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In approximately the first few centuries A.D. the first Micronesian navigators arrive in Aelon Kein Ad (our islands), what would eventually be known as the Marshall Islands. Though opinions vary, Ri-Majel (Marshall Islanders) are thought, like other Pacific Islanders, to have originated in Southeast Asia, and to have established themselves in the Marshall Islands centuries before European voyagers ever reached the region. Early accounts depict Marshallese society as having much in common with other Micronesian Islands.

Use the slides below to learn more about the Marshall Islands history.

Prehistory

Prehistory: In approximately the first few centuries A.D. the first Micronesian navigators arrive in Aelon Kein Ad (our islands), what would eventually be known as the Marshall Islands. Though opinions vary, Ri-Majel (Marshall Islanders) are thought, like other Pacific Islanders, to have originated in Southeast Asia, and to have established themselves in the Marshall Islands centuries before European voyagers ever reached the region.

Prehistory

Early accounts depict Marshallese society as having much in common with other Micronesian Islands. Chieftainship was strong and material culture, given the scarcity of natural resources, was relatively advanced. Early Ri-Majel were regarded as superb navigators, canoe builders, and sailors.

1494

1494: The treaty of Tordesillas cedes ownership of all Micronesia to Spain.

1527

1527: Three ships under Alavaro de Saavedra, sent from Mexico to seek news in the Moluccas of the Magellan and Loaisa expeditions, are sent to the area of the Marshalls.

1788

1788 June 25: The Scarborough (Captain John Marshall) and Charlotte (Captain Thomas Gilbert) sight Mili, Arno, Majuro, Aur, Maloelap, Erikub, and Wotje Atolls while proceeding to China from Botany Bay. The islands are called Lord Mulgrave Islands after the Lord of the British Admiralty. The name Marshall Islands is later applied to the group as a whole by Russian hydrographer Krusenstern.

1817

1817: Russian navigator Otto von Kotzebue, meets with Lōmade, iroojlaplap (paramount chief) of Aur, Maloelap, Wotje, and Uterōk, and is told he is about 30 years old and a native of Arno, who has gained his power by murdering all of the of his islands. The Ratak Chain (including Majuro, Arno, and Mili) belongs, at this time, to Irooj Latete.

1817

1817: Using weapons that he traded for with Kotzebue, Lōmade wages war against Latete’s atolls. The new weapons put an end to the war in six days. Five men are killed.

1820s

1820s: American whalers seeking food and water begin visiting the Marshall Islands. Occasionally, men remain on shore and become beachcombers then traders.

1823

1823: Iroojlaplap Lōmade conquers all the islands of the Ratak Chain and ultimately conquers Kwajalein, Lae, Ujae, Wotho, Rongelap, Bikini, Enewetak, and Ujelang in the Ralik Chain.

1840

1840: Kaibuke of Ebon marries the daughter of iroojlaplap and becomes the second-highest chief of the southern Ralik Chain. The Marshall Islands are feared on account of Kaibuke’s attacks on foreign ships.

1842

1842: Kaibuke assumes power as iroojlaplap of the Southern part of the Ralik Chain.

1851

1851: 70 people of Ebon (including Kaibuke's brother) are killed when an American whale ship fires at their canoes in revenge for a trader’s murder. Kaibuke swears to kill all Riballe (Caucasian foreigners) in revenge for his brother's murder by the whalers.

1857

1857: Rev. Hiram Bingham Jr. of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) creates a missionary outpost on Ebon. Kaibuke supports his work and encourages Christianity.

1860

1860: American and Hawaiian Protestant missionaries arrive, sent by the Hawaiian Evangelical Association, an auxiliary of the ABCFM. About this time J.C. Godefroy and Sohn of Samoa, establish trading stations on Mili, Aur, Jaluit, Ebon and Namdrik. A few years later, two German companies, Hernsheim & Co. and A. Capelle & Co., are also in business there. Copra is their primary interest.

1863

1863: Kaibuke dies of typhoid fever.

1870

1870: After Kabuke's death, Kabua (Lebon) a ladakdak (mayor or duke) of Rongelap, becomes Irooj when he marries Lomokoa, the widow of the Kaibuke.

1878

1878: Germany enters into a treaty with inhabitants of the Ralik Chain, granting special trade privileges. Kabua (Lebon) presents himself to the German government as the Iroojlaplap. Kabua, Lagajimi, Nelu, Loeak, and Launa, all sign the treaty.

