Tawake’s heritage tales – Part 4

The village of Dakuniba that heads the vaua of Mabuco in Cakaudrove. Picture: SERAFINA SILAITOGA

This is the fourth part of this series of Discovering Fiji which focuses on the people of Tawake and their origins. Last week, we highlighted the death of tribal warrior Vakaminoniqala who was replaced by Tevita Rasolo who led a few fights with neighbouring clans. This final part of the Tawake series shares the history of how the crabs and eels got to Tawake from Verata. It also entails stories of the tribal war with a Macuata warrior known as Ratu Yaya.


WHEN the people of Tawake failed to succeed in the tribal war against the people of Mabuco (Dakuniba, Nawi and Vunikura) and Korocau (Nakobo area), they moved to Tawake Village making it their permanent home. While there, a Macuata warrior by the name of Ratu Yaya arrived and the villagers of Tawake stopped him from sleeping in the village. According to Tawake villager Penioni Cokanalagi, this Macuata warrior accepted their decision and returned to his province. “But when he returned, he planned to stage a war against the people of Tawake and he asked other people in Macuata, to which they agreed,” he said. “So the villagers of Tawake heard about this and they started looking around for help. “Their chief Tevita Rasolo then sailed to Tunuloa to ask the Tui Tunuloa for his help.” The Tui Tunuloa, Mr Cokanalagi then sent one of his well-known fighters — Ratu Semi Lalama — who formed a military group and travelled to Tawake. “They were actually sent to protect the boundary of Tawake Village,” he said. “Then the warriors of Macuata sailed to Tawake Village and on their way, they decided to stop for a while at Nacobocobo which is in Cawaro. “Two Macuata fighters who joined the trip were Tuqa and Dranibaka so they got off at Nacobocobo where they met some villagers from Tawake. “A fight broke out between them and one of the Macuata fighters was killed in the tribal attack while the other escaped.” As a result of the fight, Mr Cokanalagi said the people of Macuata returned to their province because they depended on the two fighters (Tuqa and Dranibaka) for victory. “After the tribal war, the villagers living in different areas along the coast of Tawake started relocating, most of them towards the beachside,” he said. “The mataqali of Nautosolo moved towards the sea and started Naboutini Village but they still belonged to the tribal clan of Koroivoco. “Other neighbouring villages did the same and moved towards the beach because in those days, the only means of transportation was the canoe. “The four main villages that came under the vanua of Tawake in those days were Tawake, Cawaro, Naboutini and Lagi.” Not long after the relocation of villagers, Mr Cokanalagi said the Vunivalu of Tawake, Tevita Rasolo, died and was accorded a chiefly burial. “So they chose Rasolo’s nephew Dauunu to be the new Vunivalu of Tawake,” he said. “He led the people for a while but not too long because measles hit the area and Dauunu was also infected so he died. “The people of Tawake then chose Ratu Seru Raco as their new vunivalu who then led the vanua of Tawake.” Under Ratu Semi’s leadership, the villagers of Lagi and Cawaro, who had some differences, split and the Tui Cakau Ratu Josefa Lalabalavu heard about it. Mr Cokanalagi said when Ratu Josefa was informed of the tribal war, he called the people of Dogotuki to gather at Tawake for a reconciliation ceremony. “During the reconciliation, it was then discovered that the chief of Dogotuki, known as Buli Dogotuki caused the split,” he said. “So the Tui Cakau, Ratu Josefa decided to send the Buli Dogotuki to Kadavu to be imprisoned on that island for three years. “Ratu Josefa also ordered that three men from Tawake Village who supported the Buli Tawake be also sent with him to Kadavu. “This was when Ratu Josefa divided the vanua of Tawake and ordered that Lagi and Cawaro be included in the province of Macuata and be one because he didn’t want them to fi ght any more.”
Following the decision by Ratu Josefa, the Vunivalu of Tawake, Ratu Seru, died in Tawake Village and Ratu Ilimotama Macu was then chosen to replace the late Ratu Seru.
By this time, Mr Cokanalagi said there were discussions for the mataqali Wainigadru to move to another village.
“So when Ratu Joni Rabici took over as Roko Tui Cakaudrove (provincial administrator), he discussed the issue with our elders and the mataqali
members and they all agreed to the relocation,” he said.
“The members of mataqali Wainigadru then moved to Wainigadru Village. Not long after they moved, the vunivalu Ratu Ilimotama died so Netani
Valekuta replaced him.
“And it is this vunivalu, Mr Valekuta who gave all these stories and events to the Native Lands Commission in 1929 at Somosomo Village, Taveuni.”

The eel and crab from Verata

It is believed that when the elders arrived in Tawake from Verata, they brought with them an eel and a crab.
According to Wainigadru villager Timilai Koroilewa, the elders dropped the two sea creatures into the qoliqoli of Tawake when they arrived.
“So the crab and eel made their way through the waters and both emerged by the shores near Wainigadru Village,” he said.
“This area is known as Levuka and the crab and the eel both lived here for some time until one day, the crab decided to move further inland.
“So the crab moved into the forest, crawling over the hilltop of Tawake and it fell over to the coastal side of Macuata and followed the seaside
from the Cawaro area down to Namuka.
“That is why today, the people along this area including those in Namuka have a lot of crabs by their shores and they never run out of supply.
“If you go to the market in Labasa on Saturdays only the women from Namuka are there selling crabs.”
The eel, however, remained in Levuka and the elders of Tawake never had problem catching eels for their meals.
Mr Koroilewa remembers stories passed down by their elders in which people used to catch eels in a creek at Levuka settlement.
“Our elders used to tell us that when they have functions, they would get the eels from the creek at Levuka but that creek is now fi lled with seawater and the eels have all disappeared,” he said.
“But this area of Levuka and the story of the eel and the crabs have attracted well-known people like the late Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka and other visitors who have dropped by. “The name ‘Levuka’ is also linked to the old capital in Ovalau and it is believed that the elders of Verata also travelled from Ovalau.

Next week:

  • Burotukula of Wainigadru
  • Famous Ashika Bar
  • The relationship between the people of
    Tawake and Verata, proving the story of
    the eel and the crab.

History being the subject it is, a group’s version of events may not be the same as that held by another group. When publishing one account, it is not our intention to cause division or to disrespect other oral traditions. Those with a different version can contact us so we can publish their
account of history too.

More Stories