[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home
previous:

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Chapter 7

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Yarns of a Kentucky Admiral

by
Admiral
Hugh Rodman, USN


published by
The Bobbs-Merrill Company
Indianapolis
1928

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

next:

[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 9
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p135  Chapter VIII
Anent the Gay South Sea Islands

It has been mentioned that at the end of our visit to Honolulu, after the coronation ceremonies, we sailed for the South Sea Islands. The first islands visited were the Samoan, where we now have a colony and naval station. This was in the early 'eighties when the Samoans were still very primitive, though there were a few whites there, and some signs of civilization.

They had lost none of their old native charm, their unbounded hospitality, kindness, childish abandon and lovableness. Though sincere Christians, they still practised many of their old customs and ceremonials, and lived the same indolent, care-free life that they led before the advent of the whites.

Their clothing, if it could be called such, was simplicity itself, consisting of a piece of tapa around their middle, extending from the waist to the knee, which was worn by both men and women.

Tapa is made from the inner bark of a tree, by beating it with mallets until the fiber is interlaced, then staining it with natural dyes and adding geometric and other figures. Some of it is very artistic. The Samoans, like most Polynesian races, made a great variety of fiber mats, which, with tapa, were extensively used for household purposes, and one's wealth was estimated roughly by the quantity and quality of these articles that one possessed.

 p136  Their houses were primitive, but afforded simple protection. First, a framework of posts and rafters of breadfruit wood was erected; this was heavily thatched with fronds from cocoanut trees and other material, and made thoroughly rain-proof. Their floors were beds of clean gravel, held in place by low surrounding walls of boulders; the sides were kept open for the sake of coolness. On the whole they served every purpose, and even their beds, which were simply a pile of mats and tapa on the gravel floor, were not only ideally adapted to the tropical climate, but remarkably comfortable, once one had become accustomed to them.

Tattooing was prevalent throughout most of Polynesia — an extremely painful process and a hideous custom. After the material had been prepared by carbonizing certain nut‑hulls, it was introduced under the skin by puncturing it with a sharpened bone, hammered with a wooden mallet. Needless to say, neither antiseptics nor anesthetics, local or general, were used. Samoan men, on reaching the age of puberty, were tattooed solidly from the waist to the knees, leaving wonderfully intricate, lace-like patterns of the bare skin.

When first thrown in contact with them, as they paddled off in their small dug‑out canoes in Apia harbor, I thought that each man wore close-fitting black swimming tights under the loin-cloth.

The Tattooed Queen In the Marquesas the women, and maybe the men too, as far as I can remember, tattoo one of the several quarters of their faces all but solidly and, in view of their former practise of cannibalism, it made them anything but pleasant to gaze upon. Yet they, like most of the eastern Polynesians, were a gentle and  p137 kindly people. I have spent many happy days alone with them in the mountains of Nukahiva, hunting and tramping through the country. The old queen of the Marquesas, who was still living at my last visit, had the reputation of being the most extensively tattooed person in the South Seas.

Some little diplomacy was used, which was probably unnecessary, to obtain her permission to photograph her body. She most willingly consented, then doffing her holoku, she stood smiling in the "altogether" in the bright sunlight of a tropic day, expressing an evident pride in her artistically decorated person. She was literally tattooed all but solidly from her head to her heels. She had been a cannibal in her younger days, but she must at least be considered solicitous and considerate, for when she was ready to marry a second time, she thoughtfully killed her first husband and served him up as the pièce de résistance at her wedding breakfast. Maybe she still wished to keep him with her — or a part of him at least.

The most artistic and intricate tattooing that I have ever seen is that of the Maoris in New Zealand, particularly that of the chiefs, whose whole faces are solidly covered except, as in the case of the Samoans, where lace-like patterns are made by the untouched skin.

