Dominion Mus. Monog.,

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The Maori depended entirely on memory, on oral tradition, on verbal teaching, in preserving all the prized lore and passing it on to his descendants. The School of Learning was the result of the strong desire to conserve such matter in its original purity. Let me give two examples of Maori memorizing powers. During the winter of 1896 I obtained from an old native of the Ruatahuna district the words of no less than 406 songs, together with much information of an explanatory nature pertaining to them. All these songs were given from memory—not one was in written form. Again, when Tamarau Waiari appeared before the Land Commission at Ruatoki in order to explain the claim of his clan to certain lands, he traced the descent of his people from an ancestor who flourished thirty-four generations ago. The result was a long table of innumerable branch lines, of a multitude of affinitive ramifications. This marvelous recital occupied the attention of the Commission for three days. The old man gave much evidence as to occupation, extratribal marriages, etc., and the genealogical table contained well over fourteen hundred names of persons. . . .1

We are so habituated to an elaborate system of transmitting and acquiring "mind" that we lose sight of its complexity. In the first place it is quite remarkable that nearly all members of a white population acquire reading, writing, and arithmetic, in addition to language, at a relatively early age. Following this an accumulated body of knowledge is communicated to many children in the public-school grades and in colleges up to about twenty years of age. At this point young persons are ready to specialize in intelligence and certain of them will settle at this or that seat of learning where another three or four years will be devoted to communicating to them the state of some chosen science, until they are prepared for "research." In the meantime the candidate will have prepared a "dissertation" the purpose of which is to show by copious references to authorities in footnotes that he knows pretty well what is the state of the science. In some fields, say chemistry, it will be impossible to keep up with the progress of the science in all its branches; the chemistry of colloids is said to be more than enough to engage the whole attention.

If now he becomes a research specialist he will probably not select some new problem (there are few such) but one that has been carried to a certain point by his predecessors—the vitamins, the endocrine glands, the diphtheria germ, radioactivity, etc. The extension of knowledge may thus be accomplished by minds not extraordinarily gifted, through the application of known techniques in directions already indicated. When Boerhaven, Koch, and Pasteur had prepared the way to the germ theory of disease and yellow fever had been associated with the mosquito, it was suggested to the British authorities in Uganda that they have all the native chiefs send in specimens of all the insects in their districts with a view to determining what might be the cause of sleeping sickness. This was done, and when a spot map was made it was found that sleeping sickness occurred only in districts where the tsetse fly was prevalent. In this case we have not the expression of an extraordinary mind but the application of a technique which could be communicated to any normal native of Uganda.

Intelligence thus involves the interaction of minds, and the importance of "communication" from the standpoint of mental attainment may be stated negatively in terms of isolation. Taking white culture as a standard, if an individual, a race, a social class, a sex, is isolated from the patterns of this culture it will appear to be of inferior mental quality. Laura Bridgeman was isolated (for a time) by an impairment, the wolf children by an accident, the savage is isolated by space, the negro in America by prejudice, woman formerly by convention, the slum classes by their poverty. Up to sixty years ago much the same arguments were used about the mental inferiority of woman and the lower races. Up to about, say, forty years ago the same arguments were used against the Japanese as against the other "lower races." We broke down their isolation and forced them to communicate with us, and at present they are on a parity with us in intellectual attainment.

1Best, E., n/an/an/an/an/a"The Maori School of Learning: Its Objects, Methods, and Ceremonial," 6: 5.

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Chicago: Dominion Mus. Monog., 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: . Dominion Mus. Monog.,, Vol. 6, 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: , Dominion Mus. Monog.,. 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