4th May 1769

[Natives of Tahiti - drawn in May 1769 by Sydney Parkinson.  In his description of the people of Tahiti (below), one has to keep reminding oneself that he was writing in 1769.  Quite amazing and wonderful reportage]

Some people came to the Fort to-day from York Island; one of them gave us an account of 22 Islands lying in this Neighbourhood. Set up the 2 Clocks; one in the Tent wherein Mr. Green and I lay, and the other in the Observatory. This evening Tootaha sent a man again for the Axe and Shirt, and we sent him word by the same man that Mr. Banks and I would come and see him to-morrow and bring them along with us, for it now became necessary that we should take some steps to reconcile this man to us in order to procure a sufficient supply of Bread fruit, and Cocoa Nuts, which we have not had for these 2 days past, owing, as we apprehend, to Tootaha not being reconciled to us, or otherwise the people take this method to shew their resentment of the Treatment their Chief meet with.

Joseph Banks Journal
No trade this morn but a little fish so we are for the first time in distress for nescessaries. I went into the woods to Tubourai and perswauded him to give me 5 long baskets of bread fruit, a very seasonable supply as they contain above 120 fruits. A very few Indians appear today before the fort, fewer than yesterday.

After dinner came a messenger from Dootahah requesting a shirt and a hatchet (he had been here yesterday with the same demand) I suppose in return for the hog he gave us on his release; the Captn sent him back telling him that he would tomorrow visit him and bring the things himself. In the Evening I went into the woods, found the Indians as usual civil but complaining much of the treatment Dootahah had met with on the 2nd.

Sydney Parkinson’s Journal
Very few people came to market with provisions, having been intimidated by the detention of their king Tootahau. Some of the natives gave us an account of many neighbouring islands, to the number of nineteen, and shewed us one of them from a hill, which was Yoole Etea.

Most of the natives of this island smell strong of the cocoa oil, and are of a pale brown complexion, mostly having black hair, and that often frizzled; black eyes, flat nose, and large mouth, with a chearful countenance; they all wear their beards, but cut off their mustachios, are well made, and very sturdy, having their bellies in general very prominent; and are a timorous, merry, facetious, hospitable people. There are more tall men among them than among any people I have have seen, measuring six feet, three inches and a half; but the women in general are small compared with the men.

They must be very honest amongst themselves as every house is without any fastening. Locks, bolts, and bars, are peculiar to civilized countries, where their moral theory is the best, and their moral practices too generally of the worst; which might induce a celebrated writer to conclude, though erroneously, that mankind, upon the whole, are necessarily rendered worse, and less happy, by civilization, and the cultivation of the arts and sciences. Nature's wants, it is true, are but few, and the uncivilized part of mankind, in general, seem contented if they can acquire those few. Ambition, and the love of luxurious banquets, and other supersluities, are but little known in the barbarous nations: they have, in general, less anxious thought for the morrow, than civilized; and therefore feel more enjoyment. while they partake of heaven's bounty in the present day. Unaccustomed to indulgences in cloathing and diet, which Europeans have carried to an extreme, they are less subject to diseases; are more robust; feel less from the inclemencies of the seasons; and are, in constitution, what the ancient Britons were before their civilization. Unhappily for us, the athletic constitution of our ancestors is not to be found amongst us, being enervated by excesses of various kinds; while diseases, the effect of intemperance and debaucheries, contaminate our blood, and render them hereditary amongst our offspring.

The natives huts are inclosed; by a low fence made of reeds; and the ground within them is very neatly bedded with a kind of straw, upon which they lay mats to sleep on; and, for a pillow, they have a four-legged stool, joined at the bottom, which is made out of a solid piece of wood; and the only tools they have to work. with are made of stones, or shells, as they had no iron upon the island until the Dolphin arrived. These huts are built at a considerable distance from each other; so that the island looks like one continued village, and abounds with cocoa*, bread-fruit, and appletrees; the fruit of which drops, as it were, into their mouths; and may be the cause-that they are an indolent people: Were they inclined to industry, provisions might [* I saw some stalks of cocoa-nuts which, were as heavy as. I could lift, which surprised me the more-as the stalks were very slender…] be found in greater plenty amongst them; and, by proper cultivation, the fruits of the island would not only be increased, but their quality might be improved. They seem, however, as contented with what is spontaneously produced, as if they had attained to the ne plus ultra, and are therefore happier than Europeans in general are, whose desires are unbounded.

