Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series "The Accidental Ethnographer." (Coming Soon)
Click below for other posts from Ocean and Isle:
|[a] Cannibal Bay NZ RF|
|[b] Cannibal Bay RF|
He wrote about it all, and he took pictures. The former is not without problem; the latter is easily his legacy. It is all a fascinating picture of an American abroad in a peculiarly resonant time in American history—from the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 to the end of World War I. This series will grow as my research does, but let's get started with Geil's own words—a little from each of his published books.
|[c] Ca(nni)bal RF|
|[d] Inversion RF|
When the few lonely missionaries came to these wild and inhospitable shores, they confronted murder, cannibalism, polygamy. The chief having most wives was counted best deserving of reverence. They were guilty of strangling widows, infanticide, the most inhuman treatment of war captives, and all the violent, bloody methods and schemes which their darkened but active minds could devise. Here came noble missionaries, and to-day what of civilization and humanity and Christianity the visitor witnesses must be placed to their credit. This I say without the least mental reservation. Out of the entire native population forty-seven per cent. are members in good and regular standing of the 896 Wesleyan churches. There are other preaching places, numbering 330, supported by the Wesleyan Fijians. The Wesleyan day schools have 25,610 attendants, and the Bible schools 30,890, while the adherents to the Wesleyan missions number the colossal aggregate of 91,197. The Roman Catholics has about 5,000 adherents, and have done some good work in the schools. They have been a bit amiss, however, in not devoting enough attention to such studies as would develop the reasoning faculties of the pupils.
The Fijians are a grateful people, or, at least, the converted are. The Government has erected 7,000 new houses, and moved entire villages from miasmatic to higher and healthier locations. It has required all houses to be built at least eighteen inches above the natural grade on the soil, and the sleeping part of the hut to be a foot or more above the rest of the room. Villages are required to keep a cow, and everything is being done by the Government and missionaries to cut down the death rate, for, sad to say, the Fijians are still diminishing in numbers. Dr. Withington tells me that but recently it was found that the decrease is due to the death rate and not the birth rate, as was at first feared. The birth rate should show net increase in the population each census, but the rapidity of the deaths leads to the regrettable result...
|[e] Nourished RF|
The cannibal days were, in a way, times of education, and the alert Fijians made bad use of the opportunities. Some scholars who have studied the Fijian cannibal question, say that the parents rubbed portions of human flesh on the lips of the children to arouse in them the appetite for the ghastly meal. They even put morsels into the mouths of infants that they might be nourished by the juices. This may have been under the spell of a tradition that the strength of the victim was transferred to the eater, or, as some hold, just to wantonly start the taste for the horrible feasts. Human meat salted down was considered a dainty dish. Chiefs lived upon their friends, often eating them raw. It was the custom in certain tribes to bake their enemies alive. The king of Rewa had a pretty female servant who dared to displease her lord. He ordered that one of her arms should be cut off and cooked; then he commanded her to eat it, which she did, and for this bloody inhuman grace she was permitted to live.
When a chief was unwell and wanted a real nicety, a young child was roasted for him. Women were reckoned more tender than men, and of better flavor. I met several ex-cannibals who have many times eaten human flesh, and they all agreed that it was tasty food. The Socinian says that human nature is very good. The Fijian says that human flesh is good, for he has eaten it. Indeed, in the Fijian language there is no word for corpse but "bakola," which conveys the idea of eating the dead. The Natawa clan finding an unfortunate boat's crew wrecked on their coast, cut off their legs, taking the precaution to first place native dishes under the wounds to catch the blood that none be lost. If, perchance, any fell aside on the ground, it was promptly licked up, and was in all respects treated as a very precious and appreciated delicacy. In this tribe so impatient and savage were they, that some could not curb themselves to wait for a body to cook, but tore or cut off portions such as nose, ears, and fingers, and ate them raw.
|[f] Scarcity RF|
Fowls and pigs were not indigenous. On Fiji now there are no animals except such as have been imported. But four kinds of turtle are found, and a friend tells me there are more than fifty kinds of birds, including the "Orange Dove," but it is very rare. A biologist tells me that in Samoa they have the "robber Crab," This crab is so named because it climbs cocoanut trees, bits off the stem, the nut falls to the ground on some rocky place, breaks open, and the crab extracts the kernel for a living. It will not drop one down except there be a hard stone to break the shell in the fall. Here in Fiji is the Ugavule crab, which throws stones and earth at anything which pursues it. My biologist friend holds that the crab of Fiji is related to the crab of Samoa, but in this matter I must let the doctors disagree if it be not true.
But to hold on directly and pertinently to the cannibal question, from which we have hardly digressed...
Click below for other posts from Ocean and Isle:
William Edgar Geil, Ocean and Isle (Melbourne: Wm. T. Pater & Company, 1902), 56-63.
|[g] Fijisun RF|