The traditional religions of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia are different, but there are common features. Common are the “great men” who, through personal skill, happiness and prestige, are able to influence nature and society. Happiness, mana, creates an immobility or sacrality, tapu (see taboo), which can be increased or decreased depending on the man’s ability in social, political or religious situations.
The world is affected by the dead, the mythical cultural heroes and the gods. The dead who live in their own world can be dangerous, but they can also help humans, especially their own relatives. The many messianic movements that spread in connection with the arrival of the Europeans were partly due to the belief that the whites had returned dead.
The deceased is buried twice, and in some places the skull is kept separately for cult use. On most islands, annual ceremonies are held for the dead, but the dead are also regularly consulted in connection with crisis situations, during the performance of ecstatic dances.
According to the myths, each generation was given rituals in ancient times, which were to be used to secure the course of the Universe, but which could also be used as black magic to destroy enemies. The genus performs annual ceremonies; Among other things, the first crops are celebrated.
The cultural heroes bestowed upon man the goods and evils of culture. The gods created the cosmos and are constantly interfering in the world. They manifest themselves both in nature and in their cult statues. In the more hierarchical societies, in Polynesia for example, each genus has a god who incarnates in the genus, and the young men are initiated into the cult of the god in connection with circumcision, skin incision or tattooing.
Northern Mariana Islands
Northern Mariana Islands, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, (named after Mariana of Austria, wife of Philip IV of Spain), archipelago of Micronesia in the Western Pacific; 477 km2, 69,250 residents (2000). The main city is Chalan Kanoa on Saipan. The islands have extensive autonomy in close cooperation with the United States, and the residents have American citizenship. The volcanic island chain is located where the Pacific plate shoots under the Philippine plate; at the meeting, the Marian Grave has been formed, the world’s deepest deep – sea grave (11,034 m).
The population lives predominantly on the main island of Saipan and is ethnically composed of chamorro of mixed Micronesian-European-Filipino origin as the main local group. A small group of early immigrant Carolingians seek to maintain a certain Micronesian cultural character, while society in general is strongly Americanized.
Tourism is the dominant profession; about 1/2 million. especially Japanese charter tourists come annually to Saipan’s large hotel complexes with golf courses. Saipan also has a significant textile industry, which can sell Made in the USA products at low prices with imported raw materials and cheap East Asian labor. Both the low wages, a poor working environment and the commercial exploitation of the islands ‘status give rise to protests from the United States’ own textile industry.
The first settlements in the Northern Mariana Islands took place no later than 1500 BC. The original Chamorro population had a complex clan structure that connected most of the islands in the Mariana chain. Magellan, who called at Saipan, Rota, and Guam in 1521, was the first European visitor, and he called the Islands the Twilight Islands (Islas de los Ladrones). In 1565, Spain formally seized power on the islands and later named them Islas Marianas. The Chamorroes frequently revolted, but were beaten down with a heavy hand, and the heavily decimated population was eventually moved to Guam. In the 1800’s. however, some descendants were allowed to return. After the Spanish-American War in 1898, the United States took control of Guam, while the rest of the Marianas in 1899 were sold to Germany. After World War I, Japan succeeded Germany as colonial master, and during World War II, the islands were the scene of bloody battles to serve as a base for the United States’ decisive attack on Japan in 1945 (see Tinian). From 1947, the Northern Mariana Islands were part of the US guardianship area; in 1986, the islands became an autonomous Commonwealth in union with the United States.
American Samoa is the eastern part of the Pacific Samoa archipelago with home rule under American sovereignty; 197 km2, 67,000 residents (2001). The US part includes the main island of Tutuila with the capital Pago Pago, the nearby Aunu’u, the Manu’a archipelago as well as the remote Rose Atoll and Swains Island.
The people are Polynesians and they are American citizens; many have emigrated to the United States. Following the American model, a kind of welfare state has developed, and many jobs are performed by imported labor, especially from the neighboring islands, the independent state of Samoa, while the natives are predominantly employed in the state service sector funded by transfers from the United States. In addition, the economy is characterized by two canned fish factories (tuna accounts for almost 100 percent of exports) and tourism. On the other hand, agriculture and local fishing have declined, outcompeted by imported canned food, e.g. in connection with American relief after the devastation of the recurring hurricanes.
The islands have been Americanized. The population of independent Samoa, 100 km to the west, has the same cultural background as American Samoa. A comparison shows how deeply and quickly the transfers from the United States have changed society. The standard of living has increased, but so have the problems of alcohol, welfare diseases and nature destruction.
Through the 1990’s, the population grew by 22 percent; almost all the growth has taken place in the capital Pago Pago.
The colony was formed in the year 1900, when Samoa was divided between the United States and Germany. The United States’ interest in eastern Samoa was mainly due to the deep-water port of Pago Pago, where in 1872 the United States had entered into an agreement to establish a naval base. After the annexation, which was accepted by the residents 1900-1904 and ratified by the US Congress in 1929, the colony was ruled by the US Navy. In 1951, the area passed to civilian rule under the Interior Ministry, locally represented by a governor. The Constitution of 1960 established a Legislative Assembly with a Senate, consisting of 18 matai (local leaders), elected according to traditional rules, and the House of Representatives with 20 elected members. Since 1978, the governor has also been elected by the people. American Samoa is represented in the United States Congress by one delegate with limited voting rights.