A story that must be told: The Women of Pitcairn

A story that must be told; The Women of Pitcairn
Deep in the South Pacific, lies 47 square kilometres of remote and secluded island. This island inspires an air of mystery and adventure, with a total of 50 inhabitants today. Its rocky coastline has bared witness to a great betrayal and its foundations are built on the guilt of its original nine mutineers. It is of course, Pitcairn Island.
The story of how this infamous island came to be inhabited does not start with the island, it starts with a mutiny. Cast yourself back to England, 1787, Captain William Bligh and his crew set off to Tahiti on a mission to collect and transport breadfruit from the Polynesian Island to the East Indies. Upon their return from Tahiti, Fletcher Christian the acting Lieutenant aboard the Bounty cried mutiny, instigating the event that would shape Pitcairn Islands future on the morning of 28th April, 1789. Now the captain of the Bounty, Christian returned to Tahiti where he took Tahitian locals, mostly women, on his ship and went in search of a safe place to hide.
On 15 January 1790, Christian found his haven, a rugged, island to hide their guilt, known as Pitcairn. The land was fertile and uninhabited providing the perfect hidden location. After being stripped for living necessities the witness vessel, Bounty was burned along with the evidence of the mutineer’s treacherous act. Initially the co-existence of the Tahitians and Europeans was relatively peaceful. Families were established between the two cultures and Christian, as the leader, bore a son with a Tahitian woman.
The peace on the island was short lived and it appears the familial exchanges were not always consensual with the women being passed from man to man like property. A rebellion began to rise and in September 1793, five of the mutineers were murdered in violent attacks at the hands of the Tahitians. By 1794, many of the Tahitian men had been killed by the widows of the fallen mutineers and Young and Adams took their place as the leaders on the island.
However, this story has key characters that have often had their story stripped of them. The women of Pitcairn were strong and influential in the running of the island. They were actively involved in their culture, even after having been removed from their home. They were fiercely loyal to their role in society, as seen by their rebellion and the negotiations made between the two cultures. The male European story the world has presented for so long needs to be taken apart and re-examined with a different hierarchy in mind. A hierarchy that demonstrates that the women were not the weakest member of the society. They were the impervious link on the island to Polynesian culture, not to be dominated by the male presence. The enormity of the knowledge and culture these women possessed and passed down through their daughters displays another version of the history of Pitcairn that is in desperate need to be told.

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