Former customs on Wairuku river—Affecting instance of infanticide—Extent of infanticide; motives to its practice; humane efforts of the chiefs for preventing it—Account of the native methods of curing diseases—Tradition of the origin of medicine—Waiakea bay—Conversation with natives of the Marquesian islands—Farewell visit to Maaro—Voyage to Laupahoehoe—Description of a double canoe—Native hospitality.
Returning from Pueo, on the 12th I visited Wairuku, a beautiful stream of water flowing rapidly over a rocky bed, with frequent falls, and many places eligible for the erection of watermills of almost any description. Makoa and the natives pointed out a square rock in the middle of the stream, on which, during the reign of Tamehameha, and former kings, a toll used to be paid by every traveller who passed over the river. Whenever any one approached the stream, he stood on the brink, and called to the collector of the toll, who resided on the opposite side. He came down with a broad piece of board, which he placed on the rock above mentioned. Those who wished to cross met him there, and deposited on the board whatever articles had been brought; and if satisfactory, the person was allowed to pass the river. It did not appear that any uniform toll was required; the amount or value, being generally page 325 left to the collector. The natives said it was principally regulated by the rank or number of those who passed over. In order the better to accommodate passengers, all kinds of permanently valuable articles were received. Some paid in native tapa and mats, or baskets; others paid a hog, a dog, some fowls, a roll of tobacco, or a quantity of dried salt fish.
The river of Wairuku was also distinguished by the markets or fairs held at stated periods on its banks. At those times the people of Puna, and the desolate shores of Kau, even from the south point of the island, brought mats, and mamake tapa, which is a remarkably strong black or brown native cloth, for the manufacture of which the inhabitants of Orá, and some of the inland parts of Puna, are celebrated throughout the whole group of the Sandwich Islands. It is made of a variety of the morus papyrifera, which grows spontaneously in those parts. These, together with vast quantities of dried salt fish, were ranged along on the south side of the ravine. The people of Hiro and Hamakua, as far as the north point, brought hogs, tobacco, tapa of various kinds, large mats made of the pandanus leaves, and bundles of ai pai,∗ which were collected on the north bank. From bank to bank the traders shouted to each other, and arranged the preliminaries of their bargains. From thence the articles were taken down to the before-mentioned rock in the middle of the stream, which in this place is almost covered with page 326 large stones. Here they were examined by the parties immediately concerned, in the presence of the collectors, who stood on each side of the rock, and were the general arbiters, in the event of any disputes arising. To them also was committed the preservation of good order during the fair, and they, of course, received a suitable remuneration from the different parties. On the above occasions, the banks of the Wairuku must often have presented an interesting scene, in the bustle of which these clerks of the market must have had no inconsiderable share. According to the account of the natives, this institution was in force till the accession of Rihoriho, the late king, since which time it has been abolished.
∗Ai pai, (hard food.) A kind of food made of baked taro, pounded together without water. When properly prepared, it is wrapped in green ti leaves, and tied up in bundles containing from twenty to forty pounds each; in this state it will remain several months without injury.
In the afternoon I called on Maaro, and found him very ill, and averse to conversation. His wives sat in the same room playing at cards, and apparently too intent on their game to be easily diverted.
About twelve years ago, a shocking instance of infanticide occurred in this district, exhibiting, in a most affecting manner, the unrestrained violence of malignant passion, and the want of parental affection, which so often characterize savage life.
A man and his wife, tenants of Mr. Young, who has for many years held, under the king, the small district of Kukuwau, situated on the centre of Waiakea bay, resided not far from Maaro's house. They had one child, a fine little boy. A quarrel arose between them, on one occasion, respecting this child. The wife refusing to accede to the wishes of the husband, he, in revenge, caught up the child by the head and the feet, broke its back across his knee, and then threw it down in expiring agonies before her. Struck with the page 327 atrocity of the act, Mr. Young seized the man, led him before the king, Tamehameha, who was then at Waiakea, and requested that he might be punished. The king inquired, “To whom did the child he has murdered belong?” Mr. Young answered, that it was his own son. “Then,” said the king, “neither you nor I have any right to interfere; I cannot say any thing to him.”
