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Revised 2010-03-20

James Morrison Journal
On Tubuai and the Tubuaians

Sep 17, 1789

Mr. Christian told him that He was going to Taheite at which he seemd rejoiced, and askd if he would let him and his two Friends go with Him, to which Mr. Christian agreed and they expressd Much Satisfaction, and having filld sufficient fresh water we weighd our anchors on the 17th and dropt down to the Opening without much trouble the Ship being much lighter then before, and having got clear of the Reef we lay by & filld Saltwater to keep her on her legs and at noon made sail, Map leaving Toobouai well Stockd with Hogs Goats Fowles Dogs & Cats, the Former of which were increased to Four times the Number we landed, but before I take my leave of the Island it may be proper to give some account of it and its Inhabitants.

Toobouai lies between 22° and 23° South and about 209° East Longitude, is about 6 Miles in length from East to West, and about 22 miles in Circumference, being surrounded by a reef, a full mile from the Shore, and on the East part near 3 miles, having but one break or entrance on the N W part where the passage is but indifferent; tho in some places there is 4 or 5 fathoms—Within the Reef are six small keys Cover'd with Wood, Chiefly the Toa, a hard Wood, of which, the Natives make their Clubs & Spears— Four of these Islands or keys are on the N E Part and the others on the S E.

The Island is Mountainous with a border of Flat land running almost quite round of a Mile or a Mile and a half wide, great part of which is Covered with trees and underwood, which makes it difficult to pass by any other road then the Beach; to the Eastward the land is fertile and the low land broader then on either side, but the West end is rocky and barren. Off this part the Water is in general very shoal, and the reef nearest the Shore—the lowland is in general Coral Sand, or rock Covered with a Fine Black Mould which in many places is not more then a Foot thick tho in some places it runs to a good depth—Near the Foot of the Hills, are Numbers of large Flat Stones and the earth is of a reddish Collour Covered with Fern, Reeds & Bamboo and on the top the ridges, are Naked rocks of hard brown Stone, tho the water is Shoal in some parts, yet in others there was no bottom with 40 fathom of line.

It produces Breadfruit, Cocoa Nuts, Yams, Tarro, Plantains, and almost evry thing Common to the Society Islands and the reef affords Plenty of Fish and large Turtle. The Cloth tree here grows to a larger Size then in the Society Isles, tho they do not Cultivate it; they have Most of the Trees in Common with the Other Islands, they have also a Species of the Primrose. The Island is Watered with innumerable rivulets from the hills, which being bankd up for the Cultivation of Tarro, affords Shelter to the Wild Ducks, which are here in plenty & affords also plenty of Fine Eels Shrimps prawns & a fish like the Millers thumb. The Island is full of Inhabitants for its size and may Contain 3000 souls, their Collour is nearly the same as that of the Society Islanders; but they are more robust and have a more savage appearance, and this is hieghten'd by the Turmerick & the oil that they Use to Collour their Cloth, which gives them a Yellow disagreeable look.

The Men wear their Hair and beards in different forms as they please, and the Young Weomen wear their hair Long flowing in ringlets to their Waist and dress it with the White leaves of The Fwharra or Palm like ribbands and Odoriferous Flowers. They also make necklaces of the Seeds of the ripe palm apple & flowers Elegantly disposed; which not only Sets their persons off to advantage but afford a Continual Nosegay to themselves and all who sit near them and they are in General handsomer Weomen then any we saw in those seas—nor do they make use of the Lewd Motions or gestures in their dances so much in Use in the Society Isles tho they are equally good at that diversion and move with a becoming grace, and their dances seem Nearly those of the Friendly then the Society Isles.

Children of Both sexes go naked till they are 5 or 6 years old; the Boys have their Heads mostly Shorn; but the Girls hair is Sufferd to grow long which, as it is not of a strong Wiory nature but flows in ringlets, when they arrive at 14 or 15 sets them off to much advantage, —the Old weomen Cut off their Hair when they Mourn the loss of their relations but we observed no marks of this kind on any that appeared Capable of Child bearing.

They never kill their Children here as at the Society Islands, nor do they know any thing of Societys; they are Careful of them and use them very tenderly. They have no Marriage Ceremony, but Join and live as Man & Wife while they agree; nor is virtue deemd of any consequence among them. While they agree they live on the Estate of either, & if they part after having Children the Man takes the boys and the Woman the Girls, & each retire to their own Estate, the Children being No Obstacle being no hindrance to their getting other partners, They Have no Tattowing nor do they Cut the Forskin but keep away all superfluos hairs from the Body; as they Seldom bathe in the Sea they are but indifferent Swimmers or Divers, the rivers being too Shallow for that exercise and few or none of the Weomen know how to swim at all.

