Kapingamarangi - History and Cultural Relations

According to local legend, the present Polynesian population is descended from Ellice Islands castaways of some 600-700 years ago (possibly supplemented by immigrants from Samoa). They arrived to find a small resident population (presumably Mortlockese) whom they appear to have culturally absorbed. Once settled, this population was extremely isolated, the only contacts being with castaways from the Gilbert Islands, the Mortlocks, the Marshall Islands, and Woleai. The latter two were culturally the most significant, with the Woleaians introducing plant medicines, sorcery, and a very important group fishing method, while the Marshallese slaughtered over half the Kapinga population in 1865. The first European ship entered the lagoon and established direct contact with the islanders in 1877. Thereafter, ships from Rabaul visited the atoll periodically, trading Western goods for copra. These contacts resulted in the introduction of both Western goods and plants and techniques from other islands. When the Japanese colonial administration assumed control of Micronesia from the Germans in 1914, shipping, trade, and travel became regular features of Kapinga life. With the constant need for labor on Pohnpei (a district center), men were taken there as work crews on road gangs and plantations. In 1919 the Japanese administration granted the Kapinga land in Kolonia to house emigrants to Pohnpei. This settlement, called Porakied village, has grown over the years to its present population of about 600, and it has been there that Kapingamarangi people have had their most intensive contacts with other islanders. Regular ship visits between Pohnpei and the atoll facilitate a flow of people, which increased in frequency after World War II and the advent of the United States Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands that succeeded the Japanese colonial administration. While the Japanese were interested mainly in commercial development, the United States has emphasized economic and political Development, bringing people to Pohnpei for training to run Development programs on the atoll. In 1979, Pohnpei District became a state of the Federated States of Micronesia, and Kapingamarangi is now a municipality of Pohnpei State, with its own constitution.

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