Circumstances of a Pacific atoll people in diaspora: a retrospective analysis of I-Nikunau
Life for people on many atolls is undoubtedly hard, frequently affected by droughts, rough seas and other adverse climatic conditions to name a few. It is little wonder then that kinship is the foundation of many atoll societies, traditional and even modern. This study is a retrospective analysis of a Pacific people living in several countries but held together as a diaspora through notions of kinship. The people concerned have indigenous, ancestral, cultural, social and continuing residential connections with Nikunau Atoll (coordinates 1.3475°S 176.4512°E). The analysis incorporates the present diasporic circumstances of this people, including how these circumstances arose historically. The core idea of the paper is that such an analysis provides a basis for surfacing and explaining the circumstances of the people in question, and so a basis for improving their circumstances from a critical, better-informed standpoint. The method of conducting the analysis relies heavily on the partisan stance of me, the author, whose kinship ties with I-Nikunau (= people who identify with Nikunau) are affinal. I identify, grapple with, articulate and interpret situations and events, including those I observed or experienced, or was told about, and those at least referred to or, in many cases, delved into by other researchers. The circumstances are analysed under 14 themes, including geographical, demographical, economic, environmental, cultural and societal circumstances. As well as appealing to I-Nikunau, the analysis may be relevant to the growing number of studies about Nikunau and Kiribati, most of them concerned with prospects of climate change making Nikunau, Tarawa and other atolls where I-Nikunau reside uninhabitable. That the authors of many of these studies published recently make so many references to the matters covered in this analysis would seem to indicate how relevant and important the matters in question are to the future of I-Nikunau and I-Kiribati. Furthermore, this relevance and importance may apply to the future of other peoples still inhabiting the world’s atolls and facing whatever challenges this future may bring, climate-related and otherwise.