POHNPEI

FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA

RECOLLECTIONS OF THE EARLY
 ISLAND TRADERS

 

Andrew Cheyne was the first trader to stay in Ponape (Pohnpei) with his first stay there being in 1843. Andrew Cheyne was born in the Shetland Island in 1817, the illegitimate son of James Cheyne and Elizabeth Robertson. James was the youngest brother of John Cheyne, the laird of Tangwick, Northmavine. The Cheynes were considerable landowners and also carried on a regular fishing business, exporting cured cod and ling to the continent.

Andrew grew up under the guidance of his uncle John as a member of the Cheyne household. He was tutored privately by the local Presbyterian Minister, as was common for a laird’s son. It seems likely, as local tradition has it, young Andrew first went to sea in one of the family’s three ships. It is not known what sent him to the Antipodes as a young man, although it may be that it has something to do with the death in 1840 of his uncle John, who left him the sum of 15 pound sterling with which to begin making his own fortune. Cheyne’s name first appeared in the shipping columns of the Sydney newspapers when he sailed from Sydney for the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, as master of the Brig Bee on 25 December 1840.

Cheyne's subsequent travels and record of life on Ponape is an important source document of Island life at this time. Sufficiently early in the history of contact with outsiders, it reflects faithfully the indigenous society and Cheyne's account is both wide-ranging and meticulous. It includes an outline of Ponapean life, customs and social structure and is one of the earliest reliable descriptions of the famous ruins of Nan Madol. The following descriptions of Ponapean life are drawn from the records of Andrew Cheyne.

           

The island of Ponape is divided into five tribes, independent of each other, and each having a sovereign of its own. These tribes are named as follows:

1. Roan Kiddi or womah

2. Matalanien

3. Joquoits

4. Nut and

5. Awack

Note. Subsequent research has suggested that the five tribes identified by Cheyne are not quite correct.  

The 5 are now considered to be, running clockwise around the island from the north, Uh, Metalanin, Kiti, Jokaj, and Net ......See Shineburg "The Trading Voyages Of Andrew Cheyne" Australian National University Press, Canberra 1971:182.

 

The first two of these are far more powerful and to a much greater extent than the others. Each King has his prime minister, whose power nearly equals that of the Sovereign; his title is Nannikan. Next in rank to the King are the Nobles, whose titles are as follows; Talk - Wajy - Noach - Nanaby - Shou Shabert - Gro en Wane, and many others, being chiefs of inferior rank, who are not of noble birth, but who have been made chiefs and obtained land by acts of bravery, or the favour of the Nobles.

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Map of Ponape (Pohnpei) indicating the five main tribes

On the demise of the Sovereign the noble who holds the rank of Talk, succeeds to the throne and the other chiefs rise a step. The Prime Minister holds office either for life, or during the King's pleasure, and although possessed of much power, is inferior in rank to the Nobles. The Government is carried on in the most simple form; the King contenting himself with receiving the tribute due him, and rarely interfering in the administration of affairs, unless in matters of serious importance.

Each chief has absolute power over his own dependants, except in cases of importance, when the decision is made, and the punishment ordered in council. There is in every village a large council house, with a raised platform in the centre, for the accommodation of the chiefs when discussing the affairs of the tribe. These meetings are always attended with feasting and Kava drinking at the expense of the chief in whose village the meeting is held. Along each side of the house, each family of rank has a sleeping berth formed by wicker work bulk heads, similar to the state rooms of a vessel's poop. The space from the platform to the end of the house, is occupied by the slaves, who are busily employed during these meetings in preparing Kava and food for the visitors. When a meeting is deemed necessary, messengers are sent to the different chiefs to request their attendance. This, in cases of emergency, is done by blowing conchs. The chiefs having assembled, the object of the meeting is laid before them by the King or head chief, and everyone is at liberty to give his opinion. These discussions are at times very animated, especially when they have indulged freely in Kava; and on several of these occasions, I have witnessed violent quarrels between different speakers which were only prevented from terminating in blows by the interference of the other chiefs. The opinion of the majority upon the subject under consideration having been ascertained, the discussion is terminated.

