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Romanum Island, Chuuk, Micronesia
Romanum Island, Chuuk, Micronesia

Map of Micronesia (shown in dark magenta)
Map of Micronesia (shown in dark magenta)

Micronesia ((UK: /ˌmkrəˈnziə/, US: /-ˈnʒə/); from Greek: μικρός mikrós "small" and Greek: νῆσος nêsos "island") is a subregion of Oceania, composed of thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It has a shared cultural history with two other island regions, Polynesia to the east and Melanesia to the south.

The region has a tropical marine climate, and is part of the Oceania ecozone. There are four main archipelagos along with numerous outlying islands.

Micronesia is divided politically among several sovereign countries. One of these is the Federated States of Micronesia, which is often called "Micronesia" for short and is not to be confused with the overall region. The Micronesia region encompasses five sovereign, independent nations—the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, and Nauru—as well as three U.S. territories in the northern part: Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and Wake Island.

Micronesia began to be settled several millennia ago, although there are competing theories about the origin and arrival of the first settlers.[1] The earliest known contact with Europeans occurred in 1521, when Ferdinand Magellan reached the Marianas. The coinage of the term "Micronesia" is usually attributed to Jules Dumont d'Urville's usage in 1832; however, Domeny de Rienzi had used the term a year previously.[2]

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  • Geography Now! MICRONESIA (Federated states)
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Hey everybody. Before you watch this episode, just a little disclaimer: I was stupid and I booked the wrong day at the YouTube space so we weren't able to film in the studios. So I had to improvise and we filmed in my house. So the next two episodes are gonna have the same quality of how we used to film the episodes back in like 2016. Relatively poor echoey, audio quality and very visible black backdrop. But I did not want to 'not upload a video this week', so I had to give you something I mean, These Geography Now! videos are mostly just about the information. Right... Right...... RIGHT?? I'm sorry guys. But anyway, I tried my best and I still want to give you a video this week So without further ado, here we go. *Intro* It's time to learn Geography... NOW!!! Want to hear a Micronesia joke? NOOO!!! Too bad! Imagine a dog named Ray on a dinner date. When the bill came, he had to use his 'Pohnpei' (paw to pay) but then was 'Chuuk' (shock) and surprised be-Kosrae ('cause Ray) was broke. Yap Alright, that's four strikes, you know the drill... 1 Punch 2 Punch 3 Punch 4 Punch SO WORTH IT! Oh hey, Noah is back. Noah: Hey (Political Geography) For the record. In this episode, I'm just gonna refer to the country as "Micronesia" because the official title is too long... The Federated States of Micronesia You get what I'm saying? Anyway! I love Pacific island nations because they probably get the least amount of coverage in terms of global awareness which means Geography Now! gets to be a platform for the obscure. Plus, you know It kind of adds to the Oceania playlist. First of all The country lies in the sub-region of the Pacific Ocean known as Micronesia which is obviously where the country gets its name from which also includes the states of Palau, Nauru, parts of Kiribati and the US Territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands and Wake Island. The country is made up of 607 islands sometimes collectively referred to as the "Caroline Islands" These take up over a million mi² of Oceanic territory in their exclusive economic zone. However, in land surface area, they only make up about 217mi². All the islands are divided into 4 states made up of island clusters: They are Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, -not Pompeii- Pohnpei, Oh and don't forget this little straggler Kapingaramangi belongs to it. And finally little Kosrae which is really only like one little island with a few small islets off its coast. It's the only state with no atolls. The capital Palikir is located on Pohnpei, the largest, highest and most populous island in the entire nation. However, the largest city in itself is actually Weno on the Chuuk atoll. The country has four International Airports, one for each of the states. The busiest ones being Pohnpei and Chuuk whereas one domestic airport lies on Ulithi. There are also small airfields and air strips located on various islands across the country for shipping and deliveries. Today, they do kind of have a small dispute with Spain over that little straggler guy, Kapingamarangi. Apparently when the Spanish sold off their islands to the Germans, this little guy kind of wasn't part of the deal. Eventually just kind of "de facto landed in Micronesia's claim". Otherwise Most of the urban centers are located on the large mountainous islands. Three of which Pohnpei, Chuuk and Yap hosts shipping harbours. If you look close to Chuuk's harbour, they kind of have a ship that failed. Anyway! Just like we talked about in the Marshall Islands episode Micronesia is also a "Compact of Free Association Agreement" state with the United States. Yada yada yada. You've