Happy December 15th to all my Banaban families! 72 years ago today.
On December 15th, 1945, the colonial government relocated the entire Banaban community to Rabi Island so that they could mine the rest of the island. The Banabans were left in army tents in the middle of cyclone season, after being promised two-story, brand new wooden houses. “There were no wooden houses, no two stories, nothing. Just a tent,” Tabunawati told me during my visit to his home. “This was how the Europeans treated the Banaban people.” The British Phosphate Commission used the displacement of the island’s population during World War II as an opportunity to expand their mining operations.
The Banabans’ new life on Fiji was difficult, Tabunawati and Otiong recall. The climate in Fiji is much different than on Banaba, so the community had to learn to plant new crops and adjust to life in a completely foreign environment. “After a few years on the island, we found that life here was very hard, because we were not used to planting cassava, eating banana, or different types of food on Rabi,” Otiong explains. “We really wanted to go home.” Go to @humansofkiribati
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