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Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture

Language and Ethnology are Surer Evidences of — Origin

Language and Ethnology are Surer Evidences of

(7) Firmer ground is reached when affinity of race and even affinity of language is appealed to. There are tribes in Indonesia that have a strong resemblance to Polynesians, and the Indonesian dialects have a fair proportion of their vocabulary parallel, if not identical, with that of the Polynesian dialects. And much of this verbal community has close relationship to Sanskrit words, a fact that points to India as the true and primitive source of the resemblances.

(8) The ethnological ground is less sure. There are tribes in parts of Sumatra, Borneo, Gilolo, and Ceram that have distinctly Caucasian features. But these might well be the scattered remains of that neolithic Caucasian migration which traced the megalithic route through Southern Asia into Bur-mah, and then erected the huge monolithic monuments in Sumatra and Borneo, the former carved roughly into human features, that are quite unlike those of the Malay or Papuan people. This race must have come into Indonesia by land, and must be that which modified the Mongol features of the Burman and the Malay. And ages before, when the bridge from Asia to Australia was but little broken, palolithic Caucasians must have entered this region. We cannot therefore take the presence of these Caucasian-like tribes in the islands of the archipelago as any proof that the ancestors of the Polynesians rested in them, unless some of them show distinctly Polynesian features. And that is undoubtedly the case with the inhabitants of the Mentawi Island, off the page 103south-west coast of Sumatra, and some tribes on the north of Ceram. They are acknowledged by all travellers to be scarcely distinguishable from Polynesians.

(9) We may therefore accept these two as points on the route that the Polynesian migration took. Had they followed the land route they would have lost some of their linguistic and racial individuality before they reached Indonesia. The very fact that the last Polynesian migration is a unity when it reaches its Pacific home, if we are to trust the similarity, if not identity, of their mythologies, dialects, traditions, and genealogies, makes it almost a certainty that its route from its primitive continental home was wholly by sea. Nor could it have acquired its maritime and long-voyaging capacity under many centuries if it had been a land migration to begin with, unless by intermixture with, or rather absorption by, a race already maritime. Such a revolution as the transformation of a race of landsmen into a race of sailors cannot be the work of a century or two.

(10) We may take the Polynesian features of the Mentawi Islanders as a true waymark of the Polynesian migration, especially as the islanders to the north of them and the tribes on the opposite coast of Sumatra show no such resemblance. If they came from any of the coasts of India, the islands off the south-west coast of Sumatra would naturally be the first resting-place. And were geographical names to be relied on as a proof of race and origin, we might accept Ceram as a later resting-place, and the name of Ceylon as an indication that that island was an earlier; for Ceram or Selan and Ceylon are practically the same word, and in old Maori traditions, according to Mr. Percy Smith, Herangi, identical with the Rarotongan Erangi and the Hawaiian Helani, is an ancient name of a land that the Polynesians came from. And, if geographical etymology were not uncertain ground, we might accept the name as Aryan in its origin, and a variant of page 104Zealand, or sea-land, the favourite Indo-European name for an island.