Also known as: Belau

Palau, or Belau, is a group of islands in Micronesia. Missionary efforts to Palau began in the 1890s, and since the mid-twentieth century most Palauans have been Christian. However, elements of the indigenous religion survive in the syncretic religion Modekngei, which arose during, and in opposition to, Japanese rule.

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Traditional Culture(1871)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Dobbin (2011), pp. 169-175
Nature god(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Dobbin (2011), pp. 169-175
Ancestral spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Dobbin (2011), pp. 169-175
Deified ancestor(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Dobbin (2011), pp. 169-175
God(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Dobbin (2011), pp. 169-175

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Dobbin (2011), pp. 181

Afterlife and Creation

One's actions while living can affect the nature of one's afterlife One factor in determining one's afterlife (Source)
Dobbin (2011), pp. 181-184
The actions of others after one has died can affect the nature of one's afterlife One factor in determining one's afterlife (Source)
Dobbin (2011), pp. 181-184
Myth of humanity’s creation Present, and evolutionary (Source)
Dobbin (2011), pp. 166-169
Primordial pair Absent (Source)
Dobbin (2011), pp. 167-169
Culture hero(es) Present, but not a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Dobbin (2011), pp. 166-175

General Features

Forces of nature are controlled by or imbued with the supernatural Present (Source)
Dobbin (2011), pp. 175, 188

Classes of Tapu

Social hierarchy tapu Present (Source)
Hisakatsu (1993), pp. 245
Kinship tapu Present (Source)
Hisakatsu (1993), pp. 245

Mana

Mana as a spiritual or religious concept Absent (Source)
Blevins (2008)
Blust (2007)
Keesing (1984)
Mana as a personal quality Absent (Source)
Blevins (2008)
Blust (2007)
Keesing (1984)
Mana related to social influence or technical skill Absent (Source)
Practice +

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Present (Source)
Dobbin (2011), pp. 184-185
Largest religious community Larger than a local community, smaller than the society (Source)
Dobbin (2011), pp. 165-188
Political and religious differentiation Some overlap (Source)
Dobbin (2011), pp. 165-188

Rites

Tooth pulling Absent from culture (Source)
Palau Community Action Agency (1976), pp. 1-7
Scarification Absent from culture (Source)
Palau Community Action Agency (1976), pp. 1-7
Piercing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Palau Community Action Agency (1976), pp. 2
Tattooing Present in the culture as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Palau Community Action Agency (1976), pp. 2-3
Hisakatsu (1993), pp. 246-247
Genital cutting Absent from culture (Source)
Palau Community Action Agency (1976), pp. 5
Social Environment +
Population 10,000 (Source)
Gorenflo (1996)
Population of largest political community 100-999 (Source)
Parmentier (1987), pp. 55-106
Gorenflo (1996)
Importance of Patrilateral descent Medium (Source)
Parmentier (1987), pp. 67
Importance of Matrilateral descent High (Source)
Parmentier (1987), pp. 67
Polygamy Limited polygyny (Source)
Smith (1983A), pp. 145
Marital residence Patrilocal or virilocal - with husband's kin (Source)
Parmentier (1987), pp. 87

Conflict

(No) external warfare Occasional, at least every generation (Source)
Parmentier (1987), pp. 25-54
Conflict within community High (Source)
Parmentier (1991), pp. 27
(No) internal warfare Frequent, occurring at least yearly (Source)
Parmentier (1991), pp. 26-27
Isolation +
Contact with other cultures Frequent, through trade, warfare, travel, etc. (Source)
Parmentier (1991), pp. 25
Distance to closest landmass inhabited by a different culture (km) 270.0 (Source)
Gorenflo (1996)
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Distance to nearest continent 2012.0 (Source)
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Pre-Austronesian population Absent: No evidence of human occupation prior to Austronesian settlement (Source)
Bellwood (1995), pp. 109
Hindu / Buddhist influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Force (1960), pp. 66-75
Islamic influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Force (1960), pp. 66-75
Christian influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence but in a region where contact is likely (Source)
Parmentier (1991), pp. 25
Dobbin (2011), pp. 165-188
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Animal husbandry as a source of food Absent (Source)
Force (1960), pp. 28
Land-based hunting performed by individuals Medium (Source)
Palau Community Action Agency (1976), pp. 22, 37-38
Force (1960), pp. 28
Land-based gathering Medium (Source)
Force (1960), pp. 28
Land-based hunting performed by one or more groups Minor (Source)
Palau Community Action Agency (1976), pp. 22, 37-38
Force (1960), pp. 28
Agriculture / Horticulture Principal (Source)
Parmentier (1987), pp. 56-57

Water-based means of subsistence

Fishing and water-based hunting performed by one or more groups Medium (Source)
Force (1960), pp. 28, 30
Palau Community Action Agency (1976), pp. 19-22, 38
Fishing and water-based hunting performed by individuals Major (Source)
Force (1960), pp. 28, 30
Palau Community Action Agency (1976), pp. 19-22, 38
Water-based gathering Major (Source)
Force (1960), pp. 28, 30

Commercial Activity

Trade / wage labour as a source of food Medium (Source)
Adams & Gibbons (1997), pp. 49
Physical Environment +

Geographical Range of Culture

Number of islands inhabited by culture Four or more (Source)
Parmentier (1987), pp. 25

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

Island type (island with largest culture population or largest island if unknown) Volcanic high island (Source)
'Babelthuap' (2019)
Island Size (km²) 370.0 (Source)
'Babelthuap' (2019)
Maximum elevation (meters) 217.0 (Source)
'Babelthuap' (2019)

