a nonlinear artwork
for wild 2002 : : birds
devastation of avian species that accompanied the Polynesian colonization of Oceanic
Pacific islands is now well recognized, due substantially to the work of David
Steadman. In his contribution to this volume, Steadman describes the reciprocal
relationships between humans and birds in Polynesia and Melanesia, first noting
the extinction and extirpation of bird species due to direct human predation and
other anthropogenic factors (habitat loss, forests destruction, and predation
by pigs, rats and dogs).
Steadman notes the utility of birds to the Polynesians as food, navigation aides,
and sources of feathers and bones for tools. Drawing on the ethnographic record
to document the relationship between birds and Polynesians, Steadman describes
the increasing pace of avian and habitat extinction in Polynesia since European
contact when market production and population pressure required expansion of agriculture
and exacerbated deforestation."
Review of Journal of Political Ecology: Case Studies in History and Society
VOLUME 6 (1999) Historical Ecology in the Pacific Islands: Prehistoric Environmental
and Landscape Change. Edited by Patrick V. Kirch and Terry L. Hunt, New Haven:
Yale University Press (1997). 331 pp. Reviewed by Charles J. Stevens, Program
in Population Research, University of California - Berkeley.
feathers mean more than that to Polynesians. Here is a link to the Bishop
Museum Hawaii feather page.
early Hawaiians had a little-known tradition of featherwork, both in wearing apparel
and feather fans, as evidenced by the examples collected on one of the expeditions
of Captain Cook in the 1700s. Because the volcanic islands lacked precious metals
or gemstones, the Polynesians and later the Hawaiians came to treasure natural
materials such as feathers, Niihau shells, and whale ivory for their beauty and
have been associated with wealth in many cultures. In the Solomon Islands, large
coils of feathers were even used for currency. Flight has always symbolized freedom
and spiritual power, and feathers were used not only by the American Indians in
their familiar headdresses, but also in delicate fans used by the Emperors of
China. In old Hawaii, the feather cape became a symbol of power, not unlike the
crown of a European monarch."
bird in the photo above is a Tui, a native of New Zealand Aotearoa.