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Back to roots

Ilaitia Turagabeci
Monday, August 18, 2014

148 years after Christianity arrived in Bureloa
the stronghold of the Tokaimalo people in Ra
the torch that signified the return of light to a dark part of the province's history sheds light on an ancient conspiracy that led to an attempt to annihilate the rulers of the once impenetrable domain. In Part Two of this series
ILAITIA TURAGABECI tells their story.

RADRONI was not an easy man to convince to travel to Cakaudrove and fight someone else's war.

His fight had always been in and around the jungles of Bureloa, the domain of the Tokaimalo people who for long opposed the arrival of Methodist missionaries trying to convert people along the Ra coast.

Operating from Viwa Island off the Tailevu coast, the missionaries found the coastal Ra people easy to deal with and convert.

The fearsome warriors inland were difficult, often attacking those who brought the gospel and those who had sacrificed their ancient gods for the "white man's religion". Radroni's mission to protect Bureloa from invaders changed one day.

A delegation with traditional links to Verata walked through Bureloa's defences and asked for help.

They brought a request from the Tui Cakau that came via Bau which, with the help of missionaries and colonial settlers, was trying to extend its hold as self-proclaimed ruler of Fiji across Viti Levu.

The Nakorotubu army stood in its way.

War across the Bligh Waters, they were told, warranted their battle skills to quell a rebellion from Natewa on Vanua Levu against the Tui Cakau.

As an elder of the chiefly yavusa of Tokaimalo from Bureloa, Radroni answered the cry and led the war party from Nakorotubu to Cakaudrove.

It was 1846. Leaving behind his younger hunchbacked brother Waqabuli in charge of the vanua, Radroni and his men sailed across to a battle they were not used to.

Tokaimalo and Bureloa historian Ilaitia Galu Bale, a fourth generation descendant of Radroni, said the "rebellion" ducked back into the Natewa jungles.

For the Nakorotubu army, so used to a ruthless approach and quick war, this was frustrating. It lengthened their time of stay away from home, from the vanua.

Mr Bale believes that war was a conspiracy hatched to keep them away from Bureloa and render it powerless to other "forces".

"Unlike other wars of those days, the Natewa war was very long. There is not much documented history of the people who died in it, except the words of my great-grandfather that was passed down to us. Only the deaths of 100 people at the end of the war, in which the vunivalu was defeated, was told to us," he said.

As the Nakorotubu army prepared to return home in 1853, Radroni was summoned to the chiefly home of the Tui Cakau in Somosomo, Taveuni.

The war party sailed to Taveuni and dropped him and warriors from his inner circle from Dreketi, on the other side of the mountain from Bureloa, on the Somosomo shore before crossing back to Viti Levu.

In Somosomo, the Tui Cakau thanked the Nakorotubu warriors for their hand in his victory and gave them a qusi ni loaloa, his offering of prime land that went all the way from shore up the mountain overlooking the chiefly village.

A relationship that was filled with respect for each other ensued with Radroni's people and the chiefly mataqali of the Tui Cakau, Valelevu.

The land on which Radroni settled on across the stone-bed river from Somosomo was aptly named Dreketi, in memory of the warriors of Dreketi from Ra who stood by him.

Three months after giving them the qusi ni loaloa, the Tui Cakau, Tuikilakila, was murdered.

Radroni realised he had been betrayed, probably by the very people who were working in the shadows who he felt also killed their keeper. By then he had a son and named him Timoci Galu, galu referring to a chief being silenced by the fact that he had been taken out of his domain in Ra and had no people of his own to command.

Back in Ra, Reverend John Hunt found he could not infiltrate Bureloa.

His Wesleyan comrade who he had arrived with in Fiji in 1838, Reverend James Calvert, applied his strategy that the chief had to be converted first for the people to follow.

In 1865, with the help of two Tokaimalo women who were married into the vanua of Nayavutoka, Waqabuli was converted. He was baptised Luke Waqabuli.

Mr Bale said Radroni's separation from Bureloa and his pain was expressed in names down his family line. But the worst was yet to come for his people in Bureloa.

NEXT WEEK: Revenge of the ousted people of Nakorotubu and the vere vaka Bau

* The author has maternal links to the yavusa Tokaimalo from Bureloa

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