We have long known that the Sandwich Islanders practised infanticide, but had no idea of the extent to which it prevailed, until we had made various inquiries during our present tour, and had conversed with Karaimoku, Kapiolani, the governor, and several other chiefs, who, though formerly unwilling to converse on the subject, have, since their reception of Christianity, become more communicative.
It prevails throughout all the islands, and, with the exception of the higher class of chiefs, is, as far as we could learn, practised by all ranks of the people. However numerous the children among the lower orders, parents seldom rear more than two or three, and many spare only one; all the others are destroyed, sometimes shortly after birth, generally during the first year of their age.
The means by which it is accomplished, though numerous, it would be improper to describe. Kuakini, the governor of the island, in a conversation I had with him at Kairua, enumerated many different methods, several of which frequently proved fatal to the mother also. Sometimes they strangle their children, but more frequently bury them alive.
Among the Society Islanders, who, while they were idolaters, probably practised infanticide more than any other natives in the Pacific, if the intended page 328 victim survived only one day, and frequently not more than a few hours, it was generally saved. Depraved as they were, they could not afterwards sacrifice to a barbarous custom an innocent babe, who seemed to look with confidence to its mother or its nurse, and unconsciously smiled upon those who stood by: hence the parties interested in the child's destruction, which were the parents themselves, or their relations, generally strangled it soon after its birth. But among the Sandwich Islanders, the infant, after living a week, a month, or even a year, was still insecure, as some were destroyed when nearly able to walk.
It is painful to think of the numbers thus murdered. All the information we have been able to obtain, and the facts that have come to our knowledge in the neighbourhood where we resided, afford ever reason to believe, that from the prevalence of infanticide two-thirds of the children perished. We have been told by some of the chiefs, on whose word we can depend, that they have known parents to murder three or four infants, where they have spared one. But even supposing that not more than half the children were thus cut off, what an awful spectacle of depravity is presented! how many infants must have been annually sacrificed to a custom so repugnant to all the tenderest feelings of humanity, that, without the clearest evidence, we should not believe it would be found in the catalogue of human crimes.
The reasons they give for this practice manifest a degree of depravity no less affecting. Among the Marquesians, who inhabit a group of islands to the south-east of Hawaii, we are told that children are sometimes, during seasons of extreme page 329 scarcity, killed and eaten by their parents, to satisfy hunger. With the Society Islanders, the rules of the Areoi institutions, and family pride, were the principal motives to its practice. Excepting the latter, which operates in a small degree, none of these motives actuate the Sandwich Islanders; those, however, by which they are influenced are equally criminal. Some of the natives have told us that children were formerly sacrificed to the sharks infesting their shores, and which through fear they had deified; but as we have never met with persons who have ever offered any, or seen others do it, this possibly may be only report. The principal motive with the greater part of those who practise it, is idleness; and the reason most frequently assigned, even by the parents themselves, for the murder of their children, is, the trouble of bringing them up. In general they are of a changeable disposition, fond of a wandering manner of life, and find their children a restraint, preventing them, in some degree, from following their roving inclinations. Like other savage nations, they are averse to any more labour than is absolutely necessary. Hence they consider their children a burden, and are unwilling to cultivate a little more ground, or undertake the small additional labour necessary to the support of their offspring during the helpless periods of infancy and childhood. In some cases, when the child has been sickly, and the parents have grown tired of nursing and attending it, they have been known, in order to avoid further attendance and care, to bury it at once; and we have been very credibly informed, that children have been buried alive, merely because of the irritation they have discovered. On these occasions, when the child has page 330 cried more than the parents, particularly the mother, could patiently bear, instead of clasping the little sufferer to her bosom, and soothing by caresses the pains which, though unable to tell them, it has probably felt, she has, to free herself from this annoyance, stopped its cries by thrusting a piece of tapa into its mouth, dug a hole in the floor of the house, and perhaps within a few yards of her bed, and the spot where she took her daily meals, has relentlessly buried, in the untimely grave, her helpless babe!
