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Pathway Tabiang Village Banaba

Pathway through Tabiang Village before mining


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With the first discovery of phosphate on Ocean Island in 1900, the Banaban people began a lifetime of struggle as they tried to stop the Phosphate Company from destroying their island. During World War 2 the Banabans would face one of the most devastating blows in their strife-torn history.

The invading Japanese Forces took it upon themselves to rid the island of the Banabans. Family clans were split up as people were transported to other islands - Kuasie, Tarawa and Nauru. The next step was the burning and destruction of the four villages on Ocean Island/Banaba.

Buakonikai Village Banaba 1932

Buakonikai 1932

The island had already been ravaged by 42 years of phosphate mining, and Buakonikai Village in the interior of the island on the lush plateau was already virtually mined away and surrounded by forests of limestone pinnacles. The other remaining villages that were situated on the coastline had never been under threat of mining, and now the Japanese added to the plunder of the Banaban people by destroying the one most important thing the people possessed - their Villages!


The Cultural and Environmental disaster this caused for the Community is irreplaceable... The villages constituted entire family clans and a Cultural infrastructure that was so important in everyday life and survival of the Banaban people. Words can never express the devastation and loss this would have on the people.

Uma Village Banaba 1932

Uma Village Circa 1914  


The Banabans have endured, and now today on Rabi Island those very same villages and family clans survive. A testament to the strength and strong Cultural bonds of the Banaban culture and the traditions passed down over the generations.

Tabwewa Village Banaba 1930s

Tabwewa Village Circa 1920


More information is available - Te Rii Ni Banaba - The Backbone of Banaba" by R. Sigrah & S. King new edition available now on Ebook:

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