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Retrograde Tribes


the struggle with nature, man descends as well as ascends. The unfavourable conditions into which nomadic tribes frequently come produce not infrequently, a perverted type that is lower than the animals to which our semi-human progenitors of the extremely remote past belonged. "The instincts of the lower animals," says Darwin, "are never so perverted as to lead them to regularly destroy their own offspring or to be quite devoid of jealousy."1

In parts of New South Wales, such as Bathurst, Goulburn, and the Lachlan, or Macquarie, "it was customary long ago for the first-born of every lubra to be eaten by the tribe, as part of a religious ceremony; and I recollect," says J. M. Davis, "a black fellow who had, in compliance with the custom, been thrown when an infant on the fire, but was rescued and brought up by some stockkeepers who happened accidentally to be passing at the time."2

Ellis declares that among the Marquesans who inhabit a group of islands to the south-east of Hawaii, children are sometimes, during "seasons of extreme scarcity, killed and eaten by their parents to satisfy hunger."3

It has been said that the social, moral, and intellectual condition of woman indicates, in an ascending scale, the degree of civilization of every tribe

⚫ Darwin, Descent of Man, p. 46.

John Moore Davis, "Aborigines of Australia," in Brough Smyth, vol. ii., p. 311, Aborigines of Victoria.

› William Ellis, Tour through Hawaii, p. 300.

and nation. It might with equal force be said that the attitude of the tribe or nation toward its young is also a barometer of progress. Behind the harsh measure and savage customs, underneath the cruelty and at times ferocious indifference to pain, there is in general among the lowest of the tribes an affection for their young, once it has been decided that they are allowed to live.

In that too frequently suppressed affection, stunted as it is by customary law and the unequal struggle with nature, there is the beginning of humanitarian progress. Given reasonable security that there will be a sufficiency of food supply and a surcease of neighbourhood wars, this affection will pass from precept to concept and protect even the unborn.1

"No people in the world are so fond of, or so long-suffering with, children," Stevenson says of the same South Sea Islanders among whom he has just said infanticide is common. But even after it has been decided to bring up the child, and it has become an object of great affection, it is still in danger should famine conditions seem imminent, 3 or should the cupidity and avarice of the parents be aroused, with the consequence that children are readily sold into slavery.4

Sir John Lubbock, The Origin of Civilization, p. 3.
Stevenson, In the South Seas, p. 38.

Lucien Young, U. S. N., The Real Hawaii, p. 78.

4 John Foreman, The Philippine Islands, p. 206. Worcester, The Philippine Islands, p. 208.

Dean C.

South Sea Island Customs 45

Nature's methods are stern, and her progress slow; despite perplexing examples of reactionary forces, the primitive move is steadily toward an understanding of one's duties as a human being— or he dies. For the civilized man, pain is nature's warning that he has violated the rules of his own body, and for the primitive man, decay and despair are the warnings that the path of progress lies the other way.

Looking over this vast field, including not only blacks, Mongols, and Indians, but even the Europeans, as we shall come to see later, we gather that those that have struggled upward have been only those who have taken nature's lesson of lessons to themselves. Horrible as is the story of these stationary and degenerate peoples that we get, what must be the whole story, with its full picture of anguish?

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