Fijians, officially known since 2010 as iTaukei, are the major indigenous people of the Fiji Islands, and live in an area informally called Melanesia. Indigenous Fijians are believed to have arrived in Fiji from western Melanesia approximately 3,500 years ago, though the exact origins of the Fijian people are unknown. Later they would move onward to other surrounding islands, including Rotuma, as well as blending with other (Polynesian) settlers on Tonga and Samoa. They are indigenous to all parts of Fiji except the island of Rotuma. The original settlers are now called “Lapita people” after a distinctive pottery produced locally. Lapita pottery was found in the area from 800 BCE onward.
As of 2005, indigenous Fijians constituted slightly more than half of the total Fijian population. Indigenous Fijians are predominantly of Melanesian extraction, with some Polynesian admixture. Other ethnic groups in Fiji include Indians, the Rotuman people, and minority communities, which include Caucasians, Chinese, and other Pacific Islanders.
New Zealand has a large Fijian expatriate population, according to the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs. In 2001, Fijians were the fifth largest Pacific ethnic group living in New Zealand. There was a decrease of 8 percent between 1996 and 2001. The estimated Pacific Islander population size is 231,800 in 2001 Fijians comprising about 7,000 of that.
The Bose Levu Vakaturaga (Great Council of Chiefs) once passed laws and regulations governing the indigenous Fijian people. Until its disbanding by the Military of Fiji following the 2006 coup, the Great Council of Chiefs met yearly to discuss native Fijian concerns. The council, which was formerly responsible for appointing Fiji’s president, was composed of 55 Fijian chiefs selected from the 14 provinces. Included in the council were three appointees from the island of Rotuma and six appointed by the Minister of Fijian Affairs. The Minister of Fijian Affairs consulted with the President as part of the selection process. Former Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka was given a lifetime appointment on the council.