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CultureGrams
Kids Edition 2017 Solomon Islands

The Solomon Islands were named after King Solomon because some thought them to be the location of the
biblical king's legendary mines.
More than one hundred different native languages are spoken in the Solomon Islands.
The Solomon Islands are home to one of the world's largest saltwater lagoonsMarovo Lagoon, in New Georgia.
The Arnavon Islands are an important nesting area for endangered Hawksbill turtles.
Guadalcanal, the largest of the islands, was the site of fierce fighting between American and Japanese forces
during World War II.
A type of lizard called the giant Solomon Island skink is native only to the islands.
The Solomon Islands gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1978.
Most of the islands do not have electricity, so islanders communicate with solar-powered two-way radios.
On the Santa Cruz Islands, feathers were once used as money. Craftsmen wove red honeyeater bird feathers and
brown dove feathers into two-inch coils, which were used as bride-prices (money paid to a bride's family when she
marries and leaves home).

Flag
The flag of the Solomon Islands was most recently adopted on 18 November 1977. The
blue stands for the Pacific Ocean. The green represents the land. The yellow stands for
sunshine. The five stars symbolize the five main island groups.

National Image
The nation's coat of arms depicts a shark and a crocodile surrounding a shield. The four
quarters of the shield stand for the four districts. The sea eagle is for Malaita, the frigate
birds for the Eastern district, the sea turtle for the Western district, and the bow and
arrows for the Central district. The motto reads, "To lead is to serve."

Land and Climate

Area (sq. mi.)


11,157
Area (sq. km.)
28,896

The Solomon Islands are a group of more than nine hundred islands in the South
Pacific Ocean east of Papua New Guinea. Many of the islands are completely
uninhabited. The islands stretch in a double chain from Papua New Guinea across the
South Pacific and the Coral Sea to Vanuatu and, taken together, are slightly smaller
than Belgium or the state of Maryland. The six main islands are Choiseul, Guadalcanal,
Malaita, Makira, New Georgia, and Santa Isabel. Guadalcanal is the largest of these,
while Choiseul is the smallest and Malaita is the most populous.

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Located along the top of underwater mountain ranges, many of the islands are made up
of steep, rocky mountains, while others are small atolls (ring-shaped coral reefs) dotted
with palm trees and surrounded by lagoons. Swamps and mangrove forests line the
coasts of some of the islands. Orchids, ferns, bananas, and papaya grow in large
numbers. Dolphins, saltwater crocodiles, sharks, turtles, eels, and sea snakes are all
found in the islands. The nation is located along the 300-mile (483 km) Pacific Ring of
Fire and is home to a number of active and dormant (sleeping) volcanoes. Earthquakes
are also common.

The climate is tropical. It is hot and humid for most of the year, interrupted by the
occasional sea breeze. Monsoon season lasts from November to April and brings
heavy rains, while the dry season runs from April to October. Typhoons sometimes hit
the islands, but they don't often cause much damage.

Population

Population
635,027

The majority of Solomon Islanders are Melanesian. Small percentages of Polynesians


and Micronesians make up the rest of the population, as well as a few Europeans and
Asians. Melanesians tend to be dark skinned and curly haired, while Polynesians have
lighter, golden-brown skin and straight hair. The average islander is 21 years old, and
more than half the population is under the age of 25.

Most islanders live in small villages along the coasts. Only about 20 percent live in
cities such as the capital city of Honiara, Gizo, and Kirakira. Most communities in the
islands are very close and supportive. Looking out for family members and neighbors is
very important to islanders. In the cities, people generally live in homes made of cement
blocks with tin roofs, while homes in the villages tend to be built with wood and bamboo
and have thatched-leaf roofs. Along the coasts, some houses are raised on stilts to
keep them dry.

Language
English is the official language of the Solomon Islands, but only a tiny percentage of the population speaks it. Most
people speak a combination of English and local languages known as Solomon Islands Pijin. Pijin comes from the
simplified English 19th-century British traders used to communicate with the islanders. Over time, it spread from the
ships to the various communities throughout the islands. Today, there are around 120 different native languages in the
Solomon Islands, and many people speak different dialects (ways of speaking or pronouncing), so they use Pijin as a
common language to communicate with each other.

