- Micronesia

Micronesia

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Micronesia-Map-01-800

Micronesia is a subregion of Oceania, comprising thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It is distinct from Melanesia to the south, and Polynesia to the east. The Philippines lie to the west, and Indonesia to the southwest.

The name Micronesia derives from the Greek mikros (μικρός), meaning small, and nesos (νῆσος), meaning island. The term was first proposed to distinguish the region in 1831 by Jules Dumont d'Urville.

Geography

The following islands and groups of islands are considered part of Micronesia:

  • Caroline Islands, politically divided between  Palau and the  Federated States of Micronesia
  • Gilbert Islands, the main part of  Kiribati
  • Mariana Islands, politically divided between the United States territories of  Guam and the  Northern Mariana Islands
  •  Marshall Islands
  •  Nauru
  •  Wake Island, a United States Minor Outlying Island

Total Land Area: 1,229.95 square miles (3,185.6 km2)

History

The only empire known to have originated in Micronesia was based in Yap.

Much of the area came under European domination quite early. 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 Palau), creating the Spanish East Indies, which was governed from the Spanish Philippines.

Spanish-German Treaty of 1899

After the explosion of the Maine in Havana's Harbor sent by the U.S.A. to protect American commercial interests in Cuba, and the Spanish–American War in 1898, Spain lost many of its remaining colonies. Cuba became independent while the United States took possession of Puerto Rico and Spain's Pacific colonies of the Philippines and Guam. This left Spain with the remainder of the Spanish East Indies in the Pacific, about 6000 islands that were tiny, sparsely populated, and not very productive, and that were both ungovernable after the loss of the administrative center of Manila, and undefendable after the entire loss of two Spanish fleets in 1898 a year still known in Spain as the "Year of the national disaster" or "the loss of the 400 years Empire". The Spanish government therefore decided to sell them to a new colonial power: Germany.

The treaty was signed on February 12, 1899 by Spanish Prime Minister Francisco Silvela and transferred the Caroline Islands, the Mariana Islands, Palau and other possessions to Germany. The islands were then placed under control of German New Guinea.

Recent history

Full European colonization did not come, however, until the early 20th century, when the area would be divided between:

  • the United States, which took control of Guam following the Spanish-American War of 1898, and colonized Wake Island;
  • Germany, which took Nauru and bought the Marshall, Caroline, and Northern Mariana Islands from Spain; and
  • the British Empire, which took the Gilbert Islands (Kiribati).

During the World War I, Germany's Pacific island territories were seized and they 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. Following Japan's defeat in the Second World War, its mandate became a United Nations Trusteeship, the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, ruled by the United States.

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

People

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, Polynesians, and Filipinos. Because of this mixture of descent, many of the ethnicities of Micronesia feel closer to some groups in Melanesia, Polynesia or the Philippines. A good example of this are the Yapese who are related to Austronesian tribes in the Northern Philippines.[1]

Languages

The native languages of the various Micronesian indigenous peoples are classified under the Austronesian language family. Almost all of these languages belong to the Oceanic branch of this family, and mostly to the Micronesian languages division within that branch; however, two exceptions are noted in western Micronesia, which are Western Malayo-Polynesian languages:

  • Chamorro in the Mariana Islands
  • Palauan in Palau.

These are apparently no more closely related to Micronesian languages than they are to languages of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia (Kirch, 2000: pp. 166–167).

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

Regional organizations

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

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