To what extent were Polynesians in contact with one-another before European contact?

To what extent were Polynesians in contact with one-another before European contact?

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Pacific islanders (Polynesians, Melanesians, Micronesians) before contact with Europeans were able seafarers that had discovered and settled virtually all Pacific islands that could sustain permanent settlements, including rather isolated ones such as Rapa Nui (Easter Island), New Zealand, and Hawaii. Furthermore, there were empires spanning numerous islands spread out across hundreds of kilometers, such as the Tu'i Tonga empire. This gives the impression of a sophisticated seafaring culture that would extensively explore and regularly visit all noteworthy lands found in and around the Pacific ocean.

However, this does not appear to be the case. Instead, some island cultures would - for lack of resources for shipbuilding or for other reasons - lose the ability to build oceangoing vessels. This is the case for both Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and the Moriori of Rekohu (Chatham Islands). It is conceivable that they preferred isolation over maintaining contact with other islands, though the hardships resulting from changing their way of life and their subsistence economy may make this unlikely. But why were they not rediscovered by other Polynesians?

It seems that some island populations even became extinct when natural resources were exhausted. An example are the Polynesian settlements on Pitcairn and Henderson Island, though this has been linked to civil war on Mangareva Island with which they were apparently in contact.

Furthermore, if they could explore and settle almost every single Pacific island, why would they have missed the surrounding continents, which presumably would have been quite a bit easier to find? There is limited evidence for interactions with South America on a very limited scale, but there was apparently no established trade network let alone migrations of political interactions.

Regarding exchange between Pacific Islands and Australia, there may simply be no record of this. Two HB questions (this one and this one) regarding this resulted in the assessment that: 1. there are no known prehistoric contacts between native Australians and Pacific islanders (specifically Maori). 2. Pacific Islanders (whether Polynesians of Melanesians or others) would have had no interest in settling Australia (different climate from what they were used to). 3. They would not have had superior weaponry over that of the Australian Aborigines.


To what extent were Pacific island cultures in contact with one-another? What was the nature of their seafaring?

  • Was it a continuous and extensive trade network with political interactions like in the ancient Mediterranean?
  • Did such a trade network exist only in the core areas, such as in the the Tu'i Tonga empire, with outlying islands being isolated?
  • Were interactions rather local, to neighboring islands only, with a few rare examples of daring explorers visiting far-away lands?
  • Did this change over time with periods of extensive trade and integration and periods of the breakdown of inter-island exchange?
  • Was ocean-seafaring done by only a small group (a caste? a tribe?) of the wider population?
  • Or was, while the capabilities existed, no seafaring conducted for the purpose of trade (and consequently no need for continuous exchange over longer distances)?

Edit (March 10 2018): As suggested by @Semaphore I now limited the scope of the question to Polynesians. I do not want to discourage interesting insights about Melanesians or Micronesians or others, but maybe this will make the question easier to answer.

"Was it a continuous and extensive trade network with political interactions like in the ancient Mediterranean?"

No. Unlike the Mediterranean, trade is much more marginal in Polynesia. The problem is that all of the islands pretty much all had the same resources. Now, within the same island chain, there was potential for specialisation in comparative advantages. One notable example is the trade of moa meat from South Island to the North Island within New Zealand - there was bird meat in the north as well, but the relative abundance in the south meant short-distance trade made sense.

Beyond nearby islands within the same island group, the vast distances rapidly makes most trading not worth the trouble.

Although inter-island canoes did ply between the islands of the group and to a few islands outside it, trade was only a small part of the Tahitian economy… trade between the volcanic islands which contained the bulk of the population was probably limited to unique specialties, such as a special type of red feathers for the adornment of sacred loin-clothes worn by ruling chiefs, for each high island contained most, if not all, the range of resources available in the group as a whole.

Finney, Ben R. Polynesians Peasants and Proletarians. Schenkman Publishing, 1973.

However, as the example above hints, the main exception is religious or ceremonial items.

"Did such a trade network exist only in the core areas, such as in the the Tu'i Tonga empire, with outlying islands being isolated?"

In fact the Tu'i Tonga trade network is an example of such trades in ceremonial goods.

It appears that the pre-eminent Tongan context for the use of Fijian and Samoan trade goods was, and is, on ceremonial occasions and especially weddings, funerals, and various kinds of state and religious celebrations. At funeral presentations Samoan fine mats are the most important material object - a number of them being necessary as a cover for the dead and as gifts.

Kaeppler, Adrienne L. "Exchange patterns in goods and spouses: Fiji, Tonga and Samoa." The Australian Journal of Anthropology 11.3 (1978): 246-252.

This went hand in hand with the other major reason for transoceanic Polynesian contact - marriage.

In Tongan society, a woman and her children were traditionally of higher rank than her brother. If the highest ranekd sister of the Tu'i Tonga married a tongan, her son, being of superior rank, could pose a threat to the ruler's political position. By marrying a prominent Fijian, the Tu'i Tonga Fefine protected the Tu'i Tonga's status, since her offspring were considered to belong to the Fijian line, the Fale Fisi, and thus ineligible for Tongan kingship. For the hau or active ruler, a marriage with a Tongan woman might produce children of diminished rank, a problem the hau and other Tongan nobles often avoided by marrying high-ranked Samoan women. From the Tongan standpoint, Samoa served as a wife-giver and Fiji as a "husband-giver".

Hommon, Robert J. The Ancient Hawaiian State: Origins of a Political Society. Oxford University Press, 2013.

In this way, dynastic concerns served to maintain a link between the disparate edges of the so-called "Tu'i Tonga empire". The resulting familial ties were a major reason for long distance voyages between far apart islands. Early Polynesian settlers of both Hawaii and New Zealand made return trips for genealogical visits.

Unlike shorter distance examples like the Tui'tongans, however, Hawaii and New Zealand were too far away to keep up regular exchanges. Voyagers grew more and more infrequent until they ceased altogether when family ties died out, literally.

"Were interactions rather local, to neighboring islands only, with a few rare examples of daring explorers visiting far-away lands?"

As seen in the case of the Tu'i Tonga example, the islands were not actually "neighbouring". However, in general most voyages were indeed only regional, at least relative to the vast expanses of the Pacific. This does not mean only "daring explorers" range far, though. Beyond the initial discovery, detailed knowledge of how to reach the islands of Polynesia were often passed down generation to generation.

One example was Tupaia, known to the West for having boarded the HMS Endeavour during Captain James Cook's voyage to New Zealand. Even though he had only ever been to a few personally, mostly nearby ones, Tupaia knew of some 130 islands across Polynesia, including Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji on the eastern end of Polynesia, and Marquesas to the east. Moreover, he remembered from his forebears detailed instructions on how to get to the islands.

