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The Fijians: A Study of the Decay of Custom

The Revolt at Seankanka (Seaqaqa)

The Revolt at Seankanka (Seaqaqa)

The outbreak in the Mathuata province in 1895, which had no political importance, is interesting from the fact that the rebels at once returned to heathen worship and to cannibalism, as if there had not been a break of more than twenty years. The district of Seankanka includes a number of inland villages whose people scarcely ever visit the sea-coast. Split up into little communities of three or four houses, they have been as completely cut off from the influence of the Mission and the Government as if they were in another country. It may indeed be doubted whether heathen practices of some kind were, not carried on continuously, although the people were nominally lotu. They were naturally a peaceable folk who only asked to be left alone, and the coast people had long been irritating them by putting upon them more than their share of the communal and tax work of the district.

On June 11, 1895, the Governor received a letter from the Roko Tui Mathuata announcing that on the last day of May a native constable sent to serve a summons at the inland village of Thalalevu had been attacked and beaten by the inhabitants, who had subsequently taken the villages of Nathereyanga and Ndelaiviti without bloodshed. The Governor, page 146Sir John Thurston, sailed that night for Mathuata with a small force of armed constabulary, and found that the rebels had followed up their success by burning the village of Saivou, killing two of its inhabitants, named Sakiusa and Samisoni, (whose bodies were afterwards found dismembered and prepared for cooking. The rebels had retired to an old hill fortress called Thaumuremure, where they were strongly entrenched. On the march inland the besiegers had to pass the grave of the late Buli Seankanka in the village of Nathereyanga, and there they interrupted some of the rebels, who had carefully weeded the grave, and were in the act of presenting kava to the spirit of the dead chief to implore his aid. The siege of Thaumuremure will not loom large in history. The garrison numbered at the most one hundred persons; they had no arms but their spears, while the besiegers carried Martini-Henry rifles. But the garrison bravely blew their conch-shells and danced the death-dance till the last. It was all over in a few minutes. Nine men were shot dead, and the rest took to their heels, to surrender a few days later, while the Government force could boast but three spear-wounds. Nkaranivalu, the archrebel, and the two old heathen priests, who had eaten the arms and the legs of the two victims of the outbreak, were carried to Suva to expiate their crime. The people of the scattered villages were collected into one large village under the eye of their chief, and the district was at rest.

The outbreak is only interesting in that it shows how the Fijians confuse Christianity with the Government, and cannot throw off the one without repudiating the other; and how cannibalism was a religious rite and not the mere gratification of a depraved taste.