The Last Island

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The Last Island

Post by Rashmun on Fri Dec 02, 2016 11:46 pm

https://theamericanscholar.org/the-last-island-of-the-savages/#

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Re: The Last Island

Post by Rashmun on Sat Dec 03, 2016 1:01 am

the pleasures of being a professional anthropologist:

The anthropologists could not understand the Jarawa language; they still cannot. But there were other ways to communicate. “They loved to play with us, young and old, men and women,” Pandit says. “They thought nothing of climbing onto our shoulders, naked, to go for a ride down the beach. I remember once that I was running down the beach with two Jarawa girls, with a hand on each of them, on their shoulders, when one of them seized my hand and placed it over her breast as we ran. It did not seem sexual—just that it was perhaps a more convenient place for my hand to rest. You know, clothing and things like that are inconveniences of modern man.” Indeed, before landing, the anthropologists would strip down to shorts or underpants so as not to frighten the aborigines. Sometimes several Jarawa would surround a helpless scientist and, laughing, tear his remaining clothes off.

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Re: The Last Island

Post by Rashmun on Sat Dec 03, 2016 2:17 pm

The Andamanese had certain noteworthy talents, but few that could profitably be applied to the needs of a colonial settlement. They were excellent bowmen, amazingly proficient swimmers (some could even shoot arrows accurately while treading water), uncanny mimics, and skilled jungle trackers, able to communicate across miles of forest by banging out signals on the buttress roots of certain trees. So the British put them to use hunting down escaped convicts—a reasonable occupation, though hardly enough to occupy them full-time. A few of the natives were employed as nannies, since it was quickly noticed that they were remarkably affectionate with children, the Europeans’ as much as their own. Others were kept as objects of amusement in Port Blair households, to be dressed up and coddled—at least until their masters’ tours of duty ended, when they were left to fend for themselves. “The Government of [British] India,” one official noted approvingly, “[has] adopted a policy towards the aborigines of the Andaman Islands which has made them, above all races of savages, the most carefully tended and petted.” Here are some names given to Andamanese in the nineteenth century by the British, which I came across in various old documents: Topsy, Snowball, Jumbo, Kiddy Boy, Ruth, Naomi, Joseph, Crusoe, Friday, Tarbaby, King John, Moriarty, Toeless, Punch, Jacko, Jingo, Sambo, and Queen Victoria.

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Re: The Last Island

Post by Rashmun on Sat Dec 03, 2016 2:18 pm

A moment later, everything exploded. The aborigines fired first; the Andaman Committee, an instant later. Three Andamanese were shot dead, including one warrior—a “chief,” the committee later decided—who sank down in his canoe “almost with the dignity of Caesar.” The survivors leapt into the sea and made for shore. All was chaos in the explorers’ longboats as well: men howled in pain, some of them wounded by arrows and others by a volley of bullets that the second boat had accidentally discharged at the first.

And somehow, amid this confusion’, an Andamanese ended up inside one of the European boats. It is not clear how he got there. The only sources we have are two different accounts by the Andaman Committee chairman; one says that the man was seized as he tried to swim away; the other, that he grabbed a leather strap thrown to him from the longboat. Willingly or not, he fell into enemy hands, and was brought back to the Pluto.

Once aboard the steamer, at least, he does not seem to have struggled. The sailors promptly named him Jack, and dressed him in an old coat and trousers. (The clothes must have belonged to one of the cabin boys, since Jack, though a full-grown adult, was well under five feet.) One of the crewmen gave him a plug of chewing tobacco, which he swallowed; another tried to teach him, unsuccessfully, to smoke a clay pipe. Meanwhile, the members of the Andaman Committee earnestly debated what to do with him. They finally decided, in “the interests of humanity,” to take him with them. So the Pluto got up steam and headed north again, with Jack gazing wistfully over the rail as the Andaman Islands slipped into the distance. The only thing that cheered him up was Neptune, the ship’s dog, who came trotting over to sniff at him. Remarkably—for dogs were completely unknown to the Andamanese—Jack threw his arms around the animal’s neck and began to caress it, and the two were inseparable companions for the rest of the voyage.

Back in Calcutta, where the Andamanese warrior was kept in the Andaman Committee chairman’s own house, he became an object of intense interest, and his spirits improved a bit. He was given a fine suit of clothes, shown off at tea parties, and taken out for drives in a carriage. He was introduced to the viceroy, Lord Canning, as well as to Canning’s wife, whom he attempted to greet in traditional Andamanese fashion by blowing into her hand with a cooing murmur. (Her ladyship declined the honor.) He was also taken to visit a photographer so that his picture could be sent to the great German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. Jack’s keepers wanted him to pose naked for the camera, but by this time he had grown used to European modesty, so it took some effort before he acquiesced, and in the resulting photograph, he squints awkwardly into the lens. Still, it is recorded that when this picture was shown to its subject, he laughed heartily and exclaimed, “Jack!”

One night, however, after Jack had been in Calcutta for less than two weeks, he awoke with severe pains in his abdomen. A doctor rushed to his bedside and found that his case presented all the symptoms of cholera. Mustard poultices and blisters were applied, and after a few days the cholera seemed to pass, but by now Jack was also suffering from severe inflammation of the lungs. Earnest consultations were held at the highest levels of government (in the National Archives of India, there is a scribbled note in Lord Canning’s own hand, inquiring anxiously about Jack’s health), and it was quickly agreed that the unfortunate captive should return to his home. Since this meant depriving him of European medicine, it is odd that the British officials were so eager to relieve themselves of his presence—but in any case, they were.

So, by order of the viceroy, Jack was loaded with as many presents as he could carry—pots, pans, beads, mirrors, carpentry tools, cloth, thread—and put again aboard the Pluto. The steamer reached South Reef Island early one morning and, after a final set of anatomical measurements was taken, Jack was put ashore. (When the longboat approached, some natives were spotted watching from the beach, but they fled before it reached them.) By this time, his medical condition had worsened.

“It could not be ascertained,” the Pluto’s surgeon reported, “whether he was pleased or not at being restored to his home.” But the sailors made their affectionate farewells, unloaded the gifts, and set Jack’s fine new clothes by his side, in a little heap on the sand. As they rowed back toward the steamer, they could see him standing there silently where they had left him, naked again on the beach.

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