He was not, however, aware of Hawaii or New Zealand.

"Did this change over time with periods of extensive trade and integration and periods of the breakdown of inter-island exchange?"

The curious thing about the aforementioned gap in Tupaia's knowledge is that Hawaii was reputedly settled by Marquesans and Tahitians. This indicate that Tahiti's knowledge of the further islands did indeed die out after the voyages ceased.

In contrast, kinship ties to Taihiti was preserved in Hawaiian memory.

It is thus on account of her being the mother of chiefs, both here [Hawaii] and in Tahiti, that she is called Papa Nui Hanau Moku. She is said to have been a comely, handsome woman, very fair and almost white. Papa is said to have travelled eight times between Tahiti and Hawaii, and died in a place called Waieri, in Tahiti, during the time of Nanakehili, the fifth in descent from her and Wakea.

Cartwright, Bruce. "The Legend of Hawaii-loa." The Journal of the Polynesian Society 38.2 (150 (1929): 105-121.

"Was ocean-seafaring done by only a small group (a caste? a tribe?) of the wider population?"

It depends on how far you mean. Obviously, only vey specially trained navigators, as Tupaia was, could have known how to reach islands hundreds and even a thousand kilometers away. They could not have seen where they were going, and had to rely on specialist knowledge of navigation by sun and the stars, as well as wave and wind patterns.

On the other hand, the ability to kayak between nearby islands within a local island group was not remarkable.

There was contact, but trade wasn't on their mind. A few factors to consider:

  1. The land is incredibly fertile. Fish are simple to gather, the land is lush and full of ready food sources, and there are tons of resources to make tools from.

  2. Islands are relatively consistent. Most islands usually contained the same generally abundant resources and there was little one could make on one island that couldn't be made on another. Simple economics, it's cheaper to make the goods locally than it is to trade over the seas.

  3. Land is scarce, not resources. There is really no parallel on the planet to this. 3b?. People also fit into above… none of these civilizations had large populations.

If you consider war an export, then yes… they traded frequently.

Conflict history of hawai'i:

War of Tonga and Samoa:

The Tu'i Tonga in particular set up a large chain of basically vassal states that would pay tribute to them.

More on the Samoan wars

Wars amongst the Samoans were for a long time frequent and bloody; indeed, it was seldom that the islands were free from actual warfare or local quarrels, which were often decided by an appeal to arms. It was so in the olden times, and a remarkable statement in an old tradition reveals very strikingly the warlike sentiment.


Speaking of the Samoans as he found them in 1830, John Williams says, 'The wars of the Samoans were frequent and destructive… . The island of Apolima was the natural fortress of the people of Manono, a small but important island. These people, although ignorant of the art of writing, kept an account of the number of battles they had fought, by depositing a stone of a peculiar form in a basket, which was very carefully fastened to the ridge of a sacred house appropriated to that purpose. This basket was let down, and the stones were counted whilst I was there, and the number was one hundred and twenty-seven, showing that they had fought that number of battles.' And this was the list for one portion of the islands only! In this record, too, a stone was not placed after every conflict or battle, but simply at the close of each struggle or campaign, the stones being larger or smaller according to the duration of the conflict

Cook islands (Roratongo):

The history of Mangaia illustrates the attempt of the Ngariki to keep the position of Temporal Lord of Mangaia within their own tribe, and their ultimate failure through the ambition of the warlike Tongaiti. Once precedent was broken down in this direction, the hope of establishing a hereditary ariki with temporal power over the whole island vanished. The principle that temporal power was the reward of war and not of hereditary descent led to frequent changes of secular government and offers a marked contrast to the social organization of Rarotonga, where secular power remained in the hands of the ariki families and succession was hereditary.

I think you can find a similar history in almost every Polynesian culture. They did invent the Haka war dances after all.

French Polynesia — History and Culture

Traditional Tahitian culture revolves around a philosophy known as aita pea pea, or ‘ not to worry.’ Most Tahitians are not only generous and friendly to each other, but also to all island visitors. Tahitian oral legends are as colorful as the pareu garments most locals still wear.


The first people to set eyes on Tahiti and French Polynesia’s other isolated islands migrated from Southeast Asia roughly 4,000 years ago. Most of today’s South Pacific residents are descendants of these sailors who navigated the Pacific Ocean’s challenging waters aboard wooden canoes stitched with natural fibers. One of the world’s largest displays of ancient Polynesian artifacts is located in the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands (Punaauia, Tahiti).

It took several centuries for all of the South Pacific islands to be settled long before Englishman Samuel Wallis became the first European to arrive in Tahiti in 1767. Although Tahiti became a French territory called New Cythera in 1768, it fell back into English hands the following year during Captain James Cook’s voyage to the Society Islands. Point Venus, the place where Cook saw the planet’s transit in 1769 at Tahiti’s northernmost point, is now a popular picnic spot. Spain’s attempt to conquer Tahiti in 1772 was short-lived.

The Pomare Dynasty’s first monarch, King Pomare I, was also the first ruler to successfully unite the entire island, which had been governed by several different kingdoms and chiefs up until this time. One year after King Pomare I first ascended his throne in 1788, the famous Mutiny on the Bounty occurred when a voyage to transport Tahitian breadfruit to Great Britain was abandoned.

The Mutiny on the Bounty became the inspiration for one of James Norman Hall’s and Charles Nordhoff’s most famous novels over a century later. A perfect replica of Hall’s Tahitian home has become an interesting museum about Hall’s work and life called the James Norman Hall Home (P. O. Box 14167, 98701 Arue, Tahiti).

During the 18th century, Tahiti became a curiosity to many Europeans wishing to see this exotic land with their own eyes. English naturalist Charles Darwin and American artist Alfred Thomas Agate were two of Tahiti’s most famous 18th century visitors. Another artist, Frenchman Paul Gauguin, made Tahiti both his home and the subject of many of his paintings.

The Europeans introduced guns, alcohol, and many fatal diseases to the Tahitians, many of whom perished from smallpox, influenza, or typhus. However, the Europeans also gave Tahiti greater economic stability and a written language. Traditional child sacrifice and cannibalism practices also came to an end. The Tahitians spent many years fighting the French, who declared the island a French protectorate in 1843 and forced King Pomare V to cede Tahiti’s sovereignty to France in 1880. King Pomare V, Tahiti’s last monarch, died in 1891.

