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How tribal war started in Fiji

Avinesh Gopal
Tuesday, February 18, 2014

IT is a part of Fiji's history.

However, there are different stories on how it could have actually started.

But it is a fact that tribal wars were rife at one time in the past.

Stories of why and how it started could vary in different parts of the country.

For example, one story has it that it started in the mountains in Rakiraki.

A group of Vatusekiyasawa villagers told this newspaper that the tribal war started in the Nakauvadra mountain range in Rakiraki.

Villagers say it started at the broken part of the mountain range known as "bole".

This place is visible, towards the skies, from the roadside at Narara, which is 17 kilometres from Rakiraki Town.

While the villagers do not know the exact reason for the start of the tribal war in the mountains, they said it could have been over land disputes between early settlers.

Another story has it that the wars were on when Lutunasobasoba made the journey through the mountain ridges with his family in the early 1800s.

Lutunasobasoba is documented to be the first iTaukei to set foot on Fiji, landing at Vuda in Lautoka.

But there are recent claims by villagers in Rakiraki that the first iTaukei to land on Fiji was Tuiwai, who settled in the mountain range in Rakiraki.

Some villagers in the Nadarivatu highlands also claim that people were already in Fiji when Lutunasobasoba made his journey through the mountains.

A villager said as Lutunasobasoba walked on the pathway or the "tualeita", he met and fought people along the way.

The stories revealed to this newspaper by villagers so far were those passed on to them, from generation to generation, by their forefathers.

With the differing stories on the first landing and the start of the tribal war, we still search for answers to establish the facts.

As part of our journey, my colleague, Nai Lalakai editor Anare Ravula and I met the Tui Cawanisa of Savatu, Ratu Semisi Ketewai.

Ratu Semisi, 87, claims to be a descendant of Lutunasobasoba and his house at Lewa in Nadarivatu sits in the middle of the "tualeita".

"From the stories told by my forefathers, I know the tribal war started because of a rooster," he said.

"It starts from the time of the Tui Nubulevu, who had a daughter Adi Sovanatabua.

"Adi got married in Naraoyaba, where her ancestors lived before. Her husband was Waicalanavanua.

"The couple had twin sons — Nakausabaria and Cirinakaumoli."

Ratu Semisi said story had it that the Tui Nubulevu went to Tonga once to participate in a competition, which he eventually won.

He said the Tui Nubulevu's prize was a rooster named Turukawa.

"When he arrived in Fiji, he left the box containing the rooster at Natoalevu in the highlands. Some people then took it to the Tui Nubulevu.

"The twin brothers heard the rooster crow one day and they asked their mother where the noise was coming from.

"Adi Sovanatabua told them that the crowing noise was coming from their grandfather's house, so the twins decided to get the rooster."

Ratu Semisi said the twins took a "tabua" (whale's tooth) and a pig to present to their grandfather in exchange for the rooster.

He said since the journey up to the mountains was long, the pig got tired after the twins had crossed the Tokaraibeqa peak.

"The pig got tired and it sat down. It turned into stone and I've seen it up in the mountains. I'm not lying about it.

"When the pig turned into stone, the twins continued the journey to their grandfather's house with the tabua."

Ratu Semisi said the twins presented the tabua to their grandfather and took the rooster.

He said the twins took the rooster back to Naraoyaba in the Nakauvadra mountain range.

By then, he said, Degei (snake God) was also in the mountains and he heard the rooster crowing.

"Degei sent one of his people in the night to get the rooster so that he could hear it crow and wake up in the morning.

"When the twins woke up in the morning, they found the rooster missing. They later heard it crowing in Degei's territory.

"The twins went and killed the rooster with a bow and arrow, which was made at Togovere in Rakiraki.

"Degei retaliated and he sent for a warrior in Nalawa named Teke to fight the twins.

"It was the start of the tribal war. The rooster Turukawa was the cause of the tribal war in Fiji."

Ratu Semisi said the twins went to their father when the tribal war started and took a gun from him.

He said the twins were banished by their father.

The chief, however, didn't say where the twins went to after being banished.

NEXT WEEK: Part one of a series on the history of cannibalism in Fiji. Was it Before Christ?