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Te Pito Te Henua, or Easter Island, by William J. Thompson, [1891], at


The natives did not attach any moral delinquency to the practice of thieving. They had a god of thieving, and successful operations were believed to be accomplished under his patronage, and only detected when not sanctioned by that spirit. The detected thief was made to suffer for his crime by an established system of retaliation peculiar to themselves, but the individual never lost caste or the respect of his friends. Thieves caught in the act might be beaten, knocked about, and the aggressor was permitted to offer no resistance in the efforts to escape, although he might be the largest and most powerful. Before the retaliation could be enforced, the theft had to be proven and fixed beyond question, then the plundered individual was at liberty to recover the value of the loss from any property available belonging to the robber, and in the event of the value not being recovered, articles of value could be destroyed to equalize the amount. Retaliation for theft could be enforced by the weak and feeble against the strong and powerful, and, any resistance would call to their aid the entire community.

The rite of circumcision, so common throughout Polynesia, is unknown here, and their language contains no equivalent word for it. At the present time, all the natives have professed Christianity, and the ancient customs have been replaced by the ceremonies of the church to a great extent, but since the departure of the missionaries there has been a tendency to return to the old ideas, and many superstitions and practices are mingled with their religion. The marriage ceremony is performed by the acting priest in the church, but the practice is permitted with children who have not reached the age of puberty, and the betrothal is conducted by parents, the relations of the female paying a stipulated amount, generally in food to be consumed by the friends at the feast given to celebrate the event. It, is not certain that polygamy ever existed, but an ancient custom permitted the husband to sell or lease his wife to another for a stated term. On account of the disproportion in the number of the sexes, celibacy was a matter of necessity, and

p. 466

probably originated this custom. Love of family is a strong trait in their character; children are fondly cared for, and the desire for offspring is general.

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