History of Fiji

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Part of a series on the
History of Fiji
Coat of Arms of Fiji
Early history
Modern history
Coup of 2000
Reconciliation Commission
Crisis of 2005–06
Coup of 2006

The timeline below shows the history of Fiji, from ancient times to the present day. For a more detailed analysis, follow the links under each heading to the related articles. The Fiji Islands were discovered at an unknown time thousands of years ago by Pacific Islanders.

Pre history to 1820 and recent archeology[edit]

Located in the central Pacific Ocean, Fiji's geography has made it both a destination and a crossroads for migrations for many centuries.

Melanesian and Polynesian settlement[edit]

Austronesian peoples are believed to have settled in the Fijian islands some 3,500 years ago, with Melanesians following around a thousand years later. Most authorities agree that they originated in Southeast Asia and came via Indonesia. Archeological evidence shows signs of settlement on Moturiki Island from 600 BC and possibly as far back as 900 BC.

In the 11th century, the Tu'i Tonga Empire was established in Tonga, and parts of Fiji came within its sphere of influence. The Tongan influence was thought to have brought Polynesian influence to customs and some language into Fiji. The empire began to decline in the 13th century. The prince who came from Tonga was Ma'afu.

The Fiji Times reported on 3 July 2005 that recent research by the Fiji Museum and the University of the South Pacific (USP) has found that skeletons excavated at Bourewa, near Natadola in Sigatoka, at least 3000 years old, belonged to the first settlers of Fiji, with their origins in South China or Taiwan. The skeletons are to be sent to Japan for assembling and further research. Obsidian, a rare volcanic glass found in Papua New Guinea had been discovered there, according to Dr Patrick D. Nunn, USP Professor of Ocean Science and Geography, who theorized that the people could originally have left southern China or Taiwan some 7000 years ago, settling in Papua New Guinea before drifting on to Fiji and other countries. Lapita pottery found on the surface of the graves was almost 2500 years old, he said. Fiji Museum archaeologist Sepeti Matararaba said that the area beside the sea must have been occupied, because a great deal of pottery, hunting tools, and ancient shell jewellery had been discovered. More than 20 pits had been dug following the discovery of lapita in the area.

On 15 July 2005, it was reported that the same teams had uncovered 16 skeletons at Bourewa, near Natadola. The skeletons were found in a layer of undisturbed soil containing pottery from around 550 BC. Professor Nunn suggests there was abundant evidence that Bourewa could be the first human settlement in the Fiji archipelago, occupied from around 1200 BC onwards. "Lapita people were the first people to come to Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Tonga and Samoa. These people left evidence of their existence by mainly their elaborately decorated and finely fashioned pottery," Nunn said. He pointed to Papua New Guinea or the Solomon Islands as the place from where the earliest Fijians came, as the pottery fragments were typical of the early Lapita period in Papua New Guinea and the Solomons, but not readily found on Lapita pottery in Fiji.

Nunn suspects and announced on 9 November 2005 that a black obsidian rock discovered near Natadola in southwest Viti Levu had originated in the Kutau-Bao obsidian mine on Talasea Peninsula on the island of New Britain, in Papua New Guinea, some 4500 kilometers away. Although carried throughout the Western Pacific by the Lapita people, as it is not often found in Fiji. The obsidian, which showed signs of being "worked", probably arrived soon after the initial Lapita settlement in Bourewa circa 1150 BC, Nunn observed. He theorized that it was kept by the Lapita settlers as a talisman, a reminder of where they had come from.

Fiji Television reported on 20 March 2006 that an ancient Fijian village, believed to have been occupied by chiefs sometime between 1250 and 1560, had been discovered at Kuku, in Nausori. Its heavily fortified battle fort contained unique features not seen elsewhere in Fiji. Archeologist Sepeti Matararaba of the Fiji Museum expressed astonishment at some of the discoveries at the site, which included an iron axe used by white traders in exchange for Fijian artifacts. Local villages were reported to be rebuilding the site with a view to opening it up to tourists in July 2006.

According to oral tradition, the indigenous Fijians of today are descendants of the chief Lutunasobasoba or (Lord Shibashiba) and those who arrived with him on the Kaunitoni canoe. Landing at what is now Vuda, the settlers moved inland to the Nakauvadra mountains. Though this oral tradition has not been independently substantiated, the Fijian government officially promotes it, and many tribes today claim to be descended from the children of Lutunasobasoba.[1]

Namata a Fijian publication during the early colony days of Fiji, noted a separate occupation of the Fiji Isles. The publication noted that "Ratu" now believed to have settled in "Vereta" in tailevu, came via the "Rogovoka" settling first in the islands in the East than moved toward Viti-Levu with descendants and journers moving inland and around the north and south-west coast. The early part of the oral history began from Africa, which can further predate the movement suggested by Nunn. Contradiction exist on the route, but one thing can be certain is the source, which fits well with traditional "Oral History" in Africa and Fiji. Preliminary wind and ocean current suggest the validity of oral history depicting their renowned great seafarer-ship. The "Ratu" occupation contradicts the view point by Nunn on the East Asia migration pattern and modern day belief.