heard it before. New subscriber: No. I haven't. I'm a new subscriber. What do you mean? Oh yeah, some people are new to this channel. Uh, well basically in the quickest way I can summarize it: Micronesia: Alright, okay. I think we're kind of ready to be our own thing now. Woohoo! USA: Oh, you know I already will all these bases. We have all these cool trade deals, diplomatic agreements with other nations. You guys seem to like that 'Spam' stuff as well and the burgers I introduced. I mean, do you really want to start from scratch? Hmmm? Micronesia: I mean, yes, but I don't know. Maybe we can kind of like keep this thing going but also by relinquishing your official hold on us so we kind of have like a nominal claim to independence? USA: Oh Mikey, It's like you've been reading my diary! And that's basically how it happened in the 80s. And speaking of which, some notable sites that the country might include: Nan Madol The Yap stones Chuuk Lagoon, one of the world's biggest wartime ship graveyards Tamilyog trail The Lelu and Menke ruins on Kosrae The petroglyphs on Phonpei Japanese era sites like the old lighthouse Nefo cave The Yap art gallery studio Yaps Living History Museum And honestly, probably the coolest thing to do would just be walking around the streets of any village and finding cool cafe or mom-and-pop shop. Just chill. You're in Micronesia. The entire country in itself is kind of a spectacle to be a part of. And especially when you notice the landscape. Which brings us too: (Physical Geography) Now unlike some of their neighbors, Micronesia got lucky and snagged a few solid fully formed mountainous islands. And when you have hills, you have an advantage. First of all The country is spread across the western Pacific Ocean on a smaller sub region of the greater Pacific plate known as the Caroline plate formed by the underwater sorrel trough. Mount Nanlaud on Pohnpei is the highest peak of the country, with the longest river the Lehdau flows. Yap and the atolls around it are the only parts of the country that cross over the Philippine plate over the Yap Trench. The islands were basically formed from underwater volcanoes that either partially or fully breached the surface or both. The ones that had the edges breached became atolls. The ones that had the center breached became full-on islands. And then there was a third kind which the center and a few edges were breached which became lagoons. So there you go: Oceanic geology 101. And this is part where I take a triple shot of espresso break. That means making his triumphant for return, you love him. My physical geography segment co-host, Noah! Hey, you look a little different. Hmm, then what you mean? The good news is the islands get quite a bit of rain so fresh water is never too hard to come by. Most people collect it for daily use. The islands with mountains are able to harbor small rivers and creeks. Pohnpei alone having over 40 Some creating beautiful waterfalls. Otherwise, you can hike at beautiful natural science like the Sokens rock or scuba dive in many spots like the Blue Hole. Country doesn't have a national animal but it is a bird haven. Species like the Truk monarch, the Phonpei Lori, the Kosrae Greater white eye Are all endemic to the islands. Economy-wise, the country mostly depends on agriculture and fishing. Whatever, let's be honest, they only have about 100,000 people. So they cope with a great idea on how to capitalize off of their vast open ocean territory. Hey, you have a lot of ocean? Micronesia: Yeah? Foreign investor: I'm fishing it. Micronesia: Yeah, so? Foreign investor: I wanna go fishing it. Micronesia: Pay up a couple million dollars and we'll give you a seasonal license. And that's how they subsidize part of their GDP. Food wise, you get the typical island staples. Taro, breadfruit, bananas and of course pretty much any kind of fish they can catch will be on the menu. Don't be surprised to find betel nuts everywhere, a sort of chewing tobacco substitute that people on all islands used. Sakau is a popular drink, especially on Phonpei. It has relaxing effects of his made from squeezing the roots of the pepper shrub in the inner bark of a hibiscus tree. Kind of like the Kava drip we talked about the Fiji episode. Its a great social drink the locals enjoy it, and casual get together. And that brings us to: (Demographics) Thank You Noah, follow him on Instagram. All right. So if you're new to this channel, one thing you'll have to learn is when it comes to ocean people, There's a difference between Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. Micronesians are interesting because it's kind of like each island has its own story and tradition. It's like if you met your cousin once and didn't see them again for 15 years, they'd probably change a lot but you'd still be family. First of all The country's about 105,000 people and has about a 3% birthrate. The majority of the country is ethnically Micronesian However Split up into four distinct ethno-linguistic groups. About half of the population are Chuukese. A quarter are Pohnpeian and 10% Yapese and outer Yapese. About 6% Kosraean, and the rest of the country is made up of other groups Mostly Americans, Asians and Polynesians. They use the American dollar as their currency. They use the types A, B plug outlets and they drive on the right side of the