SYDNEY ISLAND, TITIANA, AND KAMALEAI: SOUTHERN GILBERTESE IN THE PHOENIX AND SOLOMON ISLANDS
Kenneth E. Knudson
This chapter is concerned with the analysis of cultural change in a community of Gilbert Islanders relocated at Titiana Point in the Solomon Islands (map 9). This community dates back to the 1930s, when the government of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony initiated a program to alleviate incipient overpopulation in the Southern Gilbert Islands. This was to be done by resettling volunteer families in the virtually uninhabited Phoenix Islands, some 800 miles to the southeast. The first settlers arrived in the Phoenix group in December 1938 and began the task of creating new and relatively self-sufficient communities for themselves on three islands they named Manra (Sydney Island), Orona (Hull Island), and Nikumaroro (Gardner Island). This chapter is concerned specifically with the Sydney Island community. After a period of enforced isolation brought about by World War II, it was discovered that the Phoenix Island area was subject to repeated and lengthy intervals of drought. In the early 1950s the male elders of Sydney Island petitioned the colony government to find a new home for their people. They were eventually offered a site at Titiana (pronounced see-see-AH-nah) Point on Ghizo Island in the Western District of what was then known as British Solomon Islands Protectorate.1 After a survey party of Sydney Islanders 197viewed the site and deemed it acceptable, the new relocation began in 1955. The last remaining families left Sydney Island in 1958.
In the Solomons the settlers faced new problems of adjustment, not only to the terrain and climate but also to the presence of culturally distinct neighboring communities and a different pattern of government administration. Adjustment continues, but the principal features of life in the new setting were well worked out by 1962, when a fieldwork period of fourteen months in Titiana was begun. The trends evident at that time were still apparent in 1975, when three more months of fieldwork were completed. The recorded history of the community (Knudson 1965; Maude 1952) and the data collected during the two field periods form the basis for the analysis presented here.
The history of the Titiana community can be seen as a sequence of adjustments to environments that were themselves in a state of flux. The analytic framework best suited to this view is an adaptational one. This framework has a long history in anthropology, in which studies of ecological and evolutionary change have been intimately related (Sahlins and Service 1960; Steward 1955; Watson and Watson 1969). With very few exceptions, however, the adaptational approach has not been used extensively in the analysis of short-term change in studies of single communities (see Harding 1971; Murphy and Steward 1956; Sahlins 1957; Sharp 1952). If the culture of a community is viewed as adaptive for that community, as is generally accepted in anthropological theory, it follows that the analysis of change in any community ought to be conducted within an adaptational framework regardless of the time period being considered.
At this point let me clarify what I understand by “environment,” since definitions of the term and statements of what it comprehends are rarely, if ever, explicit. For purposes of this chapter the environment of a social system includes three distinct categories of phenomena: the physical environment, which includes such matters as terrain and climate; the biological environment, which includes the flora and fauna of the area; and the social environment, which includes the cultures of the other societies with which the community is in contact. In examining the history of the Titiana community it will be seen that the initial relocation on Sydney Island involved primarily small-scale differences in 198physical and biological environments, while the later relocation to the Solomons involved some differences in physical and biological environments but a major change of social environment.
Thus a transplanted social system may be viewed as adapting to a new environment. It follows that an analysis of this kind must begin with a description of the system that is transplanted, since it is this system that adapts to new social, physical, and biological settings. The circumstances of relocation must also be described, for it will make a difference whether an entire community is relocated or whether people from somewhat different communities are brought together to form a new social system.
In the following sections of this chapter the traditional culture of the Southern Gilbertese is briefly described in its environmental setting, along with a summary of the changes known to have occurred in the historic period. This sets the stage by providing an overview of the cultural background of the people who were resettled in the Phoenix Island group. The relocation program itself is then described, followed by a history of the adaptive changes that took place on Sydney Island and in the Solomons.
THE SOUTHERN GILBERTS
Like almost all the islands of the Central Pacific, the seven islands of the Southern Gilberts (Nonouti, Tabiteuea, Beru, Nikunau, Onotoa, Tamana, and Arorae) are coralline in structure and include both reef island and atoll forms. They are rather large as coral islands go, averaging about 7 square miles in land area. Elevation above sea level rarely exceeds 20 feet. The climate is characterized by a minimum of seasonal variation, due to the islands’ proximity to the equator and distance from large bodies of land that might alter the moderating effect of the sea. Temperatures are warm, but rainfall is comparatively low by oceanic standards, ranging between 35 and 60 inches per year. The large size of the islands undoubtedly aids in storage of subsurface water, a factor that lessens the effects of the considerable annual variations in rainfall; droughts are frequent and may persist for several years. Soils are poor throughout the Gilberts, and there is little surface water. Water for horticultural, household, or other uses is generally obtained by digging down to the underlying freshwater lens.199
“Fresh water” is something of a misnomer, since the available water is more or less saline depending on locality. Gilbertese horticultural activities depend on trees and other plants that are adapted to semibrackish groundwater rather than to fresh water. During long drought periods the groundwater becomes increasingly saline, but production may not be affected markedly for several years. Rene Catala visited the Gilberts in 1951, when the region had experienced two consecutive years of severe drought conditions, and noted that even then most trees appeared healthy and some were actually producing new growth (Catala 1957:iv, 31, 49–55, 61–66). It is probable that personal habits and preferences of Gilbertese are related to the general scarcity of fresh water: bathing is usually done in the sea with only a quick rinse of fresh water, and the Gilbertese do not like to drink fresh water since they consider it tasteless and insipid.
Although life on these islands might appear precarious, the available data do not bear out this conclusion. It is true that famine and scarcity are themes that appear in Gilbertese folklore, but there is no evidence that these themes are more frequent or intense there than elsewhere in the Pacific. Severe storms are virtually absent from the area, and the combination of large islands (with concomitantly large subsurface storage capacity for water) and dependence on plants adapted to brackish water added up to dense populations that were rarely affected by the considerable local fluctuations in rainfall. Indeed the available population statistics indicate nothing in the way of abrupt changes that might be associated with famine conditions (Knudson 1970:89–90).
The Gilbertese traditionally depended on both the sea and the land for their subsistence and daily needs. Interisland trade in the area was almost nonexistent. There were (and are) two major resources on the land: wet gardens and orchards. Wet gardens were located in the center of the larger islands. These plots were made by digging down to the subsurface water and planting Cyrtosperma chamissonis (the Gilbertese name is babai), and the plants are mulched with leaves and other organic material to create a small area of very rich soil. In the Southern Gilberts the produce of wet gardens was not a daily staple in the diet, and it should more properly be considered in the category of festive or special occasion foods. The production of large tubers had competitive aspects, 200and much prestige accrued to the man who grew a very large one.
Orchards included two kinds of trees. The Gilbertese breadfruit, a variety that is somewhat tolerant of brackish groundwater, is found in the interior of the islands close to the wet gardens. Coconut and pandanus trees, having greater tolerance for salinity, usually are located closer to the shore. Pandanus fruit was the staple in the Gilbertese diet that helped make possible the area’s dense population, since pandanus grows practically everywhere, rendering the entire surface area of an island productive.
The surrounding waters appear to have been exceptionally rich because their local temperatures were cooler than those of island groups further west. They were exploited by many techniques, including the use of nets, traps, hook and line, and spearing. Shallow-water areas appear to have been most important and provided the most consistent catches. The lagoon and open sea were of somewhat less significance, but sometimes provided spectacular catches. On a few islands fry were raised in special ponds, but these do not appear to have provided continuous production; harvesting them was a festive occasion (Maude 1963:55–57). As might be expected, canoe making was a valuable skill and Gilbertese men prided themselves on the qualities of the canoes they sailed. Canoes were far too difficult and expensive for most individuals to construct; hence they were usually sponsored by a group. Large fishing traps built in the shallow waters were also group-owned, as were fishing and gleaning areas in the lagoons and on the reef flats.
The groups exploiting these resources are of four distinct types at increasingly inclusive levels of organization (Knudson 1970: 98–106, 287–288). The smallest unit was the household, averaging about five or six persons in size. Households usually were formed about a nuclear family consisting of a man, his wife, and their young unmarried children, but there were also many exceptions to this pattern. The men of the household fished and did most of the garden and orchard work; the women were concerned mostly with keeping house and caring for the children.
Several households were grouped into a kawa ‘household cluster’, the average population of which was twenty-seven persons, equivalent to about five households. The men of a household cluster cooperated in tasks that required more than one person, such as housebuilding and some fishing operations, and the lands exploited 201 by the members of a household cluster were usually located nearby; frequently such lands came close to comprising a single large block.
Although there were probably a few large independent household clusters, in most cases two or more household clusters constituted a kainga ‘estate group’. Such groups averaged about thirty-eight persons and usually were made up of one large and one small household cluster. The household clusters of an estate group were not necessarily contiguous. In fact, they appear to have been rather widely separated so as to exploit resources located some distance apart. One of the household clusters served as the administrative center of the estate and was the site of a meetinghouse and the canoe sheds used by members of the estate. The estate group also provided the organizational basis for the construction, operation, and repair of canoes. An estate was an organizational unit in district administration, and its members cooperated in the construction and repair of the estate buildings.
Aboriginally and in the early contact period a district (or “village”) in the Southern Gilberts averaged 500 to 800 persons in population. There were at least two districts per island and on Tabiteuea, the largest of the Southern Gilberts, there were nine. Thus the islands were densely populated, averaging on the order of 200 persons per square mile of land area. Districts were politically autonomous, being ruled by a council composed of the elder male leaders of the estate group encompassed by it. On the average, there were about twenty estate groups per district.
The existence of a district was marked by a maneaba ‘meetinghouse’. A meetinghouse had a large gable roof enclosed at the ends, the eaves extending to within 5 feet of the ground. There were no interior partitions, and the center was left clear during district gatherings. The space under the eaves and just inside the ends was divided into traditional boti ‘sitting places’ assigned to the various estate groups of the district. At district meetings the elder men of the estate groups sat on the inside, toward the center of the building; young men, wives, and children sat behind them. Only elder men were allowed to speak.