Can You Say It in Pijin?


Hello Halo (HA-low)
Good-bye Lukim iu (LOO-kim yoo)
Please Ples (plez)
Thank you Tang iu tumas (TANG yoo TOO-mus)
Yes Yah (yaw)
No No moa (no MOW-uh)

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Religion

Source: The World Factbook 2017. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2017.
Early 19th- and 20th- century missionaries brought Christianity to the islands, and today most Solomon Islanders are
Christian. The majority of them are Protestant, followed by Roman Catholics and a few smaller denominations. Some
people mix Christianity and native traditions together, including the belief that the spirits of one's ancestors watch over
you and should be honored. Church bells can be heard ringing on Sunday mornings and evenings in the villages, and
families gather in between services to visit and eat. The constitution guarantees freedom of religion.

Time Line
Early inhabitants arrive from the island now called New Guinea and
live on the islands

1500
1567 Alvaro de Mendaa leaves Peru on an expedition to find the Solomon
Islands
1568 Mendaa reaches the atoll (ring-shaped coral reef) now known as
Ontong Java
1595 Mendaa decides to make another voyage to the Solomon Islands
1788 Two French ships, the Boussale and the Astrolabe, are shipwrecked on
Vanikoros Reef
17981803 Four trading ships stop at the Solomon Islands
1800
1826 The wreckage of the two French ships is found for the first time

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1831 French explorer Dumont dUrville gives the islands the name Melanesia
, or the Black Islands
1845 French missionary Jean-Baptist Epalle comes to the islands
18501900 European diseases like measles, smallpox, and dysentery sweep
through the islands
1852 The Church of Englands Melanesian Mission begins missionary work

18701911 Some 30,000 Solomon Islanders sail overseas to work on plantations


1886 European powers divide the Solomon Islands up among themselves;
the Anglo-German Treaty establishes a German protectorate (country
protected by another country) over the northern Solomons
1893 The United Kingdom declares the southern Solomon Islands a
protectorate

1899 Germany gives the northern Solomon Islands to the United Kingdom
1900
1905 The British begin building large sugar and cotton plantations
1920 Chinese workers come to work on the plantations
1927 The British attempt to collect a tax from Malaitans (the people living on
the island of Malaita) results in a bloody conflict
1934 The worldwide Great Depression forces small plantations to close
1942 Japan invades and occupies the islands; heavy fighting takes place
between American and Japanese forces throughout the war

1945 Allied troops force Japan out of the islands; British rule is restored
1946 The independence movement Marching Rule is founded
1957 The tilapia fish from East Africa is introduced to Rennell Island to
relieve a food shortage
1970 A new constitution provides the government with some local
representation
1976 The islands become fully self-governing
1978 The islands achieve independence
1980 The first elections are held

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1988 The Solomon Islands join Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea to form the
Spearhead Group to preserve Melanesian culture and traditions
1998 Fighting breaks out between two rival rebel groups, the Isatubu
Freedom Movement and the Malaitan Eagle Force (MEF); at least
20,000 Malaitans are forced off of Guadalcanal when the Isatubu
Freedom Movement accuses them of taking jobs and land from the
native people of the island
2000
2000 The MEF stages a coup (government takeover); the prime minister is
taken hostage and forced to resign (step down); the two groups later
sign a peace treaty
2002 Unrest grows as the government is unable to pay its employees
2003 The prime minister asks for military help from Australia and New
Zealand as chaos continues; an Australian-led peacekeeping force
arrives to restore order and disarm rebel groups

2007 A tsunami hits the northwest Solomon Islands leaving thousands


homeless
2010 An earthquake triggers landslides and a tsunami; a thousand people
are left homeless
PRESENT

Early Inhabitants
People have lived in the Solomon Islands for thousands of years. No one is sure
exactly how the original Melanesians came to the islands. They are thought to have
arrived on canoes and rafts. Ancient pottery, charcoal remains, and stone roads are the
only leftover evidence of these early inhabitants. Villages were run by a group of elders
who chose a "big man," or chief, to be a respected leader. These clans or tribes were
often very isolated from each other. They spoke different languages, and when they did
come into contact with other tribes, they often fought. Few villagers ever traveled
beyond their own communities, and each community was like a large family, looking out
for each member.

