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Dictionnaire Latin-Uvea [Latin-Uvea Dictionary]

Date: 1886
Overall: 171 x 114 x 16 mm
Medium: Paper, ink, canvas
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Dictionary
Object No: 00051279

User Terms

    In 1836 Pope Gregory XVI, concerned at the growing number of Protestant missionaries in the Pacific, and keen to see the Catholic faith established in Western Oceania asked the Marist Order to send priests and brothers out to Uvea, (now known as Wallis Island) a volcanic island in the South Pacific, to establish a small missionary settlement on the island under the guidance of Father Peter Chanel. The missionaries studied the Uvean language and produced several dictionaries in Latin, French and Uvean before inter-tribal rivalry and distrust of the missionaries resulted in the death of Chanel and the eventual annexation of Uvea by the French Government.

    SignificanceOne of the first tasks attempted by a missionary propagating the Christian faith in the Indian or Pacific Oceans was the translation of the Bible and other religious tracts such as hymnals and prayer books into the indigenous language. Although printed in France in 1886 the Latin-Uvea dictionary was an essential tool for the Marist Brothers and their converts as it translated Latin, the language of the Catholic Church into the local Uvean dialect.
    HistoryAlthough Catholic Jesuit missionaries had been operating in the Pacific Ocean since 1668 their activities tended to be centred on the Spanish colonies in the Ladrone Islands (later the Marianas), the Philippines and Guam. Attempts to establish missionary stations further south, such as in Tahiti by the Franciscan Friars in 1774, failed due to problems with supply routes and the hostility and / or indifference of the Pacific Islanders. Heavily influenced by the Pacific voyages of Cook and other European explorers and the published accounts of sailors, scientists and gentlemen explorers such as Joseph Banks, Protestant missionary activity in the Pacific Ocean commenced in the closing years of the 18th century with the arrival of missionaries from the London Missionary Society (LMS) in Tahiti on board the missionary vessel DUFF in March 1797. Missionaries from the LMS were later joined by evangelical missionaries from The American Board for the Commissioners of Foreign Missions (ABCFM), which began informally in 1806 but quickly spread to India (1812), Sri Lanka (1816) and then the Hawaiian and Gilbert Islands in 1822.

    Concerned at the growing number of protestant religious groups, such as the LMS and ABCFM, operating in the Pacific the Roman Catholics expanded their missionary activities in the Pacific establishing a Picpus Fathers mission at Ponape and a Marist mission at Uvea (Wallis Island) in 1837, a Marist mission at Lakeba (Fiji) in 1844, a Capuchin Fathers mission in the Caroline Islands in 1886 and Palua in 1891, a Sacred Heart Mission in the Marshall Islands also in 1891, at Mortlock (Nomoi) Islands in 1911 and at Truk Atoll a few years later.

    Although acting under the loose umbrella of the Roman Catholic Church the Catholic missions in the Pacific were a fractured affair representing the teachings and opinions of a diverse range of Catholic religious orders including the Marists, Jesuits, Capuchins, Sacred Heart and Picpus Fathers. These religious orders were further divided by the territorial aspirations and political and social differences associated with their countries of origin, Spain, France, Germany and later Italy.

    The Marist Order was founded in France in 1816 by Marcellin Champagnet and went by the French names of Petits Freres de Marie or the Little Brothers of Mary and Fratres Maristae a Scolis or Marist Brothers of the Schools. In 1836 Pope Gregory XVI, concerned at the rise of the Protestant missionaries, and keen to see the Catholic faith established in Western Oceania including Micronesia, Melanesia, Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga formally requested the Marists to send priests and brothers out to those islands and establish schools and missionary stations. The island chosen as their first mission station was Uvea, (now known as Wallis Island, part of the French Protectorate Territory of the Wallis and Futuna Islands), a volcanic island in the South Pacific south of Tuvalu, east of Fiji, and west of Samoa and in 1837 the Marists established a small missionary settlement of four brothers on the island under the guidance of Brother Peter Chanel.

    The Marist Brothers were initially well received by the island's King, Niuliki, and over the next four years the missionaries learned the local language, commenced preaching on both Wallis and the nearby island of Futuna and started to convert the King's subjects including the King's son Meitala. Concerned at the growing power of the missionaries King Niuliki ordered some of his warriors to prevent further conversions and during the resulting inter tribal fighting Brother Peter Chanel was killed. The Uvean discontent with the French Marist missionaries and the resulting inter tribal warfare caused the Marist missionaries to ask for formal French protection and in late 1841 the missionary schooner SANCTA MARIA and the French naval corvette L'ALLIER arrived at Wallis and Futuna and recovered the body of Peter Chanel which was then returned to France via New Zealand. Backed up by regular naval visits the Marists continued their prosterlysing and in 1887 the recently converted Queen of Uvea signed a treaty with the French Government establishing the French Protectorate of Uvea. Wallis and Futuna were later annexed by the French Government in 1917 becoming the French colonies of Wallis and Futuna.

    During the course of their work the Marists, like other missionary societies, established the first printing presses in the Pacific Islands and subsequently translated the Bible along with numerous religious tracts, prayer books and hymnals into the various languages and dialects of the Pacific Islands.

    Portable printing presses and missionary printers such as William Ellis were dispatched to the islands of the Pacific at an increasing rate with presses at Eimeo (1816); Mo'orea (1816); Tahiti (1818); Honolulu (1822); Tonga (1831; Rarotonga (1834; Fiji (1839) and Samoa (1839)

    The translation and printing of these items was an enormous task requiring almost anthropological training in languages and linguistics along with the ability to establish an educational system that would be able to teach reading and writing to a society where literacy was very much a foreign concept. The introduction of written language left the way open for mistranslations of the 'word of god', the Christianisation of the local languages and eventually the decline in local cultural beliefs.

    Although printed in France in 1886 the Dictionnaire Latin-Uvea is a direct result of the missionary activities of the Marist Brothers on the Wallis and Futuna Islands and was an essential primer for all prospective Brothers and converts on the islands.

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