On the death of a chief, the King has power to give his land to whomever he pleases; he generally however, bestows it upon his Sons, or failing them, to the chief next in rank to the deceased. The power possessed by each King, over his dependants (though rarely taken advantage of) is in every respect unlimited; the lives and property of his subjects being completely at his disposal. To shed blood within the precincts of the Palace is certain death, and the most abject homage is paid to him by all classes. Not even the nobles being allowed to stand upright in his presence. As soon as the breadfruit season sets in, the nobles send the first fruits as a present to the King. Whenever a chief has a new Turtle or fishing Nets made, the produce of his fishery must be sent to the King for a certain number of days, before he can appropriate any of the fish to his own use. Another mark of respect shown to the King, as well as by all classes of inferior rank to their superiors, is, that the former on meeting the latter in their Canoes invariably sit down, until they are passed, and present the side of the Canoe opposite the outrigger towards them when passing, in case they should wish to board them. With regard to the population of Bornabi (Ponape or Pohnpei), although I have visited all parts of the island, I have had no correct means of ascertaining the number; but from personal observation I should take it to be about eight thousand.

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The ruins of Nan Madol

Their houses are decidedly better constructed than any that I have hitherto met with at the islands. They all form an oblong square and are built as follows. A foundation of stonework is raised to the height of from 3 to 6 feet above the ground and upon which the frame of the house rests. In the centre of the foundation, a space of about 4 feet square, and 2 in depth is left for a fire place, and the remainder of the floor is covered with wicker work, which gives it a neat and clean appearance. The sides are about 4 feet high, and are also covered in with wicker-work, having several open spaces for windows, and for which they have shutters also of wicker work. The whole frame of the house is made of squared timber, and the uprights are all morticed into the wall plates. The rafters are formed of small straight rickers about 2 feet apart, which reach from the ridge pole to the wall places on each side, and are seized to both with small sennet.

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Pohnpei waterfall

The thatch is made of pandanus leaves, sewed to a reed, and forms a long and narrow mat about 6 feet in length, and one foot in breadth. On thatching they commence at the caves, placing the mats lengthways, keeping each mat about an inch above the other, and seizing them to the rafters as they proceed.

When they have reached the ridge, they again commence at the eaves with another length of mats, over-lapping the ends where the two lengths join, and keeping each mat about an inch above the other, as before mentioned, and so on, until the thatching is completed. A house so constructed will last for many years, and are exceedingly clean and comfortable dwellings even for an European to live in.

The canoes of this Island are hollowed out of a large tree, and are very neatly made. The outrigger is attached to the canoe by many projecting pieces of light wood neatly squared and painted. They have a platform in the centre for the chiefs to sit on. These canoes are painted red, look exceedingly handsome, and are furnished with a mast and triangular sail. The largest of them will not carry more than ten or twelve men.

Their manufactures consist of loaches, or sleeping mats, belts, dresses, neck and head ornaments, baskets, and canoe sails, also blankets or bed covers, and small rope or sennit. The loaches are made chiefly of Joquoits, Nut and Awack; and are manufactured of pandanus leaves, sewed together. These are about six feet in length, and of various breadths, the end of the mat rolled up forms a pillow. These mats are spread upon the floor of the houses to make a bed; several being placed one above another to make it soft. Their blanket or bed cover is made of tapa, which is often thumbed with some soft thread similar to wool. Belts are woven on handlooms and are made of the fibres of the banana tree, dyed red and yellow. They form many variegated figures, and about six feet in length, five or six inches in breadth, and exceedingly pretty.

