This page will unfold incrementally overtime.
It’s history of Dravuni from the lens of a kaidravuni (indigenous, born and bred on Dravuni). It’s not conventional history (written by an outside observer) that one reads in school’s history books (e.g. Dravuni was discovered by …… etc, etc). In any case, nothing, as far as I know, has been written specifically on the history of the island. This initiative, therefore, may be history in the making. It is history in the making in the sense that it is an attempt at compilation of unrecorded accounts or compilation of disparate records of events, some of which are essentially personal notes and reflections that have survived over the years.
The contents will include:
- The settlement of Dravuni by Ravuravu and his clan. In the process, Ravuravu became deified as the ‘vu’ (progenitor) for the Natusara clan (Dravuni and Buliya Islands). But Ravuravu himself had distinguished pedigree.
- The village site moved more than twice and one of the reasons was the death of many resulting from the introduced ‘wasting disease’ or Asian cholera in 1800.
- The match of Christianity and how it became unstoppable.
- Formalizing chiefly structures
- Formalizing family groupings
- Formalizing land ownership
- Formalizing tribal/clan totems.
There will be a transition from the History page to Contemporary Dravuni page as history marches on. The transition is not based on any definitional demarcation of history, but purely on kaidravuni’s preference for such stylistic approach.
The settlement of Dravuni by Ravuravu
On 11 November 1931, Native Lands Commissioner, Ratu J.L.V. Sukuna (before being knighted K.B.E in 1945), was on Dravuni to chair, officiate and conduct the second Native Lands Commission enquiry: ‘Veitarogivanua’. Unlike the first, this was to focus principally on common descent, common tribal deity, chiefly system, family groupings and totems. Essentially, it was intended to reaffirm and verify the findings of the earlier ‘veitarogivanua’. The first ‘veitarogivanua’ by Mr. K. J. Alladyce in the first few years of the twentieth century, before 1910, concentrated on land issues.
Chosen as Dravuni’s spokesperson for the ‘veitarogivanua’ was 27-year old Marika Koroivui, who replaced Sakeasi Tuni, the spokesperson for the first ‘veitarogivanua.’
The process for the ‘veitarogivanua’ was elaborate. The spokespersons had to have their prepared submissions on the issues to be addressed, ordered in the manner indicated by the Commissioner. They were aware that once the order was codified, there would be no changes, and the government would use its authority to preserve that order.
Each session of enquiry would take three months. A spokesperson’s submission: ‘vakatutusa’ would be tabled and scrutinized over the next three months. Questioning and verification during that period would take place. At the end of that period, the records and those involved would then go through ‘bubului’: a solemn swearing ceremony to the gods and ‘vu’, involving swearing by the Holy Bible and followed by celebratory feasting by the ‘yavusa’: tribe.
The NLC office subsequently compiled all the submissions from spokespersons throughout Fiji under what is referred to as ‘iTukutuku Raraba’: general information, which is available to the public. The more sensitive information resulting from the questioning, answers and verifications, subsequent to the initial submissions by the spokespersons, were compiled under a separate register of evidence, access to which is restricted.
The indisputable place of Ravuravu as the ‘vu’ for the Yavusa Natusara – comprising the people of Dravuni and Buliya Islands, was a central plank of Marika Koroivui’s ‘vakatutusa’, and is now indelibly recorded in the iTukutuku Raraba. The register of evidence would contain more details as to how Ravuravu became the progenitor for the Yavusa and how it all started.
Ravuravu the warlord
Ravuravu was not a ‘turaga’: chief, in the Fijian sense. He was more of a warlord that the chief would send to battle leading his warriors, or to settle new land – islands in this case. He was both a warrior and a leader of people. His name denotes killing or slaying with a club. He was extremely deft in this task to the extent that his hands and knuckles were tightly fisted permanently in his old age, probably from acute arthritis.
Ravuravu hailed from the area in present day Naitasiri province below the Medrausucu Mountain Range, appropriately named since it resembles two female breasts. Villages in the vicinity are Nadakuni, Navurevure and Nabukaluka. He was the second of three brothers – the eldest being Vueti and the youngest, Tuvuni. He married Adi Vonokula, one of twins, and they had eight children. The eldest was Ravubokola who made it all the way to Dravuni. When Adi Vonokula died, her last wish was to gift the Medrausucu Range to Ravuravu, as a constant reminder of her maternal instincts to her children.
Ravuravu’s mission was to settle as many land and islands as possible in the Fiji group of islands. This was in the days when there were numerous expeditions by the early Fijians to settle and populate as much land as possible because land was there for the taking. He would have had full authority from his chief and he would have had representations from sections that make up a community, and that which would be useful in the mission, e.g. ‘bati’: warriors, ‘bete’: priests, ‘mataisau’: carpenters/craftsmen, and ‘gonedau’: fishermen. It was essential that he took with him sufficient number of families, some of whom would remain on newly established settlements whilst the main party moved on.
Ravuravu’s conquests for new settlements
From the foothills of Medrausucu Range, from Nadakuni around the south east area of Waimaro district, the conquest proceeded slightly north east until they got to the coast for a first settlement, which was named Dravuni, in the district of Verata, now province of Tailevu. The name was borrowed from the Waimaro district. The next phase took a southerly direction to the Nakelo area, still in Tailevu. Two settlements were established there, namely: Visama and Vadrai. From Vadrai, near Naselai Point, the conquest took to the sea in a north-easterly direction to the island of Nairai in Lomaiviti province. The group settled in Dalice which later merged with adjacent Tovulailai.
From Nairai, Ravuravu’s party sailed in a southerly direction to Gau and settled in Vadravadra, so appropriately named because of the ubiquity of pandanus plants in the area. The Lau group became the next target, and Vanuavatu was the next stop. The party sailed south westerly and settled in Natokalau, Matuku. At some point, whilst in the Lau group, a small party sailed further south to Ono-i-Lau with the intention of settling on as many islands as possible. The main party, however, moved westerly from Matuku, west-north-west precisely, to make their first settlement on Kadavu, on Natusara, north to north-east coast of Ono Island.
Natusara, being the first settlement on Kadavu, and from which smaller settling parties moved further to the islands and on to Kadavu mainland, was to prove highly significant, for it became the ‘yavutu’ – it being the village settlement originally established on Kadavu and after which the ‘yavusa’ is named.
