The Fiji Islands developed many languages, some similar and some very different. Missionaries in the 1840s chose the language of one island off the southeast of the main island of Viti Levu, to be the official language of Fiji. This island, Bau, was home to Cakobau, the chief that eventually became the self forged "King" of Fiji. Missionaries were interested in documenting a language and in standardizing all of Fiji on one official language to make their job of translating and teaching in Fiji a bit easier. Standard Fijian is based on the language of Bau, which is an East Fijian language. There are many other dialects that make up the West Fijian languages including dialects spoken in the Nadroga/Navosa and those of the western island groups and provinces.
Demographics of Fiji
The population of Fiji is mostly made up of native Fijians, who are Melanesians (54.3%), although many also have Polynesian ancestry, and Indo-Fijians (38.1%), descendants of Indian contract labourers brought to the islands by the British colonial powers in the 19th century. The percentage of the population of Fijian Indian descent has declined significantly over the last two decades due to migration for various reasons. The Fiji coup of 2000 provoked a violent backlash against the Indo-Fijians for a time. There is also a small but significant group of descendants of indentured laborers from Solomon Islands.
About 1.2% are Rotuman — natives of Rotuma Island, whose culture has more in common with countries such as Tonga or Samoa than with the rest of Fiji. There are also small, but economically significant, groups of Europeans, Chinese, and other Pacific island minorities. The total membership of other ethnic groups of Pacific Islanders is about 7300. Tongans, who as traders and warriors have lived in Fiji for hundreds of years, form the largest part of this community. In the old days there was active commerce between Tonga and Fiji, and later in the history of this relationship the Fijians in the Lau Islands became vassals to the King of Tonga. One particular reason Tongans and Samoans came to Fiji was to build drua (large double-hulled canoes) which they couldn’t build on their own islands because of the lack of proper timber.
Relationships between ethnic Fijians and Indo-Fijians at a political level have often been strained, and the tension between the two communities has dominated politics in the islands for the past generation. The level of tension varies between different regions of the country.