The Kwaio historically lived in small, autonomous groups in the interior of the large island of Malaita. Their religion was heavily based on ancestral deities and their maintenance of moral standards within the community. The Kwaio were notable for their fierce resistance to colonisation and Christianisation, which resulted a punitive expedition being mounted against them in 1927, during which their religious sites were deliberately desecrated. Subsequently, many Kwaio converted to Christianity, although around a third continue to adhere to their indigenous religion to this day.

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Traditional Culture(1890)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Present, but not a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 1-246, 33, 35
Nature god(s) Absent (Source)
Keesing (1982)
Ancestral spirits Present, but not a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 33, 35-37
Deified ancestor(s) Present, and the principal focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 30-39
God(s) Absent (Source)
Keesing (1982)

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 31-33, 38-39, 68-73, 86-87, 93, 04, 225-227

Afterlife and Creation

One's actions while living can affect the nature of one's afterlife One factor in determining one's afterlife (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 104-110
The actions of others after one has died can affect the nature of one's afterlife Absent (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 104-111
Myth of humanity’s creation Present, and evolutionary (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 40-42
Primordial pair Absent (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 42
Culture hero(es) Absent (Source)
Keesing (1982)

General Features

Forces of nature are controlled by or imbued with the supernatural Present (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 79-80

Classes of Tapu

Social hierarchy tapu Present (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 19-20, 146-147
Resource management tapu Present (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 161
Kinship tapu Present (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 18-19, 225-227

Mana

Mana related to social influence or technical skill Absent (Source)
Mana as a personal quality Present (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 46
Mana as a spiritual or religious concept Present (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 46-47
Mana and social status Mana is associated with social status, but high social status is not necessary in order to be mana or have mana. (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 46-47
Mana linked to genealogy Present, linked to both paternal and maternal lines (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 10, 46-49
Practice +

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Absent (Source)
Keesing (1982)
Costly sacrifices and offerings Present (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 128-142, 134-138
Largest religious community Larger than a local community, smaller than the society (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 10, 76-79
Political and religious differentiation No overlap (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 19, 87-91

Rites

Tooth pulling Absent from culture (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 30-39, 91-94
Scarification Absent from culture (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 30-39, 53, 57, 91-94, 114, 124-126, 130-131, 149, 154-155
Piercing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 30-39, 91-94, 154, 174, 203
Tattooing Absent from culture (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 30-39, 53, 57, 91-94, 114, 124-126, 130-131, 149, 154-155
Genital cutting Absent from culture (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 30-39, 91-94
Social Environment +
Population 7500 (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 13
Population of largest political community 99 or fewer (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 10, 17
Importance of Patrilateral descent High (Source)
Keesing (1991), pp. 161
Importance of Matrilateral descent Medium (Source)
Keesing (1991), pp. 161
Kinship system Hawaiian (Source)
Keesing (1991), pp. 162
Polygamy Monogamy preferred, but exceptional cases of polygyny (Source)
Keesing (1991), pp. 162
Marital residence Patrilocal or virilocal - with husband's kin (Source)
Keesing (1991), pp. 161-162

Conflict

(No) external warfare Rare or never (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 13-20
Conflict within community Endemic (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 18-19, 225-227
(No) internal warfare Common, at least every five years (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 22
Isolation +
Contact with other cultures Frequent, through trade, warfare, travel, etc. (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 20
Distance to closest landmass inhabited by a different culture (km) 0.0 (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 13
Distance to nearest continent 1790.0 (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 13
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Pre-Austronesian population Present: Clear 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 but in a region where contact is likely (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 22
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Animal husbandry as a source of food Medium (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 14, 9-82
Agriculture / Horticulture Principal (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 13-14
Land-based hunting performed by individuals Minor (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 14
Land-based gathering Minor (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 13-14
Land-based hunting performed by one or more groups Minor (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 14

Water-based means of subsistence

Fishing and water-based hunting performed by one or more groups Minor (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 14
Water-based gathering Minor (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 14
Fishing and water-based hunting performed by individuals Minor (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 14

Commercial Activity

Trade / wage labour as a source of food Minor (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 14
Physical Environment +

Geographical Range of Culture

Number of islands inhabited by culture One (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 13, 15