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The men's kall or dress is made of the young leaves of the coconut, bleached, and slit into narrow strips, and fastened at one end with a string, it is about two feet in length, and reaches from the hip to the knee. A man when well dressed has about six of these tied round him. This dress is light and elegant, and yields to any motion of the body. The belts also form a part of the men's dress. They are worn similar to the maqro of the other Islanders. The upper edge of the belt reaches above the navel. The women's dress consists of the likou, being a fathom of calico wrapt round the loins, tucked in at one side, and reaching to the knee. They always dye the white calico with turmeric, which gives it a yellow appearance. Their upper dress is generally composed of a handkerchief as before described. The natives are very fond of ornamenting themselves, especially the females. They manufacture beautiful head bands of various coloured beads; also necklaces of the same description, intermixed with small round beads made of shell and coconut wood, about the size of a small shirt button or mould; this and their ear ornaments are decorated with threads of scarlet cloth made up into tassels.

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Breadfruit

The food of the natives consists of breadfruit, yams, wild taro, coconuts, bananas, sugar cane, pigeons, also fish, turtle, beche-de-mer, and many species of shell fish. Of the breadfruit tree they have various kinds, distinguished by fruits of different sizes; the largest of which is the sweetest and most agreeable to the taste. Nature seems to have been very bountiful in her supply of this fruit, for the different varieties follow each other throughout the year. They have a peculiar method of preserving the breadfruit, of which the following description may give some idea. When the fruit is ripe, it is prepared by paring off the outer rind, and cutting it up into small pieces; holes are then dug in the ground to the depth of three feet; these are thickly lined with banana leaves, in order to prevent the water from penetrating into the holes. The holes are then filled to within a few inches of the top with the sliced breadfruit, thatched over with the same description of leaves, and covered with stones to press it down. This renders the holes both air and watertight. After a while, fermentation takes place, and it subsides into a mass, similar to the consistency of new cheese.

Their chief reason for preserving the breadfruit in this manner is to provide against famine, as they have a tradition that a violent hurricane took place at the island about a century ago, which blew the trees down and caused a famine. It is said that it will keep in these holes for several years, and although it emits a sour and most offensive odour when taken out of the holes, yet the natives consider it an agreeable and nutritious article of diet, equally palatable as when in its fresh state. This is principally used at their feasts, and is consumed in large quantities. When taken out of the pits, it is well kneaded, wrapped up in banana leaves and baked in ovens of hot stones. When cooked, it has a sour taste. The leaves of the bread- fruit trees are used to serve their victuals on, and as fans to keep off the flies.

The following description may give some idea of their mode of cooking. A fire is made up of wood and covered with small stones. When the wood is all consumed, they rake the ashes out, and place a layer of the heated stones on the ground, on which they place their food well wrapped up in banana and wild taro leaves to prevent it from burning; the remainder of the heated stones are then laid on the top of the leaves containing the food. When that is done, the hole is then closely covered up with leaves, mats, etc. so as to prevent the steam from escaping. In a couple of hours the food will be sufficiently done. Whole pigs, turtle, yams and breadfruit are cooked in this way.

Breadfruit being the chief food of these natives, they have, from the little time occupied in cultivating their vegetable productions, a great deal of leisure. They have no regular plantations, but small spots of ground here and there are cleared, in which the yams are planted. They merely make a small hole in the ground sufficiently large to admit the seeds and do not even loosen the earth around it to allow the yam to grow to any size; the consequence is that they are of a very small size and many of them of an indifferent quality.

Their feasts claim priority over everything else. The King makes an annual visit to every village in the tribe, at which time their greatest festivities take place, the chiefs then vying with each other to see who can entertain him the best. Immense quantities of breadfruit and yams are cooked at these feasts, and kava drinking is also carried to excess.

These feasts commence in the morning and continue until near sunset, at which time the greater of the chiefs are quite insensible with kava. It appears to act on them similar to opium, without its bad effects. The young people then commence dancing and continue it until midnight at which time they all retire to rest. These festivities last for two days at each village during the King's annual visit; but feasting on a smaller scale is of daily occurrence. No chief visits another without a feast being prepared for the reception of the guest. The visitor of course returns the compliment whenever his friend may visit him. Kava is universally drunk at these feasts,

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Coconut

The Bornabi drum is made of a piece of wood, hollowed out, and covered over the ends with shark skins and is similar in shape to an hour glass; they beat it with the fingers of the right hand, the drum resting on the left knee; it sounds something like the Tom-Tom of the Hindoos. The drummer sits across legged and accompanies it with singing.

