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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 was first proposed in 1831 by Jules Dumont d'Urville to denote an ethnic and geographical grouping of islands distinct from Polynesia to the south and Melanesia to the east.
- 1 Geography
- 2 History
- 3 People
- 4 Languages
- 5 Culture
- 6 Economy
- 7 Regional organizations
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
The total land area of Micronesia is 1,229.95 square miles (3,185.6 km2). 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.
Micronesia began to be settled several millennia ago.
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.
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.
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.
The primary economic activities are subsistence farming and fishing, in particular long line fishing of tuna. Few mineral deposits worth exploiting exit, 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 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.
- Micronesians - Introduction, Location, Language, Folklore, Religion, Major holidays, Rites of passage, Relationships, Living conditions
- Rafael Rodríguez-Ponga. Del español al chamorro: Lenguas en contacto en el Pacífico. Madrid, 2009, Ediciones Gondo, www.edicionesgondo.com
- C.D. Bay-Hansen. 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.
- 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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