Nauru - People

The country has an area of approximately 8 square miles and a population of less than 10,000. They are among the world's sickest people with diabetes, heart failure and alcoholism rampant. For thousands of years, Polynesian people lived the remote island of Nauru, far from western civilization. The first European to arrive was John Fearn in 1798. He was the British captain of the Hunter, a whaling ship. He called the island Pleasant Island. However, because it was very remote, Nauru had little communication with Europeans at first. The whaling ships and other traders began to visit, bringing guns and alcohol. These elements destroyed the social balance of the twelve family groups on the island. A ten-year civil war started, which reduced the population from 1,400 to 900.

The German Government representative on Nauru surrendered on 9 September 1914. On surrender, the population of Nauru was reported to be "30 Germans, 1700 natives and 500 Chinese".

The people of Nauru are comprised of 12 tribes, as symbolized by the 12-pointed star on the Nauru flag and are believed to be a mixture of Micronesian, Polynesian and Melanesian descent. Their native language is Nauruan but English is widely spoken as it is used for government and commercial purposes.

Christianity is the primary religion. According to the 2002 census, approximately two-thirds of Christians are Protestant, and the remainder are Catholic. The ethnic Chinese on the island, approximately 3 to 4 percent of the population, may be Confucian, Buddhist, Taoist, Christian, or nonreligious. The largely Christian communities of Tuvaluan and I-Kiribati expatriates were repatriated in late 2006 following the near cessation of phosphate mining in the country. The Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons said they had small numbers of followers among the native population.

Historical evidence consists of documentation of the effects of diseases and modern warfare and more recent behavioral changes traceable to altered economic conditions. Unpredictable and dramatic fluctuations in population characteristics throughout the historic period are revealed, precluding the use of standard population models. Even structural similarities at widely separated time periods are shown to be insufficient evidence of stable population conditions, a cautionary finding for paleodemographers, archaeologists, and others working throughout the Pacific.

Nauruans descend from Polynesian and Micronesian seafarers. Grouped in clans or tribes, early Nauruans traced their descent on the female side. They believed in a female deity, Eijebong, and a spirit land, also an island, called Buitani. Two of the 12 original tribal groups became extinct during the 20th century. Because of poor diet, alcohol abuse, and a sedentary lifestyle, Nauru has one of the world's highest levels of diabetes, renal failure, and heart disease, exceeding 40% of the population.

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