From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Accidental Ethnographer (2f)—Ocean and Isle: A Glimpse of the Maori

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:
Isle 1            Isle  2            Isle 3           Isle 4            Isle 5            Isle 6            Isle 7
[a] Forestlord RF
I gave a lecture at the Doylestown Historical Society on June 1st, as part of Doylestown, Pennsylvania's big bicentennial celebration. The subject was the American explorer and evangelist William Edgar Geil (1865-1925). This is part of a larger project that I am working on this summer in Doylestown with the help of Beloit College anthropology major Megan Nyquist '14. As I did a few weeks ago in preparation for another lecture (on another subject), I am posting some of Geil's own writings. This was enormously helpful to me the last time I tried it, and I think it is worth another try. I will, over the course of my summer research, post my lecture and some of the early results of the research Megan and I are doing. In the meantime, though, I want to start the "Accidental Ethnographer" series with William Geil's own words. I will post two or three readings from each of Geil's dozen books over the course of May and June.

William Edgar Geil was a world famous figure in his day, and the reasons he has been lost to history (from his death until now) are as interesting as the underpinnings of his fame. Here is a very brief overview. In a day before anthropology or Chinese (or African or Micronesian) studies had a toehold in world universities, William Edgar Geil traveled the world, took extensive notes, returned to Doylestown, and wrote books. Depending on how you count them, he wrote almost a dozen—many of them thick and substantial in ways that a turn of the (last) century reader would understand, even if many people today would not. He traveled across central Africa in the first decade of the twentieth century, spent a year in Australia and New Guinea, and then found an abiding love for the study of China (which is where I "met" him, in a manner of speaking). He traveled the length of the Great Wall, journeyed the Yangzi River from Shanghai into southeast Asia, visited all of China's provincial capitals, and is the only Westerner to have written a book about his travels to all five sacred mountains of China.

[b] Arch 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.
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It is not easy to give a sense of William Edgar Geil's chapter on the Maori, but it is worth the effort. Many of the conceptual and rhetorical tools employed by "the accidental ethnographer" appear on these pages. Geil mixes oral tradition, observation, and missionary accounts with an interview of a young Maori medical student. The "feel" of this chapter is well in-keeping with Geil's growing work (do not forget that this was only his second "big" book). He has his boots in many streams, and often—to the twenty-first century eye—seems to be pooling water from many divergent locations at once. Here, he moves confidently from an overview of the Maori to particular conditions of the missions, tribal sanitation, temperance and its discontents, and various cultural "essences" of what he calls the Maori race.

Ocean and Isle—A Glimpse of the Maori Race
William Edgar Geil (1902) 
When came this nose-rubbing, wood-carving, mystical, parable-speaking, copper-colored people of the wonderful land of New Zealand? The Maoris have been a wandering, shifting race, with but little or no literature or historical records. Little can with accuracy be said concerning their origin, and the knowledge of the interesting past of the Maoris is wholly confined to oral tradition. Ethnologists attempting to trace their goings find they trod lightly on the soil with their bare feet, and their naked foot-prints are long since obliterated—as fell to the lot of many of their abiding places by volcanic eruption, tidal waves, with all the carnage and devastation accompanying inter-tribal wars.

[c] Wonder filled RF
Wither are these good-natured, oratory-loving people going? It may be the wonderful vigor and splendid physique of the Maori will preserve the race. As someone said, "They are come out of the darkness of the past, chased by a strange and tenacious destiny from their birthplace, and unless Christianity rescues them they are doomed, as other unfortunate people, to annihilation before their time. But in the meanwhile they furnish a most interesting subject for study. It is offered that the idea of creation being identical with the Peruvians, the Maoris came from the West Coast of South America. The argument is hardly worthy of serious attention, for Max Mueller says that the idea of creation is similar in all cosmogonies. Students say that the Maori legends relate that they came from an island in the South Pacific, which would have been but a resting-place. This is sufficient for our present requirements, leaving it for Fornander, Tregear, Hale, and Mueller, and forty other philologists to give it as their opinion that the roots of the languages of Polynesia are from the Sanscrit.[1] 

