the name of « Tiurai », coming from the English « july ».
In the regattas only one « indigenous » race is in the program, the va’a toru. The rest concerns European boat races.
Tiurai becomes Heiva, meaning « entertainment » in pre-European times. A highly symbolic change that fits into a context of cultural affirmation. Even thoug the celebrations are folkloric and festive, the trials are diversified and are gradually regulated.
Until the 1900s, the strong Christian influence imposed the concealment of the body even during the canoe races, « in order to try to control the instincts ». (Archipol n ° 17 « The origins of Heiva i Tahiti: the national festival of yesterday »)