• 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!

  • Tonga!

    Tonga: Coastline. Go Now!

    The heart of Polynesian culture is rooted in Tonga, but most visitors just come for the natural beauty. Explore Tonga!

  • Vanuatu!

    Vanuatu: Jetty into the ocean. Go Now!

    Picturesque serenity is a good way to describe Vanuatu, but the culture offers much more, including the inspiration for bungee jumping, which remains a rite of passage for young men. Explore Vanuatu!

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    Palau: "70 Islands!" Go Now!

    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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History of Nauru

The original inhabitants of Nauru is a mystery as some people believe the island was first settled in about 2000 BC, then various waves of settlers arrived to Nauru over time, primarily from Southeast Asia, but also possibly from Micronesia in the north and Polynesia in the west. Others believe people didn't settle Nauru until as late as 1200 AD when either Micronesians or Melanesians were shipwrecked off the coast and settled accidently. This theory supports the fact that Nauru is very inhospitable and if earlier settlers arrived they likely would have moved on to new islands where foods could be grown more easily.

No matter who the first settlers were, they and their descendants likely lived simple lives as they lived off the land. They acted as hunters, gatherers, and fishers to survive as coconuts, pandanus, and fish made up the bulk of their diets. This lifestyle lasted for thousands of years on Nauru, but specifics are lacking as there was no written history on the island until the Europeans arrived in the late 1700s. Based on the ethnicity of the people today it seems apparent that Micronesians, Melanesians, and Polynesians have all made an impact on the island, but it is questioned whether these groups of people arrived in successive waves or if they intermarried elsewhere then made their way to Nauru.

The first encounter with Europeans came in 1798 when a British ship approached the island. The encounter seemed friendly as Nauru was given the nickname "Pleasant Island" for years to come. More Europeans arrived in the early 1800s, at which time Nauru was a matrilineal society divided into 12 tribes. These tribes seemed to work together as local government was the focus of the people. The people also got along with sailors on passing ships as the island became known as a friendly trading post. Fish were often traded to passing ships in exchange for guns and alcohol.

Guns and alcohol were only the first bad imports to the islands. In the 1830s John Jones, an Irish convict, arrived and declared himself dictator. His rule was short-lived as the people exiled him in 1841. Further chaos and violence erupted in 1878 as the once peaceful tribes began warring and now had the firearms to inflict significant damage on each other.

The civil war ended in 1888 with German occupation; this led to the island being united with Germany's Marshall Islands. The German takeover was swift and forceful as it took all weapons from the people, ended the war, and forced the chiefs to accept German "protection."

The Germans altered the people by bringing in numerous missionaries, converting much of the population to Christianity, and it changed the political structure from one of chieftain rulers to the rule of a single king. It was also under the time of German rule, in 1900, that the people discovered phosphate deposits on the island. This resource later became the focus of the economy.

In the early 1900s, as World War I broke out in Europe, Germany lost possession of Nauru. The Australians took control of the island and its valuable phosphate deposits in conjunction with the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Like the time under the Germans, little was changed in Nauru by their controlling outside power, since the focus of occupation was exploitation of this natural resource.

With the outbreak of World War II Nauru was immediately attacked. First the Germans, then the Japanese, attacked Australian ships, the phosphate mines and oil supplies. By mid-1942 the Japanese had taken the island and soon the local people were victims of the war. From this point until 1945 the island was often attacked by both sides as the Nauruans were regularly killed by gun fire or died from disease as the lands were heavily polluted during this time.

The battles finally ended when Australia took control of the island from the Japanese in late 1945. After the war the Australians continued to protect the island, not granting Nauru full independence until 1968.

With independence also came the phosphate supplies. The independent government of Nauru bought rights to the phosphate mines from the British, Australian, and New Zealand owners, quickly making the country quite wealthy. However, the phosphate mines have since run out (in 2006) and the environmental damages done by this mining in the past led to lawsuits with Australia, who paid Nauru for damages. More importantly, the mining has destroyed much of the country's land.

The loss of phosphate is seriously challenging the future of Nauru as the entire economy was based on that single resource. The mining process also destroyed much of the lands, meaning farming and other common methods to support an economy are also questionable in the way of sustainability. As the people search for a new economy they struggle to find one. Money laundering is rampant and there was an incident with Afghan refugees who found their way to Nauru, but claimed to be treated poorly. It appears the government is nearly bankrupt and seeking a new future, although it cannot seem to find the right path.

In addition to these major political and economic struggles, Nauru has all but lost its soul. The traditional ways of life in the way of farming and fishing has been replaced by mining and shipping. However the mining and shipping industries have ended and in the process destroyed the farmlands and hurt the fishing industry as well. Today many people have lost both their jobs and their traditional culture and lifestyle in exchange for the short-lived wealth that came with the phosphate industry.

This page was last updated: February, 2013