Their dance are by no means indecorous, and are unaccompanied by those lascivious gestures generally witnessed at other islands.

The dancers consist of the unmarried men and girls who stand in a row. The keep time with their feet to the song, and accompany it with graceful movement of the arms and body resembling the evolutions of soldiers drilling. At times the arms are thrown out from the body, when they give a rapid quivering motion to the fingers, clap their hands together, and rock the body to and fro. Every movement is made in perfect unison, and at the same moment, by the whole party.

The only musical instrument they have is a small flute, made of bamboo. The sound is produced by inserting one end to the nose - breathing through it gently, and varying the notes by the fingers.

The tattooing of these natives may be said to form a part of their dress. It is performed by old women, who make it a regular profession. The age at which it is performed, is about twelve or fourteen in both sexes. The colouring matter is obtained from the kernel of some nut, and the operation is performed by an instrument made of bone, sharp like the teeth of a comb and which is made to enter the skin by a slight blow of a stick. Both sexes are tattooed from the loins to the ankles, and from the elbows to the knuckles.

The natives of Bornabi are very regular in their habits. They rise at daylight - bathe in fresh water, then take their morning meal, and afterwards anoint their bodies with turmeric and coconut oil. They then proceed to their occupations for the day, and continue at it until about noon, when they return home, again bathe and take another meal. The remainder of the day is either spent in feasting or visiting. At sunset they take their evening meal, and wash themselves for the third time. They have no torches or any other means of lighting their houses, and unless when dancing or fishing, retire early to rest.

Much respect and attention is awarded to the females at this island, and they are not mad to do any work but what rightfully belongs to them. All the outdoor labour is chiefly performed by the men, whose employment consists in building houses and canoes, planting yams, fishing, and bringing home the produce of their plantations, also planting kava and cooking. The women seldom assist at any outdoor employment, except it may be fishing and weeding the ground, but employ their time chiefly in manufacturing head dresses, weaving belts, sewing mats, making baskets, taking care of the house and children, etc. The work of both sexes is however very light, and much of their time is spent in pastimes, of which idleness forms the chief part.

Chastity is not regarded as a virtue among these natives nor is it considered as any recommendation in the choice of a wife. Promiscuous intercourse before marriage is quite common, and is practised without the least feeling of shame by either the parties themselves or their relations, and a father or brother will openly offer his daughter or sister for prostitution on board any vessel which may touch at the island, but after marriage, the women are obliged to be more guarded in their conduct; as a want of duty in this respect would be severely punished by the husband.

These natives, especially the females are exceedingly given to prattling, or have rather a tattling disposition; for they cannot keep even their own secrets, and a crime is divulged, nearly as soon as committed.

The introduction of European likou's, tobacco, Jew's harps, and beads, have no little influence in perpetuating licentiousness among the females, to whom foreign finery is a great temptation.

Pretty shades for the face, are made of coconut leaves, (they cannot be called hats, as they encircle and project from without covering the head) this head dress is chiefly worn by the fishermen to keep the sun off their face.

The mothers are exceedingly jealous of their daughter's husband's going astray with other women, and when caught, the woman, (if of lower rank) will get dreadfully beaten by the daughter's mother and relations, and often severely hacked with knives.

The courtesies of life with these people are few, and are usually confined to the simple inquiry on meeting of, 'Where are you going'? or, 'Where do you come from'? they do not appear to have any words in their language for, 'How do you do' or 'Goodbye', but merely say when parting 'I am going', 'Are you going to stop'? The rubbing of noses is not practised at this island, but on meeting a chief, the other natives either crouch or squat down (according to his rank) until he passes.

