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Micronesia (from Greek: μικρός, mikrós, "small" + Greek: νῆσος, nēsos, "island") is a subregion of Oceania, comprising thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean, east of the Philippines and northeast of Indonesia.
The term "Micronesia" is usually attributed to Jules Dumont d'Urville, who in 1832 proposed a tripartite division of the islands of Oceania into Micronesia, Polynesia (to the south) and Melanesia (to the east). However, Domeny de Rienzi had coined the term a year previously.
- 1 Geography
- 2 History
- 3 Demographics
- 4 Culture
- 5 Economy
- 6 Regional organizations
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
The region of Micronesia includes approximately 2100 islands, with a total land area of 2,700 square kilometres (1,000 sq mi), the largest of which is Guam, which covers 582 square kilometres (225 sq mi). The total ocean area within the perimeter of the islands is 7,400,000 square kilometres (2,900,000 sq mi).
Oceania is one of eight terrestrial ecozones, which constitute the major ecological regions of the planet. The Oceania ecozone includes all of Micronesia, Fiji, and all of Polynesia except New Zealand.
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The following are the islands and island groups, either nations or overseas territories, that are considered part of Micronesia:
The Caroline Islands are a widely scattered archipelago of tiny islands in the western Pacific Ocean, to the north of New Guinea. The group consists of about 500 small coral islands, east of the Philippines, in the Pacific Ocean; the distance from Manila to Yap, one of the larger islands of the group, is 1,200 miles (1,900 km).
The Gilbert Islands are a chain of sixteen atolls and coral islands in the Pacific Ocean. The atolls and islands of the Gilbert Islands are arranged in an approximate north-to-south line. In a geographical sense, the equator serves as the dividing line between the northern Gilbert Islands and the southern Gilbert Islands.
They are the main part of Republic of Kiribati and include Tarawa, the site of the country's capital. The natives of the Gilbert Islands are similar in many respects to the natives of the Marshalls, the Carolines, and the Marianas.
The Mariana Islands are an arc-shaped archipelago made up by the summits of fifteen volcanic mountains in the north-western Pacific Ocean. The island chain arises as a result of the western edge of the Pacific Plate moving westward and plunging downward below the Mariana plate, a region which is the most volcanically active convergent plate boundary on Earth.
The Marshall Islands is an island country located in the northern Pacific Ocean. Geographically, the country is part of the larger island group of Micronesia, with the population of 68,480 people spread out over 24 low-lying coral atolls, comprising 1,156 individual islands and islets.
Micronesian colonists gradually settled the Marshall Islands during the 2nd millennium BC, with inter-island navigation made possible using traditional stick charts. Islands in the archipelago were first explored by Europeans in the 1520s, with Spanish explorer Alonso de Salazar sighting an atoll in August 1526.
Politically, the Marshall Islands is a presidential republic in free association with the United States, with the US providing defense, funding grants, and access to social services. Having few natural resources, the islands' wealth is based on a service economy, as well as some fishing and agriculture.
Nauru is an island country, listed as the world's smallest republic, covering just 21 square kilometres (8.1 sq mi). With 9,378 residents, it is the second least-populated country, after Vatican City.
Settled by Micronesian and Polynesian people, Nauru was annexed and claimed as a colony by the German Empire in the late 19th century. After World War I, Nauru became a League of Nations mandate administered by Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. During World War II, Nauru was occupied by Japanese troops, who were bypassed by the Allied advance across the Pacific. After the war ended, the country entered into trusteeship again. Nauru gained its independence in 1968.
Wake Island is a coral atoll with a coastline of 12 miles (19 km) just north of the Marshall Islands. It is an unorganized, unincorporated territory of the United States, administered by the Office of Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior. There are about 150 people living on its 2.85 square miles. Access to the island is restricted, and all activities on the island are managed by the United States Air Force.
The following countries are found in Micronesia:
- Marshall Islands
- Micronesia (Federated States of)
- Northern Mariana Islands
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Micronesia began to be settled several millennia ago, although there are competing theories about the origin and arrival of the first settlers. There are numerous difficulties with conducting archaeological excavations in the islands, due to their size, settlement patterns and storm damage. As a result, much evidence is based on linguistic analysis. The earliest archaeological traces of civilization have been found on the island of Saipan, dated to 1500 BCE or slightly before.
