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The Atoll of Funafuti, Ellice group : its zoology, botany, ethnology and general structure based on collections made by Charles Hedley of the Australian Museum, Sydney, N.S.W.

[XI.] — The Ethnology Of Funafuti

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The Ethnology Of Funafuti.


Much of the information conveyed in the "General Account" could have been included with equal appropriateness in the present chapter; to it the reader is therefore referred for details not here repeated.*

The natives of the Ellice Group appear to be closely allied to those of the Phoenix and Union Groups, and also to those of several small outlying islands,and atolls in the same neighbour-hood, extending perhaps as far as Rotumah and Fotuna. This branch of the Polynesian Race may, for want of a better compre-hensive term, be called the Tokelau People.

We are much in want of a satisfactory subdivision of the Polynesian Race. The only classification with which I am acquainted is that of Dr. H. Stolpe, based upon ornamental art. Good though this undoubtedly is, yet a broader basis including physique, language, religion, and so on, is required for a sound arrangement. Dr. Stolpe throws the branch here proposed to be called Tokelau into his Province of Tonga-Samoa, from the remainder of which I would clearly distinguish it by, inter alia, the different gods they worshipped and the difference of tattoo.

The Tokelau People are closely related to the Samoans, whose standard of civilisation is, however, far superior. Either therefore, they have degenerated, as is probable, amid unfavourable surround-ings or they branched from the parent stock before the latter reached the degree of superiority they afterwards attained.

Glancing for an instant further afield, I would draw attention to many points of resemblance between the Japanese§ and Poly-nesians that have occurred to me; such are their gracefull courtesy

* For an article "The Legendary History of Funafuti," by Prof. W. J. Sollas, see Nature, 11 Feb., 1897.

Compare the account given of Fotuna or Home Island.—Journ. Polyn. Soc. i., 1892, pp. 33 - 52; of "Rotuma and the Rotumans," Eev. W. Allen.—Proc. Aust. Assoc. Adv. Sci., 1895, (1896) p. 569; and Lister, "Notes on the Natives of Fakaofu."—Journ. Anthrop. Inst, xxi., 1892, p. 43.

Trans. Bochdale Lit. and Sci. Soc, iii. 1893, p. 73.

§ § Polynesian relations to the Corea are noted by Stair.—Journ. Polyn. Soc, iv., 1895, p. 55.

page 230in peace and fierceness in war, the status and freedom of their women, the position and authority of their chiefs, the existence of a court language, their dexterity and daring in navigation and deep sea fishing, and their skill in tatooing and in manufacturing bark cloth or paper. In all of which features they are opposed to the Melanesians. To institute closer comparisons between the language, manners, customs and implements of the two races is an inviting task, which opportunity does not permit me to pursue, but I would submit it as a problem worth investigation, whether the Polynesians may not stand in the same relation of distant and degenerate kin to the Japanese as the Australian Blacks are known to hold towards the Indian Dravidians.

Since the above idea occurred to me I have perused with pleasure and profit an article by Mr. A. H. Keane, "On the Relations of the Indo-Chinese and Inter-Oceanic Races and Languages,"* This writer points out that "for science, there is no organic Malay type, Malay being a national not a racial designation." Other writers have shown that the Japanese of to-day is likewise a fusion of several distinct stocks. Keane's view that the Poly-nesian of the Pacific represents an ancestral type now obliterated almost or altogether as a pure race in South East Asia, but still there discernable as a component element in existing people, has much to recommend it.

The route of the Polynesian from South East Asia to his present abode is generally held * to have been through Papua, south-east-wards through the larger islands of the western Pacific, by Fiji to Samoa, thence to Rarotonga and finally to Hawaii. Against this it seems to me an insuperable objection that the Samoans and Eastern Polynesians were without any Papuan strain physically, and had acquired none of the Papuan manners and customs, such as the art of pottery, which a transit through Papuan lands could not fail to impress upon them. Besides, at the point of contact between the two races, we now see a contrary wave of Polynesian blood and influence actually in motion from east to west. In the Fijian Archipelago there is a gradual transition from a preponder-ance of Polynesian in the east to a preponderance of Melanesian in the west. Less marked but perceptible is the change in the New Hebrides, and in the Solomons it can again be faintly seen, while New Caledonia furthest west appears purest Melanesian. Even in the east of New Guinea, Polynesian influence is traceable though here once more it declines westward. That such authorities as Wyatt Gill and Percy Smith should derive the Maories from an eastern source—the Hervey and Society Groups—accords better with the following hypothesis than with the accepted theory.

* Journ. Anthrop. Inst., ix., 1880, p. 254.

Griffis—The Mikado's Empire, 1887, p. 27.

* Ankin—Journ. Anthrop. Inst., vi. 1877, p. 233.

page 231regarded the Tahitian as an offspring of the Hawaiian stock, the longer genealologies of the latter indicating superior antiquity.*

Had the Polynesian migration taken the route usually ascribed to it, why should not its influence have been as strongly impressed on the west as it is on the east of the Melanesian tribes; why should that influence rapidly increase eastward, and above all why should the brown man, while leaving his mark on the susceptible-black, yet have entirely escaped reciprocal treatment?

An alternative hypothesis, which would avoid these objections but which does not appear to have been examined, is that the Polynesian travelled from Asia, first to the Hawaiian Group and after, perhaps, considerable sojourn there, migrated to Tahiti and thence to Samoa.

Physique, language and tradition alike point to Samoa as the immediate ancestral home of the Tokelau People. Estimated by the chronological standard of European history it is possible that this archipelago has been but recently colonised.

Pritchard relates a tradition of Vaitupu, which places the arrival of the first comers at seventeen generations back.

