As an ethnic/racial term, it is used to describe the original peoples—inhabitants and diaspora—of any of the three major sub-regions of Oceania (Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia). It is also sometimes used as a general geographic term, describing any inhabitants of the Pacific islands (i.e., including citizens of Pacific states/territories who are of Asian or European descent and who call the Pacific their home). As "Pacific Islander" can be understood to denote both indigenous and non-indigenous peoples of the Pacific Islands, as well as excluding Aboriginal Australians, the term is distinct from referring to the indigenous peoples of Oceania.
Polynesians include Native Hawaiians (Hawaii), Samoans (Samoa and American Samoa), Tokelauans (Tokelau), Tahitians (Tahiti), and Tongans (Tonga). Micronesians include Guamanians (Guam), Mariana Islanders (Mariana Islands), the Saipanese (Saipan), Palauans (Palau), the Yapese (Yap), the Chuukese (Chuuk), Pohnpeians (Pohnpei), Kosraeans (Kosrae), the Marshallese (Marshall Islands), and I-Kiribati (Kiribati). Melanesian include Fijians (Fiji), Papua New Guineans (Papua New Guinea), Solomon Islanders (Solomon Islands), and the Ni-Vanuatu (Vanuatu).
Auckland, New Zealand has the world's largest concentration of urban Pacific Islanders living outside of their own countries, and is sometimes referred to as the "Polynesian capital of the world." This came as result of how, during the 20th century and into the 21st century, the country saw a steady stream of immigration from Polynesian countries such as Samoa, Tonga, the Cook Islands, Niue, and French Polynesia.
Pacific Islander regions
The Pacific islands consist of three main regions.
The Polynesian islands are scattered across a triangle covering the east-central region of the Pacific Ocean. The triangle is bound by the Hawaiian Islands in the north, New Zealand in the west, and Easter Island in the east. The rest of Polynesia includes the Samoan islands (American Samoa and Samoa [formerly Western Samoa]); Cook Islands; French Polynesia (the Society Islands [Tahiti], Marquesas Islands, Austral Islands, and Tuamotu); Niue Island; Tokelau and Tuvalu; Tonga; Wallis and Futuna; Rotuma Island; Pitcairn Island; Nukuoro; and Kapingamarangi.
Melanesia is the great arc of islands located north and east of Australia and south of the Equator. The name derives the Greek words melas ('black') and nēsos ('island') for the predominantly dark-skinned peoples of New Guinea island, the Bismarck Archipelago, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides), New Caledonia, and Fiji.
In addition those places listed above, Melanesia includes the Louisiade Archipelago, the Admiralty Islands, Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea, Western New Guinea (part of Indonesia), Maluku Island, Aru Islands, Kei Islands, the Santa Cruz Islands (part of the Solomon Islands), Loyalty Islands (part of New Caledonia), Norfolk Island, and various smaller islands.
Micronesia includes Kiribati, Nauru, the Marianas (Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia (Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae, all in the Caroline Islands).
The population of the Pacific Islands is concentrated in Papua New Guinea, New Zealand (which has a majority of people of European descent), Hawaii, Fiji, and Solomon Islands. Most Pacific Islands are densely populated, and habitation tends to be concentrated along the coasts.
- Austronesian-speaking peoples — Austronesian peoples who speak the Oceanian languages, numbering about 2.3 million in population, who occupy Polynesia, Micronesia, and most of the smaller islands of Melanesia.
- Papuan-speaking peoples — Papuan peoples who speak the Papuan languages (the mutually unrelated, non-Austronesian language families), numbering about 7 million in population, and mostly reside on the island of New Guinea and a few of the smaller islands of Melanesia located off the northeast coast of New Guinea.
List of Pacific peoples
- Austronesian-speaking peoples
- Taiwanese indigenous peoples
- Papuan-speaking peoples
- Papua New Guinea region
- Baining (Bismarck Archipelago)
Usage by country
The umbrella term Pacific Islands may take on several meanings. Sometimes it refers to only those islands covered by the region of Oceania. In some common uses, the term refers to the islands of the Pacific Ocean once colonized by the Portuguese, Spaniards, Dutch, British, French, United States, and Japanese, such as the Pitcairn Islands, Taiwan, and Borneo. In other uses, it may refer to islands with Austronesian linguistic heritage like Taiwan, Indonesia, Micronesia, Polynesia, Myanmar islands, which found their genesis in the Neolithic cultures of the island of Taiwan.