Settlements on mainland Kadavu include Muanisolo, Vunisei, Naqalotu, Naivarauniniu and Nabukelevu-i-ra. Those who settled in Nabukelevu-i-ra had first settled on Qasibale Island, near Dravuni and Buliya, before moving on to their final destination. The main party, after Natusara, settled on Buliya, Yaukuve Levu, Yaukuve Lailai and Dravuni. Those on Yaukuve Levu and Yaukuve Lailai moved subsequently on to Dravuni.
Dravuni represented the end of the journey, and it was significant that it borne the same name given to the first settlement which Ravuravu had established in Verata district, Tailevu, at the start of this long journey into the unknown.
The mystery of Ravuravu’s grave
Ravuravu’s grave next to today’s ‘green pool’: pool for bathing for men and appropriately named due to its permanent colour, is a piece of Dravuni history, which everyone growing up on Dravuni gets to know. The knowledge passed down is that Ravuravu was very old when his party got to Dravuni. He died and was buried there.
There is however, a variation of the story. Ravuravu died when his party was either in Vanuavatu or Matuku. His head/skull was subsequently taken to Dravuni to be buried there to comply with the tradition that it had to be buried where his first-born, Ravubokola, had finally settled.
Acknowledging the past
Trying to piece together history, in the context of a community that relied on words of mouth, story telling, and where the traditionalists and traditional story tellers have passed on, is an exercise in faith. However, one is encouraged by the multiplicity of concrete evidence that abounds to link us to the past, and which offers windows of comprehending the past or some aspects of it, thus rendering credibility to the story.
Link to Nadakuni
Firstly, names from Nadakuni area are repeated on Dravuni itself and on Natusara, e.g. Dravuni, Vanuakula, Vonokula, Waibasaga etc. In the early 1980s, encouraged by the people of Nadakuni, a delegation from Yavusa Natusara, visited Nadakuni, for a ceremony of ‘cara sala’: to clear the way that may have reverted to bush, metaphorically, and to enliven and refresh a relationship – a link, that had grown weak over the years/decades/generations, due, e.g. to distance – time and space-wise.
There were unprecedented celebrations. The young men of the Yavusa Natusara were allowed to bathe in the chiefly pool, which is out of bound to lesser mortals in the village. There was an offer for the Yavusa Natusara to lease 3,000 acres of land in the foothills of the Medrausucu Range from Mataqali Waibasaga. Since then, representatives from Nadakuni would attend the Dravuni Village meetings in Suva.
Approaching Dravuni from easterly/south-easterly direction complies with east-west return migration
Linguist and expert in Fijian culture, Paul Geraghty of the University of the South Pacific (USP), believes that whilst most of the islands in the Fiji group show evidence of being settled from the west in a west-to-east migration pattern, those of Kadavu tend to show the opposite, i.e. they were settled from the east in a east-west migration pattern, which represented a return migration. The evidence is on Dravuni.
Geraghty rationalizes by pointing to the location of cliffs over which the souls of dead people jump on their way to join their ancestors. These cliffs invariably face the direction from where the ancestors came from. On Dravuni, these cliffs are: Nairikarikasavu 1 and Nairikarikasavu 2. They are at the southern end of the island, pointing south-easterly, but directly facing the sea-route that Ravuravu would have taken sailing at a northly direction from Natusara, on Ono Island.
Existence of ‘tauvu’ relationships
‘Tauvu’ relationship acknowledges common ancestry or ‘vu’ or even ‘kalou vu’ (see below). Dravuni people have ‘tauvu’ relationship with the people in a number of villages established by Ravuravu, e.g. Nabukelevu-i-ra and Ono-i-Lau.
Acknowledgement of Dravuni being the repository of Ravuravu’s grave
My father related a story when he shared ‘yaqona’: kava with Ratu Kitione Vesikula, a chief in his own right, a great traditionalist and expert in Fijian culture from Ucunivanua, Verata, and a chief from Visama, Nakelo, Tailevu, in his residence in Nabua. Tradition prevailed all the time and Ratu Kitione would drink first, thence the Nakelo chief and thence my father would drink last. At some point during the yaqona session, Ratu Kitione asked for the order of drink to be reversed, i.e. for my father to drink the first ‘bilo’: coconut cup for serving ‘yaqona’, and that he would explain the reason after. The reason, he revealed, was that of all the Ravuravu clan, Dravuni has special significance since it holds Ravuravu’s grave.
Subsequent migration direction traced Ravuravu’s path
Generations of people from Matuku have lived on Buliya and Dravuni. This applies not only to women married into the Buliya and Dravuni communities, but also men marrying women from the two communities. Whilst this has great traditional and sentimental values, it creates great difficulties in having the offsprings of the latter liaison registered in the ‘Vola ni Kawa Bula’ (VKB): register of Fijian landowners in the community in which they are born and in which they now reside. This is principally due to the patrilineal nature of Fijian kinship system.
Remnants of the past remain
House foundations remain on Yaukuve Levu, Yuakuve Lailai and Qasibale. The last-mentioned is the least visited, and one can still see pottery pieces on and in amongst house foundations. A careful examination will reveal rock formation on one side of the island presumably for protection of canoes, and steps cut into the rock on the steeper side of the island for access.
A smaller group had also settled on Yanuyanu-i-sau, not far from Qasibale. This group later moved back to Ono Island to Sayaki near Nukubalavu and thence to Narikoso. Nukubalavu is between Natusara and Narikoso. This group of the Ravuravu clan provides the Mata-i-Natusara from Ono Island (Ono’s door/pathway or spokesperson/herald to Natusara).
Existence of Ravuravu’s ‘yavu’ on Dravuni
The ‘yavu’ is literally the foundation of one’s house. In Fijian culture, it acquires a special meaning in that it establishes one’s identity and a claim to ownership of part of the community in which one belongs. A ‘yavu’ is a family inheritance. ‘Natavasara’ was Ravuravu’s ‘yavu’ and it remains on Dravuni to date. Ratu Kitione Vesikula acknowledged as such. Rev Thomas Williams, writing in 1859, also acknowledged the same.
