• Solomon Islands!

    Solomon Islands: Looking up at palm trees. Go Now!

    Solomon Islands
    This Melanesian country is best known for its many islands and beaches... and this natural landscape (pictured) is why most people go. Don't miss out on the unique Melanesian culture and foods though! Begin Your Journey!

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    Tonga: Coastline. Go Now!

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  • Vanuatu!

    Vanuatu: Jetty into the ocean. Go Now!

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    Few people have even heard of this small Micronesian country, but those who have often return with stories of beauty unmatched elsewhere, such as view of the "70 Islands" (pictured). Go Now!

  • Explore the: Federated States of Micronesia!

    Federated States of Micronesia: Overlooking some islands. Go Now!

    Federated States of Micronesia
    This diverse country stretches for thousands of miles and has the diversity to prove it, including the people from Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Yap among others. Begin Your Journey!

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    Samoa: A traditional home. Go Now!

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History of the Federated States of Micronesia

The ancestors to today's residents of the Federated States of Micronesia may have arrived to the islands as early as 2000 BC. It seems likely that there have been a number of immigration waves across the islands, with most of these people arriving from Southeast Asia. It seems that this combination of people formed what is today known as the Micronesians.

Little is known about the earliest settlers, in fact little is known about any of the people prior to the arrival of the Europeans as there was no recorded history. Of the little that seems to be recorded and accurate, the people are believed to have lived off the land by hunting, gathering, and fishing. They likely had a political system based on family, regional, and/or tribal ties with each being led by a local chief. The people also probably lived simple lives and traveled from island to island by basic wooden canoes.

Over time it appears transportation and communication improved, because a number of centralized states arose. The first of these was centered in Yap and the second was centered in Pohnpei. Of the two, much more is known about the one based in Pohnpei, primarily because this state lasted from about 1000 AD to the late 1800s, and because this state essentially ruled the region when the Europeans colonized the islands.

According to oral tradition, the power in Pohnpei began with the arrival of the Saudleur Rulers, who were foreign, although it is not specified from where. Additionally, at this time there was a belief in higher beings as oral tradition states that these rulers eventually offended their deities and were overthrown. The Saudleur were overthrown by Isokelekel, who decentralized the government and who is credited as being the founder of the modern culture. Although little is known about this ruler or his descendants, what is known as that he is often times viewed as a model of the people and much of the culture is based on the principles he stood for (even if he may not have actually ever existed).

The people appreciated his belief in decentralized rule and even today the people of the Federated States of Micronesia place great value in their local tribes, families, and islands. They have never accepted strong centralized rule as every island is unique and the people tend to prefer rule on the local level, which says much about their culture, mindset, and the faith that they put in those they know well.

Written history, and knowledge about the people and their culture, only arrived in the 1500s with the arrival of the earliest Europeans. Among these early explorers, colonization wasn't sought and few stayed long enough to do more than drop off their European diseases, which killed much of the local population. The Portuguese were likely the first Europeans to arrive, but they didn't stay. Next came the Spanish who took control of the islands, but again didn't settle in great numbers.

Even these explorers did little to alter the people's culture or way of life, this changed in 1899 when Spain sold the islands to the Germans, after which point the Germans began settling a few of the islands and turned the islands into a communication hub. Despite this, the Germans had little interest in controlling the islands and the Micronesians continued to enjoy almost complete self-rule under their chiefs.

Power transferred to the Japanese in the early 1900s when the Germans were pre-occupied with World War I in Europe. The Japanese, unlike the Germans, settled the islands and by the 1920s about two-thirds of the population consisted of ethnic Japanese. The Japanese used the islands to grow numerous cash crops, including sugarcane, as well as a location for fishing, which supplied Japan with food.

Unlike the Germans, the Japanese settled these islands and forever altered the culture of the people. These changes came in many forms, including in the realms of food, politics, infrastructure, and technology as new products were introduced to the people.

As World War II approached, the island of Yap and Truk lagoon became heavily fortified by the Japanese, but the Allied forces bypassed Yap as it wasn't strategic in their goals to get to Japan itself. However Truk lagoon was strategic so was destroyed in 1944, essentially shifting power in the islands to the United States and the Allies as the Japanese retreated. The battles and bombings in the region destroyed most of the roads and industries the Japanese had built. After the war the people were essentially living in poverty, but now with a destroyed country and surrounding seas.

After the war, in 1946, the United Nations (UN) put the islands in the hands of the United States to act as a trustee until the UN could determine the future of the islands. From this point until 1979 the Caroline Islands (the island chain that makes up the modern Federated States of Micronesia) remained under US protection as the infrastructure was re-constructed and other improvements were made, although the process moved very slowly.

Perhaps the greatest impact the United States made on these islands came in their focus to encourage a free market economy. This goal, to make the islands self-sufficient, encouraged entrepreneurship, education, and trade among the people and by the time the country gained independence they had many of these skills, but more importantly the mindset to succeed economically. This changed their culture in numerous ways, especially in the form of shifting complete trust to a local leader to a belief in competition and economic self-determination.

In 1979 the United States granted the Federated States of Micronesia independence and since that time the political scene has been fairly peaceful and quiet. The greatest political splashes have come with the United States. The two nations work together in a free association, which means the United States is in control of the Federated States of Micronesia's defense. Beyond this agreement, the United States, and other foreign countries, have allowed the country to grow in their own direction, which they have done quite successfully.

This page was last updated: February, 2013