road. However, some of the cars might have steering wheels on the right side so it's kind of weird. English is the official language used between all peoples. But there are eight other recognized indigenous languages spoken throughout the islands. Including two Polynesian languages spoken by the people on Nukuoro and Kapingamarangi. Micronesian languages are all related. However, some of the words are completely unintelligible. For example: Yeah, they don't even sound anything alike and each one has less than 50,000 speakers so it shows how far the cousins can change when you're separated by thousands of miles of water for centuries. Culturally speaking, the people here come from a long yet mysterious line of chiefdoms clans traditions and customs mostly rooted in oral tradition passed down through generations. There's the legend of the twin sorcerers that created Nan Madol. Supposedly, they had the help of a flying dragon and that's how the first dynasty was supposedly started. Not only that but on Yap, the residents literally use these huge stone disks known as Rai stones as their currency. Technically the largest currency in the world. About 6,500 of them can be found all over the islands. You can also find traditional meeting houses called Pe'ebai and Faluw. They also use canoes with plaited leaves sails. The Chuuk Islands has a tradition of love sticks that they kind of use for dating. The man is supposed to poke his crush and if she accepts she's supposed to grab the sharp stick and pull him in. Essentially though, you see a lot of remnants of the former colonizers in their society. For example, no shocker they speak English with an American accent and generally keep up with American media and trends. They love rice too even though it doesn't grow there. It was introduced from various nations especially the Japanese. Most Micronesians at about 97% are Christians, introduced mostly through the Americans, Germans and Spanish. About half of them are Protestant have our Catholic. The more west you go closer to the Philippines, it becomes more Catholic. The more east, it becomes more Protestant. Speaking of the introduction of outside influences, History: Ancient Austronesian people, probably from Southeast Asia sailed in Chieftain based societies established Yap people developed quite a unique economic and religious culture Nan-Madol is built starting the Saudeleur dynasty Portuguese come by but they don't really care too much Spanish pass by and care very much Hold on to it to make it part of the Spanish East Indies They built the town of Kolonia on Phonpei Spanish-American war caused Spain to sell the islands to Germany Then it became German New Guinea WWI the Japanese come in and take it WWII operation hailstone UN agrees that the US should administer the islands as a Trust Territory Yap, Chuuk, Phonpei and Kosrae agreed to join up and create a constitution for independence Then they all signed the Compact of Free Association with the US in 1986 compact renewed in 2004, And here we are today. Some notable people who are either Micronesian or from the Federated States of Micronesia might include people like: To be honest, it was a little difficult to find some of those people. I had to search Micronesian message boards. I don't know. If you just so happen to be a Micronesian person watching this video, please feel free to revise that list if you want. Anyway, Friendzone! (Friendzone) Since independence in the 80s, Micronesia has built up a lot of international ties. They have ties to over 80 countries and four permanent embassies in China, Fiji, Japan and the US. For one, China and India have both kind of competed to see who can cozy up to the islands more. China has built things like a gymnasium, they donated police cars and built a giant clam farm on Kosrae. India has given them farming machinery and offers scholarship grants. Of course the USA is the biggest trade partner and supporter of overall infrastructure and development As part of the Compact Association, Micronesians have access to US services like postal and communications. They can move about freely working and living in each other's countries. Micronesians are even allowed to serve in the US military. However, they don't share the same benefits as US citizen military personnel. Micronesia is part of the Nauru agreement, a union of 8 signatories in Oceania that control nearly a third of the world's tuna supply. They regulate fishing laws and manage business together. Of these nations, of course, Their closest friends would probably be their Micronesians siblings: the Marshall Islands and Palau. These two are also Compact Association agreement members with the US. Out of these two though, Micronesia might be a little bit closer to Palau. They have a little closer history. Those Yap stones were actually mined and transported from Palau. They love each other's music and whenever they get the chance to see each other, It's like family reunion all over again, but the Marshall Islands are invited too. In conclusion: The Federated States of Micronesia are kind of like the four musketeer cousins that hadn't seen each other in a long time. They could barely speak to each other, but somehow they came together in 1986 and showed the world that an island culture can thrive well into the new era. Stay tuned, Moldova is coming up next.