Yavusa Natusara’s ‘kalou-vu’
Marika Koroivui, at the 1931 ‘veitarogivanua’, confirmed that the Yavusa Natusara’s ‘kalou-vu’ is Tuni. His wife was Rokowati, or affectionately referred to as Bulou. ‘Kalou-vu’ represents a deified original ancestor of a group of tribes/yavusas, having his own ‘bure kalou’: temple and ‘bete’: priests. So it can be said that whilst Ravuravu did not have his own priests to take on his conquests, he certainly had available to him Tuni’s priests. ‘Tauvu’ relationship also applies to groups having the same ‘kalou-vu’.
The village site changed with time
Village site 1
Ravuravu’s settling party approached Dravuni from the south-south-easterly direction and made their first land call on the eastern coast, towards the southern part of the island. There, they established the first village site on Dravuni. Villagers today refer to this general area as Delaivatoa, Nalotu, Nadulaki – all three are names of land allotments (kanakana) for different families. The general eastern area of the island is referred to as ‘Yasa-i-cake’: the eastern side.
The choice of the site was wise. It sat on the part of the island that has the greatest expanse of flat coastal land, fertile, and where the height of the water table made it easy for digging wells for drinking and bathing. And, as referred to above, Ravuravu’s grave is right next to one of these bathing wells at the outskirts of the village site.
The Great Astrolabe Reefs protect the island from all sides. However, the village was exposed to the south-easterly trade winds.
At some point in history, a decision to move the village site was made. The reasons, however, must remain a subject of speculations. And speculations have been made. There is the view that the move was made from a defense strategic standpoint. The first site would be difficult to defend if there was an invasion from the west side of the island.
Village site 2
The choice for the second site was Muanalailai, right at the northern end of the island, and the village site straddled both sides of the point, from west to east, thus imputing the idea that it was easier to defend.
Villagers today associate Muanalailai with two resident women spirits that had lived there, namely: ‘Solobasaga’ and ‘Vonokula’. Both names can be linked to Nadakuni in Waimaro, Naitasiri. “Basaga’ is a suffix that is common when it comes to place names. “Vonokula’ is linked to Adi Vonokula, Ravuravu’s wife. What cannot be established is whether these two women spirits played any part in the choice of the site.
What can be established, however, is that it was at this site when the Dravuni people were rudely introduced to the imported diseases of the outside visitors, against which they did not have any immunity.
The actual date of the wreck of the ‘Argo’ on Bukatatanoa Reef near Lakeba is disputed – 1800, 1803 or 1806. However, many writers and scholars have accepted the earliest year of 1800 – January 1800 to be precise, since some supporting details had been advanced from the Sydney Gazette. The most infamous cargo brought in by the crew of the ‘Argo’ was the Asian cholera, that became known as ‘the wasting disease’, or the ‘lila balavu’ to the Fijians.
The ‘lila balavu’ reached Dravuni, like it did in many parts of the Fiji group, and the results were devastating. Many people, of all ages, died. Mass graves were dug by those who escaped the epidemic. And they were not many.
Another shift and another village site had to be contemplated, but had to be done quickly due to the urgency of the case the villagers were confronting. To return to ‘Yasa-i-cake’ to the first site, became the most common sense choice.
Back to village site 1
From 1800 to 1888, when Solo Lighthouse was opened, the village remained at Yasa-i-cake. A chart that was dated 1875 showed the village at this site. The new lighthouse was a great novelty. Many stories are told of villagers ascending the ridge to admire the light from Solo many a nights. They could not see the light from the village itself because the island’s central ridge was in the way. It proved to be more than just a novelty. It was also a beacon, beckoning the villagers to move the village site once again. Sometime after the opening of Solo Lighthouse, the village site did move.
The rationale of the shift this time can be linked to what was happening in the country, the national development, and especially the development of the new capital in Suva since 1882. It made a lot of sense to move to the Suva-side of the island.
Village site 3, present site
My great grandfather, Simione Ravana, who was in his forties and had already been confirmed as a catechist in the Methodist Church and on posting outside of Dravuni – the first kaidravuni to be posted out, gave his ‘kanakana’ at Naikelaga, sometimes referred to as Levuka, as part of the village site. The other part was given by Sakeasi Tuni. His ‘kanakana’ is referred to as Nausori.
The unstoppable match of Christianity
A year after Fiji’s Deed of Cession, Dravuni saw her first ever ‘vakatawa’: catechist of the Methodist Church. Ilai Tuilawa was posted from outside Dravuni and he remained in the post from 1875 to 1889. In 1885, ten years after he arrived there, he reaped his reward in seeing his first ever home-trained catechist, Simione Ravana, got his first posting outside Dravuni to Nabukelevu-i-ra, the village of his ‘tauvu’ from the Ravuravu clan. Other ‘kaidravuni’ were to follow his footsteps in subsequent years. But it was to be ten years after Tuilawa’s posting, in 1899, when Dravuni saw her first home-grown ‘talatala’: minister, getting his posting to outside of Dravuni. Pauliasi Nene had this rare distinction and was on outside posting from 1899 to 1917.
Prior to 1875, the history of the ‘lotu’: essentially Methodist Church, on Dravuni, mirrored what was happening in the major centres of the Fiji Group, and in particular, what was happening on Kadavu, the southern province of which Dravuni is a part.
It goes back to 1840 when Kadavu had accepted Christian teachers. But instability caused by the war between Rewa and Bau prevented mission growth. Rev Lyth found that teachers on Kadavu were having to contend against “severe persecution and many obstacles.” Both teachers worked under the protection of Tui Naceva. Within a month’s of his visit, one of the teachers fled, having had his property plundered by a rival chief.
In 1841, there was a violent outbreak of hostilities on Kadavu, which was already a subject of Rewa. Teachers were sent to Suesue in 1841, but they had to be withdrawn in 1842, due to hostilities. This deteriorated further: 1843-1855 – was the greatest struggle of the 19th Century – the 12 year war between Bau and Rewa. Rewa people were coming to Kadavu to build canoes for the Rokotui Dreketi. Long absences were affecting church attendances.
In 1847, translation of the new testament was complete. Two years later in 1849, Tui Nayau ‘lotued’. But a year later in 1850, Cakobau declared war on all Christians. But it did not stop the march of Christianity. In 1853, Christianity came to Kadavu via Yale and Naikorokoro (previously Suesue), according to the history of Methodism. That of Yale came through the intervention of Ratu Varani of Viwa. A Tongan convert was instrumental. He was Ratu Varani’s envoy. From Naikorokoro, Christianity spread to the whole of Kadavu
On April 30, 1854, Cakobau ‘lotued’. On Bau, temples were spoiled and the sacred ‘nokonoko’ trees were chopped down. A wave of conversion followed. In 1855, King George of Tonga helped Cakobau to win the Battle of Kaba. This proved decisive for the spread of Christianity. Cakobau’s religion became the people’s religion and whole districts ‘lotued’.
