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Nature volume 131, pages 588590 (22 April 1933) | Download Citation



Ethnology of Manihiki and Rakahanga, Cook Islands. Te Rangi Hiroa (Dr. P. H. Buck) has published as a separate monograph (Bull. 99, Bernice P. Bishop Museum), that part of the material collected by him on the Cook Islands expedition which was derived from the two atolls Manihiki and Rakahanga. The special interest of this investigation lies first in the fact that the people of the two atolls were one, passing as a body from one atoll to the other when forced to migrate by the depletion of the stock of coco-nuts and taro, until 1852 when the practice was stopped, owing to the loss of life in transit, and the community split into two; and secondly, because the original settlers were a single biological family—a fact which has had a marked effect on social organisation and tradition. According to tradition, the atolls were discovered by Huku of Rarotonga, who later settled his sister and her husband Toa on them. No priests came with the settlers; and in consequence the traditions and mythology are de fective, the genealogical records poor in extent and detail—the primary parents are not remembered—and for seven generations the people had no gods. Family genealogies give a period of about 550 years from the first settlement, this agreeing with the date of the last migration to New Zealand. Owing to the peculiar circumstances of the settlement, Toa, in order to secure a male heir, married each of his four daughters and his granddaughter in succession, sons being born of the last two unions only. Male descent is all-important in the succession to rank and title, otherwise descent is bi-lateral; but more importance is attached to male descent, unless the mother comes of the more important lineage. After the people had been without gods for seven generations, two gods were introduced from another island.

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