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Ethnology of Tongareva



Because so many of the islands were settled and because divisions of the large islands put war parties in the field it may be inferred that the atoll once supported a much larger population that it does at present. The estimate that 1000 were taken away by the Peruvian slavers in 1864 makes it likely that the pre-European population was about 2000. A contrast is revealed by the figures of the last few censuses.

Year Males Females Total
1906 420
1911 335
1916 326
1921 376
1926 201 189 390

The last census does not include five Europeans. The figures show a decrease down to 1916, after which there is a definite increase.

The Cook and Other Islands Report of the New Zealand Government for the year ending March 31, 1929, states that for the year the births were 22 (males, 17; females, 5) and the deaths 4 (males, 1; females, 3). There was thus an increase in population of 18 for the year.

The early navigators remarked on the well set up figures of the men. Kotzebue (14, p. 217) stated that they were strong and well made, and that the elderly people were corpulent and large.

Time permitted of the anthropometrical measuring of but 21 fullblooded males, details of which will be published later. A few remarks, however, are offered here.

The skin color is darker, probably due to extra exposure in fishing and diving for pearl shells and pipi pearls. The hair is black in color and straight or in low waves. Beards are not now worn but Lamont (15) remarked that they were abundant, and some were curled and with auburn ends. He also remarked on auburn hair among some of the women. The men have little or no hair upon the body. The eyes are medium-brown to dark-brown with no trace of the Mongoloid fold at the inner angle. The foreheads are well formed and the glabella is more prominent than in the people of the Cook Islands.

Early writers remarked on the tall stature of the men, but the small series averaged 170 cm., which is shorter than in most branches of Polynesian stock.

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The maximum head length averaged 192 mm.; the head width, 158 mm.; the minimal frontal, 104 mm.; and the cephalic index, 82.3. The faces of many were very high and broad, the average face height being 130 mm.; bizygomatic width, 149.5 mm.; bigoniac, 116.6 mm., and the face index, 86.

The nose matches the face with the average height of 62 mm.; width, 43.2 mm.; and nasal index, 69. The high, broad faces, broad noses, and prominent glabellae make the countenance strong and massive in expression.

The women are much more slender than the men, and the expression is softer and milder. As in other branches of their race, their hands are small and beautifully formed.

Both sexes have all the hospitality of their race and are ever ready to make presents of coconuts and fish. They have so few material goods with which to express their feelings that the giving of pipi pearls, which they can secure by diving, has become their method of expressing friendship to the visitor who sojourns among them. They are quick to express their opinions and sometimes a village argument takes place with so much noise that a stranger imagines that blood will flow. Having expressed themselves, sometimes physically, the tumult subsides and no bad feeling is retained. The people are honest and outspoken, and kind, under an apparently austere demeanor.