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Hawaiki: The Original Home of the Maori; with a Sketch of Polynesian History

Chapter IV. The Polynesians Originated in India

page 64

Chapter IV. The Polynesians Originated in India.

In considering the traditions of the various branches of the Polynesian race, as to their origin, it is undoubtedly the case, that these all point to the west as the direction by which they entered the Pacific. Those authors who have had a sufficient knowlege of the race and their traditions to be able to form an opinion on the subject, have all agreed in this particular.* Ellis, in his "Polynesian Researches," 1829, after several years residence in Tahiti, came to this conclusion; though he subsequently seems rather to have modified it by suggesting that they first crossed the Pacific to the coasts of North America and thence back to the islands. Fornander in his "Polynesian Race," 1878, who has certainly studied the traditions available to him, more than most writers, also believed they came from India, but prior to that from Saba, on the south-east coast of Arabia. F. D. Fenton, late Chief Judge of the Native Land Court, N.Z., in his "Suggestions for page 65a History of the Maori People," 1885, followed Fornander and elaborated his theory. Dr. Wyatt Gill, the author of "Myths and Songs of the South Pacific," 1876, is also of the same opinion, though his researches seem to have carried him little further to the west than Samoa and Fiji. There are other writers who have supported this theory and furnished further information on the subject, deduceable principally from the Science of Philology— amongst whom may be mentioned Edward Tregear, Dr. John Fraser, Dr. D. Macdonald.

Whether the race can be traced further back than Indonesia with any degree of certainty, is a moot point; but the writer is of opinion that it is a fair deduction from the traditions, that they can be traced as far back as India..

In order to support the theory of an Indian origin, I will first quote what Mr. J. R. Logan says on the subject; a gentleman who by his extensive philological knowledge should be an authority. He moreover had, from his long residence in Indonesia, a personal knowledge of the races and languages still spoken there, and also, to judge by several references, some acquaintance with the Polynesians themselves. His opinion is, that the Polynesians formed part of the very ancient "Gangetic Race," which had been in India from remote antiquity, but which became modified from time to time by contact with Tibetan, Semitic and other races. It would seem indeed, if we compare the Mythology of the Polynesians with those of the most ancient mythologies of the old world, that there are sufficient points of similarity to hazard the conjecture that the race is the remnant of one of the most ancient races of the world, who have retained in its primitive forms, much of the beliefs that gave origin to the mythology of Assyria. But this is too large a subject to enter on here.

* Whilst I would include Mr. A. Lesson amongst those who have studied the race in their homes, and who, in his four large volumes "Les Polynesiens" (containing a very large amount of information about them) has come to an opposite conclusion, I should scarce allow him to have a comprehensive understanding of the traditions. His theory is, that the Polynesians are autocthones, originating in the South Island of New Zealand, which, he thinks, is the Hawaiki of tradition. For this there is no foundation at all.