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Chapter 6: Pre-contact lifestyle
Transcript of Chapter 6: Pre-contact lifestyle
For war and medicine
2. Social Organization
3. The Coconut Tree
Chapter 6: Pre-contact lifestyle
"Contact" refers to the arrival of European explorers in the Pacific islands.
Before European contact, islanders had a subsistence lifestyle.
Subsistence means doing everything for yourself.
The caught, raised, and grew all their own food.
They made their own tools from materials on the island.
They also built their shelters and made clothes from local materials
The ocean played a very big role in the lives of the Pacific islanders.
It was their main source of food and other important resources.
Islanders learned to travel long distances over the ocean in order to explore and visit other parts of the Pacific.
Any trading was usually done as simple barter.
Trade across the islands was a way to meet with other people as well as to exchange goods.
Islanders that lived on Micronesian atolls traded woven mats to high islander for food that didn't grow on atolls.
Papua New Guinea coastal tribes traded with high-landers
In Melanesia, pigs were used to buy brides.
Polynesians did very little trading.
Only a few islands had any kind of money system.
It was mostly for ceremonial purposes.
Rai (Yapese) stone money
From local materials, islanders could make many things.
The main thing islanders lacked was metal.
Tools not made of metal wore out easily.
For food, islanders had coconut, breadfruit, taro, pandanus, banana, and others fruits.
The high islands (Melanesia and Western Polynesia) also had sweet potatoes and yams
For protein, islanders ate chickens, pigs, and dogs. Pigs were especially important in Melaneisa.
Another source of protein was the big land crabs, but most protein came from the sea.
Fishhooks were made from wood or shell.
Lines were made from coconut fiber.
Hermit crabs were used as bait.
Islanders used hooks and lines when they were out in their canoes.
Then they could catch tuna and other fish that live in the deep ocean.
Sometimes fishermen stopped the canoe over a deep reef.
They caught fish like the red snapper, which lives on the bottom of the ocean.
To get reef fish, fishermen used wooden spears (no rubber sling).
Sometimes they made a large net from coconut leaves.
Other people drove the fish into the net.
They also got octopus, clams, and lobsters off the reefs.
They used small trow nets for catching fish in shallow water.
Fish traps were used on many islands.
Sticks were tied together to make a trap.
The trap looked like a cage.
It was placed on the reef.
Fish swam into the trap and could not get out.
Islanders made poison from certain plants.
The poison stunned the fish, but did not harm the people who ate the fish.
Once stunned, the fish floated to the top of the water - then they were easier to catch.
Since there was no metal, tools were made of wood, stone, and shell.
The main tool used in the Pacific was the adze.
A clam shell or shaped stone was used as the cutting edge.
The adze was used for hollowing and shaping canoes.
It was used for almost any carving job.
Later, metal brought by the Europeans was used.
Metal can last longer.
The islanders wove coconut and pandanus leaves.
They made baskets, sails, and mats this way.
On a few atolls, islanders wove cloth for clothing.
These islanders wove banana or hibiscus bark on wooden looms.
Sometimes they wove pandanus into cloth for clothes.
On other islands, the bark of certain trees was pounded into tapa cloth.
Islanders liked to dress up to make themselves look beautiful.
Melanesians had fancy, colorful costumes.
Polynesians and Micronesians tattooed
Sometimes they put yellow powder on themselves. They often wore flowers.
Buildings were made of wood and grass or leaves (called thatch).
The wood was tied together by coconut rope.
The thatch was tied to the wood.
Sometimes the house had raised floors with high roofs.
This kind of house was very airy and cool.
Large canoe houses and men's house were made this way.
Some islanders used bamboo to make their houses:
For war, Melanesians sometimes used the bow and arrow.
Micronesians and Polynesians mostly used war clubs.
They made clubs of hard wood.
Sometimes the clubs had sharp edges.
The war club could easily crush a man's skull.
Often shark's teeth were put in clubs, spears, and smaller weapons.
