Pacific Horizons School

The Exploration and Settlement of the Pacific Islands continues

The First People
Historians believe that people settled the Pacific Islands from approximately 600 BC to 1650 AD. During this period the settlers/explorers who were to become known as Polynesians migrated slowly from South East Asia. Many authors agree that Samosa a nd Tongans arrived very early with the Maori in New Zealand shortly afterward. The distant Islands including the Hawaiian and Marquessas were settled significantly later.

In Samoa, the culture and civilization was more or less well-developed and stable until about 1200 AD. A small number of aristocratic families ruled the island nation under the overall rule of the Tui Manu'a. Although a supreme chief was acknowledged, there was no central government. Each village was independent. This was to later frustrate the European visitors. Then, for 400 years, the islands of Savai'i, Upolu, and Tutuila were part of the Tongan Kingdom. In about 1600, the Samoans defeated the Tongans and regained control of all of Samoa. But a new type of leader had emerged. The Maletoa or war chief, had come into a position of strength because of the wars. There was conflict between the different rulers in Samoa from then until Samoa was dominated by foreign interests. At lower levels the political system was run by Matais, or chiefs. There were two types of matais. The Ali'i was the hereditary chief and could trace his lineage back to other chiefs. The other was the Tulefale or talking chief. He was the Ali'i's spokesman and held power because of his knowledge of the oral tradition and his skills in oratory.

The social structure in Samoa was an 'open' system. This means that any member of the society could rise to a position of leadership in his or her own lifetime. That is, someone born into a low class family could at some time be accepted into the upper classes. There was a group of ruling families (the aristocracy), but their was also a very strong guild system where a person's skill in a trade was recognized. The most highly regarded trades were house builder, canoe maker, and tattoo artist. In fact a tattoo, a status symbol was available to anyone who could afford it, not just the chiefs' families.

The religion in Samoa at this time was polytheistic (a word from Greek meaning many gods). Each village had its god, and each family. In fact even individuals had gods called their at which was in some animal or object. This is similar to the totems of the native Americans. The god might reside in an animal, a plant or a stone. There was a god named Nave who was represented by a stone called Maa o Nave or the stone of Nave. This became Amanave, the name of a village today.

Like the Ancient Greeks, the Samoans believed that their gods often came to earth and lived as people, marrying ordinary humans and raising families. They believed a story that the war goddess Nafanua had told that their supreme god Tagaloa would send someone with light colored skin to them from the sky. This is why the name papalagi was given to the Europeans. With their huge ships with billowing white sails, they appeared to have been sent from Tagaloa, and were named 'sky breakers'.
The First People - Review Questions

Question 5. How could a member of a low class family rise to a higher class? How could he or she gain status quickly? How might he or she rise to a position of power?
Answer 5. .

Question 6. Explain what is meant by a polytheistic religion.
Answer 6. .
Question 5. Why were the ancient Samoans so ready to believe in the superiority of the Europeans?
Answer 5. .The First Europeans

The Spanish

Magellan was the first European explorer of the Pacific Ocean. Although he was Portuguese, he worked for Spain. (Remember that Columbus was Italian; he also worked for Spain.) Magellan wanted to correct the mistake Columbus had made. He wanted to somehow sail around the vast continent Columbus had discovered and find the original goal - the Far East. Earlier, Balboa had seen the new ocean from Mexico.

There was also the old legend of the great southern continent. Since the time of Ptolemy (A.D.150), some men had believed that there had to be an enormous continent in the south part of the Pacific Ocean. His legend drove many of the early explorers, who hoped to share in the riches found in another new land. (Remember that Columbus was supposed to get 10 percent of all the wealth brought back from the New World!)

Prior to Magellan's expedition (in 1494) Spain and Portugal had come to an Agreement. In the Treat of Tordesillas, they agreed that every new discovery of land to the West of a line near the Cape Verde Islands would belong to Spain. Land to the East would be Portuguese. That is why Brazil was a Portuguese colony and Mexico and Florida belonged to Spain. The Portuguese established trading ports and colonies in Africa, India and China. Magellan was sent west to find the Spice Islands, hoping to prove that they were in Spains' part of the world.

The expedition was a terrible ordeal. With five small old ships, Magellan left Spain and sailed for thirteen months before even coming to the south end of South America! He sent one ship back to Spain with the news that he had found a passage to the western sea. Then, in the stormy straits between South America and Terra del Fuego, Magellan met almost impossible sailing conditions. It took 37 days of determined sailing to finally enter the new ocean. By this time the ocean looked so calm in comparison to where he had been that Magellan called the ocean he had discovered 'Pacific' or calm. He would find that the name Pacific wasn't always appropriate.

