Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/74

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[ch.
Chiefs.

influence increased. Thus according to a native account of the matter 'the origin of the power of chiefs, vunagi, lies entirely in the belief that they have communication with powerful ghosts, tindalo, and have that mana whereby they are able to bring the power of the tindalo to bear.' A chief would convey his knowledge of the way to approach and to use the power of the tindalo to his son, his nephew, his grandson, to whom also he bequeathed as far as he could his possessions. Thus he was able to pass on his power to a chosen successor among his relations, and a semblance of hereditary succession appeared. A man's position being in this way obtained, his own character and success enhanced it, weakness and failure lost it. Public opinion supported him in his claim for a general obedience, besides the dread universally felt of the tindalo power behind him. Thus if he imposed a fine, it was paid because his authority to impose it was recognized, and because it was firmly believed that he could bring calamity and sickness upon those who resisted him; as soon as any considerable number of his people began to disbelieve in his tindalo his power to fine was shaken. But a chief had around him a band of retainers, young men mostly, from different parts of the island some of them, of various kema, who hung about him, living in his canoe-house, where they were always ready to do his bidding. These fought beside him and for him, executed his orders for punishment or rapine, got a share of his wealth, and did all they could to please him and grow great and wealthy with him. They would marry and settle round him if strangers in the place; and thus a chief and his retainers would be by no means always the representatives of the people among whom they ruled, and who sometimes have suffered for their misdeeds[1]. The influence of a chief, if his band of retainers is large, and the district in which he rules is populous, extends widely in the island; his brother chiefs aid him, and, for a consideration, carry out his wishes[2]. The power to impose a

  1. Julian Avenal, not Fergus McIvor, represents such a Melanesian chief.
  2. Some years ago the captain of one of Her Majesty's ships laid upon Takua of Mboli the duty of apprehending a certain offender, and keeping him a