Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

An Introduction to Polynesian Anthropology


page break


The occupation of Micronesia and other Pacific territories by the United States forces as a result of the defeat of Japan has opened up prospects for conducting research in the Pacific on a wider and perhaps more comprehensive scale than was previously possible. With this in mind, the National Research Council, the Social Research Council, and the American Council of Learned Societies cooperated in the formation of a committee consisting of Dr. Wilmot H. Bradley, Dr. Austin H. Clark, Dr. John W. Coulter, and Dr. Mortimer Graves. The committee met in Washington on August 11, 1944 and approved a statement which planned an appraisal of the work done in the four following fields: earth sciences, biological sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. The first unit of the appraisal was to cover Polynesia, and later units were planned to include Melanesia, Micronesia, the Philippines, and possibly Indonesia.

Dr. Coulter, who was appointed chairman of the survey and editor of the social science papers, invited me to prepare an appraisal of anthropology in Polynesia. The material was so extensive that, in order to do it justice, my report far exceeded the form of appraisal which the committee had in mind. As a large portion of the report deals with details concerning the intensive regional survey of anthropology in Polynesia conducted by Bishop Museum, the Trustees of the Museum have decided to publish the report independently, as a contribution to the survey.

The appraisal committee now working with the Committee on Pacific Investigation of the National Research Council under the chairmanship of Dr. Herbert E. Gregory has received papers on "Functional and psychological studies in Polynesia" by Edwin G. Burrows, "Acculturation in Polynesia" by Felix M. Keesing, and "Education in Polynesia" by Marie Keesing. These, with perhaps other papers, should form a volume completing the appraisal of Polynesian anthropology to which this volume is an introduction.

I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to Dr. Edwin G. Burrows, who read the manuscript of this report and suggested corrections and additions which have been gratefully adopted.

page 4

Scheme of the Work

In order to make as thorough a survey as possible, I reviewed the published accounts of the early voyages across the Pacific from the time of Magellan to the Wilkes Expedition. In this, I was fortunate that the Bishop Museum library contained a remarkably complete set of the first editions of the early Pacific voyages and the publications of the Hakluyt Society. For the purposes of the survey, it seemed more useful to deal with this literature in chronological sequence rather than in the usual alphabetical order of authors, for the date of the voyages stresses the priority value of early contact. In appraising the other literature, it became evident that a great deal of research had been done by Bishop Museum, particularly since 1920. It seemed only fair to that institution to record its activities in some detail rather than confine the appraisal to the bare recital of the literature it has published. Thus, the historical era of European contact with Polynesia is covered at the commencement period by the accounts of the early voyages and at the closing period, to date, by the publications of Bishop Museum. In between and overlapping the two periods mentioned, a good deal of literature has been published which, for want of a better term, I have classed as that of other writers. Here again, it seemed profitable to include some brief description of the various classes of people who contributed to the literature, the sources of information, and the institutions which encouraged the study and recording of material concerning the Polynesian people.

The work begins with introductory remarks on Polynesia and the Polynesian people, followed by some account of the Pacific explorers, later or other writers, and the work of Bishop Museum. The literature cited is divided into three groupings. The literature on the early voyages is listed chronologically (pp. 66-75), from the voyage of Mendana in 1595 to the voyages made in the first half of the nineteenth century; and the islands visited are cited. This is followed by a list of general literature (pp. 76-79) dealing with Polynesia as a whole or part, and arranged alphabetically under two headings, other writers and Bishop Museum publications.

The individual groups or islands are then dealt with, commencing with Easter Island in the far east, working west, then north, and finally south. Some introductory remarks about each island and its people are given before the selected lists of literature. The works are listed under the three groupings: early voyages with the date reference to the detailed list on pages 66-75, other writers arranged alphabetically, and Bishop Museum publications with the authors arranged alphabetically. Brief reference is also made to some of the outlying islands in Melanesia which are inhabited by people speaking the Polynesian language.