Micronesia is one of three major cultural areas in the Pacific Ocean, along with Polynesia and Melanesia
Micronesia is one of three major cultural areas in the Pacific Ocean, along with Polynesia and Melanesia

Micronesia is a region that includes approximately 2100 islands, with a total land area of 2,700 km2 (1,000 sq mi), the largest of which is Guam, which covers 582 km2 (225 sq mi). The total ocean area within the perimeter of the islands is 7,400,000 km2 (2,900,000 sq mi).[3]

There are four main island groups in Micronesia:

Plus the island country of Nauru.

Caroline Islands

The Caroline Islands are a widely scattered archipelago consisting of about 500 small coral islands, north of New Guinea and east of the Philippines. The Carolines consist of two states: the Federated States of Micronesia, consisting of approximately 600 islands on the eastern side of the chain with Kosrae being the most eastern, and Palau consisting of 250 islands on the western side.

Gilbert Islands

The Gilbert Islands are a chain of sixteen atolls and coral islands, 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. The Republic of Kiribati contains all of the Gilberts, as well as the island of Tarawa, the site of the country's capital.

Mariana Islands

The Mariana Islands are an arc-shaped archipelago made up by the summits of fifteen volcanic mountains. 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 Marianas were politically divided in 1898, when the United States acquired title to Guam under the Treaty of Paris, 1898, which ended the Spanish–American War. Spain then sold the remaining northerly islands to Germany in 1899. Germany lost all of her colonies at the end of World War I and the Northern Mariana Islands became a League of Nations Mandate, with Japan as the mandatory. After World War II, the islands were transferred into the United Nations Trust Territory System, with the United States as Trustee. In 1976, the Northern Mariana Islands and the United States entered into a covenant of political union under which commonwealth status was granted the Northern Mariana Islands, and its residents received United States citizenship.

Marshall Islands

Beach scenery at Laura, Majuro, Marshall Islands
Beach scenery at Laura, Majuro, Marshall Islands

The Marshall Islands are located north of Nauru and Kiribati, east of the Federated States of Micronesia, and south of the U.S. territory of Wake Island. The islands consist of 29 low-lying atolls and 5 isolated islands,[4] comprising 1,156 individual islands and islets. The atolls and islands form two groups: the Ratak Chain and the Ralik Chain (meaning "sunrise" and "sunset" chains). All the islands in the chain are part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, a presidential republic in free association with the United States. Having few natural resources, the islands' wealth is based on a service economy, as well as some fishing and agriculture. Of the 29 atolls, 24 of them are inhabited.

Bikini Atoll is an atoll in the Marshall Islands. There are 23 islands in the Bikini Atoll. The islands of Bokonijien, Aerokojlol, and Nam were vaporized during nuclear tests that occurred there.[5] The islands are composed of low coral limestone and sand.[6] The average elevation is only about 2.1 metres (7 ft) above low tide level.


Nauru is an oval-shaped island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, 42 km (26 mi) south of the Equator, listed as the world's smallest republic, covering just 21 km2 (8 sq mi).[8] With 11,347 residents, it is the second least-populated country, after Vatican City. The island is surrounded by a coral reef, which is exposed at low tide and dotted with pinnacles.[9] The presence of the reef has prevented the establishment of a seaport, although channels in the reef allow small boats access to the island.[10] A fertile coastal strip 150 to 300 m (490 to 980 ft) wide lies inland from the beach.[9]

Wake Island

Wake Island is a coral atoll with a coastline of 19 km (12 mi) just north of the Marshall Islands. It is an unorganized, unincorporated territory of the United States. Access to the island is restricted, and all activities on the island are managed by the United States Air Force.


The majority of the islands in the area are part of a coral atoll. Coral atolls begin as coral reefs that grow on the slopes of a central volcano. When the volcano sinks back down into the sea, the coral continues to grow, keeping the reef at or above water level. One exception is Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia, which still has the central volcano and coral reefs around it.



The region has a tropical marine climate moderated by seasonal northeast trade winds. There is little seasonal temperature variation. The dry season runs from December or January to June, and the rainy season from July to November or December. Because of the location of some islands, the rainy season can sometimes include typhoons.



Mount Marpi in Saipan.
Mount Marpi in Saipan.

