Due to early american neglect and also historical isolation, the Pacific Islands, residence to the world"s most diverse variety of indigenous cultures, continue to sustain many genealogical life-ways. Fewer 보다 6.5 million in all, the peoples of Oceania possess a huge repository of social traditions and also ecological adaptations. Papua new Guinea alone is house to one-third that the world"s language - around 780 distinctive vernaculars. Oceania thus has the many to lose, culturally speaking, indigenous the pressures of an international political and also economic change.

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Spread throughout a vast expanse that ocean, Pacific Island individuals occupy an array of environments, indigenous Papua brand-new Guinea"s massive mountains come the atolls and also lagoons of europe fantasy come Auckland new Zealand"s urban jungles. Most people live in Melanesia"s land-rich claims (Papua new Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu), whereby 85 percent of the population is rural and often nearly self-sufficient. Still, fine over one-fourth the the an ext than 2 million Micronesians and also Polynesians live in urban or circulate to urban centers in Australia, new Zealand, and the unified States.

Despite diversity, every Pacific cultures are small and vulnerable. A common linguistic group consists of just a couple of thousand people, for example, deserve to have drastic aftermath for social survival. Indeed, many instances of "language death" - the disappearance of not just a spoken language however the social memory the goes with it - are on record.

Environmental pressures pose a significant threat to island communities. A typhoon can denude one atoll of life vegetation and also ruin all sources of groundwater. In Fiji and also Samoa, the damage from recent major storms to villages and also national framework will take years to rebuild.

Demographic trends might pose an even much more devastating threat. Having actually re-bounded from sharp populace declines after ~ the intrusion of europe diseases and also labor recruiters, many island societies now have some the the world"s highest possible birthrates. Population growth, although the fulfills island ideals for big extended families, is promptly outstripping the ability of the land to assistance subsistence lifestyles.


If the typical indigenous culture is one encapsulated decimal living tenuously on the spare part of a state, Oceanic peoples are anything however typical. Just in Australia, Guam, Hawaii, brand-new Caledonia, and brand-new Zealand are native Islanders decimal in their own homelands (see additionally comments ~ above Irian Jaya in the south-east Asia region).

Except for new Caledonia, which continues to be a French possession, Melanesian countries won independence throughout the 1970s and are now governed by native elites. However it is in the Melanesian part of the Pacific the the many serious political dilemmas have erupted. Just as "culture" and cultural survival room themes in an equipped rebellion ~ above Bougainville seek separation native Papua brand-new Guinea, cultural identity and integrity room invoked by the military government of Fiji come rationalize its refusal of rights to Indo-Fijians.

To more complicate the picture, local heritages contain part surprising elements. For example, nineteenth-century european missionaries met initial resistance in plenty of areas, but most Islanders long earlier integrated Christianity and its practices into their everyday lives. Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka, who orchestrated 2 coups in Fiji and also is currently prime minister there, seized strength in component to protect and also propagate Fijian Christian values along with those the chiefly custom.

Political independence has actually not been accompanied by financial independence. The Pacific Islands room the most aiddpendent region in the world. Foreign-owned multinational carriers extract timber, minerals, oil, fish, and other natural resources. Financial dependence has actually forced countless island governments to promote large-scale development, rapidly expand tourism, and accede to the military ambitions of past and present early american powers.

Since human being War II, planners have eyed the region"s broad open spaces, deep seas, and also sparse populace as best for military uses. After ~ the joined States obtained Japanese nests in the northern Pacific, it created a significant military basic in the Marshall Islands and also expanded that bases in Guam and also Hawaii. U.S. Designs on Palau as a feasible site for future armed forces operations have stalled decolonization and also produced nearly 20 years of chaos.

Some older Marshall Islanders also say that people War II never ended. Marshallese uncover confirmation the this in the revolution of a postwar labor camp into a nuclear-test variety and, now, a missile-tracking facility. The United states tested nuclear tools in the Marshall islands in the 1950s and also continues to use Kwajalein Atoll for missile tests. Start in 1993, the U.S. Strategy Target system program plans come launch four experiments a year indigenous Hawaii to Kwajalein because that ten years. Because that the residents of Bikini, Enewetak, and also Rongelap, nuclear trial and error has expected a social catastrophe, very first forcing people off your islands. And then prompting legislation suits that have actually generated substantial compensatory payments, which subsequently have produced enormous social problems.

The willingness the the citizens of Bikini and also Enewetak to engage in prolonged court battles to win the legal and economic resources essential to reclaim their residence islands testifies come the deep social and also symbolic value of ancestral lands. Because that all however the many urban Islanders, land continues to be in ~ the love of social identity. But population growth, development, and also militarization all threaten to after people"s relationship to the land and also hence come the methods that produce and reproduce community and social identity.

The political crisis on Bougainville bears stark testimony to the after-effects of mining unable to do awry. A conflict that started over aristocracy payments and also the eco-friendly effects the a huge copper mine escalated into a full-scale civil war that has actually claimed more island stays than were lost in human being War II once the islands were the site of two years that fighting.

There room grounds for optimism, however. Official establishments are start to identify the legal rights of indigenous civilization to ancestral lands. In 1992, Australian court recognized aboriginal rights to land owned at the time Captain James cook arrived 204 year ago. In new Zealand, the Waitangi Tribunal has actually been a forum for Maaori soil claims due to the fact that 1975. In Melanesia, postcolonial federal governments have moved to codify the legal rights of customary landowners and devolve the handling of land disputes to neighborhood "traditional" processes whenever possible.