After the battle of Kaba, the two great heads of state, King George and Ratu Cakobau, sailed to Rewa, Kadavu and Ovalau on the huge ‘drua’: double hull canoe, “Ra Marama”. Forty other canoes followed in their wake. It was not the biggest procession of Fiji’s navy, but it was an impressive one.
“Ra Marama” was 100ft long and carried, besides its two dignified gentlemen, a contingent of 140 chiefs and attendants. It had a thousand square feet of deck space, a 60 ft mast, and two sleek hulls which would slice through the seas faster than a merchant ship.
The victorious army and the Fijian allies, passed through all the places that had resisted Bau as well as Rewa and its tributary territories. They accepted symbols of surrender and gathered huge amounts of property
Following the defeat of Rewa at the Battle of Kaba, the seven chiefdoms of Kadavu converted rapidly, a movement attributed to a number of factors including war-weariness, Tongan influences, the conversion of leading Rewa chiefs and not least the independent spirit of the Kadavu chiefs.
In 1856, Formal theological education began at Mataisuva, Rewa.
The Wesleyan missionaries were caught unprepared by the rush to Christianity on Kadavu. Unable to find sufficient teachers on Kadavu, a Rewa chief went there in 1856 to a village that was still pagan. “Come, he says, you must ‘lotu’, the people replied ‘vinaka’ and fetched their clubs and spears and demolished the temple; they then returned to the chief and told him that he must pray with them. Then, as is customary, there was a terrible noise and commotion among the people.” Great excitement accompanied portentous changes.
In 1857, at the age of 41, the experienced and eloquent Tongan teacher, Paula Vea, was sent to Yale to minister to the thousands of converts in the east of Kadavu. He reported a “great love for the scriptures” but noted the 20 teachers on Kadavu were still too few.
In 1859, most of the chiefs of Kadavu attended a missionary meeting at Yale. This dramatic religious movement climaxed appropriately in December 1859 with the termination of war between Naceva and Galoa, the conversion of Cagilevu of Galoa and the Christian marriage of perhaps Kadavu’s greatest chief, Qaranivalu.
In 1860, Kadavu had 10,894 converts. In 1867, Rev Thomas Baker was murdered at Nagagadelevatu in the high plateau above the Sigatoka Valley.
The spread of the ‘lotu’ and the speed it was being taken up on Dravuni could be seen as the result of a number of factors, viz; (i) Christian teachers being sent to Kadavu and were being accepted; (ii) the end of the Bau-Rewa war at the Battle of Kaba was considered as a victory for Christianity; (iii) the rapid spread of Christianity after the chiefs ‘lotued’; (iv) the tiredness of war after years of conflict; (v) the confusion arising from the many deaths due to introduced diseases; (vi) increased number of people accessing the Fijian version of the bible; (vii) the start of formal theological education; and (viii) the increased organization of the church itself.
From all indications, it seemed that Dravuni was a willing convert, and the villagers were fast learners of the new belief system. There were certainly a number of men of the cloth that can be credited for the transformation that was taking place in the community. Ilai Tuilawa was the first of the many that came to Dravuni to spread the good news. They carried out their work effectively to the extent of making people of Dravuni as men of the cloth themselves. Simione Ravana and Pauliasi Nene excelled in this area. Others were to follow.
My great grandfather Simione Ravana was first posted in 1885 to Nabukelevu-i-ra as a Methodist catechist. He had married Elenoa Raluve, from Naqara, Ono Island. And their first son, Livai Veilawa (my grandfather) was born whilst on posting there in 1889. Further posting took them to Nukunuku and thence Tavuki. The next posting was Namalata, near Vunisea, still on Kadavu. Second child, daughter Kelera Soli, was born there. But for Livai, it was to take another 56 years before he became yet another catechist in the footsteps of his father.
Two other men of the cloth who worked outside of Dravuni but were to have inputs into the Christianization of Dravuni were Rev Vilikesa (or Filikesa) Kalou and Rev Eliesa Bula – both from Gau Island in the Lomaiviti: the former from Sawaieke village, and the latter from Somosomo village.
Rev Vilikesa Kalou
Vilikesa Kalou married Milika from Nukuloa, Gau. Their daughter, Vasemaca, married Saiyasi Yaya of Nakoronawa, Nakasaleka, Kadavu, when Vilikesa was posted there. Vasemaca and Saiyasi had three daughters, the eldest of whom, Lanieta, married my grandfather Livai, who became a catechist on Dravuni in 1945, as alluded to above. Livai died on 15 July 1950.
In 1857, Rev John Fordham was Superintendent of Bau Circuit until 1862. During this time, Filikesa Kalou was led to Christ. He spent 2 years at Mataisuva Theological Institute, Rewa. Mataisuva was described by Mrs Polglase, wife of the Principal 1859-1860 as a “hot-bed for sickness” due to extremely high humidity. She said that it should not have been chosen as a site. Vilikesa Kalou was a successful Branch Teacher. His wife, Milika was a class leader. As class leaders, women were provided with access to church officials and influence in the grassroots organizations.
In 1870, he was received into the ministry and posted to Ono Island, Kadavu. He remained there until 1871. In 1872 – 1875, Vilikesa Kalou was posted to Naceva. Kadavu. Whilst there, he became ordained as a minister of the church. That was in 1874. He left Naceva and was posted to Nakasaleka, still in Kadavu, between 1876 -1878. Vilikesa and Milika went into Nakasaleka with their two grown-up children. By the time they left, daughter Vasemaca had gotten married and stayed back when it came to the next posting.
Further posting in Kadavu took place after that. This time, it was Tavuki from 1879 – 1882. From Kadavu to Nasaucoko, 35 miles up the Sigatoka River on Viti Levu, was the next posting. He stayed there until 1900. Back to the island in Beqa, was Vilikesa’s next posting from 1901 – 1907. And thence back to Viti Levu in Naitasiri between 1908 -1909.
