Federated States of Micronesia — History and Culture
Colonized successively by the Portuguese, Spanish, German, and Japanese, the now US-administered Federated States of Micronesia is a true melting pot of cultures, but its indigenous traditions are ever present. The locals clearly show that age-old customs live on and that ethnic affiliations remain strong. Each island exhibits unique distinctions as well as similarities to each other and music and dance are the most colorful facets of the Micronesian heritage.
Prior to WWII, the Federated States of Micronesia was governed by several world powers, including Portugal, Germany, Spain, and Japan. It was not until the end of the war that power shifted to the United States, which assumed control over the islands. Remains of the wreckage can be seen throughout the region, from ruins of fortifications to numerous sunken ships. In fact, Micronesia is home to the most impressive collection of warships in the entire world.
The year 1947 saw the birth of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, which was entirely administered by the United States. The first sign of movement towards Micronesian autonomy came with the establishment of the Micronesian Congress in 1964. Lack of development and control over the economic planning for the region led members to push for self-government.
Efforts to forge a national identity were made in the mid- to late-1970's, with the creation of a constitutional convention and a referendum that approved the document. This was the official formation of the Federated States of Micronesia, which is now made up of four central districts—Kosrae, Pohnpei, Yap, and Chuuk. The new government was established in 1979, but the federation remained under US control until 1986, when the Compact of Free Association finally took effect. The Federated States of Micronesia became part of the United Nations in 1991.
The inhabitants of the Federated States of Micronesia predominantly have Micronesian roots, culturally and linguistically, but Polynesian minorities also reside in some of the furthermost atolls. European and Japanese influences are also present in elements of the local culture, thanks to years of colonization. Different customs and traditions can be observed on each of the islands, but years of isolation from the rest of the world left them more similar to each other than distinct. Unique traditions, languages and norms were formed and developed in Micronesia way before Western and Eastern contact.
Micronesians have a unique musical heritage which is evident in traditional songs, which have been passed down from generations. Recent developments have incorporated other musical genres like pop, country, reggae, and Europop. Indiginous dances are still very much alive in the form of stick art and the moonlight dance, which is a pleasure to watch. Competitions are regularly held in an effort to preserve the culture.
The locals have varied religious backgrounds, but about 50 percent of the population observes the Roman Catholic faith while 47 percent are Protestants. The remaining three percent are other Christian denominations.