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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. It is distinct from Melanesia to the south, and Polynesia to the east. The Philippines lie to the west, and Indonesia to the southwest.
The term Micronesia was first proposed in 1831 by Jules Dumont d'Urville to denote an ethnic and geographical grouping of islands distinct from Polynesia and Melanesia.
The following islands and groups of islands are considered part of Micronesia:
- Caroline Islands, politically divided between Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia
- Gilbert Islands, the main part of Kiribati
- Mariana Islands, politically divided between the United States territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands
- Marshall Islands
- Wake Island, a United States Minor Outlying Island
The total land area of Micronesia is 1,229.95 square miles (3,185.6 km2).
The only empire known to have originated in Micronesia was based in Yap.
Much of the area came under European domination quite early. 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.
Spanish–German 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 of 1898, 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, and not very productive, and that were both ungovernable after the loss of the administrative center of Manila, and undefendable after the entire loss of two Spanish fleets in 1898 a year still known in Spain as the "Year of the national disaster" or "the loss of the 400 years Empire". The Spanish government therefore decided to sell them to a new colonial power: Germany.
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, however, 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 the Second World War, its mandate became a United Nations Trusteeship, the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, ruled by the United States.
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.
The native languages of the various Micronesian indigenous peoples are classified under the Austronesian language family. Almost all of these languages belong to the Oceanic branch of this family, and mostly to the Micronesian languages division within that branch; however, two exceptions are noted in western Micronesia, which are Western Malayo-Polynesian languages:
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.
The region is home to the Micronesian Games, a quadrennial international multi-sport event involving all Micronesia's countries and territories except Wake Island.
- Micronesians - Introduction, Location, Language, Folklore, Religion, Major holidays, Rites of passage, Relationships, Living conditions
- Regional journalists form Micronesian media group, Saipan Tribune, 26 September 2007
- 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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