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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/509

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LIFE IN THE SOLOMON ISLANDS.

I can not conclude my description of the natives and their customs without some reference to cannibalism and head-hunting. I may state that very few white men have ever had the good fortune to see a cannibal feast, as the natives, knowing the detestation in which the practice is held by white men, always keep the occurrence as quiet as possible. On one occasion only did I ever see human flesh, and the owner assured me he was not going to eat it. I never heard of cannibalism the whole (six months) time I was living at Aola on Guadalcanar, and the natives, in answer to my inquiries, most strenuously denied the practice, but this, of course, they would do. On San Cristoval it is said to be common, and bodies are hawked about for sale from town to town, and the same is the case on Malayta. The head-hunters of New Georgia and the neighboring islands are also notorious cannibals, while my own boy, Hogare, who was a native of the island of Buka, confessed to me that the practice was common there. Not only will the New Georgian natives eat the bodies of those killed in battle, or prisoners, but they will exhume the bodies of people recently buried for their disgusting purpose.

Throughout the group one constantly sees human skulls hung up either in or outside the houses, but it is from New Georgia and the adjacent islands that head-hunting is carried on to its fullest extent. Among these natives it appears to be a perfect passion. No canoe-house can be completed and no canoe launched without a head being obtained. They make long voyages in their large tomakos, or head-hunting canoes, for the purpose of securing heads, the chief hunting-ground at the present time being the two islands of Choiseul and Isabel, ninety to one hundred miles away, which, however, are becoming somewhat "worked out." The basest treachery is often employed. They will at times visit a village as friends, and, after staying for a day or two, at a given signal turn upon their hosts, and either kill them or take them alive. Such a case occurred while I was at Rubiana. At other times they will surprise or cut off a party fishing on the reef, and no matter whether they are men, women, or children, the heads count. The heads, after being slightly smoked, are stuck up along the rafters of the roof in the canoe-houses, and I have myself counted thirteen recent heads in a house at Sisieta. Occasionally the headhunters themselves meet with reverses; and while at Rubiana I inquired the reason of some particularly fine cocoanut-trees having been cut down; I was told that it was in consequence of the death of a chief who was killed on a head-hunting expedition to Isabel.