The Micronesians are not homogenous in culture or race

The Micronesians are not homogenous in culture or race. They are basically of Indo-Malayan origin, but have strong traces of Melanesian and Polynesian blood. The western Carolines have received some admixture from the Philippines. The islanders have received substantial elements of European, Negro, and Japanese blood. In general, the Micronesians are of medium height and well built. Their skin is light brown and their hair usually straight or wavy, although the Melanesian frizzy hair may occur. The peoples of the western Carolines show some mongoloid characteristics; those in the Ponape district show caucasoid features that they may have received from European and Polynesian admixtures. The people of the islands south of the Palau show the strongest Melanesian traces, whereas the atolls of Kapingamarangi and Nukuoro represent an almost pure Polynesian racial and cultural intrusion.


One of the major problems for the various administrations in the islands has been the distribution of the population in many small clusters spread over a great ocean area. This has made administration of the islands and their economic development difficult. The greatest population clusters are found on the high islands. Because of the greater concentration of people, it has been possible to accomplish more here in improving the medical and health situation, with the result that these islands today show a greater rate of population increase than the low islands. During the nineteenth century, with the first strong outside contacts, their population declined sharply.

The 1900 population of the islands has been estimated as 75 per cent less than that of 1800. The introduction of modern medicine and concepts of sanitation during the German and the Japanese occupation checked the decline, and on some of the islands the population is increasing today.


Language is another major problem of the area. The approximately 36,000 people of the Carolines speak eight distinctly different languages, and each of the languages is subdivided into dialects. On Kapingamarangi and Nukuoro a dialect of Polynesian is spoken. The Palauan language is thought to be of Indonesian origin, but it shows definite affinity with some of the Philippine languages. The language of the islands southeast of Palau and the Yapese, Uilithian, Trukese, Ponapean, and Kusaiean languages show close relationship to the languages of the northern Melanesian islands. There is no common language, although individuals, according to their age group, may speak Spanish, German, Japanese, or English. Everywhere the natives express a desire to learn English as rapidly as possible. They say that in the past they could not handle their rulers until they had command of the language of the new administrators.

Efforts to reduce the languages to writing have increased the confusion. Rival missionary groups have their own forms of grammar and spelling, each of which has considerable emotional backing among the natives. The efforts of government linguistic experts in the area since the end of the Second World War have in some cases resulted in merely another form of grammar and romanization rather than a generally accepted standard.

No comments: