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The Fijians: A Study of the Decay of Custom

I. Ai-Thovithovi-Ni-Ndraundrau (The plucking-place for the flooring-grass)

page 372

I. Ai-Thovithovi-Ni-Ndraundrau (The plucking-place for the flooring-grass)

This was land given by the family of a bride as her dowry. In the ceremony of conveyance they said, "We give this land that Nambutu's child may eat of it, since he is our child as well as his." The husband, as long as he lived with his wife, had the control of the land, and it descended to her male children, but if she died without male issue it reverted to the donors at the second generation. In this case it was redeemed by the ceremony of vakalutu (making to fall back). Until it was so redeemed, the husband or his representatives could till or lease the land, but not dispose of it. Cases have occurred in which the donors have so long neglected to redeem their property that the circumstances of the original transfer have been forgotten, and the tenants have repudiated the demands for restitution. If there were a direct line of male descendants of the original grantee, the land never reverted, and it may be assumed that after land has been held for four or five generations, the failure of the male line would not lead to the restoration of the property to the original donors. There was no actual customary law of limitation, but the grantees would decline to accept the offerings of the vakalutu, and would be upheld in their refusal by public opinion.

There was another form of dowry, called ai-solisoli-i-tamana (the gift to the father), which was a plot of land given as a personal present to the bride's father, with which his sept or tribe had nothing to do. Such land could never be redeemed, but this form of dowry was rare, being confined to the marriage of daughters of high chiefs, whose families were large landowners.