THE HISTORY OF MANKIND
Prof. Friedrich Ratzel
The Races of Oceania
The Races of the Pacific and Their Migrations
In the eastern districts the navigation of the Malays connects itself with that of the Micronesians. Their distant expeditions for purposes of trade or piracy, which ultimately became racial migrations, were carried on in outrigged or double boats with triangular reed or mat sails, and to this very day many of the Malayan prahus of recognised excellence have not an ounce of iron about them. Inland races in Malacca, in Borneo, Luzon, and other islands, have no vessels at all, and there are some fishing tribes who get along with bamboo rafts (so-called catamarans) after the Chinese model, and dug-out canoes.
Boat of the Luzon Tagals. (From a model in Dr. Hans Meyer's Collection, Leipzig.)
The races who have been most operative in the history of this widespread group, whether they be genuine Malays or Alfurs, Tagals or Goramese, are distinguished by their intimate acquaintance with the sea, to which in great measure they owe their conspicuous position. These are the races of whom it has been said that they would never build a house on dry land if they could find a place in the water. Their skill in navigation is sufficient to meet even European requirements.
The prahus belonging to the once piratical village of Sounsang in Sumatra on the Palembang coast, carried the post between Palembang and Muntok for years, across the tempestuous Banca Straits; and never within the memory of man were these light vessels seriously behind time. The Government of the Dutch Indies employ none but natives, mostly pure Malays, on board their large fleet of prahu-cruisers; though there are many Chinese and Arabs among the freighters. The Malayan prahu was originally a somewhat shallow boat with one sail, and having a keel.
The most renowned shipbuilders are the Ké islanders, whose boats, built of wood fastened with wooden bolts and rattan, sail through the whole New Guinea Archipelago to Singapore; and next to them the Badjos and Bugises of South Celebes, and the Malays of Billiton, Palembang, and Acheen. The Malagasies must have lost much of the art of shipbuilding, though they once suffered it to reach their island. Their usual boat is a "dug-out" with round bottom and no keel, provided with outriggers when at sea - the Hova boats have no outriggers - carrying large square or lateen sails made of mats of palm-straw, or of cloth.
In another kind of boat the floor consists of one hewn tree-stem, upon which the slim craft, most elegant in form, is built up with strakes hardly more than an inch wide. The sharp beak runs out in a kind of neck, raised high, and adorned with peculiar carvings; while the vessel tapers aft to a narrow stern, also elevated and similarly ornamented. These boats also have outriggers, are 20 to 30 feet long, and hardly 3 feet wide.
Their active sea-traffic is one of the most interesting features in the life of the Malays. It is no mere coasting-trade that is carried on by some expert navigators among the races of the Archipelago, notably the true Malays of Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula, and the colonists from thence in Borneo and other islands. They are not afraid of competition with the Chinese, whom they have obviously taken for their model, formidable as these are in trade; they act mostly as clever middlemen to them, pushing into the interior of the islands, where they are preferred by the native authorities, and also reaching farther eastward than the Chinese. They make use, moreover, of European communications.
Piracy has never succeeded in paralysing this native traffic, which indeed has known how to come to terms with it; nor, although not a year passes without some prahu from Goram being fallen upon by the inhospitable Papuans of New Guinea, does this injure it either, any more than it hinders the people of Tidor from visiting those coasts, abounding in slaves and trepang, with whole fleets.
Entire populations have been, as it were, rendered fluid by means of trade - above all the Malays of Sumatran origin, proverbially clever, keen, omnipresent; and the equally smart but treacherous Bugises of Celebes, who are to be found in every spot from Singapore to New Guinea, and have recently immigrated in large numbers into Borneo at the instance of local chiefs. So great is their influence that they are allowed to govern themselves according to their own laws; and they are so conscious of their own strength that there has been no lack of attempts to make themselves independent.
The Acheenese once held a similar position. After the decline of Malacca, which the Sumatran Malays had made an emporium, there were, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, several decades during the turning period of the world's history when Acheen was the busiest roadstead of the far east.
All things being taken together, the capabilities of the Malayo-Polynesians as navigators are pre-eminent. It is only because this estimate of them has not always been taken that their distribution assumed the look of a riddle, though in fact it was no riddle whatsoever.
With the dispersion of the Polynesian races over the islands of the ocean, first through storms and currents, then by voluntary migration, was associated in later times the traffic in men, called into existence by the growing demand for labour in regions of economic progress, like Hawaii, Samoa, or Queensland. In its beginnings it was indistinguishable from kidnapping. Men and boys were dragged from their homes by force, or decoyed by false representations, and carried to districts where they had never wanted to be.
The regulations framed later by various governments remained for the most part ineffective for want of officials to look after them. Even when the planters were compelled to send their Kanakas back at the end of three years, captains often landed them, for their own convenience, on some island where the poor creatures had never lived, and where they were ill-treated and often killed by the inhabitants. Since the arrival of Europeans, too, the decrease of the population has caused shiftings in most islands. Immigrants from a wide area, extending from New Zealand to the Marquesas, have come to Hawaii. On the other hand Hawaii is one of the groups whence native missionaries have propagated Christianity far into the Melanesian region.
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