Katie Leffel

Physical Features

There's mostly low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs. Kiribati includes three island groups - Gilbert Islands, Line Islands, Phoenix Islands.


tropical; marine, hot and humid, moderated by trade winds.
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Plants and Animals

Screw Pine

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Copra and fish


Kiribati was first settled by early Austronesian-speaking peoples long before the 1st century A.D . Fijians and Tongans arrived about the 14th century and subsequently merged with the older groups to form the traditional I-Kiribati Micronesian society and culture. The islands were first sighted by British and American ships in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and the first British settlers arrived in 1837. A British protectorate since 1892, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands became a Crown colony in 1915–1916. Kiritimati (Christmas) Atoll became a part of the colony in 1919; the Phoenix Islands were added in 1937. Tarawa and others of the Gilbert group were occupied by Japan during World War II. Tarawa was the site of one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. Marine Corps history when marines landed in Nov. 1943 to dislodge the Japanese defenders. The Gilbert Islands and Ellice Islands (now Tuvalu) were separated in 1975 and granted internal self-government by Britain. Kiribati became independent on July 12, 1979.


Micronesian 98.8%, other 1.2% (2000 census) I-Kiribati, English (official)

Land Use

arable land: 2.74%. permanent crops: 50.68%. other: 46.58% (2001) agriculture: 30%. industry: 7%. services: 63% (1998 est.) Agriculture - products: copra, taro, breadfruit, sweet potatoes, vegetables; fish. Industries: fishing, handicrafts. Exports - commodities: copra 62%, coconuts, seaweed, fish. Imports - commodities:

foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, miscellaneous manufactured goods, fuel.

Religion and Education

Roman Catholic 52%, Protestant (Congregational) 40%, some Seventh-Day Adventist, Muslim, Baha'i, Latter-day Saints, and Church of God (1999) Education in Kiribati is free and compulsory from age 6 to 14, which includes primary school through grade six, and Junior Secondary School for three additional grade levels. In 1998, the gross primary enrollment rate was 84.4 percent, and net primary enrollment rate was 70.7 percent. School quality and access to education are better in urban areas; schools in small communities on isolated islands are expensive to maintain.
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Traditions and Culture

Martial arts and dueling. Kiribati folk music is generally based around chanting or other forms of vocalizing, accompanied by body percussion. The uniqueness of Kiribati when compared with other forms of Pacific Island dance is its emphasis on the outstretched arms of the dancer and the sudden birdlike movement of the head. Don't smile because its origin of not being solely as a form of entertainment but as a form of storytelling and a display of the skill, beauty and endurance of the dancer. In the southern islands, the boiled fruit of pandanus (screwpine), sliced thinly and spread with coconut cream. Palu sami (coconut cream with sliced onion and curry powder, wrapped in taro leaves and pressure cooked in an earth-oven packed with seaweed. It can be eaten on its own or served with roast pork or chicken).


Kiribati's coasts are being steadily eroded because of sand mining, the seas are polluted with sewage, litter is dumped anywhere, and the people live in over-crowded ramshackle conditions at risk of disease and illness.