Date Event
1500 BC Fiji was suggested to have been settled by Polynesians before Micronesians, but evidence is lacking that this happened - either in oral accounts or geological data, except that of Ma'afu.

1820 to 1874[edit]

Date Event
1822 European settlement begins at Levuka, Fiji's first modern town.
1830 The first Christian missionaries from Tahiti, Hatai, Arue and Tahaara, arrive at Lakeba, brought via Tonga by the London Missionary Society.
1835 Methodist missionaries, William Cross and David Cargill, arrive in Lakeba. They are accompanied by emissaries from Taufa'ahau the Tongan high chief and by Josua Mateinaniu, a Fijian from Vulaga who had been converted at Vava'u in 1834.
1840 First visit from an American exploring expedition commanded by Captain Charles Wilkes.

1845 Conversion of Ratu Ravisa (Varani), chief of Viwa, influenced by the ministry of Rev. John Hunt. Varani is the first significant Fijian missionary among the islands and a strong counter-cultural influence upon Ratu Seru Cakobau, preeminent among the warring chiefs of Fiji.

1847 Prince Enele Ma'afu of Tonga arrived in Fiji and established himself in Lakeba by 1848. Ma'afu's arrival and his settling in Lakeba was strengthened by his blood relationship with Roko Taliai Tupou the Tui Nayau.
1849 Trading store of United States Consul and settler John Brown Williams accidentally destroyed by stray cannon fire and subsequently looted by Fijian natives.
1851 First threatening visit from the United States Navy, demanding US$5,000 for Williams's losses.
1853 Warlord Ratu Seru Epenisa Cakobau installed as Vunivalu (Paramount Chief) of Bau, and claims the title of Tui Viti (King of Fiji).
1854 Cakobau converts to Christianity, influenced by the unifying features of Christianity, its obvious connections with the western world and the presence in Fiji of a Tongan army led by Taufa'ahau and Ma'afu.
1855 Cakobau crushes Rewa revolt.
The leader of the revolt, Mara, is executed four years later.

John Brown Williams's home is destroyed by arson. Visit from warship USS John Adams, demanding almost $44,000 compensation; seizes some islands as mortgage.

1858 Arrival of the first British Consul William Thomas Pritchard.
Hostile visit from USS Vandalia.
Cakobau offers to cede the islands to the United Kingdom for US$40,000.
1862 The United Kingdom refuses to annex Fiji, claiming to have ascertained from Cakobau's fellow-chiefs that he was not universally accepted as King of Fiji and that he did not have the authority to cede the islands.
1865 Confederacy of Fijian chiefs formed.
1867 Threats to shell Levuka from an American warship.
Amid increasing unrest, Cakobau crowned King of Bau by European settlers.
1868 The Australian-based Polynesia Company acquires land near Suva, in return for promising to pay Cakobau's debts.
1871 Establishment of the Kingdom of Fiji as a constitutional monarchy, with Cakobau as King but with real power in the hands of a Cabinet and Legislature dominated by settlers from Australia.
1872 Lavish overspending saddles the new kingdom with debt. John Bates Thurston, a government official, approaches the United Kingdom on Cakobau's behalf with an offer to cede the islands.
1874 10 October - Fiji becomes a British colony.

1874 to 1970[edit]

