21 August 2011
by Paula Tagivetaua
IN the church chronicles it is stated that Dreketi in Macuata was the last place in Fiji to accept Christianity. Dreketi was once an independent state in the province of Macuata. There are more than one denomination in the tikina (district) now but there was a time not so long ago when cannibalism was still practised in Dreketi while the rest of Fiji had accepted Christianity and become educated in the ways of the western world.
It is part of their history they cannot deny and is something they have come to accept because of the war-like nature of the people who were once individual fiefdoms or tribal clans living on their own piece of land in Dreketi. When you talk about Dreketi, it is hard not to relate to Nabavatu Village because Nabavatu is the main village in the tikina of Dreketi, more like the capital because the Vunivalu, the Tui Dreketi, lives at Nabavatu.
On the road from Nabouwalu to Labasa, you could pass Nabavatu and never realise there was a village with about 70 houses.
Except for the few houses by the road, the rest are hidden under a canopy of breadfruit, mango, lemon, coconut trees and other plants useful to human habitation on the side of a rocky hill. There are rocks and stones everywhere, somewhat like Baba on Ovalau, hence the name Nabavatu which, legends say, was the name given to the place by two vu or ancestral gods who were looking or a place to settle in the dark days of mythology.
"This place was once rocky," said Esala Tawake, the turaga ni koro of Nabavatu. "There is a crater on top of the mountain behind us and we believe there must have been a volcano eruption a long time ago which brought all the rocks down. "The two raluve (vu) brought gifts with them and when they decided to settle at Nabavatu in Dreketi, one of them spilled his basket of sasalu into the nearby sea. "That is why researchers have found one or two fish species in the small river connecting to the Dreketi River which are not found in any river in Fiji, and there is an abundance of sasalu ni waitui in the reef called Cakau Levu out to sea."
The Dreketi River is the deepest river in Fiji and at one time, big boats from long ago such as the Zephyr and Labasa Princess sailed upriver as far as Batiri, but not anymore, because the river mouth has become shallow and clogged with debris left behind by logging and destruction of the environment upriver. The villages in the tikina of Dreketi include Nabavatu, Nakanacagi, Vunisea, Nasigasiga in the hills, Nakalou down by the coast and Nabiti which is the second village of Nabavatu.
There was once 11 mataqali at Nabavatu, something of a record for a single Fijian village but three have relocated to Nabiti. At one time, the 11 mataqali had been 11 yavusa - tribes of people with their own mataqali and tokatoka and turaga ni yavusa living on their land. The tribes were constantly at war with each other over territory, women and food - kanakana. If you were weak, you ran for your life, but there was no weak people in Dreketi because the 11 yavusa held their fort and lived their own life until they became united. They became tired of feuding and decided to appoint a king and merge the 11 mataqali under one yavusa which is now called Yavusa Uluitoga. "The 11 yavusa and the people had become tired of fighting and many of us are related so the elders came together and decided to unite and appoint a turaga who is now the Vunivalu.
"In Fiji, there are only three Vunivalu - the Vunivalu of Natewa, Bau and Dreketi."
People of Dreketi accepted the church after they were united.
Behind Nabavatu is a small plateau called the rara ni meke. It was there that the priests or bete practised their religion - vakacuru. It was from the rara ni meke that the bete saw the boat bringing the first missionaries enter the Dreketi river and the bete sent a message to the guards by the river mouth to let the boat pass, because it was bringing a person with "many eyes on his body" and the power he wielded was stronger than the power the bete had.
After unification, the 11 mataqali came together and lived in a big village on the flatland near the sea where the Dreketi health centre is situated. The old village was called Nasigasiga and the yavu - house sites are still there and so is a mound of mud or knoll called the vanua ni veibuli - where the first Tui Dreketi was installed. "The knoll is made up of soil which the 11 mataqali elders brought from their land and deposited at the place for the first installation."
In the early 1900s, a big flood swept through the village and destroyed the houses and killed some people and they decided to move to high ground and build a new village which became Nabavatu.
After the people of Dreketi became united and before they accepted Christianity, Dreketi was an independent state and the Tui Dreketi, with the backing of an army from the 11 yavusa, was powerful. He ruled the areas on the border with Bua, along the sea toward Lekutu and up to Naduri where the Tui Macuata's domain was.
They told me when the Tui Dreketi and his army were advancing to Naduri, suddenly they saw a Fijian drua sailing toward them with a beautiful maiden on it. They said the woman was of royal blood from the Ai Sokula clan and was an offering to the Tui Dreketi so he would not invade Macuata. "The Vunivalu that time was a womaniser who would not refuse a beautiful woman. "He took the woman and returned to Dreketi but the Tui Cakau heard about it and sailed across the Somosomo Strait to wage war on the Tui Dreketi and reclaim the woman from his clan."
The story goes that the Tui Cakau went to Bua and asked the Tui Bua that time, Ramasima, to help him fight the Tui Dreketi but the Tui Bua advised the Tui Cakau to let things be. "My friend, if you want your land and your people to remain yours, do not go any furthur; go home from here." The Tui Cakau heeded the advice of the Tui Bua and went home.
That is how the relationship between the Tui Dreketi and the Tui Cakau was forged.
Through the years, Nabavatu developed. Chinese traders arrived and set up shop and moved on, leaving behind ruins where their shop had been. Shops opened where the Dreketi shopping centre is and the Maramarua District School was built nearby followed by the Dreketi Indian School which is now the Dreketi Primary School and then the Dreketi High School. The police station was built, post office, forestry office, water department, telephone exchange and the health centre completed the government side of Dreketi.
The agriculture department started the Dreketi rice and irrigation scheme. The road from Labasa to Dreketi is tarsealed but after Dreketi, it is gravel and a rock and roll ride to Nabouwalu where people catch the ferry to Viti Levu.
At Dreketi, the pine forests start to fade and the sugar cane fields stretch to Labasa. Cotton was once planted at Dreketi. The white settlers who bought estates across the Dreketi river from Nabavatu include the Bull, Fox and Dunbar.
Nabavatu Village sources its water from an inland lake under the crater but there are only a couple of generators to generate electricity to a few homes in the village. Many villagers still live the way they have lived - cooking their food over a fire, negotiating the rugged terrain and rocks which are characteristic of the village whose name means stone wall, looking down to the deepest river in Fiji.