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Diary (page 5)


The passage which follows is one of those where appears moral preoccupations concerning people whom he discovers and tries hard to esteem. Modern and human glance which wonders: "But it is here that arises the ethnographical problem about which I am going to speak at once. How come that in the middle of a country so rich, the native population decreases every day? At Poebo, mortality is terrible as one can judge it by the following figures: In 1856 this tribe counted fifteen hundred inhabitants; in 1864, at the time of my passage there was no more seven or eight hundred of them. During the course of the year which had just passed by there had been 150 deaths and only 50 births. As to explain this bizarre phenomenon which makes that the arrival of the whites in a tribe always coincides with a fast decrease of the native population? It is obvious and tangible everywhere where we pass, the natives decay and die.
Sure, I do not know exactly the cause of this mortality. But I am convinced that one could avoid it if one would be interested more in this race of people. It is worth there, I say it boldly.

I found some Europeans thinking as me but I admit, the largest number of them is mercilessly about it. They base their insensitivity towards these intelligent creatures on what they are cannibals... The European, as soon as they came, successfully introduced tobacco, gin and brandy, especially tobacco, it is the first passion of the male canaques or females: the child runs hardly that he begins to smoke in an unrefined pipe a special tobacco in tablet, wet, of a bad quality, often so hard that it would turn ill our most resolute smokers. Well, whatever everybody attributes to this tobacco the biggest part in the development of the diseases of canaques, I did not still see anybody in the colony worrying about it; everybody on the contrary pays their services with this poison. It would be good that administration allow the sale of the tobacco only after exam etc. Then come diseases, morbid viruses of which we possess well tested antidotes and which our constitution bears usually better than those poor savages." He is very worried about the problem of the anthropophagi, asking for a description and looks for an explanation.

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