Apart from two German gunships attacking Papeete and the sinking of a French gunboat during WWI, the past century has been relatively peaceful for Tahiti. In 1996, the French conducted the last of 193 nuclear bomb tests which occurred over a 30-year period around the Fangataufa and Moruroa atolls. Tahiti remains a French territory whose citizens enjoy the same political and civil rights as mainland French citizens. In 2009, Tahitian royal family descendant Tauatomo Mairau proclaimed himself the heir to the island’s throne, but France has not officially recognized his claim.


Tahitians describe their laid-back culture as ‘aita pea pea,’ an expression meaning ‘not to worry’ in English. Many Tahitian traditions and oral legends date back to their Maohi ancestors, including the bamboo huts built with pandanus roofs they still live in and the colorful pareus they still wear. The bustling Papeete Municipal Market, the vibrant nightlife of Tahiti’s capital, and the young people practicing their hip-hop skills on the street are the noisiest things visitors are likely to encounter during their stay on this tranquil, yet friendly island.

Modern Tahitian music combines contemporary Western melodies with the traditional nasal flutes, drums, and conch shells still played at many local dances and festivities. No Tahitian celebration is complete without a giant tamara’a Tahiti feast, where layers of hot rocks cover the underground oven where suckling pig, fe’i bananas, breadfruit, and other Tahitian delicacies are cooked.

First contact

Trade and contact with the Makassans was happening for hundreds of years, well before the British arrived, says Gathapura Mununggurr, a senior ranger from Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation in Yirrkala, in north-east Arnhem Land.

Supplied: Campbell Macknight

"That history, and the trade to Yolngu people and history of life during that time is still there," Mr Mununggurr said.

"And people dance, people sing about them, and it's very important in these days for Yolngu people to remember them — that they came, and they were the first contact for Yolngu people.

"[It] all started before white people came, and continued afterwards as well."

The Makassans came to the NT islands and coast in search of trepang, turtle shells, and pearl shells, which they sold in China.

Tobacco, alcohol, calico, fabrics, rice, and knives were among the items introduced to Arnhem Land through the trading partnership.

During that time, language between the cultures evolved to include hundreds of shared words, such as rupiah (money) and balanda (white man).

Linguist and academic Michael Cooke says first contact was made prior to European settlement, a view which is in line with Yolngu storytelling.

"It was definitely before European settlement, but it's not known exactly how long 300 years is a good guess," Dr Cooke says.

The Express Train or Slow Boat to Polynesian Origins

The two main theories today are called the Express Train Hypothesis and the Slow Boat Hypothesis. The Express Train Hypothesis says that Polynesians originally come from Taiwan by way of the Philippines and Melanesia. According to this view, Polynesians are mainly a part of a migration wave that came out of Taiwan.

The western part of Polynesia was settled between 3000 and 1000 BC by people from Taiwan via the Philippines as well as parts of New Guinea. Eastern Polynesia was settled beginning around 900 AD as Polynesian voyagers began to set out from Tonga and Samoa and other islands of western Polynesia to settle the Hawaiian Islands, New Zealand, and Easter Island, among other islands of the region.

According to the Slow Boat Hypothesis, the ancestors of the Polynesians are of Austronesian descent and still have a connection to Taiwan, but the ancestors of modern Polynesians spent several centuries intermarrying with people of Papuan and Indonesian lineage before setting out to Polynesia.

Depiction of possible Tahitian warrior dugouts. ( Public Domain ) Much of the origins of Polynesians remains uncertain.

The first view is supported by linguistic and ethnographic data, but there is genetic evidence for the second hypothesis. Genetic studies have shown, for example, that a significant percentage of the Polynesian population has y-chromosomal DNA haplogroups coming from Papua New Guinea while most of the mtDNA comes from haplogroups in Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

This suggests some degree of intermarriage between Polynesians and other Austronesian groups as well as non-Austronesian groups. Another possible line of evidence for this hypothesis comes from the fact that there is a gap in the language evolution of Polynesian Austronesian languages. Polynesian languages have features that no other Austronesian languages possess. This could be because of interaction with Papuan and Indonesian populations.

Reconstruction of the face of a Lapita woman. National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka. (Yanajin33/CC BY SA 3.0 ) Genetic studies have shown that most mtDNA in Polynesia comes from Taiwan and Southeast Asia.


The Legend of Loch Ness

The Culture of Freshwater Pearls

The Sacrificial Ceremony

On Rapa Nui, the more modern, and local, name for Easter Island, large palm forests flourished. Upon arrival, early Rapanui settlers would have planted the plants that they brought with them: banana trees, taro root, and perhaps even the sweet potato.


The existence of the sweet potato in Polynesia appears to leave open the question of who were the original inhabitants of Rapa Nui. Botanists have proven that the sweet potato originally came from South America. Does this mean that people from South America could have colonized the Pacific?

According to Thor Heyerdahl, people from a pre-Inca society took to the seas from Peru and voyaged east to west, sailing in the prevailing westerly trade winds. He believes they may have been aided, in an El Niíño year, when the course of the winds and currents may have hit Rapa Nui directly from South America. In 1947, Heyerdahl himself showed that it was possible, at least in theory using a balsa raft named Kon Tiki, he drifted 4,300 nautical miles for three months and finally ran aground on a reef near the Polynesian island of Puka Puka.

There is little data to support Heyerdahl. Archeologist Jo Anne Van Tilburg, who is unconvinced by Heyerdahl's theory, notes that "all archeological, linguistic, and biological data" point to Polynesian origins in island Southeast Asia. Interestingly, though, there are stone walls on Rapa Nui that resemble Inca workmanship. Heyerdahl contests that the scientific community has not addressed the fact that these walls are distinct in their Andean style. Even Captain Cook in 1774 noticed the quality of stonework in the supporting walls near the moai: "The workmanship is not inferior to the best plain piece of masonry we have in England. They use no sort of cement yet the joints are exceedingly close, and the stones morticed and tenanted [sic] one into another, in a very artful manner."

Which wall is Incan and which Rapanui? The similarities in fine stonework have intrigued scholars. (The Easter Island wall is on the bottom.)

So how to explain the sweet potato and superb stonework? It may be that the Polynesians sailed as far as South America in their migratory explorations, and then, some time later, turned around and returned to the south Pacific, carrying the sweet potato with them. Or perhaps there were visits from Peruvians who brought the sweet potato and their skilled understanding of stone masonry with them. Undisputed is the fact that the sweet potato was, for the Rapanui people, "the underpinning of Rapanui culture. Literally, it was, according to Van Tilburg, "fuel for moai building."