The Society Islanders buried the infants they destroyed among the bushes, at some distance from their houses; but many of the infants in the Sandwich Islands are buried in the houses in which both parents and child had resided together. In the floors, which are frequently of earth or pebbles, a hole is dug, two or three feet deep, into which they put the little infant, placed in a broken calabash, and having a piece of native cloth laid upon its mouth to stop its cries. The hole is then filled up with earth, and the inhuman parents themselves have sometimes joined in treading down the earth upon their own innocent but murdered child.
The bare recital of these acts of cruelty has often filled our minds with horror, while those who have been engaged in the perpetration of them have related all their tragical circumstances in detail with apparent unconcern.
How great are the obligations of those whose lot is cast in countries favoured with the Bible, to whose domestic society Christianity imparts so much happiness. And how consoling to know, that its principles, wherever imbibed, will produce, even in the most barbarous communities, such a page 331 delightful transformation of character, that the lion and leopard shall become harmless as the lamb and the kid, “and they shall neither hurt nor destroy.”
In the Sandwich Islands, although not abolished, we have reason to believe it prevails less extensively now than it did four or five years ago. The king, and some of the chiefs, especially Karaimoku, since they have attended to the injunctions of Christianity, and have been made acquainted with the direct prohibitions of it in the Bible, have readily expressed in public their conviction of its criminality, and that committing it is in fact pedehi kanaka, (to kill man,) under circumstances which aggravate its guilt. They have also been led to see its impolicy with respect to their resources, in its tendency to depopulate the islands, and render them barren or unprofitable, and, from these views, have lately exerted themselves to suppress it. Karaimoku, regent of the islands, has more than once forbidden any parents to destroy their children, and has threatened to punish with banishment, if not with death, any who shall be found guilty of it. After we left Kairua, on our present tour, Kuakini, the governor, published, among all the people under his jurisdiction, a strict prohibition of this barbarous custom. It is, however, only recently that the chiefs have endeavoured to prevent it, and the people do not very well brook their interference; so that, notwithstanding their efforts, it is still practised, particularly in remote districts, but in general privately, for fear of detection and punishment.
The check, however, which infanticide has received from the humane and enlightened policy page 332 of the chiefs, is encouraging. It warrants the most sanguine expectations, that as Christianity advances among the Hawaiians, this, and other customs equally degrading to their character, and destructive of their race, will be entirely laid aside, as has been the case among the Tahitians; and there is every reason to presume, that the pleasing change, which has resulted from the general reception of the gospel among the latter, will, under the divine blessing, be ultimately realized by the Sandwich Islanders. May that happy period soon arrive! for if the total abolition of this cruel practice (though amongst the least of its benevolent objects) be the only advantage which the establishment of a Christian Mission in these distant islands shall confer on their inhabitants, yet, in rescuing every year, through all the succeeding generations of this reviving nation, multitudes from a premature death, the liberal assistance of its friends, and the labours of its several members, will be most amply rewarded.∗
∗We have reason to believe this is now in a great measure accomplished. In June 1824, Kaapumanu publicly enjoined the chiefs of Maui to proclaim by herald, that there should be no murder—alluding especially to infanticide: the same regulations have been enforced in other islands; and if the crime is practised now, it is under the same circumstances as secret murder would be perpetrated.
