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Colonialism, Maasina Rule, and the Origins of Malaitan Kastom$

David W. Akin

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780824838140

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824838140.001.0001

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Colonial Experiments and Mounting Resentments

Colonial Experiments and Mounting Resentments

Chapter:
(p.94) Chapter 3 Colonial Experiments and Mounting Resentments
Source:
Colonialism, Maasina Rule, and the Origins of Malaitan Kastom
Author(s):

David W. Akin

Publisher:
University of Hawai'i Press
DOI:10.21313/hawaii/9780824838140.003.0004

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter narrates how the 1930s economic crisis, particularly the collapse of copra prices, cut deeply into government resources and hamstrung any plans for development or better administration. Grim conditions through most of the decade constrained government spending and staffing, and as the Great Depression deepened, jobs available to Islanders fell by half. As the Depression set in, plantation interests cut corners in ways that made the labor scene more harsh and exploitive. Under pressure from planters, the Solomon Islands Labour (Amendment) Regulation halved the adult wage for indentured labor. Thus, many Malaitans refused to work for the halved wage, particularly from Kwaio southward through ʻAreʻare and Small Malaita.

Keywords:   economic crisis, Great Depression, Malaitans, Kwaio, Small Malaita, ʻAreʻare

Limping through the Great Depression

The 1930s economic crisis, particularly the collapse of copra prices, cut deeply into government resources and hamstrung any plans for development or better administration. G Lennox Barrow called copra “the very stuff of life” in the Solomons, and the 1933 Annual Report lamented that copra comprised “the sole industry of the Group upon which the Administration relies … for its revenue; the European planters and the natives for their income; the commercial firms for their sales; and the shipping firms for cargo.” Statistics are telling: in 1926–1927, 22,316 tons were produced annually, valued at £411,597; by 1934–1935 this fell to 18,093 tons worth £54,013. Total BSIP revenue that year was £55,687, against £61,319 in expenditures.1

Grim conditions through most of the decade constrained government spending and staffing, and as the Depression deepened, jobs available to Islanders fell by half. The number of Malaitan laborers recruited from 1931 through 1940 was 43 percent lower than the decade ending in 1922. Since the Queensland and Fiji days, most Malaitans had depended on indentured plantation work for money and trade goods; in 1930, Jack Barley guessed that 90 percent of the cash circulating the island came from wages earned by some 5,000 men, about 10 percent of the population, working on other islands.2 The economic crash brought home to Malaitans their vulnerability within the colonial and capitalist order, and resentments grew.

During the 1920s plantation work conditions had become less severe, but to Islanders they remained demeaning, and Judith Bennett has described how, as the Depression set in, plantation interests cut corners in ways that made the labor scene again more harsh and exploitive. Many whites had always taken Melanesians’ second-class status for granted as the good and proper order of things, and they wrote off workers’ complaints as due to their ignorance of the economic process or the fruits of government mollycoddling (for examples, see any issue of the Planters’ Gazette). For years there had been calls for laws to suppress the “cunning” organizer (p.95) of resistance on plantations, the so-called “bush-lawyer,” who “posed as a leader among his friends, … a confirmed instigator of discontent and trouble and an inflamer of the passions of his fellow labourers.” Dismissals of Islanders’ frustrations often displayed a peculiar blindness to social reality, expressed by Hector MacQuarrie, a relatively sympathetic district officer of the mid-1920s, when he wrote that his boat engineer was “the only Solomon Islander I ever met acutely aware of his colour and its disadvantages.” Others, too, voiced this odd belief that Islanders were oblivious to or even happy with the discrimination and exploitation they suffered. This delusion was to cause Europeans no end of troubles. The discontents of workers and their communities, particularly as they grew during the Depression, are key to this book’s project because, as Ian Frazer has observed but most studies have failed to stress, Maasina Rule was in important respects a labor movement, which voiced a shared “industrial consciousness” developed out of the plantation experience and indenture’s negative impacts on workers’ home communities. In what follows, I do not delve into 1930s plantation life but concentrate instead on impacts the labor scene and the Depression had on Malaita itself, particularly regarding Malaitans’ growing unhappiness with the European establishment.3

The Malaitan labor picture dramatically worsened in mid-decade when, under pressure from planters, the Solomon Islands Labour (Amendment) Regulation halved the adult wage for indentured labor from 20 shillings a month back to the 1923 rate of 10, and also cut the wage advance—which had partly replaced the beach payments of old—from £6 to £3. Beach payments had ended with King’s Regulation 7 of 1923, which outlawed them but hiked the minimum monthly wage to £1. District Officer William Bell at the time said that plantation interests wanted beach payments ended since they would recoup any wage increase by selling laborers goods in their stores at high profits.4

Now, many Malaitans refused to work for the halved wage, particularly from Kwaio southward through ‘Are‘are and Small Malaita. In places there was open hostility: in July 1935 a recruiter named Hill encountered complaints about taxes at ‘Oloburi Harbour in southern Kwaio, and elders there blocked young men from signing on. Farther south at Maanawai, Hill was confronted by Headman Lilimae and a group of SSEM men who threatened him that “If [I] remained there they would bring down about 200 boys and clear us out as no natives would be allowed to sign out of Mana Kwoi.” Adding to tensions was a surge in new recruits absconding with advance pay and trade goods. As during the Fiji-Queensland labor period, many Malaitans wanted to keep more men home because the absence of so many undermined their communities. In mid-1936, recruiting across the island’s southern half remained “more or less at a standstill.”5

The Depression brought a drastic reduction in jobs, even under the new terms. The 1934 Annual Report tallied only 3,578 indentured laborers, (p.96) down from over 6,000 six years before. After mid-1936 more southern men again sought work, but that October District Officer Charles Bengough reported, “A very large proportion of the taxpaying population of Malaita is both able and willing to work, but there is no work,” and men were having difficulty finding tax money.6

Malaitans’ financial woes were exacerbated by the government’s determination to keep collecting head taxes from men aged 16 to 60. When the tax was first introduced, High Commissioner Cecil Rodwell had bristled at charges that it was meant to compel indentured plantation work, but that intent was clear to all. Bishop John Steward had criticized the new tax for this reason and because money collected would not be spent on Islanders. Recruiter Ernie Palmer described to Roger Keesing how tax collections were the best times to get men: “This was very handy for us, the recruiters, because it meant that the boys came down and stayed until market…. You heard the D.C. was going round to collect taxes at Auki or … Kwai. It was a race between us to see who got there first. Whoever got there first dropped his anchor, and he waited for the D.O. to come on the ship. And then after the boys came down to pay their taxes, you recruited them. So half the poor blokes hadn’t got any money at all…. We didn’t pay in cash, of course, we paid in tobacco and parcels and axes and knives … and they got money for it from relatives ashore, and they paid their tax.”7

Anglican missionary Albert Mason wrote from north Malaita, “In May [1924] some seventy people, or twenty per cent of the village of Bio, recruited on the Mendana on one day, the explanation being that they had no money for the tax. The village seemed quite depressed after such a general exodus.” Some villages sent groups of men abroad expressly to earn tax money for the entire community.

Inland people, especially, had no saleable products, opportunities for casual work, or other means to earn cash, and so many faced a choice of indenture or jail. In 1933 Barley told Sylvester Lambert that he believed 75 percent of Malaitan workers left home for this reason and that the Protectorate was violating the international Forced Labour Convention enacted the year before. Colin Allan, writing as Malaita’s district commissioner in 1951, largely blamed this prewar system for the great discontent during his time on Malaita, and he quoted a high commissioner’s chief secretary who, just after the war, said the BSIP economy was based on, “in fact if not in theory, forced labour at very low rates of wages—forced by the imposition of a poll tax, by the desire for trade goods, and the total lack of other means of earning money, and organized on a system of two years indenture based on severe penal sanctions … the system is a vicious circle leading only to progressive impoverishment and discontent.”8

The labor regulation aggravated the problem. By halving wages it reduced cash entering Malaita by more than half, for two reasons: Before, departing recruits had generally left their £6 wage advance with relatives. (p.97) But they now began taking all or most of the new £3 advance with them, for with the lower wage they now needed that money abroad. Second, because laborers now earned less, they spent a greater proportion of their wage on trade goods (prices of which did not fall) rather than bringing it home as cash. With less money coming in to families, inland people in particular had to pay taxes with savings that by 1936 were nearly exhausted. As in the past, some in desperation turned to opportunistic policemen who exchanged cash for shell money at dismal rates during tax collections, though officers at times tried to stop this.9

In the growing Christian communities, this situation was worsened by missions’ reduction or elimination of brideprice, which left young men less dependent on seniors and thus less willing to distribute wages to their families or patrons for them to pay tax with. In some areas, too, control of bride-price and other exchanges was shifting as the shell currencies dominated by older men lost ground to the cash held by younger men.10 Even in inland groups some young men were less attentive to seniors’ directives as practical benefits of putting aside personal interests for community ones diminished. Similar processes were at work across Melanesia; Ian Hogbin and Camilla Wedgwood wrote that in places “the young men can—and do—snap their fingers at their seniors,” and that on Malaita specifically, “The word ara‘i, which originally meant ‘old man’ or ‘person of importance,’ has been degraded from a term of respect to a mild form of abuse.”11 However, today, one hears similar complaints from both old and young that many young men and women disrespect their elders, and these recall complaints made about rebellious nineteenth-century returned laborers. While big changes were certainly underway in the 1930s and 1940s, many indignant elders of that time had in their youth been impudent rebels, as many elderly complainers of later years were during the 1930s, and one must be cautious against perceiving intergenerational tensions as always marking a sea change; they have typified Malaita since the late nineteenth century and perhaps much longer.

Years later George Sandars recalled his sympathy for poverty-stricken Malaitans and claimed he had never penalized anyone for nonpayment of tax, and Barley gave extensions and accepted partial payments. Hogbin, though, said tax default was the second most common legal offense (after adultery) in 1933, during Barley’s and, toward the end, Sandars’s watch. At any rate, as the decade progressed, economic realities forced modifications of tax policy. First, Sandars on his own reduced or remitted some taxes. Resident Commissioner Francis Ashley, who before the 1934 wage cut had himself advised High Commissioner Arthur Fletcher that south Malaitan taxes should be cut by half, initially protested Sandars’s move but after a visit to Malaita decided not to interfere. He rejected the idea that his having allowed a halving of the wage added to the tax difficulties; rather, he said, Malaitans should look within: “The real cause is the uneven distribution of (p.98) wealth, that is due to the fact that cash does not circulate on Malaita and barter is still the form of exchange.”12

Soon after, in March 1936, Ashley and Bengough visited Sinalagu to discuss taxation with a “large and comprehensive gathering” rounded up by a police patrol to meet them at Gwee‘abe, where Bell was killed. Spokesmen from all three eastern Kwaio harbors explained that people were willing to pay if only they had money. Ashley told them, “The amount of wages paid a labourer under contract, had nothing whatever to do with the Government.” But, as Bennett wrote, “In the eyes of the Solomon Islanders, the fact that the government set a wage meant it was a fixed, not merely a minimum, wage, a misconception planters fostered.” Ashley then “proceeded to explain the objects of taxation and how every country was taxed and all free men had to pay as their contribution to government for the security of life and property that was provided.” He gave as illustration “how a labourer under contract was protected from the time of his recruitment until his return home.” Those who had been misused on plantations must have raised their eyebrows, and Charles Fox recounted one reaction to such “protection” justifications for the tax: After an officer had explained to people that without the government, “the Germans or the Japanese … would come in and treat you far worse than we do,” one man said, “It’s like this, a big boy is sitting on you and beating you, and you howl.—‘What are you howling for?’ he says. ‘If I wasn’t sitting on you, a bigger boy than I would be doing it, where’s your gratitude?’” Ashley’s civics lecture omitted something Malaita’s Officer John Brownlees saw as fundamentally unfair: “Whereas we Europeans were not taxed, be we government or planters or commercial people in stores and so on, the natives were.”13

Despite Ashley’s distorted perception or at least presentation of the economic situation, he departed Sinalagu convinced that Kwaio could not pay 5 shillings and therefore lowered their tax to just 2 for 1936/1937. He “emphasized that it was not reduced for anyone else on Malaita and it was for one year only,” though in truth ‘Are‘are taxes were also cut. But by year’s end, Bengough reported that so little money was coming into Malaita that people could not pay even reduced rates.14

Temporary cash relief came in 1937 when numbers of men returned home from plantations, but by midyear, visiting High Commissioner Arthur Richards had to waive the tax entirely for mountain people with no known incomes. Sandars recommended that only bachelors be taxed because when married men left to labor for two years this caused hardships and conflicts at home as well as administrative problems. The next year Ashley reluctantly agreed to tax inland people only 1 shilling (with an option to work this off by laboring on government “roads”), a rate that stayed in place until the war, with the wealthier saltwater people still paying from 2 to 5 shillings.15

Disgruntled, Ashley asserted that Malaitans did not pay their fair share: (p.99) “It should be realized that there is no native in the Protectorate who pays less and gains more from the administration than the Malaitaman.” To him, Malaitan poverty was a fallacy: “I am personally of the opinion that the native labourer is satisfied with 10/- per month. … It cannot be too often stressed that wages paid to the natives in the Protectorate are nothing more or less than so much pocket money. Apart from their tax obligation, no natives of the Protectorate have any financial responsibility in respect of either themselves or their families and very few natives have any idea of the value of money.” Earlier in the decade, Ashley had been similarly pitiless toward Officer Ronald Garvey’s pleas that Makirans had no money to pay taxes. Declaring Makira “quite the most fertile island in the protectorate,” he directed that people should simply double their work.16 Later, during Maasina Rule, Malaitans recalled these years to explain their refusal to pay taxes. In 1950 Officer Michael Forster reported why Naomani (who was from Waisisi in ‘Are‘are but a Maasina Rule leader at Guadalcanal’s Marau Sound) said he “had no use for Government”:

In his opinion the Malaita people previously paid a great deal of money in taxes for which they received nothing. This allegation contains a large measure of truth. When the tax was first collected it appears that certain promises were made to the people. One was that they should receive medical services; the other was that they should receive pay for doing Government work. In the period during which tax was paid some £30,000 was contributed by Mala. During the same period the amount paid to headmen and their assistants never exceeded £318 per annum. Government medical services were not started until 1930 and by 1940 consisted of one [native medical practitioner] and four dressers and an extra [practitioner] and dresser seconded to ‘Are‘are to investigate an alarming decrease in the population. This question has been dealt with at some length because it forms a main plank in the MR [Maasina Rule] argument against paying taxes.17

Foreign commodities grew increasingly scarce on Malaita, particularly in the mountains. Besides the fact that returned workers were bringing back fewer goods, people in the south lost their other main source of supply: Australian and especially Chinese trading boats from Tulagi had long cruised the Malaita coast selling matches, tobacco, cloth, tinned meat, and clay pipes, with £1,400 in sales in 1930. As cash supplies dried up during the Depression, these boats declined in number and rarely visited the poorer south. In late 1936, Bengough reported an “unprecedented lack of new calicos and tobacco among bush natives during the past year.”18

The injury was compounded when European trade stores charged Islanders higher prices for merchandise than whites paid, while paying them less than whites for identical produce. This practice was long-standing; Bell told Walter Ivens that Islanders often paid double what whites did in stores. In (p.100) 1939 High Commissioner Harry Luke drew up legislation to criminalize this practice but withdrew it in deference to plantation interests. When economic conditions improved a bit in the late 1930s, planters resisted raising wages and warned that doing so would cause them great hardship. Bengough, knowing how difficult times were on Malaita, suspected planters were exaggerating but could not prove it.19

The economy would not soon return to pre-Depression levels, and laborers’ prospects remained grim. Just when recovery seemed imminent, the looming war contributed to a June 1940 collapse of copra prices and further hiring slumps, and the trochus market was shattered as well. Most smaller European plantations never recovered after the war.20

Throughout the 1930s, as before, plantations were sites of not just economic frustration but also the development and spread of political ideas among Islanders who shared anger at the colonial system. New political identities were forming that transcended old boundaries and enmities. Lambert wrote: “Barley speaks of the nationalism of Malaita which Malaita men show even from different parts of the island when opposing a common enemy away from home. The island is divided into many tribes unrelated in language or custom, but who are all proud of being Malaita men.” Whites had always dreaded the possibility Malaitans might unite against them, as Caroline Mytinger described: “Malaitans were scattered all through the islands; the houseboys were Malaitans, the boat boys were Malaitans, and the labour lines on the plantations were made up almost entirely of these sharp ‘black fellows.’ There were anywhere from fifty to eighty boys on each tract under a single overseer, never more than two white men. And the plantations were widely distant from one another, sometimes a matter of two or three hours by launch—and that launch, paradoxically, in the hands of a Malaitan boat boy, was the only means of escape from unexpected trouble.” But Barley’s observation was a counter to a comforting and widely shared assumption that Solomon Islanders, and particularly Malaitans, would never unite politically because of primordial intertribal hatreds.21

