Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/319

This page has been validated.
XVI.]
297
Canoes.

as many sitters; when it was cemented with tita, a hundred pigs were killed for the feast. Such a canoe required a life for its inauguration[1].

In the Eastern Solomon Islands, if no victim was met with in the first voyage of a new canoe, the chief to whom the canoe belonged would privately arrange with some neighbouring chief to let him have one of his men, some friendless man probably, or a stranger, who would then be killed, perhaps as he went out to look at the new canoe. It was thought a kind thing to come behind and strike him without warning. Further west also captives were kept with a view to the taking of their heads when new canoes were launched.

It is remarkable that while the paddles used in the Eastern Solomon Islands as far as Florida are pointed, some very narrow and pointed indeed, those used in Ysabel have an obtusely pointed, short, and broad blade with a comparatively long shaft, the latter having a crescent-shaped handle, and the former a crutch, for the upper hand. The paddles of the Banks' Islands and New Hebrides are comparatively shapeless and heavy.

A custom common to the Solomon Islands and the Eastern groups is that of taking a new canoe about to show it with a large party who receive presents wherever they visit. A great deal of trading is carried on between the various islands of each group; in two places the people live by commerce and

  1. For example, Dikea, the chief of Ravu in Florida, bought his peko, named Lake (fire), at Olevuga in the same island, for sixty rongo, a large sum of money. It was brought over secretly and put into a kiala, canoe-house, built out of sight, till a head should have been procured. Dikea sent to his brothers Sauvui and Takua for help, and when he saw their fire-signal at the mouth of the Vula passage in the night joined them there, bringing the new canoe, and as they passed through other canoes joined the expedition. Before daylight they had ambushed at Hagalu; and in the morning a single man, Tibona, came by them in his canoe. They hid till he was past, and then drew down the new peko to chase him; he dived to escape, but they caught and killed him, set up his head at the prow of the canoe, and paddled back to Ravu with shouting and blowing conch-shells; the women and children however would not go out to see.