Main article: Colonial Fiji
Date Event
1875 An outbreak of measles leaves a third of the Fijian population dead.
1876 Great Council of Chiefs established.
1879 Arrival of 463 indentured labourers from India - the first of some 61,000 to come over the ensuing 37 years.
1881 First large sugar mill built at Nausori.
Rotuma Island annexed to Fiji.
1882 Capital moved from Levuka to Suva.
1897 Arrival in Suva of Hannah Dudley, first European Christian missionary among the Indians. She works among both the indentured and "free" Indians encouraging education and welfare programs.
1904 Legislative Council reconstituted as a partially elected body, with European male settlers enfranchised and Fijian chiefs given an indirect input. Most seats still filled by nomination rather than election.
1916 End of the importing of indentured labourers from India, this decision brought about by agitation within India and the visit to Fiji by Anglican clergyman Rev. Charles Freer Andrews, close confidant of Mahatma Gandhi.
First Indian appointed to Legislative Council.
1917 Count Felix von Luckner arrested on Wakaya Island.
1918 14% of the population killed by the Spanish flu pandemic (within sixteen days).[1]
1928 First flight from Hawaii lands at Suva.
1929 Wealthy Indians enfranchised for the first time; Indian representation in the Legislative Council made elective.
1935 Establishment in Ra Province on Viti Levu of the Toko Farmers movement led by Ratu Nacanieli Rawaidranu and influenced by the Methodist missionary Arthur Lelean. Lelean encourages the farmers to be independent in their commercial operations and also to initiate moves for the formation of an independent Methodist Church.
1939 Nadi Airport built as an Allied air base.
1940 Native Land Trust Board established under the chairmanship of Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna.
1951 Founding of Fiji Airways (after which it was renamed to Air Pacific; it was then renamed to Fiji Airways on June the 27th, 2013).
1953 Visit of Queen Elizabeth II.
Legislative Council expanded - but elective seats still a minority.
1954 Ratu Sukuna appointed first Speaker of the Legislative Council.
1963 Indigenous Fijians enfranchised.
Indigenous representation in the Legislative Council made elective, except for two members chosen by the Great Council of Chiefs.
Women enfranchised.
1964 Member System introduced, with Legislative Council members appointed to oversee government departments. This was the first step towards the establishment of a Cabinet system.
1965 Constitutional conference in London fails to agree on a timetable for a transition to internal self-government, but subsequent negotiations lead to compromises.
1967 Responsible government instituted; Ratu Kamisese Mara appointed first Chief Minister.
1968 University of the South Pacific established.
1970 April - Constitutional conference in London; Mara and Sidiq Koya agree on a compromise constitutional formula.
10 October - Fiji attains independence, ending 96 years of British rule.

1970 to present[edit]

Date Event
1972 First post-independence election won by Ratu Mara's Alliance Party.
1973 Sugar industry nationalized.
1977 Constitutional crisis in which Governor-General Ratu Sir George Cakobau overturns election results, following the failure of the winning National Federation Party to put together a government.
The election held to resolve the impasse results in a landslide for the Alliance Party.
1978 Fijian peacekeeping troops sent to Lebanon.
1981 Fijian peacekeeping troops sent to the Sinai following Israel's withdrawal.
1987 General election won by the Labour-National Federation Party coalition. On 13 April, Timoci Bavadra becomes Prime Minister for a month.
14 May - Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka carries out a coup d'état.
25 September - Rabuka stages a second coup to consolidate the gains of the first.
7 October - Rabuka proclaims a republic, severing the 113-year link to the British Monarchy.
Fiji expelled from the Commonwealth of Nations.
5 December - Rabuka appoints Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau as Fiji's first President.
1990 New Constitution institutionalises ethnic Fijian domination of the political system. Group Against Racial Discrimination (GARD) formed to oppose the unilaterally imposed constitution and restore the 1970 constitution.
1992 Rabuka becomes Prime Minister following elections held under the new constitution.
1994 Election results force Rabuka to open negotiations with the Indo-Fijian-dominated opposition.
1995 Rabuka establishes the Constitutional Review Commission
1997 Constitutional conference leads to a new constitution, supported by most leaders of the indigenous Fijian and Indo-Fijian communities. Fiji is re-admitted to the Commonwealth of Nations.
1999 First general election held under the 1997 Constitution won by Fiji Labour Party (FLP). Mahendra Chaudhry becomes first Prime Minister of Indian descent.
2000 19 May - civilian coup d'état instigated by George Speight effectively topples the Chaudhry government.
29 May - Commodore Frank Bainimarama assumes executive power after the resignation, possibly forced, of President Mara.
2 November - Mutiny at Suva's Queen Elizabeth Barracks.
15 November - High Court orders the reinstatement of the constitution.
2001 1 March - Court of Appeals upholds High Court order reinstating constitution.
September - General election held to restore democracy; a plurality won by interim Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase's Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL).
Dec - Fiji readmitted to the Commonwealth
2005 May - Amid much controversy, the Qarase government proposes Reconciliation and Unity Commission, with power to recommend compensation for victims of the 2000 coup, and amnesty for its perpetrators.
2006 May 6–13 - SDL narrowly beats the FLP in parliamentary elections; multi-party Cabinet formed subsequently.
5 December 2006 - Commodore Bainimarama executes a coup against the government of Laisenia Qarase and declares himself Acting President of Fiji.
2007 January 4–5 - Bainimarama restores Iloilo to the Presidency; Iloilo endorses Bainimarama's coup and formally appoints him Prime Minister the next day.
2009 April - After the Court of Appeal rules that the 2006 coup was illegal, Iloilo suspends all judges and revokes the constitution. Bainimarama was reappointed Prime Minister and his Cabinet reinstalled.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]