Fijian people

Fijian people
Indigenous Fijians
Fijian man.jpg
Total population
Est. 700,000
Regions with significant populations
 Fiji 475,739 [1]
 New Zealand 7,000 [2]
 Australia 19,173 [3]
 United States 10,265 [4]
 United Kingdom Over 4,500 [5]

Fijian Bau, English, Fijian Hindi


Methodist 66.6%; Roman Catholic 13.3%; Assemblies of God 6.2%; Seventh-day Adventist 5.1%; other 8.8%.

Related ethnic groups

Native Hawaiians, Māori, Samoans, other Melanesian peoples, Polynesian peoples, other Austronesian peoples

Fijian people are the major indigenous people of the Fiji Islands, and live in an area informally called Melanesia. The Fijian people are believed to have arrived in Fiji from western Melanesia approximately 3,500 years ago, though the exact origins of the Fijian people are unknown. Later they would move onward to other surrounding islands including Rotuma,as well as blending with other (Polynesian) settlers on Tonga and Samoa. They are indigenous to all parts of Fiji except the island of Rotuma. The original settlers are now called "Lapita people" after a distinctive pottery produced locally. Lapita pottery was found in the area from 800 BC onward.

As of 2005, Fijians constituted slightly more than half of the Fijian population. Indigenous Fijians are predominantly of Melanesian extraction, with some Polynesian admixture. Other ethnic groups in Fiji include Indo-Fijians, the Rotuman people, and minority communities, which include Caucasians, Chinese, and other Pacific Islanders.

New Zealand has a large Fijian population, according to the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs. In 2001, Fijian people were the fifth largest Pacific ethnic group living in New Zealand. There was a decrease of 8 percent between 1996 and 2001. The estimated Pacific Islander population size is 231,800 in 2001 Fijians comprising about 7,000 of that.[6]

The Bose Levu Vakaturaga (Great Council of Chiefs) once passed laws and regulations governing the Fijian people. Today, the Great Council of Chiefs meets yearly to discuss Fijian concerns. The council is responsible for appointing the Fijian president. The council is made up of 55 chiefs selected from the 14 provinces. Included in the council are three appointees from the island of Rotuma and six appointed by the Minister of Fijian Affairs. The Minister of Fijian Affairs consults with the Fijian president as part of the selection process. Finally, former Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka serves a lifetime appointment on the council.[7]



The Tabua is a much revered whale's tooth which is used in both public and private occasions or ceremonies. The tooth is considered sacred.[7]

Yaqona, otherwise known as kava, another important traditional and religious custom, is an infusion prepared from the root of Piper methysticum, a type of pepper plant. The plant itself is also often referred to as yaqona or the kava plant. Yaqona is extremely important in Fijian culture - in the time of the 'old religion' it was used ceremonially by chiefs and priests only. Today, yaqona is part of daily life, both in villages and in urban areas and across all classes and walks of life. 'Having a grog' or 'drinking grog', as drinking kava is sometimes known, is used for welcoming and bonding with visitors, for storytelling sessions or merely for passing time.[citation needed]

The Fijian language belongs to the Central Pacific - Fijian - Polynesian branch of the Austronesian family.[citation needed]

About 86 percent of the land in Fiji is owned by indigenous Fijian people.[8] In 1876, Sir Arthur Hamilton-Gordon, the British colonial Governor, prohibited the sale of Fijian land to non-ethnic Fijians. This policy has been continued, hardly modified, to this day[citation needed] The Governor also banned the exploitation of Fijians as laborers, and in 1878 imported indentured laborers from India to work in the sugarcane fields. The effects of this immigration created an ethnic polarization which has proved culturally and politically challenging to modern Fiji.[citation needed]

Indigenous Fijians overwhelmingly report as being Christian, with the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma claiming the loyalty of 66.6% (1996 census). Other significant denominations include the Roman Catholic Church (13.3%), the Assemblies of God (6.2%) and the Seventh-day Adventists (5.1%). About 8% belong to other churches from a large number of denominations. Only about 0.8% report as following non-Christian religions or no religion.[citation needed]

