Forget Fletcher Christian

Let this stand as my extended quote for the month of November 2010 (probably going to be pressed and online for the early minutes of December, but whatever).

From my recent reading of Greg Dening’s truly excellent historical analysis regarding the extremely well-known mutiny on HMAV Bounty.

The history of the mutiny on the Bounty has always been primarily concerned with its Eurocentric romance. There is another unromantic story that needs to be told, how the Bounty cut a swath of death through native lives. The six ‘blacks’ [Polynesians] on Pitcairn were only the last to be killed. There were another hundered and twenty or more on Tubuai [Austral Islands], a dozen or so at Tahiti, even one man shot dead in the Cook islands by McCoy as the native triumphantly displayed a jacket given him by Christian. Who will say that more than 139 lives were less important than the five Bounty lives taken by natives at Pitcairn and Thompson’s at Tahiti, Norton’s at Tofua [Tonga archipelago]?

And then follows the real clincher in this particular extract:

Tahitian woman fishing at the beach, by Robert Tatin d'Avesnières (1959)

That 86 percent of the founding male population of Pitcairn should be individually murdered is reason enough for focusing a narrative on the episodes of mayhem. That John Adams [sole survivor on Pitcairn] should be surrounded, in 1800, by twenty-three children [and nine Tahitian women] is a reminder, however, that in death there was living and that most of that living turned around the native women. The Island was as much in their minds and bodies as in the men’s. […] Who precisely the women were or how they managed their lives is almost impossible to describe. Only one of them is known to us in any detail. She was ‘Jenny’ or Teehuteatuanoa. […] Independent and strong, she urged the women, at one point, to return to Tahiti and even built a boat to that purpose. She finally persuaded a whaling captain to take her away from Pitcairn. A desperate voyage via Chile and the Marquesas saw her back in Tahiti.

Teehuteatuanoa’s story is virtually the only source of our knowledge of the Bounty‘s trip from Tahiti to Pitcairn.

Dening (1992: 321-322)

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