|Preserving Paradise: The Marshall Islands||
Early Marshallese stick navigation charts...don't even ask me if i know how to decipher this...
What's in a name...
Around the 2nd millenium B.C., which was about 4,000 years ago, the first Micronesian inhabitants called the island "Aelon Kein Ad", which means "our islands". This was the first name the island ever had, until English settler John Marshall gave the Island it's permanent name, the Marshall Islands, or formally known as The Republic of the Marshall Islands.
The Marshallese also sometimes refer to their islands as the Ralik-Ratak chain-names given to the two chains of islands and atolls that make up the Marshall Islands. Ratak means "sunrise", and Ralik means "sunset." This is a huge symbol in their national flag, as the stars on the flag represent the chains.
In Marshallese Legends, the Islands are referred to as
A Brief History of the Marshalls
While Germany was looking for someplace to conquer, most of Africa and Asia were taken by other European powers, but then there was the Marshall Islands. Germany paid Spain 4.5 million dollars to take over the islands during the 1800s, until World War I, when Japan took over.
One witness in a Marshallese book of stories recounts the experience as such:
"We were treated like slaves"
The Japanese forced their culture, religion, and language on the Marshallese. Schools were taught in Japanese, they moved 1,000 of their citizens to the tiny atolls, and installed air strips and military bases.
During WWII, after Pearl Harbor riled up the not-yet-involved United States in 1941, the United States took over the Marshalls for strictly strategic military purposes, setting up base on the Kwajalein Atoll. There was a bloody invasion to gain hold of the Marshalls, but the locals and natives, over time, soon saw this US military strategy to their advantage.
During WWII, the Marshall Islands entered into a Trust Territory with the United States, along with other Pacific Islands. During the 80s, the Marshalls were given the choice of whether they wanted to be in free association with the United States, stay in the Trust Territory, or become totally independant.
In 1986, the Marshall Islands, though one of the oldest existing pieces of land with inhabitants that can trace their ancestry back to 2,000 years B.C., finally became independent for the first time, but kept a free association with the US.
Agreements were made so that the US could still keep an army base on the Marshalls, so long as the Marshallese citizens can enter the United States without a green card, and can work and live indefinitely without one. This wager still holds true today, and the Marshall Islands has become very reliant on the United States for much of their income, means of protection, and importations.
Come World War II, the Marshall Islands were not yet an independent country. The islands were one of the Pacific countries that was part of the US trust territory, and the United States saw opportunity for strategic military bases in the pacific, which by no accident happened to be on the Kwajelein Atoll, in the Marshall Islands. This was not the only opportunity the US saw for use of this string of small islets in the Central Pacific...
During the 1940s and 50s, the United States detonated 67 atomic bombs that in total, sized up to about 7,000 Hiroshima bombs. These tests were done in the water, so they were atmospheric. The United States relocated people off the Bikini, Enewetak, Rongelap, and Utrik atolls to conduct testing for twelve consecutive years.
The largest bomb, called "Bravo" was detonated in the lagoon of the Bikini Atoll, and was the size of 1,000 Hiroshima bombs. It a massively larger nuclear fallout than expected. Debris reached neighboring islands like the Rongelop Atoll, where natives thought this was ash sent from heaven, and started rubbing it on their legs and arms and neck, which caused severe burning. They were treated immediately for severe damage, but the effects of 12 years of nuclear testing still has its effect on the Marshall Islands.
Today, there are still miscarriages, increased levels and risks of thyroid cancer specifically in those affected areas, and some Bikinian descendants have still never been able to relocate to their home-atoll.