Rennell and Bellona is a province of the Solomon Islands comprising two inhabited atolls, Rennell and Bellona, or Mu Nggava and Mu Ngiki respectively in Polynesian, as well as the uninhabited Indispensable Reef. Rennell and Bellona are both Polynesian-inhabited islands within the Solomons, most of the islands being primarily Melanesian with a few Polynesian islands. They are thus considered Polynesian outliers. The first known European to sight the islands was Mathew Boyd of Camberwell, London, Commander of the merchant ship, Bellona, in 1793. The province has a combined population of 2,377 (1999). The Samoic language of the islands is, in English texts, called "Rennell". The capital is Tigoa on Rennell Island.
In 1793 Bellona Island was named after a passing British ship, the Bellona. Rennell Island may have been named for the oceanographer James Rennell, FRS (1742–1830). In 1799 according to a chart both islands were named Bellonas Island. In 1816 the islands were referred to as Rennell’s Isles. The names the islanders used for self-reference are Mungiki (Bellona)(Mu=Island/Mountain; Ngiki=Small) and Mugava(Rennell) (Mu=Island/Mountain; Gava=large). Younger people on both islands sometimes use the name Avaiki for both islands. According to oral traditions, the islands were originally inhabited by a people of another culture before the ancestors of present-day Polynesians arrived in canoes from their homeland, ‘Uvea gago (probably West Uvea in the Loyalty Islands, Overseas French Territories). On their voyage, they arrived at ‘Uvea matangi (probably East Uvea Wallis Island, Overseas French Territories), and finally reached Rennell Island but there were no inhabitant and they were told by the high priest Tahasi that there was another Island yet to be sighted and they left Rennell in search of it, and the Island is now known as Bellona, where they found people, the Hiti, living in caves at the ocean sides of the island. The Hiti were dark-skinned, short people with long hair reaching to their knees and spoke a language intelligible to the invaders, who gradually killed off the indigenous inhabitants. The oral traditions relate that the first invaders consisted of seven married couples and founded each their clan (sa’a) of which five were extinct. Ancestors of the two remaining clans Kaitu’u and Iho still inhabit the islands.
In oral traditions, narrators tell of scattered and singular voyages to and from other inhabited places in the Western Pacific. Just after settling, some men returned to East ´Ubea (Uvea) to get the precious root stocks of turmeric for ritual dyeing and anointment. In following generations two men went to Mungua (probably Woodlark Island, Murua) and returned with place names and new kinds of yams and bananas. Another oral tradition details the arrival of a New Caledonian ship with tobacco and steel adzes. Other oral traditions state that poultry was brought to Rennell before the first Christian teachers were killed in 1910. In the latter part of the nineteenth century Bellonese and Rennellese people were taken to Queensland by Blackbirders to work in the sugar plantations. One Rennellese man is known to have returned, bringing home Western goods such as axes, cotton cloth, umbrellas, and guns.
The two islands were at first Contacted only sporadically by Europeans and Americans in the later part of the nineteenth century. In 1910 the three first Christian missionaries were killed on Rennell, and the islands were left to themselves until preachers from the Seventh Day Adventists (SDA), the Church of England and the South Seas Evangelical Mission (SSEM) arrived in 1936. They took a group of Rennellese men to the mission stations in other parts of the Solomon Islands. In 1938 the Christian faith became dominant on Rennell and Bellona followed only gradually.
Not until after World War II (1945) did Westernization slowly influence the two islands. A closer Contact with the rest of the Solomon Islands sped up the process. More regular shipping was initiated, and children were sent to mission schools on other islands. In the 1950s health clinics and wireless Contact were established on both islands. Regular Air service to both islands was established in the beginning of the 1970s. July, 7th 1978 Solomon Islands became an independent state instead of a British Protectorate. With a restructuring in 1993 of the political parliamentary system Bellona together with Rennell were declared an independent constituency and province within the Solomon Islands. At the turn of the millennium the different churches began losing their power, especially over the younger generation. Sports, music and home brewing became leisure-time interests, and education and vocational training rose in importance.
A dugout canoe on Lake Te Nggano
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Coordinates: 11°40′S 160°10′E / 11.667°S 160.167°E