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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 64

Will the Native Population Die Out?

Will the Native Population Die Out?

Whether the native population will die ont is an important question. The labour traffic may have somewhat thinned the population of a few islands; not from rough usage at the plantations, but from the mere fact of a certain number of natives being unable to stand the change of climate. Change of residence may, or may not, be good, but that question is subordinate to the great one before us—Whether the natives generally will survive page 80 the contact with the white race? I believe they will. The idea that native races die out upon the appearance of the white race is true only in a limited sense. In my opinion the statement only applies to lands situate in temperate or cold zones, which happened to possess, or do still possess, an aboriginal population; it does not apply to tropical, or semi-tropical, lands—they are beyond its influence. Thus the Indians in some parts of America, and the Maoris in New Zealand, are certain to die out, being unable to survive the contact in temperate zones with the more fitting white race. The American Indians are being gradually driven into the central portion of the continent, which is their proper residence. They will for a time range free over the southern portion of the continent, because circumstances are still favourable for their habitation. The Maoris are gradually dying out because it was an error for any portion of the Malayan race to wander so far south. Certain climates kill native races just as surely as contact with the white race. We found very few Maoris or Malays in the Middle Island of New Zealand; they could not exist there. The American Indians have also much Malayan blood in their veins; their place is within the tropics. Tropical races cannot compete with the more fitting races beyond the tropics, and white races cannot compete with native races within the tropics. No one could possibly maintain that the white race will extinguish the East Indian, the Chinese, or the Malayan, neither will it the Polynesian, I am well aware that the aboriginal inhabitants of the West India Islands have nearly disappeared, but in the first instance they were almost exterminated by the Spaniards. I do not think that it is for our interest to exterminate the Polynesians. When the epidemic of measles was lately devastating Fiji, I heard many well-informed persons remark that if 50,000 natives, more or less, died off; the less trouble would be given to the Colonial Government. Now, a greater mistake could not possibly be made. Every native dying is a loss to the Government. It is to be hoped that not only the health, but the natural increase of the Fijians will be carefully looked after.

Figures purporting to show the decrease of any particular island cannot be relied upon. It was formerly supposed that the Sandwich Islands contained a population of 400,000 inhabitants, and New Zealand 200,000. Later calculations inform us that they now contain respectively 58,000 and 85,000. It is doubtful whether the first ever numbered more than 100,000, or the second 60,000. Captain Cook, generally so correct, was sadly out in his estimate of native population.

As soon as certain sanitary regulations are attended to, and infanticide put a stop to, I believe the population of the Pacific will increase. That of Java has nearly quadrupled itself since 1816, and it is a curious fact that page 81 the few remaining aboriginal inhabitants of the West India islands are of late years increasing in numbers.