Pacific Islanders

Topics: Polynesia, Oceania, Pacific Ocean Pages: 3 (750 words) Published: April 1, 2006
Oceania, or the Pacific region, was explored and colonized approximately 1000 years ago by Austronesian-speaking peoples. It is important to note that the Pacific Islands lend themselves to a study of the contrasts between tribes and states and the development of political scale cultures such as chiefdoms.

Oceania is divided into 3 ethnogeographic regions: Melanesia, or the "black islands", Polynesia, or the "many islands", and Micronesia, or the "tiny islands". Predictably, Europeans found it easier to deal with the Polynesians due to their lighter skin, as peoples from Melanesia were discriminated against because of their dark skin and almost African appearance.

The sequence of colonization starting with Taiwan and the Philippines and then along costal New Guinea is supported by the discovery of a distinctive style of pottery known as Lapita. Also noteworthy, is that canoes and sophisticated navigation techniques like memorizing sequences of stars made discovery and navigation possible, and were vital to the colonization of the Pacific Islands.

Those who settled in the Pacific region used two systems for subsistence – fishing and gathering, and gardening. Trees, such as coconut, provide both fruit and building materials. However, taro is by far the most important and abundant plant food resource. Women spent over 2 hours a day cultivating and harvesting Taro. Men spent 5 hours at a time fishing to produce 9 pounds of fish. Fishermen of this region were quite sophisticated in the types of traps they used to catch fish. Fish were also relatively abundant, being able to support 110 people per year, and providing nearly 10% of the world's fish supply.

Pacific Islanders lived in politically centralized chiefdoms before the commercial world intruded. In contrast to tribes, chiefdoms required social transformation. These chiefdoms were restrictive of human freedoms and distributed power unequally. Accordingly, they had to be maintained through force...
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