The people of the Southern Gilberts were at a tribal level of organization (Sahlins 1968; Service 1962). Chiefs were absent even at the district level, although there were rules of precedence among the assembled male elders (Maude 1963), and from time to 202time individuals did manage briefly to exert strong leadership over a considerable region (Knudson 1970:104–106). Chieftainship may therefore be said to have been incipient in this area, although it was well developed in the Northern Gilberts (Lambert 1966). Small-scale wars and feuds seem to have been common.
Goodenough (1955) was the first to comment on the flexibility of Gilbertese rules of descent and to point out the adaptive consequences of this system in an area of limited resources. Descent was traced from the ancestral founders of the estate groups, who were thought to have been the earliest settlers of a given island district. Descent might be traced through either male or female links, and demonstration of descent was regarded as establishing a claim to part of the lands of the ancestral founder. Descent was most often claimed through male links, however, and Gilbertese themselves tend to describe the system in terms of patrilineality and patrilocality; sometimes only after considerable discussion does it become apparent that the tendency represents a preferred pattern but not an exclusive one.
Estate groups, therefore, approximated patrilineages with inmarrying females, while household clusters approximated minor patrilineages or patrilateral extended families. A man could, however, choose to live in his mother’s estate group, or his grandmother’s, or even his wife’s, so long as he or his wife was entitled to some portion of the original land of the founder. Because descent was traced through either male or female links, an individual could lay claim to many different plots in the ancestral estates of many early settlers of a given district or island. In fact, not many generations had to elapse before an individual could claim membership in nearly all founder estates. Such potential claims had to be kept current by making contributions to life-crisis feasts (births, first menstruation for girls, marriages, deaths) and other important occasions in the families of those who actually occupied and worked the claimed land. After such contributions ceased, a claim to membership was likely to be challenged. In practice, genealogies were challenged frequently when claims to land were tenuous or when those who actually used the land wished to retain it or allocate it to someone of their own choice.
The Gilbertese system of land tenure was, therefore, intimately bound up with the kinship system and choice between alternative residences. The ancestral founder of an estate divided his holdings among his descendants at his death, and this pattern of inheritance 203 has continued. Land was held by individuals, and a person inherited from both his mother and his father. As a result, a person’s inheritance was likely to consist of a number of widely scattered parcels, and exploitation of all of them plus exploitation of a spouse’s parcels was difficult. A selection was made, and parcels that could not be put to use were entrusted to others, usually close kinsmen. With time, and with continued use by others, claims to such parcels became tenuous and eventually were only vaguely remembered. When this occurred, attempts to activate the claim would almost certainly be challenged by the occupants.
Aside from the inheritance pattern there were numerous ways of adding to one’s holdings. These included fosterage of children, concubinage, and care for the ill or elderly. All these were rewarded by gifts of land. Finally, confiscation of land was the typical punishment for theft, murder, and adultery. Only when a man was without land would he be punished by death, and even this fate was unlikely; a man without land was usually forced to work for others as his punishment if he committed a crime.
In view of the density of population and the low level of productivity of these islands compared to other areas of Micronesia, it is not surprising that access to resources such as land and fishing rights was valued by the Gilbertese. To be without land was equivalent to being a slave. The Gilbertese were also aware that they lived quite close to the population limits of their islands and consciously maintained a nominal rule that no woman should be allowed more than three living children. Adoption, abortion, and infanticide were recognized processes for adjusting the population in accordance with the available resources, and adoption in many cases was merely nominal, serving primarily to extend the choice of possible residence sites. The behavior of young, unmarried girls was strictly regulated with an eye toward eliminating opportunities for sexual intercourse, and the definition of adultery was extended broadly to include such nonsexual acts as speaking to male nonkinsmen. Again the effect was to reduce the opportunities for intercourse and hence control population numbers.
CHANGE IN THE HISTORIC PERIOD
The preceding summary describes Southern Gilbertese culture and its environmental setting as it was during approximately the first two decades of the nineteenth century. At that time contact 204with the world beyond the immediate horizon was just beginning, and during the years up to 1930 the Gilbertese experienced a great change in social environment.
In terms of political life, when the resettlement program for the Phoenix Islands was proposed, by the mid-1980s, the Gilberts had become part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony. The colony was under British administration and a uniform governmental system had been instituted, each island having its own administration and government center. Religious change had been considerable; Christian missionaries had been at work for several decades and had succeeded in converting most of the islanders to either the Catholic or Protestant faith (the London Missionary Society was the major Protestant organization represented), although a few adherents of the native religion remained scattered throughout the island group. Finally, the Gilberts had entered the world cash economy; both wage labor and the export of copra had become important sources of money income.
The major features of Southern Gilbertese life in the 1930s are quite well known (see, for example, Catala 1957; Goodenough 1955; Grimble 1921; Knudson 1965:11–13, 25–27; Lundsgaarde 1966, n.d.; Luomala 1965; Maude 1950, 1960, 1963, 1967; Maude and Maude 1931). As a result of nearly a century of political change, the apparently continual precontact outbreaks of small-scale wars and feuds had been suppressed. Each island had its own government, staffed with local people. The administrative structure included a magistrate and court, an administrative staff, a council of legislators, a police organization, a jail, and a hospital. Cooperative trading stores were beginning to appear throughout the Gilberts, displacing the numerous independent traders who were mostly of Chinese descent. The cooperatives were supervised by personnel from the colonial government headquartered at Ocean Island, some 250 miles west of the Gilberts proper. The central government staff was made up almost entirely of British personnel. These administrators toured the islands at intervals during the year, reviewing the activities of the local island governments. For the most part, then, the island governments operated without day-to-day supervision by nonislanders.
Most villages had both a Catholic and a Protestant school, and the colonial government was beginning to actively foster a program for the improvement of education. An alphabet closely 205paralleling Gilbertese phonemic forms had been worked out by a missionary during the 1860s, and by the mid-1930s a growing literature was being produced by government and mission printing presses. Education was primarily in the hands of native Gilbertese ministers and catechists, who acted as both church leaders and teachers.
Subsistence activities had also changed, and by this time Gilbertese men were being recruited to work for two or three years mining the phosphate deposits on Ocean Island. The mining operations were controlled by the British Phosphate Commission, a quasi-governmental organization that also recruited a few Gilbertese for their operations on Nauru. Some Gilbert Islanders also found employment in the copra plantations of the Line Islands to the east of the Gilberts. Most Gilbertese, however, obtained a small but steady income by producing copra from their own orchards and marketing it through the cooperatives or other local trading stores.
The average populations of districts and islands had changed little by this time, although local populations had become more clustered into villagelike forms. The average size of a district remained at about 500 to 800 persons. Traditional district boundaries were more or less preserved, although on each island the creation of a government center altered the precontact situation somewhat. Representation on the island council was by district, and the island government center was spatially distinct from any of the “villages.” Districts remained nearly autonomous on a day-to-day basis, and district affairs continued to be the concern of the male elders of the community, who debated matters in their traditional meetinghouse.
The average size of a household at this time seems to have been about 4.3 persons (Maude 1963:31), a slight decrease from the 5.5 persons of a century before. The household cluster and estate levels of organization persisted, although as distinct population groupings they were not always visibly apparent because of village centralization. The marked bias toward patrilineality in descent and patrilocality in residence also persisted, as did the alternatives for reckoning ancestors and residence. Gilbertese population control and sexual practices such as abortion, infanticide, concubinage, and display of the nuptial sleeping mat had come under political and religious attack. A special land court had been 206instituted to deal with disputes in tenure and inheritance. The association of estate groups with traditional seating sites along the edge of the district meetinghouse went unchanged, however, and the elders of each estate continued to speak for its members in discussions and to act as their leaders and representatives in all district matters.
Kinsmen in household clusters still cooperated when numbers of people were required, but for the most part the literature indicates that the members of each household lived from day to day on the products of its lands and the surrounding waters. In fact, households were considerably more independent than they had been a century before, and the difference in average household size, if significant, probably reflects a declining need for larger numbers of people to cooperate. The increasing independence of households seems to have been due to changes in fishing operations that were in turn due to the effects of the new social environment (Goodenough 1963:337–343). Cash and the ready availability of new tools and new materials had resulted in a large increase in the number of canoes in the Southern Gilberts, because it had become easier for an individual to sponsor canoe construction. Furthermore, new types of fishhooks, nets, and lines meant that lagoon and open sea waters had become more important fishing areas, while dependence on the shallow waters and the large, fixed fish traps had decreased proportionately. The result was a decline in the significance of household clusters and estates as the basis of cooperation in the construction, operation, and maintenance of canoes and fixed fish traps. Undoubtedly, the availability of new tools for garden and orchard work plus the salability of copra (for which little or no cooperative work was necessary) contributed to the emerging significance of household-level economics and the declining significance of inclusive kin groups such as the household cluster and estate.
RESETTLEMENT ON SYDNEY ISLAND
It is clear, then, that a century or more of contact with the outside world had influenced every aspect of Gilbertese culture; from social and political life to economic and religious patterns, the changes that had taken place as a result of the new social environment were considerable. The administrators of the colonial government 207 were particularly concerned about the effect of these changes on family life and individual welfare (Maude 1952). It was pointed out that the outcome of (1) the removal of population control techniques such as abortion and infanticide, (2) the introduction of Western medical techniques, and (3) the increased economic reliance on individual family holdings was likely to be cumulative. Specifically, the combined effect of these changes throughout the Gilberts was likely to result in an overpopulation problem (brought about by increasing birth rates and decreasing death rates) plus a land fragmentation problem (brought about by the distribution of land to large numbers of children). The ultimate result would be poverty and a lower level of subsistence throughout the islands. The administrators also believed that the problem was imminent and that its beginnings were already being felt in the southern part of the archipelago. There was in fact evidence that on many islands, particularly in the Southern Gilberts, fragmentation of landholdings had become extreme and some people were already living dangerously close to subsistence level.