On the morning of the 13th, we examined some of the eastern parts of the bay. I also visited Maaro. On arriving at the house in which I had left the sick chief yesterday, the natives told me that he had been removed, that the house where he then was, was tabu, and the tabu would be broken if I should go there. They refused to tell where he was, but did not attempt to prevent my page 333 going in search of him. After travelling a mile and a half inland, I reached the house in which he lay, and was immediately invited to enter. The number of small sticks, with the leaves of the ti plant fastened round them, which I saw fixed in different parts of the house, particularly around the mat on which the chief was reclining, induced me to think they had been performing some incantation for his recovery, as it was by such pieces of leaf as these that they supposed the evil spirit made his escape from the sufferer. I asked one who sat by, and who, I supposed, was a kahuna, (doctor,) what remedies they were using for his recovery; but they gave me no answer. The chief seemed to have less pain than yesterday, and was much more communicative. He said the native doctors had brought him there, in order to try the effect of medicines, which he trusted would give relief. I told him it was right to use every lawful means for the recovery of health; but cautioned him particularly against having recourse to the incantations of the priests, or making any offerings to their former gods, as that was not only foolish and useless, but offensive to God, the author of all our mercies, with whom alone were the issues of life and death. He made no reply, but turned the conversation, by saying, he regretted that he was not able to furnish us with a canoe, and that his sickness had not allowed him to be more with us. I told him we wished to have had more frequent opportunities of telling him of Jesus Christ; and endeavouring to impress his mind with the necessity of an early application for the pardon of his sins, and the salvation of his spirit. When I left him, he said he would think of these things, and, should he get better, would attend to instruction, page 334 and use his influence to induce his people to attend.
Maaro was attended by two or three natives, who were called kahuna rapaau mai, the name given to those who undertake to cure diseases, from kahuna, a priest, or one expert in his profession, rapaau, to heal, or to apply medicine, and mai, disease. Although among the Sandwich Islanders there are none who exclusively devote themselves to this employment, there are many who pretend to great skill in the discovery and cure of diseases. They are usually, as their name imports, priests or sorcerers, and seldom administer medicine unaccompanied by some superstitious ceremony. The knowledge of the art is frequently communicated from father to son, and thus continued in one family. In their practice they have different departments, and those who are successful in removing internal complaints are most esteemed. Febrile disorders are not so prevalent as in many tropical climates, but asthmatic and pulmonary affections are frequent, and the latter generally baffle all their skill. We are not aware that they admit into their materia medica any but vegetable substances, which are variously prepared; sometimes baked, or heated in a cocoanut shell, but often applied after being simply bruised with a stone. In the selection and employment of these, they certainly manifest an acquaintance with the medicinal properties of a number of indigenous herbs and roots, which is commendable, and may hereafter be turned to a good account. Several of their applications, simply as they are prepared, are, however, very powerful, and sometimes fatal, in their effects. They had till lately no means of employing a page 335 warm bath, but frequently steamed their patients on an oven of heated stones, or placed them over the smoke of a fire covered with green succulent herbs. They have also a singular method of employing friction by rolling a stone or cannon-shot over the part in pain. I went one day into a house belonging to Karaimoku, where a chief was lying on his face, and the kahuna, or his attendant, was rolling a cannon-shot of twelve or fourteen pounds weight backwards and forwards along his back, in order to alleviate the pain. There were also among them oculists, who were celebrated for curing diseases of the eye, and who were sometimes sent for by persons residing many miles distant. But in surgery they seem to be far behind the Society Islanders.
The chiefs, and many of the natives, who are accustomed to associate with foreigners, have entirely discarded the native doctors; and in times of sickness apply to the physician connected with the American mission, to the surgeon on shore, or one belonging to any ship in harbour, and shew a decided preference to foreign medicine. The great body of the people, however, are generally averse to our remedies, and prefer the attendance of the native doctors. The employment is somewhat profitable; and the fee, which is either a piece of cloth, a mat, a pig, or dog, &c. is usually paid before the kahuna undertakes the case.