Their Dress is similar to that of The Society Isles & both Sexes wear pearl shells in form of a Gorget with Collars of Hair Neatly plaited, these shells are Common but as we Saw No pearls, it is possible, as they always find them on the reef frequently dry, that the Oysters may loose their pearls while they lay open and half dead with the heat of the Sun after the Surf has thrown them up.

Their Temper appears in many respects Similar to the Indians of North America then any of their Neighbours; they seem rather Serious then lively and appear to be always ruminating on some Important business.

When they go abroad, they have each a large piece Glazed Cloth of a Purple Collour which they Carry folded up, except it happens to rain, when they wear it by way of Cloak; if the rain Continues they Strip & tye a Girdle of Grass & leaves about their Middle, if they have no matting on, and Wrapping their Cloaths up in their Cloak proceed home, or to the next house when they have Dry Cloaths to put on.

Their Cloth and Matting are made from the Same Materials and after the same manner but is much Coarser, but they have a Method of dying & Glazing it so as to make it Turn the rain and Scenting it with sweet flowers & perfumes, they prefer the Cloth plant or Chinese Paper Mulberry to any other tho they have several other trees & Shrubbs fit for that purpose but this is the most durable; they do not bleach it so well as the Society Islanders and their principal Collours are purple, Red & Yellow, the latter they extract from the Turmerick which grows in abundance here, but the others we could not learn how they prepared.

Their Houses are built of an Oval form and at a distance resemble a long hay stack, they are from 40 to 80 feet long, and from 15 to 30 broad and about as much in heigth—the ridge is a Strong Beam, supported by two or more pillars, Chiefly Toa, and the Sides and top are a Frame of Strong timbers Squared to 5 or 6 Inches and firmly lashd together, the Thatch is neatly made and Well put on is of the Fwharra or Palm leaves and will last several years; the Thatch reaches the Ground on the Back & Ends and on the front within about 6 feet, the Front is Closed with Timber Neatly Carved & painted with a redish Collour and has several Openings about 4 feet high & 2 1/2 Wide which have shutters, answering the double purpose of Doors & Windows, these Shutters are also Carved with rude figures of Men & Weomen and the Inside is Neatly lined with reeds, about 4 or five feet up—the Floor is Covered with Grass, to a good thickness, and a division in the Middle with a tier of Stones to part the Men & Weomen, at the end belonging to the Men is a place seperated from the rest for the purpose of Burying the Males of the Family; in this place is fenced by a teir of Flat Stones set up [on] end four or five feet high, and here the Weomen must not Come—in this place they keep the Images of their Fore fathers or Tutelar deitys, as they beleive that their Souls are fond of seeing respect paid to their remains, and that they always hover about the place of these representatives. They are Curiously Carved and decorated with human hair, & the teeth and Nails of their departed friends, red feathers, & Pearl Shells neatly disposed.

The Chief of their furniture is Matts for sleeping on Baskets of Several Sorts and Neat platters of different Sizes for Holding their provisions, Stools for Beating pudding on and a Stone or pestle for that purpose, the Stools & Platters are Made of the Tummannoo, or Callophylum Mophylum, with the Nut of which they Scent their Cloth—and when they go to Sleep they beat the Musquettoes out and make a fire at each Door to keep them out—as they are very troublesome and together with Fleas & lice keep them employd till Sleep gets the better of them, and the Rats run over them all night in droves, but as we left several Cats it is possible that in time they may reduce their Numbers. They have No Snakes or any thing more Venomous then a Centipede or Scorpion, and their Birds & insects are Common to all the Society Isles. Their Food is Chiefly Breadfruit (which they preserve as the Society Islanders do making it into a sour past[e] Calld Mahee) Yams, Tarro, Plantains, Cocoa Nuts, Wild Roots & fish which they Bake in the Same Manner as at the Society Isles; they always Cook out of doors and the Weomen & their Servants are under the same restrictions Nor Can a Woman toutch What her Child has toutchd while the Child remains Sacred, and the Weomen are prohibited eating the Turtle, Cavally, Dolphin & Albicore but may eat all the rest; they have abundance of the White Salmon, and plenty of dilicious rock fish with Shell fish of several kinds, among which are a sort of Cockles which are excellent when Stew'd. The Turtle is also Sacred to the Men and is only Used as Sacrafices or eaten by the Cheifs & Priests.

