Pacific Islander Diversity Cultural Information

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Pacific Islanders

Pacific Islanders encompass a wide range of cultural groups and nationalities from Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean.  Polynesia consists of several groups of islands forming a triangle including Hawaii, the Easter Islands, and New Zealand.  Melanesia includes Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu Islands, and New Caledonia.  Micronesia is divided into eight territories which include Guam, Kiribati, and the Marshall Islands.

Notable Events

Lei Day. Celebrated on May 1st, Lei Day is a Hawaiian celebration of making, giving, and wearing leis (flower wreathes).  Festivities include music, hula, and lei-making contests.

Kamehameha Day.  King Kamehameha I is honored every year on June 11th for uniting all the Hawaiian islands under one monarchy and reigning in peace with mana--the spiritual power from the gods.

History & Background

European explorers, including Captain James Cook, sailed to the Polynesian Islands during the 17th and 18th centuries.  Shortly thereafter missionaries went to the islands preaching and converting the Polynesians to Christianity.  Soon Europe and America were claiming political power over these islands, overthrowing the islands' individual monarchies.  However, some traditional monarchies (e.g., Tonga) still thrive today.

pacific islanders in grass skirts

Culture & Traditions

The Pacific Islanders live a very social lifestyle, in which family members, both immediate and extended, work together in a solidified community.  Pacific Islanders often have difficulty balancing their traditional "laid-back" lifestyles  with the high pressure competitive demands of American pedagogy and marketplace economy.  Pacific Islanders' cultures follow customs and traditions based on ancient principles that promote living an honorable and noble lifestyle.  Embedded deeply into the Polynesian culture are traditional music, dance, and food.  Cultural storytelling, music, and dance are ancient ways of passing down history from one generation to another.  Thus teachers with students who are Pacific Islanders may want to use both written and oral instruction, particularly in areas of literacy.

Links

Wayfinders: A Pacific Odyssey

Polynesia

Polynesian People

Polynesian Culture

Polynesian Culture Association