When this supposition was contradicted, whites were baffled and confused. Take an account given in 1980 by Bita Saetana of Kwaio of a 1930s plantation fight: “Mister Birifi gave me a job with a young man from Guadalcanal named Rodo. He gave us eight hundred coconuts to plant in one day. We started at 4:30 am and worked until 6:00 pm but we’d planted just seven hundred. The white man cursed me for not finishing the job, so I spun around and cursed him, and then he took a swing at me but missed. He came at me with a shovel … and that man, Rodo, from Tatuve [a mountain area of central Guadalcanal], jumped up and broke Birifi’s nose…. The white man asked him [painfully shocked tone], ‘Why did you hit me? You’re not related to that man!’ And Rodo answered, ‘My color. My skin. If you strike him, I strike you!’” We will see that when the Fallowes movement, and especially Maasina Rule, united diverse groups and (p.101) exploded the myth of Islanders helplessly divided by xenophobia, many whites were similarly astounded, disoriented, and dismayed.22

At this point in time, the broader of these plantation alliances were contextual and oppositional, and they faded from day-to-day relevance when men returned home and their active affiliations contracted to smaller communities (with the important exception of mission networks). But old divisions were also being countered by new, more inclusive identities emerging at home among groups loosely defined and structured by the administrative zones to which the government had assigned people. In many parts of Malaita, old factionalisms began to weaken and a broader community consciousness began to develop at political and judicial events organized by the government: tax collections, court hearings, and meetings with district officers. These proceedings drew together formerly atomized groups to interact as a body with the colonial state. In Malaita’s Annual Report for 1931, Barley described a tax collection at Uru Harbour in Kwaio: “An altogether different spirit to that of previous years pervaded the atmosphere. Instead of the dour, suspicious crowd of bushmen, that one was in the habit of seeing at a tax-collection (and only then, for they kept well away at all other times), who sat around in small groups of their own particular kinsmen, only waiting for their tax-money to be taken before hastening back to their mountain fastness, the place was filled with sightseers.” Four years later, Wilfrid Fowler reported from Kwaio tax collections and courts, “There have been large congregations of spectators which have remained until the last item of business has been transacted.” In some places such government events were the first time people from across a language zone had interacted as a group with any regularity. Officers welcomed this change, feeling it would make their work easier, but such gatherings also planted seeds for the integrative networks and meetings of postwar Malaitan political actions.23

The Fallowes Movement

Two political movements in 1939 displayed growing discontent in the Protectorate with not just economic conditions but also peoples’ general lot under colonial rule. Although both were quickly suppressed, they brought forward themes that resurfaced in more potent forms after the war. They were very different: the first was a thoroughly political movement initiated by an Anglican priest named Fallowes, and its impact was felt throughout the Solomons; the second was a politico-religious movement incited by an ancestress in central Malaita.

At the same time as Islanders were coming together as never before at government-staged events, other crosscutting political connections were developing via the churches. An expression of this was the Fallowes movement—sometimes called in the literature “Chair and Rule.” It interests us (p.102) for what it reveals about the growing politicization of church networks, as an articulation of and attempt to act to address Islander dissatisfactions and aspirations, and because Malaitan men who later helped start the Maasina Rule movement attended its final meeting.

A driving force was Richard Fallowes, who had arrived on the island of Santa Isabel—also known as Bugotu—in 1929 as a Melanesian Mission priest. Isabel’s population was by then entirely Anglican, and church officials competed for power, quite successfully, with government officials. Fallowes feared that an ongoing decline of indigenous leadership and community cohesiveness would weaken the church, and he disapproved of the government’s methods. Working with Lonsdale Gado, who later became Isabel’s “paramount chief,” Fallowes organized large meetings on Isabel to discuss a range of issues and grievances, and in 1931 they began to institute an island-wide system of church officials; “church chiefs” (or “mission headmen”) were selected in each village and, in addition to their other duties, reported violations of church rules to Fallowes or his representatives. Fallowes offered some offenders, especially violators of sexual rules, a choice between excommunication and a severe cane thrashing. A weak government presence and Anglican dominance gave him considerable authority, and local people found it difficult to tell whether church or government was in charge. By early 1933, Sandars, sent to investigate, reported that the government had “almost handed over the administration of the island to the Mission.” This state of affairs had been facilitated by the acquiescence of Isabel’s District Officer Francis Filose. Filose was eventually removed for brutality, and Fallowes was probably the organizer of a petition to restore him to his position. Officers also investigated Fallowes for his thrashings, and in mid-1933 he was convicted on 3 of 13 charges of common assault and fined. In 1935 he suffered a mental collapse and returned to England.24

Fallowes returned to Isabel in October 1938, against Ashley’s wishes and now unaffiliated, since Bishop Walter Baddeley had withdrawn his license to officiate. He talked to Islanders about government and the church having neglected their interests, and the dearth of economic, educational, and political avenues open to them. This came as no news to Islanders but struck a responsive chord. Fallowes later described this process in a letter to historian David Hilliard: “The Soga [Paramount Chief Gado] and other Bugotu chiefs would discuss their grievances with me rather than the district commissioner. In those days discussion with ‘nigger’ chiefs was not the policy of the colonial officials. At these informal discussions I pointed out that the grievances were not those of Bugotu alone but all the Solomons and that brought up the possibility or otherwise of meetings of chiefs from the other islands.” With Fallowes’s support, leaders from Isabel and other islands planned an interisland “Parliament” or “Assembly,” reminiscent in some ways of the Vaukolu of decades before. A first meeting was convened in southern Isabel in early 1939, followed by a larger one from 28–29 April (p.103) at Savo, and, largest of all, the Parliament itself from 12–13 June at Halavo on Gela, east of Tulagi.25

Hearing of the first meeting from Isabel’s Officer John Brownlees, an unruffled Ashley wrote that Fallowes could do little harm: “The natives will soon get tired of attending meetings and getting nothing for it and it will do them good by teaching them a lesson.” The crux of the meeting, he said, was “mythical grievances” of “an abnormal state of mind.” But he sent Sergeant Major Steven Sipolo of east Malaita to attend the Savo meeting “in plain clothes.”26 As the movement grew, so did government concern. Soon after the June meeting, High Commissioner Luke visited Tulagi and received a list of the Parliament’s proposals that Fallowes had helped prepare, along with two papers written by Gela headman John Pidoke, translated by Fallowes. Pidoke succinctly expressed the frustrations that energized the meetings: “In 1921 the Governor said that we shall pay taxes to help the King’s realm of England here in Solomon Islands, and we have paid taxes for 18 years. We have only been taught the Gospel, but nothing yet about trade and commerce. We have been Christianized for 78 years now. The Church people are anxious for collections, and the Govt. for taxes, but where is the money? Here in the Islands wages and prices are very small, not enough for taxes and church collections…. In the year 1939 the Revd. Richard Fallowes explained the desires of the leading people in England. But we have been ready for many years…. I am writing down the words of all the people in the Solomon Islands.”27

Pidoke said the group wanted a lawyer appointed to represent native interests, and movement proposals included the establishment of a technical school, improvements in medical care, better prices for copra and shell, changes in plantation labor regulations, and an increase in the standard wage for “those who work for white men and Chinamen” to £12 a month. Anthropologist Geoffrey White was told that the call for a £12 wage originated with Malaita representatives.28 Both government and the missions were being challenged here, at a time when many Solomon Islanders were expressing similar disillusionment with church policies. In a subsequent letter attributed to Pidoke, the threat of a strike was clear: “Don’t worry too much about the Europeans. If they can’t take us to do any work they can’t find any money either for tax or collections.” Fallowes disavowed responsibility for the substance of the demands but acknowledged his role in organizing the meetings and promoting the idea of a more permanent native political body.29

Some of the changes being sought were also avowed aims of the colonial establishment, and Fallowes maintained that the participants did not expect government disapproval of their actions, or even believed officers would view them favorably. But the European response was predictable, as Fallowes later described: “The Govt. policy at that time was to divide and rule. A meeting of chiefs to express a common voice was viewed with (p.104) indignation and alarm both by Govt. and missions. Hitherto Bugotu [had] thought of Malaita as foreigners if not enemies and consciously or unconsciously the colonial power fostered this. And then along comes a pestilential priest putting forth subversive ideas of a pan Solomon if not a pan Melanesian nationalism. It came as a shock to the ‘whites’ to discover that chiefs and others would travel hundreds of kilometers of open sea in their canoes to attend meetings to discuss matters of common concern.” Shaken, the government and Bishop Baddeley united to condemn Fallowes and his followers as subversive. Fallowes said that Luke sent for him and “dressed me down for encouraging insubordination among the natives and putting pan-Melanesian ideas into their heads,” and told him that his efforts were “mischievous, irresponsible and ignorant.” Earlier, at a March meeting between Fallowes, Ashley, and Sandars, the latter recorded that Fallowes “appeared to me to be labouring under considerable mental excitement,” and after the Parliament meeting, word was spread that he was crazy, to discredit him. With Baddeley’s encouragement, Fallowes was deported in late July, defiant to the end. He vowed to return and to consult “influential people in England” and, “for conscience sake,” disavowed the Melanesian Mission.30

In early 1940, a worried William Marchant, the new resident commissioner, sent officers a confidential circular asking them to ascertain the movement’s influence on the people, whom he described as “particularly backward politically and are distinctly ingenuous.” The upshot of the officers’ responses was that the organization had dissolved after Fallowes’s departure, although its ideas remained widely discussed.31 Makira’s Officer Alexander Waddell reported that Fallowes “had caused profound discontent throughout the Eastern Solomons for some months, and had aroused even in District Headmen an enthusiasm for a distorted Utopia that was incompatible with their loyalty to the Government.” Makirans put forward men for the Parliament, though they apparently remained unsure about how to proceed. Waddell saw in all of this a need for more education, social services, and future “political advancement”—changes he continued to advocate after the war.32

Academic writers later portrayed the movement as mystical and cultic, and then as having been violent. “Chair and Rule” referred to a carved chair that speakers are said to have used. Cyril Belshaw wrote, “About 1939 a European missionary encouraged the Melanesians of Santa Ysabel, Gela, and Savo to agitate for a seat on the nominated Advisory Council. He emphasized the need for a chairman and rules of procedure. The movement got out of hand and was misinterpreted. The Melanesians elevated a flag, a wooden chair, and a wooden rule into positions of ritual importance.” Vittorio Lanternari said the result was “an anti-European uprising,” and A de Waal Malefijt wrote that it sparked “anti-European revolts.”33

What these events revealed most profoundly were the growing political frustrations and ambitions of Solomon Islanders, and even Fallowes was surprised (p.105) by the level and scale of their response. Several long-standing themes of resentment publicly crystallized, and although the Parliament itself soon faded, its grounding vision did not. Many Solomon Islanders were no longer willing to remain silent about their own governance, to tolerate the educational and economic limits imposed on them, or to quietly pay taxes for minimal returns. The Fallowes movement was not the first instance of Solomon Islanders questioning and protesting white dominance. For example, people of Gizo in the west had staged a nonviolent tax protest in 1934 over the lack of health and education services. This led the writer of a letter to the Pacific Islands Monthly, citing Malaitan discontent, to propose that hospitals and schools would be a more effective remedy than “a regiment of soldiers.” Also in the mid-1930s, parishioners for several years boycotted the Catholic mission at Tangarare, on the west coast of Guadalcanal, after the departure of a priest, Rinaldo Pavese, who had pressured the bishop to give catechists better pay. Yet the Fallowes movement signaled something new: for the first time large numbers from across the Protectorate gathered formally to express shared grievances and ideas for change, and, most important, to attempt interisland organization.34

There is little evidence the movement had any great impact on Malaita, although many of its basic themes later reemerged during Maasina Rule. In 1939 a large proportion of Malaitans still worshipped their ancestors, and among them a missionary’s message aroused less enthusiasm. For example, Tome Waleanisia in 1987 told me Fallowes had little effect in Langalanga, since “that one belonged to the Anglicans, not to the people.” Allan later said the movement had caused excitement mostly at Lau and ‘Ataa, while Brownlees, now transferred to Malaita, said it was having some impact at Malu‘u and Su‘u, and on Small Malaita generally. The next year Brownlees reported that even in those areas Fallowes was rarely discussed.35 But officers were privy to only glimpses of local thoughts on such matters, and Malaitans did hear and talk about the Fallowes meetings. Several men who were to play key roles in Maasina Rule attended the Gela one—Nono‘oohimae, Harisimae, and Hoasihau of ‘Are‘are; Anifelo of Kwaio; and Steven Sipolo from Kwai (none of whom were Anglican). The last three were at Tulagi with 12 other Malaitan policemen for preparation for possible war, and the police held their own meeting to discuss what had been said. Many postwar Malaitan resistance leaders were former policemen, and others of them were probably there.36 The many Kwaio I asked about the Fallowes movement denied, some indignantly, that it inspired or shaped Maasina Rule. Some granted that both voiced common concerns but pointed out that these were widely shared well before 1939.

The Fallowes movement flustered the government and motivated attempts to finally start rudimentary native courts and councils, which some officers later credited with having pushed Fallowes’s ideas into the background.37 I will return to the courts and councils after examining a very (p.106) different sort of movement that emerged in central Malaita at about this same time.

La‘aka Speaks

One Malaitan area where the Fallowes events made the least impression was east Kwaio. The only politically important Kwaio man to attend the Gela meeting was ‘Abaeata Anifelo, whom we will meet again as a headman and then a Maasina Rule leader. He carried word of the meeting back to Kwaio as instructed but sparked little interest. A dedicated SSEM man with missionary leanings, Anifelo was an ineffective messenger in the mountains where most Kwaio lived with their ancestors.38 Also, people were still angry with Anifelo over the punitive expedition that his father Basiana had triggered by killing Bell.39

Shortly after Fallowes was deported, another vision for radical change did make a great impression in Kwaio. News spread that a powerful ancestress named La‘aka was speaking through the medium of a priest of ‘Atobala, within the Uogwari area in the central mountains, just on the west side of today’s boundary between east and west Kwaio. As described by Bengough, La‘aka alerted people to an upcoming invasion: “American warships and troops would shortly arrive and would kill all Government officials. The spirit entered into a detailed description of how he [she] had visited America, and arranged this with the King of the United States. Further instructions were given by the spirit to the effect that houses should be built to accommodate the soldiers and their stores.”40

The priest, named Noto‘i, was said to have met on Guadalcanal two American bird hunters traveling the islands on a sailing ship, who gave him La‘aka’s instructions to build special villages and palisades.41 Later, back in Kwaio, word of La‘aka’s message spread, and small groups from across the area traveled to ‘Atobala to hear Noto‘i speak her words. In 1981, Tagii‘au of Saua recalled his 1939 visit there with a delegation: “We said, ‘Let’s go and hear the words of our ancestress.’” They asked Noto‘i to let them hear from La‘aka:

Just after dusk Noto‘i bespelled a betelnut for La‘aka, and prayed to La‘aka. Then a firefly entered the house and alighted on Noto‘i’s head.42 The spirit asked, “Who wants to hear me?” and Feolate [Tagii‘au’s companion] replied, “I do. I’ve come to hear my ancestress speak, to hear what you have to say.” Then La‘aka spoke: “I am angry because I have been sitting at Tulagi for so many years with my descendants. And the government is killing my descendants at Tulagi. All I do is mourn. They hang my people at Tulagi and they persecute my people at Tulagi…. I came back from Tulagi and I said, ‘I have been grieving at Tulagi. Now I have come to you, Noto‘i.’ Tulagi, though life goes on there, Tulagi is (p.107) mine…. The wireless at Tulagi, it is my wireless, La‘aka. The flag there is my flag, La‘aka. I am going to destroy it. One day you will all see!”

