Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: June 2012

17 - Traditions of engagement and ethnography


In 1907, William Jones made his way up the Cagayan River in northern Luzon Province of the Philippines. In a letter posted back to the United States he wrote, “I am sojourning with a Negrito-Malay people called Ilongots, who dwell in lofty booths on poles and in the forks of trees.” He was excited to be among a headhunting jungle society, yet also repelled by the “savagery” that he witnessed. Two years later he was speared and cut down with bolo knives at a bend in the river by Ilongot warriors.

The attack came in response to unfortunate events that might have been reminiscent of the fate of James Cook: Jones had argued about boats, been impatient and unwise in dealing with local clans and, at the last moment, seemed to be taking a local elder, Takadan, hostage until he could have his demands satisfied. In Jones' case those demands centered on balsa rafts that the Ilongot were supposed to build and guide for him downriver. The need for so many rafts was unusual, but Jones had a large cargo: extensive collections of baskets, weapons, fish traps, and models of local dwellings bound for the Field Museum in Chicago.