In conversation on this subject with the governor at Kairua, I once asked him what first induced them to employ herbs, &c. for the cure of diseases. He said, that, many generations back, a man called Koreamoku obtained all their medicinal herbs from the gods, who also taught him the use page 336 of them: that after his death he was deified, and a wooden image of him placed in the large temple at Kairua, to which offerings of hogs, fish, and cocoa-nuts were frequently presented. Oronopuha and Makanuiairomo, two friends and disciples of Koreamoku, continued to practise the art after the death of their master, and were also deified after death, particularly because they were frequently successful in driving away the evil spirits by which the people were afflicted and threatened with death. This is the account they have of the first use of herbs medicinally; and to these deified men the prayers of the kahuna are addressed, when medicine is administered to the sick.
During the day we examined various parts of the district on the western side, and sounded in several places along the channel leading into the bay. The district of Waiakea, and the bay of the same name, the Whye-a-te-a bay of Vancouver,∗ form the southern boundary of the division of Hiro, are situated on the north-east coast of Hawaii, and distant about twenty or twenty-five miles from the eastern point of the island. The highest peak of Mouna-Kea bears due west from the sandy beach, at the bottom or south end of the bay. In the centre, or rather towards the south-east side, is a small island connected with the shore by a number of rocks, and covered with cocoa-nut trees. South-west of this small island, the native vessels usually anchor, and are thereby sheltered from all winds to the eastward of north-east. page 337 The bottom is good across the whole extent of the bay, but the western side is more exposed to the prevailing trade-winds. There is a shoal extending perhaps two miles from the above mentioned island. It is therefore necessary, in going into the harbour, to keep near the western shore, which is very bold; the water is deep, and the passage free from rocks. There are three streams of fresh water, which empty themselves into the bay. One on the western angle is called Wairuku. It rises near the summit of Mouna-Kea, and, after taking a circuitous course for several miles, runs rapidly into the sea. Two others, called Wairama and Waiakea, rise in springs, boiling up through the hollows of the lava, at a short distance from the shore, fill several large fish-ponds, and afterwards empty themselves into the sea. Waiakea, on the eastern side of the bay, is tolerably deep, and is navigated by canoes and boats some distance inland.
∗This bay is now called Byron's Bay, having been visited and explored by Captain Lord Byron, on his late voyage to the Sandwich Islands in his majesty's ship Blonde.
The face of the country, in the vicinity of Waiakea, is the most beautiful we have yet seen, which is probably occasioned by the humidity of the atmosphere, the frequent rains that fall here, and the long repose which the district has experienced from volcanic eruptions.
The district of Waiakea, though it does not include more than half the bay, is yet extensive. Kukuwau in the middle of the bay is its western boundary, from which, passing along the eastern side, it extends ten or twelve miles towards Kaau, the last district in the division of Puna.
Taking every circumstance into consideration, this appears a most eligible spot for a Missionary station. The fertility of the soil, the abundance of fresh water, the convenience of the harbour, the page 338 dense population, and the favourable reception we have met with, all combine to give it a stronger claim to immediate attention than any other place we have yet seen, except Kairua. There are 400 houses in the bay, and probably not less than 2000 inhabitants, who would be immediately embraced in the operations of a Missionary station here, besides the populous places to the north and south, that might be occasionally visited by itinerant preachers from Waiakea.
In the afternoon I preached in front of the house where we held our worship on the last Sabbath. There were three Marquesians present, who arrived here but a few weeks ago.
It is truly distressing to hear so frequently of the murderous quarrels which take place between the natives of the Marquesas, and other islands in the Pacific, and the crews of ships visiting them; which, we think, would be in a great degree prevented, were Missionaries permanently residing among them. The natives are sometimes exceedingly deceitful and treacherous in their dealings with foreigners, and the conduct of the latter is not always such as to inspire confidence. The Missionaries in the Society Islands have often been the means of preventing the consequences to which the misunderstanding of the natives and foreigners would in all probability have led. Once, in particular, about four years ago, a captain, who had never visited them before, and has not been there since, touched at a small island to the south-west of Tahiti, bargained with the natives for a number of hogs, agreeing to give in exchange for them tools or clothing. The natives carried to the ship, which was lying off and on, five or six large hogs in a canoe; they were hoisted in, page 339 when, instead of returning the stipulated articles, the captain threw down into their canoe a bundle of old iron, principally iron hoops, cast loose the rope by which they held on to the ship, and sailed away. The natives returned to the shore; a council was held, in which it was agreed to take revenge on the first ship that should arrive. In the interim, however, a Missionary from one of the Society Islands, whom they had long known visited them, and, being made acquainted with the circumstances, dissuaded them from their purpose, promised to make up their loss, and thus, in all probability, the death of several innocent persons was prevented.