Horrible as it may seem to us, the work has real artistic merit, and the designs are marvelous in conception and execution for such primitive people. Think of tattooing eyelids, nostrils, lips and other tender places by their crude methods! Yet it was endured without a murmur, in spite of the excruciating pain. Happily, tattooing is dying out among the most advanced Polynesian races.

 p138  But to return to the Samoans — they lived in Elysium; there was little or no necessity or incentive to work, since their food and scant clothing were easily obtainable. Material for their houses was at hand for the collecting. There was no need to hoard money; in fact there was very little in circulation, as the trade with the outside world was so insignificant that it was done principally by barter and exchange of commodities.

A Samoan Dinner Their food consisted principally of cocoanuts, breadfruit, plantains, fruits and taro, which, with the exception of the latter, grew in abundance and required little or no cultivation. Pigs and fowl were domesticated and the sea teemed with fish; there was, therefore, always an abundance of staple food.

Cooking was done underground, by digging a hole three or four feet deep and as many in diameter, and placing a layer of seaweed on the bottom, with previously heated stones on this. Then the food to be cooked, carefully and skilfully wrapped in banana or other vegetable leaves, was placed on the stones and the whole covered over with loose earth. When thoroughly cooked, the upper layer of earth was dexterously removed and the contents of the oven, if it may be so called, were taken out and served in hot steaming jackets.

Surely no more delicious method of cooking can be devised; everything was savory and palatable, the meats so tender and juicy that they seemed to melt in one's mouth. In the meantime a low platform of stones about eighteen inches in height was conveniently located under shade trees, and generally in the vicinity of a stream or pool of fresh water. Instead of the conventional table-cloth, the stones were leveled  p139 and covered with fresh green fronds of the plantain, ferns and other plants, with flowers added for decoration.

In addition to the cooked food there was some that was uncooked, including an abundance of fruit and cocoanuts; the meat of the cocoanut constituted the base of several of their choice dishes. Young cocoanuts were skilfully opened, primarily for their delicious water, but the gelatinous contents which remained was afterward scraped out and eaten.

One of the most palatable and delicious foods that I know is prepared, cooked or raw, from the so‑called heart of a cocoanut palm. It is only obtained from a very young tree, say, from four or five to eight or nine months old, and consists of the lower or inner ends of the young fronds, clustering around the center of the tree. While on an infinitely larger scale, it is somewhat analogous to a head of celery. It is hopeless to attempt to describe its taste, but when used as a salad it is crisp and crunchy, and the flavor may possibly have a suggestion of fresh walnuts, almonds, or other nuts that have had their skins removed, to be used in the same way. When boiled in cocoanut milk (not the interior water, but a fluid obtained by grating the meat of the ripe nut and subjecting it to a heavy pressure), it reminded me somewhat of the California artichoke, but was far superior to it in every way.

Unfortunately the young tree is killed by the process of obtaining the "heart," and since cocoanut trees have an appreciable commercial value, they are rarely destroyed for this purpose.

At the dinner a calabash made of a large cocoanut shell, containing a very palatable native sauce, was set beside each person, together with another calabash  p140 of poi, a fermented food made from taro, breadfruit or bananas.

But over and above all else was the unbounded hospitality, cordiality and gaiety that was always in conspicuous evidence. There was an entire absence of formality; hosts and guests sat, stood, lolled at ease at the table, came and left as fancy dictated. There were singing and music, and the hula was continually in evidence. You were expected to follow your own desires and encouraged to do so.

Later came the refreshing bath in the pool, in which every one took part, men, women and children, and wonderful exhibitions of swimming and diving were performed. After this, as the evening shadows began to fall, each one was left to his own devices: to take a short nap, stroll about in groups or couples through the luxuriant tropical foliage, join with the singing or dancing, or follow one's own bent, no matter where it might lead one.

Like other Polynesians, the Samoans are fond of dancing, and their hulas, or sivas as they are sometimes called, are not only interesting, but wonderful in their conception and execution. The hula is difficult to define and more difficult still to describe; much of it is done solely with the abdominal muscles, though arms, hands, legs, feet and facial expression accompany it with realistic motion and gesture.

