How Bita’ama villagers call dolphins
A recent visit to Bita’ama Village, North Malaita, brought some mix feeling of traditional practices for catching dolphins.
Catching dolphin in the past is a normal practice using traditional taboos for bride price initiation.
Today, it has been transformed into a business that has brought the country of the Solomon Islands in the world map, especially, those who are concerned over will be extinct animals and mammals.
The country has benefitted from its sale.
My journey that Friday (11 June 2009) was a unique one.
I never thought of encountering such experience with the people of the dolphin caller.
As I entered the netting ground, I saw more than 50 adults and children swimming in between 60 live dolphins that were caught a week earlier.
I suppose it was a normal practice for it was their traditional way of coming in contact with mammals of the sea.
Here I can sense the God-given closeness of human beings to mammals of which I have no idea.
It taught me a good understanding that man can know God through nature.
As I approach the beach, something tells me that these people need help.
I was with my friend who is also the landowner and have much to say in regard to the catching of dolphins.
I was introduced to the leader who shook my hand with delight and told me that they were waiting for a photographer.
You see, they have arranged for someone to take photos and to publish the article but he never came.
I found out later that the photographer finally arrived very late in the evening. He told this people that he would be happy to set up a tourist centre in the area for dolphin watching which I raise my eye brow with uncertainty.
May be it is too early but nothing can stop such business to be erected at this local site.
The leader was a charismatic guy who knew the traditional values and cultural practices of dolphin calling.
The catching of dolphin, especially for the tooth, has highlighted a very important role of women in the society.
Dolphin tooth were rare and it can only be obtained by catching them.
Indirectly, women become important to the society to the dolphin caller. This confirms our Melanesian traditional beliefs that women were important.
They till the ground for garden, they look after the babies, they fish and cut firewoods, they cook.
Men rely heavily on women for success and prosperity yet, today, we don’t even recognise them.
The people of the dolphin caller had taught me a good lesson that day. It was what behind the dolphin catching that counts.
What really matter is not the money, nor the tooth, but it is the value and respect given to women.
The killing in the past and the eating of the flesh was done for the whole purpose of womanhood as an important commodity in this ancient Solomon Islands society and practices.
Does modern Solomon Islanders have the same world view to women when you catch a dolphin today?
Or is it because of the money, riches and fame that dolphin are now caught. Let God be the judge.
The first catch of the dolphins some few weeks ago are rare ones. One of my colleagues was not permitted to take photos. He was not allowed because of traditional taboos.
The dolphin callers were advised that the rare dolphins should be released for safety reason.
They were told that some of the rare dolphins were sick so they were injected. I take that as rumour so I asked the leader whether the injection was true or not.
He said, no of which I asked no further questions. Curiosity for the safety of mammal in the Solomon Islands has led me to find out more.
However, it was not my business. I am just fascinated to see so many dolphins under captivity that day.
The leader then told me the story of the second catch. It was on Thursday that the name of the tribe to carry out the catch was permitted. There was no dolphin.
On Friday the name of the Mama to carry out the catch was permitted. Again, there was no catch.
On Saturday as they were approaching the area of the catch they saw a school of dolphin heading toward them.
Expert on dolphin says that if you see five dolphins above the surface of the sea, underneath you expect to see two hundred.
Whether this is true but it shows that we have been richer with so many dolphins.
They led them to the site of the slaughter but instead they lovely nurture them into the waiting net for possible sale.
My friend then told me of the important day that the Lord has given for mankind.
No wonder one can brand the second catch as the ‘dolphin Sabbath catch’ of which the leader pronounced without reservation of the truth concerning the Sabbath as the day of the Lord.
I was permitted to take pictures and loaded about more then 200 photos which are rare in comparison to dolphin sanctuary that can be seen in tourist outlet in every country of the world. It was big business.
No wonder world business people are looking at Solomon Islands, now, for more dolphins.
My simple mind says that we need to support our local industries.
Solomon Islands needs local people to carry out there God-given ability such as simple catching of dolphin to boost our economy.
I took an interview video clip of the leader.
He said that the people of Bi’itiama have entered a new era. An era that women, children and men can work together for the benefit of the community.
He wanted to see young people to benefit from the sale of the dolphin, to have schools, youth halls and churches.
He told me to write an article in the news paper for the world to see and if possible to come to Bita’ama directly, to buy their home-made product – the dolphin.
Solomon Islands Government, the name of the game is not exploitation but explanation.
How can we help this simple people to benefit directly from this untapped industry?
Long live dolphin catchers!
Source: Solomon Star