European Explorers
In 1568, Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendaa sailed to the islands from Peru. Over the
next three hundred years, he was followed by a steady stream of European explorers,
missionaries, traders, and whalers. These outsiders brought change to the islands,
trading their weapons, cloth, tobacco, and other goods with the islanders in exchange
for coconut, fruit, and wood. They also brought foreign diseases with them, which the
islanders' immune systems could not fight. Many died from outbreaks of smallpox and
measles. The islanders frequently rebelled against the European intruders as they
attempted to establish plantations, missions, and a new set of laws. Some plantation
owners from Fiji and Australia sailed to the islands in search of workers. Known as
"blackbirders," they kidnapped islanders and tricked them into boarding their ships.
They then transported them to their sugar and cotton plantations, where they were
forced into slavery.

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Eventually, the upheaval caused by the labor trade caused Britain and Germany to both
establish protectorates (countries protected by other countries) over parts of the
Solomon Islands. Britain oversaw the southern islands, while Germany claimed the
northern. A few years later, Germany transferred the northern islands to Britain in
exchange for the right to claim Western Samoa.

Guadalcanal
In 1942, during World War II, Japanese forces invaded the Solomon Islands. Many
Europeans fled, burning and destroying what they could along the way to keep the
Japanese from using their shops and supplies for support. The Japanese set up bases
and looted villages, gardens, and churches. The remaining islanders organized
themselves into "coast watchers," setting up radio stations and acting as scouts and
spies to report Japanese naval, army, and aircraft movements to Allied forces. Many of
these "coast watchers" were later decorated for their bravery during the war.

At midnight on 6 August 1942, U.S. marines slipped quietly into the waters around
Guadalcanal in their first major offensive against the Japanese in the Solomons. The
next nearly three years saw some of the bitterest fighting of World War II. The capital
city of Tulagi was destroyed. Islanders ran rebel strikes, helped feed American soldiers,
and carried ammunition to the front lines. By the time the Japanese were forced out,
80,000 men had battled through the islands.

Independence
After the war, the islanders began to rebuild their homeland. A new capital city grew up
in Honiara to replace Tulagi. The Americans left, and the people became more
dissatisfied with British rule. A desire for independence grew and spread throughout the
islands. At the same time, the larger world powers became less interested in ruling
colonies far across the world. The British started taking small steps toward allowing the
islanders control over their own government. The islanders established local councils,
held elections, and adopted a new constitution. By 1967, the Legislative Assembly
(lawmaking body) was led by an islander. The Solomons became officially independent
in 1978. Peter Kenilorea was the country's first prime minister. The nation continues to
belong to the Commonwealth of Nationsan organization of countries that used to be
British colonies.

Civil War
The new nation struggled to rebuild its economy and find a balance between the old
traditions and a new way of life. Conflict began to erupt between different ethnic groups
as well. The Guale people on Guadalcanal and the Malaitans settlers from the
neighboring island of Malaita fought. The Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) represented the
Malaitans, while the Isatabu Freedom Movement led the Guale unrest. Thousands of
people were forced to flee the violence, and the government declared a state of
emergency in 1999. The following year, Malaitan rebels took control of the capital city
and forced the prime minister to step down. In 2003, Australian peacekeeping troops
arrived to help stop the chaos. Slowly, stability increased. Today, islanders are busy
rebuilding the economy, keeping the peace, and dealing with the natural disasters
(earthquakes and tsunamis) that sometimes strike the islands.

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Games and Sports


Solomon Islanders love to play soccer, and the national team competes internationally.
Boys of all ages play soccer, while girls love to play volleyball and netball (similar to
basketball). Rugby and softball are also becoming more popular, especially in the cities.
Children like to play tag.

