• Solomon Islands!

    Solomon Islands: Looking up at palm trees. Go Now!

    Solomon Islands
    This Melanesian country is best known for its many islands and beaches... and this natural landscape (pictured) is why most people go. Don't miss out on the unique Melanesian culture and foods though! Begin Your Journey!

  • Tonga!

    Tonga: Coastline. Go Now!

    The heart of Polynesian culture is rooted in Tonga, but most visitors just come for the natural beauty. Explore Tonga!

  • Vanuatu!

    Vanuatu: Jetty into the ocean. Go Now!

    Picturesque serenity is a good way to describe Vanuatu, but the culture offers much more, including the inspiration for bungee jumping, which remains a rite of passage for young men. Explore Vanuatu!

  • Palau!

    Palau: "70 Islands!" Go Now!

    Few people have even heard of this small Micronesian country, but those who have often return with stories of beauty unmatched elsewhere, such as view of the "70 Islands" (pictured). Go Now!

  • Explore the: Federated States of Micronesia!

    Federated States of Micronesia: Overlooking some islands. Go Now!

    Federated States of Micronesia
    This diverse country stretches for thousands of miles and has the diversity to prove it, including the people from Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Yap among others. Begin Your Journey!

  • Samoa!

    Samoa: A traditional home. Go Now!

    Among the most famous of the South Pacific's many countries, Samoa sits in the heart of Polynesia and has a culture to match. Begin Your Journey!

History of the Solomon Islands

Sitting so close to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands have been inhabited by people for nearly 30,000 years. These first settlers arrived from nearby New Guinea and were Papuan, but little is known about these people today. This settlement took place much earlier than the settlement of the rest of the South Pacific as these first settlers apparently never moved eastward. It took about 25,000 more years before another wave of people settled Solomon Islands and these people then continued settling further east as their ancestors eventually settled the entire South Pacific. This second wave of people arrived to the islands in about 4000-3000 BC and were Austronesian peoples.

The Austronesians settled Solomon Islands and later moved further east proving they had enough boat and navigational knowledge to travel to Solomon Islands and beyond, but other than this they lived very simple lives. Their days were likely filled with hunting, gathering, fishing, and later also included limited farming. Over time these two groups of people, as well as later waves of people intermarried and became a new ethnic group, which today is commonly referred to as Melanesian.

Although little is known about any of these early people or their cultures, they have left behind some clues and other aspects of their cultures were still common when the first Europeans arrived in the 1500s. Prior to European arrival the people had no written history so much of what is known about these early settlers comes from archeology and recordings by the early European explorers and settlers.

It seems these early people had contact with other islands as traders, they built fortresses, and they had numerous shrines, indicating some form of religion must have existed and been practiced. However, they still lived very simply lives based off the land.

The first known European to arrive to the Solomon Islands was Alvaro de Mendana from Spain who arrived in 1568. Although few South Pacific islands were settled in the 1500s by the Europeans, de Mendana discovered gold in the islands and soon the Spanish were swarming the islands seeking the treasures of "King Solomon" from the Bible, which led to the islands' name and settlement of the islands. However gold was scarce and soon the Spanish left. There was little foreign presence on the islands from this point until the 1800s.

The culture of the people changed little with these early explorers as the locals often fought the Spanish and other than these battles, seemingly no significant cultural exchanges took place. If anything, these exchanges led to the people getting better prepared for war, but it also made them cling to their culture and way of life.

Over the next couple centuries little changed in the islands. The people and their culture remained fairly static, while no foreign powers attempted to settle the islands in significant numbers (although many arrived in small numbers). It wasn't until the mid-1800s when the people truly changed. At this time numerous missionaries arrived to the islands to spread Christianity and soon after their arrival, colonization efforts began.

During this time the missionaries made headway throughout the Solomon Islands, including into the lands further from the shores. The colonization efforts also expanded, however settlements remained primarily on the coasts. Among the countries vying for this power and control were primarily the Germans and British. In 1886 the Germans gained control over the northern half of the islands, while the United Kingdom gained control over the southern half. However, as fortunes in the South Pacific shifted, in 1893 the Germans handed over their claim on the islands in exchange for Samoa, giving the British complete control over the islands.