It may be danced by one alone, or any number of people, is always accompanied by song, music or drumming, and is symbolic of the words used in the song. More often it is impromptu and used as a form of entertainment at small social gatherings, where, with more or less burlesque, it is apt to fall into suggestive abandon. On important or state occasions  p141 from forty to sixty men and women may participate, when it becomes a ritual strictly to be followed. The precision of the most famous Parisian ballet is as nothing when compared to a ceremonial hula. It may last for an hour or more, and every step, gesture and motion are perfectly synchronized and executed without a visible mistake.

A Ceremonial Cannibal Dance On one occasion, when our ship was in Nukahiva, Marquesas Islands, with Professor Alexander Agassiz on board, the governor granted permission to the natives to reenact a ceremonial cannibal dance for our entertainment, for otherwise it was unlawful for them to do so.

The scene was laid in a cocoanut grove on the beach at the head of a small bay, from which the open sea was plainly visible. It was a beautiful, clear moonlit night, with the white-caps breaking on shore; and immediately behind us the heavily wooded, precipitous mountains rose to a height of several thousand feet. In addition to the moonbeams scintillating through the cocoanut fronds, torches made of fiber, soaked in oil, were carried around the outskirts of the dance, causing a constant change in the illuminative effect.

It was a tribal ceremonial in which all took part, for while the dancers were the chief attraction with their marvelous contortions, yet the old women hovering around the edges and encouraging the dancers, the sober-faced children darting here and there and everywhere, the tom‑tom or drum beaters singing and prompting the dances, all had a weird, impressive and uncanny effect for they seemed so deadly serious and in earnest.

In the meantime the canoe supposedly bearing the  p142 captive enemy entered the harbor and made for the beach, where it was received by the natives armed with spears and war‑clubs, shouting, dancing, frantically gesticulating, brandishing their weapons with hostile and murderous intent. With shouts of exultation the enemy was dragged ashore, dispatched by a blow of a war‑club on his head, body disemboweled and dismembered, and carried piecemeal to the open fire, roasted and eaten. While, of course, all this was simulated, the deception, nevertheless, was cleverly enacted, giving it the appearance of reality.

The dance started rather passively, but each successive approach of the late lamented, in toto or piecemeal, as it was heralded to the dancers, added gusto and increased animation to their dancing and shouting, until finally when the fire was approached, there was a perfect frenzy of bodily contortion and a bedlam of bloodcurdling yells.

It was uncanny, for while there was not the slightest danger, it still sent coursing through your mind and body strange thrills and thoughts of the abhorrent possibilities of what might have been done a few decades ago, in this selfsame spot and by these identical people, had you yourself been the unfortunate captive enemy.

And yet it must be said in their favor that their friends were always perfectly safe. Melville had lived among them in this identical port. Twenty years previous I had spent several days at a time with them, shooting in the mountains and was never in the slightest danger, for cannibalism had already been thoroughly stamped out.

Of all the books I have read on Polynesian life, none have appealed to me as being more realistic accounts  p143 of actual conditions than those of Melville in which he describes his life in the Marquesas, and O'Brien's White Shadows in the South Seas, the scenes of both of which center around Nukahiva. Both are not only filled with absorbing interest and literary merit, but come more nearly being true to life as it was years ago, than any other works that have come to my attention, not excluding those of Robert Louis Stevenson, who passed much of the time of the last years of his life in the South Seas and died at Vailima, his home in Apia, Samoa, where his remains are buried.

Samoans were never cannibals like some of the other Polynesian races, probably for the reason that they always had an abundance of animal food. Cannibalism in the South Seas seems to pertain to those races where this was absent, though most of them would devour some of the vital organs of an enemy, believing that it would increase their valor, courage or strength. It was largely a ritual and the victims were more often enemies who had been killed in combat; but it must be admitted that some were killed for actual food, and that they considered human flesh palatable.