Early European contact
The earliest known contact with Europans occurred in 1521, when Ferdinand Magellan reached the Marianas. This contact is recorded in Antonio Pigafetta's chronicle of Magellan's voyage, in which he recounts that the Chamarro people had no apparent knowledge of people outside of their island group. A Portuguese account of the same voyage suggests that the Chamarro people who greeted the travellers did so "without any shyness as if they were good acquaintances", raising the possibility that earlier unrecorded contact had occurred.
Further contact was made during the sixteenth century, although often initial encounters were very brief. Documents relating to the 1525 voyage of Diogo da Rocha suggest that he made the first European contact with inhabitants of the Caroline Islands, possibly staying on the Ulithi atoll for four months. Marshall Islanders were encountered by Alvaro de Saavedra in 1529. The first recorded contact with the Yap islands, however, is in 1625.
In the early 17th century Spain colonized Guam, the Northern Marianas, and the Caroline Islands (what would later become the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau), creating the Spanish East Indies, which was governed from the Spanish Philippines.
German–Spanish Treaty of 1899
After the USS Maine, which was sent by the United States to protect American commercial interests in Cuba, exploded in Havana Harbor, triggering the Spanish–American War, Spain lost many of its remaining colonies. Cuba became independent while the United States took possession of Puerto Rico and Spain's Pacific colonies of the Philippines and Guam. This left Spain with the remainder of the Spanish East Indies in the Pacific, about 6000 islands that were tiny, sparsely populated, not very productive, and that were both ungovernable after the loss of the administrative centre of Manila, and undefendable after the loss of two Spanish fleets in the war. The Spanish government therefore decided to sell the remaining island to a new colonial power: the German Empire.
The treaty was signed on February 12, 1899 by Spanish Prime Minister Francisco Silvela and transferred the Caroline Islands, the Mariana Islands, Palau and other possessions to Germany. The islands were then placed under control of German New Guinea.
Full European colonization did not come until the early 20th century, when the area would be divided between:
- the United States, which took control of Guam following the Spanish-American War of 1898, and colonized Wake Island;
- Germany, which took Nauru and bought the Marshall, Caroline, and Northern Mariana Islands from Spain; and
- the British Empire, which took the Gilbert Islands (Kiribati).
During World War I, Germany's Pacific island territories were seized and became League of Nations mandates in 1923. Nauru became an Australian mandate, while Germany's other territories in Micronesia were given as a mandate to Japan and were named the South Pacific Mandate. Following Japan's defeat in World War II its mandate became a United Nations Trusteeship ruled by the United States, the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.
The people today form many ethnicities, but are all descended from and belong to the Micronesian culture. The Micronesian culture was one of the last native cultures of the region to develop. It developed from a mixture of Melanesians, Polynesians, and Filipinos. Because of this mixture of descent, many of the ethnicities of Micronesia feel closer to some groups in Melanesia, Polynesia or the Philippines. A good example of this are the Yapese who are related to Austronesian tribes in the Northern Philippines.
|Country||Population (July 2010 estimate)||Area (km2)||Population density (/km2)||Urban population||Life expectancy||Literacy Rate||Official language(s)||Top religion(s)||Ethnic groups|
|Federated States of Micronesia||107,154||702||152.641||22%||71.23||89%||English||Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 47%, others 3%||Chuukese 48.8%, Pohnpeian 24.2%, Kosraean 6.2%, Yapese 5.2%, Yap outer islands 4.5%, Asian 1.8%, Polynesian 1.5%, other 7.8%|
|Guam (United States)||180,865||1,478||122.371||93%||78.18||99%||English 38.3%, Chamorro 22.2%||Roman Catholic 85%||Chamorro 37.1%, Filipino 26.3%, other Pacific islander 11.3%, white 6.9%, other 8.6%, mixed 9.8%|
|Kiribati||99,482||811||122.666||44%||64.03||92%||English, Gilbertese (de facto)||Roman Catholic 55%, Protestant 36%||Micronesian 98.8%|
|Marshall Islands||65,859||181||363.862||71%||71.48||93.7%||Marshallese 98.2%, English||Protestant 54.8%, other Christian 40.6%||Marshallese 92.1%, mixed Marshallese 5.9%, other 2%|
|Nauru||9,267||21||441.286||100%||64.99||99%||Nauruanf[›]||Nauru Congregational Church 35.4%, Roman Catholic 33.2%, Nauru Independent Church (Protestant) 10.4%||Nauruan 58%, other Pacific Islander 26%, Chinese 8%, European 8%|
|Northern Mariana Islands (United States)||48,317||464||104.131||91%||76.9||97%||English||Christian||Asian 56.3%, Pacific islander 36.3%, White 1.8%, other 0.8%, mixed 4.8%|
|Palau||20,879||459||45.488||81%||71.51||92%||Paluan 64.7%d[›], English||Roman Catholic 41.6%, Protestant 23.3%||Palauan 69.9%, Filipino 15.3%, Chinese 4.9%, other Asian 2.4%, white 1.9%, Carolinian 1.4%, other Micronesian 1.1%, other 3.2%|
It is thought that ancestors of the Carolinian people may have originally immigrated from Asia and Indonesia to Micronesia around 2,000 years ago. Their primary language is Carolinian, called Refaluwasch by native speakers, which has a total of about 5,700 speakers. The Carolinians have a matriarchal society in which respect is a very important factor in their daily lives, especially toward the matriarchs. Most Carolinians are of the Roman Catholic faith.