In 1911, Vilikesa Kalou became a Superintendent of the church and was posted to Levuka, Ovalau, Lomaiviti. He did not stay long there. By 1912, he was posted back to his island of Gau. That posting lasted until 1918, when in December of that year, he died of pneumonic influenza. He became another victim of a disease brought in by outside visiting ships. This time around, it was reported that one in twenty Fijians died in that year.
Prior to that in September, Ratu Sukuna’s Fiji Labour Corps or Fiji Labour Detachment or affectionately referred to simply as Marks’ Boys in recognition of the financial help from Henry Marks & Co, had returned from France. My grandfather Livai Veilawa was one of the 100 men that went to work with Ratu Sukuna in France and Italy. The Corps won great commendation all around in Europe. Livai returned to Naqara, Ono Island, where the family was living at the time. He was 29 years old then. It was not long after that when he fell in love with Lanieta Rokomoqe, Vasemaca’s eldest daughter, and wedding bells were soon ringing. By the time when Livai became a catechist in the church in 1945, the family had already settled back on Dravuni.
Rev Eliesa Bula
Rev Eliesa Bula was not posted to Dravuni. But he came to Dravuni and carried out baptism on the site of “Vitiri’, a ‘yavu’ in the village. It is believed that he may have introduced the name ‘Vitiri’ since it is the name of a ‘tokatoka’: family grouping, in Somosomo, Gau. This was during the last move of the village site from ‘Yasa-i-cake’ to the current site after 1888. Apart from that, his relatives from Somosomo (from ‘tokatoka’ Vitiri) came to settle on Dravuni, and introduced other Somosomo names to families on Dravuni. My own family is a beneficiary. Maciu Waqanisau, my father’s name, came from Somosomo. Simione Bula, my brother’s name, is honouring the same ‘Bula’ from the good reverend.
Eliesa Bula was born in 1839. At 17 years old, 1856, he was baptized by Joseph Waterhouse when the latter visited Somosomo. Eliesa was a first generation convert, caught up no doubt as a young man in the wave of conversion which followed Cakobau’s submission in 1854. In 1860, at 21, he taught at a mission school on Gau. In 1865, he was nominated for the ministry. Four years later in 1869, he was ordained as a minister and proceeded on posting to Vuda and then Nadroga between 1869 – 1877. From Nadroga, Eliesa was posted to the chiefly village of Naduri, Macuata province. He remained there until 1883.
At 45, he was posted to his own village in Somosomo in 1884. He was assisting an European Superintendent. That posting lasted 10 years in 1894. It was during this time when Rev Eliesa Bula visited Dravuni on his way to mainland Kadavu. In 1895, he was posted back to Naduri, where he remained until 1907.
Between 1881 – 1908, Rev Eliesa Bula was well respected by his peers, who often nominated him to be their representative to Annual Meetings of the church.
In 1909, he retired from the ministry. In 1915, at the age of 76, he died in his village of Somosomo. He served for 44 years, and during that time, he earned the respect of the chiefs with his diplomatic approach.
His relative from Tokatoka Vitiri, Somosomo, that came to Dravuni was Maciu Waqanisau (the origin of my father’s name), who married ‘kaidravuni’ Jowalesi Ligaiviu. They had two children, viz: Iliesa (sic) Bula and Setaita Wati. Iliesa Bula married Esiteri Viwa from Rakiraki, Yale, Kadavu. Setaita Wati married Josese Kovea of Buliya. Iliesa and Esiteri’s son, Livai Veilawa (my grandfather’s namesake), is essentially a third-generation ‘kaidravuni’ – but not strictly in legal sense due to the patrilineal nature of Fijian kinship system. He married Arieta Bibili of Buliya and their children regard themselves as ‘kaidravuni’ in every sense of the word, regardless of the patrilineality complications.
Dravuni’s Chiefly System
At the 1931 ‘veitarogivanua’
The ‘vakatutusa’ by Marika Koroivui at the 1931 ‘veitarogivanua’ with Ratu Sukuna, clearly stated that Dravuni’s chief was addressed as ‘Tunidaunibokola’, and the present holder of the title at the time was 65-year old Nacanieli Taqaiwai. Essentially, this meant that ‘Tunidaunibokola’ was the ‘Turaga ni Yavusa’: chief of the ‘Yavusa Natusara’ – including Dravuni and Buliya. The seat of this chiefly system had always been on Dravuni. This ‘vakatutusa’, in terms of declaration of the chiefly system, would have closely echoed the ‘vakatutusa’ of the earlier ‘veitarogivanua’ prior to 1910. Nacanieli Taqaiwai was in his early forties then.
However, by the end of the 3-month period of the ‘veitarogivanua’, the chiefly title had changed and formalized as ‘Na Ramalo, na Tunidaunibokola’. And that has prevailed up to now. The change obviously reflected the outcomes of the discussions that took place during the 3-month period. It can be envisaged that these discussions were not straightforward. The drastic change from a form of address that has its roots in Dravuni’s early history (see below) to something that introduces a new element – a new title in fact – is symptomatic of the intransigent mood of these discussions. There would have been questions asked. There would have been claims and counter-claims put forward. There would have been lobbying and counter-lobbying. And in the final analysis, there would have been a compromise.
The details contained in the restricted NLC register of evidence are likely to shed light on this predicament. But that is assuming that there is desire to re-write history. There may be very little to achieve by it. Be that as it may, there is scope for an objective analysis of the results, of the facts as they exist today. The approach may not be the conventional approach to history. But it helps one to understand and appreciate history.
The formalized form of address agreed to at the end of the 3-month period is, in itself, an interesting subject of study. The single title of ‘Tunidaunibokola’ had been extended to ‘Na Ramalo, na Tunidaunibokola’. More interestingly, the ‘Tunidaunibokola’ takes second precedence. And in daily usage today, it is often dropped. Clearly, the precedence is directed at ‘Na Ramalo’.
The interesting situation for Dravuni is that whilst the form of address was changed, the holder of the title did not. Nacanieli Taqaiwai continued in the position he held at the beginning of the ‘veitarogivanua’ and he became the first ever ‘Ramalo, na Tuinidaubokola’ for Dravuni. There is scope for speculating that the form of address was reconfigured, on the basis of the debate that ensued, to match the title holder. What is more significant is the fact that this marked the start of the new chiefly order on Dravuni and for ‘Yavusa Natusara’. The old order from time immemorial, and certainly from the early settlement of Dravuni by Ravuravu, is essentially an accident of history. In Fijian parlance, it is ‘daku ni kuila’: behind the flag, that has and should not have any utility in modern Fiji today.
