We’re pulling up anchor and sailing to the tiny island nation of Palau. Decades as an American territory, combined with a long history of human habitation, a traditional tribal structure, and diverse cultural influences make Palau one of the most exciting and dynamic Pacific nations.
Want to learn more about Palau?
- Palauan Capital: Ngerulmud
- Largest City in Palau: Koror
- Palau Population: 17,948 (224th)
- Total Area of Palau: 465.55 km² (196th)
- Official Languages of Palau: Palauan, English
- Palau Currency: US dollar ($) (USD)
History of Palau
Human habitation in Palau occurred thousands of years ago, thanks to exploration by larger populations in nearby in Indonesia and the Philippines. For over a millennium, various tribes and peoples (allegedly including Pygmy people) lived on the islands. It wasn’t until the European age of exploration that Palau’s fate began to change.
Colonization in Palau
Europeans first spotted Palau during Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe. Though included in the Philippine territory, the lands weren’t officially ‘discovered’ until 1697 when a Czech missionary used local accounts of the islands to draw a map. In the coming years, the Spanish Empire exercised their control of the islands; with Palau an especially popular stop for Jesuit missionaries. By the 18th century other powers became interested in the islands, including the British, however Spain eventually sold Palau to Germany. In 1914, Japan annexed the islands and was formally granted control of Palau by the League of Nations after WWI.
After remaining under Japanese control for decades, the US captured Palau in 1944 after an arduous battle. In 1947, the UN ratified American ownership of Palau, beginning a new era of the island country that would last into the 70’s and 80’s.
After the formation of the nearby Federated States of Micronesia in 1979, Palau opted for independence instead of joining the federation. After America approved a constitution Palau became a republic in 1981, but official independence wasn’t until 1994. Though it is no longer governed by the US, Palau does have a Compact of Free Association with America and relies on the US for defense, investment and military security.
One of the most enduring elements of Palauan culture is the matrilineal system, where descent is traced through the female line instead of the male. The ‘traditional’ government and federation system also hold a major place in Palau, with clans and chieftains an important part of society.
Flag of Palau
The Palauan flag consists of a light blue background with a yellow circle just slightly left of centre. The blue does not represent the ocean, but is instead a representation of the transition to self-rule while the circle is the full moon – believed to be the best time for human activity.
Food in Palau
Palau has its own traditional cuisine, mostly in line with other parts of Oceania. Locally produced food includes yam, potato, fish, pork, taro, and cassava, as well as a unique desert called ‘tama’. Despite this, Western food is very popular – especially among the younger population.
Sports in Palau
Baseball has been popular in Palau since the days of Japanese administration in the 1920’s. Soccer is also popular, though the national team is not a full member of FIFA.
Geography of Palau
Palau is an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, which is made up of more than 250 islands, with eight main ones. The biggest settlement by far is Koror, where about 2/3 of the entire population lives.
Facts about Palau
- The country is also known as Belau
- About 20% of Palauan live outside the country at any time
- There is a House of Traditional Leaders in Koror made up of 10 chiefs
- There are no colleges or universities in Palau
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