Their Canoes are diferently built from any of the other Islands which we have seen, and are from 30 to 40 feet long and Carry from 12 to 24 men; they are narrow at the bottom, Spreading out to 16 or 18 inchs at the Gunnel, and Carry their bearings to the top, they are about 2 feet deep, and Sharp toward the head & Stern the Head resembling the Head of some Animal with a large mouth, and the Stern rises into a Scroll neatly finished and Carved. The Canoes are built of Several pieces well trim'd & Joind together by Seizings of the Fibres of the Cocoa Nut, the whole painted with a redish paint, and on the Sides are stuck with breadfruit, Pitch, the Scales of the Parrot fish & Small Shells, in a number of arches, which have a handsom appearance.

They are Built of Tummannoo & Breadfruit and are Well finishd, Considering their tools, Which are no other then a Stone or Shell adze, bones, & Sharks teeth with Coral & Sand to rub them Smooth—after which the Skin of the Stingray, Nourse & Shark Serve to pollish the Work, which were all the tools We Saw them use, their paddles are from three to four feet long, and the blade is Circular, having a ridge on the one side like our Oars, but the other is hollow'd out instead of being flat. Their Fishing Geer are Hooks and lines, large Seines, Spears of different kinds pointed with Toa which evry fisherman makes for Himself; their Hooks are of Pearl Shell, Which they grind into form with a Stone & Sand, and drill a hole with a piece of a Shell or a Sharks tooth fixd in a long stick which they Work between their hands after the Manner of a Chocolate Mill after which different sizes of the Branchy Coral Serve for files to Cut the hollow of the Hooks to their fancy; they have no beards to their Hooks but turn them with the Bow more rounding & the Point Close to the Back—they are of different forms as the Fisherman fancys—their lines & Netts are Made from the Bark of the Roa and are well twisted in three Strands.

They have no sailing Vessels and Never leave the land except they are blown off as all the Islands of which they have any account are at too great a distance for them to hold any intercourse, and when they fish within the reef seldom use their paddles but get along with long poles or staves to prevent frightining the fish, they may be in Chace of; the White Salmon and the Turtle they Catch with their Nets some of which are very large and they have Several fine white Beaches to haul their Seines on. They have abundance of the Yava or Intoxicating peper which grows without Cultivation, and they use it in the Same Manner as the Society Islanders prefering the method of Chewing it to any other.

They Cultivate nothing but the Tarro, a root of the Nature of a Yam which Grows in Watery Ground, the tops of which Make excellent greens, in the Cultivation of this root both Men & Weomen labour, taking great Pains to level the Ground and bank it up, so that the Water May Cover the Whole of it, their only Method of digging being with a pointed Stick and hauling the Brush up by the roots and when they find it Necessary to level a piece of Ground, they Carry the earth about in baskets saving the Stones for embankments, and find whether it is properly leveled by turning a Stream of water into it; as some of them are always employd weeding or planting, they always Carry with them a long staffer wand, with which they knock down the Ducks which they come within reach of, at this they are expert and frequently Come on them unperceived the leaves of the Tarro keeping them from the sight of the ducks till they are within reach.

Their war weapons are made of Toa, they are Spears or Lances 18 or 20 feet long, and regularly taperd from within about 12 or 14 inches of the Heel to the point, Clubs which answer the double purpose of Clubb & Spear; these are from 9 to 12 feet long, 2/3rds of which is a round Staff about the Size of the Common Spunge Staves, the remaining part is flat blade about 4 inches wide in the Middle and tapering from the Middle, each way; the point being Sharp enough to peirce a Mans body; on the head of the Staff where the blade Commences is wrought a Double diamond all wrought from the Solid and the Whole polish'd & finishd in a Stile that some good artists would be surprized at. The old Men have Walking Staves & handles of Fly flaps made of the same wood, highly finishd, on the Top of their Staves they generally have Carved a double figure of a man representing a figure with one Body & two Heads & some of two, standing back to back, their Fly flaps are made of the Fibers of the Cocoa Nut twisted & platted very Curiously.

