Savu during Dutch occupation
Initial contact was with
the Dutch Vereenigde Oost-Indische Companie in
1648. References to Savu from the period
invariably concern Savunese soldiers, mercenaries
or slaves. In 1674, the crew of a Dutch sloop
were massacred in East Savu, after their vessel
ran aground. The Dutch responded by forming an
alliance with the Du Ae (king) of Seba, so troops
could be sent in to retaliate. However, they
failed to enter the fortress of Hurati, in B'o
Lou (B'olou/Bolou) Village of Eastern Savu, as it
was ringed by three defensive walls. To save
face, the Dutch force accepted payment in the
form of slaves, gold and beads. (Fox 1977, p113).
Dutch lithograph is of a Sawunese Warrior from
1839-47. The inscription reads "Voorvechter
van het eiland Sawoe."
In 1756, treaties were signed between the Dutch
and each of the five states of Savu: Heb'a,
Mehara, Menia, Dimu and Lii Ae. Prominent leaders
were subsequently awarded the titles of Du Ae
(King) and fettor (Governor). However, the Dutch
inadvertently created a power structure that
fundamentally differed to how Savunese society
had previously operated. They failed to
appreciate that the Savunese had two different
kinds of leader. The regions were governed by
royalty, known as Du Ae (kings) and Beni Ae
(Queens), who were selected according to their royal
lineage. However, there were also
spiritual leaders, who did not rule, but rather
conducted ceremonies related to the Savunese
calendar. Unaware of the distinction, the Dutch
signed agreements with many spiritual leaders,
mistaking them for royalty, and nominated many
kings/queens and fettors who did not in fact
belong to the royal lineage recognised by the
Savunese at the time.
Copyright © 2006 Ina Tali/Francesca Von
Fox, James J. (1977)
Harvest of the
Palm: Ecological Change in Eastern Indonesia.
Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England:
Harvard University Press.
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