After more than 70 years of separation and loss of communications between members of a family born and raised on Taumako, a small reunion has occurred. Longtime VTP partner Commander Luke Vaikawi was in TORBA Province of north Vanuatu as an international monitor for their recent elections. There Luke found his great uncle Mr. Jimmy Jones, and Jimmy’s wife Mrs. Violate Jones.
Left to right: Jimmy Jones, Luke Vaikawi, Violate Jones
This was the first contact between family members in such a long time that people the age of Luke (about 50) and younger, and those who worked many years away from Taumako, like Luke and Jimmy, have a lot of questions about what ever happened to their relatives and even about who exactly the relatives are!
What we can say now for sure is that Jimmy Jones was born on Taumako about 77 years ago. His father was Fred L Jones, an Australian trader who married Annie Teatu of Taumako. They raised at least three children there. But these children were eventually sent off to schools in New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Because of the closing of the borders, WWII, etc., the children never saw their Taumako mother and other relatives again.
So the idea of voyaging to Vanuatu (Holau Vanuatu) in November, 2016, is for a reunion and to allow some more of the family members to meet each other and re-open communications. The Te Puke that is now under construction at Taumako is being built to make the voyage. Te Puke were the vessels used by Jimmy Jones mother’s family and other ancestors of Taumako community
The Vaka Taumako Project is raising funds to get passports and rations for the crew, to buy fuel for a volunteer support/video documentation vessel, and to get Immigration and Customs clearances for the vessel to sail for Vanuatu, among other costs. This voyage will also be a re-enactment of the ancient route of Lapita pottery making people who reached Vanuatu about 3,000 years ago. It is a 350 to 400 nautical mile voyage from Taumako to Vanualava – depending on what other islands the canoe might stop at on the way.
Jimmy is waiting to welcome his family when their Te Puke arrives at Vanualava Island this year. Their family story is like that of many people of the western Pacific region.