From at least 1000 to 1680, Rapa Nui's population increased significantly. Some estimate the population reached a high of 9,000 by 1550. Moai carving and transport were in full swing from 1400 to 1600, just 122 years before first contact with European visitors to the island.

In those 122 years, Rapa Nui underwent radical change. Core sampling from the island has revealed a slice of Rapa Nui history that speaks of deforestation, soil depletion, and erosion. From this devastating ecological scenario it is not hard to imagine the resulting overpopulation, food shortages, and ultimate collapse of Rapa Nui society. Evidence of cannibalism at that time is present on the island, though very scant. Van Tilburg cautiously asserts, "The archeological evidence for cannibalism is present on a few sites. Analysis of this evidence is only preliminary in most cases, making it premature to comment on the scope and intensity of the practice as a cultural phenomenon."

By the 1870s, when a census was taken, the population of Rapa Nui had fallen to just over 100 people. It has now returned to more than 3,000.

Most scholars point to the cultural drive to complete the colossal stone projects on Rapa Nui as the key cause of depletion of the island's resources. But it wasn't the only one. Palm forests disappeared, cleared for agriculture as well as for moving moai. Van Tilburg comments, "The price they paid for the way they chose to articulate their spiritual and political ideas was an island world which came to be, in many ways, but a shadow of its former natural self."

The world that the Europeans first observed when they arrived on Rapa Nui in 1722 has puzzled us for centuries. What was the meaning of the massive stone human statues on the island? How did they transport and erect these multi-ton statues? And, finally, how did the original inhabitants arrive on this remote island?

Ancient Polynesian DNA gives evidence of widespread population exchanges

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The Polynesian exploration of sparse islands of the Pacific will remain humanity's greatest migration until we head for other planets. And it clearly wasn't just a one-way trip evidence indicates that trade networks covering thousands of kilometers were maintained for centuries. Now, a new study of ancient Polynesian DNA has indicated that it wasn't just trade goods that were exchanged. DNA from at least two different sources ended up spreading through the population of Polynesia before European contact.

Further Reading

The study also suggests that our understanding of how history produced the genetics of modern Polynesians was completely off-base.

That understanding was built by looking at the DNA of modern Polynesians and comparing it with the genetics of other peoples around the Pacific. The data indicated that modern Polynesians have a mixed ancestry, with the majority of their genomes coming from an East Asian population. An additional contribution, however, came from the Papuans that inhabit the islands north of Australia.

This contribution is consistent with the route the Polynesians appear to have taken into the Pacific, which started in Taiwan. New Guinea would have been roughly on the route between Taiwan and islands like the Bismarks and Vanuatu, where the Lapita culture developed over 3,000 years ago. The Lapitans' descendants then spread from this core area throughout the Pacific. So if they had extensive contact with the Papuans before getting to the Polynesian core islands, they would have set out on their voyages already carrying the results of that contact in their genomes.

It was a logical conclusion and consistent with the available evidence. Unfortunately, it also appears to be wrong.

That's the conclusion of a new study based on ancient DNA. A large team of researchers obtained samples from four skeletons that date to the Lapita culture: three skeletons from Vanuatu that, based on carbon dating, are over 2,700 years old and another from Tonga that's over 2,300 years old. DNA was obtained from these bones—not easy, given the warm climate of their location—and specific sequences in the mitochondrial DNA were used to confirm that they shared ancestry with modern Polynesians.

The authors of the study then obtained data from key sites in the genome where humans tend to carry individual base differences. These differences were then compared to the pattern of differences seen in the relevant modern populations.

The big surprise was that there was almost no hint of Papuan ancestors. Instead, all the DNA was most closely related to populations in East Asia—as you'd expect for a population that originated in Taiwan. The immediate ancestral population, however, seems to have intermixed with a variety of other groups in East Asia since, so there's no clear source of the Polynesians left in Asia.

If the Lapitan people didn't have any Papuan DNA, how did it end up in modern Polynesians? The authors looked for hints by examining how long the stretches of Papuan DNA are in the modern populations. While the stretches would originally have consisted of entire chromosomes, exchanges of DNA between pairs of chromosomes would gradually break those stretches up into smaller pieces. By examining their current length, the authors conclude that the Papuan DNA was introduced into the ancestors of modern Polynesians between 50 and 80 generations ago.

That works out to be 1,500 to 2,300 years in the past, which also happens to be part of the period when the Polynesian trade networks were likely to be flourishing. And as the authors point out, this was a period when inter-island warfare was a regular event, which could have led to population displacement.

The authors also found indications that there was additional DNA introduced during this time. It appears to have come from a different branch of the original population that migrated out of Taiwan at the same time but was isolated from the Lapitan skeletons at some point after that.

So the basic idea that modern Polynesians carry DNA from a mixture of peoples remains correct. But the new data makes a forceful case that this isn't how they started. Rather than picking it up en route, new DNA appears to have been introduced after the Polynesian core islands were settled and a distinct ancestral culture had developed.

To what extent were Polynesians in contact with one-another before European contact? - History

The origin of Polynesians, an isolated population spanning hundreds of miles of ocean and islands, has long been regarded as an interesting puzzle in human migration patterns. Today, however, strong linguistic, cultural, and archaeological evidence from research in both the physical and social sciences points to colonization originating in Southeast Asia or Indonesia. Despite predominant easterly winds in the subtropical Pacific, Polynesian navigational skills and the aid of cyclic or seasonal changes in the winds and currents enabled dispersal from the western Pacific to islands as distant as Easter Island and Hawaii. However, there is evidence of trade and contact among disparate Pacific Island societies, and it is possible that Polynesians may have come in contact with those to both their east and west.

While motives for prehistoric migration cannot be known, a number of possibilities present themselves for speculation. On an isolated island with limited resources, it is not difficult to imagine that overpopulation would occasionally occur and encourage portions of the society to migrate. According to Edwin M. Ferdon, &ldquowithout population control, this was likely to become a cyclic issue" (502). Because islands have finite resources, changes in marine ecosystems or weather could easily impact food supplies and place strain on a growing society. Additionally, Polynesian society was highly stratified, and territory was divided between ari&rsquoi, or noble families. It could be speculated that disagreements between factions could have created tension, encouraging one or more families to settle elsewhere, and that one &ldquonoble&rdquo family&rsquos &ldquosubjects&rdquo would follow. However, we must exercise caution when attempting to speculate or oversimplify motives for such distant historical events. In a speech given at the Society for American Archaeology meeting in 1997, John Edward Terrell of Chicago&rsquos Field Museum acknowledged that motives for migration are too impossibly complex to determine centuries after the occurrence (Terrell, 2). He further elaborates on the multitude of factors involved, suggesting that &ldquowe should expect to find, among other things, that human cognitive processes of planning, decision-making, collective action and the like must have been part of what happened, e.g. when people were "responding to population pressure." Put simply, prehistoric human colonization was social as well as biological, active as well as passive&rdquo (Terrell, 3). In short, the reasons that Pacific peoples dispersed from west to east may never be known, given the complexity of human decision making there were probably a host of factors involved, including a limitation of resources but also including various other socio-emotional reasons.

