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India link to 1st Fiji settlers

Margaret Wise
Saturday, December 08, 2012

THE iTaukei is a conflict-ridden society and much of this predicament was created by a colonial history which created anomalies — one of them being teachings of where the iTaukei originated from.

In a presentation immediately after the opening of the Attorney-General's 14th Conference at the Intercontinental Resort in Natadola yesterday, participants were told that Lutunasobasoba was not the founder of the iTaukei race.

In fact, according to educationist and civil society leader Alisi Daurewa, the iTaukei arrived in different canoes and ships, and primarily are a mixed breed of Melanesian and Polynesian, "added to which, Indian, if it can be proven that the Lapita people were sea merchants from Tamil Nadu in India".

"The education system teaches that Lutunasobasoba is the founder of the iTaukei race. Anthropological and oral records reveal he was a late arrival, possibly as late as the 17th century. He was, in fact, the ancestor of some chiefs who worked in the colonial administration in the 19th century."

"Coincidentally, this was during a time when a competition for tales was organised by Namata 1892 newsletter, and the author with the Lutunasobasoba theory won."

Ms Daurewa said the latest Indian connection came out of a research on the Lapita people by the East West Centre in Hawaii.

While some historians and scholars claim the dark-skinned Melanesian people made their way to Fiji first from the islands of Vanuatu, New Caledonia and the eastern Solomon Islands, evidence suggest the Lapita people — tall light-skinned people with straight hair — were first.

The Lapita people are described as the ancestors of Polynesia and came from South East Asia.

They are believed to have travelled through Melanesia in which the Lapita people lived among the Melanesians for 1500 years (1900BC to 400BC) before expanding out to colonise all of Polynesia.

The Lapita people are believed to have spread eastwards and colonised Fiji, Samoa and Tonga 3500 years ago, which predates the arrival of the Polynesian people in the Pacific by about 1300 years.

Ms Daurewa said her presentation titled Colonial Structures: Understanding the experience of the iTaukei - was a small part of findings of a research project on the impact of the People's Charter for Change, Peace and Progress on provincial councils.

"In exploring the historical context of the subject, as a participant researcher, I discovered some interesting facts about the iTaukei, their origin and local government system, and the implications of these at a time when we are working towards an effective constitution for Fiji," said Ms Daurewa.

The Kadavu native and University of the South Pacific lecturer Ashwin Raj, were speakers in the Constitution and Constitutionalism segment of the conference, along with Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Ms Daurewa said the Fiji local government system, adopted from our colonial past, separated the iTaukei group from other ethnic groups.

Colonialism, she added, had four common features that effectively transformed the lives of people - support for local elite group, economic, geographical demarcation, law and order

"For Fiji, these features translated to five institutions - the Native Administration which supports the local elite group; the Native Land Trust Board for economic development; the Native Land Commission for geographical demarcation; and the Wesleyan missionaries who arrived much earlier and pacified the people to ease law and order by the Native Constabulary.

"These five institutions remain with us today under changed names," she said.

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