About Kioa Island
Dancing and feasting presided over Kioa in Cakaudrove as its people, now scattered around the Fiji group, converged at their island home on October this year to mark Kioa Day.
The celebrations, which fall on Monday, October 26, marks the arrival of the Kioan Islanders from their original home in the village of Vaitupu on the then Ellice Islands now known as Tuvalu.
Well wishes were expressed to the people that gathered on the island for the celebration, while the people of Tuvalu held celebrations to commemorate their own kinsmen who were now in their new home away from home.
The formal celebration on October 26 was held to mark the arrival of the fi rst 37 immigrants who arrived on the island on the same day 73 years ago.
To the elders on the island including Lotomau Fiafia, it was almost New Year’s and Christmas rolled in one as celebrations continued towards the end of the month. Born on the island in 1952, Mr Fiafia remembers well the 1957 celebrations – 10 years after the first immigrants – commenced early in the morning and went into the night, ending at 11.30pm to allow villagers to have a voice left for Sunday’s thanksgiving church service.
“The day is always special to us because we remember so much, we remember where we come from and it is a form of thanksgiving to God for giving our forefathers this piece of paradise as our home away from home,” he said with a smile.
District Officer E.A.Jones, in his capacity as an adviser to the islanders, was present during the 10th-anniversary celebrations, but because of other commitments on Taveuni, his visit was cut short.
Speaking through an interpreter, Mr Jones complimented the islanders for their “courage and tenacity” to start a new life on an uninhabited island “in a strange land whose language they did not know” in search of “happiness and prosperity”. According to The Fiji Times of November 8 1957 the people of Kioa arrived “with very little of this world’s goods”. “It is understood that all they brought with them was 15 pounds worth of food to last them for over a few days,” the paper noted.“Their fares were paid for by the Vaitupu community who had purchased the island of Kioa for their surplus population. It had no buildings or houses.” The village site had a white sandy beach, a deep anchorage up to the shore, and a picturesque fringe of coconut trees along a horseshoe bay.
“Snuggled in among these palm trees may be seen the many houses since erected, Fijian style, but all with raised wooden or bamboo floors,” The Fiji Times reported in November 1957.
The centre of the village had a village hall that doubled as a church. It also had a store, believed to have been opened with a stock of 300 pounds.
Within a year that original stock ran dry. A boat was also purchased with money from Vaitupu and was remodelled by Kioa islanders for better sea transport service. In the 1950s, the people of Kioa used to produce 12 tonnes worth of copra in one year. Of the original 37 immigrants who arrived in 1947, by 1957 seven men and four women, with their children, grew tired of the life on Kioa and returned to Vaitupu.
In 1957, 20 people had died and were buried on Kioa while births were around 40 to 50. Additional immigration between 1947 and 1957 made population numbers rise to about 200 within 10 years. The village site of Salia was once occupied by the original inhabitants of Kioa Island from Cakaudrove, until the island was sold to a European to cover a debt.
Oral history has it that the original Fijian settlers of Kioa Island were members of the Salia mataqali (clan). Almost a hundred years ago clan members were forced from Kioa Island, their homeland, by the then Tui Cakau, the paramount chief of the Cakaudrove Province.
Out of respect for the authority of Tui Cakau, in those days, no ordinary person could challenge any decision that he made, so when the Tui Cakau wished to sell land, the traditional occupants were not in a position to challenge the sale.
Objection to the wishes of the Tui Cakau resulted in death as his wish was life and death for his subjects and thus the members of the clan were moved to Buca Village on Buca Bay on the mainland of Vanua Levu. Around 1914, with the change in ownership of Kioa, the Salia clan were forced to leave their home. They dutifully, but reluctantly crossed over to mainland Vanua Levu. Descendants of the Salia clan now live in Buca Village, facing Kioa Island from across Buca Bay.
However, from 1892 Gilbert now known as Kiribati and the Ellice Islands were British protectorates before they were colonised on the 1st of January 1976. Eventually, the islands were divided into two colonies and became independent nations shortly after.
A referendum was held in December 1974 to determine whether the Gilbert Islands and Ellice Islands should each have their own administration.
As a consequence of the referendum, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony ceased to exist on January 1 1976 and the separate countries of Kiribati whose descendants now live on Rabi Island and Tuvalu whose descendants now live on Kioa came into existence.
(Source: Fiji Times travel news 20 December 2020)