Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/631

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SOME NATIVES OF AUSTRALASIA.

selves at their expense. In 1800 the Tasmanian race was reduced to sixteen souls; in 1869 the last man perished, and in 1876 "Queen" Truganina, popularly known as Lalla Rookh, followed her people to the grave. But there still survived a few half-castes, and in 1884 a so-called "Tasmanian" woman obtained a grant of land from the Colonial Parliament.

The Fijians present affinities both with the western Melanesians and eastern Polynesians, and are at least partly of mixed descent, although the majority approach nearest to the former group. They are tall and robust, very brown and coppery, sometimes even almost black, with abundant tresses intermediate between hair and wool. Half-breeds are numerous and are often distinguished by almost European features. Till recently they went nearly naked, wearing only the loin-cloth or skirt of vegetable fiber, smearing the body with oil, and dyeing the hair with red ochre. The women passed bits of stick or bark through the pierced lobe of the ear, and nearly all the men carried a formidable club; now they wear shirts, blouses, or dressing-gowns, or else drape themselves in blankets, and thus look more and more like needy laborers dressed in the cast-off clothes of their employers. They display great natural intelligence, and, according to Williams, are remarkable for a logical turn of mind, which enables Europeans to discuss questions with them in a rational way. Their generosity is attested by the language itself, which abounds in terms meaning to give, but has no word to express the acts of borroAving or lending. Compared with their Polynesian neighbors, they are also distinguished by much reserve. Their meke, or dances, always graceful and marked by great decorum, represent little land or sea dramas, sowing, harvesting, fishing, even the struggles between the rising tides and rocks.

Cannibalism entered largely into the religious system of the Fijians. The names of certain deities, such as the "god of slaughter," and the "god eater of human brains," sufficiently attest the horrible nature of the rites held in their honor. Religion also taught that all natural kindness was impious, that the gods loved blood, and that not to shed it before them would be culpable; hence those wicked people who had never killed anybody in their lifetime were thrown to the sharks after death. Children destined to be sacrificed for the public feasts were delivered into the hands of those of their own age, who thus served their apprenticeship as executioners and cooks. The banquets of "long pig"—that is, human flesh—were regarded as a sacred ceremony from which the women and children were excluded; and while the men used their fingers with all other food, they had to employ forks of hard wood at these feasts. The ovens also in which the bodies were baked could not be used for any other purpose. Notwith-