Biographical entry: Ara'iasi, Petero (1880s - 1963)

11 February 1963


Petero Ara'iasi was born in the mid-1880s, the son of a traditional ramo (warrior and bounty-hunter) from Tarapaina, Malaita. He too was a ramo, and claimed to have executed eighty men in return for payment. At one time he was exiled to Marau on Guadalcanal, where he met Father Jean-Baptiste Coicaud and the two became friends. The Catholic priest returned with him to Malaita to begin missionary work, first trying Tarapaina then moving to Rohinari in 1912, where he purchased land. On his return from Guadalcanal, Ara'iasi had a man from Rokera killed and was pursued by the police, captured and escaped several times. The story is that in 1918 Coicaud made a deal with District Officer William Bell (q.v.) that he would hold Ara'iasi as his personal prisoner for at least ten years, to which Bell is said to have agreed, impounding Ara'iasi's large collection of shell valuables as a security deposit. Ara'iasi also spent time at the Catholic Mission at Visale on Guadalcanal and at Rohinari. After some years, he captured an escaped South Malaita prisoner from Tulagi and was rewarded with release from detention. He returned to Tarapaina and converted to Christianity in 1922. Unable to cease his old ways, however, he murdered another man and went to Auki to report his crime, but at the same time brought with him another man who had shot his own sister, which is supposed to have led to Ara'iasi receiving a pardon.

After the death of District Officer William Bell at Sinalagu in 1927, Ara'iasi was appointed Headman of Tarapaina for three years, and thereafter lived a Christian life, much respected as a hereditary chief and former ramo. He died on 11 February 1963. (NS 15 Mar. 1963; Laracy 1976, 48-49)

Published resources


  • Laracy, Hugh M., Marists and Melanesians: A History of the Catholic Missions in the Solomon Islands, Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1976. Details


  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate (ed.), British Solomon Islands Protectorate News Sheet (NS), 1955-1975. Details