Polynesians likely originated from the Lapita people, who originated in Melanesia, the region north of Australia that includes the modern countries of Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and New Caledonia. The first people arrived in the Western Pacific areas of Australia and New Guinea at least 50-60,000 years ago, according to Terrell (Terrell, 5). Archaeology suggests that the migration eastward occurred in roughly two waves, the first occurring in the Bismarck Archipelago, Samoa and Tonga from 1600&ndash1200 BC, and the second occurring later and spreading to the outer reaches of the Polynesian Triangle, bordered by Hawaii, Easter Island and New Zealand. While these islands are separated by thousands of miles of open ocean, Pacific islanders&rsquo methods of sailing and navigation were likely well-developed and quite accurate. Andrew Lawler of Science magazine describes Polynesians as &ldquothe great premodern seafarers&rdquo who used &ldquosails and sophisticated navigation techniques [to] peopl[e] most South Pacific Islands&rdquo (1344), and Marshall Weisler notes that &ldquonearly every inhabitable island was occupied by AD 1000&rdquo (Weisler 2, 1881). Terrell reminds us that &ldquopeople had been sailing around the Solomons and the islands of the Pacific to the west of that archipelago for a very long time&rdquo before the first migration (Terrell, 6). While it is not entirely clear when specific voyages occurred, it seems that ancient Polynesians were an active and curious people, perhaps with &ldquowanderlust and a sense of adventure&rdquo (Terrell, 6), who had explored the area a good deal before sailing off to emigrate.

Cultural and linguistic evidence further supports the west-to-east migration pattern, with striking similarities observed across the Polynesian Triangle. The path of the Lapita is marked by pottery with distinct geometric designs found in more than 200 South Pacific locations, from Papua New Guinea to Samoa (Field Museum). According to the Field Museum of Chicago, new understanding in the iconography&ndashnow interpreted to represent sea turtles&ndashhelps to &ldquofill the temporal gap between practices and beliefs in Lapita times and the present day&rdquo (Field Museum). Researchers at the museum now believe the &ldquoceramic portraits&rdquo could be &ldquoways of expressing religious ideas held by early Pacific Islanders&rdquo (Field Museum), which helps explain the significance of the design and supports the hypothesis that Pacific Islanders originated from a single people. Furthermore, according to an article by Bruce Bower published by Science News, &ldquothe artistic motifs on the pottery are much the same as Polynesian tattoo styles that occurred centuries later&rdquo (Bower, 233). The similarity in iconography is unlikely to be coincidental, especially if it had religious significance, because this suggests a coherent belief system that may have spread as a whole. Cultural similarities, such as the presence of outriggers on canoes from New Zealand to Melanesia to the Society Archipelago, also point to a shared ancestry. People across the Pacific also speak similar Austronesian languages, which Terrell describes as &ldquothe inheritance of ancestral characteristics by the direct biological, cultural and linguistic descendants of the people who first started speaking in these ways&rdquo (Terrell, 4). Essentially, the similarities observed in Polynesian peoples across the Pacific, including building styles and language, suggest common ancestry.

While the prevalent wind direction in the eastern tropical Pacific is easterly, seasonal and cyclic anomalies based on El Niño periodically enable travel from west to east. Ben Finney, both an anthropologist and a founding member of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, found that periodically, Southern Hemisphere trade winds weaken and weaker westerly winds prevail. During El Niño events, these winds may persist for longer and extend further east (Finney, 402). While the most obvious wind patterns would seem to contradict the Lapita ancestry model, prehistoric islanders could indeed have sailed west to east if they waited for seasonal or periodic changes. Finney conducted an experimental voyage of his own to test this assertion, and found the winds to be generally quite amenable to his travel from Samoa to Tahiti. His July 1986 excursion on the Hokule&lsquoa, a historically reconstructed Hawaiian voyaging canoe, found that &ldquoduring the voyage those days in which winds blew from an easterly, trade wind direction were outnumbered by those days in which the wind blew from the north, northwest, southwest, and south, all directions favorable for sailing to the east&rdquo (Finney, 403). While the 1986 winds were unusual, Finney estimates similar patterns in one of ten years (Finney, 405), and given that the migration across the Pacific took place across hundreds of years, this is a more than sufficient frequency for these so-called &ldquoanomalous westerlies&rdquo to have played a role in dispersal.

Artifacts created from volcanic rocks can be traced back to their sources using both design of the object and chemical composition. This is especially true of fine-grained basalt, which can be traced to its geologic source, further linking the various regions of the Pacific and supporting the Lapita-migration model. According to Patrick V. Kirch and Robert Green, whose study of cultural evolution in Polynesia was published in Current Anthropology, &ldquothe tribes, societies or ethnic groups of &lsquoTriangle Polynesia&rsquo share a physical type, systemic cultural patterns, and historically related languages which allow them to be grouped together as a unit of historical analysis or &hellip a phylogenetic evolutionary unit&rdquo (Kirch and Green, 164). Stone tools are an important element of the &ldquosystemic cultural systems,&rdquo and similarities across the Pacific can be tracked. Specialized stone adzes were used by prehistoric islanders in Melanesia for a variety of purposes, including cutting down trees for canoe-building, hollowing out built canoes, and even clearing vegetation for agriculture (Clark, 19). Adzes used for each purpose had distinctive shapes, and similar styles were found across the region. Clark also notes that only a few quarry sites existed, and that &ldquoquarries of favorable stone served considerable areas of country&rdquo (Clark, 21). Furthermore, at least in Maori society, &ldquothe exchange of commodities between one group and another, despite their bellicosity and rivalry, was well-developed.&rdquo (Clark, 24). Clark highlights the existence of trade and the transport of goods from one island to another, and while he does not explicitly argue for the existence of inter-island exchange of people it is not difficult to imagine that this would exist among a people for whom trade was so well-established.

