Fiji Times Logo

Fiji Time: 3:11 PM on Sunday 20 April

/ Front page / Features

The tales surrounding Buka Village

Avinesh Gopal
Tuesday, December 10, 2013

IT is a place I often visited during my primary school days.

The school holidays were often spent roaming the hills of this part of Rakiraki.

And most of the time was spent in the river to cool down from the heat in the highlands.

But little did I know then that where I often used to wander was the site of an ancient iTaukei village.

The spot where I and other relatives used to bathe was the same one used by villagers centuries ago.

Some eerie things were also experienced by me and others but the reasons were unknown to me then.

There were cocoa and coffee trees in the area but they have been cut down by people living there now.

It is the exact spot where the old Buka Village was located, a village that is said to have been ruined in 1819 as per stories passed down the generations.

Accompanied by my colleague, Nai Lalakai editor Anare Ravula, I returned to the spot after almost 30 years but for a different purpose.

It is now the site of the new Buka Village in an area known as Narara, which to me was known as Korotale all this while, and is situated about 15 kilometres away from Rakiraki Town.

The new village is located at the same spot as the old one and was established in 1990 through links from centuries ago.

Our journey to trace the descendants of Solomon Islanders led us to a twist to the arrival of the first iTaukei to Fiji.

In stories associated to the new claims on the arrival of the first iTaukei to Fiji is Buka Village, which is said to have been one of those occupied by the first people who arrived.

Epeli Bukadogo of Vatusekiyasawa in Rakiraki said the first ship that brought the iTaukei to Fiji was the Rogovoka, as per stories told by his forefathers.

The second ship, he said, was the Kaunitoni followed by the Kaunitera.

Mr Bukadogo said he was told by his ancestors that the first iTaukei and the Solomon Islanders left the same place on the first ship.

He said the journey was believed to have started from somewhere near the Black Sea.

"From the stories passed down our generations, some people got off at a place they later named Solomon Islands, believed to be after King Solomon in the Bible, while the rest made their way to Fiji," he said.

Mr Bukadogo claims that his forefather, Tuiwai was the first to set foot on Fiji, landing at Vitawa in Rakiraki.

He said his forefather led the people inland, for reasons not known, and villages were established in the Nakauvadra mountain range in Rakiraki.

The tribal war, he said, started up in the Nakauvadra mountain range at a place known as Bole.

It is said to have started because of land claims and cannibalism was also rife in the mountain range.

Mr Bukadogo claimed Lutunasobasoba, who many know for ages was the first iTaukei to set foot on Fiji, arrived in the second ship, the Kaunitoni.

He said Lutunasobasoba walked through the mountain range after landing off Lautoka and when he saw smoke in the Nakauvadra mountains, he knew someone was already there.

Since "buka" means smoke in the iTaukei language, he said the village was named Buka, saying there could be a connection to Buka Island off the Solomon Islands.

On December 18, 1923, George T Barker presented a paper at the Fijian Society meeting on the coming and going of the Buka men to the upper Wainibuka River.

Mr Barker described a village that was abandoned about 100 years before he presented the paper and said its name was Buka. He narrated a story that was told to him by an old iTaukei man from Tokaimalo at that time, who had taken the long journey during the flu.

At one time, he wrote, a party of men landed at the mouth of the Yaqara River and went up to the Nakauvadra mountains. The men reached a place called Namaeuku and after moving about three miles ahead, they were welcomed by some villagers who were hardpressed by their enemies from the interior.

"It is interesting to note here that the exodus of some of the lower Rewa tribes, the Korotumbu tribes as also the Saivou tribes were all because of the pressure from Colo," he wrote.

"There were about 20 men in the party, no women. They seemed to be doubtful if the good feeling of the taukei towards them would last. They asked for and received land for planting and to erect their village.

"In the building of the houses, timber was used for the side of their houses. The sides were high, not as the native houses with walls only, about three feet high.

"They called themselves Buka or Bouka men and they called their village or the natives did it for them-Bouka."

Mr Barker wrote that the inevitable happened after they settled down. He wrote they tried or did entice the native women away.

Bad feelings crept in and the last message sent to the group was to shift away.

The group moved and when crossing the river, they were attacked by the iTaukei with slung stones and arrows.

Furthermore, Mr Barker wrote that the 20 men and few women took advantage of a flood and departed down the river.

Hearing that most of the Buka men had left, the natives attacked the village and killed all the men and saved the women.

Mr Barker wrote in 1923 that traces of this intrusion of Tana or Solomons is apparent to this day, with the Solomon type skewing out occasionally.

Surrounded by trees and the Nakauvadra mountain range, the site of the new Buka Village today holds the tales of the past.

There are only four houses in the new village, with a population of about 30.

The remnants of about two centuries ago, like house mounds, are still visible at some places in the new village surroundings.

Aware that where they live was the site of the old Buka Village, the villagers have become used to whatever they experience every now and then.

NEXT WEEK: The experiences at Buka Village.