Previous Next

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

8. Polities of Rakiraki Tikina

General background

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 of vanua 1 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 revere many natural features such as crags, rocks, caves, pools and other physical places associated directly with ancestral and other spirits. Many yavusa in Rakiraki claim their original ancestral spirits came down from Nakauvadra and settled on land and in specific places with which the people and the spirits are still intimately associated. People still maintain communication with the spirits through bete or priests; and take great care that neither they themselves nor visiting archaeologists should offend the spirits by breaching accepted protocol or by disturbing their places. This involves first obtaining spiritual and socio-political permission to visit sites and afterwards requesting spiritual cleansing, through appropriate yaqona ceremonies.

The present Fijian Administration district or tikina of Rakiraki (see note at end about Rakiraki) is part of the province or yasana of Ra. The other tikina are Saivou (to the south of the Nakauvadra), Nakorotubu (on the eastern coast) and Nalawa (in the mountainous interior to the south of Saivou and the west of Nakorotubu). Rakiraki lies in the north-eastern corner of the island of Viti Levu, bordering Navitilevu Bay to the south-east, the Nakauvadra Range to the south, and the tikina of Tavua in the yasana of Ba, to the west. It includes the island of Malake and other islets in that part of the sea forming its northern boundary. Associated with Rakiraki are thirty-eight yavusa, the origins, development and grouping of which will be discussed in this chapter.

These yavusa of Rakiraki and its periphery are important because of their particular socio-political, geographical and spiritual features and inter-yavusa relationships which distinguish them in significant ways from the major socio-political groups of the east which I have already described and the relatively simple polities which generally characterise the west.

Other factors affecting the correlation between the degree of complexity of a polity in the continuum and its position in the east–west geographical alignment of Fiji could include the terrain. In Rakiraki, where the terrain lies generally between the Nakauvadra Mountains and the sea, inter-polity communication is not particularly difficult. In the west, the terrain in the hill-country of Nawaka and of parts of Vuda is difficult and intercommunication away from the rivers is not easy. In the Yasawas, communication is not particularly difficult by land or along the coastal fringe and is relatively easy by sea. The islands themselves are not extensive in area and those of any size are hilly. In the east, the terrain of Rewa is mainly mangrove swamp, and the Kubuna territory on Viti Levu and the Cakaudrove territory on Vanua Levu are hilly, while the island of Taveuni has a mountainous spine and only the west side is occupied. Accordingly I do not consider that difficult terrain is an over-riding factor in curtailing the development of polities anywhere, especially those with a maritime seaboard or with river access; nor do I think that direct Tongan influence was the only factor affecting the development of complex polities. I consider that other important factors were the ability, talents and ambitions of the eastern paramounts whose expansive aims had as a model the monarchical tendencies of Tonga. These monarchic tendencies became well known to the eastern paramounts who either visited Tonga or had considerable dealings, social or military, with Tongans who came to Fiji. They also and more importantly had access to military and naval might which accumulated through bati alliances and through qali subservience and conquest, and in the case of Bau through Tongan assistance in exchange for the acceptance of Christianity. Some polities accepted or came under Tongan influence for whatever reason, symbolic, social or military, whereas others rejected it.

Bau's traditional sphere of influence through Roko Tui Viwa stretched up to eastern parts of the province of Ra. Away from the direct influence of the Tongans and outside the traditional area of authority of Bau, the independent polities of Rakiraki looked with grave suspicion on any attempts on the part of Cakobau and the eastern polities to extend their sphere of influence to Rakiraki. They were proud of their independence, and had no traditional or socio-political inducement to bow to the monarchical tendencies of Bau.

The polities of Rakiraki generally developed well beyond the form of a single, simple independent yavusa, but never attained the extreme complexity and geographical expansion of the major eastern polities. In the context of the posited continuum of forms of complexity of Fijian polities in late prehistoric and early historic times, Rakiraki is important, socially and geographically, in illustrating the obvious point that the further west one goes from the highly developed socio-political complexes of the east, the tendency is away from complex forms of confederation and political hierarchy; whereas the closer one gets to the eastern polities, the tendency is towards the complex forms of the east. Rakiraki lies geographically on the borders of the complex eastern polities, but still some distance from the simple and the less complex forms of polities found in the far west. In brief, Rakiraki lay outside the borders of Bau's traditional sphere of influence during the earlier part of the general period of my project and may show how these differences come about.

Rakiraki, however, did become absorbed into Bau's sphere of influence administratively when Ra (of which Rakiraki was a part) became a province under the Cakobau Government before Cession. The Roko Tui Viwa, who at the time heeded the traditional authority of the Vunivalu of Bau, was appointed by Cakobau to be governor of the province of Ra. So, both administratively and traditionally, the paramounts of the socio-political complexes of Rakiraki were then expected to heed the authority of Cakobau, as head of the Government, through his representative, the governor who happened to be Roko Tui Viwa. They were also expected to heed Cakobau's traditional authority, as Vunivalu of Bau, through the Roko Tui Viwa.

Rakiraki is important linguistically, because not only is it a border area politically and geographically, it is also a border area where the chain of communalects to the southeast of Rakiraki and the chain to the west of Rakiraki show significant changes. The very name of the province, Ra, means ‘western’. It is noteworthy that Rakiraki communalects tend to be grammatically more in character with those of eastern polities than with those of the west but to have many characteristics of western communalects which only start geographically at the borders of Tavua. The linguistic factor is important because a communalect was often regarded as a symbol of unification and identification in a polity. Most of the Rakiraki communalects are characterised by the gato or glottal stop in the place of the unvoiced apical stop /t/. This linguistic feature is recognised outside Ra with perhaps some amusement as the shibboleth of the Rakiraki and neighbouring Ra communalects.

Rakiraki is important spiritually because of the origin myths about the arrival and activities of those of the culture heroes who are associated with its northern coastal border, the island of Malake and the Nakauvadra Range glowering over its southern border. As we have seen, the origin myth current in the west of Fiji related to these culture heroes arriving from the west in the vessel Kaunitoni in the Vuda area, where some remained, while some went by boat to the north coast of Rakiraki and then to the Nakauvadra where they stayed (see also Chapter 9). Others travelled by land across Viti Levu and eventually settled on the Nakauvadra too. One of the leaders was the main culture hero, Degei; and the people of Malake are the traditional turtle fishers of Degei, just as the Rakiraki people are the traditional providers of his root and plantain crops. It was from Nakauvadra that many of the original ancestors of Fijian polities had their mythical origin. These spiritual factors are important in consideration of the origins and development of a yavusa which represents a kinship group descended from a common spiritual ancestor. They are also important as a basis for yavusa to federate because, according to myth, their respective original ancestral spirits had been related. This important relationship between members of two yavusa claiming to have a common ancestor or related ancestors, was known as veitauvū which empowered those involved to take what goods they wanted from their tau.

The Nakauvadra Range is therefore important as a basis of the spiritual unification of Fijian society. The literal meaning of the word in the Rakiraki communalect is ‘fallow yam garden’, and relates to the traditional responsibilities of those living in the area to provide yams and other root crops for presentation to Degei. The significance of this will become apparent when I discuss the spiritual interrelationship between my project area and the Nakauvadra in more detail. The Nakauvadra Range itself falls geographically outside the New Rakiraki tikina. Because, however, it is intimately associated spiritually and traditionally with Rakiraki, the area for present purposes includes not only Rakiraki tikina, but also the peripheral area situated north of the Nakauvadra range. This peripheral area which has been included for administrative purposes within the New tikina of Saivou, can usefully be referred to as the Rakiraki periphery. Although it falls outside the administrative boundaries of the New tikina of Rakiraki, nevertheless the people now living in the villages on the north slopes of the Range heed the traditional authority of the paramount chief of the Rakiraki polity and may therefore be considered to be part of the structure of that polity.

In conclusion, Rakiraki should be regarded as a border polity, geographically, socio-politically, and linguistically, between the major eastern polities and the relatively simple western polities. This will be demonstrated in the exploration of the polities to which I now turn.1

The main polities: Rakiraki tikina and periphery—a geographical snapshot

Rakiraki New tikina comprises the Old tikina of Rakiraki, Navolau and Raviravi; and the periphery represents parts of Naroko Old tikina on the north slopes of the Nakauvadra Range. My research covered these geographical areas.

The main vanua 2 and yavusa based on these areas were, at the time of Cession, and are still recognised as follows:

Name of vanua

Leading yavusa

Title of paramount

No. of yavusa

No. of levels

No. of villages

Rakiraki Old Tikina



Tu Navitilevu




Navolau Old Tikina



Ratu ni Natokea




Raviravi Old Tikina



Tu Navatu






Tui Vatu




Parts of Naroko Old Tikina on North Slopes of Nakauvadra









Tui Navisama




Naroko (part)






Some other yavusa based in Rakiraki New tikina need special mention:

(i) The AiSokula yavusa based on the village of Nakorokula, formerly associated with the Namotutu yavusa and living on Namotutu land; but later living on Natokea land and associated with the Natokea vanua.

(ii) The Namacuku yavusa based on the village of Togovere, though independent, have myths of common origin with the Vatukaloko polity.

(iii) The Mali yavusa and the Nakorosaga yavusa based in the Raviravi villages of Naseyani and Nananu respectively, on the boundaries of Raviravi Old tikina and Tavua. They are two of the Twelve Yavusa, a complex and geographically dispersed socio-political complex, the sphere of influence of which includes the Vatukaloko polity (referred to above) and extends widely across the south side of the Nakauvadra Range, outside the area of this research.

Rakiraki tikina and periphery: a snapshot of structure of the main polities

The main federations (vanua 2) and independent yavusa based in Rakiraki New tikina and the periphery were comprised of the following social groups and related to the following geographical areas:

(a) The Complex Socio-Political Federation of Rakiraki, which comprised:

(i) The six yavusa of the Rakiraki vanua (2), in the Old tikina of Rakiraki.

(ii) The five yavusa of the Natokea vanua, in the Old tikina of Navolau.

(iii) The six yavusa of the Nacolo vanua, at Vatukacevaceva in the Old tikina of Naroko.

(iv) The Navisama yavusa, at Narara in the Old tikina of Naroko.

(b) Part of the Socio-Political Federation of Naroko, which comprised:

(i) Four yavusa of the Naroko vanua, at Rewasa in the Old tikina of Naroko.

(ii) Two other yavusa of this vanua living outside my study area.

(c) The Anomalous Yavusa of AiSokula, at Nakorokula in the Old tikina of Navolau.

(d) The Socio-Political Federation of Navatu, which comprised:

(i) Nine yavusa (including Wailevu of the Twelve Yavusa) and

(ii) Two other groups of the Navatu vanua, in the Old tikina of Raviravi.

(e) Part of the Socio-Political Federation of the Twelve Yavusa, which comprised:

(i) Three yavusa of the Vatukaloko vanua, at Drauniivi.

(ii) Two yavusa at Naseyani and Nananu, which lie in that part of the Old tikina of Raviravi known as Na iYalayala.

(iii) Seven other yavusa of the Twelve Yavusa which lie outside my study area.

(f) The Independent Yavusa of Namacuku, at Togovere in the Old tikina of Raviravi.

The main polities: Rakiraki tikina and periphery—details of structure

The main polities in the area of my research project in Rakiraki New tikina and the periphery were, at the time of Cession, and are still recognised as follows:

(a) The Complex Socio-Political Federation of Rakiraki, which comprises the following vanua and yavusa:

Name of vanua

Leading yavusa

Title of paramount

No. of yavusa

No. of levels

No. of villages

The Rakiraki Polity



Tu Navitilevu




The six yavusa included the chiefly yavusa, Namotutu, four spiritually interrelated and apparently settler yavusa, Navuavua, Cakova, Natiliva and Wailevu, and the nearby island yavusa of Malake. All were based on what was to become the Old tikina of Rakiraki. The first five comprised the heartland yavusa of the complex socio-political federation of Rakiraki, of which the Tu Navitilevu of Namotutu was paramount. The Malake were fisherfolk, and were responsible to the Tu Navitilevu for providing turtle for presentation to the main culture hero, Degei, at Uluda on the Nakauvadra. They were also responsible for providing turtle and fish for the Tu Navitilevu. Others grew plantains and yams for presentation to Degei.

(i) The Namotutu yavusa

Myths of origin

In describing the myths of origin of the Namotutu yavusa, Esira Nawaqalevu, the Tu Navitilevu of the Tunavitilevu mataqali, said that:

the original ancestral spirit of the Namotutu was Tunakauvadra, the son of Degei. He had five children, whose descendants comprised the five mataqali of the Namotutu yavusa, including the chiefly mataqali of Tunavitilevu of whom the chief held the title of Tu Navitilevu, the Tuinamo, the Vusatabua and the Tuicakau/Vuninokonoko. Their first settlement when they came down from the Nakauvadra Range was at Namotutu. They later split up and settled in individual settlements near to the chiefly centre at Namotutu.

The ceremonial spokesman of the present Tu Navitilevu told me that Tunakauvadra came down from the Nakauvadra and settled to the west of Namotutu. He had a son, Naisemaninavitilevu, who settled nearby and it was he who had sons who became the founders of the various mataqali of the Namotutu.

On the other hand, Tanoa of the Tuinamo mataqali, whom Tu Navitilevu commended to me as the most knowledgeable of the Namotutu people, explained to me that:

the original ancestral spirit who came down from Nakauvadra was named Kalitabua or Tunakauvadra. He settled at Namotutu and had three sons, whose descendants were the Tuinamo mataqali, the Vusatabua mataqali and the Tuicakau/Vuninokonoko mataqali. The senior group was the Tuinamo mataqali. The Tunavitilevu mataqali were not descended from the original progenitor but were later arrivals (as will be explained below).

