Kiribertese, Gilbertese in Fiji



Population

6,740

Christian

Evangelical

Largest Religion

Main Language

Progress


Introduction / History

The Gilbert Islands (now known as Kiribati) are composed of 33 small islands, 21 of which are inhabited, were granted self-rule by the UK in 1971 and complete independence in 1979. Kiribati's islands straddle the equator and are located 2400 miles to the southwest of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. Some of the islands are split by the International Date Line.

Tarawa is the most important coral island (atoll) of the group because of the good anchorage. Its deep lagoon provides for ocean-going vessels and it is the headquarters of the Government, headquarters of the Catholic Mission, the main hospital, the Government Teachers' Training College, large stores and many other offices etc. This island consists of 30 or more islets, which before causeways were built, were isolated from each other at high tide. In the 1960's work was commenced on building causeways thus making it much easier to get from one islet to the next. Today, motor vehicles can travel to many of these islets.

Ninety-eight percent of the 113,000 people of Kiribati are of Micronesian descent. They are noted as being a very lovable race who are easy-going and have no regard for time. They are famous for their hospitality depriving themselves to welcome and feed strangers. (2)

The Kiribati people are said to be of fine appearance and some are very tall. They are also said to be more vigorous than the natives of the other western islands. They consider themselves a civilized people with most being able to read, write, and utilize artistic skills. The women sew artistic designs by hand and using sewing machines. Many of the men work on ships, farm, fish and do other jobs in the towns. Since the Pacific war, many of the men and women have studied at the University.

Since their independence, the President is head of the Republic of Kiribati. He is supported by a number of Ministers as his assistants. Quite a number of young people are working in government positions and some own trading stores.

Before European times, the main social group in Gilbertese society was the kaainga, a small group of extended families related through a common ancestor. The twenty to a hundred members of each kaainga shared a piece of land on which all member families built their homes, thus forming a kaainga hamlet. The land of the kaainga usually extended from the ocean side of the atoll to the lagoon side, including the adjacent section of ocean reef and lagoon reef. Access to this area was confined to the kaainga members. When the number in the kaainga became too large, a group of closely related families would establish another kaainga nearby. For most purposes, this kaainga operated as a separate entity yet it continued to acknowledge the pre-eminence of the original kaainga.

Each kaainga was generally self-sufficient and relied on its two major resources - he land and the sea. There were ceremonial exchanges of food on such occasions as marriage feasts, but no evidence of trading between kaainga. Customarily the leadership of the kaainga went to the oldest male who was given the title of the batua, or in some kaainga, atun te kainga (head of the kaainga) or te ikawai (the old one). In recognition of his leadership he ate before all other members of he kaainga. In the case of disobedience or an offence against generally accepted standards of behavior, the batu could reprimand the offender or expel him or her from the kaainga. Usually the person expelled would go or stay with his or her mother's family. The batua organized the distribution of work and generally resulted affairs within the kaainga.

Each kaainga anticipated visits from non-relatives and from marriage-negotiations representatives. Visitors were regarded as very important people. Everyone behaved respectfully towards them and excused themselves whenever they walked near the visitors. The food provided for the guests was more carefully prepared than usual and included special dishes. Food that had been stored in the upper floor of the house was now used; babai was uprooted and fresh fish was caught every day. The guests, whether male or female, would always eat first with the batua and then the other members of the kaainga eating what remained.

Parents arranged marriages for their children. The male's parents approached the family of the girl they wanted their son to marry. On some islands, children were betrothed at a very early ages (sometimes even before birth) but others after puberty. All marriage negotiations were conducted by the parents, brothers, sisters, or first cousins of the couple. Usually the first choice was a girl whose parents were from a kaainga that owned many lands. The negotiation had less chance of being accepted by a girl's parent if the boy came from a family of low class or was the youngest of a large family and thus unlikely to inherit much land. The girl's parents would be pleased to accept if the boy's parents had a small maneaba, a baurua (a large sailing canoe) or a maa (fish trap), as they knew the boy would inherit considerable property.

Polygamy was accepted. On some islands when a man married the eldest daughter of a family, her younger sisters also became his consorts after reaching puberty. These younger sisters were called taua ni kai (concubines). In the northern islands, where chiefly systems existed, a chief could have several wives from different families.

The Gilbert Islands became a British protectorate in 1892 and a colony in 1915. The islands were captured by the Japanese in the Pacific War in 1941 and became an area of intense battle between the United States and Japan in 1943. The Gilbert Islands were granted self-rule by the UK in 1971 and complete independence in 1979 under the new name of Kiribati. The US relinquished all claims to the sparsely inhabited Phoenix and Line Island groups in a 1979 treaty of friendship with Kiribati.


