Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/84

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62
[ch.
Property and Inheritance.

not appear to be any ancient village sites now occupied, the old sites are well remembered and their proprietors known. Members of the various kema dwelling intermixed on their property in the village have their gardens intermixed in the matanga. It happens naturally, as a village is not inhabited by a local tribe, that some of the villagers have no property of their own in the village or in the neighbouring garden grounds, in which case their neighbours accommodate them with what they want. The matanga property is never absolutely in the individual but in the kema, being looked upon as having been cleared originally by the kema; portions are occupied in hereditary succession by families within the kema, by an original agreement which now has come to be a right. These ancient family lands pass of right to members of the same kema, ordinarily the sister's children. The whole matanga near a town is seldom under cultivation at the same time; some may pass, if the place is deserted, entirely into bush again, but is never strictly leiao, for its character is remembered. In the neighbourhood of a prosperous village a man, and his sons working with him, will often clear a piece of bush land and make it matanga. This then passes to his sons without question, being held to be his own, and so long as it is clearly remembered how the land was acquired it passes from father to son; but after a time the character of the property may be forgotten, and the nephews of a deceased proprietor will claim it from his sons and be supported by their kema; serious quarrels arise in this way. A chief, vunagi, differs in no way from another man in his right to property in komu and matanga[1]. If a man plants a cocoa-nut-tree, an areca palm-tree, or other useful tree on a friend's ground, the tree goes to the planter's son, and if the land-owner continues friendly will pass on without dispute. A

  1. Dikea the chief at Ravu drove away Logana and his family from that place on the pretext that Logana's brother-in-law had set fire to his canoe-house, but really to get possession of Logana's matanga, which was large and good. The dispossessed family at Olevuga keep their eyes on the property, waiting for Dikea's death to claim it.