SOME things they say all of a sudden — surprises them. It also keeps reminding them of their ancestral links.
The features in some of them and the colour of their hair are evident of their blood ties.
Despite inter-marriages since time immemorial, the features still remain distinctive in some people.
They are the descendants of the stolen people — those brought to Fiji from the Solomon Islands during the labour trade.
And they are proud to say that they have the Solomon blood in them.
Like some settlements around the country, Vanuakula in Drasa, Lautoka is one such area housing the descendants of Solomon Islanders.
However, it is not the original place where their forefathers lived. Their original residential site was at Navutu in Lautoka.
But disputes over land issues at Navutu resulted in the movement of the Solomon descendants to Vanuakula in 1995.
These people also have links to Solomon Islands descendants living in the five settlements at Wailoku, outside Suva City.
Yesterday, Vasiti Manioria of Vanuakula settlement described to this newspaper what she knows about her ancestral link.
"I can't deny that I have Solomon blood in me," Ms Manioria said.
Ms Manioria, 45, said her great grandfather Jeke Kurumai was brought to Fiji from the Solomons during the labour trade.
She said her great-grandfather married a woman from Natalecake in Ba and they later had three children, one of whom was her grandfather.
"They stayed at Karavi in Ba for some time before moving to Navutu where my late father Epeli Duve was born," she said.
"I was also born in Navutu just like the other descendants of Solomon Islanders living in Vanuakula.
"From the stories passed down, I know that my great-grandfather and his fellow Solomon Islanders helped in building the Lautoka mill and the tramlines. They were hardworking people."
Ms Manioria said her great-grandfather was from Kwa in Malaita, which is known as Koio too in Wailoku.
"We have relatives in Koio and we always go and visit them. They know us, we know them. The people living in Vanuakula are all descendants of Solomon Islanders. Our ancestors were from Malaita.
"Some people here have what you call the ginger hair, the facial features are there and children don't want to wear T-shirts too most of the time.
"And sometimes, the Solomon dialect automatically comes out when we are talking. for example, instead of saying ligamu which means hand in the iTaukei language, we say abamu which means hand in Solomon.
"The Solomon words which we sometimes utter while talking surprises us."
Ms Manioria also said the way in which the descendants slept was also surprising, saying their legs always crossed while sleeping. On the reasons for the residents of Vanuakula to move out from Navutu, she said was the result of a dispute.
"Our forefathers were settled at Navutu. There were a lot of inter-marriages between the Solomon descendants and the iTaukei.
"In 1990, a dispute started and land became the centre of it. This resulted in our movement from Navutu to Vanuakula in 1995."
Ms Manioria said there had been inter-marriages between the Solomon descendants and Fijians of Indian descent in Vanuakula.
She said the Solomon descendants movement from Navutu to Vanuakula was arranged by the then government.
"The land was sub-divided here and we built our houses. We pay annual land rental to the government. We have water and electricity supply."
Ms Manioria said the Solomon descendants living in Lautoka, Rakiraki, Nadroga, Suva, Lami, Nasinu and Vanua Levu were connected.
"We all meet every year, either in October or November and discuss things happening in our settlements.
"The discussions are basically on general issues, things that matter the most in a person's daily life.
"This year's gathering is expected to be at Caubati in Nasinu but next year's will definitely be here in Vanuakula."
Ms Manioria said her mother-in-law was also from Solomon Islands, something that she was proud of.
Like other Solomon descendants, those at Vanuakula also treasure their past as it was something hard to forget, especially how their ancestors were brought to Fiji.
Apart from the Solomon Islanders, people from New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) were also taken to either Queensland in Australia or brought to Fiji.
The blackbirding era began in Fiji in 1865, much before indentured labourers from India were brought to work in the sugarcane fields.
According to the Wikipedia — a free online encyclopedia, the first group of labourers from New Hebrides and Solomon Islands arrived in Fiji to work in cotton plantations.
It says cotton had become scarce, and potentially an extremely profitable business, when the American civil war blocked most cotton exports from the southern United States.
The free encyclopaedia says that since the iTaukei were not interested in regular sustained labour, the thousands of European planters who flocked to Fiji sought labour from the Melanesian islands.
On July 5, 1865, Ben Pease received the first licence to provide 40 labourers from New Hebrides to Fiji.
The Wikipedia says attempts were made by the British and Queensland governments to regulate this transportation of labour.
Melanesian labourers were to be recruited for three years, paid three pounds per year, issued with basic clothing and given access to the company store for supplies, it says.
Despite this, most Melanesians were recruited by deceit, usually being enticed abroad ships with gifts and then locked up.
"The living and working conditions in Fiji were even worse than those suffered by the later Indian indentured labourers," states the Wikipedia.
"In 1875, the chief medical officer in Fiji, Sir William MacGregor, listed a mortality rate of 540 out of every 1000 labourers.
"After the expiry of the three-year contract, the labourers were required to be transported back to their villages but most ship captains dropped them off at the first island they sighted off the Fiji waters.
"The British sent warships to enforce the law (Pacific Islanders' Protection Act of 1872) but only a small proportion of the culprits were prosecuted."
The Wikipedia says a notorious incident of the blackbirding trade was the 1871 voyage of the brig Carl, that was organised by Dr James Patrick Murray to recruit labourers to work in the plantations of Fiji.
"Murray had his men reverse their collars and carry black books, so to appear to be missionaries.
"When islanders were enticed to congregate, Murray and his men would produce guns and force the islanders onto boats. During the voyage, Murray shot about 60 islanders.
"He was never brought to trial for his actions as he was allowed to escape trial by giving evidence against crew members.
"The captain of the Carl, Joseph Armstrong, was later sentenced to death."
With the arrival of Indian indentured labourers in Fiji from 1879, the number of Melanesian labourers decreased but they were still being recruited and employed, off the plantations in sugar mills and ports, until the start of the World War I.
Most of the Melanesians recruited were males.
After the recruitment ended, those who chose to stay in Fiji took iTaukei women as their wives and settled in areas around Suva, says the Wikipedia.