Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/89

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New Hebrides.

especially his sister's son, have a right to go and take what he may have left behind him; but this is generally compounded for by a sum of money, tulag, after receiving which no further claim can be made. There is no doubt very often in such a case a suspicion or accusation of poisoning or witchcraft as the cause of death, for which compensation is demanded[1].

In the New Hebrides the ancient succession of the sister's son to his uncle's property appears to be strongly maintained in Araga, Pentecost Island, where the nephew succeeds to the house, the garden, and the pigs of his uncle, and the son takes nothing except what his father has given him in his lifetime; and even if a man makes a garden for himself out of the bush it must go to his sister's son. It is very different, however, in Lepers' Island, where the right of the sister's son seems to be barely recognized, and the property in the villages and in the gardens is held by individuals as their own, not as belonging to the waivung. The town lots are fenced round, so that the houses stand in enclosures. A man's son succeeds to his house property, but will not live in the house so long as his mother and sisters are there, on account of those restrictions upon intercourse which have been already mentioned. Houses are renewed in the same place, but not always on the same site, and villages are often shifted, the property in the ground being borne in mind. A man's garden-ground, labute, goes to his sons, who arrange the division of it among themselves, unless their father has expressed his will about it before his death. Women do not succeed to land, but have a right to a share in the produce of their father's gardens, which indeed their brothers are considered to hold partly for them. A man can make himself a new garden out of the unappropriated ground fit for gardens, the labute virogi,—loose, not tied up,—

  1. For example, Wete's son had gone over from Merlav to Merig, and there he died, having been charmed by means of a fragment of his food at the instigation of a man whose wife is Wete's sister. So on the return of the party, when the cause of death comes out, Wete shoots his sister with his gun, because her husband had been the cause of the death of his son. The whole transaction is looked upon as a matter of course (the woman not being much hurt); Wete is on the best of terms with his neighbours and relations.