The resettlement program was intended to relieve the situation by taking a large number of volunteer families from among the poorest Southern Gilbertese and settling them on the environmentally similar, though rather more barren, Phoenix Islands. These islands, in the mid-1930s, had no indigenous inhabitants. There was a total population of about fifty persons on the eight islands in the group (including Canton and Enderbury, which lie to the north of the other six and are sometimes considered as distinct from them). Almost all these people were engaged in operating the commercial copra plantations on Sydney and Hull Islands.2
The motives of these administrators may have been more complex, although definitive data are lacking. It has been pointed out (Hilder 1961:213) that the Phoenix Islands lie almost exactly halfway between Hawaii and Fiji and a trans-Pacific airline route was almost certain to be established shortly. The aircraft of that day were limited in range, and therefore control of the Phoenix Islands as a refueling stop would give effective control of the entire route. It was also known that one of the few reasons the United States would recognize as substantiating a claim to an uninhabited region was colonization (Maude 1961:69). In any event, the opportunity may well have been seen as a chance to secure two goals at once, one humanitarian and the other political. 208
A survey party which included a number of Gilbertese men aware of Gilbertese subsistence needs and practices was led to the Phoenix group by H. E. Maude, then a member of the colonial administration and well acquainted with Gilbertese culture. After its tour the party returned to the Gilberts to discuss the projected resettlement with Gilbertese at village meetings. Earlier talks had convinced Maude that there was considerable enthusiasm among Southern Gilbertese about the opportunity to improve their lot. The results of the survey and the reports by the Gilbertese participants at the village meetings were positive (though, of course, not entirely without drawbacks and negative response). The decision was therefore made by the colonial government to proceed with the program.
Three islands in the Phoenix group were selected for settlement: Sydney, Hull, and Gardner. Gardner was to be given a smaller number of settlers than the other two islands because its undeveloped resources were insufficient for a large population. Canton Island was selected as the headquarters of the Phoenix Islands administrative district, which was incorporated into the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony as part of the resettlement program. The plan was not intended to effect culture change; it was expected that Gilbertese culture would be replicated in the Phoenix Islands. Volunteers were to be taken as family groups, and each individual was to be allocated plots of productive land. Island governments and schools were to be established, trading cooperatives were planned, and native mission personnel were allowed for.
The volunteers were told that they must agree to be treated according to Gilbertese custom as castaways, which meant they would have no further claim to their lands in the Gilberts. The rights over these plots were distributed to close kinsmen of the emigrants. Finally, in seeking volunteers, the quality of their prospective life in the Phoenix Islands was consciously played down by the administration, emphasis being placed on the fact that the work of development would be hard and long and the life one of isolation. Despite the emphasis on the rigors of the resettlement program, it did not prove difficult to find volunteers. Those in charge of selecting emigrants were surprised both by the numbers of people who responded and by the severely limited resources on which many had been forced to rely. Selection was on the basis of quality and quantity of resources available, and those who seemed 209to have the least to draw on were chosen. It seems evident that many of the Gilbertese saw that their situation might become difficult within a short time, although motivations for volunteering differed from person to person and family to family. Informants stated that some participants actually had considerable resources but concealed this fact and took part primarily for the adventure. While a large percentage of migrants were land-poor and probably on the young side, given the preference for people in excellent health the population of migrants did represent a cross section of Gilbertese society vis-à-vis social status and knowledge of Gilbertese culture.
The first party of forty-one Gilbertese landed on Sydney Island on Christmas Day, 1938. The arrival of the last boatload of emigrants in September 1941 brought the total population to 302 persons. Large numbers of settlers had also been established on Hull Island, but Gardner received only a few in accordance with the resettlement plan. Canton Island came under development as an airbase just before the outbreak of World War II in the Pacific in late 1941. It continued to serve as a regular refueling point until the advent of long-range jet aircraft in the late 1950s. Canton, with its important airfield, eventually was placed under a joint American and British administration but continued to be the headquarters for the Phoenix Islands District of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony.
Like the islands of the Gilbert group, Sydney Island is low-lying and coralline in structure. The maximum height above sea level is only 20 or 30 feet. The island is shaped somewhat like a doughnut when seen from the air, being oval in shape with an average diameter of about 2 miles. In the center of the island is a highly saline lake which lacks an opening to the sea. The lake is somewhat more than a mile in diameter, so that the width of the surrounding rim of land varies from about one-third to just over one-half mile. Annual rainfall on Sydney Island appears to vary considerably, as it does in the Gilberts. Furthermore, the rainfall appears to average only about 40 inches per year (Knudson 1965:42), lower than the average for most of the Gilberts. The small land area and the saline lake in the center of the island imply a small subsurface lens of fresh water. This in turn probably accounts for the fact that although the flora and fauna of the Phoenix group are very similar to those of the Gilberts, the total number of plant species in the 210Phoenix group has been estimated at only twenty to thirty, or approximately half that of the Gilberts. The marine life of the area is apparently even richer than that of the Gilberts; however, the absence of an extensive fringing reef limited fishing activities to some extent and led to the construction of small canoes that could be launched and landed easily despite the difficult surf.
The early settlers on Sydney Island attempted to grow cyrtosperma by digging wet gardens, but the subsurface water proved too saline and the gardens were abandoned. Pandanus was also a failure when introduced in the early years of the settlement, but it was introduced again about 1950, this time successfully. Portulaca, an edible plant that grew wild over much of the island, became a mainstay in the diet (Turbott 1954) and was gathered in daylong excursions involving entire households. There were, then, some differences in subsistence activities because of the differences in resources on Sydney Island.
The migrant population of three hundred people was divided into two contiguous village areas and a government station. A complete island government headed by a magistrate was established. In 1940 an island meetinghouse was erected to serve all residents and immediately became the center of a dispute over traditional sitting places. Meetinghouses in the Southern Gilberts differ in details of construction and also in the seating arrangements assigned to estate groups. Since the island residents included household groups from all islands of the Southern Gilberts, the argument over who should sit where seems to have been intense and apparently lasted several days. It was finally resolved with the advice of the British administrative officer in charge of the developing Phoenix Island communities. He suggested that each household should be assigned a spot, with no one being allowed to occupy the location he had been accustomed to in the Gilberts.
The decision to ignore traditional seating patterns in organizing the Sydney Island meetinghouse represented a break with tradition. Yet older men continued to be the only people with the right to speak at community meetings, although this rule was probably stretched somewhat, since not all household heads were elderly. The result was therefore a kind of “least common denominator” of pan-Gilbertese custom and demographic reality stemming from the fact that the units of emigration from the Gilberts were households rather than extended kinship units. 211
A similar process of change can be seen in the organization of life-crisis feasting, events that were attended in the Gilberts only by kinsmen of the celebrant. On Sydney Island one of the earliest such events to be celebrated was the wedding of the daughter of the island magistrate. The magistrate invited all island residents to the feast he sponsored, and this became a general pattern for all life-crisis feasts thereafter. We may be sure that not all the three hundred or so residents attended each feast, but they were entitled to, and each household probably sent a representative, bearing, of course, the contribution of food, clothing, or whatever custom demanded.
The single most important event in this formative period of the Sydney community was a dispute between two groups that culminated in a permanent schism in the community. One group, perhaps best referred to as the “collectivists,” argued that development of the island would proceed faster if it were done cooperatively. They suggested that when difficult tasks arose everyone should help without regard to locale or land ownership; thus, they reasoned, the entire island would benefit from the marshaling of as much help as possible for any task that might arise. Another group, the “individualists,” argued that such a system would make it possible for the lazy to live through the efforts of the energetic; they suggested instead that development of the island would best proceed if each family were to do its own work. The collectivists outnumbered the individualists, but they could not force cooperation on an island-wide basis. One of the two villages did work on a collective pattern, however, so that this classic divergence in ideologies differentiated the two villages on the island.
The schism, though permanent, did not eliminate the occasional need for cooperative labor. After World War II an American visitor to Sydney Island suggested that young men form a service club which would make the labor of its members available to all who might request it, the only requirement being that meals be served while the task was in progress. There were also social aspects to the club, which had its own meetinghouse, and it proved to be a great success, drawing members from both the collectivist and the individualist groups.
Not only did the two groups maintain their social schism, but they also elaborated it even further through religious sectarianism. The first group of settlers on Sydney had all been at least nominal 212adherents of the Protestant faith. They asked that all later arrivals also be Protestant; the colonial government agreed, hoping to avoid the schisms between Catholics and Protestants that were so disruptive wherever they broke out in the Gilberts. As it turned out, it seems that some settlers on Sydney had previously been Catholics but became at least nominal Protestants because they wanted to settle on Sydney. Early in the 1950s a Catholic missionary arrived on the island and immediately succeeded in obtaining converts. Later a catechist arrived to lead the new, though small, congregation. Interestingly enough, a considerable number of the Catholic converts were members of the individualist faction, and it therefore appears that differences of opinion on the island were great and tended to diverge into strongly opposed philosophies. The schism between Catholics and Protestants grew continually wider, ultimately leading to the formation of a separate Catholic community after the Sydney Islanders arrived in the Solomons.
In spite of differences of opinion and lines of cleavage that appeared in the Sydney Island community, there was a genuine esprit de corps and a pride in the island that developed quickly as the inhabitants settled in. The war years served mainly to isolate the Phoenix Islands (other than Canton) from the rest of the world. Imported luxuries and manufactured goods became scarce or unobtainable for a time, but the settlers either did without them or, when possible, resumed making the traditional objects that had been displaced. Thus the isolation does not appear to have severely disrupted normal life.
Eventually, Canton Island became a place of employment for men and even a few women from Sydney and the other Gilbertese settlements. There was employment in a wide variety of occupations, including domestic servant positions in the homes of European and American administrative personnel, work in the island hotel, at the military and airline facilities, and with a commercial fishing company. Later some men worked in the copra plantations of the Line Islands and a few even traveled to the islands of Hawaii, Midway, and Wake in the employ of one of the airlines. The economic function of Canton Island relative to the Phoenix Islands was therefore much the same as that of Ocean Island relative to the Gilberts. As in the Gilberts, the opportunities for fulltime employment on one’s home island were few (limited almost 213exclusively to mission and island government personnel), and the work on Canton involved life on another island for a considerable period of time.
The total population of Sydney Island appears to have increased gradually over time, with the original number of 302 prewar settlers growing to 369 permanent residents who were relocated to the Solomons in the middle and late 1950s. In spite of Canton’s modern airport and overseas services, Sydney and the other islands of the Phoenix group were more remote from the world economy than were the Gilberts. In the years 1949 to 1952, the period during which off-island employment was at its highest, only about 10 percent of the Sydney Island people were working on other islands. Copra production on Sydney seems to have been low compared to Gilbert Islands levels, although sales of handicraft items to airport personnel and travelers on Canton provided an added source of cash. On the whole, Sydney Island is remembered by its former inhabitants as a delightful place to live and one where money, though still necessary, was relatively unimportant in life.