Location

Latitude 7.4 (Source)
Parmentier (1991), pp. 24
Google Maps (2014)
Longitude 134.6 (Source)
Parmentier (1991), pp. 24
Google Maps (2014)
Post Contact History(1871-2014)Expand All +
Religious History +

Conversion

Role of social status in conversion process Primarily a top-down process. (Source)
Machiko (2002), pp. 70
Use of force in conversion Medium (Source)
Machiko (2002), pp. 68-70, 73-75, 87-93
Force (1960), pp. 70-71
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
Shuster & Foster (2021)
Central Intelligence Agency (Palau) (2014)
Force (1960), pp. 70-71
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Present, and from non-Austronesian societies (Source)
Force (1960), pp. 70-71

Syncretic Movements

Syncretic religious movements Present, and survived to the present day (Source)
Machiko (2002), pp. 1
Central Intelligence Agency (Palau) (2014)
Secular History +

Demographic and Social Changes

Foreign government systems Present, and of high importance (Source)
Force (1960), pp. 70-75
Immigration High (Source)
Force (1960), pp. 73
Machiko (2002), pp. 84
Gorenflo (1996), pp. 83
Central Intelligence Agency (Palau) (2014)
Language shift Medium (Source)
Central Intelligence Agency (Palau) (2014)
Matsumoto (2010), pp. 136
Foreign education systems High (Source)
Force (1960), pp. 73
Shuster & Foster (2021)

Economic Changes

Changes in means of subsistence Medium (Source)
Central Intelligence Agency (Palau) (2014)
Shuster & Foster (2021)
Exportation of goods to other cultures Present and substantial (Source)
Johannes (1981), pp. 4, 71

Modern Infrastructure

Vehicles and roads Present and widely used (Source)
Shuster & Foster (2021)
Air travel Present and long-distance (Source)
Shuster & Foster (2021)
Sea port Present (Source)
Central Intelligence Agency (Palau) (2014)

Loss of Autonomy

Nature of loss of autonomy Largely voluntary (Source)
Useem (1950), pp. 142
Force (1960), pp. 70-75
Loss of political autonoomy High (Source)
Force (1960), pp. 70-72
Shuster & Foster (2021)
Current Culture(2014)Expand All +
Belief +

Religious Demographics

Institutional religious syncretism High (Source)
Machiko (2002), pp. 1
Central Intelligence Agency (Palau) (2014)
Dominant world religion Christianity (Source)
Central Intelligence Agency (Palau) (2014)
External Links
References
Adams, W.H., & Gibbons, F. (Eds.) (1997). Palau Ethnography: Traditional Culture and Lifeways Long Ago in Palau. San Francisco, CA: Micronesian Endowment for Historic Preservation, Republic of Palau.

Babelthuap (2019). Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/place/Babelthuap

Bellwood, P. (1995). Austronesian Prehistory in Southeast Asia: Homeland, Expansion and Transformation. P. Bellwood, J.J. Fox, & D. Tryon (Eds.), The Austronesians: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (pp 113-114). Canberra, Australia: ANU Press.

Blevins, J. (2008). Some Comparative Notes on Proto-Oceanic *Mana: Inside and Outside the Austronesian Family. Oceanic Linguistics, 47 (2), 253-274. Retrieved from http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/ol/summary/v047/47.2.blevins.html

Blust, R. (2007). Proto-Oceanic *Mana Revisited. Oceanic Linguistics, 46(2), 404-423. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20172322

Brunton, R. (1989). The Abandoned Narcotic: Kava and Cultural Instability in Melanesia. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Central Intelligence Agency (Palau). (2014). The World Factbook: Palau. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ps.html

Daft Logic Distance Calculator. (2014). http://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-distance-calculator.htm.

Dobbin, J. (2011). Summoning the powers beyond: Traditional religions of Micronesia. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press.

Force, R. W. (1960). Leadership and cultural change in Palau. Chicago, IL: Chicago Natural History Museum.

Google Maps (2014). Retrieved from maps.google.com

Gorenflo, L. J. (1996). Demographic change in the republic of Palau. Pacific Studies, 19(3), 37-106.

Hisakatsu, H. (1993). Society and life in Palau. Japan: Sasakawa Peace Foundation

Johannes, R. E. (1981). Words of the lagoon: Fishing and marine lore in the Palau district of Micronesia. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.

Keesing, R. M. (1984). Rethinking "mana". Journal of Anthropological Research, 40(1), 137-156, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3629696.

Kubary, J. S. (1969). The religion of the Palauans. Micronesian Seminar, Woodstock, MD: Woodstock College

Machiko, A. (2002). Modekngei: A new religion in Belau, Micronesia. Japan: Shinsensha Press

Matsumoto, K. (2010). The role of social networks in the post-colonial multilingual island of Palau: Mechanisms of language maintenance and shift. Multilingua, 29, 133-165. DOI: 10.1515/mult.2010.006.

Palau Community Action Agency (1976). A History of Palau. Volume One: Traditional Palau, the first Europeans. Koror, Palau: Palau Community Action Agency.

Parmentier, R. J. (1987). The sacred remains: Myth, history, and polity in Belau. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Retrieved from https://ehrafworldcultures-yale-edu/ehrafe/citation.do?method=citation&forward=browseCulturesFullContext&col=OR15BelauOceaniaOceania&docId=or15-002&tocOffsetId=tocPubInfoP

Parmentier, R.J. (1991). Belau. Encyclopaedia of World Cultures (Vol. II, pp 24-27). New York, NY: G.K. Hall & Co.

Shuster, D. R. & Foster, S. (2021). Palau. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/place/Palau

Smith, D. R. (1983). "Palauan Social Structure". New Brunswick, Canada: Rutgers University Press.

Useem, J. (1950). Structure of power in Palau. Social Forces, 29(2), 141-148. DOI: 10.2307/2571662