Rechad er Belau, or Palauans, are the indigenous people of Belau, the traditional name by which we call our nation, which is now known as the Republic of Palau. We are a sovereign people who gained independence in 1994. Our island nation is an archipelago made up of about 340 islands, islets, and atolls. Eight of the islands are inhabited. Palau is the western-most island of the Micronesia region of the Pacific Ocean. It is less than 2,000 miles south of Japan, 3,815 miles southeast of India, 400 miles north of Papua New Guinea, 950 miles southeast of the Philippines, and 830 miles southwest of Guam.
Palau has a population of around 18,000 people largely concentrated in Koror, which is the former capital and the economic center of the nation. The Palauan archipelago has been inhabited since the 4th millennium BC. It has a rich history of trading and cultural exchange with other island nations of the Pacific, including the Philippines and the Marianas.
A rechad er Belau, for centuries, have recognized our connection to our surrounding environment and are acutely aware of the importance of maintaining equilibrium in order to sustain life on this Earth. We have been bestowed a blessing – the land and the ocean that encircles it, which sustains life, provides food for our families, and is the basis of our nation’s economy. It is our duty to guard our forests, swamps, rivers and numerous island habitats, along with our ocean. Simultaneously, we are safeguarding the future of our children and their descendants.
Our people are deeply rooted in the Palauan concept of extended family. Much of our activities are centered around traditional gatherings like Omengat, which celebrates the life of a mother and her firstborn child. Ocheraol is another event wherein extended families come together to build a family home. And a kemeldiil, or funeral, brings clans together to help the bereaved family bury their loved one. These are traditions that are still practiced today and often bring together Palauans from across the nation as well as those who live outside of Palau.
Palau was a part of the Spanish East Indies. Following Spain’s defeat in the Spanish- American War, Germany took over Palau. Remnants of Germany’s occupation include the phosphate mines in Angaur and cable cart tracks in Ngardmau. The German era also had significant influences on the culture, having introduced “babier”, or paper; and “kumi”, or rubber; and there’s the terms “sengk” for the money gift; and the term “hall” halt or stop. After World War I, Japan occupied Palau until World War II ended in 1945. The influence of Japan’s presence is still felt today. Many Palauan families trace their roots to various areas of Japan and even maintain those relationships to this day. Similar to German words, there are many Palauan words that were adopted from the Japanese, including “dengki” or power, and “dengua” or phone. There are words that also are part of everyday conversation like “omoshiroi”, which is used to describe something that’s interesting or funny. There’s also “omiange” or the gift that is given to family members when visiting or returning home from a trip.
In 1947, Palau became part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, administered by the United States. After 7 attempts of ratification, the people of Palau in 1993 agreed to the Compact of Free Association between the United States and Palau, entering into force in 1994. On Oct. 1, 1994, Palau became the world’s newest independent republic. Today, Palau is an active member of the international community, with full membership in the United Nations and other regional and international multilateral organization.
Palau’s economy is largely based on tourism, but it also has an important fishing industry and small-scale subsistence farming. The Palauan government is committed to protecting the country’s beautiful environment, with some of the world’s most stringent marine conservation laws. The Palauan people are known for their hospitality, as well as their vibrant culture and art. Palauan culture is still heavily influenced by traditional beliefs, and is expressed in the traditional music, dance, and crafts of the country. Palau is also home to some of the best diving spots in the world, with stunning coral reefs, an abundance of marine life, and phenomenal underwater visibility. We’ve also been named as one of the seven underwater wonders of the world: https://blog.padi.com/seven-wonders-of-the-underwater-world/. Palau offers a unique combination of modern amenities and traditional culture, making it an ideal destination for travelers looking for a unique and unforgettable experience. With ancient sites, pristine beaches, and fantastic food Palau is a family-friendly destination with something for everyone to enjoy.