A further interesting area of study is the origin of the title: ‘Ramalo’. The title exists in other parts of Fiji. Was it borrowed then? It certainly was introduced since there is no traditional usage of the term as far as Dravuni was concerned. If it was introduced, what was its rationale? There are speculations also that the term is derived from ‘Ro na Malo’, believed to be the Rewan chief, who was Roko Tui Dreketi’s envoy to Kadavu (under Rewa’s control at the time), and who became the original holder of the ‘Tunidaunibokola’ title when the title was first created and dispensed with by the then Roko Tui Dreketi himself.
Such line of enquiry creates its own subtlety. This would mean that Dravuni, in the Kadavu province, but part of the ‘Burebasaga’ ‘matanitu’: kingdom, has an all Rewan form of address. This may not be untoward as it seems. The ‘Mata-i-Burebasaga’: herald to ‘Burebasaga’, resides on Dravuni. My family has that title.
It is said that at the ‘veitarogivanua’, it was confirmed that the title: ‘Tunidaunibokola’ was Rewan in origin. And that it would imply that allegiance from Dravuni would still be directed at Rewa and the Roko Tui Dreketi. However, it was ruled by Ratu Sukuna that in the context of the new Fijian administration and its new provincial and district structures and boundaries, Dravuni would direct its allegiance to the ‘Tui Ono’: chief of the Ono District of which Dravuni is a part, rather than directly to Lomanikoro, Rewa. The quid pro quo was that Dravuni be the repository for the ‘Mata-i-Burebasaga’ for the Ono district.
From all accounts, the final form of address reached after 3 months of discussions, was indeed a compromise. It is an acknowledgement of two claimants to the position of ‘Turaga ni Yavusa’. ‘Tunidaunibokola’ title had always been there from the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Maybe its relevance and authority was questioned by the counter-claim represented by the ‘Ramalo’. It is quite possible that ‘Ramalo’ is not a derivation of ‘Ro na Malo’, as discussed above, and that it was an existing title (whether local or imported) that was put forward to counter the Rewan form of address.
The Rewan influence and authority on Dravuni is a recent phenomenon, dating only from between 1825 -1839 when Roko Tabaiwalu, Roko Tui Dreketi, brought Northern Kadavu under his control. Prior to that, there would have been a pre-Rewa chiefly order that would be aligned with the Ravuravu scheme of things. The claim to counter ‘Tunidaunibokola’ could have originated from that quarter. And the forcefulness of the claimants’ submission and delivery at the ‘veitarogivanua’ would have persuaded Ratu Sukuna to conclude as he did by giving precedence to the ‘Ramalo’ title, and re-affirming Nacanieli Taqaiwai’s position as the holder of the new title under the new chiefly order.
Was there a chiefly order under Ravuravu?
As mentioned previously, Ravuravu was not a chief in the Fijian traditional sense. He was a warrior, a warlord and a leader of people. He became the ‘vu’ for the ‘Yavusa Natusara’ for his achievements and for taking his people to the promised land of Natusara, Ono Island, Kadavu, and which became the ‘yavutu’ for the ‘Yavusa’. As mentioned earlier also, he would have taken representatives from across the community: the carpenters/craftsmen, fishermen, priests and warriors, for the purpose of establishing communities wherever they settled. Did he take representatives of the ‘turaga’: chiefly families, the ‘mata ni vanua’: chief’s herald and ‘sauturaga’: second tier of ‘turaga’ to whom the chief would turn for support? The answer has to be yes since Ravuravu’s mission was one of settlement of new land, and establishing communities that would function with all the wherewithal needed by those communities.
Having said that, it is acknowledged that the dynamics of relationships between a new settler group and the old or previously-settled group in an island setting can create new chiefly alignments and configurations. A new powerful settler group can assert its authority on the established order and become the chief of the bigger group. It can do that either by sheer aggression or by marrying into the chiefly family. On the other hand, a less powerful, less aggressive new settler group can quickly become subsumed into the older group to lose all its features.
The Dravuni situation is unusual in that the Ravuravu clan came onto the island and having to establish the only community on the island. It can be assumed therefore that Ravuravu’s own scheme of things would prevail here without the fear of being overrun by any aggressors in the vicinity. It can be assumed further that since Dravuni was the end of the road for Ravuravu and his people, after decades into their mission, there would be different cultural elements that would have been picked up along the way. There could also be subtle changes to their way of life, attitudes and beliefs compared to what they had brought with them from Waimaro under the Medrausucu Range in Naitasiri, Viti Levu.
In any case, there would have been order in the community. Having established their first village at ‘Yasa-i-cake’, order in the ranks and files would have established and the ‘turaga’ would start asserting his influence. It can be envisaged that he would work closely with Ravubokola, Ravuravu’s eldest, whose role would have diminished having completed his father’s mission. However, since there were still battles to fight, Ravubokola’s role was still on demand, depending on the intensity of the hostilities in the area.
That was the order of the day until the Rewan influence came into play. Very little is known about the chiefly order of this period. It was really Ravuravu and his influences that dominated the attention at the time.
The Rewan influence
Northern Kadavu became under the control of Rewa during the second quarter of the nineteenth century, in 1829, when Roko Tabaiwalu was the Roko Tui Dreketi. Dravuni was soon involved in the Rewan wars and related efforts. It can be envisaged that the belligerent tendencies of the Ravuravu clan would be put to good use at this time. But soon, war weariness was creeping in and the missionaries were hard at work, and the Dravuni people were taking a lot of time taking the bounties of war (slain bodies) all the way to Rewa. A delegation then went to Lomanikoro, Rewa to ask for a chiefly envoy to be posted to Kadavu so that bounties did not have to be transported a long way away. Roko Tui Dreketi acquiesced to the request.
