1864: Fiji joined Queensland, Samoa, and New Caledonia in the Pacific labor trade

Although many Fijian laborers were available, the supply was notalways steady, and the planters often found themselves short of labor. In addition, some plantation owners wanted laborers they could have more control over, with contracts longer than the twelve months the Fijians would accept. Other Pacific Islanders were already employed in Fiji in the early 1860s and were found to be good workers (Derrick 1950:169; Seemann 1862:413).

“First ship commissioned”: “Thus, in 1864 the first ship was commis-
sioned to recruit laborers from other Pacific Islands, and Fiji joined Queensland, Samoa, and New Caledonia in the Pacific labor trade (described by Parnaby 1964; Corris 1973; and Starr 1973).

From 1865 to 1911 over 27,000 : From 1865 to 1911 over 27,000 laborers were brought to Fiji from the areas now known as Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides and Banks Islands), the Solomon Islands, the New Guinea Islands region of Papua New Guinea, and Kiribati (formerly the Gilbert Islands).

The numbers were provided in a table. (See Siegel 1982, 1985.) It should be noted here that these areas are referred to in the litera- ture both by their former names and by other names, which. may be confusing to the reader. For example, it was common to refer to Pacific Islanders in general as “Polynesians”. In addition, there were many historical misnomers in Fiji concerning the origins of the laborers.

Kiribati was known as Tokelau (with various spellings) or the Line Islands (both are actually separate island groups) or as the Kingsmill group (the old
name of the southern islands of Kiribati);

All Micronesian or Polynesians were called Line Islanders or Kai Tokelau (kai meaning “inhabitant of” in Fijian).

In the early days, laborers from Vanuatu were called “Tanna men” or “Sandwich men” (the old name for Efate), referring to the two islands from which most originated.

Later, when most of the laborers came from the Solomons, all Melanesians were often classified as Solomon Islanders or Kai Solomone”.

Pacific Studies, Vol. 9, No. 3 July 1986

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