RELOCATION TO THE SOLOMON ISLANDS
During the early years of the Phoenix Island relocation program, the plan appeared to be an unqualified success—so much so that Gardner Island was settled by a full complement of Gilbertese a few years after the end of World War II (Laxton 1951). In the late 1940s, however, about a decade after the arrival of the first group of settlers on Sydney Island, there were several years of low rainfall, and drought conditions prevailed throughout the Phoenix Island area. There is some evidence to show that drought periods occur on approximately a seven-year cycle in the Phoenix group, and it is probable that these recurring periods of low rainfall are responsible for the absence of an indigenous population. The droughts also vary in intensity; those of the late 1940s were endured by the Gilbertese without undue difficulty, but those in the early 1960s forced the colonial government to abandon the resettlement program entirely.
The administrators of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony were concerned about the effect of the droughts on the Phoenix Island settlers, but a doctor who visited Sydney Island in 1950 was 214surprised at the general level of good health in the community. The settlers were found to be existing on a well-balanced though monotonous diet, and later in the Solomons my informants from Sydney remarked frequently that they had felt very well there and that children were especially strong and active.
In spite of these reports, the elder leaders of the Sydney Island community eventually sent a group of representatives to colonial headquarters at Tarawa in the early 1950s, asking that the government find a new home for their people. It had not been easy for the island leaders to reach this decision; they thought the island should be abandoned whereas the adherents of the newly founded Catholic mission expressed a desire to stay on the island even if the remainder of the population were moved elsewhere. But gradually most people came to agree with one of the non-Catholic elders who, during a community meeting attended by a visiting colonial administrative officer, remarked that while the island was certainly a healthy place to live, it held little prospect for future development. Their children, therefore, could look forward to little more than mere continued existence at the same level as then obtained.
According to informants in the Solomons, the availability of fish on Sydney was not changed by the droughts, and when the settlers’ wells became brackish a rationing system was put into effect for dispensing water from a rainwater cistern in the government center. But the long periods without rain killed many young coconut palms, and during periods of heavy rains the level of the lake in the center of the island rose, inundating planted areas and killing all growth touched by its saline waters. Therefore the island offered little in the way of improvement for the future and the decision was taken to request relocation elsewhere.
The colonial government decided that the effects of the droughts were indeed severe, that Sydney Island had been the most seriously affected, and that the settlement there should ultimately be abandoned. Having made this decision, it was not easy to find a new home for the Gilbertese settlers. Return to the Gilberts was clearly out of the question, and there were no other unpopulated islands suitable for habitation. After much deliberation, the colonial government decided to offer the Sydney Islanders an opportunity to relocate their community in what was then called the British Solomon Islands Protectorate. The Solomons differ from the Gilberts and Phoenix in many respects, but both areas 215were and are under British administration. This would obviously simplify the relocation considerably, and it was felt that since the Solomons seemed to be underpopulated, the Gilbertese could easily be accommodated as new settlers.
There may have been other factors in the decision, just as there may have been other factors involved in the Phoenix Island resettlement program. In the mid-1950s, the initial steps were being taken toward eventual independence for both the colony and the protectorate. Elsewhere in the world, in the West Indies and the Rhodesias, British administrators were attempting to bring culturally diverse peoples together under single, independent governments. They may have thought that establishing Gilbertese settlers in the Solomons would be a step toward a similar unity between the Gilberts and the Solomons. If such a plan ever existed, however, definitive information about it is lacking.
Both the protectorate and the colony were under the jurisdiction of the high commissioner for the Western Pacific. At the time, the high commissioner’s purview also included Fiji and the British government of the New Hebrides Condominium (administered jointly with France). The offices of this inclusive government organization were located at Honiara on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. A joint relocation program was worked out between the protectorate and the colony, the first measure being to take several representatives from Sydney Island on a tour of possible sites in the Solomons. Representatives of several islands in the Gilberts were also included in the touring party, since it was hoped that the Solomons would prove able to take settlers not only from the Phoenix Islands but from the Gilberts as well, thereby helping alleviate new population problems there.
The Western District of the Solomon Islands was selected as the probable relocation area, since it was the least populous part of the Solomons. Several locations were examined by the survey party, and, although they expressed a preference for places that resembled their coral island homelands, they finally stated that a site at Titiana Point on Ghizo Island would be acceptable to them. (See map 10.) On their return to Sydney Island they enthusiastically reported their experience at a community meeting, and the elder leaders of the island agreed that this would be their people’s new home. 216
Map 10. Destination islands: Ghizo and the Shortlands.
The site at Titiana was preferred by administrative officers over other locations because of its proximity to Gizo town and because of the availability of mature coconut groves that could be used by the settlers. Gizo town is the administrative center for the Western District of the Solomons, and government officers could readily monitor the progress of the new community and help avert crises that might arise in this new and different environment. Since the settlers would have to begin from scratch, clearing the dense tropical forest from the village location and planting new gardens and orchards, the mature coconut groves would provide a needed resource until the community became self-sufficient.
Ghizo is one of the smaller islands of the Solomons, being only about 6 miles long by 4 miles wide. It is roughly oval in shape, and the northern coast is deeply indented by two inlets that cut nearly across the island. Ghizo is low in relief but rugged, since the interior consists of steep hills forming an amoebalike backbone that 217renders land away from shore difficult to use. The maximum elevations of these interior ridges are only 400 to 500 feet, but since the area has an annual rainfall of about 125 inches, the land away from populated areas is covered by dense tropical forests.
There are a number of smaller, lower islands just offshore to the north, east, and southeast of Ghizo. These islands are connected to one another and to Ghizo by an intricate reef system which makes travel between them time-consuming, even by so small a conveyance as a canoe. Some of these islands were cleared and planted with coconuts before World War II; others retained their natural cover of trees and brush.
Gizo town is located at the east end of Ghizo Island, and in 1962–1963 it numbered about two hundred permanent residents. The town area was relatively clear—most of it planted with aging coconut palms. Not only was it an administrative center with government offices, a hospital, post office, police headquarters, agricultural offices, and public works center, but it was also a trading and distribution center. Ships from overseas entered its sheltered harbor as frequently as twice a month to unload cargo and take on copra. This cash crop was collected and stored in government warehouses while awaiting shipment overseas.
The town and the island, though small, are surprisingly diverse culturally. In addition to the European community with its nucleus of government officers, planters, missionaries, and a businessman or two, there was a sizable Chinese community associated with the many small and large trading companies in the town. There was also a heterogeneous Melanesian community of civil and business employees and a sprinkling of Polynesians from islands such as Rennell, Sikaiana, and Ontong Java. Finally, there were a few Fijians and also some Japanese businessmen. Several Christian religious denominations were represented in the town, and there was a large Catholic mission station on Logha, a small island just across the harbor.
Titiana is located on Ghizo Island’s south shore about 2 miles west of Gizo town. There are two Melanesian villages on the island: Pailongge is located about 2 miles further west of Titiana along the same shore, while Sagheraghi is on the remote northwest point of the island. Both these villages are small, numbering about a hundred persons each. All four settlements are located on narrow coastal plains that are rarely as much as a quarter-mile wide. 218
As in the case of the Phoenix Islands program, the resettlement at Titiana was not envisaged as a culture-change project, although it was realized that some change was inevitable. The Solomon Islands Protectorate at the time was in the process of changing from a “headman” form of local administration to a system of local councils. In contrast to the Gilberts, where islands had had their own local governments for several decades, in the Solomons the headman had been a local leader who served as the focus of contact between a community and the protectorate’s district administrative officers. The officers of the protectorate administration were primarily British, though a scattering of other nationalities was represented in fields such as agriculture and public works. In the local council system, a council represented a region including a number of distinct communities; this system was still in its formative years and local councils were in no way as nearly autonomous as the Gilbertese island governments. The Sydney Islanders, it was clear, would no longer constitute a distinct governmental entity: they would now be subsumed within the administration of one of the local councils.
The new settlement was to be led by a resettlement officer who was to be a Gilbertese; this role came to parallel that of a local headman in the protectorate organization. The relocation was to include settlers direct from the Gilberts as well as from Sydney Island; this decision was made because it was thought that the Sydney Islanders were likely to be dispirited and physically weakened by their drought experiences, and the inclusion of a nucleus of settlers direct from the Gilberts would provide a strong and vigorous cadre. The protectorate’s agricultural department would provide instruction in local gardening techniques as well as seeds and cuttings for planting. Ultimately each household head was to be provided with clear title to a 4-acre block of land.
The first party of settlers, numbering thirty persons, arrived on Ghizo on 26 September 1955. It included settlers from both the Gilberts and Sydney and was led by the resettlement officer, who came direct from the Gilberts. This party began clearing the village site and garden areas, and its members were allowed to take occasional stevedoring work in Gizo town to vary their routines somewhat. Over the next three years small groups of new arrivals gradually increased the size of the community. Settlers continued to arrive from both the Gilberts and from Sydney Island, until by 219the early 1960s those from the Gilberts comprised approximately 20 percent of the Titiana population.
Adjustment to the new setting took place gradually and with little difficulty. A representative was selected for the local council having jurisdiction over Titiana, and a local court was established in the community subject to the higher district court in Gizo town. The London Missionary Society, which was not represented in the Solomons, handed over care of its adherents to the Methodist church, while the Catholic Gilbertese affiliated with the local Catholic mission. The early arrivals constructed a community meetinghouse, celebrating its completion with a feast to which the village elders invited all Gizo Europeans. This became an annual event for the community. A Methodist church building was also erected next to the meetinghouse with services conducted by Gilbertese church leaders and Melanesians trained in the Methodist mission; these Solomon Island pastors also conducted the local school until the establishment of a government primary school led by a native Gilbertese. Masses for Catholics in the community were conducted in the meetinghouse by a priest from the Catholic mission on Logha opposite Gizo town.