Islanders whose seafaring ancestors discovered and resolved remote archipelagos remain enthusiastic travelers. Migration beyond the Pacific began when Cook and other explorers took curious Islanders come Europe. More recently, boosting numbers are settling in Pacific rim countries, worldwide migrations that have come to be a requirement as the human being market mechanism integrates the economic situations of island states.

Some human being migrate within Pacific archipelago states. Competition for land in addition to educational and economic methods push Islanders towards urban centers. Cultivation numbers that underemployed migrants problem Pacific towns and also cities. Youth gangs beset port Moresby, capital of Papua brand-new Guinea, whereby they are dubbed "rascals."

Although part migration is circular - human being eventually return to home islands - numerous migrants relocate permanently. Pacific countries now include comprehensive cities and also towns, but most federal governments are hard pressed come provide straightforward services, let alone employed opportunities, to urban migrants, countless of whom live in squatter settlements.

Other migrants travel additional within the Pacific or past to Australia, the united States, and Canada. Auckland has come to be the world"s biggest Polynesian city, with immigrants from Somoa, Tonga, and also the cook Islands. Guam attracts enhancing numbers of people from the Federated claims of Micronesia and the northern Marianas. Migrants might spark politics discord due to the fact that they complete with native populations for restricted resources. Progeny of Melanesian migrant laborers, who have lived in Australia for a century, space in conflict with Australian indigenous peoples over access to government-funded aid programs.

Some host countries have endeavored to limit immigration, however migration continues to be necessary. In part, the is the method small island says must resolve rapid population growth and minimal economic development. Economic remittances native migrants to their families back home administer a far-ranging part of the gross nationwide product of several Pacific states.

Migrations deserve to have radical consequences. In Saipan, among the Mariana Islands, the populace jumped fivefold from 10,000 come 50,000 in the 1980s, making the indigenous population a minority. Adaptation to life overseas necessarily challenges island patterns of kinship and also family life, although countless migrant communities sustain their identification through vigorous church organizations and also other, less formal methods. In the rotating credit associations that Honolulu"s Tongan community, civilization gather around the kava key weekly to raise money for members, frequently to support travel back to Tonga.


Volcanic and also coralline Pacific Islands often tend to possess beauty but couple of economic resources. Many states depend on outside funding for their development budgets - and, in part cases, their operation budgets. However, the sacrament of donors, to some level predicated on the islands" strategy importance, may well dwindle in a post-Cold war era.

Although still-vibrant subsistence economic climates shelter part island states, all profess an attention in sustainable development. However, the need for income, coupled v the paucity the exploitable resources and also the difficulties of running tiny economies that are separated by huge stretches that ocean, limit the choices for development. Thus, financial viability, not social and social consequences, often drives decision making, and also urban and political elites the invite exploitation because that the national good can find themselves in dispute with rural landowners.

Nickel mining proceeds in brand-new Caledonia in spite of the effects of air pollution on residential areas. Papua brand-new Guinea motivates copper and gold mining also though mine tailings pollute rivers and threaten people"s health. Overseas lumber companies, many based in Asia, room buying increase hardwoods stripped indigenous rain woodlands throughout the southwest Pacific. Even with the French nuclear experimentation moratorium, Islanders are afraid that Pacific Rim nations will proceed to recording nuclear and also other toxicity wastes in your ocean. Marshall archipelago entrepreneurs have entertained numerous dumping schemes, including the idea of filling lagoons through polluted floor from exit Hawaiian gas stations.

Economic circumstance encourages island claims to open themselves up to another, perhaps equally polluting, import. Pacific says capitalize ~ above the beauty beauty of their islands and also the diversity that their cultures to attract tourists, turning themselves and their land and seascapes into commodities.

Tourism"s results on aboriginal peoples vary. Tourism have the right to endanger the environment, administer poorly paid company jobs, and bastardize classic arts. On the various other hand, tourists can carry income and also information to rural communities. Assorted Pacific says are working to promote informed, regulated tourism the doesn"t weaken indigenous societies or guideline the ecological balance.

Even where tourists space scarce, Islanders currently encounter the people through videotape and also television. In most Pacific Islands, this technologies space too current to judge your effects. Their spreading popularity, however, and also the figure of Rambo and Kung Fu top top the many remote atolls and also reefs, testify come the prominence of pertains to for the state that the indigenous peoples of Oceania.


Center because that Pacific archipelago Studies, college of Hawaii, Honolulu, hello 96822.

Center for south Pacific Studies, school of Sociology, university of brand-new South Wales, Kensington, N.S.W. 2033, Australia.

Institute that Pacific Studies, university of the southern Pacific, P.O. Crate 1168, Suva, Fiji.

Link magazine, Solomon Islands breakthrough Trust, P.O. Crate 147, Honiara, Solomon Islands.

Pacific Islands breakthrough Program, East-West Center, Honolulu, hello 96848.

South Pacific Commission. Posting "Youth Link," a quarterly newsletter. BP D5, Noumea, CEDEX, brand-new Caledonia.

South Pacific Peoples foundation of Canada. Publishes "Tok Blong SPFF," a quarterly newsletter. 415-620 see St., Victoria, B.C. V8W 1J6, Canada.

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"Western Oceania: Caring because that the genealogical Domain," cultural Survival Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 2, 1991.