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History and Analysis of Pacific Islands

Origins of the People

The timeline of the pacific islands’ prehistory relates to the period 33,000 years ago before writing records. Migration in the islands began more than 40,000 years ago, from the history of archaeology in the archipelago of Bismarck. All islands had been inhabited by the 2nd millennium. Europeans arrived in the 16th century. They heavily influenced the culture of the pacific islands, their economic situation too to a certain degree; first through their passing as they explored and lastly, more permanently when they settled there. In the 19th and 20th centuries, many settlers arrived; people came in as laborers mainly of Indian and Chinese descent. Europeans too arrived as administrators of the islands during the period of colonialism. The people who came as missionaries and through immigration have made up most of the island population recently. Documentation of the history of the islands is mainly from the lenses of the European viewpoint (Goldberg, 2017). Therefore, the documentation may have been written with bias and not an accurate account of the cultures and histories of the true island people because the Europeans had no credible knowledge and wrote based on their perception and what they thought.

The pacific islands are highly diverse, with many islands scattered across the area, a variety of cultures, many languages, and various histories make up the islands. Jules-Sébastien-César Dumont d’Urville, a navigator, engaged in exploring, named islands into several Melanesian, Micronesian, and Polynesian regions. The people from the different islands had separate ethnicities which differ from the people who hail from the southeast side of Asia- there was a theory, but it has been discredited, that claimed that Polynesians hailed from southern America. The differences amongst the people who inhabit the islands owe credit from mixing an original settlement of people who don’t speak Australian languages. The earliest forms of settling in Melanesia started 33,000 years ago. Experts in linguistics use chronological changes in sound to relate to the timing and place of dispersing of language groups. Still, several linguistic variants of the pacific islands are not yet studied or classified. Research has been undertaken on genetics to determine the connections amongst modern human groups, therefore showing migrations of the past, though system sampling hasn’t yet been undertaken. New evidence has contributed to disagreement by prehistorians about Lapita cultural complex; it might have arrived in Fiji with immigrants who came by sea. There is also a disagreement on how Lapita culture, which links with Polynesians, moves from southeast Asia through Melanesia through Fiji and then to eastern Polynesia. Marianas are thought to have settled in 1500 BCE. The occupation of the Society Islands happened in the 9th century.

By the time Europeans came into contact with the original inhabitants of the islanders, they had some technological development based on forms like stone, bone, and shell objects, and they were mainly farming tuber and tree fruits, which were of south Asian origin. Studies of genetics have shown that some of the cultigens were adapted to areas like a new guinea. They also domesticated animals like pigs. Navigating through the islands and between them was developed, and trading was regular.


Contact between the islands has always been a challenge owing to the distances involved. The physical environments are isolated and with significant variations. Melanesia has varied landscapes, climates, types of soil, and varied terrain contributing to isolation from the other islands. The islands are small in size and can support human settlement at better levels. The environment encompassing the various islands is not a determinant of the societies found there, but they are also a form of limitation. Melanesia, a large island, contains a profound cultural difference between the people living on the coast and those settled in the interior, primarily those living in the valleys isolated from others. Therefore, Melanesia comprises many small groups of people who have broad divisions due to languages and customs.

There were few factors in politics and societal organizations because families and communities expended their energy on gathering food and other necessary commodities they needed. The islands of Polynesia had no problems with social and political unity. They are fertile, thus allowing the development of a broad activity of social, religious, and political activities. The geographical and cultural contrast between the islands, which was evident to earliest visitors from Europe, concealed a similarity that all the island’s societies rested on reciprocation.

Migration and Cultural Identity

I learned that the islanders are enthusiastic and avid travelers owing to their forefather’s navigation skills when they first settled there. Migration beyond the Pacific started when cook and others who shared curiosity about exploration went to Europe. In recent times, more people have begun to settle in the Pacific Rim nations. Migrations globally have become necessary when the global market system joins the economies of the island nations. The migration of people between the islands has also become common (Gunson, 201). Despite being diverse, the pacific islands’ societies are small and vulnerable as many distinct linguistic groups comprise only a few thousand people. It has significant effects on the survival of their cultures. Indeed, many issues result in death of languages by the disappearance and the memory of their culture.

Land subdivisions and the competitiveness arising from its need and the need for quality education and economic opportunities push the islanders in urban areas (FAO, 2020). High levels of unemployment have become a significant threat to the island’s towns and cities. For instance, the growth of youth gangs in Papua New Guinea has been attributed to this. When islands migrate to other nations outside their homelands, they rarely return but settle in those places permanently. The islands now have modern hubs of big urban centers and developments. Most of their governments are under pressure to provide basic service and employment opportunities to urban dwellers, most living under poor conditions.