The slowly expanding community had filled nearly all the available space at Titiana Point by early 1958. Therefore when the decision was made by the protectorate and colony governments to remove all the remaining settlers from Sydney Island, it was necessary to construct a subsidiary village about a half-mile nearer Gizo town; this site came to be called New Manra. More than two hundred newcomers were settled into houses there in late September 1958 when the move finally took place. These included most of the Catholic faction, who had continued to hold out the hope that they would be left to occupy Sydney by themselves. After this large and sudden increase in the size of the community to approximately five hundred persons, a few settlers were added in small numbers direct from the Gilberts, but this flow had ceased almost entirely by 1962.
THE TITIANA COMMUNITY
In mid-1963 the Titiana community numbered 436 persons living in four distinct residence areas. In Titiana proper lived 298 persons, while 86 Gilbertese resided in New Manra. A further 25 220members of the community lived in Gizo town, while 27 persons lived on Logha Island, near the Catholic mission station. The Catholic members of the Titiana community had continued to differ with the Protestant faction over many issues of village politics as well as religion. In the late 1950s the island of Logha had been purchased by the Catholic mission, and in 1959 the Titiana Catholics were offered wage-labor jobs constructing the mission buildings; later they were given the opportunity to live at one end of the island and work the coconut groves as a source of income. Most of the Catholic population took advantage of this opportunity. In mid-1962, however, land was made available to the Titiana community at Kamaleai Point in the Shortland Islands about 150 miles northwest of Ghizo. This was the first instance of land allocation to Gilbertese from Titiana. Land in the Ghizo area was not made available until the following year. The opportunity to settle in the Shortlands was given to Catholic members of the Titiana community because the Shortlands were and are a predominantly Catholic area. By mid-1963 some eighty-five persons lived at Kamaleai, most of them Catholics who had moved there from Logha. In addition to the two communities of Titiana and Kamaleai, in mid-1963 there were some twenty-five Gilbertese affiliated with the Titiana resettlement program who lived in Honiara, most of them either attending school or in government employ.
Subsistence in the Titiana community rested on three major sets of activities. Fishing and gardening were traditional techniques for obtaining needed goods. Both techniques were, or course, modified somewhat in accordance with local conditions. Titiana is protected by an offshore reef. The beach is therefore free of rough surf, and canoes constructed locally could be made larger to take advantage of these conditions. Divers equipped with goggles and spear or knife obtained various kinds of marine life, including shellfish. Gardens were not irrigated, but the abundant rainfall made this unnecessary, and a variety of plants were cultivated in small plots of flat land.
A second subsistence strategy actually encompassed a number of different part-time cash income enterprises. An important opportunity here was stevedoring at the port of Gizo, a job that paid comparatively well for the few days each month that overseas ships were in the harbor. Another source of cash was the sale of handicraft goods and souvenirs, such as mats, model canoes, baskets, 221 and so on. There was always a small but steady, demand for such items among the Europeans in Gizo, and at Christmastime the market was considerable. Another source of cash was the sale of copra. Several of the islands near Ghizo had been acquired by the protectorate government from their former owners and given to the Gilbertese for use as resource areas. The members of the community were divided into six copra sections for exploiting these resources, two sections being at work at any given time and remaining at work for two weeks. These sections were not cooperative groups; each household worked on its own to harvest coconuts, open them, and dry the inner flesh. Quotas were set by general agreement, each family keeping the money it earned. A third major activity was full-time employment. There were a number of opportunities in the government offices, businesses, and homes in Gizo town.
Given these activities open to the Titiana people, three distinct modes of subsistence had developed, and with them different household types. The multigeneration extended family remained important and usually involved two adult males. One was typically employed full-time at an unskilled job such as laborer. He provided the family with the money for necessities while the other was busy at gardening and fishing, providing the staple foods.
Among smaller, nuclear families there were two modes of subsistence. In some households an adult male had a garden and did some fishing but also engaged in stevedoring when a ship was in port. This income, combined with copra and handicraft sales, was about equal to that of a laborer, and there was the additional advantage of having adequate time for traditional subsistence pursuits.
Finally, other nuclear families depended almost entirely on the cash income of the family head, who was employed full-time. Most of these family heads were skilled workers holding jobs such as teacher, powerhouse mechanic, nurse, or plumber. The income from these occupations was sufficient to enable their families to buy their necessities, offsetting the disadvantage of full-time employment which left very little time for gardening or fishing.
The organization of the Titiana meetinghouse was similar to that on Sydney Island, each household having its own seating area along one of the sides. The addition of new families from the Gilberts meant that the Sydney Island meetinghouse could not be 222duplicated, of course, and the departure of a number of families for Kamaleai changed the number of households represented. Membership in the Titiana community was dependent on participation in meetinghouse activities, such as the annual feast and dance commemorating its completion and the New Year’s Day dancing competition. Those who did not participate or contribute to these activities withdrew, in effect, from the community. In one such case a Gilbertese woman who married a Melanesian man from Pailongge took up residence with him in Gizo town, granting control of her house and plot to a near relative. She no longer participated in meetinghouse activities, nor did she make contributions to them (such as food or mats for the floor) when the elders required it; she was not considered to be a member of the community. In the opposite case, however, a Melanesian man from Pailongge moved in with his Gilbertese wife and participated in community affairs to the best of his ability; he was considered at least nominally a member of the Titiana community.
Membership rules were therefore clearly defined in the community. The actual conduct of meetings was somewhat less rigorous than reported for Sydney Island or, certainly, for the Gilberts. Younger men did speak, as did women on occasion. This practice reflected the structure of the community, in which not all families had elder representatives to speak for them, but it also reflected the emergence of smaller, nuclear family households as a significant and viable unit in the local economy. Informants spoke of the meetinghouse as a “free maneaba” where anyone could speak his mind, although usually only male elders did so.
The community was arbitrarily divided into halves for competitive purposes. The two divisions were called North and South, and formerly the Catholic residents of Logha constituted a third group. These divisions practiced separately for the New Year’s Day dancing competition, which aroused great interest and attracted many spectators from Gizo and local Melanesian communities. The anniversary of the completion of the meetinghouse was celebrated in August. For this event a fish drive was held in the lagoon and the elders directed each household to contribute equal amounts of specific local foodstuffs. The entire European community from Gizo town was invited to the feast each year and treated to a display of Gilbertese dancing. The north/south division was not an important organizational feature for this event; instead the 223feast demonstrated to government officials that the community was self-sustaining.
Formal relations with the protectorate administration were the concern of a six-man committee; a seventh man served as principal contact with Western District officials. It was the resettlement officer’s retirement in 1962 that led to the establishment of this committee. Its powers were undefined, however, and its sphere of authority was unclear, so that in 1962–1963 most community affairs were actually being handled by the elder men. The community also had a representative on the local council that had authority over the area, but because of the proximity of Titiana to the protectorate offices, the people of Titiana participated but little in local council activities.
Relations between the Gilbertese and members of other communities were neither intensive nor hostile. There had been a few intermarriages, mostly involving Gilbertese women and Melanesian men. Liaisons and marriages between Gilbertese men and Melanesian women were very rare. On the whole, the Gilbertese did not feel close to their Melanesian neighbors, although there were many individual exceptions and several friendships. Early attempts at mixed stevedoring crews of Gilbertese and Melanesians proved unsuccessful, and segregated crews had become the rule. There had been some minor altercations in Gizo town between Gilbertese and Melanesians, but no large-scale fighting. The Gilbertese tended to view the Melanesians as somewhat backward, crude, and uncivilized. The Melanesians, on their part, felt that Gilbertese were noisy, slightly immoral, and lacking in culture. In addition, there were feelings of resentment on the part of many Melanesians, who viewed the Gilbertese as having taken land and jobs that ought to belong to Melanesians.
The Titiana Methodist church, virtually the only religious organization in the community after the departure of most Catholics for Kamaleai, was gradually being integrated into the local Methodist mission organization. It was headed by a Melanesian pastor, but most were services led by Gilbertese members of the church organization. In 1963 exchange services with Melanesian congregations were being held, and the church was emerging as an important cross-cultural link with other local ethnic groups. Within the Titiana population the church was the focus of one of the most important community events, the Christmas Day singing 224competition between the northern and southern halves of the village.
One major problem for both the community and the government was that of how land was to be allocated to the immigrants. The government had maintained at the outset of the relocation program that each household in Titiana would receive clear title to a 4-acre plot of land. There were several stumbling blocks to land allocation, however. The government had to decide what constituted a household and a household head (since title was granted only to household heads) and whether very large households were to get one or two plots of land (as some eventually did). The land had to be surveyed and recorded before legal titles could be issued. In the process, the government discovered that there was not enough productive land in the Titiana vicinity for all the households. To make up the deficiency, many of the small islands near Ghizo, which had been used as communal resources for copra production, were subdivided and included in the lands to be allocated to households. The islands were from 6 to 10 miles from Ghizo and accessible only by canoe. Land in the Shortland Islands, 150 miles north of Ghizo, was purchased by the government for distribution to emigrant households. All families retained their rights to house plots in Titiana and New Manra.
The allocation of land took place in 1963. The government, in order to be fair in distribution, used a random selection procedure to match households with land plots. Regardless of the fairness of the procedure, many households were enraged at being placed far away from Titiana. Others were furious at having spent years clearing and cultivating plots only to have them allocated to other households. By making land exchange possible, the government was able to alleviate some, but by no means all, of the discontent over the allocation. To make matters worse, it took another ten years for the government to issue the deeds of title. In the meantime, government agriculturists in the Solomon Islands determined that a 4-acre plot was too small for household subsistence; 10 acres was deemed to be a reasonable minimum.
The land allocation program has had several outcomes. First, it has forced a dispersion of the community, which now has people living in Titiana, New Manra, Gizo, Mbambanga (a small island southeast of Ghizo), and on Alu and Laomana in the Shortland Islands. Second, it has resulted in considerable tension between the 225community and the government. Third, it has provided the community with another problem which has yet to be resolved: how to reallocate land at the death of a household head.
The dispersion of the Titiana community began in mid-1962 with the creation of a village at Kamaleai Point in the Shortland Islands. The Shortland Island group is a complex of large and small islands, and Kamaleai is located on the most northerly point of Shortland Island (map 10), the largest of the group. Shortland Island is called Alu on some maps, and Alu is also the name for the native Melanesian inhabitants and their language. Kamaleai is situated on a small bay facing Bougainville Island, the nearest point of which is only about 6 miles away.
