Micronesia

Location: Oceania
Status: UN Country
Capital City: Palikir
Population: 118,000
Area: 700 km2
Currency: 1 US dollar = 100 cents
Languages: English
Religions: Christian

Micronesia is the name of a region in the Pacific Ocean. The Philippines lie to the west, Indonesia to the south west, Papua New Guinea and Melanesia to the south, and Polynesia to the south-east and east.

Geography and history

This region of Oceania consists of many hundreds of small islands spread over a large region of the western Pacific.

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

The term "Micronesia" was first proposed to distinguish the region in 1831 by Jules Dumont d'Urville; before this the term "Polynesia" was in use to generally describe the islands of the Pacific.

Politically, Micronesia is divided between eight territories:
the Federated States of Micronesia (sometimes referred to simply as "Micronesia", or alternatively abbreviated "FSM" which are 4 state: Kosrae, Yap, Pohnpei, Chuuk);
the Republic of the Marshall Islands;
the Republic of Palau;
the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands;
the Republic of Nauru;
the Republic of Kiribati;
the Territory of Guam.
the Territory of Wake Island.

Much of the area was to come under European domination quite early. Guam, the Northern Marianas, and the Caroline Islands (what would later become the FSM and Palau) were colonized early on by the Spanish. Full European expansion did not come, however, until the late 19th century, when the area would be divided between:
the United States, which took control of Guam during 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 First World War, Germany's Pacific island territories were taken from it and were made into League of Nations Mandates. Nauru became an Australian mandate, while Germany's other territories were given as mandates to Japan. This remained the situation until Japan's defeat in the Second World War, when its mandates became a United Nations Trusteeship ruled by the United States, the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Today, all of Micronesia (with the exceptions of Guam and Wake Island, which are U.S. territories, and the Northern Mariana Islands, which is a U.S. Commonwealth) are independent states.

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 subgroup of this family; however, three exceptions are noted in Western Micronesia, which belong to the Western Malayo-Polynesian subgroup:

Chamorro and Tanapag in the Mariana Islands,
Yapese in the Federated States of Micronesia, and
Palauan in Palau.
This latter subgroup also includes most languages spoken today in 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.

The native people of the Island of Yap used large, circular limestones, sometimes as large as a car, as money. There was a limited supply of these stones and when a dowry had to be paid or a transaction made, the locals would get together and roll the father's or the buyer's stone to the person receiving it. The stones are still used, but only ceremonially. There is one stone in the Money Museum of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond in downtown Richmond, Virginia.

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