After finally breaking free from the storm-tossed Straits of Magellan, the expedition sailed North and West on the trade winds. Amazingly, he traveled all the way to Guam without ever finding an island inhabited by people. He discovered the Mariannas and claimed them for Spain. Later he sailed to the Philippine Islands and claimed them too. During his expedition, he had met native peoples who treated him like a god. As he visited more islands, he became more and more convinced that he had great powers. As a result he became more foolish in dealing with the original people. He was killed in the Philippines because of his foolishness. The remnants of his expedition returned to Spain and Ferdinand Magellan is credited with the first circumnavigation of the earth.

The Annual Galleon

By 1565, a Spanish colony was firmly established in the Philippines. Manila, the capital, began in 1571. As happened in New Spain (North America), there was a regular movement of treasure from the colony to Spain. In the case of the Philippines, this was the Annual Galleon which sailed from Acapulco early in the new year and sailed on the Northeast "trade winds" for about 80 days. On the return, the ship left Manila in early June, sailing as far as the Mariannas on the monsoons. Then it sailed in a northerly arc, an swung down the California coast on the current. In this way the trip could be made in about six months. For all this time the Pacific Ocean was regarded as a "Spanish Lake".

The First Europeans - the Spanish - Review Questions

Question 5. Explain why Brazil was a Portuguese colony and most of America was Spanish.
Answer 5. .
Question 6. What is the name of the passage Magellan sailed through when going around the tip of South America? Explain why.
Answer 6. .
Question 7. Why were Europeans so eager to explore the Pacific?
Answer 7.
.The Dutch

The Dutch were late arrivals into the Pacific. It was only 1581 when the Netherlands finally became independent of Spain. As it turned out, the Netherlands were getting stronger and more important in the world at the same time as Spain and Portugal were becoming weaker. As Their country became stronger, more Dutch merchants sought trade goods from around the world. The soon became the leading explorers of the seventeenth century (the 1600s). They explored the islands where the Portuguese had been in power, and in 1602, formed the Dutch east India Company. What had been the "Spice Islands" became the Dutch East Indies. The purpose of the company was to give a monopoly to the owners of the company. This meant that as far as the Netherlands was concerned, no one but the Dutch East India Company was to conduct trade in the areas it (the company) controlled. This was good for the company, but discouraged other individuals or companies.
The Dutch were very different from the Spanish. The Spanish set out to deliberately Christianize everyone they met and to set up new colonies all over the world. The Dutch were interested only in trade and did not want to change the Pacific Islanders' lives. Most importantly, the Dutch ships were not full of soldiers.
Shortly after the Dutch East Indies Company was formed, there was a flurry of activity as the Dutch searched for the huge southern continent, hoping to profit from the discovery of another New World. Early on, they decided that the route around the Horn and through the Straits of Magellan was too risky. They chose the safer route around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa. They established Dutch ports in Madagascar, Ceylon and India, and regarded the route their own, and held it as the key to the Pacific. They explored the coast of New Guinea and the northern and western coasts of Australia, which they dismissed as being too barren to be of any use. Then, in 1642, Abel Tasman discovered New Zealand, and thought he had discovered Tonga and Fiji. On his way home he found Tasmania and added to the map of Australia, determining that it was not as large as they thought the great southern continent should be. A few other Dutch explorers ventured round he Horn to try to trade in the Pacific without interfering with the Company's monopoly. They found the Islanders generally unreceptive to the idea of trade. One of them, named le Maire, may have had more trouble that necessary because he refused to drink kava, thinking it was poisoned. Since the Dutch were interested only in trade, and not in the people themselves, they found little of interest to them away from the Spice Islands and restricted their trade and their travel to that area. The Company would support no more exploration.

But much later, it was Jacob Roggeveen, again trying to break the monopoly, who sighted Samoa, possibly the first time by a European, in 1722. Roggevven saw the islands, did a little trading and left simply making notes in his logs and on his charts.The First Europeans - the Dutch - Review Questions

Question 5. What was the difference between the Dutch and the Spanish?
Answer 5. .
Question 6. Why did the Company stop paying for exploration of the Pacific?
Answer 6. .
Question 7. The Netherlands is still well known for its chocolate products and how the people like chocolate. Explain how this may have started way back in the seventeenth century.
Answer 7. .
The British

