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Tikopia Pitek, Emily


The Tikopia inhabit the island of Tikopia, which is a part of the Solomon Islands in Melanesia. Although geographically the Tikopia are Melanesian, they are linguistically and culturally Polynesian (Firth and Beierle, 1995). The Tikopia are organized into four essentially autonomous clans, with each clan containing several lineages. The island is divided into two districts: Faea and Ravenga. Tikopian contact with Christianity began in 1858 with the arrival of the Melanesian Mission, which was part of the Church of England abroad. The mission did not have a major influence until 1923, when Ariki Tafua (chief) converted and the whole district of Faea followed, effectively converting half the island (Firth, 1970:308). This entry focuses on the district of Ravenga circa 1930, which at the time predominantly followed traditional pagan beliefs and practices. This polytheistic religion centered on the spirits of deceased humans (including those of ancestors, the recently deceased, and deceased chiefs), as well as non-human gods and nonpersonalized spirits. An elaborate ritual calendar dictated when ceremonies were to be held. The clan chief acted simultaneously as the priest, and was assisted by ritual elders. The Tikopia religious group is coterminous with the society at large. [This item was updated on August 7, 2019]

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