Collection Description

Culture Name

Santa Cruz Islanders

Culture Description

Santa Cruz Islanders are Melanesians who live on an archipelago called the Santa Cruz Islands in the Solomon Islands. Santa Cruz Islanders are one of several ethnic groups in the Solomon Islands. The Santa Cruz Islanders speak three closely related languages that belong to the East Papuan language family. The economy of the Santa Cruz Islanders is agricultural. The most important traditional crops are yams, taro, sweet potatoes, bananas, breadfruit, coconuts, and Canarium almonds.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Oceania --Melanesia


Solomon Islands

OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

The Santa Cruz collection consists of twelve documents plus this culture summary; two are translation from the German (Graebner, 1909, no. 1, and Speiser, 1916, no. 2), and the remaining ten in English. There are two major time foci in this collection, one dealing with the period of the late nineteenth through early twentieth centuries (as represented by the works of Graebner and Speiser), and the second by the extensive field work of William H. Davenport in the Santa Cruz Island chain from the late 1950s to 1960. The primary ethnographic focus of the collection is on the principle island of Santa Cruz itself which is covered extensively by the works of Graebner and Speiser, Davenport (1962, 1961, 1961, 1975, 1962, nos. 3-5, and 7-8), and Beasley (1935, no. 6). Other islands of the Santa Cruz group are discussed in this collection as follows: Duff Island or Taumako in Davenport, 1968, no. 9; Utupua and Vanikoro, in Davenport, 1969, no. 10; and the Main and Outer Reef Islands in Davenport, 1969, 1972, nos. 11 and 12. A fairly comprehensive study of traditional Santa Cruz Island ethnography will be found in Graebner (1909, no. 1). This document deals in large part with material culture with some additional data on social organization, economy, and religion. It should be noted, however, that this author was a strong proponent of the German Historical School which explained the growth of civilization by hypothesizing the diffusion of complexes of culture traits (Kulturkreise). This theory forms the basis for Graebner's analysis of the culture history of Santa Cruz Island. Speiser's study supplements and critiques the article by Graeber, and adds new material on material culture, social organization, and economy. One of the major topics discussed in this collection is that of the use of red-feather currency as an item in trade, and in bride price transactions, and how the use of this form of monetary exchange is being changed through the introduction of Australian currency into the area. Documents dealing with this aspect of the culture are found in Davenport (1962, 1961, nos. 3-4), and Beasley (1935, no. 6). Major ethnographic topics discussed in varying degrees in all the studies in this collection deal with socio-political organization, culture history, geography, economics, trade, domestic groups, settlements, the men's house associations, marriage, kinship, and descent and filiation.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary is from the article "Santa Cruz", by William H. Davenport in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol. 2, 1991, Terence E. Hays, editor. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by John Beierle in April 2001.

Overview by

John Beierle

ATUA -- supernatural beings -- category 776

collection of shells, for trade -- categories 228, 430

FALE ATUA -- the cult house -- category 346

KUONIVALA -- a competitive feast in which two principal litigants test each other's economic resources until one capitulates; a form of potlaching -- category 556

MATA -- a grouping of several contiguous dwelling sites, referred to as wards categories 361, 621

men's associations -- category 575

namesakes -- category 553

Native Councils, established after World War II -- category 646

NE -- supernatural beings -- category 776

OPONE -- the cult house -- category 346

PAKOLA -- ogres and ogresses -- category 776

PUKI -- cargo-carrying canoes -- categories 501, 505

SEGUAU -- initiation ceremonies -- category 881

SEPOLAU -- the men's house -- category 345

TAHALI -- kindred -- category 612

TOULATU -- spirit mediums -- category 791

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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