Stingray tails were sometimes used as spears.
Islanders would also use slings to throw stones at their enemies.
Medicine men were skilled in the use of plants and herbs.
They knew which ones to use when someone was sick or poisoned.
Magic chants were also often used to heal.
These chants caused many missionaries to object to (refuse) local medicine.
For many ailments (sickness or injury), excellent massage techniques proved useful.
Religion on Pacific islands was polytheistic.
Islanders believe in many gods, spirits, and ghosts.
Ancestor worship was extremely important, especially in Melanesia.
People believed in, and used, magical powers for telling future events, for causing illness, insanity, or death, or for making people fall in love.
If the people of two islands worshiped different gods, and went to war against each other, the winning island was assumed to have the stronger god.
Then the losing island would have to worship the winner's god.
Acquired: when you are born into the life that you have
Achieved: when you work towards the life that you have]
Social organization and specific customs varied from island to island.
Some islands had special classes, or ranks.
Some people were born into a higher class.
Others were of a lower class.
Some islands had royalty, kings, and other chiefs. (They were born into this class.)
On some islands, there were slaves.
Some people became slaves when their side lost a war.
Others were children of slaves.
Cannibalism (eating human flesh) was practiced on some islands.
This was not usually done for food.
Cannibals ate their enemies after a war.
Eating the enemy after war showed how little they thought of their enemies.
In some cases, the winners ate their enemies to gain their strength, courage, or wisdom.
Infanticide (killing unwanted babies) was often used as a method for controlling population on some islands.
Human sacrifice (killing people to give to their gods) was a part of the religion on some islands.
The basis for most Pacific island cultures was, and still is, the extended family.
Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins all lived and worked together.
Family members shared what they had.
They shared their jobs.
They helped each other build houses and get food.
They shared watching the children.
This works well.
If a man tried to live with just his wife and their children, (nuclear family),
In the larger family,
each person had a secure place and a special job, with plenty of support in the family.
the family would not have the time or the resources to do all the necessary chores for survival in a subsistence economy.
On different islands, the power of chiefs and kings was different.
Some chiefs had real power.
Most, however, ruled only if the other chiefs agreed.
The chiefs had to take care of their people.
If they didn't, others might rise up and get rid of the ruling chiefs.
If you did not like a leader, you did not say that, especially if others might hear you.
Leaders were rarely criticized in public.
Islanders have to live in a very close balance with nature.
Many of their customs and traditions developed from a need to preserve (save) that balance.
The uses of the coconut tree
Leaf & Heart
Roots: medicine, fertilizer
Trunk: furniture, simple bridges, construction
Bark: strainer, rags, clothing, sandals
Blossom Sheath: funnel, firewood, toy
Blossom: tapped for tuba, which can either be sweet, alcoholic, vinegar, or syrup
Nut Stems: decoration, firewood, fertilizer
Baby Nut: eaten, used as a toy
Husk: fiber rope, to buff or wipe, sponge, mosquito smoker, toilet paper, cut spoon to scrape soft meat, fertilizer
Shell: eaten (if young enough)
Meat: eaten (is very soft), make soup
Water: drink (main stage of nut used for drinking)
Husk: (same as immature nut), plus carving decoration, cork for bottle stopper
Shell: cup, scraper, various spoons and utensils, decoration, bra, firewood
Water: can be drunk
Meat: make copra (cash crop), make cooking sauce, eaten, candy, soap, coconut oil
Husk: same as immature and mature nuts
Shell: same as immature and mature nuts
Spongy Center: (no more water) eaten as candy
Meat: eaten, but is thinner and drier
Mid-rib (stem): paddle, stirring utensil, rollers under a canoe
Ribs (veins): toothpicks, brooms
Individual leaf: decoration, folded into a spoon, magic, body squeegee
Whole frond: weaving, thatch, baskets, hats, mats, fans
Heart: eaten (removing the heart kills the tree)
The coconut tree is by far the most useful plant in the Pacific.
All of its parts can be used.