Lau - History and Cultural Relations

Abel Tasman, the Dutch explorer, came upon the Fiji Islands in 1643. Little is known about Lau prior to the early nineteenth century, although the islands were visited by Cook, Bligh, Wilson, and other European explorers and traders. The culture of Lau reflects the influence of the western Fiji Islands, Tonga, and British colonialism. In the first half of the nineteenth century, Lau was under the control of the Mbau chiefdom located on east Viti Levu. At the same time, However, contact with Tonga was increasing and Tongan villages developed on some Lau islands. The Tongan chief, Maafu, was sent to Lau to rule the Tongans and by 1864 had successfully taken control of some Lau islands and threatened Mbau supremacy. In 1874, Fiji became a British colony, thus effectively ending both Mbau rule and preventing Tongan rule. Under British influence before and following annexation, Lauans were subject to intensive missionization and involvement as plantation workers in the copra industry. With the post-World War I decline in the copra market, Lau became something of an economic and cultural backwater in comparison to western Fiji. In 1970, Fiji achieved political Independence and Lauans have been active participants in national economic and political matters.

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