With respect to their marriages, I never had an opportunity of witnessing one, and know little respecting the ceremony, I have been told that when a native wishes to get a wife, he makes the girl's father a present, and that his suit is considered as accepted if he accepts of it. A feast is then prepared, and on its termination, the bridegroom takes his wife home. In the event of the wife dying, the widower takes the sister-in-law for his second wife; and on the death of the husband, his brother, (if he has any) becomes his widow's husband. First cousins are not allowed to marry at this island.

A man is at liberty to put his wife away, and marry another on certain condition, but the woman cannot leave her husband without his consent unless she is of higher rank. In that case she can do as she pleases. The chiefs generally have a plurality of wives, and polygamy is  allowed to any extent, and only limited by the ability of the person to support his wives.

Their funeral ceremonies appear to have undergone some change since their intercourse with Europeans. Formerly the bodies of their dead were wrapped in mats, and kept in their houses for a considerable time; but latterly they have adopted our custom of burying their dead in the ground.

On the death of a chief or any person of note, the female friends of the deceased congregate together for a certain number of days, and express their grief by loud and melancholy wailings during the day and dancing by night. All the relations of the deceased cut their hair off as a token of mourning. Whatever property may have belonged to the deceased person, is immediately carried off by those who can first obtain possession of it, and this custom is so universal, that things so obtained are considered lawful prize.

The weapons of these islanders consist chiefly of muskets and spears. The spears are made of hard wood - about 6 feet in length - pointed with the bone of the stingray, and thrown by the hand; but they are now very little used, as there is scarcely a man of any note on the island, who has not a musket, and many of the chiefs have 3 or 4 each, together with plenty of ammunition I should suppose that the natives of Bornabi hare fully 1500 stand of arms amongst them.

They have procured them chiefly from American Whalers as payment for yams and tortoise shell, and since their introduction the tribes have seldom been at war. They are now ell aware of the deadly effects of firearms, and live more harmoniously in consequence. The tribes of Matalanien and Awack were at war in the year 1843, but the dread of firearms kept them generally out of musket reach, and they shortly afterwards made peace. It is only able bodied men who form the war party, and they act pretty honourably, as they seldom kill women or children.

When one party is desirous of peace, some roots of kava are sent to the king of the other tribe by some neutral person, which if received, ends the war, and a succession of friendly visits are then interchanged betwixt the chiefs of the two tribes, attended with great feasting and kava drinking.

The kava is not chewed at this island, but the roots are pounded on a large stone, and after being moistened with water, the juice is squeezed out into small cups, (made of coconut shells) which are passed round by the attendants to the chiefs. The first cup is presented to the highest chief, or chief priest, if present, who mutters some prayer over it, before drinking.

Their prayers are usually addressed to the spirit of some deceased chief, petitioning to grant them success in fishing, and abundant crop of breadfruit and yams; and praying for the arrival of ships, and a bountiful supply of the good things of this life. The priest pretend to foretell future events, and the people put much faith in their predictions. They believe that the priest gets inspired by the spirit of some deceased chief, and that whatever he says, while labouring under the agitation into which they work themselves is dictated by the spirit, and that such prophecies will be sure to come to pass. Should any of their predictions however, not happen to correspond, they will cunningly pretend that some other spirit has interfered, and prevented it.    

The religion of these people is very simple. They have neither images nor temples, and although they believe in a future state, yet they do not appear to have any religious observances. They believe in the immortality of the soul, and that their Elysium is surrounded by a wall, having a bottomless ditch around it. The gate is guarded by an old woman, whom the spirit has to encounter on jumping across the ditch, and who attempts to throw it into this dark abyss. Should it, however, master the woman, and gain an entrance through the gate, it is forever happy; but should the woman succeed in throwing it down the ditch, it sinks into an abyss of eternal misery.

Their diseases when grown up appear to be but few, except the cutaneous or scurfy disorder before alluded to, which prevails more or less all over the island, and affects the females as well as the men. This disease produces a most disgusting appearance, but it does not appear to affect the general health of those subject to it.

