Oral Traditions of Anuta: A Polynesian Outlier in the Solomon Islands

By Richard Feinberg | Go to book overview

One
Introduction

Scattered through the far western Pacific are a number of remote communities whose people are linguistically and culturally Polynesian. Because of their small size, isolation, and paucity of commercially exploitable resources, these so-called Polynesian outliers have been less susceptible to Western influence than many of their cousins to the east; and largely for this reason, they have received scholarly attention well in excess of their modest geographic, demographic, economic, and strategic prominence. 1 One such community is Anuta, a tiny Polynesian outpost in the eastern Solomon Islands.

This book presents Anuta's history as expressed and understood by people of that island. It consists of indigenous texts and English translations bearing upon themes that are important to Anutans and to scholars with an interest in history, oral tradition, and the Pacific islands. This volume's focus is the texts themselves, with annotation providing an ethnographic and linguistic context. The present work is to be followed by a second in which general themes are systematically explored and their theoretical significance made explicit.

Anutans have enthusiastically encouraged and participated in this project because history, for them, is intimately linked with cultural identity. As Polynesians in a country that is 90 percent Melanesian ( Leni et al. 1988:14), they are constantly reminded of their status as a racial, cultural, and linguistic minority and of their close affinity with peoples of the Polynesian triangle, many hundreds of miles eastward (see figure 1.1). 2 They validate their sense of who they are through an assertion of historical connection to Polynesia, both as their ancestral homeland and as a source of later interactions. Anutans draw on their Polynesian identity as a point of pride and to bolster claims to local autonomy. Even in the middle 1990s, they have refused either to pay taxes to the central and provincial governments or to recognize the legitimacy of political authority external to their own community and superior to their own chiefs. 3

For these reasons, Anutans have, since 1972, engaged me in the task of recording their history. Because the Anutans' past is vital to their understand-

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