Samoa, A Hundred Years Ago And Long Before eBook

George Turner (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 230 pages of information about Samoa, A Hundred Years Ago And Long Before.

They did not paint their canoes, but decorated them with rows of white shells (Cypraea ovula) running along the middle of the deck at the bow and stern, and also along the upper part of the outrigger.  Now and then they had a figure-head with some rude device of a human figure, a dog, a bird, or something else, which had from time immemorial been the “coat-of-arms” of the particular village or district to which the canoe belonged.  A chief of importance must also have one, or perhaps two, large shells in his canoe, to answer the purpose of trumpets, to blow now and then as the canoe passed along.  It attracted the attention of the villagers, and called them out to look and inquire, “Who is that?” The ambition to see and to be seen was as common in Polynesia as anywhere else.  As the canoe approached any principal settlement, or when it reached its destination, there was a special too-too-too, or flourish of their shell trumpets, to herald its approach.  The paddlers at the same time struck up some lively chant, and, as the canoe touched the beach, all was wound up with a united shout, having more of the yell in it, but the same in meaning as a “hip, hip, hurrah!”

The French navigator Bougainville, seeing the Samoans so often moving about in their canoes, named the group “The Navigators.”  A stranger in the distance, judging from the name, may suppose that the Samoans are noted among the Polynesians as enterprising navigators.  This is not the case.  They are quite a domestic people, and rarely venture out of sight of land.  The group, however, is extensive, and gives them some scope for travel.  It numbers ten inhabited islands, and stretches east and west about 200 miles.  Within these bounds they have kept up an intercourse from the earliest times in their history, which is fully proved, not only by tradition, but by the uniformity of customs and language which prevails from the one end of the group to the other.



Fishing-nets of various kinds were in use, and were all manufactured on the islands.  Several of the Polynesian tribes excel in this branch of industry.  A captain of a ship of war, who was buying curiosities lately at Savage Island, actually refused their fine small fishing-nets, thinking that they must be articles of European manufacture.  In Samoa, net-making is the same now as it was of old.  It is the work of the women, and confined principally to the inland villages.  One would have thought that it would be the reverse, and that the coast districts would have made it their principal business.  The trade being confined to the interior, is probably occasioned by its proximity to the raw material which abounds in the bush, viz. the bark of the hibiscus, already referred to in describing “fine mats.”

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Samoa, A Hundred Years Ago And Long Before from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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