Shortland Island is larger than Ghizo, being about 20 miles east to west and 10 miles north to south. The interior of the island is hilly and rolling, but the maximum elevation is only about 650 feet. Rainfall in the area averages about 160 inches per year, so that the island is covered with dense tropical forest. The coastline is low and much of it swampy; extensive areas of mangrove are common. The mountains of Bougainville, which dominate the northern skyline from Kamaleai Point, are the scene of moderate but continual volcanic activity, and earthquakes are frequent.
As is the case in most of the Solomons, human settlement in the Shortlands is in coastal regions and the interior is uninhabited. The greatest concentration of people is found at the southeast tip of Shortland Island. Here a number of smaller islands lie just offshore and the sheltered channels separating them are frequently less than a half-mile wide. A large Alu village is situated in this area, as is the Catholic mission station, a small trading store, and the government station. In 1962–1963 there were no government personnel posted permanently in the Shortlands; the government station consisted of a single building used as a rest house by touring officials.
The Catholic mission is located at a site called Nila. The mission operated a small boarding school that provided several years of education for both boys and girls. Every six to eight weeks a mission ship brought mail and supplies from Gizo, and the mission operated a small motor vessel for local transportation. This converted sailing craft was also used for frequent trips to the town of Buin on the south coast of Bougainville, where weekly airmail service was provided from New Guinea. Since there were no other 226missions in the area and visits by government ships were irregular and infrequent, the mission at Nila was a primary focus of Shortland Island life and the major point of contact with the outside world. There are other settlements on the eastern and western coast of Shortland Island, but Kamaleai, about 12 miles from the mission station and 8 miles from the nearest Alu village, was remote and isolated. There were virtually no overland roads or trails on the island and travel was undertaken by boat or canoe.
Kamaleai’s isolation was in marked contrast to Titiana’s setting near Gizo town. The sole means of subsistence of the eighty-five residents were fishing and gardening. The sale of copra provided a source of cash income; the crop was produced on the mature trees of the plantation which had been subdivided for the settlers. Households at Kamaleai received a total of 8 acres each in contrast to the 4-acre plots allocated at Titiana. The copra was sold to small trading ships that visited the area occasionally. These ships operated out of Gizo, and their Chinese owners acted as middlemen, selling the copra at the government storage facilities in Gizo town. The ships were in fact small floating stores and provided the major source of rice, flour, tobacco, cloth, and other purchased items.
The creation of the new community represented the attainment of a major goal for its basically Catholic population: separation from Protestant-oriented Titiana. A few adherents of the Protestant faith lived in Kamaleai, but the small Catholic church that had been erected was the community center. Masses were occasionally said in it by the catechist who had originally led the Sydney Island converts. An effort was begun to establish a local school in 1963, but a number of children continued to be educated at the Nila mission school.
The community was led by its traditional leaders, the male elders. The catechist acted as community spokesman in relations with the mission and the government. A meetinghouse had not been erected, though one was planned, and in the meantime the church building served for village meetings. The community was a close-knit one, and the Sydney Island pattern of general participation in life-crisis feasts was followed (in contrast to Titiana, where such feasts had become mainly the business of the kindred of those sponsoring the feasts).
The Kamaleai residents plainly enjoyed their new surroundings 227and contrasted them favorably with Titiana. In particular they liked the escape from what they regarded as the money orientation of life on Ghizo. They found their reliance on self-production congenial and said it allowed them more freedom and leisure. The strait of water separating them from Bougainville served as an excellent, easily accessible fishing ground, and they saw this as an added advantage over the Titiana area, where fishing might involve several miles of canoe travel.
In mid-1963 more Gilbertese arrived in the Kamaleai area to begin new communities. One of these was at Harapa Point about 3 miles to the west, where a group of immigrants direct from the Gilberts began constructing a new village. The other was at Laomana about 6 miles to the west, where more people from Titiana had been granted land under the allocation program. The land at both these sites had been part of the same plantation purchase that led to the Kamaleai resettlement and therefore there were mature coconut palms to provide an economic base. The establishment of these new communities within easy reach of one another had important implications in that a sizable Gilbertese ethnic enclave was taking shape, although in 1963 only a beginning had been made.
By mid-1975 the community at Titiana had been in existence for nearly twenty years, a period of time equal to the total history of the Sydney Island settlement. The most visible manifestation of the incorporation of Titiana into Solomon Island life was the greatly increased frequency of contact between the Gilbertese settlers and Gizo town. By 1975 Titiana was essentially a suburban outlier of the bustling little urban center.
In about 1964 and 1965 a logging company had worked the forested interior of the island, constructing a road system to facilitate removal of the timber. In the late 1960s this road system was extended to points on the coast to reach the three villages on the island. It is now possible to drive from Gizo town to Sagheraghi at the northern end of the island and also to Pailongge, which lies about 2.5 miles west of Titiana. The road to Pailongge passes through both New Manra and Titiana, occupying what was once a broad central pathway in each community. 228
From Pailongge to New Manra the road follows the coast, turning inland at the end of New Manra to cut across the interior of the island to Gizo. A few people occasionally still take the path along the beach from New Manra, which offers beautiful panoramic views of the sea, the reef, and the nearby islands. The road, however, is the scene of a continual flow of traffic to and from the town. Seven or eight families in Titiana and New Manra own motorcycles, used mainly to commute to full-time jobs in the town. In June and July of 1975, there were two automobiles and a small pickup truck in use, also owned by Gilbertese families. The pickup and one of the automobiles served as taxis, driven continually between Gizo and the Gilbertese villages. If there were sufficient passengers or other demand, service was also provided to Pailongge or Sagheraghi. Though unscheduled, this motor transport was frequent and inexpensive. Particularly in the early morning and late afternoon hours there was a steady flow of people along the road, going to and returning from work or shopping.
Patterns of employment and subsistence activity had not changed fundamentally, but there were noticeable differences. Many families still supported themselves by fishing and gardening plus part-time employment, cash cropping, and handicraft sales. There were no longer any Gilbertese sailing canoes in the Ghizo area—Solomon Island dugout canoes had replaced them, and a number of families owned outboard motors. The canoes were purchased from Solomon Island craftsmen, who had adapted their traditional design to include a square stern on canoes intended for use with outboards. Fishing activity was much less common in 1975 than in 1963, and the canoes were used mainly for transportation of people and goods. The garden areas near Titiana and New Manra had been greatly extended and a tarolike plant was much in evidence. (The Gilbertese referred to this plant as babai, but I was unable to verify its identity; the plant was not present in 1963 and apparently was acquired in the Solomons rather than being imported from the Gilberts.) In spite of the expansion of garden areas, purchased food items were clearly more commonly used in 1975 then in 1963, and a cooperative store serving Titiana and New Manra was well stocked and busy.
About 40 to 45 percent of the families in Titiana and New Manra included a person who worked full-time for wages. This is about the same proportion as in 1963, but there was a marked difference: no longer was there a sizable number of unskilled or semi-skilled 229 laborers; almost all the jobs at which the Gilbertese worked in 1975 required considerable skill and training, such as accountant-clerk, wireless operator, outboard motor mechanic, and medical assistant. Stevedoring work was still available and provided part-time income for many men. Opportunities for this work actually had expanded since 1963; timbering had become a major industry and because much of the lumber was exported, casual labor was recruited to load the ships.
Gizo itself had grown into a busy town of perhaps a thousand people. Ships were seen much more frequently in the harbor unloading oil and other fuels, bringing cargo from Australia, and loading copra. Nusatupe, an island just across the harbor, had been leveled in the late 1960s to serve as an airport, and every day except Sunday an airline service provided mail, cargo, and passenger transport to other points in the Solomons including Honiara and Munda, where connections with international carriers could be made. There were also other means of local transportation, including a scheduled weekly ship from and to Honiara. Government, mission, and trading vessels as well as the air service provided frequent transportation to and from other points in the Western Solomons.
In 1975 the local council system of government was well established. The Solomons were near the point of self-government, and expatriate administrative personnel served mainly in an advisory capacity. There had been many changes in the council system, however, and there was a single council for the entire western area. Its headquarters and administrative offices remained in Gizo, but because of the frequency of local ship and aircraft movements there was regular contact with subdistrict offices and personnel in outlying areas.
A government primary school had been established in Gizo, replacing the one that formerly served the Titiana community. Most students in Titiana and New Manra continued to attend classes in Titiana, however, for the existing building had been taken over by the United (formerly Methodist) church and operated as a mission school. The school also served the community of Pailongge. In mid-1975 four teachers were employed in the school and a new classroom building was under construction to replace the aged thatch structure. Catholic students from Titiana and New Manra traveled to Gizo to attend the mission school there.
The Titiana community was geographically dispersed. About 230315 people lived in Titiana itself.3 In New Manra there were about 115 residents, and in the village that had been created on Mbambanga in 1963 there were about 35 persons. Perhaps 50 or so additional people affiliated with the Titiana community lived elsewhere in the vicinity of Gizo, including 35 to 40 persons living in Logha, where the Catholic mission station continued to employ Gilbertese adherents in producing copra from its plantation.
The composition and dispersion of the Titiana population has been significantly affected by two developments elsewhere in the Western Solomons. In 1962 the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony administration decided to terminate the Phoenix Islands resettlement program entirely, because the severe drought that began about 1960 had brought genuine hardship to the settlers remaining on Hull and Gardner islands. In 1963 the Gilbertese living on those two islands were also relocated in the Western Solomons, this time on Vaghena Island off the southeastern tip of Choiseul Island. Vaghena is about 75 miles from Ghizo and remote from centers of population. The Gilbertese at Titiana retained many ties with the newly arrived settlers, of course, stemming from the years on Sydney Island when the people of Hull and Gardner were in continual contact with them. Titiana has therefore come to serve as a point of entry for families and individuals from Vaghena who wish to live and work in the Ghizo area. In 1975 five households in Titiana, three in New Manra, and one on Mbambanga were comprised of people who had come from Vaghena, relying on ties of kinship or friendship to become established near Gizo town. Another seven or eight households from Vaghena were to be found in or near Gizo itself.