The immigration of Carolinians to Saipan began in the early 19th century, after the Spanish reduced the local population of Chamorro natives to just 3,700. They began to immigrate mostly sailing from small canoes from other islands, which a typhoon previously devastated. The Carolinians have a much darker complexion than the native Chamorros.
The Chamorro people are the indigenous peoples of the Mariana Islands, which are politically divided between the United States territory of Guam and the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Micronesia. The Chamorro are commonly believed to have come from Southeast Asia at around 2000 BC. They are most closely related to other Austronesian natives to the west in the Philippines and Taiwan, as well as the Carolines to the south.
The Chamorro language is included in the Malayo-Polynesian subgroup of the Austronesian family. Because Guam was colonized by Spain for over 300 years, many words derive from the Spanish language. The traditional Chamorro number system was replaced by Spanish numbers.
The origin of the Nauruan people has not yet been finally determined. It can possibly be explained by the last Malayo-Pacific human migration (c. 1200). It was probably seafaring or shipwrecked Polynesians or Melanesians, which established themselves there because there was not already an indigenous people present, whereas the Micronesians were already crossed with the Melanesians in this area.
The largest group of languages spoken in Micronesia are the Micronesian languages. They are in the family of Oceanic languages, part of the Austronesian language group. They are descended from the protolanguage Proto-Oceanic, which are developed from Proto-Austronesian.
There are two languages spoken in Micronesia that are part of the Sunda–Sulawesi language group; Chamorro in the Mariana Islands and Palauan in Palau. On the eastern edge of the Federated States of Micronesia, the languages Nukuoro and Kapingamarangi represent an extreme westward extension of Polynesian.
Micronesia's artistic tradition has developed from the Lapita culture. Among the most prominent works of the region is the megalithic floating city of Nan Madol. The city began in 1200 AD, and was still being built when European explorers begin to arrive around 1600. The city, however, had declined by around 1800 along with the Saudeleur dynasty, and was completely abandoned by the 1820s. During the 19th century, the region was divided between the colonial powers, but art continued to thrive. Wood-carving, particularly by men, flourished in the region, resulted in richly decorated ceremonial houses in Belau, stylized bowls, canoe ornaments, ceremonial vessels, and sometimes sculptured figures. Women created textiles and ornaments such as bracelets and headbands. Stylistically, traditional Micronesian art is streamlined and of a practical simplicity to its function, but is typically finished to a high standard of quality.  This was mostly to make the best possible use of what few natural materials they had available to them.
The first half of the 20th century saw a downturn in Micronesia's cultural integrity and a strong foreign influence from both western and Japanese Imperialist powers. A number of historical artistic traditions, especially sculpture, ceased to be practiced, although other art forms continued, including traditional architecture and weaving. Independence from colonial powers in the second half of the century resulted in a renewed interest in, and respect for, traditional arts. A notable movement of contemporary art also appeared in Micronesia towards the end of the 20th century.
Music and dance
Micronesian music is influential to those living in the Micronesian islands. The music is based around mythology and ancient Micronesian rituals. It covers a range of styles from traditional songs, handed down through generations, to contemporary music.
