The Fiji Museum - Virtual Museum

Reverend Thomas Baker

In 1867, Reverend Thomas Baker, along with Setareki Seileka (a Fijian minister) and six out of eight Fijian student teachers from Davuilevu were hacked to death and eaten at Nubutautau in central Viti Levu. The murders of Fijian mission teachers in Fiji was common at this time, however, the murder of a European missionary was unique – Reverend Baker being the only Methodist missionary to be killed by followers of Fijian old religion. Reverend Baker and his followers were slain because the Navatusila chief from Nubutautau had accepted a tabua from a Christian chief from Navuso who felt slighted when Reverend Baker decided to hold a meeting at Lomanikoro instead of Navuso. This chief had sent a tabua into the mountains requesting the missionary’s murder, thus the Baker party perished at the hands of pagan Fijians on the request of a Christian convert. Early European missionaries in Fiji were often reviled and threatened in the early decades of the mission, however, they seemed largely immune from direct attack, but the same was not true of their Fijian converts, many of whom were killed by followers of Fijian old religion, particularly after Christianity began to take a hold around Fiji, threatening the authority of chiefs and bete (priests).