While we were engaged in worship at Waiakea, Messrs. Bishop and Thurston went over to Pueho, on the western shore, and Mr. Thurston preached to about one hundred of the people, at the house of Kapapa, the head man. When the service was ended, Kapapa accompanied them to the east side of the bay, in the double canoe which had been hired to convey us to Laupahoehoe.
At daybreak on the 14th, after morning worship with the people who crowded our house, we made arrangements for our departure. Mr. Harwood remained, to return to Oahu in the brig Inore, lying at anchor in the bay, as he would thereby be enabled to transact some business for the Mission, and also avoid travelling over the ravines of Hiro and Hamakua.
Soon after six a. m. we embarked on board our canoe, and passed over the reef to the deep water on the western side of the bay. The weather was calm, and the men laboured with their paddles till about eight, when the maranai (east wind) sprung up, and wafted us pleasantly along the page 340 shore. We found our double canoe very convenient, for it had a pora, or stage, raised in the middle, which provided a comfortable seat, and also kept our packages above the spray of the sea. The pora is formed by tying slight poles to the iäko, or cross pieces that connect the two canoes together, from the foremost iako to the one nearest the stern. The cross pieces are not straight, but bent like a bow, and form an arch between the two canoes, which raises the pora, or stage, at least two feet higher than the sides of the canoe. When the breeze sprang up, four of the men laid down their paddles, and attended to the sail, while one man sat in the stern of each canoe with a large paddle to steer. Our canoe, though made of heavy wood, was thin, and consequently light, and, as the wind increased, seemed at a rapid rate to skim along the tops of the waves; dashing through the crested foam with a degree of velocity which, but for the confidence we reposed in the skill and address of our pilots, would have excited no small degree of apprehension for our safety.
The canoes of the Sandwich Islands appear eminently calculated for swiftness, being low, narrow, generally light, and drawing but little water. A canoe is always made out of a single tree; some of them are upwards of seventy feet long, one or two feet wide, and sometimes more than three feet deep, though in length they seldom exceed fifty feet. The body of the canoe is generally covered with a black paint, made by the natives with various earthy and vegetable materials, in which the bark, oil, and burnt nuts of the kukui tree are the principal ingredients. On the upper edge of the canoe is sewed, in a remarkably neat manner, a small strip of hard white wood, from page 341 six to eight inches in width, according to the size and length of the canoe. These strips meet and close over the top at both stem and stern, and shoot off much water that would otherwise enter the canoe. All the canoes of these islands are remarkably strong and neatly made, and, though not so large as those of New Zealand, the Society Islands, or some of the other islands to the southward, are certainly better made, and would probably paddle or sail faster than any of them. One man, we have heard, will sometimes paddle a single canoe faster than a good boat's crew could row a whale-boat. Their tackling is simple and convenient; the mast generally has a notch cut at the lower end, and is placed on one of the cross pieces to which it is tied; the sails they now use are made of mats, and cut in imitation of the sprit-sails of foreign boats, which, they say, they find much better than the kind of sail they had when first visited by foreigners. When sailing with a fresh breeze, the ropes from the lower corners of the sails are always loosened, and held in the hands of persons whose only business it is to keep them properly trimmed. Their paddles, which are large and strong, are generally four or five feet long, have an oval-shaped blade and round handle, and are made of the same hard and heavy wood employed in building their canoes. They are not handsome, and their weight must make paddling very laborious. Neither the canoes nor paddles of the Sandwich Islanders are carved like those of many islands in the Pacific. Their canoes are, nevertheless, remarkably neat, and sometimes handsome.
