History of the Federated States of Micronesia

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The Federated States of Micronesia are located on the Caroline Islands in the western Pacific Ocean. The history of the modern Federated States of Micronesia is one of settlement by Micronesians; colonization by Spain, Germany, and Japan; United Nations trusteeship under United States-administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands; and gradual independence beginning with the ratification of a sovereign constitution in 1979.

Pre-colonial history[edit]

The Austronesian ancestors of the Micronesians settled there over 4,000 years ago. A decentralized chieftain-based system eventually evolved into a more centralized economic and religious culture centered on Pohnpei.[1]

Municipality map of modern Pohnpei; under Saudeleur rule, there were only three first-level divisions
Central Nan Madol

People from the Caroline Islands had regular contact with the Chamorro people of the Marianas Islands, as well as rarer voyages into the eastern islands of the Philippines.[2]


On Pohnpei, pre-colonial history is divided into three eras: Mwehin Kawa or Mwehin Aramas (Period of Building, or Period of Peopling, before ca. 1100); Mwehin Sau Deleur (Period of the Lord of Deleur, ca. 1100[3] to ca. 1628);[note 1] and Mwehin Nahnmwarki (Period of the Nahnmwarki, ca. 1628 to ca. 1885).[4][7] Pohnpeian legend recounts that the Saudeleur rulers, the first to bring government to Pohnpei, were of foreign origin. The Saudeleur centralized form of absolute rule is characterized in Pohnpeian legend as becoming increasingly oppressive over several generations. Arbitrary and onerous demands, as well as a reputation for offending Pohnpeian deities, sowed resentment among Pohnpeians. The Saudeleur Dynasty ended with the invasion of Isokelekel, another semi-mythical foreigner, who replaced the Saudeleur rule with the more decentralized nahnmwarki system in existence today.[9][10][11] Isokelekel is regarded as the creator of the modern Pohnpeian nahnmwarki social system and the father of the Pohnpeian people.[9][12]

Nan Madol offshore of Temwen Island near Pohnpei, consists of a series of small artificial islands linked by a network of canals, and is often called the Venice of the Pacific. It is located near the island of Pohnpei and was the ceremonial and political seat of the Saudeleur Dynasty that united Pohnpei's estimated 25,000 people until its centralized system collapsed amid the invasion of Isokelekel.[11] Isokelekel and his descendants initially occupied the stone city, but later abandoned it.[7]

European colonization[edit]

European explorers - first the Portuguese in search of the Spice Islands (Indonesia) and then the Spanish - reached the Carolines in the 16th century, with the Spanish establishing sovereignty.[1]

Spain sold the islands to Germany in 1899 under the terms of the German–Spanish Treaty of that year.[1]

Yap was a major German naval communications center before the First World War and an important international hub for cable telegraphy. It was occupied by Japanese troops in September, 1914, and passed to the Japanese Empire under the Versailles Treaty in 1919 as a mandated territory under League of Nations supervision. US commercial rights on the island were secured by a special US-Japanese treaty to that effect, concluded on February 11, 1922.[13]

Empire of Japan[edit]

During World War I, many of the German possessions in the Pacific were conquered by Japan, who fought on the side of the Allies of World War I and was active in the Asian and Pacific theatre of World War I.

The Empire of Japan administrated the islands from 1920 under the South Seas Mandate granted by the League of Nations. During this period, the Japanese population grew to over 100,000 throughout Micronesia, while the indigenous population was about 40,000. Sugar cane, mining, fishing and tropical agriculture became the major industries.[14]

World War II[edit]

In World War II, Japanese-held Yap was one of the islands bypassed in the U.S. "Leapfrogging" strategy, although it was regularly bombed by U.S. ships and aircraft, and Yap-based Japanese bombers did some damage in return. The Japanese garrison comprised 4,423 Imperial Japanese Army men under the command of Colonel Daihachi Itoh and 1,494 Imperial Japanese Navy men.[15] A significant portion of the Japanese fleet was based in Truk Lagoon. In February 1944, Operation Hailstone, one of the most important naval battles of the war, took place at Truk, in which many Japanese support vessels and aircraft were destroyed.

World War II brought an abrupt end to the relative prosperity experienced during Japanese civil administration.[citation needed]


Flag of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands; was used in the FSM 1965 to 1978.

