An Account of the Voyages undertaken by the order of His Present Majesty, for making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, and successively performed by Commodore Byron, Captain Wallis, Captain Carteret, and Captain Cook, in the Dolphin, the Swallow, and the Endeavour: Drawn from the Journals which were kept by the several Commanders, and from the Papers of Joseph Banks, Esq. [Vol. II]
The Ceremonies of an Indian Funeral particularly described: General Observations on the Subject: A Character found among the Indians, to which the Ancients paid great Veneration: A Robbery at the Fort, and its Consequences; with a Specimen of Indian Cookery, and various Incidents.
On the 5th we kept his Majesty's birth-day; for though it is the 4th, we were unwilling to celebrate it during the absence of the two parties who had been sent out to observe the Transit. We had several of the Indian Chiefs at our entertainment, who drank his Majesty's health by the name of Kihiargo, which was the nearest imitation they could produce of King George.
About this time died an old woman of some rank, who was related to Tomio, which gave us an opportunity to see how they disposed of the body, and confirmed us in our opinion that these people, contrary to the present custom of all other nations now known, never bury their dead. In the middle of a small square, neatly railed in with bamboo, the awning of a canoe was raised upon two posts, and under this the page 2 body was deposited upon such a frame as has before been described: it was covered with fine cloth, and near it was placed bread-fruit, fish, and other provisions: we supposed that the food was placed there for the spirit of the deceased, and consequently, that these Indians had some confused notion of a separate state; but upon our applying for further information to Tu-bourai Tamaide, he told us, that the food was placed there as an offering to their gods. They do not, however, suppose, that the gods eat, any more than the Jews supposed that Jehovah could dwell in a house: the offering is made here upon the same principle as the Temple was built at Jerusalem, as an expression of reverence and gratitude, and a solicitation of the more immediate presence of the Deity. In the front of the area was a kind of stile, where the relations of the deceased stood to pay the tribute of their sorrow; and under the awning were innumerable small pieces of cloth, on which the tears and blood of the mourners had been shed; for in their paroxysms of grief it is a universal custom to wound themselves with the shark's tooth. Within a few yards two occasional houses were set up, in one of which some relations of the deceased constantly resided, and in the other the chief mourner, who is always a man, and who keeps there a very singular dress, in which a ceremony is performed that will be described in its turn. Near the place where the dead are thus set up to rot, the bones are afterwards buried.
What can have introduced among these people the custom of exposing their dead above ground, till the flesh is consumed by putrefaction, and then burying the bones, it is perhaps impossible to guess; but it is remarkable, that ælian and Apollonius Rhodius impute a similar practice to the ancient inhabitants of Colchis, a country near Pontus in Asia, now called Mingrelia; except that among them this manner of disposing of the dead did not extend to both sexes; the women they buried; but the men they wrapped in a hide, and hung up in the air by a chain. This practice among the Colchians is referred to a religious cause. The principal objects of their worship were the Earth and the Air; and it is supposed that, in conse- page 3 quence of some superstitious notion, they devoted their dead to both. Whether the natives of Otaheite had any notion of the same kind, we were never able certainly to determine; but we soon discovered, that the repositories of their dead were also places of worship. Upon this occasion it may be observed, that nothing can be more absurd than the notion that the happiness or misery of a future life depends, in any degree, upon the disposition of the body when the state of probation is past; yet that nothing is more general than a solicitude about it. However cheap we may hold any funeral rites which custom has not familiarized, or superdition rendered sacred, most men gravely deliberate how to prevent their body from being broken by the mattock and devoured by the worm, when it is no longer capable of sensation; and purchase a place for it in holy ground, when they believe the lot of its future existence to be irrevocably determined. So strong is the association of pleasing or painful ideas with certain opinions and actions which affect us while we live, that we involuntarily act as if it was equally certain that they would affect us in the same manner when we are dead, though this is an opinion that nobody will maintain. Thus it happens, that the desire of preserving from reproach even the name that we leave behind us, or of procuring it honour, is one of the most powerful principles of action, among the inhabitants of the most speculative and enlightened nations. Posthumous reputation, upon every principle, must be acknowledged to have no influence upon the dead; yet the desire of obtaining and securing it, no force of reason, no habits of thinking, can subdue, except in those whom habitual baseness and guilt have rendered indifferent to honour and shame while they lived. This indeed seems to be among the happy imperfections of our nature, upon which the general good of society in a certain measure depends; for as some crimes are supposed to be prevented by hanging the body of the criminal in chains after he is dead, so in consequence of the same association of ideas, much good is procured to society, and much evil prevented, by a desire of preventing disgrace or procuring honour to a name, when nothing but a name remains.page 4
Perhaps no better use can be made of reading an account of manners altogether new, by which the follies and absurdities of mankind are taken out of that particular connection in which habit has reconciled them to us, than to consider in how many instances they are essentially the same. When an honest devotee of the Church of Rome reads, that there are Indians on the banks of the Ganges, who believe that they shall secure the happiness of a future state by dying with a cow's tail in their hands, he laughs at their folly and superstition; and if these Indians were to be told, that there are people upon the continent of Europe, who imagine that they shall derive the same advantage from dying with the slipper of St. Francis upon their foot, they would laugh in their turn. But if, when the Indian heard the account of the Catholic, and the Catholic that of the Indian, each was to reflect, that there was no difference between the absurdity of the slipper and of the tail; but that the veil of prejudice and custom, which covered it in their own case, was withdrawn in the other, they would turn their knowledge to a profitable purpose.