Throughout the Solomon Islands, children play a game with coconut shells and a ball
made from coconut leaves. The game has many names depending on which island or
village the children come from, but one of the more common names means "shooting
down the shells." After the coconuts are split and the meat is scraped out, the shells are
ready to be used. Players place a small rock in the center of the leaf ball to give it
weight. Children then divide into two teams with an equal number of players on each
team. Teams may have as few as three children or as many as twenty. The object of
the game is for each team to build a tower of stacked coconut shells before the other
team can. While they are building, teams can also throw the ball at the other players. If
you are hit by the ball, you are out and can no longer help build the tower.

Holidays
Christmas and New Year's Day are the largest holidays in the Solomon Islands. During both holidays, people celebrate
by having a big feast, and relatives who live far away come to visit. While fish is common, pork, beef, and chicken are
considered meats for special occasions. These are baked in an earthen oven together with starchy root crops such as
yams, taro, and cassava (tapioca).

To create the oven, a fire is built and stones are placed in the fire. When the stones are very hot, green sticks are
placed on top of the stones, and then the meat (wrapped in leaves) and the root vegetables are placed on top of the
green sticks. Large green leaves and a canvas cover are placed over the food, followed by sand or dirt on top. The
leaves, cover, and sand trap heat from the rocks, and the meat and roots are finished baking in about one hour. The
food has a rich, smoky smell and flavor, which Solomon Islanders associate with special occasions and family feasts.

Food
Most Solomon Islanders grow their own food, including starchy vegetables such as
yams and kumara (sweet potato), along with pumpkins, watercress, and cabbage. They
also eat lots of fish, nuts, chicken, and eggs. Local coconuts are pressed for their milk,
which is used to make soups. Favorite fruits include bananas, mangoes, pawpaws
(papaya), star fruit, pineapples, lemons, and guava.

Most meals are not spicy. Women cook over open fires, and dinner is usually made up
of kumara, fish, vegetables, and fruit. Families eat together on the kitchen floor or
veranda. The food is usually served on plates, in coconut shells, or on banana leaves.
Guests are served first and are offered the head of the fish as a sign of respect. In
cities, people eat more rice and tuna fish, and they drink sodas. For breakfast, they
often eat biscuits and bread with tea or coffee. A typical dessert is a kind of baked
pudding made with cassava (tapioca), yams, or bananas. Turtles and wild pigs are
often cooked and served at festivals.

The types of snacks children eat depend on whether they live in the city or in a village
or town. Many city kids eat packaged snacks such as potato chips, cookies, or ice
cream. Kids living in villages only eat packaged snacks on special occasions. Snacks
common in the villages include mandarin oranges, star fruit, coconuts, and bananas. A
snack eaten throughout the Solomon Islands is dried breadfruit chunks called nambo.
Nambo comes in pieces the size of an ice cube and is very crunchy with a slightly
sweet flavor.

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Schools

Adult Literacy
84%

Kids in the Solomon Islands start school at age six. Primary (elementary) school lasts
for six years. When they are 12, they move on to secondary (high) school until they turn
18. Primary school children leave for school at about 8 a.m. and return home by noon.
Older kids start at the same time and get home around 3 p.m. Children study math,
English, social studies, physical education, and science. In the capital city of Honiara,
children may walk, take a taxi, or get a ride to school in a mini-bus. Outside Honiara, in
the villages and towns on many of the other islands, children paddle a canoe to school
or ride in a motorboat to a school on another part of the island or on a different island.

Most villages have primary schools, but not many have secondary schools. Many
children who do not live in Honiara go to boarding school for secondary education.
Many kids don't go because their parents cannot afford the fees, uniforms, and travel
required.Secondary school children living in Honiara can attend day schools, where
they return home to their families at the end of each day. Getting into a boarding school
is often difficult, and only children with the best grades are able to. Most kids who go to
boarding school enjoy the experience of living with their friends day and night. But they
do miss their families, who they only see twice a year: once at Christmas and New
Year's and once in June during the winter break (winter is in June in the southern
hemisphere). The friendships formed at boarding school are often long lasting, and
many stay in contact with one another for the rest of their lives.