The Crown Prince of Fiji In Fiji we met the crown prince, whose ancestors had been kings of these islands and the most veritable and pronounced cannibals. The young man was a graduate of a British college in Australia, an affable and delightful gentleman, and, had not the islands been annexed by Great Britain he would be the king to‑day. It was interesting to note his mode of dress — while he wore the conventional European clothes above the waistline, from there to his knees he wore a white loin-cloth, the insignia of a chief. It was odd at a dinner  p144 party or evening function to see him in full evening dress as far as coat, waist-coat, shirt and tie were concerned but wearing a loin-cloth below — and bare-footed!

We had some interesting talks about cannibalism, which he frankly discussed, just as the Maoris did with me later in New Zealand, and he confirmed that which has been already stated. He said that while of course he had never indulged, from the best of his information, the taste of human flesh was not unlike that of a pig.

The old whalers who plied these waters generally spoke of it as "long pig," and doubtless got their ideas from their communications with the natives.

There is a general idea prevalent that when Captain Cook was killed by the natives at Kealakekua Bay, on the Island of Hawaii, his body was eaten. The Hawaiians were not cannibals, though they would eat certain organs of their enemies and possibly sacrificial victims; but in the case of Captain Cook, I am convinced on what I believe to be the most reliable information, that he was killed in resentment for some of his own or his crew's acts. His body was disemboweled, possibly preliminary to burial, his viscera placed in a calabash, where they were found by some children who ate part of them, thinking they were those of a pig.

According to Requirements Speaking of cannibals reminds me that many years ago when our ship was in Asiatic waters, we were ordered hurriedly to one of the South Sea Islands to protect the lives of some American missionaries, who, it might be inferred, were in imminent danger. Making all haste possible, we found on our arrival that some years previous the missionaries had arrived and started in promptly to convert the heathen. At  p145 first they met with but little success, but like other innovations and fashions such as the fox‑trot, chewing‑gum, bobbed hair and jazz, religion had become the fad, and the acme of success was attained when the king presented himself for membership.

In addition to a number of other questions, it was found necessary to ask him how many wives he had.

"Only two," he answered.

"You can't join with that number of wives," replied the missionary.

The king departed. Two weeks later he appeared, announced his candidacy, and there followed the same questions as before.

"How many wives now?"

"Three," he replied, and was again denied admission. Whereupon he asked submissively, "How many do I have to have to get in?"

"Only one," came the reply, and the king smiled and disappeared.

Some days later, sleek and fat, with an air of confidence, he again made application, and to the question as to the number of wives, answered, "Only one."

"What did you do with the other two?"

"Eat him," he replied, patting his stomach.

He was not admitted and, being peeved and riled at this extraordinary conduct on the part of the white man, began making it hot for the missionaries — hence our orders.

There is an aversion on our part to certain foods which other nations consider palatable. For instance, some of our North American Indians, the Igorots in the Philippines, the Esquimaux, and formerly the Hawaiians, were very partial to dog meat. Among the Hawaiians the dogs to be eaten were fattened on  p146 farinaceous foods, such as poi and cocoanuts, and were killed when they were young and tender.

A friend of mine, the captain of one of the inter-island steamers, had a brother living at Kealakekua, Hawaii, who was noted for his luaus, or native feasts. We had often discussed the matter of eating poi dogs, and naturally I had expressed my aversion, even though I had been assured that the flesh was excellent and not unlike that of young pig. It had been prearranged that we should attend a luau at his brother's home. When the meat was placed before me, I never for a moment had any other thought than that it was the conventional pig. I finished my portion with a relish and commented on its exceptional flavor and tenderness, and remarked that I had never seen pork cooked more deliciously. To my utter surprise I was informed that it was poi dog and not pork. While in my ignorance it must be admitted that I found it very palatable, it still did not remove my inborn prejudice.

Samoan children are taught to swim at about the age that others are learning to walk. It was most interesting to see the gathering of mothers each morning in the pool of a fresh-water stream, teaching their babies to swim, some still nursing at the breast, and many hardly able to walk alone.