Migration by the islanders to other places far away from their nations to places like Australia, the United States, and Canada is common. Oakland, California, currently hosts the most significant Polynesian population, mainly from Samoa, Tonga, and the Cook Islands. Migrants can bring tensions because they compete with the local populations for resources that are in limitation. For instance, people of Melanesian descent who trace their origins to migrant laborers are in tension with Aboriginal people of Australia over accessing assistance programs funded by the government. Some of the countries have proposed to limit immigration, yet it’s necessary to migrate. The small islands have to deal with the increase in their population growth and the limited economic development. Whatever the migrant families make in their adopted nations, they remit the money back home, contributing to a big part of the gross national products in the island’s economy. Immigrations from the islands also have radical repercussions. For example, In Saipan, a Mariana Island, the population jumped by 40,000 from 10,000 to 50,000 people in the 80’s. Due to this, the natives became the minority.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors are a threat to the pacific island societies owing to the instability of climate. For instance, a tropical typhoon may take a toll on the environment and ruin resources. Recently, Fiji and Samoa have had significant storms that have destroyed housing and national infrastructure, taking some time to rebuild (McNamara et al., 2021). Climate change is the most urgent political, economic, and environmental issue in the pacific islands. A wide range of climatic catastrophes occurs in the pacific islands, leading to massive destructions and threatening the future of the pacific islands. If the global community doesn’t take measures, climate change will result in vast, irreversible destruction to the pacific islands in the future.

Most of the small islands in the pacific region have very low sea level surfaces, mostly just a few meters above sea level. The rise of ocean levels and other related climatic changes poses a threat to these islands’ existence. The existential environmental changes are leading to the deaths of people every year in many pacific islands. Tuvalu, Kiribati, and the Marshal Islands are already dealing with a rise in sea level, affecting their rich lands for agriculture and contaminated drinking water sources.

The pacific islands have realized these threats, have lobbied and advocated for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and actively supported the Paris agreement on climate by other first-world nations (Luetz & Nunn, 2020). For the pacific islands, land and the oceans significantly impact the economic, political, and cultural significance. For instance, they generate a lot of revenue from fishing. The tourism industry is also a significant revenue generator due to the pacific islands’ pristine, untouched environments. Agriculture is also another sector that generates revenue, especially for the rural populations.

Climate change and unpredictable weather occurrences significantly affect these revenue-generating sectors and have left the populations poorer and dependent on aid for survival. Climate change affects food security and health, making the pacific islands inhospitable to support human populations. It has necessitated the migration of climate refugees to other nations. For instance, Kiribati and Tuvalu have procured land in Fiji to move their affected people. People living in low-lying areas were moved to higher grounds in Fiji because of rising sea levels. Although moving people to safer places is effective, it is not a sustainable solution to climate change.

Politics of Culture

I have learned that the pacific islands are not your typical states. In the islands of Australia, Guam, Hawaii, New Caledonia, and New Zealand, the natives make up the minority of the populations in their homelands (Oakes, 2019). New Caledonia is the only state under foreign rule as the French governs it; as for the least of the Melanesian nations, they acquired their independence during the 70s and are now under the leadership of local elites.

The Melanesian section of the pacific islands has experienced more political turmoil. Like the issue of culture and how it will survive are reasons for rebelling on Bougainville seeking cessation from Papua new guinea, culture and identity issues are used by the military authority of Fiji to defend denying rights Indo-Fijians (Fraenkel et al., 2019). Furthermore, local traditional practices contain some peculiar elements. For instance, in 19 century, the missionaries who came from Europe were initially resisted in many areas. Still, most island inhabitants accepted Christianity a long time ago and adopted it in their daily lives. Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka, who led two coups in Fiji and is the current prime minister, used Christianity to orchestrate a power seizure in conjunction with Fijian customs. However, gaining political independence from the pacific islands has not brought forth economic autonomy. The islands are the biggest dependents of foreign aid.

Foreign-owned multinationals exploit the pacific islands for their rich natural resources like timber, minerals, oil, fish, and other natural resources. Economic dependence has led many pacific islands governments to promote large-scale developments, the rapid expansion of tourism, and accession to military ambitions of the past and current colonial authorities (Westoby et al., 2021). From the time of world war two, planners have had an eye on the region because of its wide-open spaces, deep seas, and a sparse population that make the islands a big attraction and ideal for military use. After the United States got hold of japan colonies in the north pacific, it developed a significant military base in the Marshall Islands. It increased its bases in Guam and Hawaii. The United States has identified Palau as having the possibility of future military operations. The act has led to stalling of its decolonization and led nearly two decades of chaos, leading some of the older Marshall citizens to say that world war two never ended. The people from Marshall see these sentiments evidenced in the transformation of postwar labor camps into nuclear testing ranges and a missile tracking base. The United States started testing nuclear weaponry in Marshall in the 1950s and continued this precedence using Kwajalein atoll missile tests.

The political chaos in Bougainville is a result of mining activities gone wrong. The conflict began due to royalty payments and the effects on the environment brought by copper mining. It boiled over into a full-scale civil war that led to the death of many islanders than those lost during the Second World War when war was waged on the islands for two years. However, some positives are that some official institutions have recognized indigenous peoples’ rights and their ancestral land. In 1992, Australian courts acknowledged indigenous rights to land owned by Captain James Cook, who acquired it after arriving in the country. In New Zealand, the Waitangi Tribunal has provided a platform for the Maori claim to their land since 1975. In Melanesia, governments formed after independence secured the rights of customary landowners by devolving land dispute resolutions to the local traditional process.

