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Degei’s Descendants

Degei’s Descendants: Spirits, Place and People in Pre-Cession Fiji

Aubrey Parke
Matthew Spriggs
Deryck Scarr
Series: Terra Australis
Volume: 41
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Degei’s Descendants
    Book Description:

    Dr Parke’s monograph examines how Fijians, especially in western areas of Fiji, currently understand and explain the origins and development of the social and political divisions of late pre-colonial traditional Fijian society. It assesses the reasoning, consistency and, where possible, the historical accuracy of such understandings. The oral history research which forms the backbone of the study was conducted in either standard Fijian or one or other of the western Fijian dialects with which Dr Parke was familiar. The period on which the monograph concentrates is the two centuries or so immediately prior to the Deed of Cession on 10 October 1874. A number of the major chiefs of Fiji had offered to cede Fiji to Queen Victoria; and after the offer had been accepted, Fiji became a British Crown Colony on that day. The volume will be of interest to all archaeologists, anthropologists and historians with an interest in Fiji. It will also be of wider interest to Pacific Studies scholars and those of British colonial history as well as historians with a wider interest in indigenous traditional histories and their role in governance today.

    eISBN: 978-1-925021-84-4
    Subjects: Archaeology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Aubrey Parke: An Enthusiastic Amateur in Fiji?
    (pp. vii-xvi)
    Matthew Spriggs

    Aubrey Laurence Parke was born on 11 November 1925, the son of Laurence Stanley Parke (1890–1940) and Mildred Frances Parke. He was born some two years after his father participated in the Dorset Minor Counties Cricket Championship team. Aubrey—no mean hand with the bat himself—came from a long line of cricketers, his grandfather Laurence P. Parke (1860–1929) having participated in the same Counties championship in 1902. Aubrey’s father was the only one of three cricketing brothers to have survived the Great War, and Aubrey was presumably named after one of the two that didn’t return, John...

  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    Aubrey Parke
  5. Preface
    (pp. xix-xx)
    Aubrey Parke
  6. Maps
    (pp. xxi-xxx)
  7. 1 Fijian Society: The Islands of Fiji (General)
    (pp. 1-18)

    The islands of Fiji, Rotuma, Samoa and Tonga define an oceanic geographical quadrilateral in which Fiji has the largest landmass and the greatest diversity of climate and topography. Among these four regions, traditional Fijian society shows much the greatest variety in patterns of language and socio-political structure.

    When investigations leading to this project began tentatively in 1951, Fiji (Viti in Fijian) was a British Crown Colony, after Ratu Seru Cakobau, Vunivalu of Bau, and twelve other high chiefs had ceded the ‘Islands of Fiji’ to Queen Victoria under the Deed of Cession dated 10th October 1874. The Colony was extended...

  8. 2 Overview of Project
    (pp. 19-26)

    The first aim of this research is to determine from present-day oral accounts how Fijians, especially in western areas from 1951 to date, understand and explain, first, the origins, characteristics, development and interactions of the social and political divisions of late pre-Colonial Fijian society; and secondly, the general principles of traditional land tenure. The second aim is to assess the reasoning and accuracy of such understandings by taking into account anthropological, archaeological, historical and linguistic evidence based on my own investigations and on the records of others, especially the Native Lands Commission (NLC). The constant question with which my research...

  9. 3 The Ideological Sense of Vanua
    (pp. 27-36)

    This chapter addresses the ideological sense ofvanua(that is,vanua1) as the basis of pre-Colonial traditional Fijian society. Such a sense can best be considered in the light of the three elements of spirits, places, and humans. This view is based on my investigations of current Fijian understandings, in various parts of Fiji but particularly in Rakiraki, Vuda/Nadi/Nawaka and the Yasawas, and in this respect, I find compelling the views of Professor Asesela Ravuvu (1983:70) who defined thevanuain this sense as a complex term which has physical, social and cultural dimensions inextricably interrelated.