After sailing pleasantly for several hours, we approached Laupahoehoe: we had proceeded upwards page 342 of twenty miles, and had passed not less than fifty ravines or valleys, but we had not seen a spot where we thought it would be possible to land without being swamped; and, although we knew we had arrived at the end of our voyage, we could discover no place by which it seemed safe to approach the shore, as the surf was beating violently, and the wind blowing directly towards the land. However, when we came within a few yards of the surf, we perceived an opening in the rocks, just wide enough to admit our canoe. Into this our pilots steered with uncommon address and precision; and, before we could look round, we found our canoe on a sandy beach, a few yards long, entirely defended by rocks of lava from the rolling surf on the outside.
It was one p. m. when we landed, and walked up to the house of the head man, where we had a few fish and some potatoes, that we had brought with us, prepared for dinner. After the people of the place had been spoken to on the subject of religion, they said they had heard there were Missionaries living at Oahu, teaching the king to read, and write, and pray. They had also heard of Jehovah, but not of Jesus Christ. It was compassionate in the great God, they added, to think of them, and send his word among them.
Leaving Laupahoehoe, we ascended the north side of the deep ravine, at the bottom of which the village is situated. We reached the top, after climbing between four hundred and five hundred feet, and beheld a beautiful country before us. Over this we travelled about five miles in a west-north-west direction towards the foot of Mouna Kea, and, after passing three deep ravines, reached Humuula shortly before sunset. This retired little page 343 village is situated on the edge of a wood, extending along the base of Mouna-Kea. We directed our steps to the principal house in the village, and invited the people of the neighbourhood to meet us there. They soon collected, and listened with apparent interest to a short discourse. Many continued with us till a late hour, in conversation, which to them is usually a source of no small gratification. We have several times, during our tour, been kept awake by the natives in the houses where we lodged, who have continued talking and singing till near daybreak. Circumstances the most trivial sometimes furnished conversation for hours. Their songs also afford much amusement, and it is no unusual thing for the family to entertain their guests with these, or for strangers to gratify their host by reciting those of their own island or neighbourhood. More than once, when we have entered a house, some of the inmates have shortly after commenced a song, accompanied occasionally by a little drum, or the beating of the raau hura, musical stick; and the natives, who formerly visited Hawaii from the Society Islands, excited no small degree of interest by reciting the songs of their country. It is probable that many of the fabulous tales and songs, so popular among them, have originated in the gratification they find in thus spending their time. This kind of amusement is common to most of the South Sea Islands. The Sandwich Islanders equal the Marquesians, the most lively natives of the Pacific, in the number of their songs, and exceed the Society Islanders; but their conversational powers are inferior to those of the latter, who are, perhaps, the most loquacious of them all. An acquaintance with every body's business, used page 344 almost to be cultivated as an accomplishment; and inquiries, which to us would appear most officious, were only common civilities. To meet a party, and not ask where they came from, or where they were going, what was their business, and when they intended to return, would be considered indicative of displeasure towards the party thus neglected, or at least of want of interest in their welfare.
Our hostess, who was a widow, treated us kindly, and, between seven and eight, brought in for supper a small baked pig, and a large dish of taro. This was the more grateful, as it had not been required by Makoa in the governor's name, but was furnished by the genuine hospitality which characterizes the South Sea Islanders, though not practised so much by the Hawaiians as by some other tribes in the Pacific, and, we believe, much less now than when the Sandwich Islands were first discovered, or during the earlier visits they received.
