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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 64

Inhabitants, whence derived

Inhabitants, whence derived.

The Pacific Islanders appear to be principally derived from two stocks—the Malayan, long-haired and light-coloured, and the Papuan, crisp-haired and dark-coloured. Those islands in close proximity to the Australian continent are principally inhabited by the latter race:—New Guinea or Papua, New Britain, New Ireland, the Solomon, Santa Cruz, Banks, New Hebrides, Loyalty, and New Caledonia groups, or, briefly, Melanesia. The remaining islands of the Pacific, or Polynesia, excepting Fiji and the New Hebrides, in which groups both races appear to combine, are inhabited by the former type. It was formerly supposed that New Guinea was solely peopled by the crisp-haired race, but later travellers inform us of other native types. The origin of the Papuan, Australian, and Polynesian races is a most interesting question. Many of the characteristics of the natives of the Australian continent will be found in New Caledonia. When we become better acquainted with New Guinea we may perhaps be able to discover whether the peculiar features of the Papuan race, dark colour and crisp hair (the Australian natives have long wavy hair), owe their origin to Africa or Madagascar, or simply to the fact of residence upon so large an island situated under the equator. In Ellis's "Polynesia Researches" the following passage occurs:—"The striking analogy between the numerals and other parts of the language, and several of the customs of the aborigines of Madagascar, and those of the Malays who inhabit the Asiatic Islands, many thousands of miles distant in one direction, and of the Polynesian, more remote in another, shows that they were originally one people, or that they had emigrated from the same source." * I imagine that the author, by using the term Polynesia, meant also to include Melanesia, as he must have been acquainted with the difference which exists. In an able paper upon the native ownership of land in Fiji, the Hon. J. B. Thurston remarks:—"The highly elaborate Fijian system of relationship, which resembles in almost every particular that of the Seneca, Iroquois, and other American Indians on the one hand, and that of the people of South India, speaking the Dravidian language (Tamil), on the other, points to a bygone existence of the communal family, a state now regarded with horror and disgust and forbidden by stringent and elaborate laws." Indian writers, also, have often been struck with the resemblance of many Polynesian habits and customs to those of the Hindoos. It will thus be seen that, when fairly investigated, the origin of the Polynesian islanders will not be a very difficult problem to solve. But whatever may be their origin, in future dealings with the natives we have only to consider the marked peculiarities of the two races.

page 66

The inhabitants of Western Polynesia are more treacherous and cruel than the Polynesians proper. We should be more careful in trusting them. Both, however, are much less ferocious than either the Maoris, Malays, or American Indians. I do not think that the whole of the inhabitants of Polynesia will give as much trouble to any colonizing power as New Zealand gave to England.

* Vol. II, p. 48.