Early splits in the Namotutu yavusa

The Native Lands Commission (NLC) recorded that:

there was a quarrel and fighting between Naereere of the Tuinamo mataqali on the one side, and the Namotutu chiefs and Kelei of the Vosatabua mataqali on the other side. Each collected an army and prepared to fight.

Since this quarrel seemed to me to be an important element in the development of the Namotutu yavusa and its relations with its associated yavusa, I tried, but without success, to find out from various Namotutu representatives what they saw to have been its basis.

However, the Tu Navua (head of the Navuavua yavusa) with whom I discussed the matter closely, said that:

the quarrel originated from the occasion of a veitiqa or dart-hurling contest with the Navuavua people competing against the Namotutu chiefs and the Vusatabua mataqali. At the time an old man of Saivou (from where the Navuavua originated) was staying as a vulagi or guest with Vutoni, the head of the Navuavua, and when he went to the veitiqa contest he was killed by one of the Namotutu. Vutoni was very upset, and at first the two groups would not talk to each other (veigaluvi), and then they started to fight. Naereere of the Tuinamo came to the assistance of Vutoni against the Namotutu chiefs and the Vusatabua. The villages of the latter were destroyed and the people scattered to their strongholds. The Namotutu killed Vutoni's brother, when he was caught spying out their stronghold. This enraged Vutoni, and led to widespread fighting, involving military aid from far and wide.

The NLC recorded that:

Naereere went with his group to the island of Malake, whence he sought military assistance by sending tabua or whales teeth to [those with whom he had marriage or spiritual relationships at] Nakorotubu, Namena and Ovalau.Vutoni [the leader of the Navuavua] went to the war village at Draqara [on Wailevu land on the northern slopes of the Nakauvadra], where he stayed and gathered an army, sending tabua to Nalawa, Saivou and Naroko.

The Navuavua had connections with these areas through their original ancestral spirit who came from Karoka, Saivou. Also the Navuavua had previously lived in Naroko.

When Naereere and Vutoni had collected their armies, they attacked the Tunavitilevu chiefs at Namotutu and the settlement of Kelei at nearby Toga. The people there scattered to various areas with which they were connected, abandoning Udreudre, the chief of the Namotutu. Those of the Namotutu and Toga people who did not have family or marital connections on the other side of the Nakauvadra Range could not flee across the Range because the Saivou and the Nalawa people were hostile. So they often scattered to people living in Bua with whom they were related.

Because Vutoni's brother, Bolobolo, had been married to Udreudre's sister, Udreudre himself was not killed. He was eventually given refuge by the Cakova whose particular traditional responsibility was to protect the paramount of the Namotutu. Udreudre settled on their land and when peace was restored he was returned to the paramountcy by Naereere.

Tanoa went on to tell me that at first Naereere was winning, but then the Cakova people came to the assistance of Kelei of the Vusatabua and defeated Naereere. This could explain what was recorded next in the NLC accounts. On the other hand, Naereere may simply have wished to indicate how he had proved by military might that he had the kaukauwa or physical power to be the qaqa or strong man of Namotutu. Through kaukauwa, he had achieved military supremacy and political leadership. Now it was necessary for him to avoid the wrath of Degei and his fellow spirits of the nearby Nakauvadra by returning the leadership to the spiritual chief whose position was legitimised by mana or spiritual power.

The NLC went on to record that:

Naereere went to Bua and then returned and having made the appropriate formal approach (tadu), stayed with the Natiliva people at Navutulevu. The chiefs of the Tunavitilevu group and the Navuavua came to Naereere and asked that the troubles could be ‘buried’ (bulubulu). Naereere returned to Bua to collect some tabua and other valuables (iyau) which he brought back to Navutulevu.

Meanwhile Udreudre, having been abandoned at Namotutu, went to his vasu relations, the Vatukaloko people—see below—at Vugala near Drauniivi, and then to the Cakova people who agreed to shelter him at their village of the same name. He was given land there, and his compound is said to have been near his well-marked and famous grave (one of Rakiraki's main tourist attractions) by the roadside near the present Wairuku School. The Cakova may have thought that they would thereby gain favour and some socio-political advantage from the Namotutu paramount. He may have gone to shelter with the Cakova, until the Rakiraki wars were over, because there had been close connections between the Namotutu and the settler yavusa, the Navuavua and the Cakova, based on the relationship between the host landlord and the strangers who had been favoured with land on which to settle. The Navuavua had been given their land by the Namotutu, with whom they became closely connected. The village of Navuavua was near the mangroves behind Rakiraki Hotel. When the Cakova had first arrived in the area they were given land by the Navuavua; and relations between the two groups were therefore very close. The village of Cakova was just west of the present villages of Navuavua/Navutulevu. So it was that Udreudre was settled on Cakova land, when Naereere returned from Bua. The NLC accounts recorded how the Tunavitilevu chiefs were returned to the status of leaders of Namotutu and of the associated socio-political complex as it developed.

Naereere then called together the chiefs from all the villages of Rakiraki, and presented to them first some of the tabua and iyau as an ibulu ni dra, a peace offering for the bad blood that had flowed between them all and as an isoro or apology for the warfare; and secondly other tabua and iyau which he presented as symbolising the return to the Rakiraki chiefs of the position of leadership which he had achieved when he had earlier destroyed Rakiraki and driven away the spiritual chiefs.

At one level, it may be satisfactory to explain how the killing of the old man of Saivou at a veitiqa contest led to fighting between Naereere of Tuinamo and Vutoni of Navuavua on one side, and the Navitilevu chiefs and Kelei of the Vusatabua on the other. On the other hand, the incident may rather have been the excuse for which an ambitious Naereere had been looking to align himself with Vutoni and the Navuavua people, to demonstrate his kaukauwa or physical power, and to enable the Tuinamo to take over by force the leadership of the Namotutu from the Navitilevu chiefs. This parallels the situation in the major eastern polity of Bau, when the Vunivalu, the ambitious war chief, drove away the Roko Tui Bau, the spiritual chief. The difference was that having won the leadership by force, Naereere feared the wrath of Degei and the ancestral spirits of the Nakauvadra and returned the leadership to the spiritual chiefs.

Be that as it may, the polity returned to a state of peace and prosperity (sautu); and the Tunavitilevu acquired once more the leadership of Rakiraki. It will be remembered that Isera Nawaqalevu, the then Tu Navitilevu, had told the NLC that the Navitilevu had from the beginning of the development of the Namotutu yavusa been leaders of the yavusa on the basis of the primogeniture of their original ancestral spirit at the time that he and his brothers had come down from the Nakauvadra with their father, Tunakauvadra. This represents the Navitilevu explanation of the origins of that mataqali and of how the Tu Navitilevu became paramount.

On the other hand, Tanoa, head of the Tuinamo, told me that:

the Tuinamo were the senior group of the descendants of the original ancestral spirit from Nakauvadra. However, when Naereere was the head of the Tuinamo, he was very tyrannical (yalo kaukauwa) and there was much quarrelling between the Namotutu groups and Naereere told the Vusatabua under Kelei to go away. Because of Naereere's behaviour, the people would not install him as paramount chief.

At this stage, a group of people from Navitilevu, on the Nakorotubu coast, came for a visit and anchored off Rakiraki. The leader was afraid to go ashore. However they came and stayed with the Cakova people, and the chief and his people were seen to be gentle and thoughtful. Naereere realised that he was too strong in his decisions and noted that the Navitilevu people were really chiefly in their bearing and behaviour. They were also reputed to be very strong people. So he went to Bua and to Ovalau to ask for some tabua; and on his return, he called together the Namotutu including those whom he had chased away. He firstly presented the tabua from Ovalau and asked that Namotutu should be re-united as a yavusa. Then, because the Namotutu would not remain united under him, he asked the Navitilevu people for a chief to form a chiefly mataqali, Tunavitilevu. The name of the overall ancestral spirit at Namotutu was then Naisemaninavitilevu (The Link between the Navitilevu).

Thus the Navitilevu became paramount in Rakiraki, but the Tuinamo retained their right to choose a paramount for installation. Tanoa explained that there are still close links between the Navitilevu of Namotutu and the Navitilevu of Nakorotubu, maintained by exchanges of formal lakovi or visits. Also when either paramount was to be installed either at Yavunuku (for the Tu Navitilevu of Namotutu) or (for the Tui Navitilevu of Nakorotubu), at Naisemasema, Verata opposite the islet of Vatu Turaga, the other paramount had a special place at the installation ceremonies. This reflected these close social links between the two polities.

Nowadays it is probably not possible to reconcile the two accounts of the origins of the Tunavitilevu mataqali—that is, the mataqali of the Tu Navitilevu or paramount of the Namotutu—and of the origins and possible changes in the basis of the leadership of the Namotutu people. Perhaps somewhat naturally the Tuinamo account is to the effect that the leadership used to be and would perhaps still be with the Tuinamo but for the tyrannical behaviour of Naereere. The Tu Navitilevu originated as an outsider who happened to be in the right place at the right time to solve the leadership problems of the Namotutu. The name of the ancestral spirit was claimed to be Naisemaninavitilevu (The linking of Navitilevu). His name could be explained (ex post facto) as that of a spirit who linked the Navitilevu (who came from Nakorotubu) with the original Namotutu people who adopted a Navitilevu person as their chief, when Naereere of the Tuinamo (the traditional leading mataqali) was too tyrannical.

The Tunavitilevu account equally naturally aims to validate the position of Tu Navitilevu as based, first, on primogeniture among the grandsons of Degei, the leading culture hero of the Nakauvadra, who sent his son to settle at Namotutu; and secondly, on mana derived from the purest spiritual origins of Uluda, the home of Degei. Indeed, the Tu Navitilevu continues to emphasise the intimate connection between the Tunavitilevu mataqali and Degei by retaining the name of Uluda as that of the chiefly yavu or housemound in ‘Rakiraki’ village. In this case the explanation of the name Naisemaninavitilevu was that the spirit symbolised a more recent link created between the Navitilevu of Namotutu and the Navitilevu of Nakorotubu.

Some further evidence may provide light for considering these conflicting views and for exploring a possible resolution to these problems of origin. To my knowledge, all are agreed that the first to be titled Tu Navitilevu was Naduva, younger son of Udreudre. Udreudre's eldest son was Nawaqalevu. He evidently thought that as the eldest son he should have been made the leader of the Namotutu on the death of Udreudre. Instead another son, Naduva, was apparently chosen by the Tuinamo ‘kingmakers’ and some claim that he was installed on Vatu Turaga, a rock islet in Navitilevu Bay, on the south-eastern boundary of Rakiraki territory. If the installation took place here and not at Namotutu, as others have said, this may have been for practical reasons, in order to have the ceremony carried out as far from possible from likely interference by the supporters of the passed-over Nawaqalevu.

Naduva was taken from Vatu Turaga to bathe in the sacred pool of Viyagoiratu in the mangroves just to the east of Tavua village, at the western boundary of what was then Rakiraki territory. He sailed back to Rakiraki, where he anchored, but he remained on board for several nights because he feared for his life. Indeed Nawaqalevu in his anger for being supplanted by Naduva, would not let him be brought ashore. However Mulase of the Vusatabua group brought him ashore.

Nawaqalevu may have been annoyed that his younger brother was made leader instead of himself; and the incident led to a violent quarrel between Nawaqalevu and Mulase who supported Naduva's leadership. In the quarrels between Naereere of Tuinamo and Kelei of the Vusatabua, the latter had sided with the chiefs. In the Nawaqalevu/Naduva dispute, the Vusatabua had sided with the younger brother, who was the recognised leader. So they consistently sided with the leader. In the latter dispute, the Tuinamo do not appear to have played a part, though they seem to have sided against anyone whom they regarded as the upstart chief. As a result, Mulase took his Vusatabua supporters and went to his mother's relations at Navatu. Here he settled and pursued his quarrels with Nawaqalevu. The latter, assisted by an army from Nalawa, attacked Mulase who was assisted by the Navatu people. The Rakiraki army was repelled, and 'Eki, the strong man of Nalawa, was killed. On the basis of this victory, the Navatu people claimed independence from the authority of the Tu Navitilevu—a claim that the Namotutu still do not accept.

The installation at Vatu Turaga, if it took place, may equally be seen as having taken place there for symbolic reasons. The islet may have had some particularly strong mana associated with those Navitilevu people of Nakorotubu from whom, according to the Tuinamo account, a leader for the Namotutu was chosen, when Naereere of Tuinamo was proving to be unacceptable. It was for similar symbolic reasons that some people claimed to me that the installation stone used in connection with installation ceremonies for later Tu Navitilevu may have been brought from this islet to the chiefly yavu at Yavunuku. It is generally agreed in Rakiraki that Yavunuku was the provenance for the installation stone which at present stands beside the church in ‘Rakiraki’ village, but it must be emphasised that there is no such agreement as to whether the chiefly group of the Namotutu came originally from Navitilevu, Nakorotubu, or whether the installation stone came originally from Vatu Turaga.

Others, including Sakeasi, the recent but now-deceased leading bete or priest of the Namotutu from the Vuninokonoko mataqali already referred to, did not accept the installation of Naduva at Vatu Turaga. They told me that the stone came from the spiritually important mound of Yavunuku at Namotutu where it had acquired particularly strong mana from the son of Degei when he had been sent down by Degei to go from Nakauvadra to Namotutu. It had been brought there from Wailevu, where there are still some powerful spiritual places connected with Leka, and where there is a leading vuniwai or healer who told me that he had obtained his powers from the Nakauvadra spirits. This claim about the installation stone was made especially by those who did not like to think that the Namotutu paramounts came originally from Navitilevu, Nakorotubu. They agreed, however, that there is a Navitilevu connection, but said that it was only later than the Namotutu people established a social relationship with the Nakorotubu people.