Communication with the Gilbert Islands to the north probably wrought in the life of the Ellice Islanders a change comparable with the later change induced by European contact. A social revolution must have been effected by the acclimatisation of the coconut alone, involving as it did the introduction of the Gilbert Island system of land tenure. § The tattoo patterns certainly followed the same route, and doubtless various social and religious practices accomanid these.

* Ellis—Polynesian Researches, i., 1832, p. 123.

Two suggestive facts may here be mentioned; one is that Hillebrand considers the Broussonetia or tappa plant, the most peculiar possession of the Polynesian, to be a native of Japan; the other that Japanese junks have drifted to Hawaii with occupants still living.

Pritchard—Polynesian Reminiscences, 1866, p. 403. Of the Gilbert Group, Wilkes wrote:—That the islands have been peopled within a period not very remote is believed by the natives themselves" (loc. cit., v. p. 86). Kotzebue considered with regard to Romanzoff Atoll in the Marshall Group, that, " all the islands had been but lately inhabited," (Voy. Discovery ii., 1821, p. 45). And Gill declared that, "The result of my researches is the belief that the Hervey Islands have been inhabited not more than six centuries," (Journ. Anthrop. Inst. vi., 1877, p. 7). It is stated (ante p. 61) that the presence of phosphate in the gardens is inexplicable to me. Dr. Guppy's observations on the Keeling Islands (Scot. Geogr. Mag., v., 1889, p. 292) have now made it clear to me that this phosphate is a relic of the bird guano deposited before the arrival of man. If the rate at which these phosphates disappear could be ascertained, data would be available for calculating the time the islet has been inhabited. On Cocos Keeling half a century had reduced it to a trace.

§ Compare the account on p. 61 ante with Journ. Polyn. Soc, i., p. 266 and with Wilkes—U.S. Explor. Exped., v., Chap. III.

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Funafuti is for many reasons an unfavourable centre for Ethno-logical research. In weeding out the so-called immoral practices of heathen days, the missionary agents seem, to a casual onlooker, to crush out many innocent recreations, uprooting the wheat and the tares together. The trader, another civilising influence, does his part by substituting European wares for native products. But the greatest shock the native civilisation suffered was when the South American raiders almost depopulated the atoll thirty years ago.*The place of the expatriated natives was largely taken by immi-grants from other islands.

On glancing over the ground covered by the following paper my predominant impressions are: firstly, the poverty of our knowledge of Polynesian Ethnology and the superficial way in which it has been studied; and secondly, the rapidity with which the knowledge of it that might yet be gathered is vanishing. Though in a library catalogue the bulk of Polynesian literature appears large, yet when consulted upon trivial points it rarely responds satisfactorily. Travellers seem to have contented themselves with observing and collecting only the most obvious incidents and articles. " If investigators and students would seize upon those features in social life—form of etiquette, games, ceremonies, and other manners and customs—which are the first to change in any contact with alien race, a very important work would be accom-plished for the future sociologist."

Although I have constantly appealed to, and derived much help from Edge-Partington's valuable Ethnographical Album, yet I am compelled to say that, without confirmation, the use or locality of any implement he figures, dependent as he often was on second-hand information, cannot be trusted; indeed the long list of correc-tions he supplies, are to a thoughtful reader a sufficient warning.

The following remarks of Professor Haddon cannot but receive the heartiest endorsement of all interested in this study. " Only those who have a personal acquaintance with Oceana, or those who have carefully followed the recent

* The blackest pages in the story of the South Sea Islands are those describing the Peruvian piracies. Twenty-five vessels were fitted out in Callao for the purpose of procuring ten thousand Polynesians for forced labour in Peru. The densely peopled and more warlike islands of the west were avoided, but the gentler people of the mid Pacific were deceived and deported wholesale, one instance of which is related on p. 5. Early in 1863 about 2000 Polynesians were captured, transferred to a depdt on Easter Island, and ultimately forwarded to South America. Unaccus-tomed to hard and continuous labour these unhappy victims soon perished. Among other groups the Tahitian was raided, but the French, in whose dominion those islands were, not only captured six vessels and punished the slavers, but took measures to prevent a repetition of the offence. An account of the affair is givenin the Sydney Morning Herald of June 20th, 1863.

Morse—Japanese Homes, 1888, p. 8.

page 233In many islands the natives are fast dying out, and in more they have become so modified by contact with the white man and by crossings due to deportations by Europeans, that immediate steps are necessary to record the anthropological data that remain."*

In writing down native names an endeavour has been made to follow the system of orthography adopted by the Royal Geographical Society, in which the vowels are pronounced as in Italian and the consonants as in English. How loose the natives themselves are in their pronunciation and how difficult it therefore is to decide upon a correct spelling, only travellers are aware.

The terms—Polynesian, Micronesian and Melanesian—have such different values in the writings of different authors that it is necessary to state that in subsequent pages they are used in the meaning imposed upon them by Whitmee.

For a valuable contribution to this section I am again indebted to the kindness of Surgeon P. W. Collingwood, R.N., late of H.M.S. " Penguin." To the skilful pen and sympathetic courtesy of my friend Mr. Norman Hardy, I owe the drawings of the native using the coconut scraper and the man putting on his "tukai" dress. For the remainder of the illustrations I am myself responsible.

Any merit which the following descriptions of implements (essays in an unfamiliar field of research) may possess, is due to the advantage of a course of study of Australian weapons and imple-ments, under Mr. R. Etheridge, Junr., whose advice and sugges-tions have constantly aided me in the preparation of the present paper.

* Haddon—Nature, 28 Jan., 1897, p. 306.

Journ. Anthrop. Inst., viii., 1879, pp. 261-274, and map; these definitions have since been accepted by the Encyclopædia Brittanica, Stanford's Compendium, of Geography, the Grodeffroy Museum Catalogue, and other standard works.