Also known as: Society Islands; Tahitian

The indigenous people of the Society Islands, often known as 'Tahitians' after the largest island in the group.

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Traditional Culture(1742-1767)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Present, but not a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 47-122
Nature god(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 56-57
Ancestral spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 61-62
Deified ancestor(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 61-62
God(s) Present, and the principal focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 56-57, 884, 907, 912

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 120

Afterlife and Creation

One's actions while living can affect the nature of one's afterlife One factor in determining one's afterlife (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 526
The actions of others after one has died can affect the nature of one's afterlife Absent (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 526
Myth of humanity’s creation Present, and creationist (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 48-53
Primordial pair Present, and genealogically linked to humans now living (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 48-49, 52-53
Culture hero(es) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 53-54, 62

General Features

Forces of nature are controlled by or imbued with the supernatural Present (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 69

Classes of Tapu

Social hierarchy tapu Present (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 784, 1040
Resource management tapu Present (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 67

Mana

Mana as a personal quality Present (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 68-69
Mana as a spiritual or religious concept Present (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 69
Mana and social status Moderately associated (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 68-69
Mana related to social influence or technical skill Present (Source)
Practice +

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Absent (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 47-122, 375-408
Costly sacrifices and offerings Present (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 90
Size of largest ritual social group Larger than the largest political community in the culture (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 881-882
Political and religious differentiation Some overlap (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 869

Rites

Genital cutting Present in the culture as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 434
Tooth pulling Absent from culture (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 152-161, 431-445
Tattooing Present in the culture as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 431-434
Scarification Absent from culture (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 152-161, 431-445
Piercing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 157, 431-445
Social Environment +
Population 85,000 (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 7-46
McArthur (1967), pp. 235-279
Rallu (1991)
Rallu (2007)
Hamilton & Kahn (2007)
Population of largest political community 10,000-99,999 (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 1173
Importance of Patrilateral descent High (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 620
Importance of Matrilateral descent Medium (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 617, 620
Kinship system Hawaiian (Source)
Ferdon (1991), pp. 306
Marital residence Patrilocal or virilocal - with husband's kin (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 800-801
Polygamy Limited polygyny (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 463-465)

Conflict

Conflict between communities of the culture Common, at least every five years (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 387-388
Conflict with other cultures Rare or never (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 375-408
Conflict within communities Low (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 967-970
Cultural Isolation +
Contact with other cultures Frequent, through trade, warfare, travel, etc. (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 12
Distance to closest landmass inhabited by a different culture (km) 188.8 (Source)
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Ethnologue (Map of French Polynesia) (2014)
Distance to African or Asian mainland (km) 8988.5 (Source)
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Pre-Austronesian population Absent: No evidence of human occupation prior to Austronesian settlement (Source)
Bellwood (1995), pp. 109
Hindu / Buddhist influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.21
Islamic influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.23
Christian influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 3-5
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Animal husbandry as a source of food Medium (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 270-278
Land-based hunting performed by individuals Minor (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 278-281
Land-based gathering Major (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 242-243, 245-248
Land-based hunting performed by one or more groups Minor (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 278-281
Agriculture / Horticulture Principal (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 234

Water-based means of subsistence

Fishing and water-based hunting performed by one or more groups Major (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 281-303
Fishing and water-based hunting performed by individuals Major (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 281-303
Water-based gathering Medium (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 282-283

Commercial Activity

Trade / wage labour as a source of food Minor (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 229-234
Metalworking Absent (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 133-151
Physical Environment +

Geographical Range of Culture

Number of islands inhabited by culture Four or more (Source)
Oliver (2002), pp. 7, 12

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

Latitude -17.6 (Source)
Oliver (2002), pp. 7
Google Maps (2014)
Longitude -149.4 (Source)
Oliver (2002), pp. 7
Google Maps (2014)
Island type (island with largest culture population or largest island if unknown) Volcanic high island (Source)
Oliver (2002), pp. 7, 12
Island Size (km²) 1040.0 (Source)
Oliver (2002), pp. 7, 12
Maximum elevation (meters) 2237.0 (Source)
Oliver (2002), pp. 7, 12
Post Contact History(1767-2020)Expand All +
Religious History +

