Alternative History

Banaba Island (also Ocean Island), an island in the Pacific Ocean, is a solitary raised coral island west of the Gilbert Island chain and 300 km east of Nauru. It is part of the Republic of Kiribati. It has an area of 6.5 km², and the highest point on the island is also the highest point in Kiribati, at 81 metres (266 ft) high. Along with Nauru and Makatea (French Polynesia), it is one of the important elevated phosphate islands of the Pacific.

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Map of Banaba Island


According to "Te Rii Ni Banaba—The Backbone of Banaba" by Raobeia Ken Sigrah, Banaban oral history supports the claim that the people of the Te Aka clan, which originated in Melanesia, were the original inhabitants of Banaba (Ocean Island), having arrived before the arrival of later migrations from the East Indies and Kiribati. The name Banaba in local tongue meant "stony". Sigrah makes the controversial (and politically loaded) assertion that Banabans are ethnically distinct from other I-Kiribati. The Banabans were assimilated only through forced migrations and the impact of the discovery of phosphate in 1900. There used to be 4 villages on the island - Ooma (Uma), Tabiang, Tapiwa (Tabwewa), and Buakonikai. The local capital was Tabiang, now called Antereen.

Village Population (Census)
1995 2005
Antereen (Tabiang) 16 108
Umwa (Ooma, Uma) 269 135
Tabewa (Tapiwa, Tabwewa) 54 58
Buakonikai - -
Banaba 339 301

Phosphate rock-mining (for fertiliser) from 1900 to 1979 stripped away 90% of the island's surface ( same process occurred on Nauru from 1907 to 1980's ). Japanese forces occupied the island from 26 August 1942 until the end of World War II in 1945. The British authorities relocated most of the population to Rabi Island, Fiji after 1945, with subsequent waves of migration in 1977 and 1981-1983. Some have subsequently returned, following the end of mining in 1979; approximately 200 were living on the island in 2001. Globally, there are an estimated 6000 individuals of Banaban descent. On Rabi Island the names of settlements are the same authentic four names from Banaba Island.

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