Approximately 70% of Fijians are farmers, many of which are sustenance farmers. They commonly grow such crops as sugar cane, cassava, rice, sweet potatoes, and bananas.[citation needed]

Guard outside the presidential palace in Suva, 2003

Historically, Fijians were known[by whom?] as the canoe building experts of the Pacific, using them to trade with Tonga. They were usually double canoes, each side similar except one was shorter and served as a type of outrigger. They are united by beams, with a platform on it that extended beyond the sides.[citation needed]

The article on the History of Fiji offers a time line of events.

The Lapita people, named after their distinctive pottery style, were the first people to inhabit Fiji in about 3000BC, and evidence of their settlement exists throughout Fiji, particularly around the Sigatoka Sand Dunes. They were followed by the Melanesians in about 500 BC, and relatively recent trading with the Polynesian Tongans has added to the cultural mix. In the Lau group of islands, aspects of both cultures still intermingle. In the old days there was active commerce between Tonga and Fiji, and later in the history of this relationship the Fijians in the Lau Islands (Eastern Fiji) became vassals to the King of Tonga. One particular reason Tongans and Samoans came to Fiji was to build Drua (large double-hulled canoes) which they couldn’t build on their own islands because of the lack of proper timber.

From the early 19th century, both European and Chinese traders visited Fiji for its sandalwood, hardwoods, beche-de-mer, marinelife and, more recently, gold. The British ruled Fiji from 1874 to 1970. In 1970, Fiji became a fully independent nation with constitutional arrangements to ensure that traditional Fijian interests were preserved

His Royal Highness Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, sent the Instruments of Independence to Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. They were received on October 10, 1970. In 1972, the first general elections were held using the 1970 constitution. In 1987, two coups were staged. The first coup was a bloodless military coup. The second coup severed ties with the British Monarchy. In 1990, a new constitution was adopted and in 1992 the first general election using the new constitution was held. A new constitution enacted in 1997 was more equitable. Free and peaceful elections in 1999 resulted in a government led by an Indo-Fijian, but a civilian-led coup in May 2000 ushered in a prolonged period of political turmoil. Parliamentary elections held in August 2001 provided Fiji with a democratically elected government led by Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase. Re-elected in May 2006, Qarase was ousted in a December 2006 military coup led by Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, who initially appointed himself acting president, but in January 2007 became interim prime minister. [9] [10]

Fijian family and customs

See main on Fijian traditions and ceremonies and Culture of Fiji.

The Fijian traditions and ceremonies are historically based and share commonalities throughout the provinces.


In August 2008, shortly before the proposed People's Charter for Change, Peace and Progress was due to be released to the public, it was announced that it recommended a change in the name of Fiji's citizens. If the proposal were adopted, all citizens of Fiji, whatever their ethnicity, would be called "Fijians". At present, the word "Fijian" does not denote a nationality, and refers exclusively to indigenous Fijians. Citizens of Fiji are referred to as "Fiji Islanders". The proposal would change the English name of indigenous Fijians from "Fijians" to itaukei, the Fijian word for indigenous Fijians.[11] Deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase reacted by stating that the name "Fijian" belonged exclusively to indigenous Fijians, and that he would oppose any change in legislation enabling non-indigenous Fijians to use it.[12]

See also

Flag of Fiji.svg Fiji portal
  • Fijians in the United Kingdom


  • De Ricci, James Herman (1875). Fiji: Our New Province in the south Seas. London: E.Stanford. p. 332. OCLC 4803267. 
  • Ravuvu, Asesela (1983). Vaka i Taukei: The Fijian Way of Life, Suva: University of the South Pacific
  • Williams, Thomas; James Calvert & George Stringer Rose (1858). Fiji and the Fijians. 1, The islands and their inhabitants. London: Alexander Heylin. p. 266. OCLC 19529801. 

External links

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