During almost this entire period, Britain was at war with Spain. Because the Annual Galleon was so regular, (and such a rich prize), British privateers were drawn into the Pacific Ocean. Privateers were ships commissioned by Queen Elizabeth to capture Spanish ships, then sell the ship and cargo. To any other nation, they were pirates. There are records of galleons being seized by Sir Francis Drake in 1578-80 by Thomas Cavendish in 1586, and by Commodore Anson in 1745. Most of these activities were too far north to have any effect on Polynesia. But William Dampier sailed to the northern coast of Australia, New Guinea and discovered New Britain. He wrote a book A New Voyage Round the World. Generally the British were infrequent visitors, and spent most of their time in India and Africa. But in 1767, Samuel Wallis and Philip Carteret were sent out in two British Navy ships to find the Southern continent. Carteret's ship was separated from Wallis in a storm, and each captain thought the other had been sunk. The expedition carried on in two parts. Wallis called on Tahiti, and gave good reports. Carteret discovered Pitcairn Island, New Ireland and visited New Britain. This was the beginning of real interest by Britain, who sent Captain James Cook on his first scientific voyage in 1769-71.

Much of Wallis' report was based upon his own misunderstanding of the Tahitians. Like other Polynesians, they did not understand private ownership. If an outsider came to the village in peace, he gave all that he had with him (canoe, spear, food, clothing) to the village and became a member of it. When the time came to leave, he took what the village gave him. When Wallis' ship landed, he was treated as a friend. But when Tahitians started taking from the ship things like nails which no one was using, the British sailors called it 'theft', and fights broke out. The British did not hesitate to use muskets on the Tahitians and cannons on their canoes. The Tahitians were afraid of the Palagi, but wanted their goods, especially metal tools. They found ways, especially by using their young girls, to convince the British that they were friendly and willing to trade. But the Tahitians never could understand the reason why taking things made the Palagi angry. They considered the Europeans rude and uncivilized.

Captain James Cook had served several years in the British Navy after working on the coastal coal trade in Britain. While in British North America, he established a good reputation as a navigator and a mapmaker (cartographer). At this time, science was becoming very popular. Sir Isaac Newton (who discovered gravity), had published two important books early in the 18th century (the 1700s), and the study of science was growing quickly. Astronomers had predicted that there was to be a transit of Venus across the sun in 1769, and the British wanted several widely separated sites from which to make observations. Scientists hoped that these observations would help them calculate the sun's distance from the earth. Capt. Cook was chosen to lead a scientific expedition to Tahiti to let astronomers make observations from there. .When the transit was finished, Cook acted on his secret orders and began a systematic exploration of the Pacific.
Although Cook was very junior in the Royal Navy, he carefully chose the type of ship to be used (a shallow draft vessel designed for coastal use) and made several innovations. These included changes to the sailors' diet to prevent scurvy and more humane treatment of the crew:
At first his sea dogs spat it (the sauerkraut) out, claiming it spoilt the soup. Cook, who knew seamen, simply stopped their kraut for a week, said nothing, and increased the amounts served in the officers' mess, with quiet instructions that all there should eat the stuff with obvious gusto, even if feigned (acted). This "favoritism" toward officers being duly reported to the seamen by the officers' servants, the idea grew that perhaps the infernal kraut had something after all, and soon the mariners were shouting for it.
In three voyages, he circumnavigated New Zealand, determining that it was made up of two islands, discovered the coast of Australia, traveled the north Pacific, and discovered the Sandwich Islands (now Hawai'i), and explored the Pacific coast of America. Many of the British Pacific possessions were the result of Cook's work. He anchored off Samoan Islands, but never came ashore, since the Samoans had a reputation of being savages who would kill the Europeans. On his third expedition, he was killed in Hawai'i after attacking a chief. He died because he did not understand the cultural rules and values, and thought that he could deal with the Hawaiian as he would Britons.

Another interesting part of the British history in the Pacific is the story of the Bounty. The Bounty was a Royal Navy ship sent under Capt. Bligh to collect breadfruit trees from Tahiti and take them to Jamaica. It was hoped that they would grow well enough there to become cheap food for the slaves. Bligh was a taskmaster, and the crew led by Fletcher Christian, mutinied. They put Bligh and those members of the crew who did not mutiny loose in one of the ship's open boats, and returned to Tahiti. After a short time, the mutineers and their Tahitian wives left Tahiti and settled Pitcairn Island, where their descendants live today. Bligh's party of castaways managed to navigate to the Dutch West Indies, then got back to England, where the mutiny was reported and a search party sent out. Some of the mutineers were captured and hung in London.
The First Europeans - the British - Review Questions

Question 5. Why were the Spanish galleons a likely target for the British?.
Answer 5. .
Question 6. Explain why the two ships of the Wallis expedition thought the other ship had sunk. Why didn't they get together again?
Answer 6. .
Question 7. Why would Capt. Cook have had secret orders?
Answer 7. .More Europeans

The Missionaries
-Part I
Surprisingly, the missionaries were among the first Europeans to actually move onto the southern islands of the Pacific. While the earlier explorers had stopped to trade, they did not intend to stay. The few whites who were there before the missionaries were 'beachcombers' who had mutinied or deserted (that is, run away from their ships), had been shipwrecked, or were escaped prisoners (from Sidney, Australia). Until the missions took an interest, the British and Dutch ships which called on such places as Tahiti were interested only in trading with the islanders, not in actually living on the islands. The missionaries then, were the real beginning of white settlement.

