Jour. Polyn. Soc.

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A native sometimes wishes to transfer part of his property to a brother who has been kind to him, and adopts his brother’s son, thus leaving the son a portion of land. Further the native regards it as little less than a calamity if he has no one to whom he may transmit his knowledge of arts, crafts, magic, and genealogy. Another reason of adoption alleged by the Gilbertese is the desire of a middle-aged man to have a protector and companion for his old age. His children will by that time be married and busy with their own families. Adoption also cements or inaugurates a friendship between the adopter and the real parents, since by custom no enmity may exist between them.

The adoption is in general between kindred, but on Banaba (Ocean Island) adoption outside the kindred, and if possible outside the Island, was preferred, because, after the death of the adopter the son of a fellow islander would tend to carry on the name and fame of his true parents, whereas the son of a stranger would rely on the prestige of the adopter. Such an adopted child could inherit all the adopter’s land, even to the exclusion of the adopter’s real children.

There may be some overtures and gifts in advance of the birth of the child, but the parents are usually approached by the prospective adopter on the birth of the child. Except in the northern Gilberts this request cannot be refused even in the case of a first-born, and in the northern islands only on the ground that the prospective adopter is not of the same utu or kindred as the child. The parents would be ashamed to do so and would be considered tauti or mean by the whole community. If more than one person wishes to adopt the child, it will either go to the first comer or the applicants themselves may come to a decision.

The child continues to live with its parents until the time of weaning. The adopter will often endeavor to hasten on the time of weaning, as he will be anxious to obtain the child as young as possible in order that it will speedily forget the real parents. On the other hand, the parents have been known to protract the period of suckling in their desire to have their offspring for as long as possible. The parents are often extremely unwilling to part with their child, and it is probably only the force of native custom and the fear of social ostracism which makes them do so.

Boys and girls are adopted on the same terms. The child may be adopted either as a son or daughter or grandson or granddaughter. If a person adopts another as his tibu [grandson or granddaughter], this son will frequently adopt as tibu the son of the person first adopted. This process might be repeated through three, four, or even more generations.1

1Maude, H.C.n/an/an/an/a and H.n/aE.n/an/an/an/a, "Adoption in the Gilbert Islands," , 40: 225–233 (summarized).

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Chicago: Jour. Polyn. Soc. in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed September 22, 2023,

MLA: . Jour. Polyn. Soc., Vol. 40, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 22 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: , Jour. Polyn. Soc.. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 22 September 2023, from