La‘aka spoke to Tagii‘au and his friends at length, venting her rage that her descendants had died on plantations and at government hands and that the Christian missions had desecrated “her land.” The missions would be destroyed as well. Noto‘i spoke in tongues, which he then translated for listeners. Men from the ‘Ai‘eda area returned home from a visit reporting that Noto‘i spoke in American English.43

Noto‘i was visited early on by a delegation of La‘aka descendants related to him, from ‘Airumu, several miles to the northeast toward Uru harbor. On their return home, La‘aka began speaking through one of their number as well, a man named Nagwaafi (or ‘Uia). By mid-August, La‘aka had demarcated ‘Atobala and ‘Airumu as “safe areas” and warned that all who did not take up residence within them would be killed by the American invasion force. Palisaded villages were constructed at both places, enclosing men’s houses and sacred pigs dedicated to La‘aka, and some men there practiced military drilling and hand-to-hand combat techniques. The two, gated villages each hung a different calico flag in the trees in shrines above their men’s houses. La‘aka soon announced through Nagwaafi the day Americans would arrive at Uru and said they would also bring money and goods. Those who did not enter the safe areas by a given date would have to pay La‘aka a shell money entry fee.44

Bengough estimated that by late August some 2,000 people—a large portion of the Kwaio inland population—had joined the movement, but this was based on faulty intelligence; in fact, primarily people from around ‘Atobala and the ‘Airumu people were fully involved. Various others visited to help build the villages or simply hear the two mediums speak La‘aka’s words, and many were merely curious.45 Bengough later reported that many people who had not moved into the two areas carried out “wholesale killing of pigs and destruction of tabu gardens … so as to be able to enjoy them before dying,” and that many houses were also destroyed. But most of this “destruction” was actually an upsurge in consumption through intensified feasting and pig sacrifices to La‘aka.46 Although this was not nearly so widespread as Bengough believed, it did occur in some places and, combined with neglect of gardening, resulted later in food shortages in the core areas.47 This was neither the first nor the last episode of Malaitan destruction or unbridled consumption of property in expectation of calamitous events.48

In mid-September, Bengough dispatched Cadet Martin Clemens with several constables, headed by Diake Maenagwa and newly appointed Kwaio Assistant Headman Anifelo, to arrest Noto‘i and six followers. As Noto‘i was being led away, he vowed that La‘aka would raze Tulagi. Clemens warned people that they would receive no help if they destroyed their property, though the government did later supply food to some. Following the arrests, (p.108) the failure of Americans to appear, and several police patrols (the most important led by Sale Vuza, whose wife Irene was Kwaio), the movement’s open manifestations ceased. According to Bengough, some people who had destroyed pigs and property expressed anger at having been misled.49

Bengough blamed enthusiasm for Noto‘i’s message on a crisis of confidence in government caused by rumors of impending war (England and France declared war on Germany in early September, and the news spread quickly) and a transfer of nearly half of Malaita’s 25 police to Tulagi to prepare for it. He said the demonstration of government force and the failure of Americans to show up had restored people’s faith in the establishment. But clearly more complex issues lay behind these activities, including a deep anger at the government and the Christian churches, as expressed so bluntly by La‘aka. Contrary to Bengough’s belief, there had been and remained little faith in the government. It is noteworthy that Noto‘i’s message was not a general rejection of foreign things or outsider involvement in Kwaio affairs—American liberators would replace the ousted British, and, some said, bring material wealth. The latter “cargo” aspect seems to have been of marginal if any interest to most Kwaio, and people recounting these events to me in the early 1980s—some who took part in and still celebrated the movement, and others who belittled it—did not mention the “cargo” element at all unless I asked about it.50

The story of Noto‘i having received his instructions from two Americans on Guadalcanal will sound familiar to students of Maasina Rule. In a story still told throughout Malaita, one of Maasina Rule’s ‘Are‘are founders, Nori, is said to have received his instructions on Guadalcanal from an American general who smoked a golden pipe, or, in many versions, from two American officers. The centrality of Americans to Noto‘i’s message, years before World War II introduced Solomon Islanders to thousands of US soldiers, is of obvious interest. Keesing and Bennett summarized several possible sources of the prewar American mystique on Malaita, and by at least the early 1900s Queensland returnees had brought word to their countrymen that Americans would someday come to the Solomons.51

Key to understanding the American inspiration for Noto‘i’s movement is a visit to Kwaio by three ornithologists of the Whitney South Sea Expedition from New York’s Museum of Natural History, which collected specimens in the Solomons for several years beginning in the 1920s. In 1930, after six weeks working around Malaita’s coasts, they arrived on the west coast at Su‘u in the sailing ship France and ascended the Kwari‘ekwa river valley to seek birds deep in the Kwaio interior. With no government escort, two of them, Walter Eyerdam and William Coultas, lived some six weeks in central Kwaio under the sponsorship of one Sale Babaamae, provisioned by his kin living in and around the village of ‘Aulola, on the slopes of Mt Tolobusu, Malaita’s highest peak at just over 4,000 feet above sea level. During the recent punitive expedition the government had designated ‘Aulola a “safe (p.109) area” where people could take refuge. The ornithologists first camped in west Kwaio along the Kwari‘ekwa before Babaamae and his people guided them for two days up to Tolobusu’s summit area, then a week later to Bobo‘efuufuu at 300 meters lower elevation, and finally to ‘Aulola itself. These camps, particularly Bobo‘efuufuu, were near what would later be the Noto‘i movement’s initial focal area of Uogwari.52 It is obviously significant that the men later said to have given La‘aka’s message to Noto‘i on Guadalcanal were likewise two American bird hunters traveling the islands in a sailing ship. Moreover, both of La‘aka’s mediums—Noto‘i and Nagwaafi—and at least three of the other five men arrested were Babaamae’s close relatives; Nagwaafi and another, Wadoka, were his first cousins. Almost certainly, all had spent time with the Whitney Americans.53

When I first lived in Kwaio nearly 50 years later, people who knew Eyer-dam and Coultas still recalled their kindness with great enthusiasm. What was it about these American naturalists that so impressed the Kwaio who interacted with them, and how might memories of them have helped inspire, nine years later, an apocalyptic yet utopian vision of a Kwaio-American future?

Fortunately, Eyerdam and Coultas left diaries of those weeks in Kwaio, as did Hannibal Hamlin, a third expedition member who was there with them for a shorter period. These diaries tell of behaviors and relations with local people that set these men fully apart from Europeans Kwaio had encountered before, and it is no surprise that they “were a source of great wonder” to local people. Without realizing it, Eyerdam and Coultas managed to lay waste to some of the most basic rules of colonial white-black relations: “The natives are not used to the cold,” wrote Eyerdam, “but come here in dozens and sleep on the ground and shiver all night. We never bother them and let them eat our potatoes and [skinned] bird bodies. They think this is a picnic and suffer exposure on the cold mountaintop because of the novelty of hunting and living with 2 white men in the bush. These boys like to work for us at small tasks, such as gathering wood, cooking, etc. We let them use all of our spare blankets and clothes at night and even let some of them occupy our bed with us so they won’t freeze.” The 90 kilograms of rice they had brought lasted just two weeks, after which they ate only local foods.54

These white men were friendly and curious, invited people to help themselves to their food, and ate with them. They enjoyed ancestral chants performed nights around the fires, one being the story of Bell’s assassin Basiana, narrated by a second ‘Aulola leader named Sale Suuburigeni, and Ofomauri of Tofu.55 They did not order people about, and they negotiated payments that they thought fair for services rendered. They showed remarkable trust and routinely gave men rifles and 10–20 cartridges to hunt birds for them in the bush. This was soon after a government punitive expedition had brutalized the area after Bell was killed, and Eyerdam noted dryly, “When government officers travel in the bush on Malaita nowadays, they (p.110) have an armed guard of 25 police with modern rifles and plenty of ammunition.” Decades later my friend Basiberi, who spent three nights with the birders at Tolobusu, told me how their sharing of food and clothing, and their trusting men with guns, greatly surprised and impressed everyone.56

Neither man’s diary indicates whether or not they voiced any antigovernment or anti-mission sentiments to the Kwaio men and women who filled their camp each night—which would have violated the colonial prime directive to not criticize other whites in front of Islanders. They seem to have been focused on their collecting and on coping with the unfamiliar physical and social conditions. But Eyerdam did write critically of Christian missionaries, and both men expressed to Kwaio a respect for their religious beliefs. For example, though they badly wanted specimens of certain taboo birds, they did not pursue them, and they agreed, with deep regret, not to enter the bush by themselves to hunt, grasping without being told that Kwaio feared they might stumble into sacred shrines. Eyerdam and a senior local ancestral priest, in Coultas’s words, “took to one another like ducks to water.” This priest carried out rituals to protect their camp from dangerous spirits, and when he dramatically and successfully performed spells to keep away rain, “We repeatedly flattered and praised him before his countrymen as a powerful devil devil man that savvys too much along altogether something blong rain he no come.”57

On their arrival in Kwaio, having talked to District Officer Colin Wilson and other Europeans, both men had already taken up some negative caricatures of mountain Malaitans. Eyerdam wrote, “There are many bad eggs amongst them” and “they are not to be trusted.” At the start, Coultas referred to the people as “these imbeciles,” and described “hordes of weird, naked savages who offer us as much interesting speculation as we give them in turn.” But as time went on their tone changed, and their diaries comment repeatedly and—given warnings they had received about the dreadful “Malaitaman”—with no little surprise on their hosts’ integrity and good natures: “These people are heathens and have not yet been contaminated by the efforts of missionaries to Christianize them. They do not wish to have their customs interfered with by missionaries and they are right.” And on the eve of their departure: “Altho very shrewd and hard to deal with in business transactions, they need to take few lessons from missionaries in the 10 commandments.” Eyerdam later wrote, “Although we had heard much of the treachery and cruelty of the mountain bushman, we learned to like them in many ways. They are a simple and industrious people, whose mode of living has not progressed much beyond the days before the white man’s advent. Their wants are few and their code of morals strict. In driving a sharp bargain they are unexcelled, but like most warlike primitive people they possess a higher standard of honor than many civilized people. When once confidence and friendly relations are established there is not much danger as long as they are maintained. We never lost a penny’s worth (p.111) of anything by theft while with these people, and could leave an article unguarded no matter how valuable it might be in the eyes of the natives.” At their trip’s end, Eyerdam told the biological journal Murrelet that Babaamae “and the devil-devil man … were very sensible and quite decent chaps,” and in contrast to the common European travelers’ derision of Malaitan women, said that some were “real beauties.”58

Kwaio nicknamed Coultas “Master Dio,” the same moniker (“Joe”) later given to American soldiers in the Solomons and elsewhere. At the end Coultas observed, “Although we have heard any number of stories regarding the maliciousness of these Malaita men, we found them quiet, peaceful and quite willing to cooperate with us throughout all of our stay.” Contrary to the stereotype of the “always serious and sullen” bushman, the two birders found people’s constant humor contagious, with Eyerdam writing, “We have won much favor by telling a few very simple jokes or bantering and playing tricks on some of the small boys or old men.”59

Before long, the Americans became true guests of the ‘Aulola people, Coultas recording: “[Babaamae] very kindly offered to supply all foodstuffs gratis [they had been buying yams and taro] and give us the house rent free [they stayed in his house]. Why I don’t know; I have never experienced an act of gratitude of this kind.” A few days later, after an earthquake, people came running to them, “for moral support I suppose,” guessed Coultas, but they were likely concerned with the hunters’ safety, since earthquakes are very dangerous in this area due to landslides.60

Sadly, Coultas, at least, left the mountains feeling that they had been a burden on the community. Shortly before their departure a feast was held in the area, which diverted their usual steady stream of visitors. Coultas, unaware that an important Kwaio feast must monopolize all of an area’s socializing, perceived in their empty camp that people had wearied of them. Then, when their descent to the coast was imminent, he misread the joyous sendoff they were given as people celebrating because they were leaving: “The hotel Arola Reed [panpipe] orchestra entertained us with a number of selections to-night. The whole spirit of the place has changed since it has become known that we are leaving. Apparently we have been unwelcome guests all of these days.” Two days later, they embarked on the France at ‘Oloburi Harbour, but not before bringing their carriers out to visit the ship. Babaamae and Suuburigeni, and perhaps others, were rewarded with a trip to Tulagi in the ship.61

One scholar seemed to attribute Kwaio friendliness toward the Whitney Expedition to their paying high wages, but as above quotes suggest and numerous diary entries make clear, pay was the one continuous source of friction during their visit. Some men were unhappy when, despite “much haggling,” the Americans followed to the end Sandars’s directive to pay carriers (men or women) no more than government’s daily wage of 1 shilling, although men demanded 3 shillings. A few walked off the job over wages. (p.112) Hunters they hired protested to no avail at being paid for most birds in tobacco instead of money (despite a tobacco shortage), and carriers refused to pack loads over 25 pounds (the later standard government weight was 40). These labor squabbles tell us that although Kwaio were fascinated by the Americans they were not awed, and that what impressed them was not a perceived largesse but rather how they interacted and socialized with people. (Eyerdam pointed out that a simple porter strike would have given the people all of their goods, since they could not carry them out themselves.)62

Perhaps as an American writer I should stress that my point here is not that these naturalists’ behaviors can be attributed to some inherent fairness or open-mindedness of Americans relative to the British or Australians. To discard this notion, one need only peruse the many bigoted American writings about the Solomons, by Jack and Charmian London, Hermann Norden, Osa Johnson, and their ilk. Or a cursory glance through American history will suffice. Even the Whitney men wrote things that most would deplore today.63 But how enlightened they were is beside my point, which is Kwaio perceptions of their behavior and also how those might have fed into people’s later political aspirations. To be sure, being Americans gave them an initial opening. When Babaamae and an armed party challenged the third ornithologist, Hamlin, on his initial, separate arrival in their territory, he explained their purpose and Babaamae told him, “Because none of our expedition belonged to the government and were not missionaries and also because we belonged to another country he could see no reason why we should not be welcome to his people”; Babaamae also said they were anxious to trade. Eyerdam wrote, “Several have informed us that we have nothing to fear from their country men, because we are Americans and do not belong to the government.” One old coastal man known as Queensland Charlie told him, “Me savvy man blong this big fella country Merika. He good fella. Me like um too much. Bushman he savvy him too. Bushman he no like um England, no like um government.”64

The key difference between these men and other whites Kwaio had met was, in a nutshell, their unprecedented and disarming familiarity and their treatment of Melanesians as fellow human beings. The power of this discovery for Malaitans, perhaps difficult for readers to grasp today, can be appreciated from an anecdote told by American tourist John Vandercook about his conversation with a coastal Kwaio man about two years after the Whitney visit. While the two were chatting, the Kwaio man began to cry, and when Vandercook asked him why, he shook his head and replied, “You first white man, master, ever talk soft along boy.”65 Or take Xavier Herbert’s account of black-white relations while he worked as a hospital clerk and pharmacist in Tulagi two years before the Whitney visit, in 1928:

I did argue a bit at first about the treatment of natives; that is, they were treated like dirt. One man argued with me and said you’ve got no idea of how the Germans (p.113) used to treat them in Bougainville…. They had sulkies, and no horses, and they used to put natives in the sulkies and then they used to whip them, and make them gallop and things like that. I remember my comment being that that was probably better treatment than the utter contempt that you people treat them with, as if they don’t exist. I recall a situation where there was a Major [J C] Barley I think he was, the Government Secretary. There was a woman, a Mary as they called them, brought in. She had pneumonia, she was dying—probably had tuberculosis—but they brought her in and laid her on the floor, the steps outside the dispensary, a bit of an office and a surgery…. The doctor and I went to see her, she appeared to be dying, she was breathing very badly. And Major Barley turned up with his dog—he’d been on the golf course and his dog had fallen down or something and broken one of its front paws—and immediately the doctor drops the woman and went in to attend to the dog and put it on the operating table. So I became very angry about that. This woman was lying there dying, and her people were standing down respectfully and quietly. And I went in to the doctor and said ‘Doctor, what are you going to do with the woman out there?’ He said ‘What woman?’ And I said ‘The woman out here, the Mary.’ And they sort of looked at me, and I said, ‘Surely a dog can wait.’ And they just turned round and went on with it…. That would be the only protest I ever made. My sister shut me up and said you can’t talk like that here.66

What most favored the ornithologists was what they did not know and follow: the strict prewar codes of black-white relations, particularly the imperatives of avoiding “familiarity” and preserving white separateness, prestige, and superiority—what BSIP geologist John Grover 20 years later referred to as “the supercilious isolationism which some Europeans call dignity,” and Ralph Furse portrayed as a vital “attitude of aloofness” for colonial officers. We have seen and will again see the importance this had for so many Europeans. A cliché in accounts of the prewar Solomons is the “old hand” taking a new white arrival under his wing to instruct him on the “proper handling of the natives,” particularly “Malaita boys.” Walter Ivens early on included such directives in his Hints to Missionaries to Melanesia (in chapter 5, “Management of Natives,” part 4, “Never Be Familiar”), and colonial officers in Melanesia later wrote guides on dealing with “the native” for distribution to incoming US troops.67 The latter guides failed dismally in their purpose, and many soldiers made the same sorts of “mistakes” as the bird hunters, with predictable results. For some Kwaio men, working and socializing with Eyerdam and Coultas was a rehearsal of sorts for their future interactions with American soldiers.