When the men are at work, they wear only a piece of cloth round their middle, which they call maro: at other times they wear garments which they call purawei, and teepoota about their bodies, with a kind of turban on their heads; and, in walking, they carry a long white stick in one of their hands, with the smallest end uppermost. These people go to war in large canoes, at one end of which there is a kind of stage erected, supported by four carved pillars, and is called tootee. Their weapons are a kind of clubs, and long wooden lances. They have also bows and arrows. The former are made of a strong elastic wood. The arrows are a small species of reed, or bamboes, pointed with hard wood, or with the sting of the rayfish, which is a sharp-bearded bone.  They also make use of slings, made of the fibres of the bark of some tree, of which, in general, they make their cordage too: some of them, as well as their slings, are neatly plaited. Their hatchets, or rather adzes, which they call towa, are made by tying a hard black stone, of the kind of which they make their paste-beaters, to the end of a wooden handle; and they look very much like a small garden hoe: and the stone part is ground or worn to an edge. The making of these stone-instruments must be a work of time, and laborious, as the stone of which they are made is very hard.

The natives have maros, or pieces of cloth, which reach up from the waist, to defend them from the lances, or bunches of hair curiously plaited. They also wear teepootas upon their heads, and taowmees, or a kind of breast-plate, hung about their necks; large turbans too, in which they stick a small bunch of parrot's feathers;  and sometimes use what they call a whaow, which is a large cap of a conical figure. In their heivos, or war-dances, they assume various antic motions and gestures, like those practised by the girls when they dance taowree whaow, playing on a clapper made of two mother-of-pearl shells; and make the ephaita, or wry mouth,  as a token of defiance: they also join their hands together, moving them at the same time, and clap the palms of their hands upon their breasts near their shoulders. When they fight in their boats, they generally throw a string to one another to fasten the canoes together; and the men who are employed in doing this are never struck at.

The natives cut their hair in various forms. When their nearest relations die, some of them cut it off entirely, and go bare-headed; others leave a border all round the head; and others cut it into circles; while some have only a circular piece cut off the crown like a priest's tonsure; others still prefer another mode, leaving the hair upon the crown of the head, and cut off all the rest. All this they perform with a shark's tooth, which cuts it very close: they also shave with a shark's tooth fitted to a piece of coarse shell.

The natives are accustomed to mark themselves in a very singular manner, which they call tataowing; this is done with the juice of a plant; and they perform the operation with an instrument having teeth like a comb, dipped in the juice, with which the skin is perforated. Mr. Stainsby, myself, and some others of our company, underwent the operation, and had our arms marked: the stain left in the skin, which cannot be effaced without destroying it, is of a lively bluish purple, similar to that made upon the skin by gun-powder. 

These people have invented a musical instrument, somewhat like a flute, which they blow into through their noses; but their notes, which are but very few, are rude and ungrateful. Their dances are not less singular than their music; for they twist their bodies into many extravagant postures, spread their legs, set their arms a-kimbo, and, at the same time, distort the muscles of their faces, and twist their mouths diagonally, in a manner which none of us could imitate.

Polygamy is not allowed amongst them; but the married women have not a very delicate sense of modesty: their husbands will allow you any liberty with their wives, except the last, which they do not approve. Most of our ship's company procured temporary wives amongst the natives, with whom they occasionally   cohabited; an indulgence which even many reputed virtuous Europeans allow themselves, in uncivilized parts of the world, with impunity; as if a change of place  We saw two men who had been pierced through the skull by stones from a fling; the wounds were healed up, but had left a large operculum… altered the moral turpitude of fornication: and what is a sin in Europe, is only a simple innocent gratification in America; which is to suppose, that the obligation to chastity is local, and restricted only to particular parts of the globe.

It is customary for the women to wear garlands of flowers on their heads, which are composed of the white palm-leaves gathered from the spathas from which the flower proceeds. They also gather a species of gardenia, as soon as they open, and put them in their ears. Both sexes are very clean; they wash themselves in the river three times a day; and their hands and teeth after every meal. The children of both sexes are remarkably kind to one another, and, if any thing be given them, will, if possible, equally divide it among them.

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