They are still, however, a hospitable people, and even the poorest would generally share their scanty dish of potatoes with a stranger. Not to entertain a guest with what they have, is, among themselves, considered reproachful; and there are many, who, if they had but one pig or fowl in the yard, or one root of potatoes in the garden, would cheerfully take them, to furnish a repast for a friend. This generous disposition is frequently abused, and encourages the rambling manner of life of which many are so fond. It is not unusual for a family, when they have planted their field with sweet potatoes, &c. to pay a visit for four or five months to some friend in a distant part of the island. When the crop is ripe, they travel page 345 home again, and, in return, are most likely visited by a friend, who will not think of leaving them so long as any of their provisions remain unconsumed. This, however, is only the case where friendship has previously existed between the parties. A transient visitor, on arriving among them, will generally have an entertainment provided, of which the persons who furnish it seldom partake. The family with which we lodged were, however, induced to join us this evening at supper, though contrary to their ideas of propriety. Whenever we have remarked to the natives that their conduct in this respect is unsocial, they have usually answered, “Would it be right for us to present food to our friends, and then sit down and eat of it ourselves?” Connected with this, another custom, equally at variance with our views of hospitality, is practised by the guests, who invariably carry away all that remains of the entertainment, however abundant it may have been. Hence, whenever a pig, &c. has been dressed for us, and our party have finished their meal, our boys always put the remainder into their baskets, and carried it away. To this we often objected: but they usually replied, “It is our custom; and if we don't take it, the people will think you are dissatisfied with what they have provided.”
The entertainment given to strangers or visitors is regulated by the means of the host, or the rank of the guests. In the Society Islands their feasts were formerly characterized by a degree of prodigality extremely oppressive to the people who had to furnish the provisions. I once saw in the island of Raiatea upwards of fifty large baked hogs, and a proportionate quantity of poë, yams, &c. served up at one time for a party of chiefs on page 346 a visit from the Georgian or Windward Islands. In this respect the Sandwich Islanders are not behind their southern neighbours; but, in their feasts, the flesh of the dog constitutes the principal meat. I have seen nearly two hundred dogs cooked at one time; and during the last visit which Taümuarii, late king of Tauai, and Kaahumanu his queen, paid Kuakini, the governor of this island, a feast was prepared for them by the latter, at which Auna was present, and counted four hundred baked dogs, with fish and hogs, and vegetables in proportion. Sometimes the food is spread out on the ground, which is previously covered with grass or green leaves; the party sit down around it, and the chiefs distribute it among them, after the servants have carved it with a knife, or with a piece of bamboo cane, which, before visited by foreigners, was the only kind of knife they possessed. The serrated edge of the hard bamboo cane, when but recently split, is very sharp; and we have often been surprised at the facility with which they cut up a large hog with no other instrument. The head of a hog, or at least the brains, constituted a dainty for the principal chief of the party; particular portions were given to the priests, if any were present; while the backbone and the tail were the usual perquisites of the person who carved.
In general, however, when such large presents of food are made, each hog or dog when baked is put into a distinct basket, and piled up in heaps in the court-yard, in front of the house where the chief is residing; the fish, dogs, and vegetables, in separate heaps. When collected, the chief comes out to look at it, and those who have brought it retire. He then calls his stewards— page 347 directs them to select a portion for his own table—distributes some among the chiefs in the neighbourhood, in which the chief who has provided the feast is frequently included—and divides the rest among his own followers, who sometimes amount to two or three hundred.
Numbers of dogs, of rather a small size, and something like a terrier, are raised every year as an article of food. They are mostly fed on vegetables; and we have sometimes seen them kept in yards, with small houses to sleep in. A part of the rent of every tenant who occupies land, is paid in dogs for his landlord's table. Though often invited by the natives to join them in partaking of the baked dog, we were never induced to taste of one. The natives, however, say it is sweeter than the flesh of the pig, and much more palatable than that of goats or kids, which some refuse to touch, and few care to eat.
These feasts are much less frequent than formerly, particularly among those chiefs who have opportunities for frequent intercourse with foreigners, several of whom now spread their table in the European manner, and invite their friends to dine, or entertain their guests at home, and treat them as members of their family while they remain under their roof