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Cultural Identity of Banabans

By Stacey M. King and Raobeia Ken Sigrah

Presented by Iakoba Karutake (Rabi Council of Leaders Chairman)

(Conference Paper) 


Who really are the Banabans and where do they come from have puzzled scientists for many decades since phosphate was discovered by Ellis in 1900 on Ocean Island. Many reports have documented the origins of the Banabans as being an integral part of I-Kiribati race, which have formed the current status quo of the Banaban people socially and politically today. This notion of identity has been further strengthened by works of academics and colonial administrators on the islands such as Cheyne and Andrew (1852), Grimble and Maude (1900-1940’s), Ellis A F. (1869-1951) and Silverman (1962) etc. The methodology for extracting historical data was done by oral literature survey of the four villages on Banaba by most of the above authors. It is a customary practice not to disclose true historical accounts and origins about Banaban identity, which are traditionally held by communal elders (mostly men) to foreigners since Banabans are very secretive about their identity (Sigrah and King 2000). The classical history accounts of the above authors to traditionally link the Banabans to the Kiribati race was finally thrown into confusion when Lampert (1967) in his archaeological findings of the Aka sacred burial ground, concluded that Banabans were once a distinct and unique race, physically and culturally before intermarriages and influx of outsiders began the assimilation process of saturating the small population of Ocean Island. The paper examines the Aka artefacts, as strong evidence to substantiate the argument that documented evidences on the origins of the Banaban people from the natives’ perspective has never been told. This paper is the story of Banaban people from their own lips and oral traditions as passed down by their forefathers for centuries.

Cultural Identity of Banabans

  • Conference Paper: ISLANDS of the WORLD VIII Taiwan

    This paper was presented and published at ISLANDS of the WORLD VIII International Conference “Changing Islands – Changing Worlds”1-7 November 2004, Kinmen Island (Quemoy), Taiwan

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