Where are they Located?

The Gilbert Islands (now known as Kiribati) are composed of 33 small islands, 21 of which are inhabited, straddle the equator, and are located 2400 miles to the southwest of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. Some of the islands are split by the International Date Line.


What are Their Lives Like?

A remote country of 33 scattered coral atolls, Kiribati has few natural resources and is one of the least developed Pacific Islands. Commercially viable phosphate deposits were exhausted at the time of independence from the UK in 1979. Copra and fish now represent the bulk of production and exports. The economy has fluctuated widely in recent years. Economic development is constrained by a shortage of skilled workers, weak infrastructure, and remoteness from international markets. Tourism provides more than one-fifth of GDP. Private sector initiatives and a financial sector are in the early stages of development. Foreign financial aid from the EU, UK, US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, UN agencies, and Taiwan accounts for 20-25% of GDP. Remittances from seamen on merchant ships abroad account for more than $5 million each year. Kiribati receives around $15 million annually for the government budget from an Australian trust fund.

Today, Kiribati practices an English form of common law that is supplemented by local customary law. Their government is a republic with executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Citizens of 18 years of age and older have voting rights and there are multiple political groups that are loosely organized without charters or strict membership definitions. The US has friendly relations with Kiribati but does not maintain an embassy there nor employ an ambassador for the islands.

Kiribati is much less developed than most of the world (2008 data). Landline telephones total about 5000 in number with mobile telephone totaling about 1000. There are about 2000 internet connections inside Kiribati. Initiatives are under way that should improve the quality and access of/to communication services. No reliable television service exists although video capability may exist via internet connectivity.

Nineteen airports exist in different places throughout Kiribati but only four have paved runways. Kiribati has a small police force but no military. There are no conflicts between Kiribati and the rest of the world.

The Kiribati people are said to be of fine appearance and some are very tall. They are also said to be more vigorous than the natives of the other western islands. They consider themselves a civilized people with most being able to read, write, and utilize artistic skills. The women sew artistic designs by hand and using sewing machines. Many of the men work on ships, farm, fish and do other jobs in the towns. Since the Pacific war, many of the men and women have studied at the University.


What are Their Beliefs?

The religious organizations in Kiribati are dominated by Roman Catholicism and Protestantism with a few other groups represented by very small numbers. (1) Also of particular interest is the islands' tradition of spiritism and sorcery (2). While not explicitly stated in verifiable records, it is possible that the traditions of prior generations of island people have been incorporated into the practice of the newer religious beliefs.


What are Their Needs?

Kiribati exists as a group of 21 inhabited islands where mass communication is not yet possible. They need missionaries who will patiently spread the word of God and teach the principles of discipleship throughout the islands.


Prayer Points

* Pray that God will send missionaries dedicated to doing God's work among these island people.
* Pray God will appoint locals to evangelize the other islands in the area.
* Pray that the established religions in the islands are Biblical and dedicated to living the word of God before this remote population.
* Pray that Kiribati will become a central location of evangelism and discipleship for the North and South Pacific regions.

References

(1) Information used with permission
http://goo.gl/e116s

(2) Information used with permission
http://www.janeresture.com/ki33/index.htm


Profile Source:   Wallace Revels  

People Name General Kiribertese
People Name in Country Kiribertese, Gilbertese
Population in Fiji 6,700
World Population 118,000
Countries 8
Progress Scale 3.2
Least-Reached No
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Gilbertese, Kirbertese
Affinity Bloc Pacific Islanders
People Cluster Micronesian
People Name General Kiribertese
Ethnic Code MPY54a
People ID 12713

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Enthologue Language Map



Languages & Dialects on file:  1  (up to 20 largest shown)
Kiribati
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Kiribati
Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions Yes   (1864-1895)
New Testament Yes   (1873-2004)
Complete Bible Yes   (1893-1954)
Format Resource
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching (GRN)
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Kiribati

Major Religion Percent
Buddhism
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 7.00 %)
99.00 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
Hinduism
0.00 %
Islam
0.00 %
Non-Religious
1.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
Unknown
0.00 %

Christian Segments Percent
Anglican
0.0 %
Independent
20.0 %
Orthodox
0.0 %
Other Christian
0.0 %
Protestant
30.0 %
Roman Catholic
50.0 %
Profile Source: Wallace Revels  
Data Sources: Data is compiled from various sources. Read more
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