Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/77

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iii.]
55
Chiefs in Banks Islands.

in Vanua Lava and Mota. Still there was a name meaning chief, etvusmel, tavusmele, and a native of Motlav who resided some weeks in Florida, in the district where Takua was counted a great chief, bears witness that he saw no great difference between that vunagi and the etvusmel of his own home[1]. The succession of the Etvusmel is declared by him to have been from father to son, as far as can be remembered, an important point to notice where descent in family goes by the mother; and it is said that the chief was always of the great clan or kin, the veve liwoa, an expression which also requires explanation. The explanation is that in practice, as in the devolution of property and in the handing on of religious and magic rites, a man always put as far as he could his son into his own place, and a rich and powerful man would secure a high place in the Suqe for his son in very early years; thus the great man's son would succeed to his place, and become to some extent an hereditary chief. The father and the son would always be of different sides of the house; and, as at Florida the chiefs were generally of the kema which happened to be most numerous at the time, so in the Banks' Islands, where the divisions are but two, and each of them in alternate generations more numerous than the other, the chief man was regularly found on the most powerful side of the house. Thus it can be said that the succession of Etvusmel at Motlav has been from father to son as long as can be remembered, and will so continue, though with lessened consequence. Besides those who were really chiefs many men were called 'great men,' and had considerable influence in their villages, men who had been

  1. The name no doubt refers to the rank obtained in the Suqe club by killing pigs; Ta vus mele is the man who kills for the mele. Even now when the population of Motlav is Christian, they still among themselves call Stephen Etvusmel at Losalav, and Abraham at Melwo, 'o sul we toga alalanrara, pa gate nom mava tama we tuai, the people remain under those two, but do not regard them with the same respect as in old days.' At Losalav the former Etvusmel, Molovlad, left a son who is now under Stephen; and when the latter dies this John Semtambok will succeed. So they agree among themselves now, on the ground that he is the son of the late chief, high in the Suqe club, and of the side of the house that now predominates, i.e. of the veve liwoa.