The children are almost all subject to a disease in infancy (resembling the yaws) called kench but which generally leaves them when about 4 or 5 years of age. The sores when healed leave marks on the skin simitar to those caused by vaccination. Declines are of frequent occurrence. The dysentery mad its appearance at this island in 1843, and carried off a great number of the natives, and in 1845, the influenza prevailed in some districts, but with no great violence. Notwithstanding the licentious disposition of the females, the venereal disease is seldom met with. I have been told by the Europeans residing on shore, that the natives, when they do get infected from the crews of the whale ships, cure themselves in a very short time, by drinking an infusion of the kava several times a day for gonorrhoea; and a decoction of the root of the mangrove tree for the more virulent kind.

These natives are not cannibals, nor ever have been as far as I can ascertain; but look upon cannibalism with as much abhorrence as we do.

Having now given a brief description of the manners and customs of these islanders, as far as came under my personal observation, I shall before concluding these remarks give a short outline of the character of the Europeans and other foreigners, who are at present domesticated with them, together with a brief account of their first intercourse with Europeans.

The first white men who settled on this island were two runaway sailors from an English whale ship, about the year 1828. Those two men were treated with the greatest kindness by the natives, who built houses for them, gave them land and wives, and supplied them with abundance of food, and treated them with as much respect as their own chiefs. They were so fond of them in fact, that they offered them their choice of any thing the island produced. Shortly after this occurrence, several whalers visited the island for obtaining supplies of wood and water, yams, and other refreshments; and finding the natives hospitable, and eager to get Europeans to reside amongst them, induced many of the most worthless characters to desert from their vessels, especially those who preferred a life of ease and licentiousness to that of earning an honest livelihood. The natives being in a complete state of ignorance, with respect to the character of Europeans, enabled those worthless characters to gain a great ascendancy over them, and soon impressed them with the belief that they were all European chiefs, who preferred a life of adventure, to that of remaining home.

As the advantages to be derived from recruiting at this place because better known, the number of visitors continued to increase, and all the worthless characters they had on board generally deserted. The majority of those men were runaway convicts, who had been picked up at other islands in the Pacific, having made their escape thither from some of the penal settlements of New Holland. The number of this class of residents still continued to increase until the year 1843 at which time there were sixty Europeans on the island, scattered about amongst the different tribes and living under the protection of their different chiefs. At this time the natives began to get a little more enlightened, having learned from the masters of vessels, that those men were not chiefs, but scoundrels, who preferred the life of a savage to that of a Christian. This made the natives treat them with much less respect, and from that time until 1846, (when I last visited the island) many of them shipped on board the whalers, in the room of others who had deserted, so that their numbers were much about the same at that time.

Such is a brief outline of the history of these men, and I shall treat more fully of their character, and pernicious influence over the natives, as I happen to fall in with them, in the course of my narrative.

In concluding these remarks, I may here observe that were a company formed at home, consisting of one hundred share holders of 100 pounds sterling each - making a capital of ten thousand pound sterling, to send out a party of trustworthy men in two vessels built expressly for the South Sea trade, that a fine thing could be made by establishing coffee and sugar plantations on Strong's Island (Kosrae), Bornabi, and the Pallou Islands (Pallau). But some sort of protection would be required from the home government in the way of appointing the superintendent to act as consular agent, which power would enable him to preserve order amongst the reprobates on Bornabi. At Strong's Island no reprobate white men are allowed to live on shore; and in consequence of Bornabi being infested with these blackguards, the greater portion of the whale ships now go to Strong's Island to recruit. Strong's Island is about the same size as Bornabi, possessed of good harbours, and its natives and productions are similar in every respect, except language, to Bornabi.

If such a company were formed at home, the vessels could go direct there (having obtained the sanction of the home government) and purchase the unoccupied lands around the different harbours from the chiefs, and by entering into a commercial treaty with them, secure the whole trade of the place.

