Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Just the facts...

The main island of Yap is approximately 15 miles long. Yap also has 130 outer islands stretching nearly 600 miles east of Yap Island.  Four indigenous languages are spoken. These are Yapese, Ulithian, Woleaian and Satawalese.

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The Church. The Church came to Yap in 1977, when Charles Keliikipi, under contract to organize a police department on the island, arrived with his wife Odetta and their six children. The first missionaries, David S. Ige and Douglas Andrews, arrived on 14 November 1977. The first native Yapese to be baptized was Antonia Siso Isao on 18 March 1978. Afterwards several families joined the Church. A scouting program was initiated in June 1978, attracting 60 Boy Scouts and 15 Cub Scouts. Seven of the Boy Scouts were later baptized. The Yap Branch (later renamed Colonia Branch) was created on 26 July 1979 and a meetinghouse was completed on 13 January 1981. The Thos Branch was created in 1986. Seminary and institute classes were inaugurated on 9 September 1981. There are only the two branches in Yap: Colonia and Thol.

Religious Belief. Animistic beliefs in spirits and magic persist in Yapese culture in spite of nearly a century of Christianity. Most Yapese fear ghosts and many use magic for health or protection from spirits who may threaten their enterprises. The Yapese divided their traditional world into domains of spirits and humans. Female spirits inhabited the sea and threatened the lives and work of fishermen. Male spirits inhabited the land, threatening the livelihood and produce of the women gardening. 

Work. Most Yapese today combine some wage work activities with subsistence farming. Many Yapese are employed by the government, and private trading companies and service industries provide additional jobs, so that more than half of the adult male population—and up to 20 percent of the adult female population—earn wages. In addition to wage employment, nearly all Yapese engage in some subsistence food production. Swamp taro is the primary staple crop of the Yapese, and most villages have large taro swamps that have been constructed as village projects in the past. Individual families own parcels of the Village taro patches and also have garden plots in the surrounding hills on which they produce yams, bananas, breadfruit, and other supplementary fruits and crops. A few farmers produce copra as a cash crop, and a handful of entrepreneurs raise chickens, pigs, and other cash items for the domestic market

Marriage. Yapese consider it improper to marry anyone who may be kin. Yapese young people generally select their own mates, and most have one or two trial marriages before they establish a permanent relationship that results in Children. Yapese parents prefer that their children marry in the same village or among similar ranking villages. However, today with the central high school on the island and young people commuting by bus, many Yapese are marrying people from other villages and other districts of the island. 

Social Organization. The estate group and the village are the primary units organizing the social life of Yap. Within each village, family estates place individuals in a hierarchy of relationships within the community. Particular estates own titles that confer authority and prestige upon the members of that estate group. Villages in Yap are also ranked to include two major divisions: "Pilung," or "autonomous villages"; and "Pimilngay," or "serf villages." The autonomous villages are further ranked in three divisions: chief villages, noble villages, and commoner villages.

Managing Social Relationships. In the traditional village setting, the Council of elders maintains social control through a system of punitive fines and mediation by the chiefs between families in conflict. Visitors are strongly encouraged not wear shorts in public, except at beaches or swimming areas - showing the thighs is considered vulgar and immodest.

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