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Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz



Identification. The Santa Cruz Islanders are Melanesians who are in most respects fully integrated, as a constituent Ethnic society, into the national political and economic system of the Solomon Islands.

Location. Santa Cruz Island, or Nendö (Nidu, Ndeni, Nende, Nitende; 10°45 S, 166°00 E) is the largest island of an archipelago, called the Santa Cruz Islands. Nendö consists of a mountainous spine of volcanic rock, surrounded by extensive terraces of uplifted reef limestones. From October to May the climate is dominated by the Australian-Asian monsoon system; from June through September, the southeastern trade wind system prevails.

Demography. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Nendö and the other Santa Cruz Islands suffered severe depopulation, due to introduced diseases. The population of Nendö between 1929 and 1931 is estimated to have been about 1,800 persons, which was probably half the predepopulation number. In 1960 the population (by census) was 2,516; by 1970 it had increased to 3,126, and in 1976 it had reached 4,620, of which 273 were Polynesian-speaking immigrants.

linguistic Affiliation. Santa Cruz Islanders speak three closely related Non-Austronesian languages, of which two are single-dialect languages and one is a dialect chain. A small minority of Polynesian speakers have recently migrated to Nendö from islands immediately to the north.

History and Cultural Relations

Archaeological research reveals that Nendö was inhabited by people with the Lapita culture as early as 1200 b.c. European contact commenced in a.d. 1595 with the arrival of Alvaro de Mendaña's second expedition. This Mendaña expedition, which gave the island the name "Santa Cruz," tried to establish a colony at Graciosa Bay, Nendö, but the settlement failed because of poor relations with the inhabitants, diseases, and the death of Mendaña. For the next 250 years the Santa Cruz Islands were seldom visited by European ships, but during the last decades of the nineteenth century European contacts increased when the Anglican mission ship Southern Cross began making regular pastoral calls there and when blackbirders started abducting men from the group. During this period relationships with Europeans were poor and there were violent incidents. In 1898 the Santa Cruz Islands were incorporated into the British Solomon Islands Protectorate, but effective administration of them did not commence until the 1920s and the "Pax Britannica" was not fully established on Nendö for another decade. Colonial development proceeded very slowly during the 1930s and proselytizing by the Anglicans was largely ineffectual. Suddenly, in 1942, British authority was withdrawn when Japanese military forces invaded the Solomon Islands. The Japanese did not occupy the Santa Cruz Islands, but during the fighting to retake the Solomon Islands, there were skirmishes and one great battle in the area between Japanese and U.S. naval forces. Following hostilities, some Santa Cruz Islanders were recruited by the United States to work at military bases in the Central Solomon Islands, and what they saw there was a revelation. After World War II the British returned with an increasingly vigorous social development policy. Likewise, the Anglican mission came back with determination to complete the conversion of the Santa Cruz people. During the next twenty years, native councils, native courts, health and medical programs, churches, and local schools were established. An administrative center with an airfield was build at Graciosa Bay, Nendö, just before political independence was granted the Solomon Islands in 1978. The Santa Cruz Islands (including Tikopia and Anuta) now constitute the province called Temotu, with its administrative center on Nendö. The culture of Nendö extends northward, with minor ecological adaptations, to the Reef Islands and Taumako. The language of the Main Reef Islands is Non-Austronesian and related to the languages of Nendö, but the language of the Outer Reef Islands (Nifiloli, Pileni, Nukapu, Nupani, Materna) and Taumako is Polynesian. The cultures of Utupua and Vanikoro in the south, while resembling Nendö culture in some respects, are sufficiently different to constitute a southern subcultural area. Also, the languages of Upupua and Vanikoro (three on each island) are Austronesian. Until the 1930s, all the Santa Cruz Islands were involved in a complex network of commercial trade, carried on by large sailing canoes that cruised the entire archipelago and sometimes beyond. There were occasional contacts outside the Santa Cruz Islands with Tikopia to the east, the Torres and Banks Islands (part of Vanuatu) to the south, and with Santa Ana/Catalina and San Cristobal (Solomon Islands) to the west.


All the people of Nendö live in compact villages with populations that usually number less than 200 persons. Most Villages are now located along the coast, but before the severe depopulation and imposition of colonial rule, settlements were smaller and more dispersed, and many were located at inland sites. Until peace was established, each village was surrounded by a protective stone wall, and many dwellings within settlements were also walled.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. All Nendo Communities are intensely agricultural, employing a combination of swidden (bush fallow or slash-and-burn) cultivation of Gardens and arboriculture. The most important traditional crops are yams, taro, sweet potatoes, bananas, breadfruit, coconuts, and Canarium almonds. There is also a large variety of Secondary crops, some of which are post-European introductions. Both fishing and marine collecting are important, and much attention is given to raising pigs. There is some hunting (of feral pigs and fowl, bats, and birds) and gathering of forest products. Since 1960, much effort has been directed toward increasing coconut plantings for copra, which is also sold for cash.