I have to confess that I am unable to reconcile these various opposing views, and if I put the view of one side to the other side, it is simply denied. On balance, there is tempting evidence to support the idea that the Navitilevu of Namotutu did in fact come from Navitilevu Bay, although it is but human for the Tu Navitilevu to see himself as the direct descendant of Degei rather than as the descendant of a member of a wandering band fairly remotely connected with the culture heroes of the Nakauvadra. Historically, the truth may never be known. Politically it may not matter, as at Cession and the NLC, the Navitilevu were recognised as the leaders and the Tuinamo as the ‘kingmakers’, and this was officially confirmed under Fijian Affairs legislation. Unofficially, the Tuinamo may well be said to be the power behind the throne.

This situation is typical of other polities, and to a certain extent soothes the relationship between elements in Namotutu. The Tu Navitilevu is the spiritual chief, takes the first bowl of yaqona at a ceremony, and is the figurehead of traditional life in the Rakiraki socio-political complex. When some particular internal or external problem affecting the polity occurs, it is most likely that the head of the Tuinamo would be accepted as the power behind the scene to advise the Tu Navitilevu. The Tu Navitilevu would then take a decision, taking into account this advice. He may well be influenced by communications from Degei and the spirits relayed to him through the bete or priest, being either the Bete Levu of Navatu who lives at Naivuvuni, or the bete of the Namotutu who lives behind the Rakiraki Hotel. The head of the Tuinamo would then be responsible for seeing that the decision was implemented in a practical and political manner.

Nevertheless, one can sense some gentle grumblings especially by the Tuinamo about the leadership. Referred to in the proverb kudrukudru i Ra Mo or The Gruntings of Mr Pig, such grumblings can no longer be settled by the club or spear but only by reference in the last resort to the NLC. The NLC is legally empowered to arbitrate on matters of leadership, using as an authoritative basis those NLC records with which there is not always general agreement, especially on the part of the unsuccessful grumblers.

The four settler yavusa

The four settler yavusa of Natiliva, Cakova, Wailevu and Navuavua heed the authority of the paramount of the Namotutu yavusa, and form the chief supporters of the Namotutu and the heartland of the Rakiraki polity. The following are brief accounts of their myths of origin, followed by more general accounts concentrating on the interrelationship between the four yavusa, and between the four yavusa and the Namotutu yavusa. These five yavusa together with the Malake yavusa form the nucleus of the socio-political complex of Rakiraki. This vanua of Rakiraki on the north side of the Nakauvadra developed through force, mutual convenience and mutual advantage, with kaukauwa or physical power being legitimised and strengthened by the mana or spiritual power of Degei and the culture heroes of Uluda and the Nakauvadra Range. Rakiraki is indeed a vanua rerevaki or fearsome place, thanks to the ever-present and powerful spirits whose places were on the mountaintops, in the flatlands and even in the sea.

Myths of origin

The myths of origin of the four settler yavusa, Natiliva, Cakova, Wailevu and Navuavua, centre round the family of the famous dwarf spirit, Leka, who had come down from the Nakauvadra and settled on the south side at Karoka between Balabala and Vunisea in the inland area of UluiSaivou. One account I recorded claims that Leka married Turoko and had several children including two females, Lovai and Roko Loma. Roko Loma married Kanailagi at Karoka. Another account claims that Leka's wife was Lovai, and they had two children, Cokonawai and Dokidoki.

The NLC recorded Turoko as a male who came down from the Nakauvadra and married a woman on Natiliva. Their descendants were the Viti yavusa whose leader held the title of Tui Viti. This is now regarded as an invention. At the time of the NLC, Cakobau and his descendants claimed to hold the title of Tui Viti—implying he was paramount chief of all Fiji, a title to which he was traditionally not entitled since it did not exist until it was invented with the encouragement of some Europeans. These Europeans wanted to have some overall authority in Fiji to whom they could lay complaints especially about what they regarded as their rights over land which they thought they had obtained from local chiefs. The title of Tui Viti was certainly denied by those living outside the traditional sphere of authority of Cakobau, including the Rakiraki people. The extent of such rights as claimed was frequently disputed both by customary landowners and by the chiefs themselves. When the NLC came to Rakiraki, a Rakiraki chief allegedly said that Cakobau might claim to be Tui Viti e Cake (Paramount of eastern Fiji), but he, the Rakiraki chief, was Tui Viti e Ra (Paramount of western Fiji). He named his polity as Viti after a little stream running through the mangroves on the Volivoli peninsular to the east of ‘Rakiraki’ village. The NLC duly, but evidently wrongly registered a yavusa of Viti.

I recorded that Leka and his family came over the Nakauvadra Range from Karoka, together with Taginadula (the ancestral spirit of the Naroko people, see below); and Leka settled at Vaileka [where his place survived as a mound just below the District Officer's house]. He remained at Vaileka, and sent his daughter (or wife), Lovai, to go and settle at Navutulevu in the field and mangroves behind Rakiraki Hotel, and her descendants were the Natiliva yavusa.

He sent his son, Cokonawai, to Cakova west of the present Rakiraki village complex of Navuavua/Navutulevu, and his descendants were the Cakova yavusa. He sent his son, Dokidoki, to Dakudaku, the site of the mighty war village above Vatuseikiyasawa, and his descendants are the Wailevu yavusa.

Kanailagi and Leka's daughter, Roko Loma (who is also described as a woman of Natiliva), had also come over from Karoko and settled at Dranayavutia where the Naroko (descendants of Taganidula from Karoka) also settled. Then the children of Kanailagi and Roko Loma went to Navuavua and their descendants became the Navuavua yavusa.

The settlers settle down

The Navuavua, while living near Nayaulevu, to the south of the Nakauvadra Range, used to come across the range to the coast in order to cut dogo or mangroves for their digging sticks. The chief of the Namotutu saw them and told them that they could settle at a place near the mangroves, and the Cakova agreed that the Navuavua should join them. Where they settled was swampy land (na vuavua, in the local communalect).

The Tu Navua heeded the authority of the Tu Navitilevu, and the particular responsibilities of the Navuavua were to taqomaka (or protect) and dau vakasala (or advise) the paramount chief personally. The Navuavua were at ease with the Namotutu, except during the Rakiraki wars referred to earlier, and there was considerable mixing of blood, especially with the Tunavitilevu chiefly group. For instance, Bolobolo, one of the two strong brothers of Navuavua, married the daughter of the paramount of Namotutu, Udreudre, and this created a special relationship between the two yavusa. This is why the Navuavua under Kelei and the Vusatabua under Naereere did not kill Udreudre when they attacked and destroyed Namotutu in the course of the Rakiraki wars.

The Cakova were once settled on the southern slopes of the Nakauvadra, and they then came and settled with the so-called ‘itaukei makawa’ or ‘old owners’ near the Rakiraki coast at Cakova. At that time the Tuinamo and the Vusatabua were at Namotutu. It is not known who the ‘old owners’ were or what happened to them. The Tui Cakova heeded the authority of the Tu Navitilevu, and the Cakova became the qaqa or strong protectors of the Namotutu chiefs.

Because of this particular relationship with the chiefs of the Namotutu, the Cakova were bound to protect Udreudre after he had been abandoned during the Rakiraki wars. After he left Namotutu to escape from the Rakiraki wars, Udreudre went first to his relations at Vugala, where he appears to have been betrayed. So he was brought to live with the Cakova as his qaqa. He lived and was buried on Cakova land.

The Wailevu comprised three groups. The Wailevu settled first at Wailevu, inland from the ‘Rakiraki’ village. They then invited the Draqara to come from the slopes of the Nakauvadra and settle at Wailevu. Finally because of marriage connections, they invited the Dewala of Nabukadra, Nakorotubu, to join them. There were also spiritual connections, in that Leka and the original ancestral spirit of the Gonesau of Nabukadra were so related that the Wailevu and the Gonesau could claim to be related spiritually as veitauvū . These three groups moved to the fortress of Dakudaku during the Rakiraki wars, and then settled at Vatuseikiyasawa makawa. After the measles epidemic of 1875, they moved to their original site of Wailevu, but renamed it Vatuseikiyasawa, after their previous settlement. They heeded the authority of the Namotutu.

According to Tanoa:

the Natiliva who came originally from Tiliva on the Bua mainland, arrived directly from the Bua island of Yadua. They were related to the Rakiraki people and were given land by Naereere of the Tuinamo group.

The Natiliva account, as given to me by a 76-year-old woman and a man of high rank in the Natiliva, claimed that:

the Natiliva came from the other side of the Nakauvadra Range in order to plant foodcrops for Degei. When the chiefs of Namotutu arrived, the Natiliva prepared a settlement for them, planting gardens and making houses. Their chief, LeiNatiliva, heeds the authority of the Tu Navitilevu, and the Natiliva became the dau visusu or house people for the Namotutu chiefs. On one occasion, Qarau, chief of the Natiliva, went on a visit to Bua and established there the village of Tiliva. From here, some Natiliva people went to the island of Yadua. During the Rakiraki wars, the Natiliva scattered to Yadua, where some remained after peace resumed. Nowadays, the Natiliva at Rakiraki and those on Yadua still exchange visits. However, the links with the Bua mainland are no longer maintained.

Perforce, these are but potted accounts of the four settler yavusa, and especially their myths of origin, their settlement in Rakiraki territory, their involvement in internal and external warfare and consequent fusion and fission, spiritual connections, and socio-political connections with the paramount Namotutu yavusa. The evidence is not conclusive and at this stage may never be recoverable from oral tradition or archaeology. Nevertheless, it does seem that all four yavusa had origins, in whole or in part, from the south side of the Nakauvadra, and that they came over the range to settle on Rakiraki territory. It may well be that they came seeking sea-produce especially salt (which they would exchange for yaqona, yams and dalo, none of which grew particularly well in Rakiraki) or wood for digging sticks (mangrove wood was particularly suitable). In the Ba oral traditions, there are accounts of how the hill-folk came down for the same purposes and eventually settled on the coast. They then heeded the authority of the Tui Ba, in the same way that the four settler yavusa in Rakiraki heeded the authority of their host yavusa. Indeed, the Cakova, Navua and Natiliva had special responsibilities in connection with the Namotutu chiefs.

These three yavusa together with the Wailevu came to be regarded as the special supporters of the Namotutu yavusa; and they formed the united heartland of the Rakiraki socio-political complex. Perhaps ex post facto in order to symbolise this unity, the myths of origin were created to show how all four supporting yavusa were closely related spiritually through Leka. This well-known dwarf spirit came from the other side of the Nakauvadra and settled at Vaileka, meaning according to some, ‘give respect to Leka’. In the local communalect, ‘to a (person named)’ is ‘vai’. Equally the name could reflect the names of Leka and his daughter (or wife) Lovai- ‘lo’ being the honorific female prefix or particle before a personal name.

Apart from creating a spiritual unity between the four settler yavusa, the myths claim no spiritual connection with the main culture hero Degei. This may be significant in that the Namotutu, whose paramountcy is spiritually legitimised through descent from Tunakauvadra, the son of Degei, would hardly want those under their authority to have the same high-ranking spiritual origins. To symbolise unity within the polity, it would suit the Namotutu to posit Leka as a unifying spiritual force for the heartland supporters, whilst recognising that Leka had not the same degree of mana as Degei.

The Malake yavusa—the fisherfolk

Myths of origin recorded by me on Malake Island on several occasions claim that:

the original ancestral spirit of the Malake yavusa was Drilo Dadavanua who was the younger brother of Degei, the main culture hero of the Nakauvadra spiritual centre. Degei sent him down from the Nakauvadra, telling him to go and be his turtle fisherman. He went first to Navatu to join the ancestral spirits known as Waqabalabala whose descendants were the Navatu people, and Bakadroti, Degei's bete or priest, whose descendants were the Naqilaqila people. Here Drilo Dadavanua first settled and married a woman of Navatu. He got tired of the sound of the women beating clay for pots, and so he and his family sailed over to the island of Malake. His descendants were the Malake yavusa, the turtle fishers of Degei.

He settled in a swampy area on the north side of the island where his site is marked by a rectangular housemound, sheltered by trees. His sons went to live on the heights in the middle of the island, where their sites are marked by rings of stones. I am not sure whether these stone features are ancient, or whether they date from the mid-19th century when a European ran sheep on the island, and the Malake put up these structures to protect the sites from the sheep. The Malake people nowadays give the former explanation.

When Degei on Nakauvadra required turtle and plantains (vudi), he would make his requirements known to his bete, Bakadroti, whom he had sent down to Navatu, to be with Waqabalabala. Bakadroti would communicate spiritually with the head of the Qilaqila people, who held the title of Bete Levu or chief priest of Degei. The Bete Levu would then advise the Tu Navitilevu accordingly. When it was known that the plantains planted for Degei at Namotutu were nearly ripe, the Tu Navitilevu would give orders to the Malake people to go turtle fishing. When the turtle had been caught, he would co-ordinate the ceremonial presentation of the turtle and plantains at the ceremonial mound at Yavunuku, Namotutu.

In this way, close spiritual and ritual connections developed between the Namotutu, the Navatu and the Malake people; and the Malake people heeded the authority of the Tu Navitilevu.

In the course of the Namotutu quarrels between Nawaqalevu of the Tunavitilevu and Mulase of the Vusamalua groups, Mulase, whose mother came from Navatu, had gone there as a base from which to pursue his quarrels with Nawaqalevu.

