On November 17, a few countries and territories in the Pacific Ocean got together and created a new group called the Polynesian Leaders Group (PLG). As the name suggests, the members of the group are the leaders of some Polynesian islands in the Pacific Ocean. This group is made up of French Polynesia (an overseas land of France), Niue (a self-governing territory of New Zealand), Cook Islands (a self-governing territory of New Zealand), Tuvalu (a country), Tonga (a country), Tokelau (a territory of New Zealand), American Samoa (a territory of the USA), and Samoa (a country). The group plans to help each other with economic issues and will work together to protect the Polynesian traditions and culture. There are some other islands not part of PLG that are part of “Polynesia”, and might be invited later to join the group.
The Pacific Islands refer to the thousands of islands in the Pacific Ocean, not counting those associated with countries near mainland Asia (like Japan and the Philippines). These islands are split into three groups called Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia. Micronesia is the group of islands towards the northwestern Pacific such as Guam and Kiribati. Melanesia is the group towards the southwestern Pacific such as Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Polynesia is the group of islands in the eastern Pacific. Polynesia can be viewed as a triangular shape with one point being New Zealand, the second point being Hawaii, USA, and the third point being Easter Island, Chile.
The Polynesians trace their roots back to people living in Southeast Asia. Thousands of years ago, these people moved to some islands in Melanesia, and about 3,000 years ago, they moved to islands in Polynesia. Polynesians had figured out how to build strong canoes that could carry people, plants, and animals over large water bodies. They had also figured out how to navigate the ocean using stars, the sun, wave patterns, and other natural indicators. Knowledge was passed down from generation to generation using stories and songs. In the 1500s, the Europeans first reached these islands. Many islands were taken over by various European countries. Over the years, the Polynesians lost some of their traditions, languages, and navigating skills. Today, some Polynesian islands are independent countries and some are territories of other countries.
The discovery of a type of pottery called “Lapita pottery” has helped map the migration path of the Polynesians. This pottery has been found on the islands and can be traced back to Southeast Asia.
Image credits: Pacific Travel Guides for Polynesia graphic; uq.edu.au for Lapita pot image