    These three elements...

  10. 4 Understanding Traditional Fijian Society
    (pp. 37-44)

    This monograph is particularly concerned with variation between polities, as following a general geographical pattern. This pattern represents a broad continuum of polities of degrees of complexity, with the simplest in the western areas of Fiji, and the most complex in the east. Previous studies (Schütz 1962, Pawley and Sayaba 1971, Geraghty 1983a, 1983b) have contrasted the east and the west in terms of history, linguistics and mutual intelligibility of communalects. They have indicated a broad dichotomy between an eastern group of communalects and a western group, whilst pointing out that within each group there is a chain of communalects...

  11. 5 Factors Affecting Development and Interaction
    (pp. 45-56)

    This chapter discusses factors that might have, first, led to the development of differing degrees of complexity and stability in polities in different parts of Fiji; and secondly, resulted in various forms of interaction between polities and between polities and external influences.

    Socio-political, historical, archaeological and linguistic information, as gathered from other sources as well as my own enquiries, indicate that southeastern and eastern polities outside the areas directly covered by my research project included highly complex, relatively stable, socio-political confederations ormatanitū, such as those of Bau, Cakaudrove, Rewa and Verata (see Appendix A).

    Research in the field revealed...

  12. 6 The Yavusa: The Ideal and the Reality
    (pp. 57-74)

    The basic Fijian polity oryavusais ideally taken to be a group of people (both male and female) claiming descent usually in the male line from a common mythological ancestral spirit, and associated with commonly held land. To the extent that a person can ideally belong to only oneyavusa, theyavusais exclusive and members are referred to asitaukeiin contrast to non-members who are referred to asvulagi.

    The yavusaideally comprises sub-descent groups, referred to currently asmataqaliin all recognised communalects of which I am aware. These have a recognised order of seniority based...

  13. 7 The Diversity of Fijian Polities
    (pp. 75-92)

    An overall discussion of the general diversity of traditional pan-Fijian polities immediately prior to Cession in 1874 will set a wider perspective for the results of my own explorations into the origins, development, structure and leadership of theyavusain my three field areas, and the identification of different patterning of interrelationships betweenyavusa. The diversity of pan-Fijian polities can be most usefully considered as a continuum from the simplest to the most complex levels of structured types of polity, with a tentative geographical distribution from simple in the west to extremely complex in the east.

    Obviously I am by...

  14. Overview of Chapters 8–10 Fijian Polities in Three Areas in the Yasayasa Vakara
    (pp. 93-96)

    In previous chapters I have discussed how and why the fortunes of fourmatanitūor highly developed socio-political complexes which typified polities in eastern Fiji in the late period leading up to Cession waxed and waned from time to time. Each one of them maintained a certain level of stability even in times of trouble; and this level of stability enabled a polity even on the wane to survive and usually to re-assert itself as a major power or at least to command a degree of respect from its neighbours. The actual degree of stability would depend on the nature...

  15. 8 Polities of Rakiraki Tikina
    (pp. 97-130)

    There is a certain magic about Rakiraki which is so clearly an area where associated spirits, people and land reflect quite dramatically the three features of Fijian society which are the crucial elements of the ideology ofvanua1 underlying and pervading Fijian socio-political groups. Rakiraki is directly overlooked by the often cloud-topped peaks of the Nakauvadra Range which add a mysterious dimension to the Range as a spirit centre for many of the culture heroes of Fijian mythology. This spirit centre is well known and respected throughout Fiji. Rakiraki is itself an area where the people recognise, fear or...

  16. 9 Polities of West Vuda Tikina
    (pp. 131-160)

    Vuda Newtikinaincludes the Oldtikinaof Vuda, Sabeto and Vitogo. The Oldtikinaof Vuda and Sabeto comprise the western part of Vuda Newtikinaand were covered in the course of my researches.