At the same time, the yavusa of Malake was split in two through quarrels between two brothers on the island. The Malake had a close spiritual relationship with the Navatu, through Dadavanua's marriage with a woman of Navatu. So most of the Malake went to Navatu and joined with Mulase. On the other hand, Malake had strong traditional associations with the Namotutu, and so a group sided with Nawaqalevu, remaining on the island. Afterwards the Malake people on Malake killed a supporter of Nawaqalevu and Nawaqalevu was very angry. Those at Navatu then sent a message to those remaining on Malake, to come to Navatu and bring the body of the person whom they had killed. So the Malake joined up together again at Navatu and the island was left vacant.

While the Malake were with Mulase at Navatu, the relationship between them became so close that it became the practice for a chief of Mulase's people, the Vusatabua, to be given the title of the Tu Malake or high chief of the Malake. The head of the Malake yavusa was known instead simply by the descriptive term of Ai'Eimada ni Yavusa o Malake or Leader of Malake Yavusa.

Apart from the Malake at Navatu, some went to the Qilaqila at Vunitogoloa, some to Cobea in the Yasawas, and some to Bua. Nawaqalevu sold Malake Island to a European for some guns. This upset the Malake who, when peace had been restored, went first to Nawaqalevu and then to Cakobau at the seat of his Government at Levuka and asked that the European should be told to leave and that the island be returned to them. This was agreed to. However, the Malake did not return to their island until after Cession. Those at Bua were asked to return but those in the Yasawas were not invited to do so—I could not find out the reason for this.

The origins and development of the Malake yavusa provide a wonderful example of how the three elements in the ideological concept of vanua 1—that is, spirits, people and land or sea—interact in order to reify not only the yavusa of Malake but also its relationships with neighbouring polities and indeed with the major spirits of Degei and Bakadroti. On a more political level, Malake illustrates the fission and fusion that characterises Fijian polities generally, and especially the fraternal quarrels that occur and the disastrous effects they can have. It also provides an interesting example of how a person acquired the paramount title of a yavusa although not a member of the yavusa—for Tu Malake was de jure a ‘stranger king’.

(ii) The Natokea vanua

Name of vanua

Leading yavusa

Title of paramount

No. of yavusa

No. of levels

No. of villages



Ratu ni Natokea




Five yavusa comprising the chiefly yavusa, Natokea, the three related yavusa, Burenitu, Nairara and Rara, and the settler yavusa, Navolau, are based on what was to become the Old tikina of Navolau in the villages of Namuaimada and Navolau (which during my time split into Navolau No. 1 and Navolau No. 2, due to overcrowding). These five yavusa comprise the minor socio-political federation or vanua 2 of Natokea, the head of which is the Ratu ni Natokea. He heeds the authority of the Tu Navitilevu, as paramount of the complex socio-political federation of Rakiraki, of which Natokea forms a part. Within the Natokea, there were two levels of hierarchy.

Myths of origin recorded by me relate how:

Rogata, an original ancestral spirit came down from Nakauvadra and settled below the peak of Supani. He had several children, including Likubale (female), Betenaulia (probably the ancestor of the Burenitu), and Kumivula (the ancestor of the Rara, who may alternatively have been the brother of Rogata), as well as Qelo (the club-footed ancestor of the Nairara, who may alternatively have come separately from Nakauvadra). Likubale was called up to the Nakauvadra where she was made pregnant by Degei, the leading culture hero of the Nakauvadra, and duly gave birth to Rasuaki, the original ancestral spirit of the Natokea (formerly known as Natoka). Because Degei could not stand Rasuaki's crying, mother and son were sent down to Supani, but were looked after by Degei and the other children of Rogata living in the area.

These myths suggest a close kinship relationship between ancestral spirits, which created a spiritual basis for the socio-political unity of four of the yavusa of a federation later known as the vanua of Natokea. This claimed relationship between the four spiritual ancestors is, however, perhaps an ex post facto explanation aiming to validate what the Natokea polity wanted to be seen as the closeness of the relationship between the yavusa. Such a suggestion is made especially in regard to the case of Qelo and the Nairara. The accounts are agreed that Qelo came from the Nakauvadra and was going to Verata (a polity discussed above) when his club-foot made him so tired that he settled at Namuaimada. His rock, Tadili, may still be seen beside the roadside at the edge of the village. However, not all are agreed that his descendants, the Nairara, had settled originally at Namuaimada. One account given to me was that the Nairara were from Navatu. The mother of the Natokea leader was from Navatu, and a group was invited to come to Natokea to look after her. The Nairara people indicated to me that Qelo came from Nakauvadra quite separately from Rogata and his relations. Also another group joined the Nairara later, on the basis that they were also from Navatu. One final feature to take into account when considering the claimed spiritual association of these four yavusa is their respective ivilavila ni yalo or jumping-off place of the spirits of the dead. The spirits of the dead of the Natokea, Burenitu and Rara jump from the same isolated reef of Vunidilo in the sea opposite Navolau. The spirits of the dead of the Nairara on the other hand go to the reef at Vudebawa opposite Namuaimada where Qelo settled. On balance, the Nairara account may be historically correct, but the myths of common origin may be more correct socio-politically. These accounts are of interest as having more than one possible interpretation, the choice for which would probably depend on socio-political rather than historical reasoning.

The accounts are also interesting as illustrating arguments regarding hierarchy in Fijian society. The Burenitu people regarded themselves as the senior yavusa through direct descent from Rogata along the male line. The Natokea yavusa, however, was generally regarded as the senior, partly because they were descended from the eldest child of Rogata, albeit a daughter, but perhaps especially because the blood of Degei, their male spiritual progenitor, ran through their veins. This argument is maintained in subdued fashion, though outwardly the paramount is accepted as the Ratu ni Natokea from the Natokea yavusa. This is typical of the arguments regarding leadership occurring in so many accounts of socio-political development.

After the descendants of Rogata had been settled for some time in what was to become the Old tikina of Navolau, war broke out in Rakiraki. The Namotutu chiefly yavusa were divided because of quarrels between the heads of two leading mataqali. One faction left Rakiraki and called for help from the people of Saivou and Nalawa, living to the south of the Nakauvadra Range. They came and destroyed the villages not only of the Rakiraki but also of their confederates, the Natokea and the Burenitu. These two yavusa split up and dispersed, some mataqali of each yavusa going to Bua (Vanua Levu), and some to Koro (Lomaiviti). The latter fared so badly there that they went and joined the others in Bua. The Rara went to join the Cakova, a yavusa in Rakiraki. Later, the Rakiraki people brought the Natokea people and the Burenitu people back from Bua, and the Rara people back from Cakova, and re-settled them on their own lands. Their period of refuge in Bua had created such good socio-political relationships with their hosts that there developed close social intercourse between Natokea, Burenitu and Bua, and many Bua people came and settled on Natokea land.

When the Rakiraki villages were being destroyed in the course of the inter-mataqali wars referred to above, one group of the Namotutu yavusa scattered to the Nagilogilo people of Nakorotubu where they assisted their hosts in fighting the neighbours. After spending a long time there, they decided to return, accompanied by the son of the Ratu ni Natokea. On their way back to Rakiraki, they anchored off Natokea territory and reported to the Ratu that his son had returned. The Ratu thereupon invited the Namotutu group to come ashore and settle with the Burenitu people. This they did, and later they split up, some living inland and some on the coast where they had ready access to their vessels. Later they joined together again and established their own village of Navolau where the mosquitoes were less troublesome than at the coastal village.

The Nairara do not seem to have been involved in this diaspora. Indeed, they may not have settled in Natokea territory until after the return from Bua and Cakova, but before Christianity arrived. When Christianity came to Ra, the first Christian compound was on Nairara land, as they proudly point out nowadays. The Natokea seem to have accepted Christianity, perhaps associating it with the envied goods and services which they hoped the missionaries would provide. The Navatu to the west of Rakiraki territory seem also to have accepted Christianity readily, perhaps for the same reasons, whereas the Namotutu and especially their infamous man-eating chief, Udreudre, realised that the missionaries would frown on their cannibal activities.

(iii) The Nacolo vanua

Name of vanua

Leading yavusa

Title of paramount

No. of levels

No. of villages






The leading yavusa was the Vaikitu, and the other five were the Nabaqatai, the Vitautau, the Namasasa, the Namoliki (not Namoliti, as recorded by the NLC) and the Natolevu (sometimes referred to as the Naitavu). These six yavusa originally came from the south piedmont of the Nakauvadra Range and were later based on the village of Vatukacevaceva lying just below the northern slopes of the Range. They comprised the minor socio-political vanua of Nacolo, the head of which was the Leweivaikitu (nowadays referred to by the eastern term of Tui Nacolo). He heeded the authority of the Tu Navitilevu, as paramount of the complex socio-political federation of Rakiraki of which Nacolo formed a part. Within the Nacolo, there were two levels of hierarchy.

All recorded myths of origin said that the original ancestral spirit of the Nacolo people was Botitu whose place was at Nakasekula at Uluda, the highest peak of the Nakauvadra Range.

The NLC recorded that:

Botitu came down to the south slopes of the Range and settled at Vaikitu, above the present village of Nayaulevu. He married a woman of Nukunitabua, and they had a son, Tui Nacolo. Tui Nacolo had a son, Naulumatua, who had six children. All six were born in Vaikitu, and they later married and, when their families increased in number, they split up and settled in six small settlements along the south slopes of the Nakauvadra, above Nayaulevu. Their descendants formed the six yavusa of Nacolo vanua, each named after their first settlement. The Vaikitu yavusa were descended from the first-born son of Naulumatua; the Nabaqatai from the second son.

In 1953, I recorded from Akeni Selavo, head of the Nacolo, that:

Botitu came down and settled at Drata, above Vaikitu. He was married to another spirit and they had two sons, Kitu and Qilai. Kitu was the original ancestral spirit of the Vaikitu yavusa, and Qilai was the spirit of the Nabaqatai yavusa. The head of the Vitautau yavusa was no relation of Kitu or Qilai.

In the 1990s, I recorded from Semesa, son of Akeni, that:

Botitu settled at Vaikitu and married a woman of Vaikitu. The Nabaqatai yavusa claimed Botitu as their original ancestral spirit, and there was a close relationship between the Nabaqatai and the Vaikitu, based on the spiritual marriage. (Semesa agreed that their son was Tui Nacolo).

These six groups then decided to cross over the Nakauvadra Range, and they settled in the small settlements of Nasanimai, Takina, Navono and Dakunivatu along the northern slopes of the Nakauvadra and in the piedmont at Buka and Bokulu, near the present village of Narara. Although their southern neighbours, the Saivou people, were warlike, the Nacolo people had crossed over not to escape from attack nor because their numbers had increased but because they wanted to be nearer to the sea and to have ready access to salt-making facilities.

After the chief of the Nabaqatai had married a woman of the Navatu yavusa of Naisogoliku, there was a general movement on the part of the Nacolo people to leave the mountain settlements and to join their vasu relations and they stayed at the Navatu settlement of Nasava near Naivuvuni. This was much more convenient for access to the sea and saltpans. Those in the easier terrain of the piedmont remained there. Later a woman of Namoliki married a chief of Naroko, and those at Nasava moved to Naroko, to Dranayavutia.

Then because the Rakiraki wars of the rival chiefs, Mulase and Nawaqalevu, threatened Dranayavutia, they returned at Nasava. During the war, the Nabaqatai sided with Mulase who was with the Navatu people, and the Vaikitu sided with Nawaqalevu. After the wars which were times of na vakadavedra or bloodshed, the Nacolo people asked the Rakiraki chiefs to be allowed to return to below the Nakauvadra where the land was unoccupied. They went and established a settlement at Naibulunidra (the burying of the blood shed during the war), but they did not like this name and so they changed it to Vatukacevaceva.

Vatukacevaceva means either ‘the piled up rocks’ or ‘the place where there are lots of rocks’ or ‘there is a rock and the prevailing wind is from the south-east’. The name also refers in particular to a big rock in the men's swimming pool near the village. Nowadays people say that the village was named after the rock, and they may well be right. The village and the Nacolo people are closely associated both geographically and spiritually with the main cult centre based on the Nakauvadra Range, and with the highest peak of Uluda and the main culture hero, Degei, whose place is a crevice in a rock at Uluda. Access to Uluda is through the bete or priest who lives in the village at the beginning of the path to the peak. The village even now is considered to be the koro rerevaki duadua or most revered village in Fiji, and football teams and senior politicians as well as other people of all races visit the village and may seek permission to climb to Uluda. This I have witnessed myself on several occasions, and indeed I have participated in the necessary ceremonies before I made the ascent myself, and also at the cave at Uluda, and finally again after I made the descent.

The myths of origin of the Nacolo vary in detail but generally present an overall picture which can be interpreted as a socio-political explanation, perhaps ex post facto, of the interrelationship of the six yavusa at the time of Cession in 1874, and of their development into a federation during the years following the crossing to the north side of Nakauvadra Range but before Cession. Some variation in the myths may be explained in terms of a certain rivalry between the Vaikitu and the Nabaqatai about the position of leadership of the Nacolo vanua.

(iv) The Navisama yavusa

The single settler yavusa of Navisama, the head of which was the Le Navisama (now known by the eastern title of Tui Navisama), came originally from the Old tikina of Nalawa well to the south of Nakauvadra Range. The Navisama people later crossed to the northern piedmont of the range and finally established the village of Narara, in what became the Old tikina of Naroko. Le Navisama heeded the authority of the Tu Navitilevu, as paramount of the complex socio-political federation of Rakiraki, of which Navisama formed a part.

