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Fiji History
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Fiji History
  Mamanuca Islands Travel Tip

fijichurch.jpg Fiji Visitors Bureau

Before 2000 B.C., from the west came the island-hopping Melanesians, dark and curly-haired, followed by the similar Micronesians from the north. Much later ("11 generations ago" according to Fijian oral history) the golden-skinned, straight-haired Polynesians migrated from the east. Culturally, the Polynesian influence prevails. Ancient history is hotly disputed by all but the Fijians themselves who will agree with most theories or, not to worry, make up a convincing alternate theory (story) on the spot.

Europeans, typically arrived in order: explorers, traders, missionaries, farmers, shopkeepers, bankers and tourists.

1643: Abel Tasman sites Fiji

1774: Captain James Cook

1778: Captain William Bligh

1800: Captain James Wilson. Traders in sandalwood and beche-de-mer. Charlie Savage (Kalle Svenson, a ship-wrecked sailor) who rose to great heights but sank in a stew. In the interim, he helped to centralize power bringing Cakabau to a new throne and Fiji to a unified whole.

1849: U.S. claims damages for looting after the U.S. Consul General's own 4th of July fireworks fells his warehouse.

1867: American bill collectors threaten to shell Fiji's capitol.

1874: For protection, Cakobau cedes Fiji to Great Britain.

1875: Sir Albert Gordon (Britain's first Governor General) established far reaching policy: govern through the chiefs, place the land in trust to the tribes, hire labor from abroad. Measles wipe out 40% of the population.

1879: Indentured Indians arrive.

1882: Capitol moved to Suva (presumably on the rare sunny day.)

1914: Fijians served Allies in France.

1920: Indentured system cancelled.

1928: Pioneer American aviator, Charles Kingford Smith, lands in Albert Park, moments after some thought to cut down the palm trees.

1935: Australians establish radio broadcast.

1939: Pan Am flying-boats achieve TransPac arrival at the Nadi airport.

1940: Native Land Trust Board confirms 80% indigenous land ownership.

1941: Fiji military forces serve Allies in the Solomons and at Bougainville. Fijians terrify the Japanese.

1951: A national airline was established: now, Air Pacific.

1953: Visit by Queen Elizabeth II.

1954: Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, modern hero, elected to the Legislative Council.

1965: Constitution convention held in London.

1970: October 10th, Fiji somewhat reluctantly accepts independence.

1973: First Fijian Governor General, Ratu Sir George Cakobau.

1978: First national superhighway, Nadi-Suva.

1981: Fijian soldiers in Middle East to support Camp David agreement.

1987: April 11, coalition Labor Party wins the general election setting off two (bloodless) coups and three years of constitutional conventions around the yaqona bowl.

1990: July 25, a new constitution, creating the Democratic Republic of Fiji with an elected House and an appointed Senate.

1992: General elections name Sitiveni Rabuka, Prime Minister.

1999: Labor Party candidate, Mahendra Chaudhry wins the office of Prime Minister.

Today, Fiji wrestles with the economy and wide income disparity. The indigenous Fijian is land rich, cash poor. The Indian farmer generates cash but is forever a tenant. Fiji is a South Seas paradise, but not without its headaches. Since independence, it has made tremendous strides. The bright side shines: good basic health and education systems, new roads, new air service, and expanded tourist facilities. Tourism has been the number one earner of hard currency and indicators are that it will return to that position within a year or two.

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