For a long time, not as many girls as boys went on to secondary school, as they were
expected to stay home and help their mothers. But today, more girls are attending. The
school year is divided into quarters, and students get two six-week vacations and two
one-week breaks. Classes are taught in English. After finishing secondary school, some
students go on to attend the Solomon Islands National University or the University of
the South Pacific in Fiji. Others apply for grants to go to universities in Papua New
Guinea, Taiwan, or Australia.

Life as a Kid
After school, children in the capital city of Honoria play organized sports such as soccer
or netball (similar to basketball) on the school playground, or they play games like
marbles in the streets. Some children work on the street after school, selling small
items to passersby. Many children in Honiara have televisions in their homes and
spend a couple hours watching TV after school or in the evening. Children who have a
little more money go to internet cafs, where they can pay to use a computer and play
games or use social media to communicate with their friends.

Kids growing up outside Honiara don't have access to many of these aspects of city life.
Many rural (countryside) children live in villages or towns without electricity, so TV and
the internet are not options. Young children in these areas spend their afternoons
swimming, fishing, playing around the house or in the village, or exploring in the forest.
They are good swimmers and love playing in the water near shore, jumping off tree
limbs, or playing a kind of water polo with a rubber ball. They also like to fish and
compete with one another to see who can catch the most fish or the largest fish. Those
fish are then taken home and cooked for dinner. Some children living in the villages and
towns work to contribute to their families. After school and on weekends, they help their
parents tend the crops in the family garden. They also learn from village elders how to

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make handicrafts such as woodcarvings and mats woven from palm leaves. Most
families living in rural areas are quite religious and attend church either on Saturday or
Sunday, depending on what church they belong to.

Government

Capital
Honiara
Head of State
Queen Elizabeth II (U.K.)
Head of Government
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare

The Solomon Islands is a parliamentary democracy. The people elect members of Parliament (the nation's lawmaking
body). There are 50 members, and they are elected to serve four-year terms. The leader of the majority party is the
prime minister, who leads the government. The nation is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, which is an
organization of former British colonies. The Solomon Islands are divided up into nine provinces (similar to states) and
one capital city. In the villages, chiefs help settle disagreements. The country does not have a military. The police force
is in charge of fire services, border protection, and disaster aid. The voting age is 21.

Money and Economy

Currency
Solomon Islands dollar

The economy of the Solomon Islands is based on fishing, farming, and forestry. Tuna is
one of the most important fish. A small amount of land is used to grow trees, cocoa,
and copra (dried coconut meat), which the country exports (sells to other countries).
The nation must import (buy from other countries) many of its goods. The majority of
the population works for the government, but unemployment is still a problem, as there
are not enough jobs to support the growing population. The island is home to rich but
undeveloped mineral resources, including zinc, nickel, lead, and gold. Tourism is a
small but growing industry.

Getting Around
Most people walk or paddle a canoe to get where they're going. Some hitch a ride on a
passing truck to travel longer distances. Small planes and boats carry passengers
between islands. Most roads are not paved and can be hard to travel during the rainy
season. In the capital city, there are taxis and buses. A paved road runs along
Guadalcanal's north coast.

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Regional Arts
The Solomon Islands has a rich culture of language, music, religion, and art. Many
different forms of art are produced on the different island groups. People in the Western
Province are famous for their talents in wood carving and are known for carving
canoes, walking sticks, and beautiful bowls. The islands of Malaita and Guadalcanal
are known for their exquisite panpipes made from bamboo. A variety of panpipes made
in all shapes and sizes are often combined to form a panpipe orchestra. Stamping
drums are one of the most popular native instruments. They are shaped like a tube,
made of bamboo, and covered on one end by a cloth. Different size drums harmonize
together when they are beaten at the same time. Many of these cultural arts and
traditions are passed from generation to generation. Learning how to weave mats,
carve wood, or dance traditional dances is passed down through families, from
grandparents to their children and on to their grandchildren.

Learn More
Contact the Permanent Mission of the Solomon Islands to the United Nations, 800 Second Avenue, Suite 400L, New
York, NY 10017; phone (212) 599-6192; web site www.un.int/wcm/content/site/solomonislands. Or contact the
Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau, web site www.visitsolomons.com.sb.

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