The other major development that influenced the Titiana population was the lumber industry, which had become an important economic factor in the Western Solomons. In 1975 the major center of timbering operations was at Ringgi Cove, on the southern coast of Kolombangara Island about 20 miles from Ghizo. Up to seventy-five Gilbertese men were employed there, and many had brought their families to live with them. Most of the families were from Vaghena, but there were several from Titiana as well. Employment in the lumbering operations resulted in a flow of households out of the Titiana area, while the creation of the settlement on Vaghena resulted in a flow of families into Titiana and the Gizo area. Furthermore, in 1975 Titiana was no longer the only 231 Gilbertese community in the Ghizo area. There were perhaps 300 or more Gilbertese at Ringgi Cove, while about 800 remained on Vaghena.
Thus the population affiliated with the Titiana community was not only scattered but also fluctuating and heterogeneous. There was a continual movement of individuals and families into and out of the community according to work opportunities. It was also increasingly heterogeneous in that individuals and families moving into the community were often kinsmen or friends rather than long-time residents.
There had also been increased intermarriage with Melanesians by 1975. Although such marriages are still infrequent, at least some of the younger people thought that intermarriage with Melanesians was desirable and would hasten assimilation of the Gilbertese into Solomon Island life. There were a number of other Melanesians resident in Titiana, either as friends of Gilbertese residents or relatives of Melanesians married to Gilbertese. Some of these were children enrolled in the Titiana school. A number of other Melanesian children traveled from Pailongge each day to attend school. The school itself was headed by a Melanesian, and the committee responsible for school affairs (including the construction of the new school building) included several Pailongge residents.
Community organization in Titiana has changed markedly since 1963, and it is not difficult to identify the factors associated with the changes. Given the greater frequency of contact with Gizo exemplified by the morning and evening commuter traffic, the increasing significance of money in the local economy, the scattered and fluctuating population, the increasing effectiveness of the local council system of government, the organizations such as church and mission which cut across ethnic lines, the slowly growing number of non-Gilbertese residents, and a younger generation born or raised in the Solomons who regard themselves as Solomon Islanders, it is not surprising that leadership no longer resides primarily with the elder males of the community. They retain the respect traditionally accorded them, but their influence is no longer what it was.
A new meetinghouse was erected in 1964–1965 of permanent materials (a corrugated iron roof replaced the former traditional thatch). There were no meetings of the elders in it in June and July 232of 1975, but there were two dances featuring a local band that used electronically amplified instruments. There was 24-hour electrical service in Gizo town, but this had not yet reached Titiana, so a small portable generator provided power. The community was led by an eight-man committee, whose members were debating in private whether or not a fee should be charged for use of the meetinghouse by private groups. One of the dances had been sponsored by the youth group of the United church; the other was promoted by an individual as a money-making venture. The committee had appointed a headman to serve as its leader and contact man for other communities. The powers of the committee and its headman were uncertain. They were unpaid and served primarily to assess public opinion and discuss alternatives in community-wide affairs, tasks traditionally the domain of the elder men.
There were other indications of the declining authority of the elder men in 1975. Traditionally, these leaders were responsible for organizing hospitality for village guests and for feasts and dances. In 1963, for example, the first settlers for Harapa in the Shortlands visited Titiana for several weeks awaiting transportation to their new village site. On that occasion the elders divided the community into groups of households, each responsible for feeding the visitors on a given date. The new settlers ate and slept in the meetinghouse according to Gilbertese custom, and many of the elders stayed there also, entertaining the guests with cards, dancing, and conversation for the entire period. In 1975, however, guests were hosted by families or by the church.
The elders were also traditionally responsible for village feasts and dances, including the anniversary of the completion of the original Titiana meetinghouse and the New Year’s Day dancing competition. By 1975 the anniversary in August had not been celebrated for some time, and no plans were in progress for that year. Enthusiasm for the New Year’s Day dances had also declined, and participation had been decreasing for several years. Practice for that event usually began in late October, but it was reported that in spite of the exhortations of the elders attendance was low.
The fragmentation of the community was also apparent in changes in attitudes of village identity and affiliation. By the early 1970s the Gilbertese living in New Manra had apparently developed a considerable feeling of identity separate from Titiana. In 2331973 they constructed their own meetinghouse and gave New Manra another name: Ribono. This feeling of separate identity had been apparent in 1963, but to a much lesser degree.
Titiana and New Manra had formerly been divided into two arbitrary groups for singing competitions at Christmas and dancing competitions at New Year’s. The two groups were approximately equal in size: one consisted of about two-thirds of the Titiana residence area while the other consisted of New Manra plus the remainder of Titiana. In 1963 the land allocation led to a dispersal of population, and later the competitive groups were reorganized. Again there were two groups, one consisting of Titiana as a whole, the other of New Manra plus Mbambanga and the other scattered residents in the Ghizo area. The new grouping probably contributed to the ultimate separation and renaming of New Manra. During the 1974–1975 holiday season there had been three competing groups because the Gilbertese at Ringgi Cove on Kolombangara had indicated an interest in participating. Despite this added incentive, enthusiasm in Titiana, Ribono, and Mbambanga was not sufficiently raised; the Ringgi Cove group was apparently superior in both singing and dancing.
There were other signs that Titiana was undergoing a gradual transition from a homogeneous, subsistence-oriented cultural enclave of Gilbertese to something quite different: a suburban community with a particular ethnic and historical background. In 1963 travel from Titiana to Gizo was much less frequent than in 1975; in the evening families gathered at their homes for the principal meal of the day. The main path was quiet; children and young people stayed with their parents as the day’s events were discussed and next day’s plans made. In 1975, however, late afternoon was a time for soccer and volleyball games by the youth, and crowds of children were at play along the central road. On some evenings dances and other entertainments in Gizo attracted numbers of young people. Traditional life-crisis feasts were still in evidence, though attendance was ordinarily by kinsmen only. Birth and marriage were important events, but the occasion of a young girl’s first menstruation was quietly celebrated by the immediate family only. No wedding took place in mid-1975, but people stated that the virginity of the bride was not so widely publicized as before. There appeared to be increasing sensitivity to 234criticism from outside the community and a growing feeling that visible celebrations of first menstruation and of bridal virginity were undesirable.
Given the rapidly changing social and economic conditions in which the Gilbertese in the Titiana area found themselves, land tenure and inheritance practices were not clearly established. In cases where a landholding household head died leaving only one heir, there was no difficulty; but where there were several living heirs, the evident practice was for them to come to agreement among themselves about the exploitation of the holding if the deceased had not made clear his or her wishes. The final technicalities of land allocation and issuance of title were not cleared away until 1974, and it remains to be seen how quickly clear-cut rules will develop.
Titiana was a predominantly Protestant community in 1975. Religious factionalism was not a major feature of village affairs, although the Baha’i church had gained some converts, particularly on Mbambanga, where this may foreshadow the formation of another organized community sometime in the future. The Methodist church in the Solomons had been reorganized as part of the United Church of Papua and New Guinea. The former Methodist church building standing next to the meetinghouse had been replaced by a building of permanent materials adjacent to the school. As has already been mentioned, the school was operated by the church. Financial assistance was provided by the Solomons government, however, and the new school building was being constructed with the aid of a government grant.
The United church, with its youth and women’s groups, was also a social center, drawing its membership from Ribono (New Manra) and more distant areas as well as Titiana itself. A small church meetinghouse had been constructed across the road from the church itself, and in mid-1975 bazaars, bingo games, and auctions were being held in it to help finance the new school. The women’s group held monthly meetings in the church meetinghouse, where they auctioned off handicraft and food items. At each meeting it was decided what was to be auctioned at the next month’s gathering. The proceeds of the auction were put into a common fund with the church taking a share. Anyone who did not bring an item previously agreed on could make a cash contribution 235 in its place. The fund was divided in equal shares among the member women at Christmastime.
It is interesting to note that the auctions seemed to function as a cash redistribution system. Women from affluent families were likely to contribute cash and to pay higher prices for auctioned goods. Women from families with low incomes were likely to contribute goods they had made and to pay lower prices for auctioned goods. All shared in the cash fund that was accumulated, however.
The men of the community had their own cooperative work group, although details of its organization were not clear to me. Anyone who wanted a specific task accomplished quickly, such as construction of a house, could pay for the work and the materials at set rates. The materials and labor were contributed by members and the funds were pooled. A member of the group could draw his share at any time, and there did not appear to be an annual division as in the case of the women’s church group, although there could be if the members wished. This cooperative group was apparently rarely activated, but it appears to have been a development stemming from the former Sydney Island young men’s club. Early in the history of Titiana there had been an effort to reconstitute that organization, but enthusiasm was lacking and the club itself was no longer active by 1963.
A final comment should be made regarding the growing evidence of significant economic differences in Titiana. In 1975 some households were visibly affluent relative to others. There had been some signs of differences in 1963, but they were restricted to one or two households. By 1975 a number of families had considerably more in the way of material goods than others; radios, motorcycles, outboard motors, and houses built of permanent materials were much more common than in 1963, but not all or even most households had them. This trend runs counter to the strongly egalitarian values of Gilbertese culture and perhaps will act in the future as an added stimulus to education and training for highly paid positions.
In 1963 the Gilbertese themselves commented on the contrast between the rural, subsistence-oriented life of Kamaleai and the gradual inclusion of Titiana within the social and economic life of Gizo town. The contrast was greatly accentuated by 1975, even 236though Kamalaei had come to experience much more frequent contact with other communities.
By 1975 the government station at the southeast tip of Shortland Island had been expanded to house a number of permanently stationed personnel. Government shipping from Gizo was on a regular schedule, stopping there at least once a month before continuing on to Shortland Island villages. The government ships carried cargo for the network of village cooperative societies that had been established, so that Kamaleai and the other nearby Gilbertese communities had regular communication links with the rest of the Solomons.
A large-scale malaria eradication program had been set up throughout the Solomons during the 1960s, and personnel connected with the program visited Kamaleai at least once a week to administer antimalarial drugs. Blood samples were taken regularly to detect the presence of the disease, and there was periodic inspection and spraying of all buildings (the same program was also in effect in the Ghizo area including Titiana). There was regular travel to Bougainville from the Shortlands.
