Taliai Tupou

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Chief Taliai Tupou of Nayau
Father Rasolo
Mother Radavu

Roko Taliai Tupou (17??-1875) was a Fijian nobleman.[1][2] He is considered to be the progenitor of the noble household Vatuwaqa in the chiefly Vuanirewa clan and as such, was the first member of this noble household to hold the title Tui Nayau.[3] His reign marked the growth of Christianity in Lau and the slow expansion of Tongan ambitions in Fiji, led by Enele Ma'afu. As this period marked increasing contact with Europeans, records from this point forward in regard to the history of Lau are well documented.[4]


Taliai was the son of Chief Rasolo[5] and Radavu.[6] He was the younger half-brother of Malani and the 3rd Tui Nayau.[7]

Taliai Topou’s early reception of missionaries appears lukewarm. He never took them seriously, until he was later influenced by his family members.[8] It is recorded that he only allowed the Methodist missionaries, David Cargill and William Cross, to stay on Lakeba and establish a church after the support of his nephew and heir, Vuetasau. The latter conversion of his favourite daughter, Tagici (after being nursed back to health from a serious illness by a missionary) and the emerging role of Vaubula, Vuetasau’s brother, as an early Fijian preacher appears to have induced him to finally and publicly accept the Christian faith in 1849. From this point forward Christianity gradually replaced the old religion and gained hold in Lau and the rest of Fiji.

David Cargill describes Taliai Tupou in his journals as a “however reluctant, tributary monarch”. As he did not have the reserves of manpower like the Tui Cakau or Vunivalu of Bau he could never risk confrontation with his adversaries and the alternative was to maintain friendly relations over as wide a field as possible. In this sense he can he stated as an astute diplomat, having somewhat maintained Lakeba independence through the occupancy of Enele Ma'afu and ambitions of Bau Island.[9] His sovereignty over Lakeba and its dependencies were never likely threatened by Ma’afu, as Taliai through his mother descended from the royal Tuʻi Tonga[10] and Tu'i Kanokupolu lines.[11] Ma’afu’s father was a former Tui Kanokupolu and therefore would have considered Taliai his kin, but it was Ma’afu’s conquests of the north and western islands from Lakeba, that would greatly extend the domains of later Fijian rulers. In 1865 he concluded a Treaty of Friendship between the Kingdom of Lakeba and the Kingdom of Tonga, and in 1871 he convened a meeting of his chiefs and nominated Ma'afu as leader of the states of Lakeba, Vanua Balavu, and the Moala Islands.

Taliai is noted to have been the longest lived Tui Nayau. Though crippled at the time of negotiations before the Cession of Fiji to Queen Victoria in 1874, he was still being carried about. An observing Australian reporter at the time stated, "Methuselah was an infant to him and death had forgotten him."[12]

He died in 1875 and was succeeded by his grandnephew, Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba II. The latter would only succeed to the title Roko Sau as he would die prematurely a year later in 1876. His death meant that Tupou’s son Eroni Loganimoce would in turn succeed to his cousin’s title and succeed his father becoming the fourth Tui Nayau.


  1. ^ Full text of "Tales from old Fiji"
  2. ^ Tovata I & II by A. C. Reid
  3. ^ Andrew Thornley,Tauga Vulaono: A Shaking of the Land: William Cross and the Origins of Christianity in Fiji. Suva: Institute of Pacific studies.
  4. ^ Journal of the Polynesian Society
  5. ^ Matanitū: the struggle for power in early Fiji by David Routledge. Institute of Pacific Studies in association with the Fiji Centre Extension Services, University of the South Pacific.
  6. ^ Transactions and Proceedings of the Fiji Society
  7. ^ The Pacific way: a memoir by Kamisese Mara. Honolulu, Hawaii : University of Hawaii Press.
  8. ^ Doug Munro and Andrew Thornley: The Covenant Makers: Islander Missionaries in the Pacific
  9. ^ Gareth S. G. Grainger: Wainiqolo, last Polynesian warlord
  10. ^ Norman Douglas and Ngaire Douglas: Tonga: a guide
  11. ^ Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin. "...the Tui Kanokupolu always took the name of the god. Taliai Tupou, when he was appointed ruler, as he was supposed to personate him."
  12. ^ The Pacific Way: A Memoir by Kamisese Mara