Tikopia of Melanesia

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Tikopia of Melanesia
Roel Sonnen
ANT101: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Instructor Tawney Townsend
December 13, 2010

Tikopia of Melanesia

Orientation
Identification. The name "Tikopia" (sometimes written "Tucopia" by early European voyagers), given to a small Island in the Solomon group, is also applied by the inhabitants to themselves. The expression, glossed as "we, the Tikopia," is commonly used to differentiate themselves from the people of other islands in the Solomons and elsewhere. Location. Tikopia is a little, isolated, high island, primarily an extinct volcano with fringing coral reef, rising to a peak of 350 meters but extending only 4.6 square kilometers. It is in the southeast of the Solomons, at 168°50′ E and 12° 18′ S. Historically, until the mid-1950s, the Tikopia people occupied only this island. But then, stimulated by the pressure of the population on the food supply and by a desire for Experience of the outside world, Tikopia people began to settle in groups elsewhere in the Solomons. Now the substantial settlements abroad include Nukufero in the Russell Islands, Nukukaisi (Waimasi) in San Cristobal, and Murivai in Vanikoro. All Tikopia live in a tropical climate, with alternating trade-wind and monsoon seasons; during the latter their homes are subject to periodic hurricanes (tropical cyclones). Demography. About half a century ago Tikopia had a dense population, about 300 persons per square kilometer. This density caused anxiety among the people's leaders, who feared food shortages. (In 1952-1953 a famine occurred as a result of a tropical cyclone.) In 1929 the population was about 1,270; by 1952 it had risen to about 1,750. But by about 1980, through emigration, the population on Tikopia Island had been reduced to about 1,100, while another 1,200 or so Tikopia lived in the external settlements and around Honiara, the capital of the Solomons. There is much interchange of population between the settlements and Tikopia Island. Linguistic Affiliation. The Tikopia are Polynesian in Language and culture, their language being assigned to a Western Polynesian grouping. But from neighboring peoples they have acquired some Melanesian loan words as well as other cultural items. Tikopia has no dialects. But as a result of external contact many Tikopia now speak English and all can use "pijin." History and Cultural Relations

From recent archaeological research it appears that Tikopia has been occupied for about 3,000 years. Three phases of traditional culture have been distinguished. The earliest (c. 900 to 100 b.c.) used locally made sand-tempered earthenware of Lapitoid type; the second (c. 100 b.c. to AD. 1200) probably imported its pottery, of more elaborate style, from the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) to the south. In the latter part of the third phase (c. a.d. 1200 to 1800) no pottery was used at all. Diet changes were marked. In the first two phases pigs, fruit bats, and eels were eaten. By the end of the last phase, into the historical period (c. AD. 1800 to present) no pigs were kept and bats and eels were regarded with aversion as food. The third traditional phase was seemingly the result of a separate immigration and bore a more markedly Polynesian character. It is clear that over the whole period of occupation Tikopia people have had irregular, infrequent, but sustained cultural relations with Polynesian and Melanesian peoples in other islands around, by arduous, often dangerous canoe Voyages. European contact began with a sighting of the island by Spanish voyagers in 1606, and was renewed in the early nineteenth century by visits of Peter Dillon and Dumont d'Urville and by later calls of labor recruiters and missionaries. Only toward the end of the century did the British government claim control over Tikopia; this control was exercised only rarely until after World War II, during which Tikopia remained undisturbed. Since then both mission and government contacts have been fairly...
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