A walk through history

By Nicholas Halter

There were a lot of events planned for the reinstatement of Ratu Sukuna Day in Fiji, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to travel into the mountains and see how this renowned Fijian leader is remembered there. It was a memorable drive through the Naitasiri province and past Monosavu Dam before we reached Naga village. Needless to say, Fiji village hospitality was excellent and we were well fed and looked after.

Most memorable were the conversations around the kava bowl about Ratu Sukuna and what he means to the younger and older members of the village. We looked at old maps of Fiji and discussed how Sukuna had re-organised districts within Fiji as part of his efforts for land reform under British colonial rule. Fijian villagers of the Colo region were rightly suspicious of Sukuna’s close relationship with the British government given their past history of resistance against British control during the Colo War of 1876.

The next day we made the hike to Nubutautau with stunning scenery and impressive guides who were both fit and knowledgable. We visit one yavu (house foundation) in the Sigatoka River valley where Sukuna had travelled to record the tribal statements for the British in the early twentieth century. His efforts to traverse the whole of Fiji in his time to convince Fijians to agree to his land reforms was incredible given how challenging some of the terrain is.

We were relieved to arrive at Nubutautau after a long day of walking, and talanoa again around the kava bowl as they shared knowledge about their past. Mr Roko was a generous elder who shared many stories about the history of the village and the impact of measles and missionaries on the people in the 1800s.

Robert Nicole’s book Disturbing History is a wonderful book to read before travelling to this part of the world, but nothing can adequately describe the knowledge that was shared with us by our Fijian hosts on this trek.