Conversion

Role of social status in conversion process Primarily a top-down process. (Source)
Ferdon (1991), pp. 305
Use of force in conversion Low (Source)
Ferdon (1991), pp. 305
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Present, and from non-Austronesian societies (Source)
Oliver (1974), pp. 4
Ferdon (1991), pp. 305
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
Ferdon (1991), pp. 307
Secular History +

Demographic and Social Changes

Foreign government systems Present, and of high importance (Source)
Finney (1973), pp. 18
Foster & West (2020)
Immigration Low (Source)
Foster & West (2020)
Language shift Medium (Source)
Foster & West (2020)
Foreign education systems High (Source)
Foster & West (2020)

Economic Changes

Changes in means of subsistence High (Source)
Foster & West (2020)
Exportation of goods to other cultures Present and substantial (Source)
Foster & West (2020)

Modern Infrastructure

Vehicles and roads Present and widely used (Source)
Foster & West (2020)
Air travel Present and long-distance (Source)
Foster & West (2020)
Sea port Present (Source)
Foster & West (2020)

Loss of Autonomy

Nature of loss of autonomy Largely involuntary (Source)
Finney (1973), pp. 18
Loss of political autonoomy High (Source)
Finney (1973), pp. 18
Current Culture(2020)Expand All +
Belief +

Religious Demographics

Dominant world religion Christianity (Source)
Foster & West (2020)
External Links
References
Bellwood, P. (1995). Austronesian Prehistory in Southeast Asia: Homeland, Expansion and Transformation. P. Bellwood, J.J. Fox, & D. Tryon (Eds.), The Austronesians: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (pp 113-114). Canberra, Australia: ANU Press.

Cribb, R. (2000). Historical atlas of Indonesia. Surrey, UK: Curzon Press.

Daft Logic Area Calculator. (2014). Retrieved from: http://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-area-calculator-tool.htm.

Daft Logic Distance Calculator. (2014). http://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-distance-calculator.htm.

Ferdon, E.N. (1981). Early Tahiti as the Explorers saw it, 1767-1797. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.

Ferdon, E.N. (1991). Tahiti. Encyclopaedia of World Cultures (Vol. II, pp 305-307). New York, NY: G.K. Hall & Co.

Finney, B.R. (1973). Polynesian Peasants and Proletariat. Cambridge, MA: Schenkman Publishing Company.

Foster, S. & West, F. J. (2020). French Polynesia. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/place/French-Polynesia

Google Maps (2014). Retrieved from maps.google.com

Hamilton, B. K. & Kahn, J. G. (2007). Pre-contact population in the ‘Opunohu Valley, Mo‘orea: An integrated archaeological and ethnohistorical approach. In P. V. Kirch & J.-L. Rallu (eds.), The growth and collapse of Pacific Island Societies (pp. 129-159). Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i Press.

Hanson, F.A. (1973) Political Change in Tahiti and Samoa: An Exercise in Experimental Anthropology. Ethnology, 12 (1), 1-13. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3773093.

Lepofsky, D. (1999). Gardens of Eden? An ethnohistoric reconstruction of Maohi (Tahitian) cultivation. Ethnohistory, 1-29.

McArthur, N. (1967). Island Populations of the Pacific. Canberra, Australia: ANU Press.

Newbury, Colin (1980). Tahiti Nui: Change and Survival in French Polynesia, 1767-1945. Honolulu, HI: University Press of Hawaii.

Oliver, D. (2002). On Becoming Old in Early Tahiti and in Early Hawaii. Papeete, Tahiti: Societe des Etudes Oceaniennes.

Oliver, D. L. (1974). Ancient Tahitian Society. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i Press. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctvp2n5ds

Rallu, J. (1991). Population of the French Overseas Territories in the Pacific, Past, Present, and Projected. The Journal of Pacific History, 26 (2), 169-186. DOI: 10.1080/00223349108572661.

Rallu, J. (2007). Pre- and Post-Contact Population in Island Polynesia: Can Projections Meet Retrodictions? In Kirch, P.V. and Rallu, J. (Eds.) The Growth and Collapse of Pacific Island Societies: Archaeological and Demographic Perspectives (pp 15-34). Honululu, HI: University of Hawaii Press.

SIL International. (2014). Map of French Polynesia https://www.ethnologue.com/map/PF