Having observed that bread-fruit had for some days been brought in less quantities than usual, we enquired the reason; and were told, that there being a great shew of fruit upon the trees, they had been thinned all at once, in order to make a kind of our paste, which the natives call Mahie, and which, in consequence of having undergone a fermentation, will keep a considerable time, and supply them with food when no ripe fruit is to be had.
On the 10th, the ceremony was to be performed, in honour of the old woman whose sepulchral tabernacle has just been described, by the chief mourner; and Mr. Banks had so great a curiosity to see all the mysteries of the solemnity, that he determined to take a part in it, being told, that he could be present upon no other condition. In the evening, therefore, he repaired to the place where the body lay, and was received by the daughter of the deceased, and several other persons, among whom was a boy about fourteen years old, who were to assist in the ceremony. Tubourai Tamaide was to be the principal mourner; page 5 and his dress was extremely fantastical, though not unbecoming. Mr. Banks was stripped of his European clothes, and a small piece of cloth being tied round his middle, his body was smeared with charcoal and water, as low as the shoulders, till it was as black as that of a negroe; the same operation was performed upon several others, among whom were some women, who were reduced to a state as near to nakedness as himself; the boy was blacked all over, and then the procession set forward. Tubourai Tamaide uttered something, which was supposed to be a prayer, near the body, and did the same when he came up to his own house: When this was done, the procession was continued towards the fort, permission having been obtained to approach it upon this occasion. It is the custom of the Indians to fly from these processions with the utmost precipitation, so that as soon as those who were about the fort saw it at a distance, they hid themselves in the woods. It proceeded from the fort along the shore, and put to flight another body of Indians, consisting of more than an hundred, every one hiding himself under the first shelter that he could find; it then crossed the river, and entered the woods, passing several houses, all which were deserted, and not a single Indian could be seen during the rest of the procession, which continued more than half an hour. The office that Mr. Banks performed was called that of the Nineveh, of which there were two besides himself; and the natives having all disappeared, they came to the chief mourner, and said imatata, there are no people; after which the company was dismissed to wash themselves in the river, and put on their customary apparel.
On the 12th, complaint being made to me, by some of the natives, that two of the seamen had taken from them several bows and arrows, and some strings of plaited hair; I examined the matter, and finding the charge well supported, I punished each of the criminals with two dozen lashes.
Their bows and arrows have not been mentioned before, nor were they often brought down to the fort. This day, however, Tubourai Tamaide brought down his, in consequence of a challenge which he had received from Mr. Gore. The Chief supposed it was page 6 to try who could send the arrow farthest; Mr. Gore, who best could hit a mark: and as Mr. Gore did not value himself upon shooting to a great distance, nor the Chief upon hitting a mark, there was no trial of skill between them. Tubourai Tamaide, however, to shew us what he could do, drew his bow, and sent an arrow, none of which are feathered, two hundred and seventy-four yards, which is something more than a seventh, and something less than a sixth part of a mile. Their manner of shooting is somewhat singular; they kneel down, and the moment the arrow is discharged drop the bow.
Mr. Banks, in his morning walk this day, met a number of the natives, whom, upon inquiry, he found to be travelling musicians; and having learned where they were to be at night, we all repaired to the place. The band consisted of two flutes and three drums, and we found a great number of people assembled upon the occasion. The drummers accompanied the musick with their voices, and, to our great surprize, we discovered that we were generally the subject of the song. We did not expect to have found among the uncivilized inhabitants of this sequestered spot, a character which has been the subject of such praise and veneration, where genius and knowledge have been most conspicuous; yet these were the bards or minstrels of Otaheite. Their song was unpremeditated, and accompanied with musick; they were continually going about from place to place, and they were rewarded by the master of the house, and the audience, with such things as one wanted, and the other could spare.
