Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/48

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34
POLYNESIA


support the theory that the first Polynesian settlement in the East Pacific was in Samoa, and that thence the various branches of the race made their way in all directions. Most likely Samoa was the first group permanently occupied by them. Owing to the admixture of the Polynesians with the Papuans in Fiji some authorities have thought the first settlement was in those islands, and that the settlers were eventually driven thence by the Papuan occupiers. We can, however, account for the presence of Polynesian blood in Fiji in another way, viz. by the intercourse that has been kept up between the people of Tonga and Fiji. If the first resting-place of the Polynesians was in that group, there is good reason to believe that Samoa was the first permanent home of the race.

It used to be doubted whether these people could have gone from the Indian archipelago so far eastward, because the prevailing winds and currents are from the east. But it is now well known that at times there are westerly winds in the region over which they would have to travel, and that there would be no insuperable difficulties in the way of such a voyage. The Polynesians are invariably navigators. There is ample evidence that in early times they were much better seamen than they are at present. Indeed their skill in navigation has greatly declined since they have become known to Europeans. They used to construct decked vessels capable of carrying one or two hundred persons, with water and stores sufficient for a voyage of some weeks duration. These vessels were made of planks well fitted and sewn together, the joints being caulked and pitched! It is only in recent times that the construction of such vessels has ceased. The people had a -knowledge of the stars, of the rising and setting of the constellations at different seasons of the year; by this means they determined the favourable season for making a voyage and directed their course.

The Polynesians were by no means a savage people when they entered the Pacific. Indeed their elaborate historical legends show that they possessed a considerable amount of civilization. Those who are familiar with these legends, and have studied native manners and customs, see many unmistakable proofs that the Polynesians had, at their migration, considerable knowledge and culture, and that the race has greatly deteriorated.

The Polynesians are physically a very fine race. On some islands they average 5 ft. ro in. in height. De Quatrefages, in a table giving the stature of different races of men, ” puts the natives of Samoa and Tonga as the tallest people in the world. He gives 5 ft. 9-92 in. as their average height. They are well developed in proportion to their height. Their colour is a brown, lighter or darker generally according to the amount of their exposure to the sun-being darker on some of the atolls where the people spend much time in fishing, and among fishermen on the volcanic islands, and lighter among women, chiefs and others less exposed than the bulk of the people. Their hair is dark brown or black; smooth and curly, very different from the frizzly mop of the Papuan or the lank straight locks of the Malay. They have very little beard. Their features are generally fairly regular and often beautiful; eyes invariably black, and in some persons oblique; jaws not projecting, except in a few instances; lips of medium thickness; the noses are naturally long, well shaped and arched, but many are artificially fattened at the bridge in infancy. Their foreheads are fairly high, but rather narrow. The young of both sexes are good-looking. The men often have more regular features than the women. Formerly the men paid more attention to personal appearance than the women. Polynesians generally are of singularly cleanly habits, love bathing, and have a taste for neatness and order. Their clothing is simple: a loin cloth for the men and for the women a girdle or petticoat of leaves. Sometimes women cover the shoulders, and on great occasions the men robe themselves in tapa, bark-cloth. The men are usually Coco-nut fibre and the gum which exudes from the bread-fruit tree are generally used for " caulking ” and “ pitching " canoes. The Human Species (International Scientific Series), pp. 57-60. tattooed in elaborate designs from the navel to the thigh, and often around mouth and eyes.

As a race the Polynesians are somewhat apathetic. An enervating climate and lavish natural resources incline them to lead easy lives. On the more barren islands, and on those more distant from the equator, they show more energy. Under certain circumstances they become excitable, and manifest a kind of care-for-nothing spirit. As savages they were strict* in their religious observances and religion came into almost every action of life, and they have been, in most instances, easily led to accept Christianity. Their essential trait is their perennial cheerfulness, and their fondness for dance and song and every sort of amusement.” They are shrewd, intelligent and possess much common sense. Where they have from early years enjoyed the advantages of a good education, Polynesian youths have proved themselves to possess intellectual powers of no mean order. They are almost invariably fluent speakers; with many of them oratory seems to be a natural gift; it is also carefully cultivated. An orator will hold the interest of his hearers for hours together at a political gathering, and in his speech he will bring in historical allusions and precedents, and will make apt quotations from ancient legends in a manner which would do credit to the best parliamentary orators. Many of them are very brave, and think little of self-sacrifice for others where duty or family honour is concerned.

Polynesian society is divided into the family and the clan. Each clan has a name which is usually borne by one of the oldest members, who is the chief or head for the time being. This clan system no doubt generally prevailed in early times, and was the origin of the principal chieftainships. But changes have been made in most of the islands. In some the head of one clan has become king over several. In many cases large clans have been divided into sections under secondary heads, and have even been subdivided. As a rule near relations do not intermarry. In some islands this rule is rigidly adhered to. There have been exceptions, however, especially in the case of high chiefs; but usually great care is taken to prevent the union of those within the prescribed limits of consanguinity. Children generally dwell with their kin on the father's side, but they have equal rights on the mother's side, and sometimes they take up their abode with their mother's family. The only names used to express particular relationships are father and mother, son and daughter, brother and sister. There is usually. no distinction between brothers (or sisters) and cousins, all the children of brothers and sisters speak of each other as brothers and sisters, and they call uncles and aunts fathers and mothers. Above the relationship of parents all are simply ancestors, no term being used for grandfather which would not equally apply to any more remote male ancestor. In the same way there is no distinctive term for grandchild. A man speaks of his grandchild as his sort or daughter, or simply as his child! Polygamy was often practised, especially by chiefs, and also concubinage. In some places a widow was taken by the brother of her deceased husband, or, failing the brother, by some other relative of the deceased, as an additional wife. Divorce was an easy matter, and of frequent occurrence; but. as a rule, a divorced wife would not marry again without the consent of her former husband. An adulterer was always liable to be killed by the aggrieved husband, or by some member of his clan. I f the culprit himself could not be reached, any member of the clan was liable to suffer in his stead. In some islands female virtue was highly regarded. Perhaps of all the groups Samoa stood hi hest in this respect. There was a special ordeal through which a bride passed to prove her virginity, and a proof of her immorality brought disgrace upon all her relatives. But in other islands there was much freedom in the relations of the sexes. Owing to the almost promiscuous intercourse which prevailed among a portion of the race, in some groups titles descended through the mother and not through the father. In Hawaii there was a peculiar system of marriage 3 Wrestling and boxing, a kind of hockey and football, canoe and foot races, walking-matches, swimming, archery, cock lighting, fishing-matches and pieon-catching are among their pastimes. Of indoor ames they have a number, many being of a gambling nature. hiuch time is spent, especially after the evening meal, in asking riddles, in rhyming, &c. The recital of songs and myths is a common amusement, and on special occasions there is dancing. The night-dances were generally accompanied by much indecency and immorality.

4 Dr Lewis H. Morgan, in Ancient Society, pp. 419-423, makes the Polynesians to have distinctive terms for grandfather, grandmother, randson and granddaughter. In this he is mistaken. It is evident from his own lists that the Hawaiian kupuna means simply an ancestor. In like manner moopuna simply means a descendant of any generation after the first.