Micronesia began to be settled several millennia ago, although there are competing theories about the origin and arrival of the first settlers.[1] There are numerous difficulties with conducting archaeological excavations in the islands, due to their size, settlement patterns and storm damage. As a result, much evidence is based on linguistic analysis.[11] The earliest archaeological traces of civilization have been found on the island of Saipan, dated to 1500 BCE or slightly before.[12]

Micronesian colonists gradually settled the Marshall Islands during the 2nd millennium BC, with inter-island navigation made possible using traditional stick charts.[13]

Construction of Nan Madol, a megalithic complex made from basalt lava logs in Pohnpei began as early as 1200 CE.

The prehistory of many Micronesian islands such as Yap is not known very well.[14]

Early European contact

The earliest known contact with Europeans occurred in 1521, when Ferdinand Magellan reached the Marianas [15] This contact is recorded in Antonio Pigafetta's chronicle of Magellan's voyage, in which he recounts that the Chamorro people had no apparent knowledge of people outside of their island group.[16] A Portuguese account of the same voyage suggests that the Chamorro people who greeted the travellers did so "without any shyness as if they were good acquaintances", raising the possibility that earlier unrecorded contact had occurred.[17]

Further contact was made during the sixteenth century, although often initial encounters were very brief. Documents relating to the 1525 voyage of Diogo da Rocha suggest that he made the first European contact with inhabitants of the Caroline Islands, possibly staying on the Ulithi atoll for four months and encountering Yap. Marshall Islanders were encountered by Alvaro de Saavedra in 1529.[18] More certain recorded contact with the Yap islands occurred in 1625.[19]

Colonisation and conversion

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.

In 1819, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions – a Protestant group – brought their Puritan ways to Polynesia. Soon after, the Hawaiian Missionary Society was founded, and sent missionaries into Micronesia. Conversion was not met with as much opposition, as the local religions were less developed (at least according to Western ethnographic accounts). In contrast, it took until the end of the 19th/beginning of the 20th centuries for missionaries to fully covert the inhabitants of Melanesia; however, before a cultural contrast can even be made, one cannot neglect to take into account the fact that Melanesia has always had deadly strains of more malaria present in various degrees and distributions throughout its history {see: De Rays Expedition} and up to the present; in contrast, Micronesia does not, and never seems to have had any malarial mosquitos nor pathogens on any of its islands in the past.[20]

German–Spanish Treaty of 1899

German New Guinea before and after the German-Spanish treaty of 1899
German New Guinea before and after the German-Spanish treaty of 1899

In the Spanish–American War, Spain lost many of its remaining colonies. In the Pacific, the United States took possession of the Spanish Philippines and Guam. On January 17, 1899, the United States also took possession of unclaimed and uninhabited Wake Island. This left Spain with the remainder of the Spanish East Indies, about 6,000 tiny islands that were sparsely populated and not very productive. These islands were ungovernable after the loss of the administrative center of Manila, and undefendable after the loss of two Spanish fleets in the war. The Spanish government therefore decided to sell the remaining islands to a new colonial power: the German Empire.

The treaty, which was signed by Spanish Prime Minister Francisco Silvela on February 12, 1899, transferred the Caroline Islands, the Mariana Islands, Palau and other possessions to Germany. Under German control, the islands became a protectorate and were administered from German New Guinea. Nauru had already been annexed and claimed as a colony by Germany in 1888.

20th century

In the early 20th century, the islands of Micronesia were divided between three foreign powers:

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. During World War II, Nauru was occupied by Japanese troops, and was bypassed by the Allied advance across the Pacific. Following Japan's defeat in World War II its mandate became a United Nations Trusteeship administered by the United States as the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Nauru became independent in 1968.

21st century

Today, most of Micronesia are independent states, except for Guam and Wake Island, which are U.S. territories, and for the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.


The Secretariat of the Pacific Community is a regional intergovernmental organisation whose membership includes both nations and territories in the Pacific Ocean and their metropolitan powers.