On the 14th, we were brought into new difficulties and inconvenience, by another robbery at the fort. In the middle of the night one of the natives contrived to steal an iron coal-rake, that was made use of for the oven. It happened to be set up against the inside of the wall, so that the top of the handle was visible from without; and we were informed that the thief, who had been seen lurking. there it the evening, came secretly about three o'clock in the morning, and, watching his opportunity when the centinel's back page 7 was turned, very dexterously laid hold of it with long crooked stick, and drew it over the wall. thought it of some consequence, if possible, to put an end to these practices at once, by doing something that should make it the common interest of the natives themselves to prevent them. I had given strict orders that they should not be fired upon, even when detected in these attempts, for which I had many reasons: the common centinels were by no means sit to be enrusted with a power of life and death, to be exerted whenever they should think sit; and I had already experienced, that they were ready to take away the lives that were in their power, upon the slightest occasion; neither indeed did I think that the thefts which these people committed against us were, in them, crimes worthy of death: that thieves are hanged in England, I thought no reason why they should be shot in Otaheite; because, with respect to the natives, it would have been an execution by a law ‘ex post facto:’ they had no such law among themselves, and it did not appear to me that we had any right to make such a law for them. That they should abstain from thest, or be punished with death, was not one of the conditions under which they claimed the advantages of civil society, as it is among us; and as I was not willing to expose them to fire arms, loaded with shot, neither could I perfectly approve of firing only with powder: at first, indeed, the noise and the smoke would alarm them, but when they found that no mischief followed, they would be led to despise the weapons themselves, and proceed to insults, which would make it necessary to put them to the test, and from which they would be deterred by the very sight of a gun, if it was never used but with effect. At this time, an accident furnished me with what I thought a happy expedient. It happened that above twenty of their sailing canoes were just come in with a supply of fish; upon these I immediately seized, and bringing them into the river behing the fort, gave publick notice, that except the rake, and all the rest of the things which from time to time had been stolen, were returned, the canoes should be burned. This menace I ventured to publish, though I had no design to put it into execution, making no page 8 doubt but that it was well known in whose possession the stolen goods were, and that as restitution was thus made a common cause, they would all of them in a short time be brought back. A list of the things was made out, consisting principally of the rake, the musket which had been taken from the marine when the Indian was shot, the pistols which Mr. Banks lost with his clothes at Atahourou, a sword belonging to one of the petty officers, and the water cask. About noon the rake was restored, and great solicitation was made for the release of the canoes; but I still insisted upon my original condition. The next day came, and nothing farther was restored, at which I was much surprised, for the people were in the utmost distress for the fish, which in a short time would be spoiled; I was therefore reduced to a disagreeable situation, either of releasing the canoes, contrary to what I had solemnly and publicly declared, or to detain them, to the great injury of those who were innocent, without answering any good purpose to ourielves: as a temporary expedient, I permitted them to take the fish, but still detained the canoes. This very licence, however, was productive of new confusion and injury; for, it not being easy at once to distinguish to what particular persons the several lots of fish belonged, the canoes were plundered, under favour of this circumstance, by those who had no right to any part of their cargo. Most pressing instances were still made that the canoes might be restored; and I having now the greatest reason to believe, either that the things for which I detained them were not in the island', or that those who suffered by their detention had not sufficient influence over the thieves to prevail upon them to relinquish their booty, determined at length to give them up, not a little mortified at the bad success of my project.
Another accident also about this time was, notwith-standing all our caution, very near embroiling us with the Indians. I sent the boat on shore with an officer to get ballast for the ship, and not immediately finding stones convenient for the purpose, he began to pull down some part of an inclosure where they deposited the bones of their dead: this the Indians violently opposed, and a messenger came down to the tents to ac- page 9 quaint the officers that they would not suffer it. Mr. Banks immediately repaired to the place, and an amicable end was soon put to the dispute, by sending the boat's crew to the river, where stones enough were to be gathered without a possibility of giving offence. It is very remarkable, that these Indians appeared to be much more jealous of what was done to the dead than the living. This was the only measure in which they ventured to oppose us, and the only insult that was offered to any individual among us was upon a similar occasion. Mr. Monkhouse happening one day to pull a flower from a tree which grew in one of their sepulchral inclosures, an Indian, whose jealousy had probably been upon the watch, came suddenly behind him and struck him: Mr. Monkhouse laid hold of him, but he was instantly rescued by two more, who took hold of Mr. Monkhouse's hair, and forced him to quit his hold of their companion, and then ran away, without offering him any farther violence.