As much as Malaitans resented the way Europeans treated them, by the 1930s most took it for granted. They had long come to believe, and taught their children, that most whites were hard-hearted and incapable of normal social relations, kindness, or proper modes of exchange, at least concerning Melanesians. This accurately captured how many Europeans (p.114) viewed and interacted with Malaitans, not as fellows but as lesser beings, perhaps improvable, but only within sharp limits. A white axiom was that kindness toward Malaitans was counterproductive and dangerous. Thus a 1929 Labor Commission chaired by Barley pointed to “lawless and violent” Malaitans and warned, “Humaneness and consideration are apt to be misconstrued as signs of weakness or fear and the labourers consequently to grow increasingly arrogant and disobedient until a crisis occurs, resulting in a fracas and possibly loss of life.” Former Burns Philp manager F Ashton “Snowy” Rhoades wrote, “The average Solomon Islander has no sense of gratefulness whatever and kindness is wasted on him.” When medical worker Charles Gordon White was in 1929 presented with a generous gift by a community he had treated, he credited the act to a local missionary, since, he wrote, “The Malaitaman generally wants as much as he can get for anything he has to dispose of and giving things away he looks on as sheer madness.”68

These social defects were all the more unfortunate in that whites seemed to possess immense riches. To Melanesians, a person of great wealth who refuses social engagement and exchange is grotesque, distressing, or even evil. Nevertheless, as abnormal as the colonial racial codes seemed to Malaitans, they had come to accept them as fixed. It should be noted that this was not only a Melanesian problem—some whites in the colonies also felt trapped by these codes, sanctioned as they were by severe social pressure and potential ostracism, not only from fellow colonials but at times from colonial subjects. In the words of one of novelist E M Forster’s Indian characters, “They have no chance here…. They come out intending to be gentlemen, and are told it will not do.”69

Eyerdam and Coultas did not know or follow the rules, and Kwaio found their behaviors surprising and refreshing. The experience must have suggested to them previously unimagined possibilities for productive social relations with a different kind of white person. It should come as no surprise, then, that a few years later, near the end of a long economic Depression and amidst dreadful rumors of a great war about to engulf the islands, Noto‘i’s utopian vision tied future hopes to a message of two American bird hunters under sail promising liberation from colonial subjugation and humiliation.

The Project to Counter ‘Are‘are Depopulation

When asked for their opinion upon the probable causes of the diminution of the race, most Fijians attribute it to infectious diseases introduced among them by foreign ships.

Colony of Fiji, Report of the Commission Appointed to Inquire into Decrease of the Native Population (1896, 30)

(p.115) In these islands there are not enough people. There are 100,000 people in the Solomon Islands. There should be 10,000,000.

Officer Len Barrow, “The Work of Native Councils” (1946)

The Fallowes movement, and to a lesser extent the Noto‘i affair, startled government officers and awoke them to the changing mood of Solomon Islanders. Many concluded that a more serious attempt at native administration was imperative and overdue. Soon after the new resident commissioner, William Marchant, arrived in 1940, he decided to launch a concerted effort to establish native courts and councils based on those he had helped administer in Kenya. They were initiated explicitly to help counter Islanders’ growing discontent with their situation under colonial rule.70

Councils and courts became part of a more general shift in administrative policy, especially on Malaita. The government had always depended on Christian missions to carry out much of the social welfare work on the island while its officers focused on law and order and taxation, but the late 1930s saw a government rush to adopt a more active social agenda. On Malaita, they had two core goals: to counter people’s alienation from government and to offset what they perceived to be a cultural decadence haunting the island and depleting the population. The rest of this chapter summarizes, first, a government project intended to halt inanition, anomie, and depopulation through social engineering, and second, the early development of Malaita’s native courts and councils. These overlapped considerably and both were seminal to the postwar Maasina Rule movement and its kastom ideology.

Depopulation became a central concern of Malaita’s officers during the 1930s. The idea that Melanesians were dying out was by no means a new one. Anglican Bishop Cecil Wilson lamented of Solomon Islanders in 1905, “They have but a short time to live, and all that can be done is done for them, that their short lives may be brightened…. We are placed then by GOD in His infirmary, to work amongst a dying race; but a race which will certainly die a Christian death.” Resident Commissioner Charles Woodford predicted Solomon Islanders’ extinction, whatever Europeans might do, and in 1910 expressed a common view that their demise was “as certain as the rising and setting of the sun.” Colin Allan later observed that this justified early government land policies that “virtually disregarded native interests.”71

In the Protectorate’s early years, some Europeans saw benefits to Melanesian extinction. Royal Navy Lieutenant Boyle Somerville wrote in an anthropology journal that Solomon Islanders were doomed because of their extreme violence and “the advancing oblivion of civilization,” but he was keen on the benefits this would have for whites: “Except from a scientific point of view, I think one might be almost reconciled to this dispensation. The natives have their good points, certainly, but their bad are so (p.116) much more conspicuous that the elimination of the race would be no great loss to the world. Worst of all their bad points almost, is their incredible and incurable laziness—the heritage of all Pacific races.” He went on to describe the economic potential the Solomons would have for Europeans once the Islanders died away. Burns Philp’s 1899 Handbook of Information encouraged potential settlers: “It is, indeed surprising that such a magnificent country as this has been so long neglected. True, the natives have been, and still are, a troublesome factor to be reckoned with; but their claws are rapidly being cut, and every fresh settler furthers the work of civilization and reclamation.” Upbeat anticipation of Islander-free islands usually did not include Malaita, for its people, the core of the Protectorate’s labor force, were the island’s great resource for Europeans. Hence the SSEM’s Northcote Deck’s warning in 1919: “If something radical is not done to check the excessive sums demanded for wives there can be no future for the race upon which the Protectorate depends for its development.”72

The extent of depopulation in the Solomons and specifically on Malaita is hard to know because statistics from early decades of European contact are scarce and highly speculative, and even later figures are dubious. As late as 1916, Malaita population estimates ranged from 35,000 to 150,000 people. In 1924, Bell guessed Malaitans numbered 60,000 to 70,000, but a 1931 census estimated just over 40,000, and Barley reckoned there were 45,000. The latter numbers were likely undercounts. We do know that introduced diseases like influenza-pneumonia, whooping cough, and bacillary dysentery took awful tolls well into the twentieth century. The global influenza pandemic of the late 1910s and early 1920s wreaked havoc among Solomon Islanders, even though the Protectorate was sheltered from its most virulent early stages by an Australian maritime quarantine. Some 17 percent of Malu‘u’s population died then, but for other Malaitan areas data is slender or nonexistent. A medical officer guessed 3 percent of the Protectorate’s people died overall, compared to 10 percent in bacillary dysentery outbreaks of 1913–1915. Ivens in 1924 estimated that numbers at Sa‘a in the south had dropped by half since his arrival in the late 1890s, and he noted a dearth of children.73

Barley’s 1930 Annual Report said nearly all new babies around Su‘u in southern ‘Are‘are died in a whooping-cough outbreak that ravaged the island throughout the year, but how many people were stricken overall was impossible to ascertain because officers and most headmen had minimal contact with the inland communities where most people lived. The next year, Barley estimated, 2.8 percent of Malaitans died in a spate of influenza brought by the Anglican ship Southern Cross, which hit people of the north and elders hardest. These are just a few examples of appalling epidemics that continued into the 1930s. Even today, flu outbreaks kill Malaitans of all ages, and I write this having just learned that two close Kwaio friends have died in one, both of them young and strong when I last saw them a few months ago.74

(p.117) For decades Europeans blamed depopulation on what they saw as the inherently decadent, unsanitary, or violent natures of Melanesian cultures, and it was often supposed that degeneration predated white arrival. Nicholas Thomas has detailed the application of this idea in neighboring Fiji, where extensive residence and sanitation rules were imposed in the interest of improving the health of Fijians and checking population decline. He observed that many of the regulations instituted—for house construction, village locations and layouts, pig penning—had no demonstrable link to improved health; rather, they reflected European values and privileged “an orderly and accessible village rather than because their consequences were known to be beneficial.” The colonial projects for Fijian relocation and amalgamation that Thomas analyzed were in some ways similar to schemes in parts of the Solomons. Surprisingly, I have found no explicit references from Malaitan officers in the 1930s to Fiji’s earlier reports about or efforts to address depopulation, though of course similar worries about subject populations being endangered by culture loss and too-rapid change were also found in other colonies, including in Africa.75

Missionaries at times asserted that Islanders were responsible for their own demise, which both downplayed their own destabilizing role—which officers and anthropologists sometimes stressed—and justified their pursuit of radical Christian transformation as Melanesians’ only hope. Methodist Rev John Goldie wrote: “The advent of the white man, though a contributing cause, is not the principal cause of this decline, which has been going on for years. Going into a heathen village for the first time, seeing the filthy condition of the people, the wonder is not that they decrease, but that they are not extinct.”76 Bishop Wilson blamed declining numbers in south Malaita on a “refusal of women to bear the burdens of motherhood,” something missionaries and others highlighted throughout Melanesia and elsewhere, often greatly exaggerating infanticide. Others portrayed mothers and infants as helpless victims of cruel ancestral birth taboos. Wilson further blamed decline of the Melanesian “child race” on antisocial impacts of native curses and high marriage payments, as well as on the labor trade. But he claimed that diseases brought by ships (like his church’s Southern Cross) had minimal impact on the “hardy” Melanesian. When missionaries did link depopulation to Europeans, atop their list of culprits were usually the labor trade and the “unsuitable” things it brought, such as firearms, “excessive clothing,” and “civilization’s vices” more generally. Other Europeans blamed these also.77

On Malaita, mission activities could intensify the impact of diseases. Most Christians lived in relatively crowded coastal villages where they cast off many sanitary rules enforced in mountain hamlets because they were also ancestral taboos. For example, a myriad of taboos regulated food and water sharing, while others isolated feces from pigs and people. Scattered, tiny mountain hamlets and the lengthy segregation of groups observing mortuary (p.118) taboos could impede the spread of illnesses. On the coast, people were more susceptible to malaria and tropical sores and had more contact with outsiders. For example, the SSEM reported this problem in 1921 as mountain Christians descended to the Langalanga Lagoon area: “Too often the site chosen is on the low-lying delta of a river, or even among mangrove swamps. We have tried to get the people to settle on the first line of hills for their own sakes, but they like being near the sea, and have often, in consequence, suffered much in health.” The Southern Cross regularly collected and disembarked people throughout the islands and was notorious for spreading sickness; Norman Deck of the SSEM wrote with apparent satisfaction that it was known as “the death ship.” In some places Christians’ greater access to European medicines mitigated these factors. Still, statistics gathered in north Malaita from 1920 to 1922, and Bell’s impression through his time, indicated higher mortality rates in Christian than in mountain villages. Bell correctly surmised that many who became Christian were less healthy to begin with—the chronically ill sometimes converted to escape ancestors believed to be causing their sickness, and invalids had an easier life in level coastal villages—and he also credited childbirth taboos that freed new mothers in the mountains from work. Later the imbalance in death rates disappeared.78 While missionaries often blamed depopulation on perceived manifestations of moral decadence such as escalating bride-prices or adultery, government officers more often highlighted secular and logistical factors like the isolation of hamlets, poor sanitation, “excessive feasting,” and a breakdown of “custom law”—all said to be both symptoms and causes of malaise and societal decay.

Malaitans, too, worried about drops in their population. They typically, and correctly, cited introduced diseases as the main overt mechanism, though they often blamed alien spirits or angry ancestors for inflicting or failing to protect from them. Some north Malaitans, in particular, in the 1920 and 1930s attributed high disease mortality to sorcerers exploiting the government’s forbidding execution of sorcerers while refusing to criminalize their predations.79

Here I am most interested in one European theory of depopulation: that it could be explained by “the psychological factor,” that is, that Islanders were dying because they had lost interest in life or were otherwise emotionally exhausted because of cultural breakdown following the arrival of Europeans—that they were suffering from “premature civilization.”80 Melanesians, Stephen Roberts wrote in a widely read book, were bewildered without the “rule of custom” that had formerly “regulated every detail of existence” and had lost the will to live. Even after disease came to be recognized as the great cause of Melanesian depopulation, the psychological impact of change, of “modifications and interferences with native custom,” was granted causal weight in influential quarters.81 The mechanisms through which alleged confusion or depression led to higher mortality were generally (p.119) left vague. Even so, for those following this line, a secret to combating depopulation was cultural stabilization, preservation, and revitalization. “The native, to be saved, must save himself,” wrote Roberts. If Europeans charged with natives’ welfare were to help them, said former High Commissioner Everard im Thurn, they were duty-bound to familiarize themselves with and protect “the habits, customs, and ideas natural to the Melanesian.” We saw earlier in this book that many whites thought Melanesians innately incapable of adaptation and innovation, and this provided a basic premise for the belief that, for the natives, rapid social change could only mean social, psychological, and physical disintegration.82

When customs seemed already dead, many whites believed they might still be exhumed from beneath “the veneer of doubtfully genuine European culture which has been imposed.” Some key aspects of Melanesian life, such as warfare, were abhorrent and intolerable to any civilized European, but they could be modified, or suitable, innocuous substitutes could be found. For example, competitive games might replace fighting. Some believed the best substitute of all was integration into the capitalist economy. Thus an 1893 commission on Fiji recommended several remedies for native depopulation that included “more steady work,” “subversion of the communal system,” and “creation of incentives to industry, stimulus to exertion, and motives for thrift.” For decades to come, many whites would attribute Melanesian problems and discontents to idle hands.83

The Protectorate’s resident commissioner, Ashley, was of the school that attributed population decline “not directly to the introduction of disease, but to the destruction of old native culture.” When pressing High Commissioner Fletcher in 1930 to allow native courts, Ashley quoted a report by New Guinea Medical Officer Raphael Cilento: “Perhaps psychological causes, due to a consciousness that all that the primitive native held dear is being ignored and swamped by new ideas and customs, which at times leads to a species of melancholia, diminishing the activity of the seminal glands, may have an appreciable effect on population decline.”84 As the 1930s progressed, Malaita’s officers, especially Bengough, based projects importantly on such theories, though by then most serious researchers dismissed them as, in Meyer Fortes’s words, “mystical,” and “pseudo-psychological.”85 Officers by then received some training in the anthropology of the day that analyzed different aspects of cultures as functionally interrelated, and functionalist models were at least implicit in many psychological depopulation theories. On Malaita, the remedies such theories suggested dovetailed nicely with indirect rule strategies and interventions and lent them a scientific and humanitarian cast as being necessary to save Malaitans.86

Much government activity on Malaita in the 1930s went forward against this background, and officers defended policies by citing a need to bolster cultures suffering “cultural fatigue.” Take Bengough’s argument against registration of native marriages: “It is maintained by authorities on population (p.120) problems that the degree of social integration exhibited by a people is an index of their increase, or conversely of their decrease. A system of exchange of goods, such as that under the marriage customs, is a chief factor of social integration. I feel strongly that in administering a race whose tendency to decline has been so amply demonstrated, we should refrain from interference with any factor which helps to maintain social organization and structure.”87

Worries about depopulation and the need to revitalize Malaitan cultures did not merely lead to policies of noninterference, but also provided both officers and missionaries with arguments for intervening in people’s lives in ways each believed necessary. Ashley used them to advocate native courts, and in 1937, when urging importation of Chinese workers, he hypothesized that the indentured labor system might also be contributing to depopulation. The next year Sandars cited population problems in requesting legal powers to deal with marriage rules of Christian missions that he thought were too strict and an obstruction to matrimony.88

Population concerns combined with tenets of indirect rule motivated and justified native administration policies that had a great influence on subsequent Malaitan political ideas. It became government policy and a priority for several officers to approve and bolster “old native custom,” as conceptualized by Europeans. Malaitans were told that officers would avoid interference with and shore up custom, “so long as it did not run counter to the dictates of humanity,” and would accord them some power to administer it themselves.89 Especially important in this respect was an ambitious government scheme to counteract depopulation in ‘Are‘are. It was pursued in the same area from which Maasina Rule emerged, and that movement later carried forward and expanded on most of its projects, in some cases under leaders who took part in the government endeavor.90

Malaitan officers had first discussed how to counter depopulation in the south of the island, in Kwaio and especially ‘Are‘are, in 1930. They believed north Malaitans had, in Barley’s words, “the survival spark,” and it was even predicted that population there would increase to the point where land shortages might emerge. Based on his 1933 fieldwork in To‘abaita, Hogbin too wrote, “I feel the day of Melanesian depopulation is at last drawing to a close,” and that the north, at least, was “showing signs of increase.” But Barley in the early 1930s calculated that southern populations, who lacked the same “vitality,” were in rapid decline and “already well on the road to extinction,” and he felt that measures had to be taken to counter this.91 Readers can better appreciate Barley’s concerns if they consider that from 1919–1922 he was in charge of neighboring Makira during a drastic, disease-driven plunge in the population there.