Yet not a child showed the slightest fear and they would paddle their way around from woman to woman and occasionally essay a longer journey to the shore. Most of them are expert swimmers when five or six years of age. It is said that the men are so skilful that one will not hesitate to tackle a large shark in the open ocean with a knife, and have every confidence of killing it. This same skill seems to pertain to most of the eastern Polynesian races.

 p147  Physically the Samoans are not excelled by any race on earth. They are tall, erect, well developed and beautifully proportioned, which, coupled with their affable, charming manners, leaves little to be desired.

As a Memento While still cruising in the South Seas with Professor Agassiz, after visiting the principal groups and many of the separate islands, we arrived at Fongofale, on the Island of Funafuti. Here, as usual, a ceremonial hula was staged for our entertainment, and at its conclusion it was up to us to make a few remarks. After reciting the names of the various groups we had visited, the hulas we had witnessed, and the charming people we had met, I complimented the dancers, among other things on their exceptionally pretty pareus or hula skirts. These are usually made by fastening a number of pendent strips of pandanus, together with others of plaited grass, on a fiber belt, generally in the natural color of the material used. But in this case quite a number of the pandanus strips had been dyed in strikingly vivid colors.

At the conclusion of my remarks, we were surprised to see the coy maidens after a hurried and almost a blushing consultation, doff their skirts, present them to us and beg us to keep them as a memento of the occasion! Moral: Never admire a woman's ball-gown, though it must be confessed that with the present‑day fashions, women seem to wear precious little more than did those kindly, simple people in the South Seas, and leave as little to the imagination.

Polynesians love to sing; generally their favorite airs are a native version of some of our own simple songs, but beautifully rendered and thoroughly harmonious. In the Tonga Islands we invited the singers  p148 to come on board and give us a concert, but unwittingly invited two rival groups to come at the same time. Between these groups there seemed to be some jealousy or animosity, so that neither wanted to sing in the presence of the other. Here was an impasse, but at last we found a happy solution. We had some blanks for our phonograph, and all present were informed that if they would all join in singing their national air, the instrument would reproduce it. Since they had never seen nor heard of a phonograph, doubt and curiosity prevailed; so sing they did, and right lustily.

At the conclusion of the song the phonograph was started and after a few wheezes and coughs it reproduced their song. After an inspired silence, they were asked their opinion of it and replied that it was an instrument wonderful beyond compare, with an exceptional memory, for it had not only reproduced the air, but all of the different parts. And, stranger still, even the words in a foreign language, were repeated correctly and without an accent!

Our first visit to Samoa was made for the purpose of lending assistance in the solution of the problem as to who should be the recognized king, giving due weight and consideration to the claims of the several candidates, with particular regard for the one who might be most favorably inclined toward American interests, for Samoa was then an independent country under native rulers.

Many changes have been made since that time; dynasties have risen and fallen; foreign countries are to‑day exercising jurisdiction which has been acquired by annexation and conquest. Since the Germans lost their foothold during the World War, the islands have  p149 been divided by treaty between the United States and Great Britain, the former holding the eastern portion, with the capital at Pago Pago, the latter the western islands with Apia for its capital.

Royalty here, as in Hawaii, was taken seriously, and the former kings and chiefs are still highly respected and treated with deference. But here, as elsewhere in the South Seas, it was somewhat difficult at times to "pick your king" from the other natives, unless you had been previously informed.

From Whaling to Kinging Once, when anchored in a small harbor on the south shore of the island of Ponape, which lies between the Marshall and Caroline groups in the Western Pacific, I was directed to make a boat passage from there to the capital of the island, to call on the king and invite him to visit the ship. En route while making passage through a mangrove lagoon, we encountered a whale-boat manned by natives. Finding that the steersman of the crew understood English, I explained the object of my mission and asked directions. The man was dressed in a long white shirt worn outside his trousers, and a straw hat. He informed me that he was the king and was on his way to visit the ship.

"Where did you learn to speak English so well?" I asked him though as a matter of fact he spoke it very imperfectly, more in the form of a jargon than anything else. He replied by stating that in his younger days he had made several cruises on American whalers; that he had visited Australia, Liverpool, San Francisco and other ports, and he seemed quite proud of it.