The NLC recorded that:

the original ancestor, Silitabua, came from inland Saivou and went to settle closer to the coast at Tarisi, where he married a woman of Dewala. The descendants spent a long time here, and then moved to a place (of uncertain location) known as Naqorokawa. They were known as the Navisama.

Sevuloni, aged 89, and his grandson who had a developed interest in the history of the Navisama, told me that:

the Navisama came originally from the mountain village of Nubumakita, in the remote southwest corner of the tikina of Nalawa, a place with which they retained, and still retain, their traditional connections. After moving from there, they eventually settled at Vunisea on the south side of the Nakauvadra. When at Vunisea, the Navisama used to plant dalo to take to the Rakiraki chiefs in return for permission to make salt or to fish in Rakiraki waters. This social obligation became so burdensome for the Navisama that the Rakiraki chiefs arranged for them to come and settle on vacant land at Buka on the north side of the range. This land was owned by the Draqara people who were then living with the Wailevu people at Vatuei’iyasawa, heeding the authority of the Tu Navitilevu of Rakiraki. Here they continued to plant for the Rakiraki chiefs, and were permitted, in return, to continue to fish or make salt. Some of the Navisama continued to live in Vunisea, and traditional links with Vunisea were, and still are, retained.

There is no evidence as to how they fared in the wars of Rakiraki, but they apparently moved to the war village of Draqara on the north Nakauvadra slopes. After peace had resumed, the Navisama were at Buka until Cession. When the measles epidemic of 1875 struck immediately after Cession, the Navisama were affected and there is a cemetery for victims beside the old village site. The survivors moved to the present village of Narara, but they no longer planted dalo for the Rakiraki chiefs. Though considerably independent, the Le Navisama nevertheless still heeded the authority of the Tu Navitilevu of Rakiraki; and the settler yavusa of Navisama continued to be part of the complex socio-political federation of their later hosts, the Rakiraki, whilst retaining links with their forebears and previous hosts. It is noteworthy that the spirits of the dead only go as far as a rock beside a pool in the river near Vunisea. From the rock, they jump into the pool and here they stay. It is surprising that they do not go to a jumping-off place at the original settlement at Nubumakita, in order to rest in peace in the land associated with their earliest known ancestors.

The Rakiraki socio-political complex in retrospect

The Rakiraki socio-political complex comprises the eighteen yavusa identified in paragraphs (i) to (iv). These include the seven yavusa identified in paragraphs (iii) and (iv) which were associated with territory peripheral to Rakiraki, lying on the Northern slopes of the Nakauvadra Range in what was to become the Old tikina of Naroko. These were united to form a complex socio-political federation with a three level hierarchy, including two federations of yavusa which in turn had at least two levels of hierarchy. The leading yavusa was Namotutu.

Quarrels and internal fighting characterised the development of the Namotutu yavusa, and on the face of it the disputed origins of the leading Tunavitilevu mataqali were central to the situation. However, underlying these quarrels was a fierce spirit of ambition for leadership. It was this spirit of ambition and the military power of the leaders and their allies which eventually enabled the Namotutu yavusa to create and dominate the overall Rakiraki socio-political complex, as described and analysed in paragraphs (i) to (iv). In reality, these factors associated with kaukauwa or physical power of the leaders created and maintained a unity within the yavusa and between the yavusa and its relatively widespread neighbours who heeded its authority. Ideologically, there were also the ever-present spiritual powers of ancestral spirits of the various leading yavusa who were descended closely from Degei and the culture heroes of the Nakauvadra Range which dominated the Rakiraki countryside. These interrelated spirits and their associated mana created a spiritual basis for the socio-political unity of Rakiraki, legitimising the activities of its leaders and providing a spiritual backing to their kaukauwa.

Rakiraki was dominated by the Nakauvadra-based spiritual powers creating a unifying force for the eighteen yavusa forming the socio-political complex. This mana gave spiritual legitimisation to the military and political activities of Namotutu and her ambitious and forceful leaders; and these leaders knew how to seek military aid from those with whom they had traditional connections on the other side of the Nakauvadra by diplomatic channels using the tabua (whale’s tooth).

(b) The yavusa of AiSokula

The yavusa of AiSokula, based on the village of Nakorokula in what was the Old tikina of Navolau, was once associated with the Namotutu yavusa and its members lived on Namotutu land. Later they moved onto Natokea land and the yavusa developed affiliations with the Natokea polity. The precise nature of the AiSokula's continuing socio-political associations, if any, with the Namotutu and their present affiliations with, and obligations to, the Tu Navatu (see below) and the Ratu ni Natokea are uncertain.

Ratu Tevita Iliavi, spokesman of the AiSokula, told me the origin myth of the AiSokula yavusa. He said that:

the original ancestral spirit of the AiSokula, Lavaira, was the last of the original ancestors to come down from Nakauvadra to Namotutu, having been sent down by the culture hero, Degei. Having travelled underground, Lavaira settled at the northern base of the Range at Matavotu, near Namotutu. He had one eye in the middle of his forehead, and his waqawaqa or manifestation was a kula or red parakeet. His son, half-man and half-veli (a hairy land-sprite), went to Namotutu where he married a woman of Vatukaloko (see below). One grandson went and settled at Vanuakula (the Place of the Red Parakeets) near the present Rakiraki rubbish dump, where he married a woman of Rewasa, Naroko (see below). The rest of Lavaira's family moved to Namotutu, whence one of them went to settle at Navatu where he married a woman of Navatu. These were the progenitors of the AiSokula (meaning Flight of Red Parakeets).

Iliavi referred to the accounts recorded by the NLC in which it was claimed that the original ancestor of the AiSokula was the same as the ancestor of the Tunavitilevu mataqali, and that the AiSokula were part of the Namotutu yavusa. A careful study of the records indicates that the Fijian witnesses before the NLC were at best muddled and contradicted each other. It may have been that they simply wanted to seize the chance to increase by official recognition the extent of the socio-political federation of the Namotutu by including another group with which they, in fact, had no descent or traditional connections. However, the mata ni vanua or ceremonial head for the Tu Navitilevu told me that the AiSokula were not spiritually related to the Namotutu, having different original ancestral spirits, but that they were closely connected with Namotutu because their respective spirits lived next to each other at Namotutu. The spirit of AiSokula had come down from Nakauvadra after the ancestral spirit of the Namotutu and heeded his authority. This was reflected in the socio-political relationship between the AiSokula and the Namotutu. A recurring factor in considering the significance of these oral accounts is the need to take into account the likelihood of ex post facto explanations.

The myths of origin, as told to me by Iliavi, went on to say that:

the rest of the AiSokula moved east from Namotutu, settling at Narukusara, inland from the peninsula of Volivoli. Among those at Narukusara were three brothers, the youngest of whom was called Dakuwaqa who was described to me as ‘kata i wai, kata i vanua’ (biting at sea, biting on land). He was very strong and arrogant towards his elder brothers who told him to go away. So he went to Cakaudrove where he became the original ancestor of the AiSokula, the chiefly family of Cakaudrove.

Apart from the two remaining brothers, two female spirits, the Drua Marama (or the Twin Ladies), came and settled at Narukusara. There was later a quarrel and the two female spirits left and stayed at Namolausiga from where they found it easier to go fishing. They appear here nowadays as two Fijian women dressed in modern dress.

A fifth cult figure at Narukusara was a wandering male spirit who came from Nakauvadra and based himself at Narukusara. His manifestation was a grunting pig which used to appear in the village of Nakorokula when the AiSokula went to settle there.

These five spirits at Narukusara were regarded as the defenders of Rakiraki and of Lavaira who was himself described as the defending spirit of Rakiraki. Narukusara became in course of time a vanua rerevaki or much feared place, where until recently ceremonial presentations of yaqona were made to the spirits of Nakauvadra.

The AiSokula developed into a simple descent group at Namotutu, where they were until the Rakiraki wars. When Namotutu was destroyed, the AiSokula scattered up into the hills to the Rakiraki stronghold of Koroqoia.

After peace was restored, some of the AiSokula went to join the Tui Cakau/Vuninokonoko sub-groups of the Namotutu yavusa and settled with them in the village of Navutulevu. Their descendants formed the branch of the AiSokula known as the Nasinukalala who settled eventually at Naivuvuni, a Navatu village to the west of Navatu crag. Here they remained up to the present time.

It is clear from Iliavi's account which was supported by others of the AiSokula with whom I discussed such matters, that the spiritual element was highly important to the AiSokula when they considered the three elements of the ideology of the vanua, spirits, people and land. They saw themselves as the bai or defence of the Rakiraki heartland, not only physically in their war settlements (Nairaborabo and Nagaga) but also spiritually with the spirits mentioned above as well as a bewildering variety of other spirits which they referred to as ofisa or policemen or bai. These ofisa might pass warnings about impending attacks to the AiSokula. They would also strengthen the physical powers of the AiSokula, and improve especially their expertise with the sling or irabo, after which their fortress Nairaborabo was named, meaning The Sling Place.

After the wars, quarrelling broke out among the Navatu people, and Tu Navatu sought the protection (vakarurugu) of the Tu Navitilevu of Rakiraki, offering him some land at Nasava. On the basis of this request for protection rested largely the case of the Namotutu that the Navatu people should heed the authority of Tu Navitilevu—a claim that the Navatu repudiate (see the discussion under the Malake accounts above). Tu Navitilevu sent some of the AiSokula to go and settle on this land. Their descendants formed a branch of the AiSokula known as the Nasinukalala who settled eventually at Naivuvuni, a Navatu village to the west of Navatu crag. Here they remained up to the present time.

Others of the AiSokula were sent by the Rakiraki chiefs to settle on Rakiraki lands at Nairaborabo, Volivoli, to the east of Rakiraki Hotel. Here they stayed for a long time, protected by a number of powerful spirits, until the Rakiraki (perhaps thinking that the AiSokula were getting too powerful) came and fought them and took their land and sold it to a European. The latter wanted to use the land and asked the Rakiraki chiefs to move the AiSokula away. The Rakiraki chiefs agreed to move the AiSokula to their village of Navuavua.

Perhaps smarting over their recent defeat in the hands of the Rakiraki, the AiSokula did not want to go to the Rakiraki village, and sent a request to the Ratu ni Natokea, asking if they could settle in Natokea territory. This was agreed to and the AiSokula moved to Nakorokula (the Red Parakeet Village), together with some people from Rewasa to whom they were related by the marriage referred to earlier.

The AiSokula were in a somewhat anomalous position, because although they owed traditional allegiance to the Tu Navitilevu they had now acquired some customary obligations towards the Ratu ni Natokea.

The emphasis by the AiSokula on the spiritual powers characterising their people and territory, and their reliance upon their physical ability especially with the sling, are factors of particular interest. Perhaps through an appreciation by other polities of the development of these spiritual and physical powers, the AiSokula gained a reputation worthy of great respect. They are proud of their past. They are particularly proud, but diffidently so, that they are the progenitors of the great eastern polity of Cakaudrove. The AiSokula chiefly family of Cakaudrove may disclaim what they would regard to be such a humble beginning and prefer the tradition that their progenitors were mighty Tongans of high rank. The AiSokula rest their case, considering their spirits and their military abilities to be every bit as powerful and worthy of respect as the Tongans, irrespective of the latter’s political cohesion, ambitions and military might.

(c) The complex socio-political federation of Navatu, which comprised the following yavusa

(i) The two yavusa of Naisogoliku and Daunavatu, being the descendants of the two sons of Waqabalabala, the original ancestral spirit of Navatu. These two yavusa formed the heart of the Navatu vanua, of which the paramount was the Tu Navatu, chief of the Naisogoliku yavusa.
The Dawadigo group, being a part-Tongan group descended from Bilovesi, a Tongan woman made pregnant by Degei and sent by him to live with the Navatu progenitors; included by the NLC as a mataqali of the Daunavatu yavusa.

(ii) The yavusa of Qilaqila, having close spiritual connections with the Navatu progenitors. The leader was the Bete Levu or Chief Priest of Waqabalabala.This yavusa lived with the Raviravi yavusa on the western boundary of Navatu territory.

(iii) Three settler yavusa, Burelevu, Bua and Naikoro, from south of the Nakauvadra.

(iv) The Namotutu yavusa of Navatu, being representatives of the Vusatabua mataqali of the Namotutu yavusa of Rakiraki. Their leader was the Tu Malake.

(v) The Rokotakala group, being representatives of the Tuinamo mataqali of the Namotutu yavusa of Rakiraki, and now included as part of the Namotutu yavusa of Navatu.The seven yavusa and two groups identified in paragraphs (ii) to (iv) all heed the authority of the Tu Navatu. The two groups are considered separately in my discussion, though, as noted, they have been included as part of two of the yavusa cited above.

(vi) The Raviravi and the Wailevu, being two yavusa which were settled together at the western boundary of the Navatu territory, the Raviravi living on their own land, and the Wailevu being a settler yavusa from the Vatukaloko socio-political complex. The Tui Raviravi heeded the authority of the leader of the settlers, the Tui Wailevu, who in turn heeded the authority of the Tu Navatu.

The nine yavusa and two groups, as identified in paragraphs (i) to (vi), were all based in what was to become the Old tikina of Raviravi. They were united to form a fairly complex socio-political federation with a three level hierarchy, including one combination of yavusa which in turn had two levels of hierarchy.