States and dependencies

Country Population (July 2016 estimate)[21] Area (km2) Population density (/km2) Urban population Life expectancy Literacy rate Official language(s) Main religion(s) Ethnic groups
 Federated States of Micronesia 104,937 702 152.641 22% 71.23 89% English Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 47%, others 3% Chuukese 48.8%, Pohnpeian 24.2%, Kosraean 6.2%, Yapese 5.2%, Yap outer islands 4.5%, Asian 1.8%, Polynesian 1.5%, other 7.8%
 Guam (United States) 162,896 1,478 122.371 93% 78.18 99% English 38.3%, Chamorro 22.2%[22] Roman Catholic 85%, Buddhism 3.6, other religion 11.4% Chamorro 37.1%, Filipino 26.3%, other Pacific islander 11.3%, white 6.9%, other 8.6%, mixed 9.8%
 Kiribati 114,395 811 122.666 44% 64.03 92% English, Gilbertese (de facto) Roman Catholic 55%, Protestant 36% Micronesian 98.8%
 Marshall Islands 53,066 181 363.862 71% 71.48 93.7% Marshallese 98.2%, English Protestant 54.8%, other Christian 40.6% Marshallese 92.1%, mixed Marshallese 5.9%, other 2%
 Nauru 11,347 21 441.286 100% 64.99 99%[23] Nauruanf[›] Nauru Congregational Church 35.4%, Roman Catholic 33.2%, Nauru Independent Church (Protestant)[24] 10.4%, Baha'i faith 10%, Buddhism 9% Nauruan 58%, other Pacific Islander 26%, Chinese 8%, European 8%
 Northern Mariana Islands (United States) 55,023 464 104.131 91% 76.9 97% English, Chamorro and Carolinian[25] Roman Catholic, Buddhism 10.6% Asian 56.3%, Pacific islander 36.3%, White 1.8%, other 0.8%, mixed 4.8%
 Palau 21,503 459 45.488 81% 71.51 92% Paluan 64.7%d[›], English Roman Catholic 41.6%, Protestant 23.3% Palauan 69.9%, Filipino 15.3%, Chinese 4.9%, other Asian 2.4%, white 1.9%, Carolinian 1.4%, other Micronesian 1.1%, other 3.2%
Total 523,167 4,116 193.206 71.71% 71.19 94.93%


Nationally, the primary income is the sale of fishing rights to foreign nations that harvest tuna using huge purse seiners. A few Japanese long liners still ply the waters. The crews aboard fishing fleets contribute little to the local economy since their ships typically set sail loaded with stores and provisions that are cheaper than local goods. Additional money comes in from government grants, mostly from the United States, and the $150 million the US paid into a trust fund for reparations of residents of Bikini Atoll that had to move after nuclear testing. Few mineral deposits worth exploiting exist, except for some high-grade phosphate, especially on Nauru.

Most residents of Micronesia can freely move to, and work within, the United States. Relatives working in the US that send money home to relatives represent the primary source of individual income. Additional individual income comes mainly from government jobs, and work within shops and restaurants.

The tourist industry consists mainly of scuba divers that come to see the coral reefs, do wall dives, and visit sunken ships from WWII. Major stops for scuba divers in approximate order are Palau, Chuuk, Yap, and Phonpei. Some private yacht owners visit the area for months or years at a time. However, they tend to stay mainly at ports of entry and are too few in number to be counted as a major source of income.

Copra production used to be a more significant source of income, however, world prices have dropped in part to large palm plantations that are now planted in places like Borneo.


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 and Filipinos. Because of this mixture of descent, many of the ethnicities of Micronesia feel closer to some groups in Melanesia, or the Philippines. A good example of this are the Yapese people who are related to Austronesian tribes in the Northern Philippines.[26] A 2011 survey found that 93.1% of Micronesian are Christians.[27]

There are also substantial Asian communities found across the region, most notably in the Northern Mariana Islands where they form the majority and smaller communities of Europeans who have migrated from the United States or are descendants of settlers during European colonial rule in Micronesia.

Though they are all geographically part of the same region, they all have very different colonial histories. The US-administered areas of Micronesia have a unique experience that sets them apart from the rest of the Pacific. Micronesia has great economic dependency on its former or current motherlands, something only comparable to the French Pacific. Sometimes, the term American Micronesia is used to acknowledge the difference in cultural heritage.[28]

Indigenous groups

Carolinian people

It is thought that ancestors of the Carolinian people may have originally immigrated from the Asian mainland 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.

Chamorro people

Chamorro people in 1915
Chamorro people in 1915

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.[29]

Chuukese people

The Chuukese people are an ethnic group in Oceania. They constitute 48% of the population of the Federated States of Micronesia. Their language is Chuukese. The home atoll of Chuuk is also known by the former name Truk.