“Development” And Cultural Survival

The pacific islands possess a lot of beauty but have minimal resources for development. Most of the states depend on foreign donors for their budgets. However, money from former donors who were eager to provide help has reduced since the end of the cold war. They mainly were enthusiastic about assisting the pacific islands due to their strategic positions. The pacific islands are in the process of reshaping their economies to sustainability levels and ensuring developments in their nations. The island’s development is hindered by a lack of money, dwindling natural resources, and the challenges of running small economies separated by vast ocean stretches. Therefore, economic viability and not a culture of social consequences are the main factor when making decisions. The elites who bring over-exploitation for the national good may often conflict with those who own rural areas.

The mining of nickel is still ongoing in New Caledonia, disregarding its effects on people’s health. Papua New Guinea is supportive of the exploitation of copper and gold, despite the activities polluting drinking water sources and posing a danger to the native’s health. Foreign multinationals that deal with lumber have desecrated the pristine forests covers of the pacific islands. Due to their poverty levels, the pacific islands have allowed uncontrolled and unregulated tourism to thrive (Tolkach & Pratt, 2019). It has positively brought the much-needed money to these islands, but on the other hand, it comes bearing some negative consequences. Tourism leads to pollution of the natural environment through dumping of wastes which has weak and ineffective regulations. It also leads to the desecration of traditional artifacts as the newcomers do not understand their significance but see them as just objects of amusement. However, tourism has also brought much-needed information to rural communities. Demographic trends also pose a threat to the pacific island nations. They have one of the highest population growth rates globally, putting a lot of pressure on the limited resources to support this population bursting up.

The significance of the pacific islands cannot be understated. First, their waters provide a key passage linking the American continent to Asia. Due to their rich waters, fish and other marine resources are plentiful in these regions, and the global fishing industry benefits immensely from these resources (Hanich et al., 2018). The pacific islands also host critical military bases, especially for the United States of America, and critical testing sites for nuclear weaponry. Due to the pristine nature of some of the pacific islands, the beauty of their natural environment and beaches is attractive for tourists, ensuring that many foreigners visit these nations annually to experience the tropical climates and the nature that the islands have to offer. Despite all these beauty and strategic positioning of the pacific islands, most nations have a wide range of problems resulting from internal and foreign actions. The world’s leading economies, including the United States of America, have always taken advantage of the richness of these nations in terms of natural resources and strategic locations to exploit them. They use their multinationals for resource exploitations and the establishment of military bases and nuclear testing sites, all of which compound to spoil the pristine environment and affect the health and wellness of the island populations. Climate change issues are devastating the pacific islands, with some like Kiribati on the verge of sinking, yet the islands’ contribution to the global climate crisis is minimal. The developed nations keep mum as climate refugees seek to migrate from their homelands due to the climate crisis. The overexploitation of the natural resources of the pacific islands has left them poorer and necessitated their dependence on foreign aid. The ruling governments also do not help the situation as they are liable for the many ills affecting their nations by allowing corruption to thrive. The Pacific nations are some of the most beautiful places on earth, but their future is threatened by the compounding factors of bad governance and climate change.


Fraenkel J., Firth S., & Naidu V. (2019). Postcolonial political institutions in the South Pacific islands : A survey : Part 2 : politics and political economy.

Goldberg, W. M. (2017). An introduction to the tropical Pacific and types of Pacific islands. The Geography, Nature and History of the Tropical Pacific and its Islands, 1-38.

Gunson, N. (2017). Island ministers: Indigenous leadership in nineteenth-century Pacific islands Christianity. By Lange raeburn. Canberra, Australia: Pandanus books in association with MacMillan Brown centre for Pacific studies, 2005. 440 pp. Church History76(1), 223-225.

Hanich, Q., Wabnitz, C. C., Ota, Y., Amos, M., Donato-Hunt, C., & Hunt, A. (2018). Small-scale fisheries under climate change in the Pacific islands region. Marine Policy88, 279-284.

Luetz, J. M., & Nunn, P. D. (2020). Climate change adaptation in the Pacific islands: A review of faith-engaged approaches and opportunities. Climate Change Management, 293-311.

McNamara, K. E., Westoby, R., & Chandra, A. (2021). Exploring climate-driven non-economic loss and damage in the Pacific islands. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability50, 1-11.

Oakes, R. (2019). Culture, climate change and mobility decisions in Pacific small island developing states. Population and Environment40(4), 480-503.

Tolkach, D., & Pratt, S. (2019). Globalisation and cultural change in Pacific island countries: The role of tourism. Tourism Geographies23(3), 371-396.

Westoby, R., Clissold, R., McNamara, K. E., Latai-Niusulu, A., & Chandra, A. (2021). Cascading loss and loss risk multipliers amid a changing climate in the Pacific islands. Ambio.

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