The polity can be summarised as follows:

Name of vanua

Leading yavusa

Title of paramount

No. of yavusa

No. of levels

No. of villages



Tu Navatu




This polity is of particular interest from three points of view. First, its emphasis on the spirit world and the Nakauvadra Range serves to illustrate the importance of the spiritual element in what I have posited as the trilogy of elements in the concept of vanua—people, land and spirits. Secondly, its degree of socio-political complexity provides support for my basic theme that there was a continuum of degrees of socio-political complexity in Fijian late prehistoric polities, as seen on a west-east politico-geographical axis with simple polities tending to be in the west and major confederations tending to be in the east. This does not mean that individual polities in the west did not develop in complexity, or individual polities in the east did not decline. Thirdly, it illustrates some of the features of symbolism of unification and identification of a polity which were characteristic of Fijian late prehistoric polities generally.

(i) The original inhabitants of Navatu

Myths of origin

Tu Navatu's account recorded by me was that:

Waqabalabala, the original ancestral spirit of the Navatu, and Bakadroti, the original ancestral spirit of the Naqilaqila (see below), came down together from the Nakauvadra Range, having been sent there by Degei. Waqabalabala married Losavisi, known as the itaukei ni cubu ni wai mei Bakadroti, or “owner of the crevice where Bakadroti got his drinking water". This is a rocky islet known now simply as Cubu, just off Navatu.

The Bete Levu of Naqilaqila, however, said that Waqabalabala married Naivilawasa from Nakauvadra Range. This was denied by Tu Navatu, and there is no way to resolve the two accounts.

Tu Navatu went on to say that:

Waqabalabala had two sons, Niudamu and Niumarawa.

At first, he and his family stayed at Nauluvatu (the highest peak of Navatu crag), and Bakadroti stayed at another peak called Naqilaqila.

Waqabalabala then left Navatu and went to stay at what is referred to as his resting place at Nacilau, a point to the west of Navatu. Nacilau is the jumping-off place of the spirits of the Navatu dead. Losavisi returned to Cubu, for some reason not now known. One account said that Bakadroti himself went to the western boundary of Rakiraki territory and stayed at first at Na iTavutavu ni Ciwa near a pool in the mangrove swamp just to the east of Tavua. This became the pool of Viyagoiratu where the Tu Navitilevu washed after his installation, and where he was later massaged by the Tavua people to whom he was related. Later, Bakadroti wanted to be closer to Waqabalabala and so he moved east to Nawailo near the present village of Vunitogoloa. Another account said that he moved directly from Navatu to Nawailo and that it was the Naqilaqila descendants who went to Tavua (see below).

The two brothers, the sons of Waqabalabala, moved down to the southeast side of Navatu crag to settle at Naisogoliku. From there Niumarawa moved to the southwest side of the crag, to Nasakurawa. Between these two sites there is a cave called Naqaqa occupied by Coci, a hare-lipped spirit who came down from Nakauvadra as part of Waqabalabala's retinue. Coci’s duties were to teach meke or action chants to the Navatu people.

The descendants of Niudamu, Niumarawa and Coci

Niudamu's descendants at Naisogoliku were the Naisogoliku sub-group of the Navatu people.

Niumarawa's descendants at Nasakurawa were the Daunavatu, the turtle fishers for Degei before the Malake (see above).

Coci's descendants were the Naqaqa, later known as the Vunivau, who joined the Naqilaqila at Vunitogoloa, but were still regarded as part of the Daunavatu yavusa.

The Dawadigo Group

While Niumarawa was at Nasakurawa the pregnant Bilovesi arrived from Nakauvadra. Bilovesi came originally from Tonga as a vulagi ki Nakauvadra or visitor to the Nakauvadra, where Degei invited her to be his personal guest. He made her pregnant and sent her to Nasakurawa to wait there until she had given birth. Bakadroti, however, said that she should go to him at Nawailo and be looked after by Mokomoko, a male spirit of the place whose place was the site of the present village of Vunitogoloa and who is still referred to as i vakatawa ni koro or guardian of the village. Just before she gave birth, Bakadroti sent her back to Nasakurawa where she gave birth to a boy. The news reached Degei, whose manifestation was a snake, and he said that he was Ga'a i Vanua (snake of the land), and that his son should be called Ga'a i Wai (snake of the water). He sent a mosquito net (lawalawa) to be hung up in Bilovesi's house, and the name of Nasakurawa was changed to Navalelawa (mosquito net house).

Gataiwai went to a pool in a stream to the northwest of Navatu crag; and Bilovesi may have gone to Malake Island (according to the Malake people, she married Dadavanua, their ancestral spirit), where there is a rock shaped like a vagina and known as Bilovesi.

Bilovesi/Gataiwai: descendants

Bilovesi's descendants were the Dawadigo, who were formerly regarded as a separate group but were later included in the Daunavatu yavusa because of land at Visoto which Niumarawa had given to Gataiwai. Indeed they were regarded at first as the leaders of the Navatu people on the grounds that they were direct descendants of Degei through Bilovesi, whereas the Naisogoliku were descended from Waqabalabala, who was only an emissary of Degei. Later the leadership was given to the Naisogoliku as the senior group of the Navatu people who, at Degei's request, had looked after Bilovesi during her pregnancy.

(ii) The Naqilaqila yavusa

The Naqilaqila yavusa were the descendants of Bakadroti whom Degei had sent down from the Nakauvadra to be the bete or priest of Waqabalabala.

After Waqabalabala had settled at Nacilau, Bakadroti had gone to be near him and settled at Nawailo where his mound was called Nailuva. Bakadroti's descendants first settled at Na iTavutavu ni Ciwa, near Tavua, and then at Nawailo.

The Navatu people (the Naisogoliku, the Daunavatu and the Naqilaqila) did not claim descent from Degei, the main culture hero of the Nakauvadra Range, and in this way they were different from the Namotutu people of Rakiraki who claimed descent from Tu Nakauvadra, the son of Degei. On the basis of these myths of origin, the Navatu may be signalling that they were spiritually lower down the hierarchy than the Namotutu people. Nevertheless, they were proud to be descended from the direct emissaries of Degei, Waqabalabala and the priest, Bakadroti. This mythological origin not only gives the Navatu a sense of security and a pride of place in the region. It also provides a sense of unity and identification for the polity, and a spiritual validation for Tu Navatu being the paramount of the Navatu federation.

The Dawadigo are of interest, claiming descent from Bilovesi, a Tongan visitor to Nakauvadra, whom Degei had made pregnant. First, there is mythological connection between Tonga and the Nakauvadra, based not only on Bilovesi's visit but also on the arrival of Degei's favourite dove, Turukawa, said to have come from Tonga. However both visitors may be seen to have suffered. The dove was shot by the Ciri, the Twins, who were not supportive of Degei, and Bilovesi was made pregnant. Instead of her descendants being honoured as part-Tongan as they would have been in the east where Cakaudrove paramounts proudly but probably falsely claim original descent from Tongans, the Dawadigo nowadays are diffident about their Tongan blood and seem to wish to conceal it. In Navatu, the blood of Degei overrides the blood of Tongan ancestors.

Turtle fishing and the Daunavatu diaspora

When Degei's vudi or plantains which the Rakiraki people had planted at Waisa were ripe, the Daunavatu would take a certain stone endowed with special mana or sau and go fishing for turtle. They would be expected to take their catch to the Naqilaqila people, whose head was the Bete Levu or Chief Priest of Degei. It was the responsibility of the Naqilaqila to take the turtle for presentation to Degei, together with the vudi.

On one occasion, the Daunavatu caught turtle but only presented the small ones for Degei, keeping the big ones to eat. Degei found out about this transgression and sent down upon the Daunavatu the so-called lila balavu or wasting disease. The Daunavatu scattered, fleeing from the disease and the wrath of Degei. They went to Navatusila (in the centre of Viti Levu); Nakorotubu; Dawasama (Tailevu); Bua; the Yasawas; Nadroga (the Navatu people claim that the Kwa Levu or paramount of Nadroga is of Navatu origin); the island of Vatulele—so called because the Navatu poled (lele) over to there; and even to the island of Kadavu.

The Bete Levu, head of the Naqilaqila, explained to me that the Naqilaqila had gone to settle near Tavua after the lila balavu in order to get as far away as possible from Navatu and still remain on Rakiraki land. The Tu Navatu said that they went to Tavua and then to Nawailo before the lila balavu. It might be considered that the Bete Levu's explanation is ex post facto, but at least he did provide an explanation, whereas the Tu Navatu could offer no other explanation as to why the Naqilaqila had gone so far from Navatu. At least it makes sense that the Naqilaqila should want to go as far as possible away from the place where the Daunavatu turtle fishers had insulted Bakadroti by eating his turtle. Be that as it may, Bakadroti later called them back from Na iTuvatuva i Ciwa (see above), so that they could settle at Nawailo and be in close association with him at his mound of Nailuva. This was just to the west of the present village of Vunitogoloa.

The NLC were told that ceremonies of isoro or atonement were performed to appease the wrath of Bakadroti, and the lila balavu ceased. Either because of this atonement or because they were not directly affected by the sacrilegious actions of the Daunavatu, the Naisogoliku people were not affected by the lila balavu, and they remained at Naisogoliku. However, it was emphasised to me in the 1950s and in the 1990s that such atonement ceremonies had not been performed. Because traditional lines of communication were not recognised or were difficult to develop and maintain, there was no practice of veilakovi or ceremonial exchanges of visits between Navatu and the faraway places of refuge to which the Daunavatu had fled.

Nevertheless I consider that it would be unthinkable that ceremonies of atonement were not performed to Bakadroti by the Naisogoliku chiefs in order to vakasavasavataka or clean up the ivalavala ca or bad behaviour of their relations. Although it was the Daunavatu who had been in the wrong, the remaining Navatu had to live in peaceful unity with the Naqilaqila descendants (who through the Bete Levu were the means of communication with Degei and the Nakauvadra spirit heroes). It was these heroes who would provide the spiritual power to validate and consolidate the unity of the complex socio-political federation of Navatu. This Nakauvadra-based spiritual validation and consolidation would become increasingly important as the federation developed. The diaspora after the lila balavu is still talked about with awe, as an interesting and severe object lesson of what happens to people who do not fulfil their customary obligations. Local spirits are watching closely for transgressions, and over all the Nakauvadra Range looms physically and spiritually. Spirits of both provenances are benevolent if respected; but the spirit world can be equally malevolent and menacing. It is this spiritual element in the concept of vanua which plays the role of a policeman who can be friendly but who is particularly responsible for maintaining order. Rakiraki has many spirits in addition to the ancestral spirits who are seen as maintaining order and punishing the transgressions of the people against the spirit world or the polity.

The Naqilaqila later moved from Nawailo to the village of Vunitogoloa makawa, an easily defended site in the mangroves near the present village of Vunitogoloa. The spirit house of Bakadroti remained at Nawailo, and old Milika (aged about 90) of Vunitogoloa told me that she remembered seeing the high earthen mound surrounded by stones, with a tall stone on top. The bete lived nearby. I could find no trace of the stone, which could have been moved elsewhere or buried for preservation or simply destroyed under the influence of Christianity.

At Vunitogoloa makawa the Naqilaqila were joined by a number of people from the inland village of Naseyani (see below) who came either on invitation or through marriage or blood ties with the Naqilaqila and comprised the Raviravi and Wailevu yavusa (see below). From there they moved to the present site of Vunitogoloa. Here were settled the Naqilaqila, the Raviravi, the Wailevu, the Vunivau (descendants of Coci from Navatu, see above), the Naikoro from Navatu (originally from south of the Nakauvadra, see above) and representatives of the Vusatabua of Namotutu (see below).

The Naqilaqila lost much of their land to Europeans, and became so short of planting land that they resented the continuing presence of the stranger Wailevu and Raviravi. Much of the Wailevu land had also been sold, and attempts are still being made for some of the Yaqara Estate to be freed from the supervision of a company and returned for the use of the Wailevu. This would release for the Naqilaqila some of their land currently being used by the Wailevu and Raviravi.

(iii) Arrival of the Burelevu, Bua and Naikoro, the settler yavusa

I was told by the 80-year-old head of the Burelevu, the 84-year-old head of the Bua and by a gathering of people at Vitawa in 1996 that:

the forebears of these three settler yavusa came originally from Nabaibai (the Burelevu), Namasaga (the Bua) and Munusavu (the Naikoro) on the south slopes of the Nakauvadra near the present Saivou village of Vunisea. They were among the groups who scattered before the attacks of Yaqayaqa, the qaqa or strong man of Saivou in the course of fierce fighting in the interior of Saivou. All three groups left together, crossed the Nakauvadra Range and settled on the north slopes at settlements which still bear their names and can still be identified as archaeological sites with yavu or house mounds and ditches.

When the Daunavatu scattered from Navatu as the result of the lila balavu, the Tu Navatu invited the Burelevu, Bua and Naikoro as well as some Nabaqatai from Nacolo (see above) to come and settle as vulagi or visitors on the vacated Navatu land. In times of war they helped the Tu Navatu who then gave them land for themselves. The Tui Burelevu, the Ratu ni Bua and the head of the Naikoro heeded the authority of the Tu Navatu. Most of these settlers remained at Naisogoliku and then moved to the present village of Vitawa. Some, however, joined the Naqilaqila at Vunitogoloa.

Apart from their socio-political connections with their Navatu hosts and the Tu Navatu, the Burelevu maintained social connections with their previous co-settlers, the Nabaqatai, who returned to the Nacolo at Vatukacevaceva. All three maintained their blood links with their relations still at Vunisea on the south side of the Nakauvadra, especially when there was a death or marriage. Their links with the other side of the Nakauvadra are also retained spiritually, because the spirits of the dead return to their yavutū or places of origin. In the case of Bua, the spirits jump from a rock into a deep pool in the river near Vunisea.