Kaping people

The roughly 3000 residents of the Federated States of Micronesia that reside in Kapingamarangi, nicknamed 'Kapings', are both one of the most remote and most difficult people to visit in Micronesia and the entire world. Their home atoll is almost a 1,600 km (1,000 mi) round trip to the nearest point of immigration check-in and check-out. There are no regular flights. The only way to legally visit is to first check-in, travel on a high-speed sailboat to the atoll, and then backtrack almost 800 km (500 mi). Owing to this difficulty, only a handful of the few sailors that travel across the Pacific will attempt to visit. The local language is the Kapingamarangi language. The children typically attend high school on Pohnpei where they stay with relatives in an enclave that is almost exclusively made up of Kapings.[citation needed]

Nauruan people

The Nauruan people are an ethnicity inhabiting the Pacific island of Nauru. They are most likely a blend of other Pacific peoples.[30]

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.

Immigrant groups

Asian people

There are large Asian communities found across certain Micronesian countries that are either immigrants, foreign workers or descendants of either one, most migrated to the islands during the 1800s and 1900s.[31] According to the 2010 census results Guam was 26.3% Filipino, 2.2% Korean, 1.6% Chinese and 2% other Asian.[32] The 2010 census showed the Northern Mariana Islands was 50% Asian of which 35.3% were Filipino, 6.8% Chinese, 4.2% Korean and 3.7% other Asian (mainly Japanese, Bangladeshi and Thai).[33] The 2010 census for the Federated States of Micronesia showed 1.4% were Asian while statistics for Nauru showed 8% of Nauruans were Chinese.[34][35] The 2005 census results for Palau showed 16.3% were Filipino, 1.6% Chinese, 1.6% Vietnamese and 3.4% other Asian (mostly Bangladeshi, Japanese and Korean).[36]

Japanese rule in Micronesia also led to Japanese people settling the islands and marrying native spouses. Kessai Note, the former president of the Marshall Islands has partial Japanese ancestry by way of his paternal grandfather.

European people

Languages of Micronesia.
Languages of Micronesia.

The 2010 census results of Guam showed 7.1% were white while the 2005 census for Palau showed 8% were European. Smaller numbers at 1.9% in Palau and 1.8% in the Northern Mariana Islands were recorded as "white". In conjunction to the European communities there are large amounts of mixed Micronesians, some of which have European ancestry.


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.

The languages in the Micronesian family are Marshallese, Gilbertese, Kosraean, Nauruan, as well as a large sub-family called the Trukic–Ponapeic languages containing 11 languages.

On the eastern edge of the Federated States of Micronesia, the languages Nukuoro and Kapingamarangi represent an extreme westward extension of Polynesian.

There are two languages spoken that do not belong to the Oceanic languages: Chamorro in the Mariana Islands and Palauan in Palau.


Animals and food

By the time Western contact occurred, although Palau did not have dogs, they did have fowls and maybe also pigs. Nowhere else in Micronesia were pigs known about at that time. Fruit bats are native to Palau, but other mammals are rare. Reptiles are numerous, and both mollusks and fish are an important food source.[37] The people of Palau, the Marianas, and Yap often chew betel nuts seasoned with lime and pepper leaf. Western Micronesia was unaware of the ceremonial drink, which was called saka on Kosrae and sakau on Pohnpei.[14]


The book Prehistoric Architecture in Micronesia argues that the most prolific pre-colonial Micronesian architecture is: "Palau's monumental sculpted hills, megalithic stone carvings, and elaborately decorated structure of wood placed on piers above elevated stone platforms".[38] The archeological traditions of the Yapese people remained relatively unchanged even after the first European contact with the region during Magellan's 1520s circumnavigation of the globe.[14]


Micronesia's artistic tradition has developed from the Lapita culture. Among the most prominent works of the region is the megalithic floating city of Nan Madol. The city began in 1200 CE, and was still being built when European explorers begin to arrive around 1600. The city, however, had declined by around 1800 along with the Saudeleur dynasty, and was completely abandoned by the 1820s. During the 19th century, the region was divided between the colonial powers, but art continued to thrive. Wood-carving, particularly by men, flourished in the region, resulted in richly decorated ceremonial houses in Belau, stylized bowls, canoe ornaments, ceremonial vessels, and sometimes sculptured figures. Women created textiles and ornaments such as bracelets and headbands. Stylistically, traditional Micronesian art is streamlined and of a practical simplicity to its function, but is typically finished to a high standard of quality. [39] This was mostly to make the best possible use of what few natural materials they had available to them.[40]

The first half of the 20th century saw a downturn in Micronesia's cultural integrity and a strong foreign influence from both western and Japanese Imperialist powers. A number of historical artistic traditions, especially sculpture, ceased to be practiced, although other art forms continued, including traditional architecture and weaving. Independence from colonial powers in the second half of the century resulted in a renewed interest in, and respect for, traditional arts. A notable movement of contemporary art also appeared in Micronesia towards the end of the 20th century.[41]


The cuisine of the Mariana Islands is tropical in nature, including such dishes as Kelaguen as well as many others.