"How did you happen to become king of Ponape?"

He answered that his father had been the king, who, when he died, was succeeded by the oldest son,  p150 and that on the latter's death he himself had inherited the title.

"Which do you like the better — kinging or whaling?"

The gist of his reply was that there was much of interest in both, but that on the whole he preferred "kinging." At any rate he was a highly respected, just and beloved king, eminently fitted for the duties of his office.

Forty years ago, Tahiti far outstripped the other mid‑Pacific equatorial islands in the adoption of modern civilization, and Papeete, the capital, was a well-built commercial city, with an excellent harbor, macadamized streets, plaza, water system, modern residences and an active thriving trade.

An Evening in Papeete Excellent roads for those days, built by the French Government, connected the outlying districts with the capital. Here the native life seemed to be the connecting link between the old and the new. During the day commercialism predominated; business and social intercourse, while not necessarily stilted, was yet to a degree formal and carried out in accordance with the conventions of modern civilization. But after sunset it was "all off" so far as the pleasure-loving Tahitians were concerned. Most of the foreign residents, and apparently all of the visitors, were only too eager to join the natives in their pleasure-loving customs.

The plaza in the center of the city had been made very attractive. It was planted with shade-trees and decorated with appropriate tropical foliage and blossoms. In the center there was a band-stand which was occupied by the local band, or one from some of the visiting war‑ships. A broad gravel walk, exclusively  p151 for pedestrians, encircled the park and band-stand. By eight o'clock the crowd would have assembled; everybody seemed to come — natives, residents, visitors, officers from the ships, from the admiral down to the youngest midshipman. Formalities on such occasions, if understood, were considered superfluous. You were a visitor and a guest, and the people welcomed you spontaneously and invited you to join them in their pleasures.

On every side, there was the greatest animation, gaiety and smiling countenances, in anticipation of the music and dancing soon to follow. There was a hustle and bustle to find a partner and join the procession and take position with the merry throng which, as soon as the band began playing some lively modern air, moved, arm in arm, hand in hand, or arms around each other, in cadence to the music and merrily surged around the plaza. All was smiles, laughter, merriment, with not a discordant note.

Immediately when the band stopped playing came the hula, danced exclusively by the girls and young women, who would temporarily desert their partners, take position in formation, tuck up their holukusº in improvised belts and await the signal to start. After a droning chorus by the older women, on the first stroke of the drum or sounding board, with symmetry of motion the hula would begin.

No written description would be adequate or sufficiently realistic to describe the wonder and interest that this dance produced. The hula, as previously stated, is symbolical of deed, thought or emotion which is interpreted by the accompanying song, but this one was evidently unrelated to heroics or serious  p152 subjects, judging from the joyous animation, evident humor and sheer joy of living which the participants so continuously expressed. It was evident that certain parts were burlesqued, and to those who spoke the language and understood the import, it never failed to provoke a spontaneous outburst of laughter and applause.

Again the band would play, followed by another hula. So the evening would pass, with cordial invitations from new‑made friends to share their unstinted hospitality, both in Papeete and in the country round-about.

Some of the largest estates were held by high chiefs descended from and closely related to the late royal family. They were highly respected by natives and whites alike, and deservedly so, not only because of their inherited rank, but also because of the wise and philanthropic manner in which they administered their duties. Although men of education, who had traveled extensively, spoke French and English fluently, they still retained many of the characteristics of the old days. This was evident in their lavish hospitality, generosity, improvidence, indolence, love of ease, lack of commercial enterprise, or ability to take advantage of promising opportunities, or protect themselves against dishonest business methods.

In the administration of their estates they were not unlike feudal barons, but far more just and generous to their dependents than were the lords of medieval Europe to their subjects.

