Torres Strait Islanders - History and Cultural Relations

Traditional history holds that the current Torres Strait Islands were originally settled by people from Papua, and linguistic and material cultural evidence suggests ties to Australian Aboriginal peoples as well. What is certain is that there was trade between the islanders and both Papuan and Aboriginal peoples long before contact with Europeans, and the influences of these trading partners are apparent in a wide range of material and cultural elements of Torres Strait Society even today. The islands were first sighted by Europeans in the early 1600s but were largely ignored until the 1770 voyage of Captain Cook, shortly after which the straits became regularly traveled. These early contacts were largely incidental to the European use of the straits en route elsewhere, such as the British colony of New South Wales. By the middle of the 1800s, however, the straits attracted trepangers and pearlers whose impact upon island life was rather more dramatic: Islanders were forced to work, and women were often abducted. By 1863, Queensland had established a colonial post in the islands, and in 1871 the London Missionary Society landed teachers on Darnley Island. Conversion of the islanders to Christianity and to participation in the pearling industry was swift. The conflicting goals and aims of the colonial administration vis-à-vis those of the society resulted in the withdrawal of the society and the entry of the Anglican church. Pentecostalism, introduced by islanders who had worked on the mainland, began attracting a strong following in the Islands by the late 1930s. The annexation of the islands by Queensland was completed by 1879. In 1898, elected Councils were established, but economic control of island life remained, and still largely remains, in outsiders' hands. Islanders participated in World War II, and memories of those "army days" inspired islanders to the effort of gaining full citizenship and civil rights—an effort that continues to this day.

Also read article about Torres Strait Islanders from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: