Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/43

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Exogamous Divisions.

now appear. There are not wanting some myths of origin, over and above the stories of creation told of Koevasi, Qat, or Tagar. It is said at Saa for example, in Mara Masiki, that men sprung spontaneously from a sugar-cane of a particular sort, tohu nunu: two knots began to shoot, and the cane below each shoot burst asunder; from one came out a man, and from the other a woman, the parents of mankind. It is of more consequence to observe the meaning of the words by which the people of the various islands describe themselves as men. It is said sometimes that people discovered in isolation from others call themselves merely 'men,' without a name for their race or nation, as if they thought themselves the only men in the world. In Melanesia, when natives were first asked who they were, they answered 'men,' meaning that they were not demons or ghosts, but living men; and they did so because they did not believe their visitors to be men, but ghosts themselves, or demons, or spirits belonging to the sea.

In the native view of mankind, almost everywhere in the islands which are here under consideration, nothing seems more fundamental than the division of the people into two or more classes, which are exogamous, and in which descent is counted through the mother. This seems to stand foremost as the native looks out upon his fellow men; the knowledge of it forms probably the first social conception which shapes itself in the mind of the young Melanesian of either sex, and it is not too much to say that this division is the foundation on which the fabric of native society is built up. There are no Tribes among the natives; if the word tribe is to be applied as it is to the Maori people of New Zealand, or as it is used in Fiji. No portion of territory, however small, can be said to belong to any one of these divisions; no single family of natives can fail to consist of members of more than one division; both divisions where there are two, and all the divisions where there are more than two, are intermixed inhabitation and in property; whatever political organization can be found can never be described as that of a tribe grouped round its hereditary or elective chief. It is probably true