Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/34

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[ch.
Introductory.

people shot at Bishop Patteson's party in 1864, when, as far as can be known, they had not as yet any injuries from white men to avenge, the natives have replied that their elder men said that these strange beings would bring nothing but harm, and that it was well to drive them away; and as to shooting at them, they were not men. and the arrows could not do them much harm. It is sad to think how generally the elder men have, from their own point of view at least, been right; iron, tobacco, calico, a wider knowledge of the world, have not compensated native people for new diseases and the weakening of social bonds[1]. White visitors have not meant to do the natives wrong, but they have in fact harmed them, and have not earned moral respect at any rate generally from them. Europeans have from the beginning of intercourse with Melanesian natives kidnapped them, and have persuaded themselves that they were doing them a service by bringing them into what is called contact with civilization; the natives have from the first resented the kidnapping of their sons, and their sons, however much they may have wished to go away and have rejoiced in what they have learnt and acquired, will hardly be said by any impartial observer to have done any good when they have returned; although indeed to some people the power of speaking a little 'pigeon English,' for their convenience, seems to be a great improvement to a native.

To a voyager among these Melanesian islands who has no special geological learning the generally volcanic character

  1. I believe there is no doubt that dysentery was unknown in the islands till natives returned from residence with Europeans. When the Nukapu men, whose kidnapping was the immediate cause of the death of Bishop Patteson, escaped from Fiji and made their way to their native island, dysentery, before unknown, broke out there. The absence of a native name for this and other diseases, is to some extent at least a proof of recent introduction. Within my own recollection syphilis, or the venereal disease which was taken for it, was unknown in the islands visited by the Melanesian Mission, except at San Cristoval, where alone intercourse with whalers and traders had been considerable. It has lately become widely known, and it is certain that it has been brought back by returned 'labourers,' male and female.