National Geographic : 1943 Jan
War Finds Its Way to Gilbert Islands "My ears are thine; my tongue is thine." "Tell me, then, whence thou comest." "I come from the south." There ensues another long pause, ere the stranger proceeds to enlarge upon this information. "I come from that island in the south. I come from the island of Tamana." Such is the ideal conversational style of the Gilberts. "He comes," says the questioner turning to his friends (who have already heard every word so far spoken), "from the is land of Tamana, to southward." Chorus of friends: "A-ii -a!" in tones of infinite satisfaction; and then, "Anaia" (proceed). The spokesman pro ceeds: "And where art thou sitting?" "I am sitting in the sitting place of my ancestors." "And what is the name of that sitting place?" "It is called Such and-such." "Yet, maybe, it is Dancers in Remote Villages Wear Only Grass Skirts Although Gilbertese girls are not so pretty as their Samoa cousins, they are spirited and healthy. Their dances are similar to thnoe nf hpttpr l-nwrn not the sitting place Polynesian folk. of thy ancestors." "Sir, it was the place of my father, and of his father before him, and of his father's fathers." "Relate, then, the origin of thy father." "So-and-so was his ancestor," answers the stranger, naming the legendary progenitor of the whole clan. "Take up the tale," says everybody at once, and the newcomer enters upon his real examination. Under a raking cross fire of questions he must relate the ancestral tradi tions, down through the generations to the point when his own forebears branched off from the main stock. The test is searching, the audience critical; but if the stranger's tale passes muster he is at once free to every house in the clan settlement. He will receive food and clothing for as long as he cares to stay, and a handsome present of money on departure. The Cult of the Skull Strolling among the canoe sheds of a village one day, I came upon an odd sight. In the shadow between two canoes sat an old, old man engaged in conversation with a skull. He held the grim object at arms' length before his face, muttering endearments, and then, as I watched him, took it into the crook of his elbow to fondle it as a child. When he had set it down on the ground before him, and remained in pensive silence, I asked, "Grandfather, what are you doing with the skull?"