Examples and Meaning



is a racist euphemism for the forcible enslavement of Pacific islanders from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century, to work as indentured labourers in the sugar cane fields in Australia, Fiji, New Caledonia, and the Samoan Islands.

The first ship to be fitted out for the Peruvian labour trade was the 151 ton barque Adelante (Captain August Grassman). The hold of the ship had been divided into three compartments with iron grating separating them and there were similar gratings over the hatches to prevent anyone from escaping. In addition, the vessel was armed with two swivel guns mounted by the after hatch and two more were placed on top of the poop. The crew were also heavily armed and finally four extra crew members were signed on to guard the hatches day and night.

In all, a total of no fewer than 725 Cook Islanders from the four northern Cook Islands were permitted to embark on the Peruvian ships willingly, without the ariki and mission teachers stopping them. Although these recruits were to a greater or lesser degree duped, only seven were actually kidnapped. Indeed, the people of the northern Cooks, along with their ariki and teachers, were still completely undiscriminating in their attitude to white foreigners.


The Trujillo, which had called briefly at Tongareva en route, joined the Apurimac and Manuelita Costas off Manihiki on the 10th November 1862 but left again the same day to recruit at the sister island of Rakahanga only twenty miles to the north while the other two anchored off the reef.

Two days later both the Apurimac and Manuelita Costas were driven ashore in a storm to become total wrecks. By the time the Trujillo returned with a number of Rakahangans and took off the shipwrecked crews, the Manihiki people had been forbidden to leave the atoll by the ariki and not one to be induced to go on board this or any of the later recruiting ships. Consequently, the tally of Manihiki islanders to leave for Peru was therefore nil and it must be emphasized that there is no doubt on this point there were no blackbirding ( casualties. )

Recruiter on the Empresa who turned trader: George Ellis on Manihiki. From F.J. Moss, Through Atolls and Islands ... (London 1889)


After Captain Davis of the Jorge Zahara had been frustrated by the ariki and teachers on Manihiki in his endeavours to recruit there, he left for Pukapuka where he was successful in obtaining 85 islanders (80 men and 5 women) including the Rarotongan mission teacher Ngatimoari. The large number was due in the main to the efforts of a resident beachcomber, Paddy Cooney, who acted as 'blackbirding' recruiter, coupled with generous presents to the ariki, and eight fathoms of cloth to the relatives and friends of each recruit. Cooney had lived for years on Pukapuka as well as in Tahiti and Samoa and on Aitutaki and Palmerston Island, and for a short time on Fanning Island.


When Wyatt Gill reached Rakahanga on the 5th March 1863, his chief informant on the activities of the Peruvian labour vessels was Tairi, the first mission teacher (or orometua) on the island.

From Tairi, Gill learned that the first 'blackbirding' vessel to visit Rakahanga had been the Trujillo which had taken 76 recruits (42 men, 20 women and 14 children) with the consent of the ariki.

These have been volunteers who left on the condition that they would be employed on light work such as gathering cotton or planting sugar cane, and would be returned within a year. When the Adelante arrived later with her compliments of Tongarevans, accompanied by the Jorge Zahara, a further party of families numbering thirty left on board the latter vessel under the same conditions.

Following this visit, the chief and Tairi agreed that no further recruiting should be permitted since 60 of the 495 inhabitants were on Fanning Island and 106 had gone to Peru. Shortly afterwards, however, the Rosa y Carmen arrived from Rapa and seven youths ignored the tapu and rowed off to the barque which then left to Pukapuka. In all a total of 115 Rakahangans eventually left for Peru.

The Adelante left Callao on the 15th June 1862 with her first port of call being Hatihea Bay on Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas.

She arrived there on the 10th July, 1862 and remained there for three days taking on water. Soon after leaving Nuku Hiva, the ship's owner, J. C. Byrne decided to stop over at the atoll of Tongareva in the northern Cook Islands Group, which lay on their route in order to investigate the commercial possibilities of their lagoon, known to contain the beche-de-mer and pearl-shell.

Here they met a beachcomber known as Beni who told him that a ship seen by them the previous day was the French Protectorate schooner Latouche-Treville, and that she had just recruited 130 Tongarevans to plant sugar cane, coffee and taro in Tahiti on two-year contacts at four dollars a month.

The Peruvian Slave Trade ( blackbirding ) of 1862-1864 also had a devastating effect on Easter Island. It decimated the population and destroyed the culture. Ultimately all that remained was the ruins of a civilisation The first labour ship to call at Easter Island was the barque Serpiente Marina on 23 October 1862, en route to Mangareva, but she made no effort to recruit on Easter Island.

Early in October 1862 however, the Bella Margarita and Eliza Mason sailed from Callao to try out the islands potential as a source of labour. The brig Bella Margarita returned to Callao on 24th November, after what must have been a remarkably short stay off the island, with 154 immigrants (142 men and 12 women), who were sold at an average price of $300 as labourers or servants.

Within a fortnight a fleet of no fewer than eight ships had left for Easter Island with the intention of obtaining colonists on a more systematic basis.

The history of the Australian South Sea Islander community in the Wide Bay area of Queensland.

Over a forty-year period, from the mid-19th century, nearly sixty thousand men were brought to Australia from the islands in the Western Pacific - their labour would provide the backbone for the establishment of the sugar industry in Queensland.

From their arrival on Australian shores, as the result of the Blackbirding trade, and their subsequent fight for the right to remain in Australia, theirs’ is a story about survival, family, faith, and the South Sea Islanders' long struggle for recognition.

Blackbirding in the island of Niue.

Nuie has been inhabited for more than a 1,000 years. The first settlers are believed to have come from Samoa, but traditional belief suggests that migrations also came from Tonga.

The people who currently inhabit the north speak a Polynesian dialect, which differs from the more Tongan language of the people who live on the rest of the island.

Captain James Cook landed on the island in June 1774 and called it Savage Island after having encountered a rather hostile reception.

The first missionaries arrived in 1830 and by 1854 virtually the entire population of the island had been converted to Christianity.

During the second part of the 19th century, many Niueans left the island to work overseas. Many were kidnapped by means of 'blackbirding'. Others left voluntarily to work on the phosphate islands.

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