In the evening of the 19th, while the canoes were still detained, we received a visit from Oberea, which surprized us not a little, as she brought with her none of the things that had been stolen, and knew that she was suspected of having some of them in her custody. She said, indeed, that her favourite, Obadee, whom she had beaten and dismissed, had taken them away; but she seemed conscious that she had no right to be believed: she discovered the strongest signs of fear, yet she surmounted it with astonishing resolution, and was very pressing to deep with her attendants in Mr. Banks's tent. In this, however, she was not gratified; the affair of the jackets was too recent, and the tent was besides filled with other people. Nobody else seemed willing to entertain her, and she therefore, with great appearance of mortification and disappointment, spent the night in her canoe.
The next morning early she returned to the sort, with her canoe and every thing that it contained, putting herself wholly into our power, with something like greatness of mind, which excited our wonder and admiration. As the most effectual means to bring about a reconciliation, she presented us with a hog, and several other things, among which was a dog. page 10 We had lately learned, that these animals were esteemed by the Indians as more delicate food than their pork; and upon this occasion we determined to try the experiment: the dog, which was very fat, we consigned over to Tupia, who undertook to perform the double office of butcher and cook. He killed him, by holding his hands close over his mouth and nose, an operation which continued above a quarter of an hour. While this was doing, a hole was made in the ground about a foot deep, in which a fire was kindled, and some small stones placed in layers alternately with the wood to heat; the dog was then singed, by holding him over the fire, and, by scraping him with a shell, the hair was taken off as clean as if he had been scalded in hot water: he was then cut up with the same instrument, and his entrails being taken out, were sent to the sea, where being carefully washed, they were put into cocoa-nut-shells, with what blood had come from the body: when the hole was sufficiently heated, the fire was taken out, and some of the stones which were not so hot as to discolour any thing that they touched, being placed at the bottom, were covered with green leaves: the dog, with the entrails, was then placed upon the leaves, and other leaves being laid upon them, the whole was covered with the rest of the hot stones, and the mouth of the hole close stopped with mould: in somewhat less than four hours it was again opened, and the dog taken out excellently baked, and we all agreed that he made a very good dish. The dogs which are here bread to be eaten, taste no animal food, but are kept wholly upon bread-fruit, cocoanuts, yams, and other vegetables of the like kind: all the flesh and fish eaten by the inhabitants is dressed in the same way.
On the 21st, we were visited at the fort by a Chief, called Oamo, whom we had never seen before, and who was treated by the natives with uncommon respect; he brought with him a boy about seven years old, and a young woman about sixteen: the boy was carried upon a man's back, which we considered as a piece of state, for he was as well able to walk as any present. As soon as they were in sight, Oberea, and several other natives who were in page 11 the fort, went out to meet them, having first uncovered their heads and bodies as low as the waist: as they came on, the same ceremony was performed by all the natives who were without the fort. Uncovering the body, therefore, is in this country probably a mark of respect; and as all parts are here exposed with equal indifference, the ceremony of uncovering it from the waist downwards, which was performed by Oorattooa, might be nothing more than a different mode of compliment, adapted to persons of a different rank. The chief came into the tent, but no entreaty could prevail upon the young woman to follow him, though she seemed to refuse contrary to her inclination; the natives without were indeed all very solicitous to prevent her; sometimes when her resolution seemed to sail, almost using force: the boy also they restrained in the same manner; but Dr. Solander happening to meet him at the gate, took him by the hand, and led him in be fore the people were aware of it: as soon, however, as those that were within saw him, they took care to have him sent out.
These circumstances having strongly excited our curiosity, we enquired who they were, and were informed, that Oamo was the husband of Oberea, tho' they had been a long time separated by mutual consent; and that the young woman and the boy were their children. We learnt also, that the boy, whose name was Terridiri, was heir apparent to the sovereignty of the island, and that his sister was intended for his wife, the marriage being deferred only till he should arrive at a proper age. The sovereign at this time was a son of Whappai, whose name was Outou, and who, as before has been observed, was a minor. Whappai, Oamao, and Tootahah, were brothers: Whappai was the eldest, and Oamo the second; so that, Whappai having no child but Outou, Terridiri, the son of his next brother Oamo, was heir to the sovereignty. It will, perhaps, seem strange that a boy should be sovereign during the life of his father: but, according to the eustom of the country, a child succeeds to a father's title and authority as soon as it is born: a regent is then elected, and the father of the new sovereign is generally continued in his authority, page 12 under that title, till his child is of age; but, at this time, the choice had fallen upon Tootahah, the uncle, in consequence of his having distinguished himself in a War. Oamo asked many questions concerning England and its inhabitants, by which he appeared to have great shrewdness and understanding.