"A Gold Mine, Ethnologically"
ALTHOUGH IT HAD NOTHING TO DO with her study for Franz Boas on heredity and environment in relation to adolescence, Mead had planned, from the time of her first arrival in Manu'a, to visit Fitiuta for research "of a strictly ethnological nature" for the Bishop Museum. She had, however, deliberately "procrastinated" until she had acquired a sufficiently "fluent command" of Samoan. By February 1926, even though she had been living in the U.S. Naval Dispensary with other Americans, she had become proficient enough in Samoan to act as an interpreter at a court held by Lieutenant Commander Edell and at an "emergency case" for Edward Holt, when "both nurses were at the other end of the village." She thus felt ready by February 20, 1926, to tackle the ethnological research that she wanted to do in Fitiuta. Once there, she only "tried an interpreter once," when she used a native nurse to communicate with an old midwife named Fa'agi. Thereafter, except in her conversations with the Samoan schoolteacher, Andrew Napoleon, who spoke fluent English, she "gave up attempting interpreters and worked on everything from religion to medicines without them." 1
Getting to Fitiuta, which was seven miles from the naval dispensary by a rough foot track, was something of an ordeal for visiting Americans. According to Mead, the sanitary inspectors and other government officials who "had to make the trip dreaded it, articulating for a week before, and came back to be nursed and sympathized with for a week afterwards." Mead found the trail "awful" with "miles of mud,"