By Anne Sutherland
I recently visited Palau – one of the chain volcanic islands formed as the Earths Philippine Plate rode up over the Pacific Plate. Eventually coral & guano l (bird pooh) formed fringing reefs around the extinct volcanic rock & today Palau consists of over 250 island – most limestone (the Rock Islands). The coral reefs developed abundant marine life
Carbon Dating of cave burials show a pygmy population, presumably the result of insular dwarfism, from at least 3,000, and perhaps as long as 4,500 years ago until about 900 years ago (1000–2500 BCE until ca. 1100 CE). Palau was at one time occupied by perhaps Philippine people 3-4000 years ago & people of unknown lineage who carved the Monolyths – pottery dated 150AD, but eventually Melanesian seafarers settled the islands. They have a Matriarchal society & the women choose the man to be chief of their clan.
Early contact with European society was with whalers, traders & missionaries & their diseases killed about 1/3 of the people. German missionaries about 18th century were tolerant & only removed the most shocking practices. Their studies were observant & sympathetic to local practices. Then Spain followed in1500AD. Modern Palau consists of 16 clan States – 10 of which are based on Babeldaob – the largest & mostly volcanic island.
1900s Japanese came & set up scientific studies such as clam farming & schooling. During World War 2 30,000 Japanese occupied the islands – occupying villages & gardens & forcing Palauans into the forest – about 1/3 starved to death. Japanese headquarters were set up in caves & camouflaged buildings & as the US landed to free the people towards the end of the war there was heavy bombing & a further 1/3 local people died.
The Clans now form 16 States – 14 of which are on the largest island – Babeldaob. They gained independence 1994 & have a President.
At the meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan – Pew Environment Group Palau declared its “waters a shark sanctuary in 2009, and today has announced that they will also be a whale and dolphin sanctuary. (more than 600,000 square kilometers/230,000 square miles)”.
Money from Japan, US & Taiwan assists Palau now – US stewardship ends in 2030s. Their main income comes from diving eco-tourism, war relics on land & under water & their unique ancient places. The people are really friendly & knowledgeable.
You can reach Anne by leaving a comment on the story below – Ed