Despite the battles and arguments over the islands, neither the Germans nor the British made a significant impact on the people. Both of these countries sought the islands for the potential economic gain they provided so most of their efforts were focused on trading posts and the growth of tradable goods, such as coconuts. It was the missionaries that made the greatest impact on the local culture as they had regular interactions with the people and were quite successful in converting a large percentage of the population to Christianity. Through this process the people abandoned many of their prior beliefs and began to adopt European customs and languages (primarily English) in addition to European religions.

It wasn't until the arrival of World War II (WWII) that European settlers truly affected the local people, other than the earlier missionaries. The Japanese invaded and took over the islands in the early 1940s, but the United States and other Allied forces arrived in 1942 for some of the bloodiest, but also some of the most strategic and important battles in the Pacific front of WWII.

From 1942 until 1945 the Japanese resisted American advances in the Battle of Guadalcanal, which took place on the island of the same name. This island was also the scene of later U.S. President, John F Kennedy's shipwreck. This long and bloody battle eventually ended in 1945 with an American victory, partially due to numerous locals assisting the United States; generally the locals disagreed and fought Japanese occupation.

After the war, life changed dramatically for the people of the Solomon Islands. Their historic lifestyle and economy was based on basic farming, but the battles destroyed most of the fields, while it also introduced industry, new technology, and encouraged the urbanization of the population. The United States essentially created the city of Honiara (today's capital) when they formed the city as their base. Also, due to the loss of agricultural fields and the construction of factories, many people moved to cities and took jobs in a more organized and industrial economy.

In addition to destroying farm lands, the war also polluted much of the Solomon Islands, most commonly with sunken warships and planes. This destroyed much of the environment as the sea life was badly damaged and the pollution in the surrounding waters and on land hurt both animal and plant life as well as human safety.

After the war the islands again fell under the control of the United Kingdom and they began organizing local politics. Local governments, the historic form of politics on the islands, were re-established, but so was a hierarchy creating a more centralized representative political system. Again, this continued the vast changes to the culture as the people began unifying as one instead of as citizens of their local community or island.

This process ended in 1978 with Solomon Islands gaining independence from the United Kingdom. There were few to no independence movements at the time, but the United Kingdom was facing a number of domestic issues that forced them to grant independence earlier than hoped.

Since independence the country has endlessly struggled. The economic situation at the time of independence was unstable and little has changed. The political situation has also created problems as both domestic and foreign issues have plagued the government, which have divided the people.

On the domestic side, the most important issue came in tensions between the ethnic Gwale people and the Malaita people. Both coexisted on Guadalcanal (the Malaita being fairly recent immigrants to the island), but tensions between them continued to rise until civil war broke out in 1999. After attacks by both sides, the Malaitans forced the Prime Minster to step down in 2000. Sadly, the new government did little to help the situation, although most violence has since ended in the Solomon Islands.

This chaos continues today, primarily on the island of Guadalcanal, but some significant improvements have taken place. In 2003 the government finally asked for international interference to stop the violence and to assist in resolving ethnic, legal, and economic issues, which were all affected by the war. Although peace keeping forces have arrived, the economy is still in shambles (although it is slowly recovering) and ethnic tensions have mellowed, although they still exist.

Throughout this process the people's lives have been complete disrupted as few people have been able to maintain a steady job or make a living. Ethnic tensions have also divided the people, giving people a stronger and stronger identity based upon their ethnicity, rather than on their nationality, religion, or any other identifying factor.

A final issue facing Solomon Islands, although having a much less significant impact in Solomon Islands itself, is the question of Bougainville. Bougainville Island is a part of Papua New Guinea, but culturally and linguistically is more closely related to Solomon Islands. Many of Bougainville's residents have sought independence from Papua New Guinea or even union with Solomon Islands. While this is a huge issue in Bougainville and in Papua New Guinea, most people in Solomon Islands have taken little notice as their focus is on domestic issues, such as the past civil war and the damaged economy.

This page was last updated: February, 2013