The arrival of these three settler yavusa and their consequent activities illustrate well the mechanics of how a complex federation developed from a polity based on spiritual descent and relationships to one which included vulagi or strangers. The latter came to vakarorogo or heed the authority of the paramount not on the basis of relational hierarchy (either sanguineal or spiritual). They did so as tiko vakararavi or people who had fled from their own lands for social, political or war-based reasons and were given shelter and protection by their hosts. In return for such protection they were given the use of land for settlement and for planting, but their relationship with this land was different from that of people who were itaukei or members of the recognised land-owning group. This, in fact, is a misnomer, because itaukei though usually translated as ‘landowner’, is the ‘passive’ form of the word ‘tauke-na’ or ‘possess’ and means ‘the owned’. It is not so much that the people own the land as that the land owns the people, symbolising a spiritual connection between the land, the living and the ancestors. The vulagi, by definition, do not have that spiritual connection with the land they are allowed to use, and so they can never be true itaukei. In the case of the three settler yavusa to Navatu, they had been dispossessed, through warfare, of their land on the other side of the Nakauvadra, and had been invited to settle on Navatu land evidently vacated by those who had fled from spiritual wrath. The NLC later officially confirmed their rights to this land but these settler yavusa were still regarded traditionally, as they are nowadays, as vulagi.

Another interesting point about these settler Navatu people is that they retained their relational and spiritual ties with the other side of the Nakauvadra, even to the extent of the spirits of their dead returning to icibaciba or jumping off places near their original settlements south of the Nakauvadra.

(iv) The Namotutu yavusa: representatives in Navatu


At the time of the Rakiraki wars between Naereere of the Tuinamo mataqali of Namotutu yavusa on the one side, and Kelei of the Vusatabua mataqali of the Namotutu yavusa and the Navuavua yavusa on the other, some of the Vusatabua sought refuge with the Naisogoliku of Navatu. Some Vusatabua went to Malake and later went with the Malake to Navatu, some joining the other Vusatabua at Naisogoliku and finally settling at Naicuvacuva. Among these, one held the title of Tu Malake or Mata ki Malake, whose responsibility it was to bring the message from the Tu Navitilevu to the Malake people to say that the plantains were ripe for presentation to Degei, and that they should proceed with turtle fishing for Degei. Others went and settled with the Wailevu and the Naqilaqila at Vunitogoloa, which was part of the Navatu territory.

Later, the quarrels arose between the Namotutu chiefs, Mulase of Vusatabua and Nawaqalevu of Navitilevu, due to the appointment of Naduva as Tu Navitilevu (see under the Namotutu account). Mulase went to his vasu, the Naisogiliku yavusa who were his mother's people, and settled at Naicuvacuva with the rest of the Vusatabua who had gone there earlier. When the rest of the Namotutu proceeded to attack Navatu Mulase helped the Navatu people against the Namotutu and their allies, the Nalawa and the Navatu with Mulase’s help killed ‘Eki, the qaqa or strong man of Nalawa, and chased away the Namotutu. As a result, the Navatu claim that their original obligations to Namotutu on the basis of which the Namotutu claimed that the Navatu owed them allegiance (see below) were wiped out and the Navatu were now independent. The matter is still debated but without resolution.


Sometime later Navatu was split with internal quarrels; draunikau or sorcery was rife, and the polity had a fearsome reputation for strange powers. For instance, if someone wanted to kill an enemy in the Yasawa or elsewhere in Ba, that person had the power to do so by throwing a tiqa or dart, or a stone in the direction of that person. The situation became so chaotic that Tu Navatu gave some land to Tu Navitilevu and asked for help. As a result, the Rokotakala group descended from Kanabaya of the Tuinamo mataqali were sent by Tu Navitilevu to keep the peace. They settled at Naicuvacuva and later split, some remaining at Naicuvacuva with the rest of the Namotutu representatives, the Vusatabua, and others going to Naisogoliku to be with Tu Navatu. On the basis of this assistance the Namotutu claim that the Navatu thereby put themselves in a position of dependence on the Namotutu which resulted in them having to heed the authority of the Tu Navitilevu. The Namotutu people say that the AiSokula were descended from one of the sons of Kanabaya and were originally part of the Rokotakala. The AiSokula strongly deny this and claim descent from Lavaira, the spirit sent down from Nakauvadra by Degei, and are therefore quite separate from the Namotutu. It is not possible to determine which of these accounts, presumably biased towards the narrator, is historically correct (see the account of the AiSokula above); but for the main purposes of this research this quandary is not unduly significant.

When the development of a complex socio-political federation is being analysed and the component elements have been isolated, it is apparent that in some cases, as in the case of the three settler yavusa discussed above, groups of people who were duly recognised as complete yavusa or descent groups moved from their own lands to those of a host polity which became their paramount. In the case of the two groups just described, fission took place in the parent yavusa, the Namotutu. Fission was not simply on an inter-mataqali but rather on an intra-mataqali basis. In the cases of the Tuinamo and the Vusatabua mataqali, they were split and some of each went to settle in Navatu. The reasons for such fission in the cases described may have reflected internal dynastic quarrels among the Namotutu, or may have been at the request of the host for assistance from a powerful neighbour in order to settle internal Navatu problems. The latter is reminiscent of the phenomenon of the ‘stranger king’, as Sahlins had claimed for Fiji. There is a third possibility. A paramount such as the Tu Navitilevu may have sent a group of his own people to live among the neighbours such as among the Navatu at Navatu crag, at Vunitogoloa among the Naqilaqila and among the Natokea—see the discussion on the Navolau people of Namotutu origin who settled among the Natokea people. This may have been in the form of a semi-diplomatic/semi-intelligence mission because the paramount concerned wanted to keep in favour with, or maintain a watch over his possibly troublesome neighbours. It may reflect an era, hinted at in the oral traditions, when Rakiraki's sphere of influence really did extend from Navitilevu Bay to Tavua. Certainly, the chiefs of Namotutu nowadays, when discussing the matter with me refer to the yavusa balavu or extended yavusa of Namotutu, with its influence stretching through its representatives to Vunitogoloa, to Navatu crag and to Natokea, and even, albeit with a wistful smile, to Cakaudrove through the AiSokula people. It is at this stage impossible to tell what is merely wishful thinking on the part of the Namotutu. Suffice it to say that that is what they claim nowadays, and they cite the descent from Degei to validate their claims. This also reflects the continuing argument of the relationship between Namotutu and Navatu as to whether or not the Navatu should heed the authority of Namotutu. The Navatu certainly do not think so. The argument is fairly typical of similar situations elsewhere in Fiji where ambitious leaders seek to justify an extension of their currently recognised spheres of traditional influence, or to escape from the paramountcy of another polity which they say was wrongly claimed and wrongly officially recognised at the time of the NLC.

(v) The Raviravi and Wailevu yavusa

According to the NLC records the original ancestral spirit of these two yavusa came down from Nakauvadra and settled at Wailevu, inland from the present villages of Drauniivi and Vunitogoloa. They had two children, the elder of whom was the progenitor of the Wailevu, and the younger that of the Raviravi who went and settled at the mountain fortress of Vugala in the Sawakasa Range.

I was told that:

because of marriage ties and other social links, these two yavusa used to come down to Vunitogoloa makawa at the invitation of the Naqilaqila and make salt in the mangroves. They were later given planting land by the Naqilaqila and duly settled with the Naqilaqila at Vunitogoloa. The Tui Raviravi (descended from the younger of the brothers) heeded the authority of the Tui Wailevu (of the line of the elder brother) who heeded the authority of the Tu Navatu, as paramount of the Navatu federation which included the Naqilaqila. The Naqilaqila and the Wailevu are now short of land because much of their land had been sold to Europeans before Cession. The Naqilaqila are still trying to get the Wailevu to leave the Naqilaqila land which the Wailevu claim to be theirs on the basis of the earlier gift from the Naqilaqila. The Naqilaqila claim that they only gave right of use to the Wailevu. So there is still friction in Vunitogoloa between the two yavusa.

If the NLC account is accepted, the Raviravi and Wailevu yavusa may be categorised simply as settler yavusa, and there seems to be no doubt but that the Wailevu people are part of the Twelve Yavusa (see below). However, although their origin myths as recorded by the Lands Commission indicate that they were of a common origin, I was told in Vunitogoloa that the original inhabitants of the land where the village is now situated were the Raviravi. The Raviravi must indeed have been people of consequence at some period, because the Old tikina of Raviravi was named after them, according to what I was told in Vunitogoloa.

When the Naqilaqila came from Navatu crag, they were considered by the Raviravi to be powerful people, because of their spiritual connection with Bakadroti, Degei's priest sent down to settle with Waqabalabala. So the Naqilaqila were given the leadership over the Raviravi. The Naqilaqila invited the Wailevu to come and use some of the land, the control of which the Raviravi had given to the Naqilaqila. This may have been because the Naqilaqila wanted to associate themselves with the Twelve Yavusa. The Wailevu as part of the Twelve Yavusa were accepted as senior to the Raviravi who heeded their authority; but they heeded the authority of the Naqilaqila first as landlords and secondly because of the spiritual power of their leader, the Bete Levu, who was descended from Bakadroti.

These two yavusa are therefore of interest as illustrating how stranger groups came to be included in a complex socio-political polity, and how the hierarchy of yavusa within a polity could change, depending on the recognised relative spiritual or secular power of the stranger yavusa or the host yavusa.

(d) Part of the Socio-Political Federation of Naroko, comprised of the following elements

(i) The leading yavusa of Navatudamu, whose head was the LeweiNavatudamu.

(ii) The two yavusa of Natunu and Kasia whose heads, the Tui Natunu and the Tui Vatuvula respectively, heeded the authority of the LeweiNavatudamu.

(iii) The settler yavusa of Navitini, whose head was the Masibuli who heeded the authority of the Tui Vatuvula of Kasia.

These four yavusa were based in the village of Rewasa on what was once Rakiraki land which became a part of the Old tikina of Naroko. Lying to the north of the Nakauvadra Range, the village is included in my study area.

(iv) The yavusa of Nawaqavesi, whose head was the LeweiNacokula.

(v) The yavusa of Navudrau, whose head was the Tu Navudrau. He heeded the authority of the LeweiNacokula, when the Nawaqavesi came and settled with the Navudrau and were accepted as leaders.

These two yavusa were based in villages south of my study area and I will only discuss them peripherally.

According to the myths of origin told to me at Rewasa by the head of the Navatudamu/Kasia people, an ex-commando from the Second World War Solomons campaign:

the original ancestral spirit of the Naroko people, Taginadula, and his wife, Souvau, came from over the Nakauvadra Range, from the Karoka region in the interior of Saivou. His actual place was called Nawaqavesi. He had two sons, one of whom was the original ancestral spirit of the Nawaqavesi yavusa. He came, together with Leka (the ancestral spirit of the Cakova, see above) and his family, and whilst Leka moved on to Vaileka, Taginadula remained further inland. His manifestation was described to me as a small snake that has two feet like a duck.

Curiously there is another spirit in Naroko which has the same manifestation. It is not unusual to find that original ancestral spirits had remarkable and strange features. Coci had a hare-lip; Qelo had a limp; Lavaira had one eye in the middle of his forehead; Tunabaqa (who does not appear elsewhere in this monograph) had an enormous penis; and Leka was remarkable for his small size. However, these are the only instances I have come across, of a manifestation in the form of a remarkable or strange composite creature, the significance of which could not be explained by those with whom I discussed the matter. The only hint I could find was that the Vatudamu/Kasia have as a harbinger of an imminent death, a wacori or kind of duck. Such a harbinger is generally regarded as the manifestation of an ancestral spirit. I suggest that the snake with duck's feet may in some way represent the unification of the manifestations of the ancestral spirits of two descent groups (or perhaps the process of transformation of one manifestation to another) and hence symbolise the unification of two descent groups who have come to regard themselves as one such group, or perhaps the process of transformation of spiritual (and physical power) from one group to another. This could be seen reflected in the fraternal quarrels, to which I will refer below, leading to the creation of the Navatudamu yavusa. Either the Naroko wanted to maintain a symbolism of unity between the Navatudamu and the Nawaqavesi, or they wanted to symbolise a transfer of power from the descendants of the elder brother to those of the younger brother. The Navatudamu were the descendants of the younger brother, and the head was regarded as the paramount of the Naroko people. The position of the head of the Navatudamu as paramount of the Naroko was confirmed by the NLC, but this was and still is sharply disputed by the descendants of the elder brother, the Nawaqavesi. The latter claimed that the confirmed leaders of the Naroko were very weak and ineffectual because they were not the traditional leaders who should be those descended from the elder brother, the Nawaqavesi. This dispute continues to the present.

The head of the yavusa went on to explain that:

the descendants of Taginadula first lived at Nawaqavesi in the interior of Saivou on the south side of the Nakauvadra. Nawaqavesi is regarded as the original settlement of the people of the polity of Naroko, which comprised the groups which became known as the Nawaqavesi (who took their name from the original settlement), Navudrau, Navatudamu, Natunu and Kasia. It was these people who gave their collective name to the Old tikina of Naroko.

Two of the progenitors of the Nawaqavesi yavusa at Nawaqavesi were brothers. The younger brother refused to pay respect to his elder brother and wanted to go off on his own, so he left Nawaqavesi.

Those remaining at Nawaqavesi formed the Nawaqavesi yavusa. They left Nawaqavesi and went to the Navudrau whose original settlement was near a large rock overlooking the present village of Vaidoko on the Saivou coast. These two groups fled together after being attacked by the Rakiraki people. They now live in the villages of Nokonoko and Vaidoko. The head of the Nawaqavesi has the title of Komainacokula who later heeded the authority of the head of the Naivilaca people of Saivou. The head of the Navudrau was the Tu Navudrau who heeded the authority of the Komainacokula. These two yavusa are on the south side of the Nakauvadra, and are only relevant to this research to the extent that they were of the stock from which the Naroko of Rewasa were derived.

