History and People of Fiji

The Lapita people, named after their distinctive pottery style, were the first people to inhabit Fiji in about 3000BC, and evidence of their settlement exists throughout Fiji, particularly around the Sigatoka Sand Dunes. They were followed by the Melanesians in about 500 BC, and relatively recent trading with the Polynesian Tongans has added to the cultural mix. In the Lau group of islands, aspects of both cultures still intermingle.

From the early 1800s, both European and Chinese traders visited Fiji for its sandalwood, hardwoods, beche-de-mer, marinelife and, more recently, gold. The British ruled Fiji from 1874, bringing indentured Indian labour to work the growing sugar industry between 1879 and 1916. In 1970, Fiji became a fully independent nation with constitutional arrangements to ensure that traditional Fijian interests were preserved.

The combination of Fijian, Chinese, Indian, colonial European and other Pacific Islands has created a rich cultural mix. Of a total population of some 827,900 people, Fijians make up about 57.25% (473,983); Fijian Indians (Indo-Fijians) make up 37.64% (311,591) and Chinese, Pacific Islanders and Europeans the remaining 5.11% (42,326) (2007 census). While Fijians and Fijian Indians work together, they have largely maintained separate traditions. Eighty three percent of the land is under traditional ownership and cannot be sold. Land used by non-Fijian people is generally under lease.