Tongan Chiefdoms

1851 Words8 Pages
Tongan Chiefdoms The Tongan archipelago, located in Polynesia, extends to about 300 kilometers and includes from 150 to 200 islands. The largest islands within the group are Tongatapu, ‘Eua, and Vava'u. Only three other islands are inhabited; Eva, Niuafo'ou, and Niuatoputapu (Goldman 1970: 281).Tonga is on the western side of the international date line. Radioactive carbon dating of a Tongan specimen gave us a date going back to about the 5th century B.C. This date is the oldest of all of Polynesia (Lieb 1972: 79). Among the Polynesian chiefdoms, Tonga is unique because of its level of political development and extensive travel and exchange (Kirch 1984: 217). The entire archipelago was controlled by a pair of sacred and secular paramount chiefs. The placing of the islands in a south- west to north-east position made traveling easy. During the trade-wind season traveling up and down the chain of islands was easy (Kirch 1984: 219). Despite the lost coral islets and atolls, the islands have extremely fertile soil. However, certain conditions do affect development. The islands are small with fixed boundaries and are occupied by tens of thousands of people. Irrigation is not possible, limiting their agricultural capabilities to dryland field systems. Being in the middle of the ocean leaves them susceptible to natural disasters such as cyclones and droughts (Kirch 1984: 221). The rainfall is about 1500 mm to 1800 mm a year which made the islands flourish. Animal husbandry was well developed as was agriculture. The Tongans used swidden agriculture raise yams, aroids, and bananas. Although the land was not allowed to lay fallow for very long, it was kept fertile through mulching. There was also an emphasis on land division... ... middle of paper ... ... over males of the same generation. The father is the head of the household with authority over his wife and children. Even so he still must answer to the wishes of his older sister who in some ways is a "chief" (Lindstrom and White 1997: 49). REFERENCES CITED Gailey, C. W. 1987 Kinship to Kingship. University of Texas Press, Austin. Goldman, I. 1970 Ancient Polynesian Society. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Kirch, P. V. 1984 The Evolution of the Polynesian Chiefdom. Cambridge University Press, New York. Leib, A. P. 1972 The Many Islands of Polynesia. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Lindstrom, L. and G. M. White (editors) 1997 Chiefs Today. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. Sahlins, M. D. 1958. Social Stratification in Polynesia. University of Washington Press, Seattle.

More about Tongan Chiefdoms

Open Document