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The Coming of the Maori


page 331


In western culture, children remain in the parentalhome until they reach adult age, then disperse to marry or to seek their fortunes elsewhere. They usually establish their homes at a distance from the parental home, and, with each generation, the descendants become more and more widely scattered and blood ties become attenuated and forgotten. After the third generation it is increasingly difficult if not impossible to assemble all the living descendants of the original pair.

In Polynesia, the family expanded without dispersing to distant parts. Within the family domicile, three and even four generations might live together. When overcrowding occurred, new households were established in close proximity to the parental home. Daughters who married men from distant families, went to live in their husbands' homes, but sons who married outside women brought their wives to live with them. Outside women were received into the husband's family through the marriage tie, but their children became an integral part of the family group through blood descent from the father. In the course of time, the descendants of the original family spread over a district, but they remained neighbours united by a blood tie which continued strong and enduring. The members of the expanded family group were readily assembled at family meeting places to discuss and deal with matters which affected the common welfare.

That the expanded family group held together by blood descent from common ancestors was an old-established institution in Polynesia, is proved by the traditional history of the various islands. Community undertakings were carried out by members of the same family group. Thus, when overpopulation, family disagreements, or wars against more powerful neighbours, forced people to take to the open sea and seek new homes in distant islands, the leaders and their crews were composed usually of blood relatives. When they established themselves in new lands, the small groups developed along traditional lines into new family groups still united by the blood tie of common descent.