Traditional beliefs suggest that the music can be presented to people in dreams and trances, rather than being written by composers themselves. Micronesian folk music is, like Polynesian music, primarily vocal-based.
In the Marshall Islands, the roro is a kind of traditional chant, usually about ancient legends and performed to give guidance during navigation and strength for mothers in labour. Modern bands have blended the unique songs of each island in the country with modern music. Though drums are not generally common in Micronesian music, one-sided hourglass-shaped drums are a major part of Marshallese music. There is a traditional Marshallese dance called beet, which is influenced by Spanish folk dances. In it, men and women side-step in parallel lines. There is a kind of stick dance performed by the Jobwa, nowadays only for very special occasions.
The cuisine of the Mariana Islands is tropical in nature, including such dishes as Kelaguen as well as many others.
Palauan cuisine includes local foods such as cassava, taro, yam, potato, fish and pork. Western cuisine is favored among young Palauans.
Nauru has two national sports, weightlifting and Australian rules football.  According to 2007 Australian Football League International Census figures, there are around 180 players in the Nauru senior competition and 500 players in the junior competition, representing an overall participation rate of over 30% for the country.
The primary economic activities are subsistence farming and fishing, in particular long line fishing of tuna. Few mineral deposits worth exploiting exist, except for some high-grade phosphate, especially on Nauru.
The tourist industry's potential exists, but is hampered by the remoteness of the location and a lack of adequate facilities.
Foreign assistance is of vital importance to the economy of the islands.
The region is home to the Micronesian Games, a quadrennial international multi-sport event involving all Micronesia's countries and territories except Wake Island.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Community is a regional intergovernmental organisation whose membership includes both nations and territories in the Pacific Ocean and their metropolitan powers.
- Rainbird 2004, p. 6.
- Kirch 2001, p. 165.
- "Operation Crossroads: Bikini Atoll". Navy Historical Center. Department of the Navy. Archived from the original on 19 October 2008. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
- The History of Mankind by Professor Friedrich Ratzel, Book II, Section A, The Races of Oceania page 165, picture of a stick chart from the Marshall Islands. MacMillan and Co., published 1896.
- Kirch 2001, p. 167.
- Lal 2000, p. 62.
- Kirch 2001, p. 170.
- Rainbird 2004, p. 13-14.
- Rainbird 2004, p. 14.
- Micronesians - Introduction, Location, Language, Folklore, Religion, Major holidays, Rites of passage, Relationships, Living conditions
- Languages of Guam. Ns.gov.gu. Retrieved on 2010-11-12.
- Nauru. Talktalk.co.uk. Retrieved on 2010-11-12.
- Nauru. Travelblog.org. Retrieved on 2010-11-12.
- DOI Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) – Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Doi.gov. Retrieved on 2010-11-12.
- Rafael Rodríguez-Ponga. Del español al chamorro: Lenguas en contacto en el Pacífico. Madrid, 2009, Ediciones Gondo, www.edicionesgondo.com
- C.D. Bay-Hansen (2006). FutureFish 2001: FutureFish in Century 21: The North Pacific Fisheries Tackle Asian Markets, the Can-Am Salmon Treaty, and Micronesian Seas. Trafford Publishing. p. 277. ISBN 1-55369-293-4.
- "Micronesia, 1800–1900 a.d.". Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2000. Archived from the original on December 1, 2008.
- "Oceanic art", The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition 2006.
- "Micronesia, 1900 a.d.–present". Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2000. Archived from the original on May 21, 2009.
- Pacific Sporting Needs Assessment
- AFL International Census 2007
- Regional journalists form Micronesian media group, Saipan Tribune, 26 September 2007
- Kirch, Patrick Vinton (2001). On the Road of the Winds: An Archaeological History of the Pacific Islands Before European Contact. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-92896-1.
- Lal, Brij V.; Fortune, Kate (2000). The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-2265-1.
- Rainbird, Paul (2004). The Archaeology of Micronesia. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-65630-6.
- Kirch, Patrick Vinton (2000). On the Road of the Winds. An Archaeological History of the Pacific Islands before European Contact. University of California Press. pp. 166–167. ISBN 0-520-22347-0.
- Goetzfridt, Nicholas J. and Karen M. Peacock (2002). Micronesian Histories: An Analytical Bibliography and Guide to Interpretations. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
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