Palauan cuisine includes local foods such as cassava, taro, yam, potato, fish and pork. Western cuisine is favored among young Palauans.


The educational systems in the nations of Micronesia vary depending on the country, and there are several higher level educational institutions.

The CariPac consists of institutions of higher education in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau. The Agricultural Development in the American Pacific is a partnership of the University of Hawaii, American Samoa Community College, College of Micronesia, Northern Marianas College, and the University of Guam.

In the Federated States of Micronesia, education is required for citizens aged 6 to 13,[42] and is important to their economy.[43] The literacy rate for citizens aged 15 to 24 is 98.8%.[44] The College of Micronesia-FSM has a campus in each of the four states with its national campus in the capital city of Palikir, Pohnpei. The COM-FSM system also includes the Fisheries and Maritime Institute (FMI) on the Yap islands.[45][46]

The public education in Guam is organized by the Guam Department of Education. Guam also has several educational institutions, such as University of Guam, Pacific Islands University and Guam Community College, There is also the Guam Public Library System and the Umatac Outdoor Library.

Weriyeng[47] is one of the last two schools of traditional navigation found in the central Caroline Islands in Micronesia, the other being Fanur.[48]

The Northern Marianas College is a two-year community college located in the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).

The College of the Marshall Islands is a community college in the Marshall Islands.


Understanding Law in Micronesia notes that The Federated States of Micronesia's laws and legal institutions are "uninterestingly similar to [those of Western countries]". However, it explains that "law in Micronesia is an extraordinary flux and flow of contrasting thought and meaning, inside and outside the legal system". It says that a knee-jerk reaction would be that law is messed up in the region and that improvement is required, but argues that the failure is "one endemic to the nature of law or to the ideological views we hold about law". [49]

The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, a United Nations Trusteeship administered by the United States, borrowed heavily from United States law in establishing the Trust Territory Code during the Law and Development movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Many of those provisions were adopted by the new Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia when the Federated States of Micronesia became self-governing in 1979.[50]


In September 2007, journalists in the region founded the Micronesian Media Association.[51]

Music and dance

Micronesian music is influential to those living in the Micronesian islands.[52] Some of 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.

In the Marshall Islands, the roro is a kind of traditional chant, usually about ancient legends and performed to give guidance during navigation and strength for mothers in labour. Modern bands have blended the unique songs of each island in the country with modern music. Though drums are not generally common in Micronesian music, one-sided hourglass-shaped drums are a major part of Marshallese music.[53] There is a traditional Marshallese dance called beet, which is influenced by Spanish folk dances. In it, men and women side-step in parallel lines. There is a kind of stick dance performed by the Jobwa, nowadays only for very special occasions.

Popular music, both from Micronesia and from other areas of the world, is played on radio stations in Micronesia.[52]


The region is home to the Micronesian Games,[54] a quadrennial international multi-sport event involving all Micronesia's countries and territories except Wake Island.

Nauru has two national sports, weightlifting and Australian rules football.[55] According to 2007 Australian Football League International Census figures, there are around 180 players in the Nauru senior competition and 500 players in the junior competition,[56] representing an overall participation rate of over 30% for the country.

Religion and mythology

Micronesian mythology comprises the traditional belief systems of the people of Micronesia. There is no single belief system in the islands of Micronesia, as each island region has its own mythological beings.

There are several significant figures and myths in the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauran and Kiribati traditions.

See also



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  • Kirch, Patrick Vinton (2001). On the Road of the Winds: An Archaeological History of the Pacific Islands Before European Contact. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-92896-1.
  • Lal, Brij V.; Fortune, Kate (2000). The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-2265-1.
  • Rainbird, Paul (2004). The Archaeology of Micronesia. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-65630-6.

Further reading

External links

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