The United Nations created the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) in 1947. Pohnpei (then including Kusaie), Truk, Yap, Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands, together constituted the TTPI. The United States accepted the role of Trustee of this, the only United Nations Trusteeship to be designated as a "Security Trusteeship", whose ultimate disposition was to be determined by the UN Security Council.[1] As Trustee the US was to "promote the economic advancement and self-sufficiency of the inhabitants."


On May 10, 1979, four of the Trust Territory districts ratified the Constitution of the Federated States of Micronesia. The neighboring trust districts of Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands chose not to participate. The Honorable Tosiwo Nakayama, the former President of the Congress of Micronesia, became the first President of the FSM and formed his Cabinet. The FSM signed a Compact of Free Association with the U.S., which entered into force on November 3, 1986, marking Micronesia's emergence from trusteeship to independence. Under the Compact, the U.S. has full authority and responsibility for the defense of the FSM. This security relationship can be changed or terminated by mutual agreement. The Compact provides U.S. grant funds and federal program assistance to the FSM. Amended financial assistance provisions came on-line in FY 2004. The basic relationship of free association continues indefinitely.

Trusteeship of the islands ended under United Nations Security Council Resolution 683, passed on December 22, 1990. The Compact was renewed in 2004.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Saudeleur era lasted around 500 years.[4] Legend generally dates their downfall to the 1500s,[5] however archaeologists date Saudeleur ruins to ca. 1628.[6][7][8]


  1. ^ a b c d "Background Note: Micronesia". United States Department of State. Retrieved 2012-01-06.
  2. ^ Peterson, John A. (2012). "Latte villages in Guam and the Marianas: Monumentality or monumenterity?" (PDF). Micronesica. 42 (1/2): 183–208.
  3. ^ Flood, Bo; Strong, Beret E.; Flood, William (2002). Micronesian Legends. Bess Press. pp. 145–7, 160. ISBN 1-57306-129-8. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  4. ^ a b Hanlon, David L (1988). Upon a Stone Altar: A History of the Island of Pohnpei to 1890. Pacific Islands Monograph. 5. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 13–25. ISBN 0-8248-1124-0. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  5. ^ Cordy, Ross H (1993). The Lelu Stone Ruins (Kosrae, Micronesia): 1978-81 Historical and Archaeological Research. Asian and Pacific Archaeology. Social Science Research Institute, University of Hawaii at Manoa. pp. 14, 254, 258. ISBN 0-8248-1134-8. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  6. ^ Morgan, William N (1988). Prehistoric Architecture in Micronesia. University of Texas Press. pp. 60, 63, 76, 85. ISBN 0-292-76506-1. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  7. ^ a b c Panholzer, Tom; Rufino, Mauricio (2003). Place Names of Pohnpei Island: Including And (Ant) and Pakin Atolls. Bess Press. pp. xiii, xii, 101. ISBN 1-57306-166-2. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  8. ^ Micronesica. University of Guam. 1990. pp. 92, 203, 277. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  9. ^ a b Ballinger, Bill Sanborn (1978). Lost City of Stone: The Story of Nan Madol, the "Atlantis" of the Pacific. Simon and Schuster. pp. 45–8. ISBN 0-671-24030-7. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  10. ^ Riesenberg, Saul H (1968). The Native Polity of Ponape. Contributions to Anthropology. 10. Smithsonian Institution Press. pp. 38, 51. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  11. ^ a b Petersen, Glenn (1990). "Lost in the Weeds: Theme and Variation in Pohnpei Political Mythology" (PDF). Occasional Papers. Center for Pacific Islands Studies, School of Hawaiian, Asian & Pacific Studies, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. 35: 34 et seq. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  12. ^ Goetzfridt, Nicholas J; Peacock, Karen M (2002). Micronesian Histories: An Analytical Bibliography and Guide to Interpretations. Bibliographies and Indexes in World History. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 3, 34–5, 102, 156–9. ISBN 0-313-29103-9. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  13. ^ Text in League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. 12, pp. 202-211.
  14. ^ *Arnold, Bruce Makoto (2011). "Conflicted Childhoods in the South Seas: The Failure of Racial Assiimilation in the Nan'yo". Tufts Historical Review. 4 (11): 79–96.
  15. ^ Takizawa, Akira; Alsleben, Allan (1999–2000). "Japanese garrisons on the by-passed Pacific Islands 1944-1945". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942. Archived from the original on 2016-01-06.

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