    The main polities based in these Oldtikinawere, at the time of Cession in 1874, and are still recognised as follows:

    I will now describe in more detail the origins and development of theyavusawhich were based in the Oldtikinaof Vuda and which comprised the Vuda socio-political complex as it was at about the time of the 1871 Cakobau Government....

  17. 10 Polities of Nadi Tikina
    (pp. 161-208)

    The Newtikinaof Nadi is bounded on the north by the Milika River which divides the Sabeto part of the Newtikinaof Vuda (see Chapter 9) from Vuda. To the east and the south, Nadi is bounded by the Newtikinaof Nawaka (see Chapter 11) and the province of Nadroga, of which the Oldtikinaof Vaturu lies along the eastern part; the Oldtikinaof Nawaka bounds the south-eastern part; and the hills of the Oldtikinaof Rukuruku as well as the Newtikinaof Malomalo in the province of Nadroga border the southern part....

  18. 11 Polities of Nawaka Tikina
    (pp. 209-228)

    The present Fijian Administrationtikinaof Nawaka is part of theyasanaor province of Ba. Nawaka lies in the middle of the west side of the island of Viti Levu, separated from the western coastline by thetikinaof Nadi. To the north, Nawaka borders thetikinaof Magodro in the mountainous interior of Ba. To the east lie the Nausori Highlands and the area known as Namataku in the mountainous territory of Navosa, which forms part of the present province of Nadroga/Navosa. To the south, that part of Nawaka known as Rukuruku borders on thetikinaof Malomalo...

  19. Overview of Chapters 12–13 Polities of the Natu Yasawa: The Yasawa Group
    (pp. 229-234)

    Including the outlier of Viwa and excluding the island of Wayasewa which falls within the territory of the Sabutoyatoyayavusaof Vuda, the Yasawa Group comprises seven permanently inhabited islands and many small islands. The main group stretches over a distance of about 80 km in a north-north-easterly direction from Waya in the south to Yasawa in the north. About 23 km to the north-east of Yasawa lies the uninhabited rocky islet of Alewa Kalou, or Round Island, with inaccessible slopes rising to a height of 152 m. These islands stand within the shallow seas to the east of the...

  20. 12 The Tikina of Naviti
    (pp. 235-256)

    Except for the inhabited island of Waya Sewa and the garden island of Kuata which are included in the territory of thevanuaof Vuda, the southernmost island of the Yasawa group is the island of Waya. Waya lies about 40 km north-west of Lautoka and about 25 km from the Great Sea Reef forming the western edge of the shallows within which the islands of the Yasawa Group form a chain. Waya is about 6 km from north to south, and about 4 km from east to west. It has an area of 22 square km. There are wide...

  21. 13 The Tikina of Yasawa
    (pp. 257-272)

    The island of Nacula lies about 2 km south of the island of Yasawa and 8 km north of the island of Matacawalevu. It is nearly 10 km long from north to south, and 3 km across at the widest part. It had a total area of about 22 square km. The coastline is indented on both sides. The main ridge roughly follows the west coast, and the highest part is the peak of Korobeka (251 m) towards the north end. There are two other peaks, 237 m and 221m high towards the south end. Near the centre, a transverse...

  22. 14 Conclusion
    (pp. 273-278)

    In order to assist in my investigations of the origins and development of various polities in pre-Colonial times, current oral accounts were recorded in the course of discussions with representatives of all the polities in my three study areas comprising Rakiraki in north-eastern Viti Levu; Nadi/Nawaka/Vuda in Western Viti Levu; and the western archipelago of the Yasawa Group. For comparative purposes, the project took into account polities in areas other than the study areas. In the course of the project a record was made of the current oral accounts of Fijian myths, traditions, histories and symbols associated with eighty-sevenyavusa...

  23. Appendix A
    (pp. 279-294)
  24. Appendix B
    (pp. 295-300)
  25. Bibliography
    (pp. 301-308)