In Australia, the term South Sea Islander was used to describe Australian descendants of people from the over-80 islands in the western Pacific who had been brought to Australia to work on the sugar fields of Queensland—these people were called Kanakas in the 19th century.
The Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901 was enacted to restrict entry of Pacific Islanders to Australia and to authorise their deportation. In this legislation, Pacific Islanders were defined as:
"Pacific Island Labourer" includes all natives not of European extraction of any island except the islands of New Zealand situated in the Pacific Ocean beyond the Commonwealth [of Australia] as constituted at the commencement of this Act.
In 2008, a "Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme" was announced as a three-year pilot experiment. It provides visas for workers from Kiribati, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea to work in Australia. Aside from Papua New Guinea, the scheme includes one country each from Melanesia (Vanuatu), Polynesia (Tonga), and Micronesia (Kiribati)—countries that already send workers to New Zealand under its seasonal labour scheme.
Local usage in New Zealand uses Pacific islander (formerly Pacific Polynesians, or Pasifika) to distinguish those who have emigrated from one of these areas in modern times from the New Zealand Māori, who are also Polynesian but are indigenous to New Zealand.
In the 2013 New Zealand census, 7.4% of the New Zealand population identified with one or more Pacific ethnic groups, although 62.3% of these were born in New Zealand. Those with a Samoan background make up the largest proportion, followed by Cook Islands Māori, Tongan, and Niuean. Some smaller island populations such as Niue and Tokelau have the majority of their nationals living in New Zealand.
To celebrate the diverse Pacific island cultures, the Auckland Region hosts several Pacific island festivals. Two of the major ones are Polyfest, which showcases performances of the secondary school cultural groups in the region, and Pasifika, a festival that celebrates Pacific island heritage through traditional food, music, dance, and entertainment.
By the 1980s, the United States Census Bureau grouped persons of Asian ancestry and created the category "Asian-Pacific Islander," which continued in the 1990s census. In 2000, "Asian" and "Pacific Islander" became two separate racial categories.
According to the Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program (PEP), a "Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander" is,
A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific islands. It includes people who indicate their race as 'Native Hawaiian', 'Guamanian or Chamorro', 'Samoan', and 'Other Pacific Islander' or provide other detailed Pacific Islander responses.
According to the Office of Management and Budget, "Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander" refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.
Eight out of 10 Pacific Islanders in the United States are native to the United States. Polynesians make up the largest group, including Native Hawaiians, Samoans, Tongans, and Tahitians. Micronesians make up the second largest, including primarily Chamoru from Guam; as well as other Chamoru, Carolinian from the Mariana Islands, Marshallese, Palauans, and various others. Among Melanesians, Fijian Americans are the largest in this group.
There are at least 39 different Pacific Island languages spoken as a second language in the American home.
- Aboriginal Australians
- Aboriginal Tasmanians
- Asian American and Pacific Islander Policy Research Consortium
- Austronesian peoples
- Indigenous Australians
- Indigenous peoples of Oceania
- Pacific Islands Americans
- "Defining Diaspora: Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi Identities | Cross-Cultural Center | CSUSM". www.csusm.edu. Retrieved 2021-05-09.
- "Pacific Islanders". Minority Rights Group. Retrieved 2021-05-10.
- West, F. James, and Sophie Foster. 2020 November 17. "Pacific Islands." Encyclopedia Britannica.
- Friedlaender, Jonathan; Friedlaender, FR; Reed FA; Kidd KK; Kidd JR (2008). "The Genetic Structure of Pacific Islanders". PLOS Genetics. 4 (3): e19. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0040019. PMC 2211537. PMID 18208337.