Geochemists have been able to place basaltic artifacts in both time and place, further clarifying the accepted narrative of migration from west to east. Many Polynesian artifacts are crafted from obsidian, which &ldquohas a restricted natural occurrence yet was transferred great distances&rdquo (Weisler 2, 1881), which makes it a relatively easy rock to trace. Anthropologist Marshall Weisler&rsquos &ldquoHard Evidence for Prehistoric Interaction in Polynesia&rdquo uses x-ray fluorescence and analysis of chemical factors such as alkali composition and extent of melting and cooling to divide a cross-section of basaltic artifacts into categories, which likely correspond to rough source locations. Magma is formed when source rock melts and partially cools, and a volcano produces a specific combination of melting and cooling that creates a distinct chemical &ldquosignature&rdquo (Weisler, 526). Thus, the magma&rsquos chemical properties bear a stamp of sorts that provides clues to its source, and rocks from the same volcano are likely to have similar chemical properties. Using these methods, Weisler was able to cluster artifacts found in various locations on the Society Islands and Mangareva to specific source sites: Eiao in the Marquesas, and Mata&rsquoare in the Cook Islands (Weisler, 526 &ndash check.) A second Weisler study used ratios of lead isotopes to further analyze the geochemistry, a method that may result in more accurate placement of artifacts in place and time. Because this method takes both chemical ratios in the mantle and the age of the rock into account, it is able to narrow possible obsidian sources further than the previous method (Weisler 2, 1882). While research is still in progress, preliminary results have traced adzes found on Henderson Island clearly to a source on Pitcairn, and one to the Gambier Islands (Weisler 2, 1884). While Weisler&rsquos geochemical analysis is as yet in its early stages, it has already provided evidence for prehistoric inter-island transport and opens up doors to promising future research.

Similarly, biological researchers have been able to link settlements through the remains of animals introduced by voyagers, particularly the Polynesian rat (R. exulans). The rat, which cannot swim and cannot disperse to islands without the help of humans, was believed to be brought along on voyages as a food source (Robins, 1). The DNA of animal bones can be analyzed, and researchers E. Matisoo-Smith and J.H. Robins were able to separate remains into three major haplogroups that are divided into distinct geographic locations (Robins, 2). Most relevant, Haplogroup III was found exclusively in an area designated &ldquoRemote Oceania,&rdquo which includes Polynesia (citation). APPENDIX: FIGURE 2

The Polynesian peoples themselves provide clues to their prehistoric origins via DNA testing. A study conducted by J. Koji Lum et al. in 1994 identified three distinct gene clusters shared by most Polynesians in the study. The researchers used blood samples of subjects from a variety of ethnicities, including Hawaiian, Samoan, Tongan, Micronesian, Indonesian, Malay, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Cambodian, Burmese, Hmong, Aborigine, and Papua New Guinean, as well as &ldquocontrol groups&rdquo of Africans and Europeans (Lum, 569). The group found common genetic mutations among about 30-40% of East Asians and nearly all Polynesians and many Hawaiians studied (Lum, 571). The researchers grouped subjects&rsquo DNA into three &ldquomajor lineage clusters,&rdquo all of which share common nucleotide deletions or substitutions. Subjects with the three clusters live in geographic clusters as well. The first subjects are from Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, and Micronesia the second are from Hawaii and Samoa and the third are from French Polynesia, with one Samoan subject sharing similar DNA (Lum, 576-577). The common DNA, which is spread across the Pacific, suggests common ancestry of research subjects despite their East-West Pacific divide. For example, the presence of similar genetic mutations in Hawaiians and Samoans suggests common family lineages in two geographically distant places. By contrast, a similar study was conducted in South America, with the result that Amerindians were found to be &ldquodistinct from those [mutations] found among potential ancestral populations in Asia and elsewhere&rdquo (Rickards, 525). The combination of these two studies strongly implies that Polynesians are descended from Melanesians and more distantly from Southeast Asians, but are genetically distinct from indigenous South Americans in locations such as Peru and Colombia.

Prior to the existence of scientific evidence such as DNA and geochemical analysis, speculation regarding Pacific Islanders&rsquo origins often suggested origin in the Americas, based on certain cultural and biological similarities between the two regions&rsquo indigenous societies. Because migration from South America to the Polynesian Islands would be easily facilitated by prevalent easterlies in the tropical Pacific, several prominent scholars made claims that islanders were descended from ancient Peruvians or other Amerindian peoples. Thor Heyerdahl&rsquos Kon-Tiki is perhaps the best known of these &ldquostudies,&rdquo but while Heyerdahl&rsquos work was widely publicized, his methods and lack of professional expertise undermined his conclusions. Heyerdahl constructed a raft of balsa wood based on historical accounts of &ldquoPeruvian reed-boats,&rdquo which bore some similarities to a &ldquorudimentary &lsquoraft-ship&rsquo&rdquo found in Tahiti (Heyerdahl, 23). The author and a small crew, with neither sailing experience nor archaeological training, embarked on a voyage from Peru to Tahiti in 1947 that met with remarkably positive results. The men were able to fish for food and obtain rainwater from storms the decidedly unseaworthy balsa wood held together quite well and the predominant easterlies blew the voyagers quite directly to Polynesia. Heyerdahl&rsquos experimental voyage was widely publicized and was the accepted narrative for Polynesian migration for decades. However, while he proved that such a voyage could theoretically occur, he lacked evidence to prove that such a voyage in fact had occurred. Science magazine&rsquos Andrew Lawler wrote a scathing critique of Heyerdahl this past year, accusing Heyerdahl of &ldquosouring academia&rdquo and of publicizing the &ldquoracist assumptions&rdquo that Polynesians&rsquo ancestors had traveled from the Middle East to South America to the Pacific, &ldquowhere they bestowed civilization on dark-skinned peoples&rdquo (Lawler, 1345). Heyerdahl&rsquos theories were based largely on speculation and original thought however, his daring journey and engaging narrative caught the eye of the public and convinced many intelligent people that South Americans and Polynesians were in fact related. The Mormon Church has also spread the idea of east-west migration. According to a 1992 BYU publication, &ldquoA basic view held by the Church is that Polynesians have ancestral connections with the Book of Mormon people who were descendants of Abraham and that among them are heirs to blessings promised Abraham&rsquos descendants&rdquo (1110). The church teaches that &ldquoamong Polynesian ancestors were the people of Hagoth, who set sail from Nephite lands in approximately 54 BC&ldquo (1111). Given the Church&rsquos prominent evangelization efforts in Polynesia, as well as its active media presence, its propagations of these beliefs are influential. While the myth of Amerindian origin has been debunked in the academic community for decades, highly publicized dissenters cloud the general public&rsquos perception of ancient Polynesian migration.

