Bau - History and Cultural Relations
Although Fiji has been inhabited for at least 3,500 years, much intervening history has been lost to memory. All of the great chiefdoms of eastern Viti Levu trace their founding ancestors to the Nakauvadra Mountains near the north coast, but existing genealogical information cannot be held to relate to earlier than the sixteenth century. The Bau had two great chiefly lines, that of the Rokotui Bau, the sacred chiefs, and the Vunivalu, war chiefs and executive chiefs. After moving to the islet, the Bau began extending their influence. The Vunivalu Naulivou exploited musket-bearing European beachcombers to such effect that at the time of his death in 1829, Bau seemed well on the way to establishing a Fiji-wide hegemony. Rebellion in 1832 halted this inexorable rise, and as the century advanced, relationships between Bau and other chiefdoms, and between Fijians and Europeans, became increasingly complex. Missionaries arrived at Bau in 1839. Their progress was limited during the early stages of the war between Bau and Rewa, which dominated Fiji's politics during the middle years of the century, but in 1854, the Vunivalu Cakobau converted to Christianity, and the climactic battle of Kaba, in 1855, took on the character of a struggle Between pagan and Christian power in Fiji. Thereafter, European influence increased. Fiji was ceded to Great Britain in 1874, with Cakobau signing the deed as King of Fiji. The British colonial administration adopted a fairly benign paternalism towards all Fijians. Alienation of land was stopped, but evolution of Fijian society and adaptation to change were severely limited. The old chiefdoms such as Bau became relatively insignificant, although some of the chiefs were involved in administration. With independence in 1970, and even more so after the military coups of 1987, however, the chiefly confederations have once again come to the fore.