The chiefly envoy soon settled on Natusara, the ‘yavutu’ for the Yavusa of the Dravuni and Buliya people. This envoy was a chief in every sense of the word. And he essentially assumed the chiefly position for the ‘yavusa’. He was chiefly, and more. ‘Bokolas’: slain bodies were offered up to him. He had mana. He made chiefly demands and had to be responded to. His chiefly ‘bure’: house, was raised so high that it appeared to be sitting on a high-cliff island. Even today, his ‘yavu’ known as ‘Na Tikovalavala’ still appears haunted, mysterious and under taboo. A massive ‘tavola’ tree crowns the top of this ‘yavu’. It looks down to the chiefly pool where ‘Tunidaunibokola’ would bathe. It is said that he had a large eel that would rub and clean his body whenever he bathed.
Much later, again on the instigation of the Dravuni and Buliya people, a ‘masi’: a chiefly title represented by a certain length of brown masi/tapa, was granted to the envoy by the Roko Tui Dreketi, and the title: ‘Tunidaunibokola’ was bestowed to him. Literally translated, the title means the king of slain bodies, implying that these bounties of war were now offered to him instead of being taken all the way to Rewa.
The form of address: ‘Tunidaunibokola’ for the Turaga ni Yavusa was thus formalized. The brown ‘masi’ passed from one holder to another when death intervened. It prevailed right up to the first decade of the twentieth century, and would have been reaffirmed by the first ‘veitarogivanua’ for Dravuni before 1910.
The first ‘veitarogivanua’, from accounts passed down by word of mouth, was not straightforward either. Sakeasi Tuni was Dravuni’s representative to the ‘veitarogivanua’. There were claims and counter-claims to the title. My great grandfather, Saiasi Ravana, having completed his catechist posting, did not like what he saw and heard. He absented himself and lived in Naqara, his wife’s village, for long periods of time.
In any case, the upshot of the first ‘veitarogivanua’ was the acknowledgement of the title of ‘Tunidaunibokola’ as the chiefly title and the holder of that ‘masi’ was Nacanieli Taqaiwai. The title was confirmed at the beginning of the second ‘veitarogivanua’ in 1931, but got changed by the end of the session 3 months later to ‘Na Ramalo, na Tunidaunibokola’.
The new chiefly order got underway with Nacanieli Taqaiwai of ‘yavu’: Naitaratara. He was the first Ramalo (abbreviated form of address). Navoliani Nene, of ‘yavu’: Nadurusevua took over the position as the second Ramalo. Third and fourth Ramalo, Tomu and Taqa respectively, hailed from ‘yavu’: Nauaua, but later moved to Nadurusevua. The fifth Ramalo, Osea Ratulailai, was again from Naitaratara. His son, Kitione Qereqeretabua, is the sixth and current Ramalo. He has now moved to a new ‘yavu’: Naduruvesi.
Dravuni’s Chiefly and Clan Structural Systems in Disarray
The shenanigans of the 1931 ‘veitarogivanua’, when the chiefly title was hotly disputed and which echoed the same antics of the earlier ‘veitarogivanua’ (in about 1906), had contributed directly to the re-configuration of the formal ‘icavuti’ (form of address) for the Natusara clan and its paramount chief.
The ‘icavuti’: Na Ramalo, na Tunidaunibokola, was a compromise – a compromise between two claimants, or two groups of claimants.
In Buliya, next inhabited island to Dravuni and member of the same ‘yavusa’: Natusara, the same kind of disputes had emerged and a similar compromise for the ‘icavuti’ was configured. The compromised configuration there was Tui Buliya na Turaga na Vunivalu. Whilst Na Ramalo na Tunidaunibokola was recognized and acknowledged as the chief of the clan, there was also acknowledgement and deference directed to the Buliya chief, but he defers to the former.
It is not easy to appreciate the rationale of such a concession for it lacked conclusiveness, which could prove both consensual and sustainable in the long term. For a compromise, by its nature, recognizes the problems or the differences that exist and seeks a solution by mutual concession that meets half way rather than a solution which removes the differences. But one can speculate. The compromise came at the end of a long period of intensive and, oftentimes, temperamental debates. At the end of the 3-month period, energy and patience were fast running out. Ratu Sukuna would have opted for compromise to bring the debates to a close. Perhaps, there was no other workable option!
A compromise it may have been. However, it speaks volumes of the debacle and the ruptures in the clan structures and the cracks in their coherence that were features of clan life at the time.
The results of the two ‘veitarogivanua’ reaffirmed the change in the system of chiefly order – from ‘Tunidaunibokola’ to ‘Na Ramalo na Tunidaunibokola’. Stories passed down from the elders provide anecdotal evidence of a leadership struggle that had expressed itself in a political/’vanua’ coup. The new claimant for the chiefly title (Tunidaunibokola) was assisted to the position by the conspirators from nearby Yaukuve Levu Island, also belonging to the clan.
The leadership struggle had emanated and was fuelled by the long absence from Dravuni of the then chiefly title holder. And behind this long absence is the story of an intense personal struggle of a man, having to decide between continuing his chiefly role inscribed by tradition, by his birthright and the expectations of his people, as against his new calling by a newly-found God, through the teaching of the Methodist missionaries who frequented Dravuni in those early days.
As the stories go, the victimized title holder did not welcome the usurpation of the title at all and didn’t want anything to do with all the subsequent discussions relating to the title, especially during the first ‘veitarogivanua’ of 1906. His son then continued his trademark passive resistance during the 1931 ‘veitarogivanua’. The victimized title holder’s most demonstrative resistance to the injustice meted out to him was to forcefully remove the brown ‘masi’, emblematic of the title, which was then wrapped around the central beam of his ‘bure’, and had it buried. This resolute move was most significant for its symbolism. The chiefly authority and mana lay buried in an unmarked ‘grave’, protected from all usurpers of the title. The implication of a title, gained through usurpation but without its traditional mana and authority for subsequent and future installations is serious food for thought. The current practice of chiefly installation, without due processes of consultations amongst clan elders and without seeking acquiescence from those traditionally endowed to offer such blessings, is indicative of the gravity of the ruptures that have infiltrated the social and cultural fabric of the clan.
The chiefly struggle relating to the Tui Buliya title was equally notorious. Usurpation of the title had led to the assassination of the usurper – a plot that was hatched in great secrecy involving the victimized parties and the Dravuni warriors. The power struggle also drove a delegation to Rewa, to Roko Tui Dreketi, to seek a new chief to counter the escalating intra-clan dispute. This directly led to the installation and formalization of the second authority on Buliya – that of the Vunivalu title.