Kamaleai was therefore no longer isolated to the degree it was in 1963. Furthermore, the village had become part of a more inclusive Gilbertese community that included Harapa and Laomana. Each of these three villages had its own meetinghouse. The population of Harapa was about 200 persons, that of Laomana about 100; Kamaleai was perhaps the smallest of the three, with 96 residents in July 1975. The three villages formed competing groups for singing (on Christmas Day) and dancing (on New Year’s Day). The villages took turns in hosting the competitions. Each village also had its own cooperative society, but only Harapa had a school and health clinic due to its central location about midway between the other two communities. Kamaleai was still isolated, but it had become part of a Gilbertese cultural enclave numbering about 400 persons and spread over three village sites.
The community was still subsistence oriented and retained much of the characteristic life of a Gilbertese community. The elder men of the village were still its leaders. When the residents gathered for some purpose, such as greeting important visitors or discussing village matters, the elders took their accustomed places and dominated the discussion, as tradition dictated. Catholicism remained the dominant religion, and the catechist was still the 237spokesman for the community in its relationships with the administration and the mission. The former church building was no longer standing, however, and Sunday services and occasional masses were held in the meetinghouse.
Extensive gardens had been planted in the swampy area west of the village site. Much of this was what they called babai—the same plant that had been introduced at Titiana. Fish were still plentiful in the waters nearby; Solomon Island dugout canoes were the usual means of transportation to the fishing grounds. There were still a few Gilbertese sailing canoes, but they were used only infrequently, mainly for trips to Buin on Bougainville. At Buin there was a weekly market at which the Gilbertese sold fish. The Kamaleai cooperative society also owned an outboard motor and a large dugout canoe. Both were used for “official” trips to nearby villages, but fuel was expensive and difficult to come by, so that such trips were infrequent.
The village cooperative also participated in a government cattle ranching project, which provided subsidies for clearing and fencing land and made cattle available for stock. By 1975 the Kamaleai cooperative had cleared about 20 acres of land and had seven head of cattle in the enclosure. The project was still in its beginning stages in the Solomons, however, and facilities for processing and marketing the final product were still in planning by the government.
A women’s group and a men’s cooperative group were in existence in Kamaleai operating on lines similar to those in Titiana. There was also some mission activity by the United church; the people of Laomana were predominantly Protestant and were helping in the construction of a church building in Kamaleai. There were two Protestant families in Kamaleai itself. Protestant services were held at the new church site, led by a Gilbertese missionary from Titiana who also lived there. This location was about a half mile from Kamaleai proper; the missionary and his family did not otherwise participate in the life of the community, although the Protestant residents of Kamaleai thought that they should be included.
In spite of the increased frequency of contact and the extension of government and mission projects, Kamaleai in 1975 was much as it was in 1963, and its traditions were reinforced by the proximity of other Gilbertese communities. Enthusiasm for the singing 238and dancing competitions was high, life-crisis feasts were major community events, the leadership of the elder men was followed, the community as a whole acted as hosts for visitors, and only two buildings (a house and the cooperative store) were constructed of nontraditional materials.
Thus while there were undoubted pressures for change in Kamaleai, and while new pressures can be expected to appear as the frequency of contact continues to grow, the actual extent of change has been minimal compared to Titiana. It seems obvious that the reason for the differential rate of change between the two communities lies in their different settings: the isolation of Kamaleai in contrast to the proximity of Titiana to Gizo town.
The nearly forty-year history of the Titiana and Kamaleai communities reveals a series of adaptations and experiments in adjustment to new and varied circumstances. When the community first took shape on Sydney Island, the major differences in environment were physical and biological. Sydney Island was small and lacking in extensive reef areas. It also had a highly saline central lake and, correspondingly, less capacity for subsurface freshwater storage than the islands of the Southern Gilberts. This meant that some of the traditional subsistence foods of the Gilbertese could not be cultivated. A local substitute was found which came to be a staple in the diet, but no change other than reorganization of household subsistence activities seems to have resulted.
The other factor influencing culture change on Sydney Island was the selection of households as the unit of resettlement. This was an obvious choice in formulating the resettlement plans. Households based on nuclear families had become increasingly independent economically in the Gilberts since the inception of the colony; furthermore, if household groups were the unit of relocation more families remaining in the Gilberts could be aided. Taking sets of closely related families would have meant a smaller number of numerically larger units. Fewer such large units could have been taken from each island, and there would have been a magnification of the administrative problems of reallocating their lands to those who stayed behind.
Because small family units were taken from different islands and localities in the Southern Gilberts, many specific local traditions 239 were represented among the new residents of Sydney Island. The immediate result was a “least common denominator” approach to solving questions of the interpretation of tradition. The community meetinghouse organization is an obvious example of this. The concept of specific seating places was retained, but no family sat in the same location it had occupied in its home meetinghouse and no permanent allocation of order of precedence in meetings was made. Another manifestation of this generalizing approach was in life-crisis feasts, where participation was extended to all island residents rather than being limited to kinsmen as in the Southern Gilberts.
The selection of household groups meant that cooperation based on kinship to accomplish a specific task could enlist only a few individuals. The problems of initial development of the island (and, once this was accomplished, maintenance and subsistence) seem to have required more people, though perhaps at only infrequent intervals. The debate over how this was to be accomplished resulted in a gradually widening schism between the collectivists who favored group effort and the individualists who opposed it. There does seem to have been some need for collective effort, however, and the later formation of a young men’s club for this purpose was the outcome. Nevertheless, the schism in the community grew deeper and led to acceptance of a new faith, Catholicism, in the previously Protestant community. Later the gap grew into a desire for separation—a desire that appeared as a wish to remain on Sydney after the rest of the community had been relocated in the Solomons.
The growing independence of nuclear families in the Southern Gilberts prior to resettlement was a trend that was probably carried to Sydney Island, but it was reduced in intensity there by the isolation of the island and the apparent need for cooperation of larger numbers of people in at least some tasks. A foundation for the potential assertion of independence of sons from their fathers was present in the fact that land on Sydney was allocated to individuals. In the Gilberts the fact that land was inherited from one’s parents created a sanction that tended to make young people think twice about deviating from parental guidance; everyone had land on Sydney, however, so that the impact of this traditional sanction was reduced. The potential was never seized upon, however, and elder men retained their prestige.
In spite of the marked differences in physical and biological environment 240 presented by the setting at Titiana when relocation to the Solomons took place, culture change resulting from these differences was minimal. This statement must be tempered, however, in the light of the features of the program that resulted in resettlement at Titiana Point. A certain quantity of land was promised to the settlers in the form of an allocation to each household head. As it turned out, the physical setting proved to be too small in area to make such an allocation possible at a single site. The result was the dispersion of the community in the Titiana area and the creation of another community at Kamaleai. At Kamaleai one religious faction achieved its goal of separation from the other. In the Titiana area the dispersion of the community resulted in an assertion of independence by residents at one site, New Manra. There are also early signs that this pattern may be repeated by the residents of another site, the village on Mbambanga Island.
The marked difference in social environment between Sydney Island and the Titiana area has had a marked effect on culture change. The proximity of Gizo town with its administrative center and employment opportunities has resulted in a decline of the prestige of the elders as community leaders, and the life of the Gilbertese in the Titiana area has been markedly adapted to that of the town. Titiana has also become a channel through which other Gilbertese gain employment and the attractions of town life. Urbanization is therefore the major process of change in Titiana.
The interpretation of change in Titiana as a process of adaptation to a new social environment is supported when a comparison is made with Kamaleai. Although Kamaleai is set within the same general Solomon Island administrative and economic framework, its remoteness from any urban center has resulted in greater continuity of Gilbertese tradition, and this continuity of tradition has been reinforced by the establishment of similar subsistence-oriented Gilbertese communities in the same vicinity.
A concept of adaptation to differing social as well as physical and biological environments has been used in this chapter as a framework for discussing culture change. The utility of the framework is evident, even though the history of the community spans less than forty years. Of course the process is an ongoing one, and adaptation continues in Titiana and Kamaleai. The Solomons in mid-1975 were nearing self-government, with independence in the foreseeable future. Both Titiana and Kamaleai were therefore part 241of a changing setting rather than a static one, and the younger members of the two communities are certain to find that their cultural traditions provide guidelines but not necessarily solutions to the new situations they will face.
The first period of field research was conducted as part of the Comparative Study of Culture Change and Stability in Displaced Communities in the Pacific (Barnett 1961), a project directed by Homer G. Barnett of the University of Oregon and funded by the National Science Foundation. Additional support in the form of two faculty research grants from the University of California at Berkeley made possible further analysis of the data between 1967 and 1969. The second period of field research was funded by a grant from the Research Advisory Board of the University of Nevada, Reno.
Although responsibility for the analysis presented in this chapter is my own, the work has benefited from the stimulus, criticism, and assistance of many people. The list is too long to give here in its entirety, but I am grateful to them all. I owe four special debts: to David Aberle and Homer Barnett, who were both members of the anthropology faculty when I was a graduate student at the University of Oregon; to Mary E. Knudson, who saw me through much of my life including the first period of fieldwork; and to Mary L. Moran, who took part in the second period of field research and provided valuable insights from a woman’s perspective. I am also particularly obligated to the people of Titiana, Ribono, Kamaleai, and other Gilbertese villages in the Western Solomons for their continuing friendship, hospitality, and helpfulness.
1. The spelling of place-names in the Solomon Islands has been standardized since the appearance of the first description of the Titiana community (Knudson 1965). The spellings in this chapter are based on the new standards.
2. During the 1950s and 1960s the population problem feared by administrators some twenty years earlier became a reality and is now a serious issue. To a considerable degree the population increase stems from the economic significance of the phosphate deposits on Ocean Island, which provide income for the colony itself and wage labor for the Gilbertese. These deposits are exhaustible, of course, and when they cease to be economically exploitable, it is difficult to see any resource or activity that will replace them. The exportation of surplus population is only a temporary palliative, however, and in the late 1960s population control techniques centering on contraceptive methods began to be actively sponsored by the colonial government.
3. The population statistics for 1975 are initial results from censuses taken during the second period of field research. Further review of the census figures may result in some differences from the figures presented here, but any errors can be expected to be insignificant (less than 5 percent).