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(1775-1800)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Kubary (1969), pp. 28-32
Nature god(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Kubary (1969), pp. 28-32
Ancestral spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Kubary (1969), pp. 5-7
Machiko (2002), pp. 34-35
Deified ancestor(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Kubary (1969), pp. 15, 16
God(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Kubary (1969), pp. 29
Machiko (2002), pp. 37-39

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Machiko (2002), pp. 34-39
Hisakatsu (1995), pp. 179

Afterlife and Creation

One's actions while living can affect the nature of one's afterlife Actions while living are one factor in determining the nature of one’s afterlife (Source)
Kubary (1969), pp. 4, 6
The actions of others after one has died can affect the nature of one's afterlife Actions of others after one has died are one factor in determining the nature of one’s afterlife (Source)
Kubary (1969), pp. 4-5, 5
Machiko (2002), pp. 32-33
Myth of humanity’s creation Present, and evolutionary (Source)
Hisakatsu (1993), pp. 9
Kubary (1969), pp. 2
Primordial pair Absent (Source)
Hisakatsu (1996), pp. 9-13
Culture hero(es) Present, and a major focus of worship (Source)
Kubary (1969), pp. 15-16

General Features

Forces of nature are controlled by or imbued with the supernatural Present (Source)
Hisakatsu (1995), pp. 153

Classes of Tapu

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

Mana

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

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Present (Source)
Palau Community Action Agency (1976), pp. 72
Ferreira (1987), pp. 108-126, 118
Costly sacrifices and offerings Present (Source)
Hisakatsu (1995), pp. 152, 153
Size of largest ritual social group Larger than a local community, no larger than the largest political community in the culture (Source)
Machiko (2002), pp. 35
Ferreira (1987), pp. 213
Force (1960), pp. 32-34
Political and religious differentiation Some overlap (Source)
Palau Community Action Agency (1976), pp. 45-46
Force (1960), pp. 56-57

Rites

Piercing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Palau Community Action Agency (1976), pp. 2
Genital cutting Absent from culture (Source)
Palau Community Action Agency (1976), pp. 5
Scarification Absent from culture (Source)
Palau Community Action Agency (1976), pp. 1-7
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
Tooth pulling Absent from culture (Source)
Palau Community Action Agency (1976), pp. 1-7
Social Environment +
Population 25000 (Source)
Gorenflo (1996), pp. 46-47
Population of largest political community 10,000-99,999 (Source)
Force (1960), pp. 32-34
Gorenflo (1996), pp. 46-47
Importance of Patrilateral descent Medium (Source)
Barnett (1949), pp. 21
Importance of Matrilateral descent High (Source)
Barnett (1949), pp. 21
Polygamy Limited polygyny (Source)
Smith (1983A), pp. 145
Marital residence Patrilocal or virilocal - with husband's kin (Source)
Parmentier (1991), pp. 26

Conflict

Conflict within communities High (Source)
Parmentier (1991), pp. 27
Conflict between communities of the culture Frequent, occurring at least yearly (Source)
Parmentier (1991), pp. 26-27
Palau Community Action Agency (1976), pp. 70-72
Leibowitz (1996), pp. 9
Ferreira (1987), pp. 108-118
Conflict with other cultures Rare or never (Source)
Force (1960), pp. 66-75
Cultural Isolation +
Contact with other cultures Occasional but not often (Source)
Force (1960), pp. 22,, 66-68
Distance to closest landmass inhabited by a different culture (km) 273.0 (Source)
Ethnologue (Map of Palau) (2014)
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Distance to African or Asian mainland (km) 2507.2 (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)
Force (1960), pp. 66-69
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Animal husbandry as a source of food Absent (Source)
Force (1960), pp. 28
Agriculture / Horticulture Principal (Source)
Force (1960), pp. 28
Palau Community Action Agency (1976), pp. 22
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
Land-based hunting performed by individuals Medium (Source)
Palau Community Action Agency (1976), pp. 22, 37-38
Force (1960), pp. 28

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

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)
Force (1960), pp. 22-23

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

Latitude 7.4 (Source)
Force (1960), pp. 21, 22-23
Google Maps (2014)
Longitude 134.6 (Source)
Force (1960), pp. 21, 22-23
Google Maps (2014)
Island type (island with largest culture population or largest island if unknown) Volcanic high island (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Babelthuap) (2014)
Island Size (km²) 370.0 (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Babelthuap) (2014)
Maximum elevation (meters) 217.0 (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Babelthuap) (2014)
Post Contact History(1800-2014)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
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Present, and from non-Austronesian societies (Source)
Force (1960), pp. 70-71
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Palau) (2014)
Central Intelligence Agency (Palau) (2014)
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
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Palau) (2014)

Economic Changes

Changes in means of subsistence Medium (Source)
Central Intelligence Agency (Palau) (2014)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Palau) (2014)
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)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Palau) (2014)
Air travel Present and long-distance (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Palau) (2014)
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
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Palau) (2014)
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.

Barnett, H. G. (1949). Palauan society: a study of contemporary native life in the Palau Islands. Eugene, OR: University of Oregon Publications.

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

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.

Encyclopaedia Britannica (Babelthuap). (2014). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/47432/Babelthuap

Encyclopaedia Britannica (Palau). (2014). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/439255/Palau

Ethnologue. (2014). Map of Palau. Retrieved from https://www.ethnologue.com/map/PW

Ferreira, C. (1987). Palauan cosmology: Dominance in a traditional Micronesian society. Gothenberg, Sweden: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis

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

Hisakatsu, H. (1995). Gods and religion of Palau. Japan: Sasakawa Peace Foundation

Hisakatsu, H. (1996). Myths and legends of 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

Leibowitz, A. H. (1996). Embattled island: Palau’s struggle for independence. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group

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 (1975). Palauan legends. Palau: Palau Community Action Agency

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

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