The Lau people historically lived on artificial islands made of coral in the Lau lagoon of northern Malaita. The Lau economy centred around resources from the sea, but the Lau also practiced agriculture on land they owned on the mainland. Lau religion centred around on the worship of ancestral beings, some of whom took the form of sharks. In the 1980s, the Lau were the subject of a documentary involving the decline of their indigenous religion due to Christianity and forces of modernity.

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Traditional Culture(1875-1900)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Absent (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 140-141
Nature god(s) Absent (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 140-141
Ancestral spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 129, 132
Deified ancestor(s) Present, and the principal focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 129, 132
God(s) Absent (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 140-141

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 151

Afterlife and Creation

One's actions while living can affect the nature of one's afterlife One factor in determining one's afterlife (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 126, 135-137
The actions of others after one has died can affect the nature of one's afterlife One factor in determining one's afterlife (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 126, 135-137
Myth of humanity’s creation Absent (Source)
Maranda (2001), pp. 98
Primordial pair Absent (Source)
Maranda (2001), pp. 98
Culture hero(es) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 140-148

General Features

Forces of nature are controlled by or imbued with the supernatural Present (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 167

Classes of Tapu

Kinship tapu Present (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 80-81
Resource management tapu Present (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 238

Mana

Mana as a personal quality Absent (Source)
Blust (2007), pp. 418
Ivens (1930), pp. 137
Mana related to social influence or technical skill Absent (Source)
Mana as a spiritual or religious concept Present (Source)
Blust (2007), pp. 418
Ivens (1930), pp. 137
Practice +

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Absent (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 129-161, 178-201
Costly sacrifices and offerings Present (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 149-161
Size of largest ritual social group Larger than a local community, no larger than the largest political community in the culture (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 75-92, 90-91, 149-161
Political and religious differentiation Some overlap (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 84

Rites

Piercing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 125
Genital cutting Absent from culture (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 125-127
Scarification Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 126-127
Tattooing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 125-126
Tooth pulling Absent from culture (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 125-127
Social Environment +
Population 5500 (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 50
Population of largest political community 1,000-9,999 (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 50, 90-91
Importance of Patrilateral descent High (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 80
Importance of Matrilateral descent Low (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 80
Keesing (1991), pp. 161
Polygamy Limited polygyny (Source)
Hays (1991F), pp. 144
Marital residence Patrilocal or virilocal - with husband's kin (Source)
Hays (1991F), pp. 144

Conflict

Conflict with other cultures Occasional, at least every generation (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 90-91, 178-201
Conflict between communities of the culture Occasional, at least every generation (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 49, 90-91, 178-201
Conflict within communities Moderate (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 80-81, 84-85
Cultural Isolation +
Contact with other cultures Frequent, through trade, warfare, travel, etc. (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 253, 261-262
Distance to closest landmass inhabited by a different culture (km) 0.0 (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 24-28
Ethnologue (Map of Solomon Islands) (2014)
Distance to African or Asian mainland (km) 5817.0 (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 48-53, "Sketch Map of Mala"
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 (1991), pp. 160
Ivens (1930), pp. 42-43, 53, 71-73
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Animal husbandry as a source of food Medium (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 113-117, 243-275
Agriculture / Horticulture Major (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 253, 266-273
Land-based hunting performed by individuals Absent (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 113-117, 243-275
Land-based gathering Medium (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 113-117, 243-275, 250
Land-based hunting performed by one or more groups Absent (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 113-117, 243-275

Water-based means of subsistence

Fishing and water-based hunting performed by one or more groups Major (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 253-261
Water-based gathering Major (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 256-257
Fishing and water-based hunting performed by individuals Major (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 253-261

Commercial Activity

Trade / wage labour as a source of food Major (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 253, 261-262
Physical Environment +

Geographical Range of Culture

Number of islands inhabited by culture Two (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 48-53, "Sketch Map of Mala"

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

Latitude -8.4 (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 48-53, "Sketch Map of Mala"
Longitude 160.8 (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 48-53, "Sketch Map of Mala"
Island type (island with largest culture population or largest island if unknown) Volcanic high island (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Malaita) (2014)
Island Size (km²) 4200.0 (Source)
Moore (2007), pp. 214
Maximum elevation (meters) 1438.0 (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Malaita) (2014)
Post Contact History(1900-2014)Expand All +
Religious History +

Conversion

Role of social status in conversion process Mixed / Neither (Source)
Woodhead (1987)
Use of force in conversion Low (Source)
Woodhead (1987)
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
Woodhead (1987)
Keesing (1991), pp. 163
Secular History +

Demographic and Social Changes

Foreign government systems Present, and of high importance (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 45

Economic Changes

Changes in means of subsistence Medium (Source)
Molea & Vuki (2008), pp. 30
Exportation of goods to other cultures Present and substantial (Source)
Ivens (1930), pp. 45-46

Modern Infrastructure

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)
Ivens (1930), pp. 45
Current Culture(2014)Expand All +
Belief +

Religious Demographics

Dominant world religion Christianity (Source)
Woodhead (1987)
Keesing (1991), pp. 163
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.

Blust, R. (2007). Proto-Oceanic *Mana Revisited. Oceanic Linguistics, 46(2), 404-423. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20172322

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

Encyclopaedia Britannica (Malaita). (2014). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/359476/Malaita

Ethnologue (Map of Solomon Islands). (2014). Map of Solomon Islands. Retrieved from http://www.ethnologue.com/map/SB.

Hays, T.E. (1991F). "Lau". In T.E. Hays (Ed.) Encyclopaedia of World Cultures (Volume II: Oceania) (pp 143-145). New York, NY: G.K. Hall & Co.

Ivens, W. G. (1930). The Island Builders of the Pacific. London, UK: Seeley, Service & Co. Ltd.

Ivens, W.G. (1931). The Place of Vui and Tamate in the Religion of Mota. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 61, 157-166. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2843828 .

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

Maranda, P. (2001). Mapping Cultural Transformations through the Canonical Formula: The Pagan vs. Christian Ontological Status among the Lau People of Malaita, Solomon Islands. In Maranda, P. (Ed.). The Double Twist: From Ethnography to Morphodynamics (97-120). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Molea, T. & Vuki, V. (2008). Subsistence Fishing and Fish Consumption Patterns of the Saltwater People of Lau Lagoon, Malaita, Solomon Islands: A Case Study of Funaafou and Niuleni Islanders. SPC Women in Fisheries Information Bulletin, 18, 30-35.

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.

Woodhead, L. (Director) (1987). Disappearing World: The Lau of Malaita. London: Granada Television International.