Micronesia — History and Culture
Each of the Pacific Islands of Micronesia boasts its own proud cultures and traditions, but the four Federated States of Micronesia also share the same Christian beliefs and other common values. These include working together, sharing with each other, and offering tributes to their traditional leaders.
The history of the Pacific Islands of Micronesia dates back many thousands of years, but the island’s first known settlers arrived between 2,000 and 3,000 years ago. These Polynesian and Asian migrants became well known for their outstanding maritime and horticultural skills. The Yap Living History Museum (Colonia, Yap) is among the best places on all four islands to learn more about these ancient legends, crafts, and other proud traditions.
The walled city on Kosrae’s Lelu Island and Pohnpei’s intricate canal network and city of Nan Madol (Nan Madol, Southeast Pohnpei) are perhaps the two most impressive reminders of the rich civilizations which flourished on these islands centuries before the first European visitors arrived in 1525. These Portuguese explorers stumbled upon Yap during their quest for the Spice Islands, but it was the Spanish who established the first European colonial government on that island during the 17th century.
In 1899, Spain sold what was then known as the Caroline Islands to Germany, who encouraged the production and selling of dried coconut meat called copra, which remains one of the main Pacific Islands of Micronesia exports to this day. Copra is also used to make coconut oil and livestock feed. Pohndollap’s 1910 Sokehs Rebellion was the most significant uprising during this time. The Japanese took control of the islands in 1914, and by WWII, the Japanese population of more than 100,000 far exceeded the native population of 40,000.
After the end of WWII, years of battle and bombing brought an abrupt end to the Pacific Islands of Micronesia’s fairly prosperous years under Japanese rule. In 1947, the United Nations established the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, in which the United States was named trustee. During the next few decades, the islands were granted more and more independence, and they entered a Compact of Free Association with the United States in 1986.
Family, religion, sharing, and hospitality are important parts of all significant Pacific Islands of Micronesia cultures. Fishing, farming, and cultivating tree crops remain the most common occupations of most island residents. Each island also has its own intricate matrilineal clan systems and extended family networks. Eight other languages are spoken on the islands in addition to English.
Oral storytelling and music also play important parts in all Pacific Islands of Micronesia cultures. The traditional Micronesian stories and songs which have been passed down through the generations are now joined by far more modern pop music with heavy reggae, country, and Europop influences. Half of the islands’ residents are Roman Catholic, while the other half is Protestant, but nearly all Federated States of Micronesia observe conservative Christian beliefs.