- Collins Atlas of the World (revised ed.), London W6 8JB: HarperCollins, 1995 , ISBN 0-00-448227-1CS1 maint: location (link)
- D'Arcy, Paul (March 2006). The People of the Sea: Environment, Identity, and History in Oceania. University Of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-3297-1. Archived from the original on 2014-10-30. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- Rapaport, Moshe (April 2013). The Pacific Islands: Environment and Society, Revised Edition. University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-6584-9. JSTOR j.ctt6wqh08.
This is the only contemporary text on the Pacific Islands that covers both environment and sociocultural issues and will thus be indispensable for any serious student of the region. Unlike other reviews, it treats the entirety of Oceania (with the exception of Australia) and is well illustrated with numerous photos and maps, including a regional atlas.– via JSTOR (subscription required)
- Wright, John K. (July 1942). "Pacific Islands". Geographical Review. 32 (3): 481–486. doi:10.2307/210391. JSTOR 210391. – via JSTOR (subscription required)
- Compare: Blundell, David (January 2011). "Taiwan Austronesian Language Heritage Connecting Pacific Island Peoples: Diplomacy and Values" (PDF). International Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies. 7 (1): 75–91. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
Taiwan associations are based on almost forgotten old connections with far-reaching Pacific linguistic origins. The present term Austronesia is based on linguistics and archaeology supporting the origins and existence of the Austronesian Language family spread across the Pacific on modern Taiwan, Indonesia, East Timor, Malaysia,, Singapore, Brunei, Micronesia, Polynesia, the non-Papuan languages of Melanesia, the Cham areas of Vietnam, Cambodia, Hainan, Myanmar islands, and some Indian Ocean islands including Madagascar. Taiwan is in the initiating region.
- "South Sea Islander Project". ABC Radio Regional Production Fund. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2004. Retrieved 2008-08-27.
Recognition for Australian South Sea Islanders (ASSI) has been a long time coming. It was not until 1994 that the federal government recognized them as a distinct ethnic group with their own history and culture and not until September 2000 that the Queensland government made a formal statement of recognition.
- "Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901 (Cth)" (PDF). Documenting a Democracy. National Archives of Australia. 1901. Retrieved 2008-08-27.
- Australian Institute of Criminology: Australia's Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme: Managing vulnerabilities to exploitation
- "Pacific guestworker scheme to start this year". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2008-08-17.
- "Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme is more proof of Australia's new Pacific focus" (Press release). The Hon Duncan Kerr SC MP; Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs. 2008-08-20.
- Australian classification standards code Pacific islanders, Oceanians, South Sea islanders, and Australasians all with code 1000, i.e., identically. This coding can be broken down into the finer classification of 1,100 Australian Peoples; 1,200 New Zealand peoples; 1,300 Melanesian and Papuan; 1,400 Micronesian; 1,500 Polynesian. There is no specific coding therefore for "Pacific islander"."Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG) - 2nd edition" (pdf - 136 pages). Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2005-07-07. Retrieved 2008-08-27.
- Crocombe, R. G. (1992). Pacific Neighbours: New Zealand's Relations with Other Pacific Islands : Aotearoa Me Nga Moutere O Te Moana Nui a Kiwa. University of the South Pacific. p. xxi. ISBN 978-982-02-0078-4.
- "Pacific peoples ethnic group", 2013 Census. Statistics New Zealand. Accessed on 18 August 2017.
- Smelt, and Lin, 1998
- "Polyfest NCEA credits / Pasifika Education Plan / Home - Pasifika". Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI). Retrieved 18 August 2017.
- "Thousands turn out for Pasifika Festival". Radio New Zealand. 25 March 2017. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
- "Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — a FAQ". NBC News. Retrieved 2021-05-10.
- "Information on Race". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on April 3, 2013. Retrieved March 27, 2013.
- Lal, B., and K. Fortune, eds. 2000. "The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia." Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press.
- Okihiro, Gary Y. 2015. American History Unbound: Asians and Pacific Islanders. University of California Press..
- Smelt, R., and Y. Lin. 1998. Cultures of the world: New Zealand. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark.
- Thomas, Nicholas. 2010. Islanders: The Pacific in the Age of Empire. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-12438-5.
- "Pacific Islanders in the NZEF." New Zealand History Online. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 2019 March 26.