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An Introduction to Polynesian Anthropology


The field survey on Polynesia has been practically completed. Expeditions under the auspices of Bishop Museum have done field work in every island group except Easter Island, Niue, Chatham Island, New Zealand, and the Ellice Islands. Easter Island, Niue, and Chatham Island were visited by trained anthropologists from other institutions, but Bishop Museum published the results of their field work. New Zealand was left to her own capable students. Of the Ellice Islands, the atolls of Funafuti and Vaitupu have been studied by capable men, but the other atolls in the group may provide additional material to round off the picture. Thus, for Polynesia proper, it may be said that the only group now worth a field expedition is the Ellice Islands. This statement is not meant as a deterrent to people with private means who may wish to follow up some special project in the field, particularly in acculturation and psycho-anthropology.

Bishop Museum publications of the field studies have practically covered every phase of anthropology in history, legends, material culture, social organization, religion, and physical anthropology. Though the information may be thin in parts, such weaknesses are not due to the authors but to the fact that the native informants could not supply what they did not have. The information supplied by present-day informants was supplemented by earlier information contained in old native manuscripts, and the published literature was carefully combed for additional information. Thus, the data on each island group has been brought up-to-date and will save students the tiresome task of searching through other works which may not be available to them. Though I may be suspected of bias, I consider that the regional survey of Polynesia has been page 124well done and that the Bishop Museum publications may be regarded as the authoritative works on this area.

Though the regional survey has been completed with the one exception of the Ellice Islands, there remain some subjects which have yet to be worked up from field notes and the existing literature. Some of these are given below under subject headings.