RICH HISTORY FOUND IN FIJI’S TAVUNI HILL FORT

Feature

Fiji Times

SUVA, Fiji (January 16) – There is one place in Fiji that definitely tells the tales of the turbulent times our ancestors had to live through.

Located in the interior of Nadroga, the Tavuni Hill Fort is clear evidence of the fierce tribal wars that were fought in the name of Fijian beliefs and against Christianity.

Settled in the 1800s, tribes found refuge in the highly fortified settlement from the bloody wars that thrived throughout the country.

The fort was impenetrable as it was surrounded by high rock walls, protected by booby traps, ring ditches and a barricade of thorny trees.

The fort gained significant recognition when it was settled by Tongan Chief, Maile Latamai, who fled from his island nation in the early 1800s after a dispute with the reigning chiefly family of Tui Pelenaki.

While the chief did not stay at the fort for long as wars raged on, forcing him to move constantly, his followers made the fort their home.

Capitalising on the physical nature of the Sigatoka Valley, Chief Maile's followers were able to build fiercely defended dwellings.

However, after many years of battles, the fort was finally abandoned when Governor General Arthur Gordon ordered more than 1000 men from the Native Constabulary to storm it in 1876. The order was given during an uprising by people from the interior of Fiji (Kai Colo) that played no part in the signing ceremony of the Deed of Cession.

A measles outbreak that spread throughout the country killing about a quarter of the Fijian population was viewed as a strategic maneuver by the British to destroy those that opposed them.

Under the leadership of Nadroga Chief, Ratu Luki, the government troops overran the fort destroying and burning everything in sight.

No one was to ever settle at the fort or visit the area again.

But centuries later, people are now returning to the fort that has clearly become a major part of Fiji's history. Protected by the villagers of Naroro, located at the foothills of the Tavuni Hill Fort, the area has been open since 1994 to anyone wanting to get a glimpse into the past.

And with about 56 house mounds, cooking ovens, waste pits and even a killing stone still intact, those that visit cannot help but wonder about the lives of those that occupied the fort. Tour guide, Naomi Silikutapu Taufa of Mataqali Senibua, the guardians of the fort said every year, hundreds of tourists visited the area.

Ms Taufa said even school students from throughout the country visited the fort to have a fair idea of Fiji's turbulent past. Even though the fort now lies quiet under the shadows of the enormous fig trees planted by our ancestors, just walking through the area gives one an indescribable experience.

Ms Taufa said many that visit the fort are amazed by the level of preservation.

She said many of the items at the site would have looked the same during the times that the Tavuni Hill Fort was a thriving community. She said a visit to the fort was a brief look into the lives of our ancestors.

Ms Taufa said the people of Naroro Village were very determined to preserve the site so anyone who visits Fiji would be able to learn of our history and appreciate the difficulties that our ancestors had to overcome.

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