When they are Accoutered for War, they bind a piece of red Cloth or Matting, or both, round their Waist with a Sash Made of the fibers of the Cocoa Nut Platted into Sennet, at each end of which hangs a tossel of the Same. Round their waist they fill all the folds they Carry a Number of Flinty Stones; the Shoulder is Mostly bare, on their Breast a pearl Shell hangs in a Collar of braided hair, and their head defended by a Cap made of the fibers of the Cocoa Nut wrought after the Manner and something in the form of a Bee Hive; they are Covered with White Cloth, and on the top, a Bunch of black feathers from the Man of War Bird, and with a Spear or Club are Complatly equipt. Some of these Caps have a pearl shell on the front with a Semicircle of Feathers from the Wild ducks Wings round it, but these are more for Show then use but the Others will resist a severe blow, and a Cutlass will make no impression on them.

They Use Neither Slings, nor Bows, in War, and tho their Weapons bespeak them to be Warriors, yet it does not appear that they distroy the habitations of each other as in other Islands: many houses appear to have Stood Several Years, but they perhaps satiate themselves with blood for they appear to fight furiously. Their Music are drums made of about 12 inches diameter and 4 feet long hollowed out after the Taheite Manner and Covered with Shark Skin, others of about 18 or 20 inches high, & 10 diamiter, Conch Shells with long tubes, Flutes of a larger size then those of Taheite but Used in the same Manner—and the Sound of the Whole of them is more harsh and disagreeable then those of The Society Isles; tho the Workmanship is superior.

Their Morai's or places of Worship differ from these of the Society Islands, being all Flat pavements and having a number of large Flag Stones placed on end in tiers or rows in the Center, they are planted with the Tee or Sweet root having a long Stalk of about 6 feet long, and as thick as a mans finger; these places have each a little house on on[e] Side, and bear some resemblance of a burying ground; here they offer Sacrifices of Men and Turtle. When a sacrafice is to be made all the Males in the district assemble at the Morai and the Old Men and the Priests (who are numerous) always bring their Walking staves in one hand and a young Plantain Tree in the Other, these are thrown in a heap with long prayers when (if the sacrafice is to be a human one) the Victim is pointed out, & knocked down, When they soon dispatch him with their Staves which are sharpend at the point for the purpose. The Body is instantly dissected with Bamboo knives, and each takes a part which he wraps in the leaves of the Tee and each Carries it to his own Morai, where it is again offered, with a plantain tree—the Head, bones & bowels are Interd in the Morai, and a Stone put up, not to perpetuate the Memory of the Man but as a mark for the Number that have been Offered there. Some of these Morals has Numbers of those Marks. A Feast is then made, and eaten in the Morai, by the priests, of Fish, Bread, Tarro &c —part of which is also offered with long prayers. The friends of the Victim, if he happen to have any, put up with it quietly for fear that they should follow him, on the Next like occasion. We knew of no more then two being Offerd during our Stay both of which were Young Men. Besides the General Morai, each Father of a Family has one, Where they Make frequent tho not regular Prayer and Offerings, and if they are taken Sick they beleive it to proceed from the anger of the Eakooa (or Deity) or from Some of their relations; or Should they go to War in a Wrong Cause they think that any Sickness which befals them at the time is sent as a punishment on them for their fault—On our first anchoring in Bloody bay Most of the Inhabitants of the Island flockd to that place, the land about which is an Uncultivated Swamp, and In the Course of the Few days that they remaind there for want of their Usual Bedding, they Caught Colds, Agues, & Sore Eyes Running at the Nose &c. —and all these they said fell on them through our means, and on this Account it was that we found Such an Alteration in their behaviour when We Anchord the Second time.

But the Priests, who Seemd to have all the Athority and be Nearly on a footing with the Chiefs, Seeing that we were no Other then Common Men and liable to accident like themselves, Could not bear to see such superiority as the Europeans in general usurp over those who differ from themselves, and became jealous of us with respect to their religious authority to which they saw that we not only refused to take notice of but even ridiculed, for this reason they used all the Means in their power to keep the Chiefs from making Friends, thinking perhaps that if we staid in the Island, their Consequence would be lessen'd, which in all probability would have been the Case.

The Island is Govern'd by three Chiefs, Tinnarow, Tahoohooatumma & Heeterirre before Named, each of whom are absolute in His own district and of these two are related by Marriage, Tinnarow having The Sister of Tahoohooatumma to Wife, yet they do not agree; and notwithstanding* the Smallness of their territories they are continually at War. There Are Other Chiefs, who reside as private Gentlemen; of those we found Tummatoa to be one, Who on our first Coming Acted for Heetererre, and Taroatchoa acted for his Father; one of these are always as it were in Commission and the other on Half Pay and if one is removed by War, Death or otherwise the other always Supplys his place, receiving his honors nor does the deposed Chief suffer no more then the loss of Command and is always treated with respect, but no man can ever arrive at that dignity unless his Father Was a Chief. Their Classes are the Same as at the Society Isles, but the Priests seem to have more Influence and appear to be next to the Chiefs in point of Authority.

