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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/245

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THE ISLAND OF NIAS AND ITS PEOPLE.

the vast difference that exists between well-mothered children and those poor little Ishmaelites who, through want of either time or capacity on the part of the mother are left to scramble along the path of life as best they may. The teachers, with all our books and methods, can not lead a child even to speak correctly, when it hears nothing but bad English at home; how, then, can our endeavors, temporary and intermittent as they must be, counteract the demoralizing influence of the shiftlessness and disorder that prevail in a home from which the mother is always absent? It is beside the mark to object that the mothers themselves are often so ignorant and thriftless as to make their presence little to be desired in any home; can we expect to find models of the domestic virtues among those who have never had the opportunity to practice them? We all know that there are foolish and incompetent mothers in every walk of life; but would any one, therefore, argue that it is good for children in general to be deprived of the care of their mothers? Such faults of the poor as arise from lack of opportunity we may hope to correct; those that are inherent in human nature I leave to the moralist, as beyond the scope of this paper.

 

THE ISLAND OF NIAS AND ITS PEOPLE.
By H. SUNDERMANN, Missionary.

THE island of Nias is situated in the first degree of north latitude, and between the ninety-seventh and ninety-eighth degrees of east longitude, and is the largest of the chain of islands that stretch along the west coast of Sumatra. It is about seventy miles from Sumatra, and is about seventy-five miles long and from eighteen to twenty-five wide. It consists almost entirely of hill-land, through which road-making is difficult, and this, with the thick, tall grass rendering the narrow native paths invisible except almost at the traveler's very feet, makes communication difficult. Animal and vegetable life are sparsely represented. There are no dangerous animals except crocodiles and wild swine, which last are very destructive to the cultivated fields. The only domestic animals are swine, hunting-dogs, cats, hens, and a few goats. The timber-trees, in considerable variety, furnish good building-woods; the cocoa and durian are the principal foods. Sago and sugar palms, rice, yams, caladima, pisang, a sort of spinach, and a small bean, are the principal cultivated plants.

The people call themselves "Niha," which signifies "men," and their island "Taño Niha," the land of men. No definite ac-