House of Chiefs (Fiji)

House of Chiefs (Fiji)

The term House of Chiefs is a collective term used to refer to the Fijian nobility, which consists of about seventy chiefs of various ranks. It is not a formal political body and should not be confused with the Great Council of Chiefs, which is a political body with a prescribed constitutional role. The membership of the two bodies does, however, overlap to a great extent.

The social hierarchy

Fijian society is traditionally very stratified. A hierarchy of chiefs presides over villages "(koro)," sub-districts "(tikina vou)," districts "(tikina cokavata)," and provinces "(yasana)." These administrative divisions generally correspond roughly with the social units of the extended family "(tokatoka)," clan "(mataqali)," tribe "(yavusa)," and land "(vanua)." Each mataqali is presided over by a chief, styled "Ratu" if male or "Adi" (pronounced "Ahn-di)" if female. Chiefs presiding over units above the mataqali have other, more prestigious titles, although they, too, are typically addressed and referred to as "Ratu" or "Adi," although there are regional variations. In Rewa, "Ro" is used instead of "Ratu" and "Adi," while in the Lau Islands "Roko" is used. In Kadavu and in the west of Fiji, "Bulou" substitutes for "Adi." The method of appointing chiefs is not uniform, although the position is generally held for life (with some exceptions) and there is a hereditary element, although the son of a chief does not automatically succeed to the position on his father's death. A chief may hold more than one title, just as a peer may in the United Kingdom; the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, for example, was both "Tui Nayau" and "Tui Lau".

Provinces and confederacies

For administrative purposes, Fiji is divided into fourteen provinces, each of which has a Provincial Council in which the chiefs from the province are represented, along with commoners. Each Provincial Council is headed by a "Roko Tui," whose appointment must be approved by the Fijian Affairs Board, a government department, which must also approve all bylaws passed and taxes levied by the Councils. (Titles can be deceptive: not every chief styled "Roko Tui" heads a Provincial Council). The Provincial Councils are significant in that they not only administer communally owned land (more than 80 percent of Fiji's total land area), but also elect most of the representatives to the Great Council of Chiefs. Moreover, the Great Council of Chiefs, which is charged with choosing 14 of the 32 members of the Fijian Senate, the upper house of the Parliament, normally delegates that task to the fourteen Provincial Councils.

All of the chiefs also belong to one of three confederacies: Kubuna, Burebasaga, and Tovata. For the most part, the boundaries of the confederacies correspond to the boundaries of the provinces. An anomaly exists in the west of the country, where the provinces of Ba and Ra are split between the confederacies of Kubuna and Burebasaga. This does not affect administration, however, as the confederacies and the provinces fulfill different roles, the former being based on the relationship of chiefs and clans, and the latter being formal political entities.

The highest chiefly title of all, the Tui Viti (King of Fiji), has been vacant since 1874, when King Seru Epenisa Cakobau ceded the islands to the United Kingdom. But the Tui Viti title was relatively new; it was never a traditional kingly title of Fiji, but came into being after the death of Tanoa Visawaqa and the rise of his son Seru Epenisa Cakobau.

However the title has been recognised since that time and the British Monarch has filled a similar role since; even since Fiji became a republic in 1987, the Great Council of Chiefs has continued to recognize Elizabeth II as its most senior chief.

List of Fijian chiefly titles

The following table depicts Fiji's districts, sub-districts, and villages, with their chiefs. Each chief, if known, is named in italics under his or her full formal title, which is in bold. The majority of chiefs rule over a group of villages "(koro)" belonging to a "Tikina Vou" (sub-district); some "Tikina Vou" are subdivided into two or more groupings of villages, each with its own chief. In a few cases, two groups of villages, or even two sub-districts, share a single chief. This is more common in Naitasiri Province than elsewhere. In the table, this is indicated by backgrounding in the same colour the areas shared by a chief. The Lau Islands are an anomaly: unlike the other provinces, their districts are not subdivided into sub-districts.

The districts, sub-districts, and villages are arranged, not alphabetically, but in the order of precedence of their chiefs. This order is not without controversy, but protocol generally observes it.








* Bula Vakavanua, by Semi B Seruvakula - 2000 - Ethnology (Fiji); Fijians (Social life and customs) "reference to chart composition"
* [,M1 Fiji and the Fijians] by Thomas Williams, James Calvert "reference to Tui Viti title Chapter 2 Pages 33-34, also good reference for social structure and villages and titles"
* [,M1 The World of Talk on a Fijian Island] : An Ethnography of Law and Communicative Causation - Page 64, by Andrew Arno - 1993, "reference on social structures such as Yavusa, Matagali and Tokatoka along with other aspects"

External links

* [ Ai Cavuti]
* web article listing women Chiefs refer briefly to [ House of Chiefs] as some were members

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