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


Aubrey Parke

I am grateful for having been granted a Postgraduate Research award by The Australian National University, and an ANUTECH scholarship.

I must record the inspiration given to me, before I went to Fiji in 1951, by George Milner (Linguistics), Stuart Piggott (Archaeology), and Raymond Firth (Anthropology). On my arrival in Fiji, I was given great encouragement by G.K. Roth, R.S. Derrick, the Reverend C.M. Churchward, Ulaiasi Vosabalavu, the Reverend Kolinio Saukuru, C.H. Nott, and the Reverend A. Tippett.

In the course of my research I was assisted considerably by officers and members of the Native Lands Commission and Native Lands Trust Board; and especially by officers and members of the Fijian Affairs Office and the offices of the Roko Tui of Provinces and the Buli of the Tikina—not only in my immediate research area but also in carrying out comparative research in all parts of Fiji. I was fortunate to have close, often personal, and official connections with them over the years. Also I worked in close liaison with the Government Archivist and staff, and the Director of the Fiji Museum of which I was a member of the Board of Trustees and Archaeological Advisor.

At the beginning of my final research, I was encouraged and assisted by Ron Crocombe, Deryck Scarr, Paul Geraghty, Professor Asesela Ravuvu and his colleagues in the Centre for Pacific Studies. Outside Fiji I received the same encouragement from David Burley, Marshall Sahlins, and Richard Shutler. I must also thank the Managers and Staff of the Rakiraki Hotel, the Nadi Bay Motel and the Sheraton at Denarau, where I was welcomed and well looked after during my many visits.

I especially acknowledge with heartfelt thanks the assistance and encouragement I received from Ian Farrington and Peter Bellwood (my appointed Supervisors); Andy Pawley and Patrick Guinness (my ever-patient Advisors); Nicolas Peterson and Ian Keen (who ever encouraged me in preparing my thesis); and Kathy Callen who was always a wonderful source of strength, good cheer, knowledge and expertise in the protocol of Postgraduate Studies in the University. To Patrick Guinness I give particular thanks for his friendship, enthusiasm, assistance and advice.

These acknowledgements would not be complete without a record of appreciation of discussions and arguments with my Postgraduate Student colleagues in and around LG23 where I was formally established for some 10 years. Without their cheerful banter and occasional drinks, I doubt if I could have survived. Thanks especially to Peter Dowling, Keiko Tamura, Tom Knight and Bec Parkes.

I also acknowledge my thanks to all the traditional Turaga/Momo (Chiefs), Bete (Priests), and Mata ni Vanua (Ceremonial Officials) and other members of the 87 Yavusa (Socio-Political Units), most of whom, in the course of my research over the years, spent many hours discussing their respective Units, and helped me to identify many archaeological sites. It would be most invidious to name even a few of these people.

The traditional Chiefs of Vanua (Socio-Political Federations), and of Matanitū (the most extensive and powerful confederations) were always willing to help me, not only in my research area but also through out the rest of Fiji, especially the Vunivalu of Bau, the Roko Tui Dreketi of Rewa, the Tui Cakau of Cakaudrove, and Bulou Eta (the Kwa Levu of Nadroga).

I must mention the following individuals who took a great interest in my research, discussing socio-political affairs and walking with me, often for a considerable distance, to visit archaeological sites:-

Solomone of Lomolomo; Jale Silimaibau; Tanoa of Rakiraki; Apakuki Tuitavua; Emosi Tavai; Kolinio Qoro; Jotame (Matanivanua of Naivuvuni); the Momo Levu of Saunaka; the Bete of Limasa (War spirit of the Nakovaki); the Turaga ni Koro of Narewa; and the Bete of Betoraurau, Sabeto.

Finally, to Liz Walters, Sue Fraser, Marian Robson, Virginia Woodland and Karuna Honer, in partnership with my daughter Fiona Parke, who did so much in the last stages of preparing my thesis.

It would be very ungracious and ungrateful if I did not acknowledge the help from my long-suffering research assistant, Tamaris Parke, who accompanied me to many archaeological sites, often difficult to access. Together we went uphill and down the valleys, in mangrove swamps, and through mud. She was a marvel with the trowel, the camera and the measuring tape, and without her assistance my final work would surely have taken more than 14 years! Vinaka Vakalevu.

Additional Acknowledgements from the Editors

Matthew Spriggs and Deryck Scarr

The editors were originally approached by John Parke as to how Aubrey’s PhD thesis could be produced as a book and circulated to interested scholars. His family was persuaded that it was of sufficient interest to be published as a refereed academic monograph and we thank Aubrey’s widow Tamaris, and his children John and Fiona for their constant support and patience during its production. The text was lightly edited by us with the early copy-editing assistance of Gillian Scott, and the bibliography underwent major surgery before submission to the Terra Australis monograph series. We particularly thank the TA reviewers David Burley and Geoffrey Clark, and the series editors Sally Brockwell and Sue O’Connor for their agreement to publish the monograph. The Australian National Univerisity generously supported production of the volume through a publication subsidy to Matthew Spriggs, awarded in 2013. The original rather cumbersome title of the PhD was Traditional Society in North West Fiji and its Political Development: constructing a history through the use of oral and written accounts, archaeological and linguistic evidence. We sought to construct a more succinct title appropriate for a published work, and Degei’s Descendants is the result. The cover photograph of Navatu Crag, central in some of the oral traditions collected by Aubrey, was taken by Matthew Spriggs during an exciting dash in Ravindra Sewak’s taxi from Lautoka during a short cruise ship stopover in November 2013. Mr Sewak is commended for his safe, reliable and courteous driving.

28th December 2013

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