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The Material Culture of the Cook Islands (Aitutaki)


page vii


Te Rangi Hiroa (Dr. P. H. Buck), has asked me to write a short foreword to his essay on the Material Culture of the Cook Islands. I can only look upon the request as a compliment to myself, for he needs no sponsor in presenting to the public such a work as this.

I have known the Doctor from his school-days, and have watched with gratification the increasing interest he has shown in the critical observation and description of matters relating to the Polynesian race to which he belongs. His training has developed the natural analytical qualities of his mind, and he brings to the task a sympathy and enthusiasm grounded in his blood relationship with those whose work he is studying. He fortunately does not allow his enthusiasm to entice him to the promulgation of extravagant theories, but devotes himself almost entirely to the collection of reliable data, and, being Polynesian, he knows the grave risk involved in endeavouring to obtain the information he is seeking by the simple process of question and answer.

In addition to items of minor importance, Te Rangi Hiroa has published in the Journal of the Polynesian Society papers on Maori Somatology and the Evolution of Maori Clothing, which have established his reputation. The present work is of the same high standard. An intimate acquaintance with Maori arts and crafts has been of inestimable value in facilitating his enquiries and providing him with apt comparisons. The scope of the work is wide, though the actual enquiry was restricted almost solely to the Island of Aitutaki, a fact which makes it probable that nothing there of any importance has been overlooked.

The Board of Maori Ethnological Research will treasure the volume as a handsome legacy from Te Rangi Hiroa on his return to Hawaiki, the primeval home of his race. We lament his departure, but there is no room for local jealousies in scientific research, and we shall still regard Te Rangi Hiroa as our mokopuna, and claim with the Bernice P. Bishop Museum a share in the honours he will win in a wider field of work.

Herbert W. Williams.

August 27th, 1927.
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