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Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 5, p. 371.


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TOPULA TION


37i


a recognized head, who has attained that position by tacit agreement on
account of some admitted superiority, mental or physical, and com-
mands a limited respect and such obedience as the self-interest of the
other individuals of the tribe or sept dictates. A tendency exists to
hereditary right in the natural selection of chiefs, but there is no social
status that is not personally acquired. The social position of the chief's
family follows that of the chief himself, and admits of many privileges
in the shape of tribal influence and immunity from drudgery. His wife
is among women what he is himself among men; and at his death, if
a mother and not young, she retains his privileges. Age commands
respect, and the young are deferential to elders. Offences, such as
murder, theft, adultery, mischief, and assault, are punished by the
aggrieved party on his own account by injury to the body and property,
or by murder, without more active interference on the part of others
than is consistent with their own safety, and without any fear of conse-
quences except vengeance from the friends of the other side, and even
this is usually avoided by disappearance till the short memory of the
people has obliterated wrath.
Property is communal, as is all the land, and ideas as to individual
possessions are but rudimentary, accompanied with an incipient tabu of
the property belonging to a chief. An Andamanese will often part
readily with ornaments to any one who asks for them. Theft, or the
taking of property without leave, is only recognized as to things of
absolute necessity, as arrows, pork, or fire. A very rude barter exists
between tribes of the same group in regard to articles not locally obtain-
able or manufactured. This applies particularly to cooking-pots, which
are made of a special clay found only in certain parts of the islands.
The barter is really a gift of one article in expectation of another of
assumed corresponding value in return, and disputes occur if it is not
forthcoming. The territory of other tribes is carefully respected,
without, however, there being any fixed boundaries.
Since the establishment of the Penal Settlement in 1858 a home has
been opened in Port Blair for the use of the aborigines, a free asylum
to which any Andamanese is admitted. He may stay as long as he
pleases, and go when it suits him. While there he is housed, fed, and
taken care of; and for the sick there is a good and properly maintained
hospital. From the home, too, are taken small necessaries and luxuries
to friends at a distance. In return, the residents in the home are
employed to help in catching runaway convicts, in collecting edible
birds'-nests and trepang and other natural produce, and in making
curios, the small income derived from which is expended on them.
They have never acquired any true idea of money for themselves, and
all their earnings have to be administered for them. It is, indeed,
against local rules to give them money, as it is immediately spent in
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