Why did the missionaries come? Just as the last half of the eighteenth century (the 1700s) had been well known for advancements in Science, [a period called the Enlightenment] the beginning of the Nineteenth Century (the 1800s) was to be known as a period of religious revival [the Second Great Awakening - the first was in the 1730s and 1740s]. During the years dedicated to science, anyone and everyone who had money either set up their own laboratory or project or sponsored someone else. Science was in fashion, and the writers and philosophers were saying that man was capable of anything now that such high technology advancements had been made. At the opposite pole were other famous people such as Jean Jacques Rousseau in France and Daniel Defoe in England. They said that 'civilization' had ruined people, and that the real values were to be found in a more primitive life. This is well illustrated in Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe in which the hero, a 'civilized' gentleman, improves his life by being forced to live by his own wits and labor.

This philosophy grew into what became known as the 'Cult of the Noble Savage'. As reports from Tahiti by such people as Wallis came back, Europe came to know of the blissful life of the South Sea Islanders. at peace with the world and in harmony with nature. Such stories had special appeal for upper-class Europeans of the eighteenth century. Theirs was an age of powdered wigs and frills, elegance and courtly manners. As they were accustomed to city life and to the rigidity of a social scale, they yearned for the freedom that seemed to be enjoyed only by primitive people. The Polynesians were envied above all. Those who studied such wild cultures became members of a cult in which the native was not looked upon as a simple primitive, but as a "noble savage."
This was carried so far that painters showed Captain Cook being greeted by men and women dressed in the flowing costumes of the ancient Romans or Greeks. Only a little later, it was this attitude which drew Robert Louis Stevenson to Apia and Paul Gauguin, a famous artist, to Tahiti.

In this way, the missionaries were both pulled and pushed to the South Pacific missions. The Second Great Awakening produced a great feeling of evangelism in Protestant churches such as the Calvinists and the Methodists. Young people felt pushed to convert more people to their religion, bringing them to salvation. They were also pulled by the myth of the Noble savage, and the innocent purity the natives of the South Seas offered.

Most of the early evangelical missionaries conformed to a fairly uniform and almost predictable pattern of experience (at least before they left their homelands). A typical missionary was quite young, often in his early twenties, and came from the 'lower middle and mechanic ' classes. Often he was a carpenter or had similar mechanic skills. Usually he came from the city, although a large proportion of Wesleyans came from the country. . . . In his teens he was usually involved in church activities, such as teaching Sunday school and doing charitable work. Somewhere in his late teens or early twenties he experienced a Calvinistic conversion ... First came a sudden realization that no matter what good works he had been doing, he was still a sinner. This was a stage where he made much of his sins - which probably never amounted to very much - but it was necessary to highlight sinning because only by being sinful could one experience salvation. ... he (now) felt that God called upon him to save others.
He was called not only to 'save the heathen' but in many cases was consciously or unconsciously motivated by the desire to improve his own position. He could improve his social position and perhaps even make money.

The young missionaries felt so divinely inspired that the could not possibly fail. They were working for God. So now the stage is set. The Polynesians believe that their god will send them new leaders. The Missionaries believe that they have been sent by God to lead the heathen Polynesians to salvation.