Their Language is a dialect between the Society & Friendly Islands but not so much different from either as to prevent its being understood by both; and it is more then probable that they are all decenced originally from the same stock, tho so much Different in their Manners Customs and Appearance. In Other Countrys it is observed that the Inhabitants of the Northern & Southern Climes are more robust in general then those within the Tropics but it is to be observed in those Seas in Islands at an Inconsiderable distance from each other in a North & South direction. Perhaps this may be occasioned by the different degrees of Fertility of the Islands, which are generally more Fertile near the line then at a distance from it and the Inhabitants of those Isles where evry Necessary is Supplyd by Nature have no occasion to Cultivate the Earth and are less robust and vigourous then those Who have Exercise and Labour in procuring their Food.

The Inhabitants of Those Islands drive about in their Canoes to an amazing distance and I am therefore led to think that the whole of the Islands in these seas might have been peopled from South America, Notwithstanding the difference of their Language Manners & Customs all which are liable to Change in length of Time yet the present language of all the Islands in these Seas differ no more then the English dose in different Countys. On one of their Morais we found part of a Canoe which we knew to belong by its form to some of the Society Islands; and on making enquirey, one of our Taheiteans (Named Toobyroo, Colemans Friend) declared that She was the same that had been drove off From Taheite with Six or Eight More, of which he related the Following Story.—Some years before our arrival at Taheite the Districts of Heedeea, Maatavye, Fwhapyeano, Yunnowheaa Teearey & Oparre (Commonly calld, Teppirreonoo or Teeahharoa) being at War with Attahooroo, Sometimes Calld, te Orapa, each district furnish'd their proportion of Men & Canoes; to one of which, He (Toobyroo) belongd; being then resident in Fwhapyeano, the Canoes being assembled at Oparre, they proceeded to a place in Attahooroo Calld Terooaboo, where they landed, and attackd the Orapaa but were repulsed, and forced to retire to their Canoes; however, they brought off several of the Enemys dead, one of which was put into Toobyroos Canoe. In the Meantime the Orapaa Fleet came up and Closed them so vigorusly that they were forced to Fly, and at last to Jump overboard and take to the Shore at Taboona (another part of Attahooroo) leaving their Canoes to the Enemy who followed them on Shore without seizing their Canoes, where they were forced to fly to Oparre; the Wind being offshore Some of the Canoes were drove on the reef and dashd to pieces and Eight or nine drove to Sea among which Toobyroos was one and these they saw no more of.

This story agreed exactly with the account of the Natives of Toobouai and we had no doubt of the part of the Canoe found here being the same that Toobyroo described, as the time of Her Coming on Shore agreed, and part of a man being found in her with the Flesh decayd, and eaten off the Bones by the Birds, She must have been some days in drifting here as the distance is Nearly 6 Degrees of Lattitude but nearly on the same Meredian of Longitude. This Circumstance led us into further enquirey to know if any such thing had happend before; when we found that the Present Tummotoa was Great great Grandson to a Chief of the Island of Ryeatea (an Island 120 Miles N W of Taheite) who had been driven off in a fishing Canoe, and after being drove about for some time, had landed on this Island which was then but thinly inhabited by some people, who had been driven to it in the Same Manner from an Island which they Calld Paroodtoo which they described to be at a great distance to the Westward and some others from an other which they Call'd O'Gweeva to the Eastward. On his arrival he settled himself not knowing his way home, and was acknowledged as a Chief by these people, he also Gave Names to three Districts from the three Islands of Ryiatia, Tahaa, & Hooaheine, which they still retain.

This was further Confirmed on our return to Taheite, where we learnt from Obirreroa, the present Queen Dowager, and Mother of oToo (or Matte,) who informd Us that Her Great great Grandfather Named Tummatoa, a Chief of Ryeatea, was lost or blown away in a Fishing Canoe and had never been heard of since, and the Young Toobooai Chief was imediatly acknowleged as her relation and adopted the Friend of Matte who wishd to make a voyage to Toobouai to Claim his kindred with Tummatoa. The time of these Circumstances agreed so well with both their Accounts that we remaind in no doubt of their being Facts.


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