While people across Malaita had clearly suffered greatly from introduced diseases, Barley used questionable methods, both subjective and objective, to determine the extent of population declines in specific areas (p.121) and then set in motion targeted government interventions. First, he saw radical ‘Are‘are depopulation in “pathetic evidences in the shape of old gardens and deserted clearings of a one time thriving race.” Though this may have indicated population loss or departure in places, he seems not to have realized that abandoned garden and hamlet sites were (and are) ubiquitous in mountain areas, where Malaitans maintained rapidly shifting horticulture and residence patterns. Barley further read declining tax rolls at face value as revealing a 30 percent population drop during the ten years prior to 1933, though he himself complained the tax rolls leading up to 1930 had “degenerated annually into an increasing welter of unconnected names and places, deletions, substitutions, and double entries.” The government used its (male only) tax lists to estimate various populations into the 1950s.92

Barley in 1931 had gathered statistics through a census that he read to give a population of 45,000 (in 1930 he guessed 70,000, probably using Bell’s gross estimate). What most concerned Barley was that the census indicated a stark imbalance in the southern area’s sex ratio, which he said revealed a weak population. Ashley—who two years before had reported, based on information from Officer Wilson, that Malaitan men outnumbered women three to one—decided headmen would conduct censuses. Barley reported to Ashley that headmen were given “long rectangular tally sticks, painted at the four top corners to represent the two age-divisions of the male and female population,” and that the method was serviceable and accurate. But in this same period Barley was telling Ashley that most headmen rarely or never visited the heavily populated inland areas of their districts, could not even recognize many of the people there, and indeed feared to venture into many places.93

Moreover, census zone boundaries were undetermined beyond the coast, and headmen argued over who should count whom. Eight years later, when Sandars sent Cadet Dick Horton into the mountains to collect census data, he told him, “It won’t be accurate by a long chalk…. Most of it you’ll have to do by adding up tallies on a stick—the headmen have to notch sticks in their villages for everyone in the village on a certain day—still, I suppose we’ll have to do the bloody thing.” Such crude methods yielded distorted data, as did many colonial Melanesian censuses of the day, particularly where, as on Malaita, many men (over 5,000 in 1931, with higher percentages from the south) labored abroad, and where many women avoided contact with Europeans.94 Vital statistics were far less accurate for Malaita than for most islands, and Lambert was told their collection required “incredible toil.” Sandars told Dr Ross Innes in 1937, “No complete register of births, marriages, and deaths is kept on Malaita; certain literate headmen keep registers of births and deaths, and in certain places do it well.” But few headmen were literate, most of them in the north. Nonetheless, Ashley maintained an interest and required updates.95

(p.122) In 1934, Bengough, working under Sandars, reported that ethnographic study and a detailed census in west ‘Are‘are revealed three primary causes of depopulation: courtship practices (haruna) through which unmarried men gained local money, a system of prohibitively expensive marriage payments (toraana), and an excessive number of houraa mortuary feasts that burdened married men while rewarding single men. He suggested these acted together to raise the average marriage age and thereby lower the birthrate. He also thought too many houraa feasts diverted people from gardening and left them more susceptible to disease: “People are continually going from Houra to Houra, at which they are inadequately housed in all weathers, which ill assists them to combat disease, and were it not for the fact that they ordinarily wear no clothes they would probably be even more unable to resist. The custom is not a true one, but has been grossly exaggerated by the increased freedom and greater safety of life in Ariari at the present time.” Bengough also believed feasting led to “serious starvation” during taro and yam harvests from September to April, which increased the death rate and “induced an apathy into the people.” He later imposed rules limiting feasting to certain periods.96

I know of no corroborative evidence of starvation in this period, but Bengough was correct that feasting on Malaita had expanded over the decades. As in many parts of Melanesia, the end of fighting and waning of aspects of religious leadership left feast giving as a more important avenue for earning prestige and status. Increases in garden production and the quantities of local and foreign currencies and pigs in circulation were democratizing exchange activities once dominated by senior men, and some enterprising young men converted cash they earned as laborers into local wealth used in feast exchanges, increasing their economic prowess. Over time, feast exchanges even began to open, more slowly, to women.97

It is significant that Bengough felt it important to assert that the “custom” of houraa feasting he described “was not a true one.” He reported that “a number of the young men and a few old men” wanted to revise the houraa system, or as he put it, to “rationalize” it.98 These points were later emphasized, and proposed limitations on both feasting and marriage exchanges were couched in terms of restoring “ancient custom” as opposed to meddling with it. Bengough also advocated codifying limits on compensation payments in similar terms.

Government concerns about population and cultural integrity aside, when Resident Commissioner Marchant toured ‘Are‘are in 1939, local debates over limitations were clearly about political and economic issues, with each side seeking government support for its position: “A certain number asked that the present limitation of period during which these feasts may be held should be lifted, while others, notably the headmen and richer old men considered that the present restriction should remain, in fact they sought to restrict the incidence of houra still further by limiting them to (p.123) those held on the death of old men and women only.” Marchant did not say who the “richer old men” were who favored restrictions, or what younger men thought, or what was at stake for whom, and he probably did not know. In any case, he favored letting ‘Are‘are find their own solutions.99

Though young men of Malaita were gaining more access to wealth and formal exchanges, many sought more independence. This goal clashed with the long-term debt and other relationships entailed in bridewealth finance, and feasting was a part of the same integrated exchange–social debt system. In the past, participation in exchange and other social projects had earned protection and support from one’s group and its leaders, and the dependencies and networks of exchange helped keep young men in line—in community. But after more than a decade with no fighting and with growing opportunities for solo economic and other pursuits, community support seemed less vital. To some young men, large marriage debts no longer seemed worth the cost and sacrifice, and they looked more kindly on limiting brideprice and feasting. There were also older men and some headmen who were doing well for themselves and did not want a return to stronger social constraints. Justus Jimmy Ganifiri in the 1940s recalled a conversation with Kwara‘ae Headman Tome Siru about Maasina Rule: “He said that he did not like collective but individual effort. I replied that we had been working individually for a long time with the result that we had not enough food or money and there were plenty of people who were sick and starving and had no one to care for them.” Ganifiri remarked, “Those outside of the Marching Rule [ie, Maasina Rule] only think about themselves.”100 Though feasts can analytically can be seen as both individual and group endeavors, to Malaitans they are most importantly about community, as Jonathan Fifi‘i explained to me in 1988, in criticizing a modern day effort to limit feasts: “Mortuary feasts are what tie us all together. If we gave them up then there would be no kinship. Mortuary feasts are what unites kin. They are what bring together reciprocity. They are what join together the people who look after each other. If there were not mortuary feasts, we would cease to be. If people are not kept together by mortuary feasting, then it will be every man for himself. Who will help us when there are problems?” Malaitan societies had always maintained a fundamental tension between individual and group interests, but mechanisms to balance these had eroded, resulting in a shift toward the former. Even many young people, however, saw this as problematic and, as we shall see, just after the war the balance was to swing radically in the other direction.

Missionaries had for years campaigned against brideprice, sometimes against government wishes; now government and the missions were allied in seeking limitations. However, though the SSEM’s Norman Deck tried to pressure officers to enforce his mission’s policies, when these incited disputes officers continued to overrule them.101 Hogbin, noting claims by Deck (Hogbin’s rival) that Kwara‘ae men could not marry due to brideprice (p.124) inflation, said he found no evidence of this in To‘abaita in 1933. However, elderly Kwaio bachelors have told me that fear of brideprice indebtedness was a primary reason they did not marry before the war. As noted earlier, Sandars thought strict mission rules, too, blocked some marriages.102

Bengough’s early reports stressed a need for detailed study, and in 1934 he advised against imposing restrictions on formal exchanges until more people’s opinions could be ascertained. He cautioned that there might be significant variation in relevant practices even within ‘Are‘are, and that forced limits would probably fail. As the decade progressed, this advice was forgotten; officers increased the pressure to institute “reforms” and tried to restrict both ‘Are‘are and Kwaio feasting, with little understanding of relevant practices. In ‘Are‘are, feasts were limited to September–November, apparently with some local support. In the end, this restriction failed owing to noncompliance, feast congestion during the permitted season, and, ironically, a flu epidemic that killed hundreds of ‘Are‘are, which some people blamed on ancestral displeasure at the limitations. As for Kwaio, Bengough reported, “There was considerable agreement in principle for placing native custom in this area on a more stable footing, and for reducing the financial liabilities of marriage, but there is a hard core of diehard conservatism in this area, which sees in every variation suggested by either Government or their own headmen an attempt to break down what they consider to be their ancient rights. In actual fact, many of these so-called rights do not exist in ancient custom, but the Kwaio bushman is just as unable to follow a logical argument as are some people in an island much nearer to Great Britain.”103

A 1938 ‘Are‘are census indicated further decline, and in 1939, partly spurred by this, Bengough initiated a more formal repopulation project there. Its goals far exceeded mere limits on feasting and marriage payments; the stated ambition “was to check the depopulation of Ariari by improving the conditions, social, hygienic, medical and economic, under which the people live, and to attempt to give them a greater interest in life itself.” In February 1940, the government opened an “administrative camp” at Haumatana, just inland from Wairokai on the west coast. It was staffed by cadet officers and a native medical practitioner to oversee multiple projects: “Roads were to be made, and the natives encouraged to live in larger, better sited villages. A permanent census record was to be started, and bride prices and the houra feast were to be stabilized if possible. The medical service was to be established in a dispensary at Wairokai, with a traveling Native Medical Practitioner in charge.”104

Bengough stressed the need to inculcate ‘Are‘are with a spirit of “communal service” and “cooperative effort.” He thought these had always been “conspicuously lacking” there, and by mid-1941 he reported progress in cultivating them.105 In fact, ‘Are‘are always had undertaken enormous cooperative projects on their own in the massive group efforts necessary to (p.125) carry off the very brideprice presentations and feasts that the government now wished to constrain. (A Pijin term for such teamwork is kambani—“to combine” or “to company.”) The problem for the government had always been ‘Are‘are disinterest in cooperating on government projects, anchored in European conceptions of what a “community” ought to be and do.

The initial Haumatana efforts included construction of an extensive “road” system to integrate east and west ‘Are‘are. Locally made paths already crisscrossed the region, and most people showed little enthusiasm for making the new ones, but officers hoped the make-work of clearing the trails would itself foster greater community cooperation. More revolutionary was a project to persuade the ‘Are‘are to drastically change their residential patterns, as described by Bengough: “The old method of life of Ariari people was based upon small family settlements of one or two houses widely scattered through the bush. Such a distribution is obviously not conducive either to successful communal effort or to adequate public health control: nor does it assist the maintenance of public order. It was decided, therefore, that the Ariari people should be encouraged to build villages based on the patrilineal family groups (‘lines’) into which they are divided…. Concentrated in small villages, the Ariari people will find that companionship comes from living with others, and the old spirit of hostility will begin to disappear.”106

This idea was not novel; Europeans before had instituted schemes to nucleate villages on Guadalcanal, Choiseul, Santa Isabel, and Makira, as well as in other places in Melanesia, usually justified as improving sanitation and community life but also making populations more visible and accessible to Europeans. As elsewhere, some Solomon Islanders inhabited these government-enjoined villages, with their houses arranged in neat rows, only when officers toured their areas, after which they returned home. On Malaita the strongest impetus to form larger villages had come not from government but from Christian leaders, both black and white. Like previous nucleation schemes, a key motivation behind the ‘Are‘are project was that people were easier to track and control when grouped into set villages. James Scott has observed that consolidated, permanent settlements allow rulers to “see” subjects better, but he found in a comparative study that the effort to impose settlement on mobile populations “seemed to be a perennial state project—perennial, in part, because it so seldom succeeded.”107 Many Malaitan Christian relocations had proved longer lasting because the people themselves desired them, or, earlier, because hostile mountain people forced them to congregate for protection. However, beyond managerial or defense motives, a growing number of Malaitans, like whites, shared a sensibility that stable villages, replacing scattered and shifting hamlets, were a prerequisite for forming proper Melanesian communities and identities for the future.

The speed with which ‘Are‘are took up the resettlement plan was remarkable; (p.126) by mid-1941, close to half of them in the targeted sub-districts (Waisisi, Wairokai, Komunihaka, Tawana‘oro, Takataka, and Maro‘u) were said to be living in new villages, with most others in the process of building them, and Maanawai and Onepusu expected to follow suit. Officers hoped also to persuade people to abandon shifting horticulture and adopt large fixed farms near the new villages with the help of a “native agricultural instructor,” and the staff worked to introduce terracing and new cash crops. Bengough wanted to convince ‘Are‘are their land would not be exhausted by several years of cropping in the same place. His conceit that he knew much more about gardening on Malaita than did Malaitan gardeners was indicative of the project’s overall approach—that district officers could, with patience, educate Malaitans about complex aspects of their own lives in which ‘Are‘are were already experts but about which officers knew little.108

Another facet of the project was that a Malaitan clerk was to conduct a census and record all deaths, births, and marriages. Such data were needed since otherwise the population could not be efficiently monitored, controlled, and taxed, and as we have seen, previous census methods were highly unsatisfactory. Bell had anticipated that a crucial benefit of taxation would be that it would compel all men to register their names with the government (he often had to detain numbers of people until he could determine which one he had come to arrest), and Sandars, though he thought the tax “iniquitous” since most people had no money, said he found collections useful since they brought men to the coast annually for him to see them. But officers were unable to keep good track of identities in this way. For example, beyond the ongoing difficulty in hearing and properly recording native names, many names that men used, particularly with whites, were European nicknames—Tom, Biri, Dio—shared by hundreds of men, and most changed even their indigenous names at least once in their lifetimes; many used more than one. Men with four or more children under age 15 did not have to pay the head tax, so men would borrow others’ children to take to tax collections as their own, and officers had no way to check familial authenticity. Ronald Garvey remembered similar problems with men claiming exemption for being over age 60: “A chap would get all his friends round saying they remembered old Jimmy, he was born eighty years ago, this sort of thing. Well, how could we know? If we were in a good mood we’d accept it, if we were in a bad mood, we wouldn’t. So when it came to the [tax on] dogs, they’d try the same thing. But there was no exception for dogs of any age.” A full census accurate for men, women, and children would be useful indeed.109

A loose-leaf record book of “native customs” was started at Haumatana, and Bengough envisioned a full reappraisal and restructuring of ‘Are‘are culture: “Native custom should be carefully and exhaustively studied by the officer at Wairokai with a view to the eventual elimination of all such features as have an adverse effect on the population, while upholding those (p.127) which are beneficial.” Efforts to limit brideprice and houraa feasts—as modern corruptions of custom—remained a key to the undertaking for its duration.110 Throughout the project the two-edged colonial sword of “custom”—good and bad, genuine and fraudulent—was a tool of choice, always at hand to legitimize and promote, condemn and suppress practices according to whether they suited or hindered government ambitions and sensibilities. Again, it seems from most officers’ writings that they applied “custom” sincerely, were blind to the concept’s inconsistencies and contradictions, and did not try to manipulate it in any disingenuous way.

For us, the most important aspect of this ‘Are‘are scheme is the striking similarity between its projects and those of the Maasina Rule movement that emerged later. The scheme’s main objectives all became central to the movement: large, permanent, and accessible villages; adoption of new gardening methods and cash cropping; censusing; and the creation of stronger, broader group identities. Further, a paramount Maasina Rule activity was the recording of kastom by Malaitan scribes with the goal of selectively adapting or discarding old societal rules and creating new ones, which would help the movement’s leaders better guide the populace toward shared goals.

Moreover, Maasina Rule emerged from the same area in ‘Are‘are where the government repopulation project was centered, and three men central to the project—Harisimae, Hoasihau, and Nono‘oohimae—were the key founders of Maasina Rule (and again, all three attended the Fallowes’s meeting on Gela). Both Sandars and Roy Davies later credited Hoasihau, the Wairokai district headman, with having started Maasina Rule, while others said Harisimae had. Hoasihau was a key participant in Bengough’s ‘Are‘are efforts from the start, and Officer Michael Forster said he had “displayed great interest and keenness” in them. Martin Clemens—the cadet assigned to oversee Haumatana’s initiation and begin a “road” connecting Wairokai to Takataka—told me that it was Hoasihau who first explained to him the destructive effects of excessive brideprice in ‘Are‘are.111

When war came and officers left, the Haumatana camp continued for a time under a government clerk, Timeas Teioli from Abu village near ‘Aoke, who Davies said was an able organizer despite his minimal education. But the camp was abandoned early in 1943, officers believed because Teioli and Hoasihau tracked and killed a local murderer and prison escapee. ‘Are‘are historian John Naitoro was told that the people were unhappy about being pressured to labor without pay on the roads, which as we have seen most Malaitans considered pointless. Everyone returned to their homes, and later in the year Sandars on his first postwar tour found Haumatana in “rack and ruin,” with houraa again flourishing. He quickly imposed a seasonal ban on feasts—none while yams were in the ground—but the project was put on hold, partly due to lack of resources but also because Sandars thought its design needed serious modification. Also, heated disputes had emerged (p.128) over who owned the Haumatana land, and the venture’s original architect, Bengough, had perished in the war.112 Thus died the ‘Are‘are repopulation project, its activities set aside until Sandars might give them his attentions. Or so thought Sandars.

