Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Introduction to History of Fiji

Introduction.
The first settlements in Fiji were started by voyaging traders and settlers from the west about 3500 years ago. Lapita pottery shards have been found at numerous excavations around the country. Aspects of Fijian culture are similar to Melanesian culture to the western Pacific but have stronger connection to the older Polynesian cultures such as those of Samoa and Tonga. Trade between these three nations long before European contact is quite obvious with Canoes made from native Fijian trees found in Tonga and Tongan words being part of the language of the Lau group of islands. Pots made in Fiji have been found in Samoa and even the Marquesas Islands. Across 1000 kilometres from east to west, Fiji has been a nation of many languages. Fiji's history was one of settlement but also of mobility. Over the centuries, a unique Fijian culture developed. Constant warfare and cannibalism between warring tribes was quite rampant and very much part of everyday life.
 According to oral tradition, the indigenous Fijians of today are descendants of the chief Lutunasobasoba and those who arrived with him on the Kaunitoni canoe. Landing at what is now Vuda, the settlers moved inland to the Nakauvadra mountains. Though this oral tradition has not been independently substantiated, the Fijian government officially promotes it, and many tribes today claim to be descended from the children of Lutunasobasoba. Tired, old, sick, and weary, Lutunasobasoba set foot at Veiseisei and from there the early Fijians settled Fiji and his children were Adi Buisavuli, whose tribe was Bureta, Rokomautu whose tribe was Verata, Malasiga whose tribe was Burebasaga, Tui Nayavu whose tribe was Batiki, and Daunisai whose tribe was Kabara. It is believed in this mythology that his children gave rise to all the chiefly lines. However, it is said that smoke was already rising before Lutunasobasoba set foot on Viti Levu. Villagers of the Province of Ra say that he was a trouble maker and was banished from Nakauvadra along with his people; it's been rumored the story was a fabrication of early missionaries. It is also believed there were three migrations, one led by Lutunasobasoba, one by Degei, one out of Asia by Ratu Waicalanavanua, along with numerous regional tales within Fiji that are not covered here and still celebrated and spoken of in story, song and dance. These tales have an important role in ceremony and social polity, as they are an integral part of various tribes' history and origins. They are often interconnected between one tribe and another across Fiji, such as the Fire walkers of Beqa and the Red prawns of Vatulele, to mention but a few. Also, each chiefly title has its own story of origin, like the Tui Lawa or Ocean Chieftain of Malolo and his staff of power and the Gonesau of Ra who was the blessed child of a Fijian Kalou yalo. The list goes on, but each, at some turn, find a common point of origin or link to the other.

Social structure

Traditionally, each Fijian villager is born into a certain role in the family unit or Tokatoka. Various heads of the family will administer and lead the family unit within the village community. Each chief of the village will in turn lead the people to fulfill their role to the Vanua.
Each village will have several family units / Tokatoka [2]which are part of one clan or Mataqali[3]. Several Mataqali will make up the larger tribe or Yavusa[4][5]. Several Yavusa will belong to a certain land mass and comprise thereby the Vanua[6] (confederation of Yavusa)[7]Dr Asesela Ravuvu (1983: 76) describes the Vanua as:
“The living soul or human manifestation of the physical environment which the members have since claimed to belong to them and to which they also belong. The land is the physical or geographical entity of the people, upon which their survival...as a group depends. Land is thus an extension of the self. Likewise the people are an extension of the land. Land becomes lifeless and useless without the people, and likewise the people are helpless and insecure without land to thrive upon”.
The Vanua is headed by a Turaga i taukei[8], the most prominent chief from the most prominent family. To explain further, a Vanua is the largest collective group of people associated with a particular territory or area of land. A Vanua is divisible into a group of Yavusa / tribes: a Yavusa is a group of Mataqali [9]/ clans: a Matagali is a group of Tokatoka[10] / family units. Within the Mataqali making up one Yavusa one Mataqali will be predominant and head that Yavusa as a whole. Similarly, one Tokatoka will head that Mataqali and one member of that Tokatoka will be Senior Chieftain / Turaga i Taukei of that Vanua.
Matanitu[11][12] is a confederation of Vanua[13], not through ancestry or traditional ties, but rather by alliances formed politically or in war and/or united by a common need.

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