Strong's Island is now the suitable place to form the establishment for supplying whalers and were such an establishment once formed, and proper laws enacted to prevent their crews from deserting, I am confident, for what I have heard American whaling captains say, that the greater part of their fleet, would give Strong's Island the preference for recruiting and repairing their ships, at that place; as it is on their cruising grounds, and would cause much less loss of time, than by going to Sydney or Oahu to refit.

On the other hand, the vessels after forming the establishments, would be employed trading amongst the other islands, for beche-de-mer, sandalwood, tortoise shell and pearl shell etc., but it would require a person experienced in the trade to conduct this department, as the beche-de-mer must be properly cured, otherwise it will not be marketable. At the same time, the shore parties would commence planting coffee and sugar canes. The islands abound with wild ginger, which if transplanted and properly cultivated would be saleable. Native labour can always be gotten to manage the plantations. 

THE PEOPLE OF POHNPEI

The complexion of these natives is of a light copper colour. The average height of the men is about 5' 8" and the majority of them will be called small. The women are much smaller in proportion than the men - with delicate features and slight figures. Many of the chief's sons exceedingly well formed; they are also of much lighter colour, than the generality of the natives, owing to their not being so much exposed to the sun, and would be considered fine looking men in any part of the world. Their features are in general well formed. The nose is slightly aquiline, but a little broad at the base - the mouth rather large with full lips and beautiful white teeth. The lobes of the ears are perforated in both sexes but are seldom distended to any size. Both sexes (especially the female) wear handsome ornaments, composed of small beads attached to the ears; they have also handsome necklaces made of the same material.

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Both men and women have beautiful long straight hair and very black; and which they take no little pains in dressing, with the variety of perfumes mixed with coconut oil. They also anoint their bodies (especially the females) with turmeric, in order to give them a whiter appearance, and which it undoubtedly does. They consider that this adds much to their beauties. The chiefs and their families, ornament their heads with beautiful wreaths of sweet scented flowers, at feasts and on other occasions. The men wear neither whiskers nor beards; they extract their hairs as soon as they make their appearance by means of tweezers made either of a small piece of tortoise shell bent double, or a pair of small cockleshells. The generality of the women are handsome; but as they marry at an early age, they soon lose all claim to beauty.

The complexion of the young girls is much lighter than that of the men. This is owing to the use of turmeric, and to their wearing an upper article of dress, formed by a cotton handkerchief as a shelter from the sun which covers their breasts and shoulders, and which has a slit in the centre to allow passage for the head.

With regard to the general character of these people, the most favourable feature is the affection which both sexes bear towards their offspring, and the respect which paid to age - two qualities in which most of the other islanders I have visited are sadly deficient. They are also good-humoured, desirous of pleasing and exceedingly hospitable; as a proof of which, I may mention, that upon every occasion of my visiting the King, or a chief of high rank, I was treated with the most marked distinction: a feast was prepared for me, and on one occasion, one hundred roots of Kava were laid at my feet, besides heaps of Yams, breadfruit, etc. As a shade upon this picture, it must be admitted that they are indolent, covetous and deceitful, and but little confidence can be placed in their professions. I must not forget however, that I am writing of savages; and so much that is praiseworthy appeared in their conduct, and such capabilities of improvement by civilisation, as must rank them far above all other savages, with whom I have had intercourse.

During the whole period of my stay at this Island, and subsequent visits, I never experienced an instance of theft on their part, unless when instigated so to do, by the white reprobates who are domesticated with them. In short, unless when prompted by these vagabonds, I have found them strictly honest in their dealings; paying me punctually for any goods I may have advanced them. Owing however to the influence which the Europeans have obtained over the natives, by speaking their language fluently - by teaching them to distil spirits from the coconut toddy, and assimilating themselves as far as possible to their habits; the character of the latter has become greatly deteriorated; they have already become adapts in lying, and will soon (unless these fellows are removed from the island) become habituated to every species of vice and immorality.

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Jane Resture
(E-mail: jane@janeresture.com -- Rev. 7th July 2010)