While west-to-east migration is nearly universally accepted in the academic world, there is some interesting evidence suggesting prehistoric contact, if not migration, between Pacific Islanders and Amerindians in modern-day Peru. The presence of sweet potatoes in Polynesia, for example, which are native to South America, suggests that the two civilizations must have had some interaction. Additionally, Finney&rsquos article, as previously discussed, introduces the idea of variable wind patterns in the eastern tropical Pacific that could have enabled sailing from Polynesia to South America conversely, the prevalent easterlies would easily have facilitated return home (Finney, 405). The author even suggests that Polynesians may have willingly explored the east with this knowledge, and &ldquomay have welcomed the appearance of such westerly winds in the hurricane-free months, and then used them to explore to the east to find out what islands rise out of the sea in the direction from which the trade winds blow&rdquo (Finney, 405). Much of the evidence sensationalized by Kon-Tiki can also be used to support prehistoric contact while Heyerdahl did not have sufficient proof to back up his claims, biological and cultural similarities between the two regions may suggest trade or other short-term voyaging.

A plethora of evidence, ranging from geologic sourcing to archaeological records, from DNA sequencing to cultural and linguistic similarities, supports the theory of west-to-east migration across the Pacific. This was believed to occur over centuries, among a seafaring people known for their exploration and skilled knowledge of their oceanic environment. Contrary to past theories of chance arrivals on islands, and the idea that Polynesians were descended from Americans, the similarities among Melanesians, Asians and Polynesians in their culture and shared archaeological record are quite conclusive.

Allison Gramolini, Colgate University

Bower, Bruce. "Prehistoric Polynesian Puzzle." Society for Science and the Public Oct 10, 1987 132.15: 232-33. JSTOR. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.

&ldquoDeciphering the riddle of Lapita.&rdquo Pacific Anthropology at the Field Museum.

Ferdon, Edwin N. "Polynesian Origins." American Association for the Advancement of Science 141.3580 (1963): 499-505. JSTOR. Web. 10 Jan. 2011.

Finney, Ben. "Myth, Experiment, and the Reinvention of Polynesian Voyaging." American Anthropologist 93.2 (1991): 383-404. JSTOR. Web. 9 Jan. 2011.

Finney, Ben R. "Anomalous Westerlies, El Nino, and the Colonization of Polynesia." American Anthropologist 87.1 (1985): 9-26. JSTOR. Web. 10 Jan. 2011.

Finney, Ben. "Voyaging against the Direction of the Trades: A Report of an Experimental Canoe Voyage from Samoa to Tahiti." American Anthropologist 90.2 (1988): 401-05. JSTOR. Web. 10 Jan. 2011.

Gibbons, Ann. "The Peopling of the Pacific." American Association for the Advancement of Science March 2, 2001 291.5509: 1735-737. JSTOR. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.

Heyerdahl, Thor. The Voyage of the Raft "Kon-tiki" an Adventurous Inquiry into the Origin of the Polynesians. 1st ed. Vol. 115. Geographical Journal, 1950. JSTOR. Web. 9 Jan. 2011.

Lawler, Andrew. &ldquoBeyond Kon-Tiki: Did Polynesians Sail to South America?&rdquo Science vol. 328 June 2010. 1344-1347.

Lum, J. Kohi et al. &ldquoPolynesian mitochondrial DNAs reveal three deep maternal lineage clusters.&rdquoHuman Biology 66.4 August 1994. 567-590.

Maamaatuaiahutapu, Keitapu. "Canoe Voyage of Otahiti Nui." SPICE Lecture. Woods Hole, MA. 7 Jan. 2011. Lecture.

Maamaatuaiahutapu, Keitapu. "Pre-European Polynesia." SPICE Lecture. Woods Hole, MA. 4 Jan. 2011. Lecture.

Oliver, Douglas L. "The Ancestral Polynesians." Polynesia in Early Historic times. Honolulu, HI: Bess, 2002. 12-15. Print.

Terrell, John Edward. &ldquoColonization of the Pacific Islands.&rdquo Paper given at the Society for American Archaeology Meeting, Nashville 1997.

Weisler, Marshall I. "Hard Evidence for Prehistoric Interaction in Polynesia." Current Anthropology 39.4 (1998): 521-32. JSTOR. Web. 10 Jan. 2011.

The other way [ edit ]

It has been claimed that Egyptian mummies show traces of cocaine, which originated in South America. However, these theories are far more popular with the producers of wacky TV programs than with actual Egyptologists. ⎤]

There are also suggestions of Inuit children or adults being brought back from North America or Greenland by Norsemen. This might have happened, although, as with most things on this page, there's no actual evidence.

American Indian historian Jack Forbes argued in The American Discovery of Europe that American Indians traveled to Europe in the 1 st century.

Birthplaces of New Zealand’s population 1858–2006

Please note that the tables below are not directly comparable given differences in the data sources.

Birthplaces of people living in New Zealand (exclusive of Māori) 1858

Place of birth Number of persons
New Zealand 18,702
England 23,680
Scotland 7,976
Ireland 4,554
Other British Dominions and at sea 1,431
Australian colonies 1,410
Foreign countries 1,342
Wales 233
Unspecified 85

Results of a census of the Colony of New Zealand taken for the night of the 3rd of March, 1878, George Didsbury, Wellington, 1880, p.226.

Ten most common birthplaces of people living in New Zealand (exclusive of Māori) 1901

Place of birth Number of persons
New Zealand 516,106
England 111,964
Scotland 47,858
Ireland 43,524
Australasia, Tasmania, and Fiji 27,215
Germany 4,217
Other British possessions 4,049
China 2,902
Sweden and Norway 2,827
Denmark and possessions 2,120
Other* 9,937

* This is the total population figure of 772,719 excluding the total figure of the ten most common countries.

Results of a census of the Colony of New Zealand taken for the night of the 31st of March, 1878, John Mackay, Wellington, 1902, p.124.

Ten most common birthplaces by country of birth 1961

Place of birth Number of persons
New Zealand 2,079,320*
England 154,869
Scotland 47,078
Australia 35,412
Netherlands 17,844
Northern Ireland 8,983
Republic of Ireland 6,784
Wales 5,811
India 4,753
Western Samoa 4,450
Other** 49,680

* This figure includes New Zealand’s Island Territories (the Cook Islands, 3,374 Niue Island, 1,414 and the Tokelau Islands, 23).

New Zealand Census 1961, Volume 6 – Birthplaces and duration of residence of persons born overseas , Department of Statistics, Wellington, 1964, pp.6-7.