Further Experiments: Councils and Courts

Partly in response to the Fallowes movement, before the war district officers on several islands began to initiate new, unofficial or “experimental” native councils and arbitration courts.113 Like the repopulation project, Maasina Rule later absorbed these within its own social engineering schemes, and it is important to understand their development and how Malaitans perceived, employed, and at times rejected them. During the 1930s, a few areas had set up unofficial courts, but now there was a shift in government policy. In 1939, Bengough, with an eye to wider changes, initiated two “councils of elders” at Fo‘odo and Malu‘u, chaired by headmen and staffed where possible by “heads of lines.” These councils were to “meet monthly, to discuss local affairs, and wherever possible, to settle disputes in native custom—a matter in which I consider they have far more authority than the District Officer.” In 1940, Ashley’s replacement Marchant strongly supported experiments in this direction, though he still had no authority from above to establish courts and those that started consequently lacked any legal status. But there were indications from London that their development would be supported.114

By 1941, new councils were operating in Lau (at Te), Baelelea, Baegu, and Langalanga, and a single one was charged to “co-ordinate custom etc. for all Kwara‘ae” under Headman Tome Siru, whom Bell had appointed from the constabulary in 1925. Council boundaries did not in practice match those of sub-districts but instead followed more linguistic and cultural lines. The plan was that soon these bodies would arbitrate legal cases. Responses to councils in the north were almost wholly positive, and officers thought them popular and successful, though before long council members were reportedly “uneasy at having no legal sanction to back their authority.” Bengough met with leaders in other areas to discuss local problems and lay groundwork for similar bodies. Within a year, four convened on Small Malaita, though with limited success due to problems “getting elders to take Councils seriously” and leaders’ “indifference.” At year’s end there were still no official councils in Fataleka, Kwaio, or most of ‘Are‘are.115

Native courts proved more difficult to organize than councils. In 1941 they were still not legal, but most of the councils were arbitrating native custom cases and “proved of great assistance in administration.” Most active in this respect was the north Malaita council operating a court under Headman Maekali, which was allowed to hear minor criminal cases and impose (p.129) penalties up to a £5 fine or a month in jail, and civil disputes of values to £10, with its decisions appealable to district officers. However, “custom law” enjoyed a special, protected status, and no appeals were allowed in the “native customary cases,” which predominated. Coupled with these courts was a push to codify and “regularize” custom law, linked to Bengough’s ongoing concern to limit brideprices and compensations. The courts were mandated to maintain local language records of disputes that they heard and “rulings in native custom” they made.116

Unlike in some African colonies, and especially India, Malaita’s officers did little to involve themselves in the nitty-gritty of custom codification and left it to Malaitans. They expected the codes to have minor legal importance, and in any case they lacked the requisite knowledge, time, and resources for such intensive work. Furthermore, there was a reluctance to officially interfere with “native custom,” and, unlike India and parts of Africa, there were no classic texts of religious or other rules on which to build new codes.

With no legal sanctions to enforce their “custom” judgments, courts faced a growing problem that some men simply ignored a summons to appear. When such cases were referred to government courts, no means existed there for ordering compensations, and so offended parties were left unhappy. Clearly, if courts were to evolve as hoped they would require official powers, and in early 1941 Marchant instructed all officers to prepare outlines of planned native court procedures for their districts. On 30 April Sandars, acting as resident commissioner, submitted these to High Commissioner Luke, stating in his cover letter: “Establishment of native courts is fundamental to any system of native administration founded on principles generally accepted within the Empire. Moreover, the native peoples of the Protectorate have, for the most part, now reached a state of development where they are seeking some outlet for their political aspirations and there is little doubt that the best means of satisfying such a demand is to permit them to have a greater voice in the settlement of their own affairs.”117

Bengough did not envision native courts as significantly empowering Malaitans. He made this clear in an outline proposal for their operation that specified government headmen would be in charge, with “elders” acting only in an advisory capacity. He noted, though, that the courts lacked qualified, literate headmen to lead them, and since officers only saw headmen a few times a year there was no way to train them. He therefore proposed starting a school for headmen at ‘Aoke, but Marchant rejected the idea.118

Bengough regretted he could not allow Malaitans to select their own headmen or magistrates but fell back on an old justification: “I could wish that some form of native leadership existed which we could adapt for our purpose, but unfortunately on Malaita there is nothing of the kind. We cannot rule through chiefs, so we should, I consider, aim at ruling through Councils of Elders and Native Magistrates.” He wanted to empower councils in each area to enforce settlement of “offenses against native custom (p.130) which carry a penalty of monetary compensation,” without any reference to the native courts. Thus, the only real authority Bengough intended to grant Malaitans who were not government servants was over matters of “native custom,” which in practice they had already been allowed in the past. A key point here is that these and subsequent court and council policies generated “custom” as a category of practices—the only such category—over which Malaitans would be allowed full legal control, at least in the abstract.119

In early December 1942, with the war ongoing, Marchant sent officers copies of the Native Courts Regulation, approved by the secretary of state to the colonies, and modeled largely on past ordinances of the Gilbert and Ellice Colony, Fiji, and especially Tanganyika. This regulation finally legalized native courts and made headmen their presidents. Marchant ordered an end to all codification, however, citing the fear that it “stifled evolution.” He emphasized that, unlike councils, the courts were not empowered to make new rules but only to administer the law and established native custom. Courts were to be “constituted in accordance with the native law or customs of the area,” and their powers were limited to administration of “the native law and custom prevailing in the area of the jurisdiction.” The regulation contained elements important for understanding later events: First, it said, “Nothing in this section contained shall be deemed to prohibit any person from adjudication as an arbitrator upon any civil matter in dispute when the parties have agreed to submit the dispute to his decision.” This preserved community leaders’ right to hear and judge civil disputes outside government-sanctioned courts. Further, “For offenses against native law or custom a native court may, subject to the provisions of this Ordinance, impose a fine or may order imprisonment or both … or may inflict any punishment authorized by native law or custom, provided that such punishment is not repugnant to natural justice and humanity.” Courts were specifically allowed to order compensation settlements. When the war moved off to the Western Solomons, officers Bengough, Sandars, and Forster would work in south Malaita to draw ‘Are‘are araha, or chiefly leaders, into this system on a more organized basis.120

Also about this time Hogbin visited To‘abaita. While in 1933 there had been dissatisfaction with the courts, he wrote: “Signs of a change were apparent on my return a decade later … although local government had then been in operation for only three and a half years. The councils and courts were still regarded as somewhat strange—these natives had had no corresponding organization which the Administration could adapt—but there was a growing realization that the rules of law are the natural outcome of social life.”121 Hogbin’s optimistic assessment missed the essence of what was happening on Malaita. For many Malaitans, the government’s stuttering attempts to erect a semblance of a native administration through the 1930s to the beginning of the war had been inadequate and too slow. (p.131) Colonial law and courts had become key symbols of discontent throughout the island, sometimes evoked to stand for all grievances against the colonial system. These grievances would soon come to the fore in organized fashion with the rise of Maasina Rule. A paramount purpose of this movement was to take up what the government had so tentatively started, and to transform the councils and courts into serious political and legal institutions run by and for Malaitans. The key event that energized Malaitans to act on their dissatisfactions with the government system and their aspirations for more self-rule was World War II, to which we now turn.

Notes:

(2.) MAR 1930, 30; 1931, 10; PIM 1932; Bengough 1938a; Lasaqa 1972, 40–44; Bennett 1987, 204, 222; Frazer 1990, 193. From 1919 through 1928, an average 2,380 men signed contracts each year. The 2,176 recruits of 1928 were 500-odd fewer than in 1926; 1,459, almost 68 percent, were Malaitans, followed by Guadalcanal at 18 percent. Half worked for the largest three of 94 employers: Levers Pacific Plantations Pty. Ltd., the Malayta Company Ltd., and Burns Philp. About 75 percent did copra-related work (Barley, Hetherington, and Hewitt 1929, 2). On staff shortages during the Depression, see Boutilier 1982, 59.

(3.) Barley, Hetherington, and Hewitt 1929, 65–66, quotes except for MacQuarrie 1948, 151; Frazer 1990, 191, passim; Bennett 1993, 154–158; see Hogbin 1970, 183. Older Kwaio told me approvingly how by the mid-1930s the government had gotten rid of the most bullying overseers (except, many noted, for Levers’s manager Charles Widdy, whom we will meet later) and tried to protect them from others. For admirable studies of plantation life, see Bennett 1987, chap 8; 1993.

(4.) On the regulation, see PIM 1934b; Bengough 1936e; Bennett 1987, 164. Bell warned that the change would exacerbate depopulation: young men would give nothing to families and would cease to be an asset to parents, children would no longer be wanted, and abortion or infanticide would follow (Bell 1921b; see also Bell 1916a, 9; 1918c; 1918e; 1922a). Workers also received quarters, food, tobacco, soap, and clothing, and were repatriated. Accompanying dependents were also supported, but most employers refused to hire married couples, and women needed a husband’s or male relative’s permission to enlist (AR 1927, 12; Barley, Hetherington, and Hewitt 1929, 8–9, 14, 31–34).

(5.) On refusals, see AR 1934, 7; MARs 1935–1937. Re other events, see MQRs June and Oct 1934; June 1936, 3; PIM 1935, 1936; MAR 1935, 19; 1937; Hill 1936a, 1936b; Bengough 1936e, 1938a; Palmer 1970, 12; Bennett 1993, 159–160, 273–274. Recruiters in the 1920s and 1930s often let men return to their village with their wage advance on pledge to meet the boat at an arranged place, days, weeks, or even months later, and they at times gave them money to offer an advance to others (AR 1927, 12; Barley, Hetherington, and Hewitt 1929, 8–9, 14, 31–34; Vandercook 1937, 334). Guadalcanal and Santa Cruz men also refused the new wage (Bennett 1993, 159).

(6.) Bell 1922a; MQR June 1930, 21; White 1932a; PIM 1932; AR 1934, 6; Bengough 1936a, 1936e (quote); Sandars 1937b; nd, 114; Malaita District 1937; Frazer 1973, 59, and figure 3.1. Except for east Kwara‘ae, which ranked with ‘Are‘are and Kwaio as Malaita’s poorest places, Malaitans in the north, especially coastal groups, were not as pressed for cash as southerners. Fewer had refused the halved wage, and in any case they depended less on plantation work. Some around Fo‘odo and Malu‘u had coconut plantings and access to traders buying copra, and others sold trochus shell. Saltwater people of the Te Lagoon in Lau, and in Langalanga, had for years earned higher wages as non-indentured stevedore teams working overseas steamers. John Vandercook described the system: “The work is organized. Several clan groups have over a period of years contributed their wages and bought sailing-schooners. They follow the shipping schedules, and every month or so a different communally (p.369) owned ship takes a complement into Tulagi. There they go aboard the steamer and camp on its deck during the fortnight it spends going through the group picking up copra from the estates. They handle the shore boats, the launches, the winches, and the work below decks. When the trip is over they are dropped off again at Tulagi and return by schooner to the artificial islands” (Vandercook 1937, 355–356). Stevedores spent shorter periods away than indentured laborers, and so this was less disruptive of communities. The government used prisoners as its stevedores at Tulagi. See Planters’ Gazette 1922, 8; Mason 1925, 139; Hopkins 1928, 222; BSIP 1940a; Ivens 1972, 46; Bennett 1987, 163, 187, 220–223, 274, 442; Lever [1990?], chap 2, 2.

(7.) Rodwell 1921b, 3; Steward 1921; Palmer 1970, 7; Hilliard 1974, 102; Campbell 1978, 270–274; see Collinson 1926, 195; MAR 1932, 33; Hogbin 1970, 170–171; Keesing and Corris 1980, 76–80. Frazer observed that imposition of the tax did not in fact appear statistically to have a clear, long-term impact on the number of men who became indentured (1973, 59, and figure 3.1). Of course the tax was just one of many factors affecting how many did so at a given time.

(9.) Bell 1922b; MAR 1935, 14; Bengough 1936e, 1938a; Sandars 1937b; nd, 114; Belshaw 1949a, 444; Hogbin 1970, 168.

(10.) See Hogbin 1970, 167–171, 213; MAR 1930, 30; 1934, 8; Akin 1999a. Barley in 1930 had noted a growing preference for cash in brideprice and compensations where once only local currencies were accepted. In many places shell and teeth currencies subsequently regained ground, perhaps owing in part to the dearth of cash during the Depression and then Maasina Rule. Also important were political meanings that came to be ascribed to shells as kastom money, and to brideprice, compensation, and other exchanges, as kastom transactions symbolically opposed to cash-based market exchange. Today cash payments are again the norm in most of Malaita, accompanied by a smaller but necessary payment in local currencies. Only in inland Kwaio does shell money still dominate (MAR 1930, 30; see Akin 1999a).

(11.) Hogbin and Wedgwood 1943, 10–12; see Hogbin 1930, 207–208; MAR 1940, 6. Ara‘i (or ala‘i) or ara‘ikwao became common Pijin terms for white people.

(12.) MQR March 1934; MAR 1935, 1938; Ashley 1932a, 1936a; Bengough 1936e, 1938a; Sandars 1937b, 6; nd, 116–117; Hogbin 1970, 150. Sandars said Ashley remained unhappy until the high commissioner visited and confirmed Sandars had the right to cut the tax (nd, 117).

(13.) Ashley 1936b; Brownlees quoted in Knox-Mawer 1986, 61; Fox 1962, 139; Bennett 1993, 169. European residents in the 1930s were liable for any tax imposed by local enactments and paid a £1 residential tax.

(14.) Ashley 1936b; Bengough 1936b, 1936e; MQRs March and June 1936; see Sandars 1937b. The Kwaio and ‘Are‘are tax had also been lowered to 2 shillings in 1932–33.

(17.) Forster 1950, 1. Marau area people maintained close political and other links with ‘Are‘are, and many were ‘Are‘are immigrants or their descendants.

(p.370) (18.) MAR 1930; 1932, 33; Bengough 1936a, 1936e (quote); Sandars 1937b, 6. Vandercook described a trading boat and its wares (1937, 351–352).

(19.) On different pricing, see Ivens [1928b?], 2; Hopkins 1928, 245; BSIP 1939; and BSIP file 49/11; Malaita District 1939a; Sandars 1939b; Hilliard 1974, 102; see Bell 1922a, 1922c.

(20.) MQR Sept 1940; Isabel Annual Report 1941, 8, 13; on postwar plantations, see Bennett 1987, 302–303.

(22.) See Belshaw 1950a, 24; Saunders 1979, 170, 183; Saetana 1980 pers comm.

(23.) MAR 1931, 18; 1935, 19–20; see Hogbin 1944, 264.

(27.) Pidoke 1939 (and see version in Laracy 1983, A6, A7); see BSIP 1940c.

(28.) Pidoke 1939; Fallowes 1939a; White 1992 pers comm; see Bennett 1987, 261. Frazer noted that the average monthly pay of European plantation assistants in 1932–1933 was £12 (1990, 198).

(29.) Fallowes 1939a; BSIP 1940c. See Laracy 1976, 88; Hilliard 1978, 279–285; Whiteman 1983, 210–211. For Fallowes’s influence on north Guadalcanal and Makira, see Bennett 1987, 262–263 and Scott 2007, 106–108.

(30.) Fallowes 1939b, 1939c, 1966, 1971; Sandars 1939a; Vaskess 1939; Hilliard 1974, 112–116; White 1978, 236–238; 1991, 198; Bennett 1977, 262–263; Fifi‘i 1989, 40–41. Sandars first wrote “mental strain,” but it was changed to “excitement.” For more on Fallowes and related activities, see White 1978, 219–240; 1991, 190–199; Hilliard 1978, 281–285; Keesing 1980, 102–104; Whiteman 1983, 205–211; Bennett 1987, 259–263. Allan erred in saying the church withdrew Fallowes from the Solomons in 1939 (1950a, 77). Isabel’s Officer Fowler published a belittling account of his 1930 dealings with Fallowes, giving him a pseudonym (1959, chap 2). Baddeley had sought Fallowes’s deportation since April (Ashley 1939). Fallowes later said that of church colleagues only Charles Fox showed any sympathy (1966). The Colonial Office later repealed Fallowes’s deportation. He returned in 1959 and was pleased to find many reforms he had advocated being instituted. He later worked in South Africa and died in 1992. I thank Geoff White and Hugh Laracy for documents about Fallowes, and White, Terry Brown, and especially David Hilliard for sharing his letters to them. Baddeley supported the racial status quo, for example, by forbidding the Southern Cross’s black crew to worship at a white Rabaul church (Fox 1962, 134; Hilliard 1978, 272–273; Fallowes 1981 pers comm to Terry Brown; Whiteman 1983, 212–214). Baddeley later received the US Medal of Freedom and an honorary doctorate from Columbia, and the US press lauded him as a war hero (see, eg, several New York Times stories of Nov 1944). Archbishop of Canterbury Cosmo Gordon Lang had picked Baddeley as bishop to exemplify “muscular Christianity” and to “discipline” Melanesia’s clergy after his predecessor, Frederick Molyneux, was removed due to a homosexual scandal (Terry Brown 2004 pers comm).

(31.) Clemens 1940a; Horton 1940; Allan 1950a, 77; White 1991, 198–199; (p.371) Hilliard 1978, 285. A rumor circulated in Makira, attributed to a Fallowes follower there, that he would return with an airplane filled with money to raise copra prices (Marchant 1940c, 1940d; Baddeley 1940).

(32.) Waddell writing in Eastern District Quarterly Reports, 31 July 1939, 5; 19 April 1940, 2; Waddell, Trench, and Bentley 1945.

(36.) Bengough 1939e; BSIP 1947d, 81; Anifelo quoted in Keesing 1980, 104; Anifelo 1980 pers comm; Ma‘aanamae 1987 pers comm.

(38.) As late as 1941 Bengough counted east and west Kwaio coastal populations as 100 of 3,750, and 20 of 1,820 people, respectively (1941a, 5). Few Christians lived inland.

