San Cristobal


Four groups totaling about 10,000 individuals live on the high volcanic island of Makira or San Cristobal: the Arosi, Bauro, Kahua, and Tawarafa. San Cristobal is located in the southeastern Solomon Islands at approximately 10° S and 160° E. The languages of the island are classified in the Eastern Oceanic Group of the Oceanic Branch of Austronesian languages. Most settlements are on the coast, though they extend inland several thousand feet. The settlements are organized into hamlets consisting of a cluster of houses irregularly situated around a central place. Houses are of pole and thatch, and they are often decorated with paintings and statues.

The diet is based on coconuts, which are the specialty of the coastal areas, and root crops (mainly yams and taro), which are the specialty of the inland areas. Sago is also harvested along the coastal marshes. Other trees of importance are breadfruit, Canarium almond, and various fruit trees. Domesticated pigs and hunting are complemented by fishing in the deep sea (for bonito) and along the shore. The seasonal exploitation of the sea worm is an important source of protein. Land is owned by the resident extended family. Canoe building was formerly a highly specialized and Respected craft. In the past, shell money, consisting of shell rings and strings of shell-disk beads, was used in interisland trading expeditions.

The most important kin groups are bilateral extended families. Bride-price payments are required and are generally collected from the members of a man's entire domestic group. Residence is patrilocal, descent is patrilineal, and polygyny is common among the wealthier men. The primary domestic group is a bilateral extended family; these families are organized into larger patrilineal descent groups, each of which traditionally had a hereditary line of chiefs. Big-men also exist on San Cristobal, and they are generally the wealthiest and most influential men in the community.

In the past, human sacrifice was practiced to propitiate the ancestors. Mana, or supernatural power, is greatly revered and believed to be possessed by certain persons, ghosts, and certain objects. Ancestor worship is a major part of the indigenous religion, with ghosts of ancestors considered to be the most important supernaturals.

See also Guadalcanal , Malaita


Ivens, W. G. (1927). Mehnesians of the South-East Solomon Islands. London: Kegan Paul.

Verguet, T. (1885). "Arossi ou San Christoval est ses habitants." Revue d'Ethnographie 4:193-232.

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