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In the Isles of the Sea: The Story of Fifty Years in Melanesia

By Frances Awdry

London: Bemrose & Sons, Limited, 1902.

[143] Appendix I.


HEAD-HUNTING is commonly practised throughout the Solomon Islands. The natives set out in parties and conceal themselves and their canoes; they wait till defenceless persons come near when they fall upon them, murder them (with a club generally), and strike off their heads, which are carried off for trophies; or else they surround a village, set fire to it, and kill the inhabitants as they escape from the burning houses. There is but seldom any real fighting done. Often their guides to the villages are the slaves whom they have captured as boys in a former raid in the same neighbourhood. Sometimes it is done from a religious motive--to satisfy the spirits whom they worship; sometimes to avenge wrongs, fancied or real; sometimes for plunder. The threat of it is often used to extort blackmail. A head-hunter is naturally a man of great power and wealth.

Through Christian influence and the establishment of schools, the practice has ceased in parts of Mala, San Cristoval, Ulawa, and Guadalcanar. The whole of Florida (Gela) and the eastern end of Ysabel are free from it, and in the island of Savo it has dropped, possibly in part from the peaceable condition of their old enemies in Florida. In the rest of the islands it was rampant till very late years, and probably is so still in many places; but the English Government has now placed more adequate means in the hands of the Commissioner, who has long desired to eradicate the practice, and his action has struck a blow which will, it is sanguinely hoped, speedily produce its extinction.

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