Early settlers of Taveuni

A view of jetty at Taveuni from the sea. Picture: LUKE RAWALAI

A view of jetty at Taveuni from the sea. Picture: LUKE RAWALAI

THE people of Bouma on Taveuni claim to be the first settlers of the island way before anyone else tracing themselves back to Nakauvadra in Ra, the cradle of Fijian existence and civilisation before it spread to the group.

Descended from Labalaba and his brother Waqanawanawa who settled on the south of the island, the people of Bouma say these two brothers accompanied Rokomautu who settled at Verata.

On their journey to Taveuni they brought along with them the legendary vuga tree which has since been recorded as lost vugayali (lost Vuga tree).

Upon their reaching the island, they settled at Somosomo before they decided to divide the island between themselves.

Naiyalayala literally meaning the boundary close to Wairiki would serve as their boundary when the time came for them to separate.

The two siblings then went back to Somosomo and resided up in the mountains, and after a while they decided who should take the northern portion of the island and the southern end as their village called Naibili, where the hydroelectricity power station sits, was getting crowded.

Waqanawanawa was allotted the Northern end while Waqanawanawa was given the Southern tip of the island.

Waqanawanawa then told Labalaba that one of his men should accompany him and he assigned Botowai to go with him.

According to stories passed down to the elders of Bouma, as a parting gift Waqanawanawa then gave his brother his manna which was the rain.

Head of the Mataqali Naituku and chief traditional herald to the Vunisa of Bouma Iosefo Rapuga said, that to this day whenever there was a gathering involving the people of Lekutu, as the people of Bouma are known, there will be rain.

The journey

Mr Rapuga said Labalaba then put some of his people at Naibili, and let Botowai lead those people.

“Waqanawanawa went on and put some of his people at Tavuki (and went to the south), they are the Vuna people,” he said.

“Labalaba then established his settlement in the forest, where he planted the vuga tree. That place is thus called Navuga.

“During that time, the Vunisa another chiefly title within Bouma had not been installed yet, only Tui Lekutu the war chief existed.

“When they were living up in the forest, another migrant group came and they were led by two men, Manasavalevu and Naulusole.

Mr Rapuga said the two came searching for land all the way from Tonga, via Lau and they too were the descendants of Lutunasobasoba.

“The two had settled at Nayau Island in the Lau Group. When they reached Taveuni they went ashore and temporarily settled near today’s Korovou calling it Nayau in remembrance of their home,” he said.

“They then went on and passed today’s Vidawa along the coast, where they saw the point of today’s Lavena where Naulusole told Manasavalevu that they should go there, to which Manasavalevu replied that it was too far away naming the place Naiyawa (far of place).

“Moving inland they found a place to cover themselves naming it ‘Pulou’ meaning covering up.

“Labalaba saw them as he went down from the mountain one day, and brought them back to Navuga where they stayed for a while but never stopped looking around for their own settlement.”

Seeing this, Labalaba then invited the two to walk with him one day, when Naulusole told him that they had gone to Tonga in search for a place to live but since it was full they continued searching.

That place is called “Taletoga,” which means visit to Tonga, as they progresed the two men asked for land from their host and close to today’s Salialevu, Labalaba finally agreed to their request and that place is called Naio meaning yes.

The origins of the people of Welagi

Naio marked the boundary of the people of Bouma and after setting these boundaries Labalabasa then returned with Naulusole to Navuga.

Labalaba told Naulusole, to go down north to look for a place to stay, but not to pass the boundary at Naiyalayala.”

Naulusole then went to settle at today’s Welagi. After this Labalaba then told Manasavalevu to settle his people in a lush forest close to Navuga.

However, Manasavalevu preferred to stay and assisted Labalaba with his leadership when there were a lot of problems.

By that time Labalaba was a dying old man and so he instructed his three sons, Tuvatu, Yavoivoi, Kabukabuilekutu, and a daughter Adi Sova, to give Manasavalevu the leadership as he had taken a lot on a lot of responsibilities in the administration of the vanua of Navuga.

“When Labalaba passed away, his eldest son Tuvatu took over the position, and established Mataqali Lekutu,” said Mr Rapuga.

“He then moved the settlement to Vunisea and when Tuvatu passed away, he gave the position to Yavoivoi, who then moved to Naceva, while at Naceva, he finally gave the position to Manasavalevu, who formally accepted the leadership in the way of the land and thus began the reign of the first Vunisa.

Vuna version of the settlers

However the people of Vuna claim that Waqanawanawa and Ului are Tui Wai’s sons.

According to stories passed down from their ancestors, the two established their settlement at Wainikeli with their father and then went to search for their own land and eventually settled at Lakeba.

After a quarrel with his brother Waqanawanawa returned to Vuna with his supporters and was installed as Tui Vuna by the native polity already established there.

In Wainikeli, the legend of Tui Wai was not heard of, but the people recognised the return voyage of Waqanawanawa in which one of his followers went on to marry Tui Wainikeli’s sister, and their son was later installed as the first chief.

Waqanawanawa also appeared in the founding narratives of other windward islands in northern Lau including Laucala and was responsible for similar power takeovers of their native polities

In the version of the Bouma stories, Mr Rapuga said Taveuni was divided into only two parts with one end belonging to Tui Vuna and the other to Tui Lekutu of Bouma.

? (Next Week : The origin of Wainikeli)

* History being the subject it is, a group’s version of events may not be the same as that held by another group. When publishing one account, it is not our intention to cause division or to disrespect other oral traditions. Those with a different version can contact us so we can publish their account of history too.