Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/56

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[ch.
Divisions of the People.

number, and will none of them be of kin to their fathers. Thus it was that twenty years ago the Nggaombata was the dominant kema in Florida, and to be a great chief it was said that a man must be Nggaombata; but now the Manukama are rising into the chief place, and supply the chiefs in many districts of the island.

The system by which the Melanesian people are thus divided into exogamous groups in which descent follows the mother, receives of course the name of a Matriarchal system; but it must be understood that the mother is in no way the head of the family. The house of the family is the father's, the garden is his, the rule and government are his; it is into the father's house that the young bridegroom takes his wife, if he has not one ready of his own. The closest relationship, however, according to native notions, is that which exists between the sister's son and the mother's brother, because the mother who transmits the kinship is not able to render the service which a man can give. A man's sons are not of his own kin, though he acts a father's part to them; but the tie between his sister's children and himself has the strength of the traditional bond of all native society, that of kinship through the mother. The youth as he begins to feel social wants, over and above the food and shelter that his father gives him, looks to his mother's brother as the male representative of his kin. It is well known that in Fiji the vasu, the sister's son, has extraordinary rights with his maternal uncle. The corresponding right is much less conspicuous and important than this in the Melanesian Islands west of Fiji; but it is a matter of course that the nephew should look to his mother's brother for help of every kind, and that the uncle should look upon his sister's son as his special care; the closeness of this relation is fundamental. The connexion of kinship through the mother with the great exogamous group, and that of blood through the father with his family, thus stand in clear recognition, and to a certain extent necessarily conflict one with another. The connexion caused by marriage between members of the groups and