Stories abound, during the leadership struggle on Buliya, of the Dravuni men walking into the village and into houses, disturbing full and boiling cooking pots and generally making a nuisance of themselves to the usurper to underline their belligerence and superiority.
The chiefly power struggle was landmark in that it was impacting the pinnacle of the clan structure. However, this masked the structural dislocation that was taking place in other fundamental aspects of the clan community. Subsequent formalization of the clan structures by the central administration was built on the basis of this dislocated foundation.
The restructuring of the Natusara clan, as a social, cultural unit, comprising two islands, two villages, and duly compartmentalized into the seven principal pillars of a clan community does not appear, prima facie, to be too problematic. These principal pillars are: (i) Turaga (chief); (ii) Sau Turaga (the chief’s principal advisor and backer); (iii) Matanivanua (chief’s herald); (iv) Bete (priest); (v) Gonedau (fishers/fishermen); (vi) Mataisau (carpenters/craftsmen); and (vii) Bati (warriors). These pillars determine one’s status in the community, one’s role and one’s entitlement. And there are cases throughout Fiji where, notwithstanding the geographical/physical divide, clan structures are stable, providing good and firm foundations for effective and peaceful livelihood and lifestyle. As regards entitlement, for instance, cooked pigs and turtles – bounties of ceremonial presentations, are invariably carved up and allotted to all. Each pillar of the clan community knows exactly what parts or pieces of the animal, ‘magiti’, it would receive.
However, in the context of chiefly struggles, both on Dravuni and on Buliya, leadership struggles and disputes, usurpation, assassination, and multiplicity of chiefs, it can be envisaged that any creation of any administrative structures on such debilitated foundations is destined to continue deep-seated conflicts and ineffectuality. Add the anecdotal evidence that the ‘gonedau’ of Natusara had been expelled by Tunidaunibokola for eating the chiefly eel from Tunidaunibokola’s pool (future story), and also the fact that the clan had undergone various restructuring and reconfiguration on its way from the foothills of the Medrausucu Range as typical of a settler community that had been on a journey for far too long, one can begin to appreciate, not only the complexity of the situation that had emerged but also that the coherence of the original structures of the clan was, at best, flimsy.
The results are apparent today. Natusara clan has no ‘bete’, ‘gonedau’ nor ‘mataisau’ to speak of. These have been lost either through being extinct or though the collective amnesia of bygone generations. There are those who claim that they are the ‘gonedau’. But, essentially, this is engaging in the ‘claim’ game, reminiscent of the past. One does not necessarily have to claim one’s role in the clan community. The role should naturally be acknowledged by the clan and its members. But even this has slipped. The position of the ‘Sau Turaga’, for example, has been queried. A question was asked in a village council meeting some years ago as to the identity of the rightful title holder.
Moreover, the ‘claim’ game that has gone on over generations has given rise to confusion, for example, as regards allocation and entitlements of the bounty of ceremonial presentations. Stories abound of wrong pieces of pork being allotted to some beneficiaries that had to be returned. Some entitlements have been claimed by others. Confusion exists elsewhere. The order of precedence for drinking ‘yaqona’ in formal settings, for example, has often been breached. Devaluation and defilement of what are culturally significant and meaningful has become too frequent. Law breaking resulting from dislocations within families and lack of respect for authority and for the sanctity of the individuals and properties is a matter of concern.
These fundamental miscarriages of justice and protocol and their respective implications have profound impacts on leadership of the clan and on the challenges they impose on clan solidarity, on the coherence and sustainability of collective development initiatives, and on levels of individual and collective aspirations and visions for the future.
The clan is being held back by these miscarriages of justice from achieving its potential. The clan is under-performing. Historical baggage and the high price of carrying it through, including distrust, indifference and disrespect, are loads that are best jettisoned to enable repositioning of our vision of the future and what we can collectively do to raise the bar of our achievements.
A collective effort to turn the proverbial corner is a start to the journey we have to make if we are to raise the bar. Clan members have to open their closed hearts and minds in order to dialogue. Dialogue and more dialogue. Obviously, we cannot re-write history. Furthermore, the wrongs of history cannot be righted. But we can be assuaged by their due recognition and by the acknowledgment of the role they and their forebears had played in the various episodes of our history. This in itself can bring about a paradigm shift. Moreover, it can bring about a ritual cleansing process to forget and forgive, to re-energize and to start afresh.
Starting afresh is not overturning existing clan leadership and structures. Forgetting and forgiving with the benefit of appreciating the highs, the lows and the injustices of our history, at its basic level, is a process of reparation and empowerment, from which good visionary leadership and clan solidarity will evolve. Furthermore, with the benefit of group’s modern organizational principles, including corporate ideals annexed to an enlightened clan structure that is forward-looking, the prospects for future unity, singleness of purpose and initiatives for wholesome development can be limitless.
A week or so ago, I read that the people of the Malolo group of islands near Nadi in the Western Division are planning to create a new ‘yavusa’: clan, to include tourists, hoteliers and investors who are bringing fortune to the islanders. Now, that is forward-looking!
I did discuss the matter of having to start afresh with an elder from Buliya and whilst he was most enthusiastic about it, his advice to me, and I agree with him, is that we should involve the church in this process.
I did say earlier that through the intervention of religion, the incumbent chiefly title holder at the time had to absent himself following his new calling, but at the price of leaving the chiefly title vacant, which had invited infraction, changing the course of history. To invoke the role of the church now to be instrumental in the appeasement of the injustices of that course of history is an affirmation, not only of the pre-eminence of a higher authority, but also of having come a full circle. And so it shall be! But it should also be the beginning of a new dawn.
The reconfigured ‘icavuti’ Na Ramalo na Tunidaunibokola, that had begun its journey in 1931, with incumbent title holder, Nacanieli Taqaiwai of ‘yavu’ Naitaratara, has also come a full circle. Nacanieli Taqaiwai was unable to hand over the reign of chieftainship to his son, Kitione Qereqeretabua, who died as a young man, but he was already a father. The title then shifted to ‘yavu’ Nadurusevua, thence to Nauaua and back with Naitaratara, with incumbent Kitione Qereqeretabua II, being saddled with the title that had skipped his grandfather and namesake.
Having come full circle in both instances above, and if this heralds the dawn of a new beginning, as it is appropriate, it can be envisioned that the signs, be they astrological, religious or those emanating from the metaphysical attributes of coincidences, are most propitious.