Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/86

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Property and Inheritance.

that which has been reclaimed from the mot, the uncleared forest, by the present owner or his recent predecessors. In the first case the nephews on their mother's side of the previous proprietor occupy the ground, each taking the piece he wishes for his own garden, and all having collectively a property in the whole. The land of the other character passes to the children of the man who has cleared the forest from it; his kin have no claim to it. The children divide it into separate lots, and do not in any way hold the property in common; the eldest son will take the oldest plantation, and the youngest will have the latest which has not yet borne its crop[1]. Here the patriarchal succession is fixed; in the other case it is coming in and has a recognized footing. It is common to make arrangements by which a man's children succeed him with the consent of the heirs at law. For example, when Woser's father died, who had held an utag at Motlav in common inheritance with his brother, Woser gave a pig to his uncle, and he thereupon relinquished his claim to half the property in the garden ground, which he did not use. The heir of the deceased, and the heir also in prospect of the deceased's brother, was the son of their sister; and to him Woser gave money to quiet his claim. Upon this Woser, with his two brothers and two sisters, entered upon the utag as if they had inherited it; that is, they occupied it by a common property in the whole and with a particular occupation of separate gardens. If a similar transaction were to follow upon the death of these present owners, who are not of their father's kin, the land would go to their children who will be not of their kin but of their mother's; the property will thus revert to the veve to which it belongs. Sometimes a man before his death begs his brother not to disturb his son in his garden; he agrees, and the son takes his father's place;

  1. There is no right of primogeniture. Daughters inherit of right equally with sons, but in fact they rather transmit the inheritance to their children. So in Fiji, 'Daughters can scarcely be said to inherit land. Land is given with them at their marriage, but it is not given to them. If they hold it at all it is only a means of transmitting the land to their children.'—Rev. L. Fison.