Industrial Arts. The most distinctive Nendö manufactures were outrigger canoes, loom-woven fabrics of banana fibers, bark cloth, a currency made of fibers and red feathers, and personal ornaments made from a variety of materials. Since World War II the manufacture of local products has rapidly declined, as goods imported from the industrial world, and cash to purchase them, have become increasingly available.

Trade. As mentioned, the most conspicuous feature of traditional Nendö economy was intra- and interisland trade, in which profit and the amassing of wealth were the main objectives. Since the trade concerned the distribution of locally produced commodities, it has all but disappeared as Imported, industrially produced goods have displaced local products. Feather currency, the former medium of exchange for trade, has also nearly disappeared.

Division of Labor. Women do most of the gardening and collecting of reef products; men look after orchards, fish, hunt, and collect in the forests; both sexes tend pigs. Until the 1930s there was much specialization of labor with respect to the production of commodities and performance of skilled services. Every mature man was expected to have an Economic specialty, by means of which he earned wealth that could be accumulated and stored in feather currency. Women could also have economic specialties. Such specialization has all but disappeared. Men leave the island to work for wages and process copra for cash.

Land Tenure. Land that has been improved and used "belongs" to the user. Such use rights can be loaned, rented, given away, and transmitted by inheritance, but only recently could they be sold for monetary gain to another individual. Land rights that have lapsed by failure to exercise them revert to corporate ownership by a district. With district consent, an individual may convert corporate ownership of designated plots to exclusive personal use rights by improving or using the land. Rights over reefs and lagoons are corporately held by districts; men's associations control the canoe passages that serve their club houses.


Kin Groups and Descent. There are three kinds of kin groups on Nendo: domestic groups; dispersed descent groups (sibs); and men's associations. A men's association can be started by any adult man who wishes to form one for his sons and, often, his brothers and their sons. Some associations flourish and grow; some do not. In time, those that flourish will include distant agnates, affines, and even nonkin, but the consanguineal ideology remains. Over most of Nendo, Individuals are affiliated with nonlocalized, exogamous, usually totemic, matrilineal descent groups (sibs). In some areas sibs are arranged into matrimoieties. In several districts around Graciosa Bay, the descent principle is patrilineal, but Individuals are often unsure of their affiliations. In one district on the south coast descent is not recognized, although it is believed that matriliny was formerly the rule.

Kinship Terminology. Kin terms vary between special versions of Hawaiian and Iroquois types. All terminologies distinguish the relation of mother's brother to sister's child from other avuncular relationships. In some localities the term for "sister" (as used by a male speaker) is applied to Father's sister and father's father's sister with the logical consequences.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. Traditionally, all first cousins were marriageable, marriages were usually monogamous, and a large Brideprice was, and still is, required. Nendo men often import wives from the Reef Islands, especially from the poorer Polynesian-speaking communities there. Sororal and nonsororal polygyny were permitted; polygynous unions rarely involved more than two wives. Polygyny is not practiced now. Formerly, too, there was a pattern of collective concubinage, which was also a form of female slavery, in which a group of men jointly purchased a woman as a sex partner and prostitute. The protectorate government banned this concubinage pattern in the late 1920s. Initial postmarital residence is Usually viripatrilocal, only occasionally uxorimatrilocal, but after children are born residence often becomes neolocal. Marital separations are frequent; divorce has always been difficult, Except in cases of severe abuse and continued adultery.

Domestic Unit. The most common domestic group is a nuclear family, often augmented by elder dependent relatives of either the husband or wife. Small patrilocal extended Families exist for a short period when a son marries. Joint families, consisting of the domestic units of brothers and/or close male agnates, are common. Women of these joint families assist each other with their domestic responsibilities.

Inheritance. Garden and orchard plots are usually not partible, and they can be passed on to either male or female heirs, but most real property goes to males. Personal property, especially heirlooms and valuables, are inherited along gender lines: mothers to daughters, fathers to sons.

Socialization. Boys and girls are socialized separately and quite differently. From an early age, girls are rigorously trained at their mother's side to master gardening and Domestic skills as soon as they can. At a young age boys move away from their dwellings and into dormitories or men's association houses, and an avoidance of their sisters and other females is invoked. There are no initiation rites for either sex, but at marriage women undergo a formal transition from minor to adult social status.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Formerly, there was a marked social dichotomy and separation between men's and women's spheres of life. Women were focused on their gardens and households, men on their specialized skills and men's associations. Under attack from mission and government alike, this division by gender, which amounted to a generalized avoidance, has greatly lessened over the past few decades.