(39.) MAR 1937; Deck 1940, 3; Sullivan 1944. Fifi‘i, later Maasina Rule’s head chief for east Kwaio, was working in Tulagi when the Gela meeting took place and its ideas were in circulation, but he was only 17 years old and did not attend (see Fifi‘i 1982b; 1989, 40–41).

(40.) Bengough in this report (1939e; and in MAR 1939, 8–10) misspelled Uogwari as “Guagware” and “Gwaagware.” ‘Atobala is within ‘Ole‘olea, which is part of Uogwari.

(41.) Siufiomea quoted in Keesing 1980, 104; personal communications from Siufiomea 1982, Su‘umete 1983, Safaasafi 1983, Peter Soea‘adi 1996. Some say Noto‘i’s brother Bole was with him.

(42.) Tagii‘au here metaphorically conveyed the idea that Noto‘i became possessed. Betel nuts are chewed to open communications with ancestors, especially La‘aka, who at times send fireflies into houses to announce to descendants their presence and their desire to connect through possession or divination (see Ivens 1930; 1972, 189–190; Codrington 1973, 221; Akin 1993, 711–712).

(43.) Keesing 1980, 107; Fifi‘i 1989, 73–74; Tagii‘au 1981 pers comm to author and Kathleen Gillogly (extract); personal communications from Ma‘aanamae of ‘Ai‘eda 1987 and 1996, and from Siufiomea 1987. Speaking in tongues is now common in South Sea Evangelical Church communities, where it is called ‘atorenisi (probably from English “audience”), but this and related practices only became central to church practice on Malaita during a 1969 revival movement and so would not have inspired Noto‘i (see Griffiths 1977). Several Kwaio recalled to me their disgust at the time of that revival, since they felt this behavior was proper only for those worshipping ancestors. Before this, Christians were sometimes possessed, but usually by their ancestors, requiring exorcisms.

(44.) Bengough 1939c, 1939e; MQR Sept 1939, 3; Siufiomea quoted in Keesing 1980, 105–107; Siufiomea 1982 pers comm; Su‘umete 1983 pers comm. No one ever paid an entry fee. There is a common pattern of dual prophets in Malaitan political-religious movements. ‘Airumu is within the territory of Age‘eriufa, which is within Kwa‘ilalamua.

(45.) Today La‘aka is one of the two most widely propitiated ancestral spirits in (p.372) Kwaio, having spread to many groups since the 1930s through affinal connections. She is sometimes referred to as “‘Afe” (wife). See Akin 2003, 393, re a mechanism for such ancestral proliferation. Her spread reflects, in part, her association with anticolonial activities that began with Noto‘i, as well as the powers she grants in towns and on plantations—there, where some ancestors are apathetic or inactive, she protects her descendants (see also Fifi‘i 1989, 74–75). La‘aka when alive controlled powerful fighting magics that she learned through dreams and drew on to strengthen her kin group, and today she is renowned for bestowing martial strength on descendants who pray for it. For more on La‘aka, see Keesing 1982c, 76, 96, 100–101.

(46.) Bengough 1939c, 1939e; MAR 1939, 10; MQR Sept 1939, 3–4; Siufiomea 1982 pers comm.

(47.) Siufiomea quoted in Keesing 1980, 106; Martin Clemens 1992 pers comm.

(48.) In October 1931, Norman Deck had spread word on Malaita that a recent severe earthquake was a sign the world would soon “turn upside down,” and that people had to join his church to be saved. This frightened many and, at least in Kwaio, some killed and ate their pigs and felled Canarium almond trees. In one hamlet, incest occurred. In Langalanga and perhaps elsewhere, some did become Christians (Kuper 1933, 3; personal communications from Ma‘aanamae 1983, Fifi‘i 1988, and David Gegeo 1988). Fifi‘i gave an account that omits Deck’s role (1989, 23–26), which he included in an earlier version he told to me (and see Deck 1927b, 1; Vandercook 1937, 348–349; Fifi‘i 1988b; for earthquake-inspired conversions in Kwara‘ae, see Burt 1994, 155–156; on the earthquake, see M Deck 1931, 6; MAR 1931, 5–8; Richards 1932b; Grover 1949, 54–55; Palmer nd; Green 1976, 44–46; Griffiths 1977, 86–88; Lever [1990?], chap 2, 22; Sandars nd, 180; Davies nd, 327). Laracy said that just before the war some north Malaitans “feasted extravagantly, lest the Japanese deprive them of their pigs and gardens” (1976, 111; see MQR June 1940). Such destruction has been reported from elsewhere in Melanesia linked to activities lumped as “cargo cults,” at times explained as due to not wanting others to enjoy one’s property after one is gone. Some Malaitans after the war explained American destruction of surplus goods and equipment in similar terms: soldiers are said to have told them, “If we leave everything around the government will make business out of them” (Wa‘ii‘a 1987 pers comm). Property was destroyed or consumed on Malaita and Makira during stages of Maasina Rule due to rumors of another war (see this book, chapter 7). See Rohorua 1898, 7; Field 1943, 15; Trench 1945b; Crass 1947b; Davies 1947a; nd, 206, 208; and quoted in Laracy 1983, 151; Fifi‘i 1951b; Campbell 1978, 300.

(49.) Bengough 1939c, 1939e; BSIP 1940b; Sandars nd, 142; Ma‘aanamae quoted in Keesing 1978a, 261; 1982 pers comm; Fifi‘i 1988 pers comm; 1989, 72–73; Clemens 1992 pers comm. Along with the others Noto‘i spent six months in jail, but after their release the following March he and a few followers quietly continued their activities for several years. Later they refused to take part in some Maasina Rule activities, particularly one mass descent to the coast to await American ships said to be coming (Ma‘aanamae 1982 pers comm; Gwanu‘i 1996 pers comm; see Keesing 1978a, 260; Fifi‘i 1989).

(50.) Bengough 1939c; 1939e, 3; MQR Sept 1939; Joseph Pali quoted in Sanga 1989, 24; see Siufiomea quoted in Keesing 1980, 107. Bengough wrote, “Rumours, notable mainly for their wildness, circulated through the District, having their origin (p.373) for the most part in stories brought by natives returning from plantations or labour on the overseas steamer” (MQR 30 Sept 1939, 3).

(51.) Keesing 1978a, 46–47; Bennett 1987, 279–280; personal communications from Ma‘aanamae 1982, Ri‘ika 1982, Tagii‘au 1987, and Laete‘esafi and Waneagea 1987; see Guppy 1887, 15, 17; Wilson 1908, 5; Lindstrom 1981, 102–103. Bennett, and Keesing, tied Noto‘i’s movement to earlier Kwara‘ae movements based around bulu spirits, because some Kwaio said Noto‘i was speaking to a buru spirit. These activities shared some features but were minimally connected and had very different meanings. Kwaio buru are a type of spirit that impersonates true ancestors, and Kwaio who said Noto‘i’s spirit was a buru were by self-definition movement critics, dismissing it by charging that the spirit possessing Noto‘i was not really La‘aka and should be ignored (Keesing 1978a, 260; Siufiomea and Folofo‘u quoted in Keesing 1980, 106–107; Bennett 1987, 278–279). Allan later claimed the Fallowes, Maasina Rule, and Federal Council movements all were extensions of the Kwara‘ae bulu (MQR 30 June 1951, 5; 1957a, 250; 1974). He likely influenced Davies (1951b) to claim that ‘Are‘are bulu legends about “cargo” were key in “determining the form of the original Marching Rule.” Neither Allan nor Davies knew what he was talking about and both claims are fatuous. For a study of Kwaio buru, see Akin 1996; for the early Kwara‘ae bulu, see Burt 1994, 135–139, and 198. See also Russell 1954b, 2; Laracy 1983, 33.

(52.) See Mayr 1931, 1943; Eyerdam 1933a, 1933b. Their visit to Malaita had been delayed due to Bell’s death, but the ornithologists knew no details of that prior to their arrival in the Solomons, and their ending up at ‘Aulola under Babaamae’s sponsorship was unplanned. In 1927 and 1928, refugees from government attacks had sheltered at ‘Aulola under the protection of Babaamae and another leader, Kwaloamae, who were made constables (Coultas diary, 31 March 1930; Hamlin diary, 7 March 1930; ‘Elota quoted in Keesing 1978b, 127; Keesing and Corris 1980, 174–175; Arugeni 1982 pers comm; Wadoka 1982 pers comm; Fifi‘i 1989, 12). This refuge from foreign invasion likely inspired the La‘aka movement leaders to specify that ‘Atobala and ‘Airumu would be similar “safe areas” during the predicted American invasion. (People near there, at Farisi, had erected a palisade to stop government soldiers 12 years before, and Kwaio had once built fortified refuges [labu] during feuds.) Babaamae was later made an assistant headman. Bobo‘efuufuu was a six-hour walk from ‘Aulola at the Americans’ slow pace in this most difficult of Malaitan terrains, but Kwaio conceive of the two places as lying within a single general locale. A sketch map and general itinerary of the trip is in Mayr 1931, 2–3. Hamlin returned to the coast after the move to Bobo‘efuufuu.

(53.) The other men arrested were Logari‘i, Wadoka, Oritabu, Maarua‘au, and Gi‘okwala. The relationships to Babaamae are in large genealogies I collected in 1996 from Wadoka’s son Safaasafi and nephew ‘Inisafi in relation to another project. One friend of mine, Tome Toloasi Teoboo, later a Maasina Rule leader, from 1932 through 1933 was on the France’s crew under Coultas and traveled to Micronesia, Manila, Nauru, and Rabaul (Teoboo 1982, 1983).

(54.) Diaries: Eyerdam 1929–1930; Coultas 1929–1930; Hamlin 1928–1930; hereafter cited by 1930 dates. On locals’ wonder and food, see Eyerdam 1933b, 434, 436 (and see 435); Basiberi 1996. Long quote: Eyerdam, 17 March.

(55.) Eyerdam 1933b, 435, 438; diary 4 April. This chant is still performed in Kwaio. I knew Ofomauri until his death in the early 1980s. Suuburigeni and another man named ‘Adimae guided the birders throughout most of their visit to Kwaio.

(p.374) (56.) Eyerdam, 17 March; see AR 1928, 11; Basiberi 1996 pers comm; on rifles and ammunition, see Teoboo 1982.

(57.) On shrines, see Coultas, 28 March; re the priest, see Coultas, 9 and 22 March. Quote: Eyerdam, 12 March; see Coultas, 15 March. See Eyerdam 1933b, 436.

(58.) Eyerdam, 25 Jan, 16 March; 1930, 77; 1933b, 436; Coultas, 26 Feb, 5 March, 15 April; see Mayr 1943, 33.

(59.) Coultas, 15 April; Eyerdam, 19 March. American soldiers sometimes addressed Islanders as “Joe,” also.

(60.) Coultas, 1, 5, and 15 April.

(61.) Coultas, 15 and 17 April; Basiberi 1996; see Eyerdam, 15 April. It is conceivable that Noto‘i and his brother Bole might have traveled on the France in 1930, an idea suggested to me by Ben Burt. Unfortunately, the expedition diaries from the Kwaio visit contain only a smattering of names. It is even possible that Noto‘i claimed this is when he got La‘aka’s message, directly from Eyerdam and Coultas, but one can only speculate. One Kwaio version of the story says Noto‘i met the Americans while “at Levers,” but this phrase was sometimes a generic Malaitan label for “abroad” (Safaasafi 1982 pers comm).

(62.) Eyerdam 1933b, 434, 436; Bennett 1987, 280. On friction, see, eg, Coultas, 26 Feb, 7 March, 8 and 15 April; on standard weight, see Grover 1957, 300. Kwaio did not know why the team collected bird skins (1,060 specimens of 62 species in all on Malaita, and many other creatures). Eyerdam told Teoboo “the birds were going to be pictures in a book,” and that a particular owl (Ninox jacquinoti malaitæ = Kwaio kooko‘afuto, a new subspecies) would be valuable in the United States (Mayr 1931, 2, 14; Teoboo 1982). Tobacco was then a common currency for procuring labor—that year the Solomons imported 119,115 pounds of it, and it brought a good portion of BSIP import duties (Bell 1918e; Blue Book 1930, 58). Bell said a desire for tobacco was the main reason communities urged their young men to recruit in the 1910s (1918c, 3). Lambert recalled Hamlin’s expertise in selecting trade goods (1941, 287).

(64.) Eyerdam, 15 Feb; 1934b, 434. Babaamae quote in Eyerdam 1933a, 6.

(65.) Vandercook 1937, 357. Vandercook and his wife crossed Malaita through the Kwaiba‘ita river valley along the Kwaio-Kwara‘ae border, north of where the ornithologists had been. They spent an evening at a village talking with their hosts in Pijin, during which three men asked eagerly to “sign on” in their employ so they could visit America (1937, 359–366).

(66.) Herbert 1979, 14. Herbert, later a well-known Australian novelist, was only at Tulagi Hospital from late February until dismissed at the end of May. The BSIP Annual Medical Report of 1928 says he “was compelled to resign owing to ill health” (BSIP 1928, 1; see Herbert’s explanation in Keesing and Corris 1980, 206–209; see Boutilier 1982, 48). The sort of colonial social dynamics that could produce attitudes like those Herbert recalled were explained by the earl of Elgin in his mid-nineteenth-century diary description of European relations with Calcutta servants: “One moves among them with perfect indifference, treating them not as dogs, because in that case one would whistle to them and pat them, but as machines with which one can have no communion or sympathy…. When the passions of fear and hatred are grafted on this indifference, the result is frightful: an absolute callousness (p.375) as to the sufferings of the objects of those passions” (quoted in Mishra 2004, 33). See also Nelson 1982, chap 19.

(67.) Ivens 1907; You and the Native 1943; Grover 1958, 1; see Steward 1926; Knibbs 1929, 69, 191; Mytinger 1942, 32–34; Hogbin 1970, 164; Barley quoted in Bennett 1987, 179. Ivens’s attitudes later grew more humane. Furse argued that familiarity meant “punishment, when it becomes necessary, may have to be harsher than it need otherwise be” (1962, 303; cf Bertram 1930, 62). See Stoler 1992 on the importance of racial boundaries to uniting colonial communities with diverse interests, and of keeping “subversives” from disrupting categories crucial to those communities.

(70.) Horton 1940; Belshaw 1949a, 431; 1950b, 118; Kennedy 1967, 3; Hilliard 1974, 115; Hogbin 1976, 122–123; White 1978, 240; see Marchant 1941. Resident Commissioner H G Gregory-Smith in 1951 wrote that Marchant “based his whole administrative policy on the Kenya lines,” and cited the need for continuity in justifying doing the same thing himself (1951c, 3).

(71.) Woodford quoted in Scarr 1967, 293; Allan 1957a, 45; see Woodford 1890b, 188; Murray 1916, 15–16; Ivens 1929, vi; Scarr 1967, 293–294; Laracy 1976, 91; Keesing and Corris 1980, 33; Bennett 1987, chap 6; Thomas 1990; McGregor 1993. Wilson’s successor Steward wrote, “God forbid that the Melanesian should die out; but this would be better than that he should be utterly degraded by contact with us and all his native virtues exchanged for imported vices, till he becomes the ‘nigger’ that some of his visitors from civilisation appear to think he is” (1939, 135). On ideas about depopulation and colonial policy in Fiji, see Thomas 1994, chap 4.

(73.) NIV Annual Report 1919–1920, 3; Bell 1924 (cf Bell 1918c); Ivens 1927; 1972, xvii, 25; Crichlow 1929, 181; Lambert 1934a, 16; Hogbin 1970, 127; Crosby 2003, 233–241; Sandars nd, 104; see McArthur 1967, 1970; Lal 1992, 57–59; Bennett 1993, 143; Jolly 1994, 29–34. For early estimates, see Edge-Partington 1911a; Murray 1916, 12. We have better, grim figures from Malaita’s neighbors. In 1924, Ivens found Ulawa’s population down a quarter since 1909, and on Makira an officer estimated nearly half died of dysentery in a 1914 epidemic. Michael Scott has summarized the great mortality from disease there and government attempts to counter it, particularly with spatial reorganization and sanitary regulation (Ivens 1927; 1972, xvii; Crichlow 1929, 181; Kuper 1933, 10–14; Fox 1962, 103, 142; Green 1976, 42–43; Scott 2007, 82–95). The government checked incoming ships to try to certify that they carried no diseases (see, eg, Sinker 1907, 29).

(74.) MAR 1930, 25; 1931, 4–5; see Ivens 1970, 42, 44; Fox 1967, 47. On periodic epidemics, see NIV and especially SCL, and Eastern District Annual Reports during the 1920s. The latter are comprehensive, especially for the 1910s and 1920s, when statistics for Malaita are unavailable. I thank Michael Scott for several of these.

(75.) Thomas 1990; 1994, chap 4, quote on page 119. See Clammer 1973 on the importance of order in Fiji and the imposition of a European concept of “communalism” in this context. Martha Kaplan analyzed “colonial constructions of disorder” in Fiji (1995, chap 5).

