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An Introduction to Polynesian Anthropology

Government Officials

Government Officials

After the missionaries had quieted the people and the traders had discovered commercial possibilities, various nations took possession of the islands and appointed government officials to maintain law and order. The change was disconcerting to white settlers but, on the whole, it gave protection to the native inhabitants. Officials in the early days, however, were not particularly well prepared for their duties. They were probably well educated in everything except native culture. It was held that a white man, entrenched in office, was quite capable of dealing with any native population. The superiority of the white races was so established that they could do no wrong. However, the page 30theory of the superiority of the white man is not an infallible law, but an assumption which, like religion, has given comfort to thousands who believe in it. It was the native who had to study the white man, not the white man the native. Not until recent times have governments recognized that their officials should receive some training to enable them to better understand the people they must govern. This change of attitude has been due to the growth of the science termed anthropology. It was the schools of anthropology which urged upon governments the necessity of giving officials in colonial service a course of education which would enable them to appreciate native culture and teach them how to smooth over the difficulties in making the inevitable changes. Courses in anthropology for cadets entering the Colonial Civil Service were inaugurated at Cambridge, Oxford, and London Universities in England. In Australia, a similar course was given at the University of Sydney.

Of the United States' colonial possessions in Polynesia, the Hawaiians assimilated American culture as a matter of course, much like the Maoris of New Zealand did in their relations with the British, and the Samoans of American Samoa came under the jurisdiction of the United States Navy. In recent times, a course on race relations was established at American universities and, as a result of the present war, courses were organized by the Navy to train men for positions in civil administration in the Pacific Islands captured by the United States. In these courses, given mainly by University professors, special attention was paid to paving the way to an understanding of the native inhabitants. The subject of applied anthropology has assumed a deserved importance because it is capable of being applied to all cultures.

Though, as a class, early government officials did little to add to our knowledge of native culture, there were a few exceptions. Of British officials, Sir George Grey, when Governor of New Zealand, collected versions of Maori myths and traditions, which he published. Others were Lieutenant Colonel W. E. Gudgeon, Resident Commissioner of the Cook Islands; S. Percy Smith, Government Agent in Niue; and Basil Thompson, representative of the Fijian Government in Tonga. Of German officials, Augustin Krämer, while Government Medical Officer in Samoa, wrote his authoritative work on the Samoan Islands; and Chief Justice E. Schultz contributed interesting articles on Samoan law and on proverbial sayings. French officials produced little individually, but the Government at Tahiti printed the Bulletins of the Société des Études Oceaniennes; and M. de Bovis, Government Medical Officer, wrote a general work on Tahiti which provided the French with a reference book in their own language.