Do You Bring Your Gods With You or Do You Find Them There Waiting? Reconsidering the 1790 Polynesian Colonisation of Pitcairn Island.

Martin Gibbs, David Roe


This paper re-examines the early years of the 1789 Bounty encounter with Pitcairn Island, with a specific focus on some of the potential perceptions and responses of the Polynesian colonists to their new home. We argue that when viewing the Bounty arrivals as a colonising population, the perceptions and reactions of the Polynesian participants almost certainly included responses to an existing spirit population within the Pitcairn landscape that was most likely undetectable and incomprehensible to the Europeans. In particular we draw on the notion that, especially in the early years, the Polynesians were engaged in a constant series of negotiations with spirits and other components of the landscape in order to make social, conceptual, and spatial sense of their new surroundings.


Pitcairn Island; Colonisation; Polynesian Mythology; Bounty;

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