The Missionaries -Part I
Review Questions

Question 5. What were 'beachcombers'?
Answer 5. .
Question 6. Explain the 'Cult of the Noble Savage'
Answer 6. .
Question 7. Why were only men allowed to be missionaries?
Answer 7.
.More Europeans
The Missionaries
-Part II
The missionaries brought much more to Samoa than Christianity. They brought technology, trade, disease, and different cultural values.
Because the missionaries were also tradesmen (or 'mechanics' as they were called then), they brought their tools and skills and expected to work at their trade. The tools they used and the products they made were what they knew. They built houses that looked like British or American houses and churches to match. What they could not make they imported from 'the old country'. They worked, of course, with metal tools and machinery, things which were new to the islanders.
The missionaries were willing to go into an unknown world to spread the word of God, but they were unwilling to give up their lifestyle. In fact the few who did were said to have 'gone native', and were dismissed from their churches. So the missionaries kept their heavy clothes, and imported building materials, books, household goods, and furniture to make life among the 'heathens' more bearable.
In Europe and in North America, there had regularly been plagues and epidemics. The whites living in that part of the world had developed a resistance or an immunity to some or all of these 'common childhood diseases' such as measles, mumps and chickenpox. Vaccination for smallpox was becoming common. The Pacific Islanders however, had not been exposed to these germs, and easily caught the white man's diseases, and got sick. Many of them died. In Hawai'i, these diseases nearly wiped out the original population. When John Williams arrived in his ship, the Messenger of Peace, an epidemic of influenza broke out and killed several people. In some cases, the chiefs blamed the diseases on the white man's mana and killed them.
The missionaries could not separate their religion from the other parts of their culture. To them, the way they lived in America or in England was the way Christians lived. To them, Christians lived in small houses broken up inside into small rooms, with solid walls, glass windows and locked doors. Christians went to church in an enclosed building, sitting on benches in rows. They wore many layers of dark colored clothing (especially the women), and thought that it was unhealthy to bath too often. Modesty was a virtue, and to be seen naked was a sin. Night air and 'night damp' was a cause of disease. A good Christian worked hard for a salary, and through his own effort and with God's help could get rich. They went to church and bible school and didn't dance (especially after dark). All these customs were, of course, not part of fa'a Samoa. Many of there customs were directly opposed to the custom of living in harmony with nature and respecting it. But the Bible of the Palagis told them:
All wild animals and birds and fish will be afraid of you ... for I have placed them in your power, and they are yours to use for food, in addition to grain and vegetables. ... Man-killing animals must die ...
So as the missionaries preached, they preached not only of their God and of Christ, but of their own lifestyle. Some missionaries told the people that if they became Christians, they would become rich and powerful. This may have been a simple mistake by the islanders who didn't understand that the preacher meant rich and powerful in spirit, but when the missionaries found more people coming to their church, they didn't try to correct the mistake. In the process of turning the Samoans into Christians, the missionaries tried to turn them into copies of themselves.
To teach them to read the Bible, the missionaries had to invent a written language, translate the Bible into it, then teach reading. They taught that good Christians wear clothing. Cloth and clothing could be imported from the Palagi homeland, but it cost money. The missionaries taught the Samoans to trade for money, and then to work for money, since after all, working for money was a Christian thing to do.
In time the missionaries had the Samoans so busy working that the funds to support the church could come from the people instead of the mission societies. In order to get the Samoans to contribute more, they announced who had given how much money to the church. This practice continues to this day in some churches.
Because they believed that their own religion was the only true one, the missionaries were zealous and competitive. But they couldn't afford to compete with one another and decided to 'split up' the Pacific between them. The Americans got the North Pacific, the Methodists got Tonga, the London Missionary Society (LMS) got Samoa and Tahiti, etc. The only common goal was to prevent the Roman Catholics from getting a foothold on the islands.
The first recorded missionary in Samoa was John Williams. Sponsored by the LMS, he arrived from Tahiti in 1630 with a Samoan Christian. By 1850, he had moved on to another island where he was killed by the islanders because disease broke out on his arrival.
The Missionaries -Part II Review Questions

Question 5. What things did the Samoans do that the missionaries would consider sinful?
Answer 5. .
Question 6. What things did the missionaries do that were wrong according to fa'a Samoa?
Answer 7. . Bibliography

Beaglehole, John Cawter. The Exploration of the Pacific Stanford, CA Stanford University Press; 1966

Crawford, David and Leona. Missionary Adventures in the South Seas Tokyo Charles E. Little; 1967

Day, A. Grove They Peopled the Pacific New York Duell, Sloan, and Pierce; 1964

Day, A. Grove Pirates of the Pacific New York Meridith Press; 1968

Goldman, Irving Ancient Polynesian Society Chicago University of Chicago Press; 1968

Graton, Charles Harvey The Southwest Pacific to 1900 Ann Arbor University of Michigan Press; 1963

Gray, J.A.C. Amerika Samoa and its Naval Administration Annapolis, United States Naval Institute 1960

Howe, K. R. , Where the Waves Fall: A new South Sea Island history from first settlement to colonial rule. (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1984), 115-116.

Turner, George Samoa, a hundred years ago and long before Papakura, N.Z. R.McMillan; 1983 (Reprint of 1884 ed)

Villiers, Allan "The Man Who Mapped the Pacific," National Geographic, September 1971.

Warner, Oliver Captain Cook and the South Pacific New York American Heritage; 1963