Their country residences were fitted with modern conveniences and some of the luxuries; and they were handsomely, if not always tastefully, furnished. Yet numerous incongruities not infrequently showed that  p153 the owner had not entirely overcome his primitive tastes. It was odd to see some of the men in pareus (figured loin-cloths) doing the honors in drawing-rooms furnished in modern style, completely oblivious to the startling contrast to social conventions. Cultivated, well-educated native ladies, in holokus, who spoke French and English fluently, sat on mats on the floor in the drawing-room or the veranda, in preference to the chairs with which the rooms were furnished, and were apparently oblivious to the fact that it was anything out of the ordinary.

A Pleasure-loving People There was an entire absence of formality, an apparent familiar equality of every one present, regardless of rank, position or condition; and yet there was an evident inborn respect for the chief which prevented any trespass on the part of any one beyond certain well-established bounds of familiarity.

For the entertainment of the guests there were feasts, music, singing, dancing, horseback riding, swimming, boating, fishing, hunting, all ad lib, generally at no special hour or prearranged time, but more on the spur of the moment as fancy dictated.

And there was no prohibition! On the other hand, quite a variety of drinks were always in evidence, though it was rare to see any one much intoxicated. The whole day and most of the evening was given over to pleasure, so that at the end of a several-days visit, it was really a relief to return to the ship for a much needed rest.

It would be hard to find in any community a more lovable and charming family than that of the brothers and sisters of the late queen. It is an honor to have been included in their list of friends, and the memory of my several visits to Tahiti and the many happy  p154 hours spent with them, will always constitute one of the brightest spots in my South Sea cruising.

Present‑Day Samoa Forty‑odd years elapsed between my first and last visit to Samoa. Surely no greater changes could have taken place in any other part of the world that is familiar to me than in these islands. While there are still visible signs of bygone days in the costumes, houses and customs of some of the older natives, yet both Pago Pago and Apia, the respective American and British capitals, are decidedly modernized. Good roads, electric lights, automobiles, race-tracks, golf courses, hospitals, radio, comfortable dwellings with modern conveniences, uniformed police force, commercial institutions and regular communication with the outside world by mail and radio, with many other modern innovations, bring them well within the bounds of civilization as we understand it.

But have the so‑called advantages of Christianity and civilization added anything that compensates for their former happy and care-free life, which they enjoyed before the advent of the white man? If it be necessary to be a Christian and live up to Christian teaching in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, those religiously inclined will answer at once that the Samoans have at least obtained this opportunity; whether they take advantage of it or not is another matter. It seems to me that a civilization that sets out to conquer the world by spreading the gospel has, in general, worked most disastrously for the poor, ignorant, simple natives who have acquired a new religion which, though it promises much, under certain reservations, in the next world, leaves them mighty little in this one.

The Samoans were neither ruthlessly exterminated  p155 by the whites, nor plundered, as were the aborigines of Mexico by Cortés, the Incas by Pizarro, or the North American Indians by the Pilgrim Fathers and other settlers, who also absorbed or confiscated their lands without compensation. But in addition to the introduction of many fatal diseases, hitherto unknown to them, intoxicants and other equally disastrous curses of our so‑called civilization, the Samoans were deprived of their care-free, pleasure-loving, easy-going existence, and to‑day find that they must work and conform to the standards and laws imposed on them by their conquerors, whether they wish to or not. Not that they are in any sense unjustly treated, but more that they are compelled to comply with modern usage under existing conditions, if they would continue to live in the land of their ancestors.

It is a real pleasure, however, to note the successful efforts that are being made in both Britain and American Samoa to promote the interests of the natives, to encourage and protect them in their commercial dealings, to give them a share in the government through their chiefs, who are appointed to certain offices by the governors, to encourage the old simple life, to administer morally and physically to their several needs, and to use every effort to make them happy and contented. This policy is meeting with success.

The governor of our colony is an American naval officer, who is also commandant of the Naval Station at Pago Pago. He has an ample administrative staff of other naval officers, and keeps in close touch with the natives, who honor and respect him. Altruism is everywhere in evidence, and the people are loyal and prosperous.

 p156  Much of this has been gained by guarding them from outside influences and administering to their wants honorably and judiciously through trusted assistants. It is an ideal colony and we may well be proud of it.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 20 Sep 17