Having left Nawaqavesi, the younger brother went to Kasia, still on the south of Nakauvadra. Here his party split, one part remaining at Kasia and forming the Kasia yavusa, while the rest went on north to Navatudamu near the present village of Rewasa. Here they split again, and one group went to nearby Natunu and formed the Natunu yavusa. The rest remained at Navatudamu and formed the Vatudamu yavusa, of whom the leader had the title of LeiNavatudamu. Meanwhile, the Kasia were joined by the Navitini yavusa who were also from the interior of Saivou, where they had been attacked by the neighbouring Naliwani.

The Masibuli, head of the Navitini, heeded the authority of the Tui Vatuvula. The Tui Vatuvula (head of the Kasia) and the Tui Natunu (head of the Natunu) acknowledged the authority of the Leinavatudamu, who presumably at an earlier time had heeded the authority of his hosts, the Rakiraki chiefs, but was later regarded as independent. These four yavusa are now all associated with the village of Rewasa on the edge of, and once part of Rakiraki territory. They were evidently invited by the Rakiraki chiefs to settle there, but they are nowadays independent from the Tu Navitilevu of Namotutu.

These four yavusa forming part of the independent socio-political complex of Naroko, are relevant to this research because they later came to live on Rakiraki land. They must therefore, at one stage, have owed allegiance to the Namotutu chiefs and heeded the authority of the paramount, Tu Navitilevu, although they claim to have become independent later. I suggest that they could be regarded as having once been a settler polity seeking land and perhaps refuge from the attacks of Saivou which then became part of the protective, socio-political complex of Rakiraki. Later, for reasons not apparent, they ceased to be regarded as a formal part of this complex polity. Fusion and fission are as much evident in the development of the Rakiraki polities as they are a feature of the major polities of the east and the minor polities of the west. They simply manifest themselves on a much greater socio-political and geographical scale in the east and on a much smaller scale in the west.

(e) Part of the Socio-Political Federation or Vanua of Vatukaloko, generally referred to as the Twelve Yavusa

The Twelve Yavusa comprise the following elements:

(i) The three yavusa of Nasi, Wakalou and Nakubuti, comprising a federation known as Vatukaloko, the head of which is the Tui Vatu, based on the village of Drauniivi.

(ii) The yavusa of Mali, of which the head is the Ratu ni Mali, based on the village of Naseyani.

(iii) The yavusa of Nakorosago, based on the village of Nananu. The villages of Naseyani and Nananu were originally in the Tavua area immediately to the west of the Raviravi area, but the boundaries were altered in Colonial times and Drauniivi, Naseyani and Nananu were included in Raviravi tikina. This general area was known as Na iYalayala or ‘The Boundary’, and the traditional affiliations with Tavua and Raviravi are still a matter of discussion and controversy. I have included these villages in my study area, albeit peripherally.

(iv) The yavusa of Wailevu, later based on the Navatu village of Vunitogoloa and included in the polity of Navatu—see Navatu account.

These six yavusa (including Wailevu) were based on villages lying to the north of the Nakauvadra Range and fell within my study area of Rakiraki and the periphery.

(v) The six yavusa of Nakoromatua, Naluani, Neitoa, Korosovoulevu, Wacunu and Nasoqo, based in villages in areas lying to the south of the Nakauvadra Range which became part of the New tikina of Saivou.

These six yavusa were associated with areas near the traditional original settlements of Navatunigauna and Vatukaloko from which developed the Twelve Yavusa. The federation of Vatukaloko takes its name from this original settlement. These areas were outside my study area and the six yavusa involved will not be referred to further, except in connection with the other six of the Twelve Yavusa identified in paragraphs (i) to (iv).

I had many discussions with the chiefs and spokesmen of Drauniivi, including the (now late) Tui Vatu, and also visited Nananu and Naseyani both in the 1950s and the 1990s. The Ratu ni Mali was very helpful and interested in the affairs of the Twelve Yavusa, especially Mali and Nakorosago. This account is based generally on those discussions and on the findings of Rosenthal (Rosenthal 1991; cf. Kaplan and Rosenthal 1993).

The Twelve Yavusa formed overall a complex socio-political federation scattered over a wide geographical area on both sides of the Nakauvadra Range towards the west end of the range. I discuss this overall federation only briefly because the territories of so many of its yavusa fall outside my study area. A spiritual unification of the Twelve Yavusa is based upon relationship with the original ancestral spirit, Nasarilevu. He came down from the Nakauvadra with his wife, Naikavatu, and they settled at Vatunigauna and then at nearby Vatukaloko. At Vatukaloko there is a pool and a rock said to be covered with figures (hence the rock is called Clock Rock, a nice ex post facto explanation). Their descendants comprised the Twelve Yavusa.

Their region was at first included in the tikina of Tavua in the province of Ba. It was not included by the Fijian Administration of the Colonial Government in the Old tikina of Raviravi which now forms part of the area included in the New tikina of Rakiraki in the province of Ra. Later there was a controversial boundary shift by the Administration and that part of the region of the Twelve Yavusa occupied by the six yavusa who moved north of the Nakauvadra Range and which is commonly known as Na iYalayala (‘The Boundary’) was included in the New tikina of Rakiraki. I have therefore included in my explorations of Rakiraki the six yavusa associated with Na i Yalayala. They are of interest from two aspects.

First, these six yavusa are part of a federation of considerable socio-political complexity, paralleling first, that of the Rakiraki polity headed by the yavusa of Namotutu and the Tu Navitilevu; and secondly, that of Navatu headed by the yavusa of Naisogoliku and the Tu Navatu. The Twelve Yavusa were known generally as the Vatukaloko, after their early settlement, although later this name was used to refer particularly to the three yavusa living at Drauniivi.

The Twelve Yavusa claim common spiritual origins from the sons and relations of Nasarilevu, an ancestral spirit who came down from Nakauvadra and settled first at Navatunigauna and then moved to nearby Vatukaloko towards the slopes of the western end of the Nakauvadra. From here six yavusa spread south of the range outside my area, and the other six with whom I am concerned spread north to Vugala, Nananu, Naseyani and Drauniivi. They established the defended site at Vugala to which Udreudre of Rakiraki later fled. There were close links between the Tunavitilevu mataqali of the Namotutu and those Vatukaloko who were living at Vugala. Udreudre's mother came from the Vatukaloko People. Because of these links, Udreudre, chief of the Navitilevu of Namotutu, was able to seek refuge with his vasu at Vugala after he had been abandoned at Namotutu during the Rakiraki wars of Naereere against Kelei and the Navuavua yavusa. After the wars, the Vatukaloko took Udreudre back to the Namotutu boundary, but the Namotutu had by this time accepted Christianity and were not prepared to welcome back their paramount who was a notorious cannibal. So he remained with his old friends, the Cakova, and lived and died with them. It does seem that at some time the Rakiraki polity's sphere of influence extended as far as just east of Tavua. Here was the pool where the Tu Navitilevu bathed after installation. On the reefs off here was the boundary of the turtle fishing activities of the Malake fishers of the Tu Navitilevu. Here the Naqilaqila settled as far as possible from the sacrilege caused by the Daunavatu who ate turtle meant for Degei and the consequent lila balavu which smote the Navatu, at a time when the Navatu were possibly part of the Rakiraki polity. This may well account for the initial fixing of the Raviravi boundary to include the region known as Na iYalayala which stretched almost as far as Tavua.

Secondly, the Twelve Yavusa were involved in activities to which the Cakobau Government and later the Colonial Government took exception. In the first instance, a Lasakau (Bau) man called Koroikoya came recruiting Ra labour for European plantations in the east. This was seen first, as a case of a stranger (who happened to be a hated Bauan) taunting the traditional authorities of the area by recruiting Ra labour without first seeking the approval of those authorities; and secondly, as a case of an unwelcome infiltration of the Cakobau Government outside Cakobau's traditional area of authority. Koroikoya was killed by the Nakorosago yavusa of the Twelve Yavusa. Cakobau's troops who happened to be in the area on other matters were ordered to avenge the death of Koroikoya and attacked the assembled warriors of the Twelve Yavusa who had assembled within the defence works of Korowaiwai, inland from Drauniivi. The ramifications of Koroikoya’s activities involved the Cakobau Government and ended in the Battle of Korowaiwai in 1873. In the course of this successful attack, 157 (according to the Fiji Times; Georgius Wright, an eyewitness, later gave the figure as 300) of Vatukaloko warriors were killed in their defended area on the banks of which sat the bete, Sadiri, facing the guns of Cakobau's troops in traditional manner by waving a fan defiantly but unsuccessfully. On this occasion, the kaukauwa or physical power of firearms used to effect by the military of the Cakobau Government proved to be too strong for the mana or spiritual power provided for the Twelve Yavusa by their ancestors through their priest. Even with the introduction of Christianity the old beliefs of the Twelve Yavusa remained strong and provided a fertile background to the activities of a man of Drauniivi, Dugumoi, also known as Navosavakadua, who was of the bete line of the Vatukaloko. Dugumoi was a seer and spiritual activist whose best-remembered deed was to revive a man baked in an earth oven. He had a extensive following throughout the region of the Twelve Yavusa who saw in him an embodiment of their past spiritual glories and power. Because of what were interpreted by the Colonial Government to be his anti-government activities, Dugumoi was arrested in 1883 and deported to Rotuma for ten years. Although he never returned to Drauniivi, the Vatukaloko people there persisted and in 1891 they were deported to Kadavu, seen as a Christian and pro-government area. After some years on Kadavu, the Colonial Government thought that the Drauniivi people had learnt their lesson to heed the Government, to accept Christianity and to abandon their old beliefs and ways. They were later allowed to return to the present site of Drauniivi following a probationary period with the Roko Tui Ra at Kadavulailai near the provincial headquarters at Nanukuloa.

A strong fascination with Navosavakadua remains still not only in the Drauniivi area but also more widely throughout many parts of Fiji. A respect for the strong spiritual powers of the Twelve Yavusa and particularly for the Drauniivi people manifests itself not only among Fijians but also among Indians. The latter are equally fascinated in, and respectful of the spiritual powers of Uluda and Degei, as may be witnessed by the number of Indians who still visit both Vatukacevaceva and Drauniivi with appropriate offerings.

As I said in my introduction to this chapter, Rakiraki is a magical place.

(f)The yavusa of Namacuku

The yavusa of Namacuku, based on the village of Togovere in the Old tikina of Raviravi, had myths of common origin with the Vatukaloko polity, but appeared to be an independent group.

The NLC claimed that the ancestral spirit of the Namacuku was a son of Rasare (or -i) levu, the original ancestor of the Kalokolevu Twelve Yavusa. I was told differently by Penaia, the presently recognised expert in Namacuku affairs and dau ni vucu or chant specialist. He said that the ancestral spirit was Boginiyali, whose connection with Rasarilevu was not clear, although he did not deny it.

The first settlement was inland from the present village of Togovere, but the Namacuku fled from there during the Rakiraki wars and took shelter with the Navatu people and were settled at Togovere.

Togovere is closely associated with the Ciri, the Twins, whose place was at Nukutabua on the slopes of the Nakauvadra below Uluda. According to myth they shot Degei's favourite dove, Turukawa, who would wake him up in the morning. The Twins used to go to Togovere to cut mangrove branches for their bows and arrows in the swamps between the village and the sea. Various stones in and around the village and the swamp are shown as places where the Ciri cut the wood, where they sharpened their arrows, where they trod on their way back to the Nakauvadra and where they duly shot Turukawa. This shooting naturally infuriated Degei and led to wars.

I suggest that around the territory of Degei's emissaries and relatives in the Rakiraki and Navatu polities the unifying spiritual force was that of Degei and his associates. To the east, the Twelve Yavusa and Namacuku may not have respected Degei to the same extent, and did not need his unifying power. They were sufficiently self-supporting to rely on their own spiritual powers and were keen to show their independence from Degei and his associates. This was mythologically symbolised in the assistance provided by them to the Ciri when they came to seek wood for their bows and arrows to be used to shoot Turukawa and thus to show their lack of respect for Degei. The Namacuku were most likely associated ultimately with the spiritual centre of Navatunigauna/Vatukaloko rather than with Uluda, home of Degei.

1 Rakiraki is a name with several referents, such as:

  • • before Cession, the area in the north-east corner of Viti Levu island, stretching from Viti Levu Bay (to the south) to Tavua (to the west);
  • • after Cession, the old Fijian Administration tikina comprising the area between the Old tikina of Natokea (to the east); Naroko (to the south); Raviravi (to the west); the island of Malake (currently inhabited by Fijians); and the freehold islands of Nananu i Ra and Nananu i Cake (or, in the local communalect, Ya’a);
  • • after the enactment of the 1945 Fijian Affairs Ordinance, the new Fijian Administration tikina comprising the Old tikina of Raviravi, Rakiraki and Navolau/Natokea;
  • • nowadays, commonly used to refer to the main socio-political complex, otherwise referred to as Namotutu, after the name of the leading yavusa;
  • • nowadays used commonly to refer to the two adjoining but separate villages of Navuavua and Navutulevu, being the present heartland of the Namotutu socio-political complex, near the Rakiraki Hotel; and
  • • nowadays used to refer generally to the overall urban area of Vaileka, the residential and industrial area around Penang sugar mill, and the residential and commercial area round the Rakiraki Hotel.
  • • in this monograph Rakiraki refers, unless otherwise stated, to the New tikina of Rakiraki.

Previous Next