An attribute of the Gilbertese

It was no concern of the men with canoes

Dalrymple notes that the Gilbertese

neither forgot nor forgave an injury. They might take their revenge many years later.

They were

entirely lacking in public spirit, seemingly concerned only for the welfare of their own extended families.

They were capable of displaying

a callousness towards the sufferings of those not of their lineage which foreigners were bound to find repellent.

In Fool or Physician, Dalrymple relates that the Pacific historian and anthropologist H.E. Maude, who was Resident Commissioner of the Gilbert and Ellis Islands Colony in the late ’40s,

told the story of how he one day saw a woman drowning out to sea. He asked some men with canoes who were standing on the shore watching her plight why they did not rescue her. ‘Why should we?’ they replied. ‘She is not our relative.’

Report on the colonisation of the Phœnix Islands

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