The Micronesian nation, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, is made up of two coral deposit chains on submerged volcanoes in the Pacific Ocean. These chains, also called coral atolls, form over 1,000 smaller island over nearly a million square miles. The Marshall Islands are one of the world’s only four atoll nations and one of the youngest nations, only gaining independence in 1986.
It is said that initial settlers came to these islands from Southeast Asia, brining with them maritime and agricultural practices. The Spanish were the first Europeans to sail through the Marshall Islands, followed by the British, Russians, US Mutineers and Missionaries, Germans and Japanese. In the end, after serious fighting in World War Two, it was the Americans who took over the Marshall Islands for several decades. Even after gaining independence, the United States still controls the island’s security and defense, and sends millions of dollars in financial aid every year. The islands of Bikini and Enewetak were also used for post-war nuclear weapon testing by the Americans, and although they paid compensation to the test victims, the islands are still uninhabitable.
Marshallese culture holds great importance in kinship and land rights, with people here live in extremely close-knit communities. Land is handed down from generation to generation, and even family events become large ones in terms of cultural significance. While most of the population is indigenous, the history of the Marshall Islands gives way to a certain amount of mixed German, American and Japanese Marshallese and people here speak both English and Marshallese. In terms of art, Marshall Islanders have a long established use of traditional designs in a range of practices, from tattooing to handicrafts. Music on the Marshall Islands also has a long history, and is most commonly found in forms of ‘roro’, a form of traditional chanting, ‘beet’ and ‘jobwa’, a traditional stick dance. A lot of the books written about the Marshall Islands reflect the US involvement and the history here, such as D-Days in the Pacific, The Marshall Islands, 1944 and Tarawa and the Marshalls.