Marshallese culture

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For language article, see Marshallese language.

English is the official language and is spoken widely, though not fluently. Marshallese is used by the government.

The Marshallese were once skilled navigators, able to travel long distances between the atolls using the stars and stick and shell charts. They are also experienced in ship building and still hold annual competitions sailing their two-hulled canoes, known as proa. The proa is made of teak panels tied together with rope made of palm and chinked with palm rope. The sail was anciently woven from palm fronds.

The Bikini islanders continue to maintain land rights as the primary measure of wealth. Each family is part of a clan (Bwij), which owns all land. owes allegiance to a chief (Iroij). The chiefs oversee the clan heads (Alap), who are supported by laborers (Dri-jerbal). The Iroij control land tenure, resource use and distribution, and settle disputes. The Alap supervise land maintenance and daily activities. The Rijerbal work the land including farming, cleaning, and construction. The Marshallese society is matrilineal and land is passed down from generation to generation through the mother. Land ownership ties families together into clans, and grandparents, parents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, and cousins form extended, close-knit family groups, and gatherings tend to become big events. One of the most significant family events is the first birthday of a child {kemem}, where relatives and friends celebrate with feasts and song.[1][2]

Marshallese social classes included distinct chiefs and commoners. The irooj laplap held the most power and were considered almost sacred or godly. To show respect, others stooped and approached on their knees. They always obeyed the orders of their high chief. The irooj laplap received the best food, could choose the best land, and had as many wives as they wanted. In return, they were responsible for leading the people in community work, on sailing expeditions, and in war. Their power was normally limited to one part or the whole of one atoll. A high chief who waged war successfully could conquer and control several atolls. The irooj laplap were followed by the irooj rik, the lesser chiefs, and finally the kajur, or commoner.[1]

Unlike most other countries, the Marshall Islands have no copyright law.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Introduction to Marshallese Culture". Retrieved 17 August 2013. 
  2. ^ "Marshallese Culture". Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  3. ^ Marshall Islands