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

Island type (island with largest culture population or largest island if unknown) Volcanic high island (Source)
'Malaita' (2019)
Island Size (km²) 4200.0 (Source)
Moore (2007), pp. 214
Maximum elevation (meters) 1438.0 (Source)
'Malaita' (2019)

Location

Latitude -9.0 (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 13, 15
Google Maps (2014)
Longitude 160.9 (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 13, 15
Google Maps (2014)
Post Contact History(1890-2014)Expand All +
Religious History +

Conversion

Role of social status in conversion process Mixed / Neither (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 234
Use of force in conversion Medium (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 23-24, 234
Adoption of a world religion Present and major (Source)
McLaren et al (2009), pp. S125
Keesing (1967A), pp. 84-89
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Present, and from non-Austronesian societies (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 232-233

Syncretic Movements

Syncretic religious movements Present, but did not survive to the present-day (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 24-26
McLaren et al (2009), pp. S125
Secular History +

Economic Changes

Changes in means of subsistence Medium (Source)
Solomon Islands Government (2001A), pp. 20-22
Keesing (1982), pp. 24
Exportation of goods to other cultures Present and substantial (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 24

Modern Infrastructure

Vehicles and roads Present but rarely used (Source)
McLaren et al (2009), pp. S126
Air travel Present, local only (Source)
Solomon Islands Government (2001A), pp. 18-19
Sea port Absent (Source)
Solomon Islands Government (2001A), pp. 19

Loss of Autonomy

Loss of political autonoomy High (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 23-26, 28-29
Nature of loss of autonomy Largely involuntary (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 23-24

Demographic and Social Changes

Immigration Absent (Source)
McLaren et al (2009), pp. S125
Keesing (1982), pp. 26-29
Foreign government systems Present, and of high importance (Source)
Keesing (1982), pp. 28-29
Current Culture(2014)Expand All +
Belief +

Religious Demographics

Unofficial religious syncretism Low (Source)
Akin (2004), pp. 303-304
Institutional religious syncretism Low (Source)
Akin (2004), pp. 303-304
Dominant world religion Christianity (Source)
McLaren et al (2009), pp. S125
External Links
References
Akin, D. (2004). Ancestral Vigilance and the Corrective Conscience: Kastom as Culture in a Melanesian Society. Anthropological Theory, 4 (3), 299-324. DOI: 10.1177/1463499604045566

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.

Churchill, W. (1916). Sissano: Movements of Migration Within and Through Melanesia. Washington, D.C.: The Carnegie Institute of Washington.

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.

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

Keesing, F. M. (1962A). The ethnohistory of northern Luzon. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press

Keesing, R. M. (1967A). Christians and Pagans in Kwaio, Malaita. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 76 (1), 82-100. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/20704444

Keesing, R. M. (1967B). Statistical Models and Decision Models of Social Structure: a Kwaio Case. Ethnology, 6 (1), 1-16. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/3772734

Keesing, R. M. (1982). Kwaio Religion: The Living and the Dead in a Solomon Island Society. NY: Columbia University Press.

Keesing, R. M. (1985). Killers, big men, and priests on Malaita: Reflections on a Melanesian troika system. Ethnology, 24(4), 237-252.

Keesing, R. M. (1991). Malaita. Encyclopaedia of World Cultures (Volume II: Oceania) (160-163). New York, NY: G.K. Hall & Co.

Keesing, R.M. (1968). Chiefs in a Chiefless Society: The Ideology of Modern Kwaio Politics. Oceania, 38 (4), 276-280. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40329737

Keesing, R.M. (1978). Politico-Religious Movements and Anticolonialism on Malaita: Maasina Rule in Historical Perspective. Oceania, 48 (4), 241-261. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40330367.

Malaita (2019). Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/place/Malaita

McLaren, D., Asugeni, J., Asugeni, R., & Kekeubata, E. (2009). Incorporating Sociocultural Beliefs in Mental Health Services in Kwaio, Solomon Islands. Australasian Psychiatry, 17, S125-S127. DOI: 10.1080/10398560902948381

Moore, C. (2007). The Misappropriation of Malaitan Labour. The Journal of Pacific History, 42 (2), 211-232. DOI: 10.1080/00223340701461668

Solomon Islands Government (2001). Malaita Province Development Profile. Honiara, Solomon Islands: Ministry of Provincial Government and Rural Development.