I have noticed a similarity in manners and mind among the Samoans, Tongans, and Maoris. FIRST, self-esteem is a national characteristic, the Maori, like the others, having a fairly good opinion of himself. SECOND, ceremoniousness. They are fond of etiquette, the breach of it leading to war when occurring between orders of chiefs. Third[2], great hospitality to strangers and the needy. FOURTH, generosity, as exemplified in the daring deed of Honi Heke, the greatest warrior in New Zealand. He displayed the national trait of magnanimity oat the siege of the fortified village Chaewai. The British troops had surrounded and besieged it, and the Maori clan seemed to be hopeless behind their fortifications. A British officer...fell, grievously wounded in the lower part of his stomach...and after a time was heard yelling out of thirst and agony. But no one cared or dared to go for water, fearing the frequent missiles. To the great surprise of all, Honi Heke was seen coming down from teh pa (village) without a weapon and wholly unprotected. He went straight to the wounded man in the trench, and having seen for himself what the matter was, and need, had compassion on the man who was soon to die, solemnly walked out in front of the British lines, everybody wondering what he was going to do, filled a gourd at the convenient stream, brought it to the dying officer, saying to him in the most determined tone, "Drink this, and if thou hast to die, die consoled, for even thy worst foe has had pity on thee." 

[d] Sea driven RF
FIFTH, oratory. Here again is similarity; the Maori is never at a loss for a speech, and can express himself in figurative language. I have heard them on short notice, and no notice at all, arise in their public meeting housed and deliver impassioned speeches, usually like Te Whiti (the sunshine) in very florid phraseology. They also have an eprigrammatical style. Here is a sample: A German was capsized, canoe and all, and drowning, when at the last moment Te Whiti came to the rescue. The natives cared for him, and when fully repaired sent him off liberally provisioned. The German, desiring to express appreciation, presented Mr. Sunshine with a magnificently bound volume. Te Whiti accepted it, and when sent to gaol carried it along and made good use of it; later he returned the book, having written under the presentation inscription on the fly leaf: "When the traveller has eaten the oyster he throws away the shell." Sunshine claimed to be descended from Jacob, and the whites are Egyptians, Midianites, and Amorites, and therefore should be driven into the sea...

This young man is taking a full university course, and will end his student career as a graduate in medicine. He is a clear-cut, bright, intelligent young Maori [and the following information comes from conversation with him]...

The Maori Tangi is the time for drinking and often to excess. They don't go to the Tangi so much to weep for the immediate dead as to think of their own dead. I asked him how it is the Maori weeps at a given signal at the Tangi. He appears to shed tears at will. The reply was indirect, " I heard an old chief say, 'If you cannot weep over the dead, think of all your friends who have gone to the land of night, and that will make you weep.'" This young Maori's way of speaking with me is characteristic of his people—that of saying anything that he might be caled to substantiate with a double meaning, leaving a new interpretation possible and suitable to his own ends.

[e] Coastal guard RF
The cults among the Maoris are still many. Te Koote bound the heart of the people like one man. He was a wronged man, and was sent to Chatham Island simply because when prisoners were being sent over he happened to be standing by. Being a "big" man, that is, a prominent man, he did not like to be sent up there, and naturally chafed under it. But he held religious services, and one day in the Chatham Islands said, "We will read the Bible and have services, and I will set you free." He succeeded in binding the keepers and going away in canoes. Te Koote's followers sing the 14th of John and the 12th of Romans, and also recite the Sermon on the Mount. They do not observe the sacraments, but believe in the Trinity, and some of the most beautiful prayers I have ever heard have they. These prayers are only taught to the young priests on nights set apart for that purpose. This is after the ancient custom of the people. The books are kept very sacred, and if you go into the house where the books are kept it will be required of you to wash your feet when you go in and when you come out also. They now keep Saturday, but some observe Sunday. They still have the Feast of Purification where the dead have been lying. It is their custom to roast some potatoes and give them out to the people, so that when crossing over the places where the dead have been they may not die. It is still by many supposed that the spirit will come up and kill the person treading on the dead man's ground. The place of his death and burial is so considered. "I have to submit to all this when at home in my tribe," said the university Maori.