Political Organization. Traditionally, the basic political unit was the set of households (one to twenty or more) whose male heads belonged to the same men's association. One or more men's associations, in a loose confederation, formed a village, and most villages, over time, became incorporated to the extent that they controlled and defended a bounded Territory. Such was the corporate district. Most districts were hostile to each other, but alliances between men's associations of different districts made it possible for men to cross the boundaries. Trade moved along these lines of men's association alliances, each association agreeing to purchase and redistribute locally all the goods offered by an allied association. There were no political offices. Each men's association was governed, autocratically, by its most influential senior men (big-men); district policies and interdistrict relations were handled by informal groups of senior men. Personal rivalries among senior men were common, and this constant tension led to divisiveness and fighting at each political level.

Social Control and Conflict. Interpersonal social control is greatly enforced by fears of sorcery and male witchcraft. Before peace was established, the ultimate secular coercive threat was fighting with bows and arrows; interpersonal violence and feuds were commonplace. Feuds could be ended by offering the unavenged side a victim to kill. Serious disputes could escalate into wars between districts, but large-scale violence could be avoided by resorting to competitive exchanges that were continued until one side went bankrupt.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefe. The most significant beliefs are that Nendo culture was given by supernatural beings; these beings continue to control human events for good and bad; each adult male, and some women, must have a personal supernatural tutelary to protect and promote his or her general welfare. However, not all tutelarles are equal; some have more Influence over events than others. Individuals who have attentive tutelarles will succeed; those who succeed the most have the most powerful tutelarles. Misfortune is believed to be caused by supernatural influences. Initially, Christian beliefs were grafted onto these traditional beliefs, so that God was the most powerful of tutelary deities.

Religious Practitioners. The only religious practitioners are female mediums who are called upon to determine the causes of misfortune. Otherwise, each adult performs or sponsors propitiatory rites to his or her tutelary deity.

Ceremonies. The preeminent ceremony is an extended Series, lasting several years, of invitational feasts and dances sponsored by a small group of men to propitiate their tutelary deities. As well as being costly religious rituals, these were, and still are, the most enjoyed social events, and they are the occasions at which much of Nendo aesthetic and expressive culture is displayed. These ceremonies are still celebrated, but in abbreviated forms.

Arts. The most distinctive arts include religious sculpture, lyric poetry, costumery and dramatizations, precision dancing, and personal ornamentation. This ornamentation is associated with hierarchical position among senior persons; the other arts are mostly associated with propitiating tutelary deities. Many traditional arts have declined or disappeared in Recent decades.

Medicine. For minor and acute disorders there are specialized practitioners and nonreligious remedies, but treatments of severe and chronic illnesses must be accomplished through tutelary deities.

Death and Afterlife. For socially unimportant persons, Funerals are perfunctory, but for personages they can be major observances, including extended viewing of the corpse and a postburial feast. Formerly, burial was in the earthen floor of the deceased's dwelling, but it is now done in cemeteries. Traditional ideas about the aferlife are not elaborate: the soul goes to the western extremity of Nendo where it resides with other souls and supernaturals.

See also Anuta


Davenport, William H. (1962). "Red-Feather Money." Scientific American 206:94-104.

Davenport, William H. (1964). "Social Structure of Santa Cruz Island." In Explorations in Cultural Anthropology, edited by Ward H. Goodenough, 57-93. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Davenport, William H. (1975). "Lyric Verse in the Santa Cruz Islands." Expedition 18:32-47.

Davenport, William H. (1985). "A Miniature Figure from Santa Cruz Island." Bulletin no. 25 of the Musée Barbier-Müller. Geneva.

Koch, Gerd (1971). Materielle Kultur der Santa Cruz-lseln. Berlin: Museum für Völkerkunde.


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Santa Cruz (city, United States)

Santa Cruz (săn´tə krōōz), city (1990 pop. 49,040), seat of Santa Cruz co., W Calif., on the north shore of Monterey Bay; inc. 1866. Surrounded by hills and redwoods, the city is a seaside city with many fine beaches. The huge municipal wharf (built in 1913) is one of its most popular attractions. In addition to tourism, there are electronic and food-processing industries. Agriculture flourishes in the area. Points of interest include a replica of a mission established there in 1791. The Univ. of California at Santa Cruz is there. The city sustained much damage as a result of the 1989 earthquake that hit northern California.

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"Santa Cruz (city, United States)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 10 Dec. 2017 <>.

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