Biographical entry: Oiketa ( - 1890s)



Oiketa was an important leader at Port Adam on Small Malaita from the 1870s to the 1890s. Originally from a nearby village, by 1877 he was living on one of the small, fortified islands in the harbour. Melanesian Mission sources say he had several wives, was ambitious, and grew more important when an older leader died. His people were fishermen who used spears and nets, and they traded with the mainland. They also harvested porpoises for their teeth, which were valuable wealth items. Oiketa had a reputation for 'absorbing' shipwrecked sailors and other drifters, stripping them of their assets and killing them: in the 1870s he killed a European boat crew from a wreck. Bishop John Selwyn (q.v.) visited Port Adam in 1877 accompanied by Sa'a leaders to try to rescue two Santa Cruz castaways. They managed to redeem one of them, Telfonu. Oiketa refused to release the other man and gathered a fleet of canoes to attack the Melanesian Mission's Southern Cross (q.v.). In 1884, Oiketa came to Sa'a to visit Dorawewe, the principal leader there, while Rev. R. B. Comins (q.v.) was in charge. Oiketa's teenage son was with him and was interested in going to school on Norfolk Island. Rather than allow this, Oiketa agreed for two Port Adam boys to go in his stead, who were selected in 1885. In 1886, Oiketa came down to Sa'a to warn Comins that an attack had occurred on a recruiting ship eight kilometres from Sa'a. Two years later, Oiketa visited Ulawa with twenty-five men in a large canoe, where once more he was friendly to Rev. Comins. The Port Adam students returned home and started a temporary school, and eventually the Mission was requested to establish a permanent base there. Luke Masuraa (q.v.) was sent as teacher, and he eventually married Oiketa's daughter, Alice Alite. Masuraa was relieved by Johnson Telegsem from Motlav Island, who married Lizzie Siakulu from Port Adam. Oiketa died in the early 1890s. He never became Christian, but over decades came to support the Melanesian Mission. (SCL 14 Apr. 1900, 9-11, 15 May 1900, 7-9)

Related Cultural Artefacts

Published resources


  • Southern Cross Log (SCL). Details