(p.376) (76.) Goldie 1914, 564. Goldie was later harshly criticized for ignoring warnings that his gathering people to celebrate an anniversary of his own appointment would spread an ongoing typhoid epidemic (Carter 1990, 50–51; see Lambert 1934a, 12). For attributing depopulation to Islander shortcomings, see Romilly 1886, 68–70; Woodford 1890, 188; Colony of Fiji 1896, 5; Somerville 1897, 410–411; Carver 1911, 6; Campbell 1918, 42; Durrad 1922, 34; Rivers 1922; Roberts 1927, 63; AR 1932, 5; Hogbin 1930, 49; Harrisson 1937, 261–280; Wilson 1938, 25; Fox 1967, 47; see also Mander 1954, 227–228; Scarr 1967, 293; Thomas 1990; Jolly 1998, 183–187.

(77.) Wilson 1932, 184–185 (quotes). Jolly analyzed condemnation of mothers in Fiji and Vanuatu; officials intervened less in the maternal practices in the latter (1998). They took even less action on Malaita, though Christians radically transformed childbirth practices by barring observance of related ancestral taboos (see Akin nd). On Malaita, the government kept its distance, partly to avoid entanglement in intense religious conflicts over these practices, until the 1950s when it began constructing maternity centers in some places where they were wanted. See Romilly 1886, 68–70; Montgomery 1892, 2; Colony of Fiji 1896; Deck 1909, 3; E Wilson 1915, 47–50; 1936; Raucaz 1928, 177; Murray 1932, 212; Mothercraft [1949?]; Fox 1962, 142; Manderson 1987; cf Bell 1922a; Kuper 1933, 13–14. For blame on the labor trade, see Wilson 1905, 6; 1932, 184–185, 250; 1938, 25; Goldie 1914, 564; and see Hopkins 1927, 11, 113–120; Barley 1930–1932, 54; Hilliard 1978, 156.

(78.) NIV 1921 (nd), 3; Bell 1922b; Deck 1931a, 5. BSIP file I/III/49/3 details the Southern Cross taking disease to Ontong Java in the 1930s and Anglican denials and protests; Proclamation 11 of 1939 required all visitors there to first undergo a medical exam. On missions and health, see SCL 16 Jan 1899, 31; Durrad 1922, 5–6; Woodford 1922, 71; MAR 1925; 1931, 3; Ivens 1928a, 47; Eastern District Quarterly Report, July–Sept 1931, 3; Wilson 1932, 184–185; Luke 1945a, 20; Deck 1948d, 2; Green 1976, 45–46; Hilliard 1978, 156, 268. On early Christian health, see NIV Annual Report 1920–1921, 6–7; Baker 1928; Innes 1938; Hogbin 1970, 135, 139, 199; Hilliard 1978, 268.

(79.) Barley 1931b; MAR 1931, 10; Sandars quoted in Innes 1938, 16; Hogbin 1935, 28, passim; 1970, 156; see also Bengough 1934, 3; Ivens 1972, 25.

(81.) Rivers 1922, 92; Roberts 1927, 154; see Hogbin 1930; Murray 1932; Williams 1932, 220–221, 226; Innes 1938, 6, 28. Hogbin had once put forth psychological theories as an explanation for disease susceptibility (1930), but in a 1939 book, in a chapter devoted to depopulation, he attacked such theories and argued that introduced diseases were the problem and better diets and medical services the only effective responses (1970, 132–136). Re late nineteenth-century investigations into depopulation’s causes in Fiji, Thomas noted: “It is astonishing that such a limited amount of consideration was paid to what has since been demonstrated to have been the most important factor: the longer-term consequences of introduced disease” (1990, 155).

(p.377) (83.) Im Thurn 1922: xvii; Roberts 1927, 389–390. On wholesome substitutes, see Rivers 1922, 107–109; Salisbury 1922, 708; Puxley 1925, 108–109; Hopkins 1928, 179; Wilson 1932, 235; Mander 1954, 278; Fox 1962, plate facing page 64. On more work as the solution, see Colony of Fiji 1896; Macmillan Brown 1927, 248; Hogbin and Wedgwood 1943, 7.

(85.) Fortes 1940; see Lambert 1934a, 35; Ranger 1976, 119. Even in the 1950s, Malaita’s District Commissioner Allan drew on such theories but used them to explain population increases. He wrote that due to ten years of excitement from World War II and Maasina Rule, “The Malaitaman of the forties whiffed the scent of his pristine past and decided that life was worth living after all and so through the jungles and hills, the lagoons and islets a spirit of excitement and reawakening has resulted in a primitive urge to racial preservation and rejuvenation” (MAR 1951, 2–3). But, inspired by Bengough’s 1930s reports, Allan thought Kwaio and ‘Are‘are still suffered from “cultural fatigue” (MQR 30 June 1951, 8; 30 Sept 1951, 8). The next year, Officer John Wrightson at Malu‘u quoted old Roberts and Goldie texts and argued for shooting people’s pigs, violating colonial law, and forcefully destroying birth huts and introducing “some cultural substitute,” all to reverse the severe depopulation he perceived (1952d; 1952f; 1952k, 3). However, by 1952 northern populations had been growing for decades. The indefatigable Charles Fox expounded cultural fatigue and substitution ideas well into the 1960s (1967, 47–49).

(86.) Some anthropologists supported indirect rule policies as a means to minimize disruption of colonized societies (see, eg, Roberts 1927, section 4; Mair 1936; Malinowski 1945, 138–150; 1961, 466; Horton 1965, 14; Porter 1975, 292–293; see also Bertram 1930, 92; Bodley 1982, 81).

(89.) Barrow nd, part 3, 55; see BSIP 1940a.

(90.) That this project might have influenced Maasina Rule was first noted in passing by Keesing (1978a, 47), apparently as suggested by Ian Frazer. See also the master’s thesis by Frazer’s student, Naitoro (1993).

(91.) MAR 1931, 5; Hogbin 1934, 263; see Bell 1922b; Ivens 1927; Sydney Herald 1933; Lambert 1934b, 8. In 1925, Bell had noted that all Malaitans were “retaining their virility” except those “northwest of the Maramasike Passage” (MAR 1925). Fowler, who served under Barley, referred to the “apathetic, zestless and declining people of Ariari” (1936, 3). The BSIP Annual Report of 1936 gives statistics showing overall births significantly outpacing deaths for 1934, 1935, and 1936, despite high influenza tolls in 1936, but provides no Malaita-specific numbers (AR 1936, 6).

(92.) Barley writing in MAR 1931, 3; MQR June 1931; and Lambert 1933, 3 June; 1934a; 1934b, 8; and 1941, 330, based on talks with Barley; see Fox 1925, 7; MAR 1930, 25; 1950, 2; Innes 1938, 8.

(93.) Ashley 1929b, 9; MAR 1929, 1930, 1931; MQR June 1930, March 1931, June 1931; Barley 1931a, 1931b; Fletcher 1932.

(94.) MQR June 1931; Barley 1931b; Horton 1965, 97; Lasaqa 1972, 295; see MAR 1931, 4; Chinnery 1932.

(95.) MAR 1929; Lambert 1934a, 31–33; Innes 1938, 23; Ashley 1934; 1935b; see (p.378) Allan 1949c, 19. Barley on Makira had set penalties of 10 shillings or a month in jail for failure to report births, deaths, or marriages to salaried “district chiefs” (1920). Malaita’s 1931 census counted only 603 boys and 285 girls between the ages of 6 and 16, of an estimated 40,067 total people (Lambert 1934a, 32). Though the census spawned repopulation efforts throughout south Malaita, only on Small Malaita did it indicate a significant sex imbalance (Barley 1931b). In 1937, tax lists led Sandars to greatly undercount mountain populations even in more accessible north Malaita (Innes 1938, 8, 23). Counting problems continued for decades. In mid-1947, when very few Malaitans were abroad, Sandars found at ‘Oloburi and neighboring Maanawai in ‘Are‘are that women outnumbered men 371 to 331, and in every age category, while at nearby Takataka 336 men outnumbered 258 women, a contrast on which he made no comment (1947d). In 1948, citing the still-standing 40,000 number, Germond wrote, “I submit that this figure is a fiction and that the last census does not in any way reflect the true figures,” and, “How many … hill villages there are and how numerous their inhabitants is not known but it is certain that there are far more than will be admitted by the headmen” (1948b, annexure A).

(96.) Bengough 1934, 3, 10, passim; Malaita District 1939b; BSIP 1940a; see SCL Nov 1910, 744; May 1937, 68; MQR June 1934; Deck 1937; Naitoro 1993, 38–44, 54–55; de Coppet 1981, 189–191; ‘Are‘are 2005b. The ‘Are‘are word houra or houraa (Sa‘a houlaa, Kwaio foulaa) literally means fame, renown, and prestige—what participants seek for their groups and their leaders (Geerts 1970, 38; Ivens 1972, 100, 160). Charles Fox was a rare European who appreciated the value of feasts, writing, “European influence has been against these feasts, condemning them as a heathen custom, a waste of time, and so on. The people’s time would be better given to making copra. But our Church helped to keep them, by and large, turning them in some islands into Christian festivals” (1962, 55; see Hogbin 1970, 214–216). Ivens 1972, chapter 7, summarizes types of feasts in the Sa‘a area of neighboring Small Malaita. One of Deck’s SSEM teachers, Hamuel Hoahania, compiled a list of 17 negative effects of houraa and said that current practice was not true custom. Deck submitted the list to Sandars (Deck 1937).

(98.) MQR March 1941, 2; see MQR Oct 1934; Deck 1937; Bengough 1941b.

(99.) Marchant quoted from Malaita District 1939b.

(100.) BSIP 1947e, 54, 60. Even in 1957, District Commissioner W St G Anderson was telling Malaitans that until brideprice had been reduced to the “absolute minimum … your country will be unable to develop its natural resources” (1957b).

(101.) See, eg, Ashley 1932b; White 1932b; Deck 1932, 1948c; Sandars 1937a, 1938b; Bengough 1940a; MAR 1941, 3; Germond 1948f. Allan later wrote that on Malaita, “Failure of the District Officer to conform to the ‘Mission Line’ in matters of marriage dispute, illicit fornication disputes, divorce, feasting, bride price, the authority of teachers, and the such like would result often in threats from the worthy heads of the mission like the Decks, that pressure would be brought to bear and the wretched young man would lose his job. The mission authorities through the Young family who ran the Malaita Company … had direct and powerful access to the High Commissioner and to the Colonial Office. Often the wretched young man would have to comply” (1951b, 7). There is no truth in this. Allan loathed the SSEM.

(102.) Sandars 1938b; Hogbin 1970, 211–212. More than once young men, on hearing such explanations for bachelorhood, have whispered to me with a smile, “The real reason he didn’t get married is that he was afraid of vaginas.”

(p.379) (103.) Bengough 1934, 10; 1935; 1940a; 1941b; MAR 1936, 9; 1941; Deck 1937; MQR June 1939; June 1941, 22; Malaita District 1941a, 22 May and 18 July; Sandars 1943b; Allan 1950a, 77; Bennett 1987, 275; cf Fox 1962, 55.

(104.) Bengough 1941b, 1. Naitoro summarized aspects of the Haumatana project and gives a table of government population figures 1934–1940 (1993, 76–83). He argued that the further decline was likely due more to a severe 1936–1937 flu epidemic than to the cultural practices Bengough blamed. This west ‘Are‘are area still has one of Malaita’s lowest population densities. Cadets in charge at Haumatana were Martin Clemens (Feb–July 1940), Michael Forster (Oct 1940–March 1941), and David Trench (touring May and July 1941). Native Medical Practitioner Geoffrey Kuper was there July 1940–July 1941, except when Guso Rato Piko relieved him from December to March. Later, Jock Beveridge was the agricultural officer. Plans for a second “central camp” inland along the “road” to Takataka never materialized (Marchant 1940b; Bengough 1941b). Piko was from Choiseul and in 1936 had graduated from Suva training and taken over ‘Aoke’s hospital. He later carried ‘Are‘are project ideas to Santa Cruz, where, when war came, the district officer left him in charge of Nidu. Piko there imposed rules including slashing brideprice and abolishing sexual compensation. Apparently against his wishes, people took his ideas further as “Guso’s New Law,” a fuller rejection of marriage and sexual rules, which sparked copulatory abandon in places. When Bill Davenport and I compared notes, we realized that the Haumatana project was thus an antecedent of not only Maasina Rule but also the Santa Cruz movement (see Innes 1938; Davenport 1970, 1989).

(107.) Thomas 1990, 164–167; 1994, 120–122; Scott 1998, 1. On nucleated villages, see Ivens 1918, 191; Campbell 1918, 42; Kane 1923b; AR 1933, 7; Deck 1948c; Chapman and Pirie 1974, 236–240; Nelson 1982, 37–38; Bennett 1987, 112; Scott 2007, chap 2. On Melanesians’ fleeting residence in them, see Barley 1921, 2; Thurnwald 1936, 351–352; Eastern District Annual Report 12 Jan 1945, 3; Oliver 1967, 15–17; Thomas 1994, 122; Tedder 2008, 79.

(108.) Marchant 1940b; Bengough 1941b; MQR March 1941; Clemens 1988; 1992 pers comm.

(109.) MAR 1925 (cf MQR June 1931); Garvey quoted in Knox-Mawer 1986, 61; various Kwaio personal communications; see Bengough 1938b; Sandars nd, 113–116; Keesing and Corris 1980, 103. For a broader discussion of the problems that fluid systems of personal naming have historically caused political regimes, and attempts to impose legibility through standardized naming practices, see Scott 1998, 64–71.

(111.) Bengough 1934; Deck 1940; Luke 1945b, 90; Forster 1946c, 4; Laracy 1983, 18; Fifi‘i 1989, 62; Clemens 1992 pers comm; Davies nd, 72. Fifty years later, Clemens asserted that he, not Bengough, deserved the major credit for the ‘Are‘are project, adding, “I believe I was really responsible for Marching Rule as I made them stand up and do something for themselves” (1988; see also Clemens 1998). Decades after, Davies wrote, weirdly, that in the mid-1940s Hoasihau was virtually alone in being concerned about Malaitans’ future (nd, 72).

(112.) Malaita District 1941a, 17 July; Sandars 1943b; MAR 1944, 5; Forster 1946c, 6; Naitoro 1993, 75; ‘Are‘are 2005b, 3; Davies nd, 72. Davies asserted that Sandars (p.380) later banned houraa completely, due to a brawl at one (nd, 308). The partially finished roads were completed in 1964 as part of a cocoa-farming endeavor (Naitoro 1993, 123). On 24 July 1943, Bengough, while acting resident commissioner, was killed at age 36 when Japanese Zeros downed a plane he was aboard as a Defense Force observer over the Western Solomons (Cooper 1946, 56; Homewood 2005).

(113.) See Isabel Annual Report 1941; Trench 1941; Wright 1941; Barrow nd, part 3, 22.

(114.) Marchant 1940b; BSIP 1941; [1947f?]; Kennedy 1967, 5; Campbell 1978, 286; Bennett 1987, 281–282. Hogbin later (1946, 38) said these early bodies were modeled on his proposals in Experiments in Civilization (1970), but I found no reference to that book in relevant government records, and councils were started in the second quarter of 1939, the year it was first published. He did influence the process, however (see Trench 1943; Hogbin 1944, 1945; Allan 1960, 161).

(115.) Malaita District [1941b?]; MQRs June 1939, March and June 1940, and March, June, Sept 1941; MAR 1941, 2–3; BSIP [1947f?]; Marchant 1940b, 7; Hogbin 1946, 38, 65. In mid-1940, Marchant asked Officer Donald Kennedy to design an experimental native administration scheme on Gela to respond to “passive resistance to Government,” likely referring to Fallowes’s meetings and discontents in their wake. In 1941, Kennedy initiated a structure of courts (with power only to refer cases to district officers) and village delegates who attended meetings presided over by headmen. Kennedy later said “enthusiasm was remarkable,” and he blamed wartime discontent on Gela on officers Sandars and Forster—posted there for a time—having failed to revive his program. He linked his project to Maasina Rule since Tulagi policemen from Malaita and Guadalcanal participated in it. Kennedy even proposed that the name “Maasina Rule” derived from his having called his initiative “Marchant’s Rule” when meeting with disgruntled Gela people in early 1944 (1967, 3, 6–9). Brian Murdoch later published an article about Kennedy’s claim and, like Kennedy, exaggerated the Gela scheme’s relevance to Maasina Rule’s origins, if indeed it had any (1980).

(116.) MQRs June 1939, June 1940, and March, June, Sept 1941; Bengough 1940a, 1941a, 1941b; MAR 1941, 2; see Clemens 1941; Campbell 1978, 287; White 1991, 199.

(117.) Marchant 1940a; MAR 1940, 6; MQRs June 1940, March 1941; BSIP 1941; Bengough 1941a; Sandars 1941a.

(120.) Marchant 1942a; BSIP 1942b, 1943a; Campbell 1978, 286.