** This is the total population figure of 2,414,984 excluding the total figure of the ten most common countries.

Usually resident population by ten most common countries of birth 2006

Place of birth Number of persons
New Zealand 2,960,217
England 202,401
People’s Republic of China 78,117
Australia* 62,742
Samoa 50,649
India 43,341
South Africa 41,676
Fiji 37,749
Scotland 29,016
Republic of Korea 28,806
Other** 493,233

* This figure includes the Australian External Territories.

** This is the total population figure of 4,027,947 excluding the total figure of the ten most common countries.

Other: Wales and unspecified.

Other: China, Sweden and Norway, Denmark and possessions, and other

Other: Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Wales, India, Western Samoa, and other

Suggestions for further reading/links

Gordon McLauchlan, Michael King, Hamish Keith, Ranginui Walker, and Laurie Barber, The New Zealand Book of Events . Reed Methuen Publishers Ltd, Auckland, 1986.

Government media releases. Available from

Immigration New Zealand, Department of Labour, ‘Latest News’.

Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand , the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Available from

The author would also like to acknowledge the assistance of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Activity 1. The Albany Congress and Political Identity

1. Have students examine the following historic map by Emanuel Bowen, A Map of the British American Plantations, 1754, a link on Digital History. Look at the Northeast and the area marked Iroquois:

  • Ask students to identify the text in the two lines below the word Iroquois. Make sure that you view the map in its largest format – In Internet Explorer use the Zoom Level on the bottom right of the browser frame.
  • Ask students to locate the boundaries between the British colonies and the Native Americans.
  • Discuss the lack of boundaries shown on the map.
  • Discuss how you know what areas “belonged” to the colonists and to the Indians.

How do the borders differ on this map?

2. Students should be familiar with the role of the British North American colonies in the eighteenth century. Either refer them to their textbooks or ask them to read the following: Darla Davis, “To Tax or Not to Tax: 2/5 Out of Sight, Out of Mind,” a link on History Matters.

3. Now divide students into three groups to read the documents below (one document for each group) to provide evidence to help them answer the questions posed below. Each one of these documents is directly or indirectly a product of the Albany Congress, which can be introduced to students with this short explanation of the Congress from the Constitution Society, linked from the Internet Public Library.

Ask the students to annotate evidence such as phrases, words, and concepts that help them to answer the following questions for each set of documents.

  • What were British colonial leaders, American colonists, and Native Americans each looking for in North America?
  • What were their political goals?
  • How did they hope to achieve them?
  • How did they want political life in America to be organized?
  • What rules did they want?

Each document will have one sample annotation for a key concept, such as empire, to facilitate the student’s work.

  • Thomas Pownell, British imperial administrator, selection from his 1765 The Administration of the Colonies, pages 35–38. (PDF)
  • Benjamin Franklin’s Albany Plan (which was drafted and accepted at the Albany Congress but rejected by colonial assemblies and the British Crown), and excerpts from A Plan for a Colonial Union, Franklin’s 1754 letters to the colonial governor of Massachusetts, written a few months after the Congress.
  • Hendrick, a Mohawk Indian leader and diplomat, Speech at Albany Congress, "You are Like Women, Bare and Open, without any Fortifications." (PDF)

4. Students in each one of the three groups should read their annotations to the entire class.

5. In a whole class discussion have the students delineate the three authors’ political ideas and their visions of the future of the colonies. How are the three authors’ ideas and visions similar and how are they different, complimentary or antagonistic? The discussion should focus on the following questions:

  • What are the different concepts of empire being offered?
  • What are the arguments being made for how empire should work?
  • Who was making these arguments?

6. Based on their reading of the three documents and the discussion, the teacher and students should construct a chart of the goals of three of the groups of people who occupied and contested the North American continent in the mid-18th century: British colonial officials and interest groups, North American colonists, and Native Americans (sample chart).

First, the teacher should ask students to discuss the colonists and the Native Americans. Construct a three-column chart with these questions:

  • What did each group want in North America? (e.g., what were their goals, how did they hope to achieve them, how did they want life in America to be organized, what did they want the rules to be, etc.?)
  • What were some of the conflicts between the colonists and the Native Americans?
  • What were some of the conflicts between the colonists and the British officials?
  • What were some of the differences among the colonists such as gender, race, and ethnicity? How might those differences have affected relationships between the colonists and the British officials?

The class should go through the questions above again in a discussion about the British officials and the colonists. Return to the chart.

Ask students to write an essay that responds to the following questions, being sure to use evidence from at least three different primary sources (along with secondary sources) to support their answers:

How did British colonial leaders, North American British colonial leaders, and Native Americans want to organize North American society in general and relationships among themselves in particular? On what specific issues did they agree and disagree? What were the principal reasons for disagreement?

1. Have students explore the connection between the visions presented at the Albany Congress and the events that followed it.

How and why did the differing visions of the groups in question produce the outcomes that they did? (the breakdown of the Covenant Chain, the ‘failure’ of the Albany Plan, the French and Indian War, the road to the American Revolution?

You could use direct them to some of the sources listed in the Background Information for Teachers – Step Four.

2. Students could explore the role of Franklin as colonial politician (and other roles) at Benjamin Franklin’s Virtues linked from the EDSITEment website. They might also look at Franklin, The Pragmatic Innovator, on the American Memory website. One important source is the first American political cartoon, Franklin’s "Join or Die" cartoon that appeared in the May 9, 1754 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette. The image is one of the first visual sources for colonial union (and disunion)

3. Students could research the role of William Johnson, preeminent cultural mediator in the northeast between Europeans and Native Americans, using the following sources:

    , Early America Review, Fall 1996 linked from EDSITEment-reviewed Internet Public Library. A shorter one on the New York State Museum site, a link on IPL
  • Another biography can be found on The Three Rivers Website, a link on EDSITEment-reviewed Nativeweb.
  • Biography of Peter Wraxall,American National Biography linked from IPL
  • A later Johnson document, “The uncommon increase of Settlements in the back Country”: Sir William Johnson Watches the Settlers Invade Indian Lands (1772) on History Matters.

One possible question for students to ponder would be: How did Johnson mediate between the interests of the British Empire and the Native Americans?

4. Students could analyze the engraving “British Resentment or the French fairly Coopt at Louisbourg” which was commissioned in 1755 by Parliament to show British resentment at the return of Louisburg (linked from IPL) to France – one of the first prints to show the American colonies as part of the British state with depictions of British soldiers, French fops, and American Indians. It is a tableau of empire.

Watch the video: Polynesian Origins: DNA, Migrations and History