Te Kotteism is called also Ringa-tu, i.e., to hold up the hands. This name is given because the right hand is held up at the close of every prayer. Many seceded from the Church of England, but Te Koote said, when dying, "When I am dead, let all of you go back to the Church of England." And the majority of them promptly returned to their former church and faith.

[f] Fenced RF
"This is the best Government the Maori has ever had, but he is never satisfied, he is always growling. Those most benefited will at a haka abuse the Government without stint. The Maoris were never a trading people nor do they take to the various trades to this day. Some are for medicine and some are lawyers, they seem to like the professions better than the trades. There are, however, some very large dairy farmers among my people of the South Island. It is sad, but true, that the most degraded, immoral, and degenerate Maoris are found living about the towns. My people are best away where there are only two whites, the schoolmaster and the trader. One Maori has over 100,000 acres of land, and he is no good, no good in him, he is the most hopeless Maori we have to deal with." I asked my informant if he intends being a medical missionary, and in the usual Maori vacillating way, he said, "Not exactly that." His observations on the Mormons and the missionaries are worthy attention.[3] "The Mormons are very popular, their missionaries are in some districts, and they have a very large following. They do not teach polygamy. It is chiefly their living among the Maoris that has given them success. The missionaries do not do that. The missionary lives in his palace and goes to see them on Sunday. The Maori does not see into the missionary's home and sees not how he lives, but the Mormon comes and lives with the people, and so they say, "He does not despise us or our customs, he is a good man.' But they do not last long, because Mormons fail to appeal to the conscience, they set outside rules which the Maori keeps till he breaks them once, then it is all over. That is how the strict Mormon rules affect them—good only for a while. The trouble is that the Maori looks always on the white man as knowing more than he does, and fails to distinguish between white men. The Maoris are a sociable people, and when a man comes along they make him feel at home, sometimes before he likes it. If the missionaries were to do the same as the Mormons they would win the people back, but we have very few missionaries and they are mostly old men whom we could not expect to live among the people"...
***  ***
[g] Waka RF
There is at the present time a very general and hearty reception of the gospel on the part of the Maori race. The old way was for a chief to turn, and then all the tribe would. Now it is individual conviction. The Maori seldom commits murder, very few become insane, but the Maori nature is revengeful. It was the old plan, if a crime was committed, to take any man of the offending man's tribe and slay him. This is all changed as a result of the teaching of the missionary. The old chiefs were gentlemen, noble characters, always kept their word, and were very honest, and even to-day, when stealing occurs, the Maori says, "That is what rats do, not men." The change is very great which is now coming over the Maori people; they are beginning to feel another power not yet experienced, but are looking for it and wanting it—the power of the Holy Spirit. Several hundreds of late have actually been converted, and the indications are that a great revival of religion is about to begin. The transition with them is the same as with us. Conversion in the Maori means to completely turn around, the face must be where the back was. Nine were converted one night recently, and the result is seen in their lives. Eighty-seven years ago savagery and heathenism prevailed among this naturally noble and warlike people. Now, every night and morning in many districts all come to the teacher's house for prayer and reading of the Scriptures.

Click below for other posts from Ocean and Isle:
Isle 1            Isle  2            Isle 3           Isle 4            Isle 5            Isle 6            Isle 7 
[1] This is the spelling found in Geil's book. 
[2] Geil does not capitalize "third" at the beginning of this sentence. 
[3] This is how the phrase appears in the text.
[3] William Edgar Geil, Ocean and Isle (Melbourne: Wm. T. Pater & Company, 1902), 152-.

Geil, William Edgar. Ocean and Isle. Melbourne: Wm. T. Pater & Company, 1902.
[h] Transition RF

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