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The History Of Fiji

Author : Rene Thompson

Submitted : 2010-03-07 16:38:45    Word Count : 584    Popularity:   401

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Fiji is a beautiful tropical paradise located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Because of its geography, this archipelago of over 300 islands has long been a crossroads for the meeting of many different island cultures, as well as a popular tourist destination. Fiji was part of an important trading route between various Pacific island cultures long before contact with Europeans. Over the centuries, a distinctly Fijian culture developed as a result of this rich mixture of cultures.

It is believed that the first settlers in Fiji came about 3,500 years ago from Southeast Asia, perhaps via Indonesia. Little is known of Fiji s early settlement, although archeological evidence shows that people had settled on the island somewhere between two and five thousand years ago. According to oral folklore, today s indigenous Fiji population was descended from Chief Lutunasobasoba, a Lapita chief and ancestor of modern day Polynesians believed to have landed in Fiji. Some evidence suggests that the same Lapita group to settle in Fiji also came to Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, and other Pacific islands.

By the tenth century, the important Tu i Tonga Empire in nearby Tonga brought Polynesian influences to Fiji, leaving an impact on the island s culture and language. Fijian culture was again impacted in the seventeenth century, when European explorers, missionaries, and whalers began to visit Fiji, although Europeans avoided the country for many years because the Tongans warned Europeans that Fiji was inhabited by dangerous cannibals. The first permanent European settlement on the archipelago is Levuka, founded in 1822. Soon after, Christian missionaries from Tahiti and Tonga began arriving in an attempt to convert the native Fijians to Christianity. The missionaries succeeded in converting several important Fijian chiefs.

During the nineteenth century, Fiji was the site of many battles between warring chiefs. This era was marked by several invasions and revolts. By the 1850s, Chief Cakobau had gained control of most of the islands. He had been converted to Christianity, and was largely influenced by connections with the western world. In 1858, he offered to cede the territory to the United Kingdom, in exchange for a payment of $40,000. However, the United Kingdom, realizing that Cakobau was not universally recognized as the King of Fiji, did not accept this proposal. In the 1970s, members of Cakobau s government again offered the territory to Britain, and in 1874 Fiji became a British colony.

During this time as a British colony, Fiji was subjected to many stresses. In 1875, an outbreak of measles left a third of the country dead. Between 1879 and 1916, over 60,000 indentured laborers would arrive from India to work in large sugar mills. During World War II, Fiji was turned into a training base for Allied soldiers. Thousands of Fijians fought in the Solomon Islands during the war, where they became well known for their knowledge of tropical jungles.

Until 1963, indigenous Fijians, as well as Indian laborers, were not enfranchised, and had no representation in the colonial government. One of the highest ranking Fijian chiefs, Ratu Sukana, promised to fight for Fijian independence, continuing to push for independence until his death in 1958. Like many islands in the Pacific, Fiji remained a British colony for many years, before finally gaining independence in 1970. However, Fiji s route to independence has not been a smooth one. Several coup attempts as recently as 2006 demonstrate continuing strife between native Fijians, Indians, Europeans and other groups.

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