Nissan - History and Cultural Relations

Most scholars agree that the Nissan people are Melanesians of Bukan origin, some believing that Nissan was first occupied by Polynesians and later overrun by Bukans. New Ireland cultural influence is also evident on Nissan. The Dutch explorers Jacob Le Maire and Willem Schouten were the first Europeans to sight Nissan in 1616. Abel Tasman again sighted the group in 1643 and Philip Carteret in 1767. By the 1870s European recruiters were taking islanders to work on plantations in Queensland, Fiji, and Samoa. After 1885, the Forsayth Company based in New Britain established a coconut plantation on Nissan. In 1890, Georg Schmiele, an Official with the German colonial government, also based in New Britain, visited Nissan to investígate the murder of the resident Forsayth trader. He recorded local customs, mapped the atoll group, and identified it by what he assumed to be the Islanders' own name for it, Nissan. Australia took over New Guinea in 1914, and Nissan eventually became part of the Bougainville District. In 1926 Catholic missionaries from the Society of Mary extended their influence to Nissan, the first priest being stationed there in 1939. In 1942 the Japanese forcibly occupied Nissan, remaining there until a joint American-New Zealand force expelled them. The Allies built a base on Nissan, relocating most islanders for the duration of the war to Aola on Guadalcanal, where many died of Malaria. After the war a civilian Australian administration reestablished control; it was replaced in 1975 by the government of Papua New Guinea. Also, after the war, mission-run grade schools opened, and high school and trade schools exist there now as well.

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