1880

1880: Loeak goes to Jaluit from Ebon to challenge Kabua in battle. After a bloodless fight, Loeak returns to Ebon.

1885

1885: Loeak is the chief in the southern Ralik. Murjil, irooj of Aur controls northern Ratak. In northern Ralik and southern Ratak, individual atolls are, in most instances, ruled by independent local irooj.

1886

1886: By agreement with Great Britain, the Marshall Islands become a German protectorate.

1887

1887: Influenza epidemic hits the southern atolls, many people die.

1904

1904: Influenza epidemic hits the southern atolls, many people die.

1905

1905: A typhoon hits the southern atolls.1914: The Marshall Islands are taken over from Germany by Japan.

1920

1920: The Marshall Islands are mandated to Japan by the League of Nations, together with the other occupied islands. The group is administered as a separate district. The Marshallese are given little voice in their own government. Copra is exported to Japan at a price fixed by the Japanese.

1934

1934: Japan withdraws from the League of Nations, but retains possession of the Marshall Islands. Fortification of the islands begins as Japan prepares for war. The Japanese military begins building airstrips, power plants, and bunkers.

1939

1939: World War II begins.

1944

1944 January 31-February 5: Battle of Kwajalein Atoll.

1944

1944 January-February: On the fortified atolls (Mili, Maloelap, Woje and Jaluit), food shortages and daily bombing runs become a way of life.

1945

1945: End of World War II grants effective control of the Marshall Islands to the U.S.

1946

1946 February: The U.S. establishes the Pacific Nuclear Proving Grounds in the Marshall Islands beginning with Bikini Atoll. In December Enewetak is also included.

1946

1946: Operation Crossroads is launched with “Able” (June 30) and “Baker” (July 24) nuclear tests at Bikini; both are Hiroshima-size atomic tests.

1947

1947: The Marshall Islands becomes part of the United States Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI), following three years of American military administration.

1951

1951: U.S. Department of the Interior assumes responsibility within the U.S. government for the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) from the Department of the Navy.

1952

1952 March 1: The first hydrogen device, Operation Ivy, under the U.S. testing program in the Marshall Islands, is fired on Enewetak.

1954

1954 March 1: U.S. nuclear testing program detonates Bravo, the most powerful hydrogen bomb ever tested by the U.S., on Bikini Atoll. Radiation from the test forces evacuation of Marshallese and U.S. military personnel on Rongelap, Rongerik, Utirik, and Ailinginae.

1960

1960: Kwajalein is used as target practice for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), fired from Vandenberg Air Base in California USA, 4,800 miles away.

1961

1961: Peace Corps is founded and the first volunteers are dispatched to the Marshall Islands.

1963

1963 August: The signing of the “Limited Test Ban” ends atmospheric testing, including nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands.

1965

1965: The Congress of Micronesia is formed, with representatives from all the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. It is created by the U.S. administration in preparation for greater self-governance by Micronesians.

1979

1979: Irooj Amata Kabua is elected first president of the Marshall Islands.

1979

1979 The government of the Marshall Islands is officially established and the country becomes self-governing.

1980

1980: The Airline of the Marshall Islands (AMI) begins operation, serving eight locations: Enewetak, Bikini, Kwajalein, Mili, Likiep, Maloelap, Wotje, and Majuro.

1982

1982: Official name changes to the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI).

1983

1983: President Amata Kabua is elected to a second term.

1983

1983: Voters in the RMI approve the Compact of Free Association with the United States.

1986

1986: U.S. Congress approves the Compact, resulting in its entry into force. The Compact grants the RMI its sovereignty and provides aid and U.S. defense to the RMI in exchange for continued U.S. military use of the missile testing range at Kwajalein Atoll.

1987

1987: President Amata Kabua is elected to a third term.

1988

1988: The Nuclear Claims Tribunal (NCT) is initiated. The NCT addresses personal injury and property claims resulting from the nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands, and is included in the Compact of Free Association.

1990s

1990s: Settlement of compensation claims as a result of the U.S. nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands still proceeds and is associated with various agreements of the Compact of Free Association.

1990

1990: United Nations Security Council terminates the RMI’s trusteeship status.

1991

1991: President Amata Kabua is elected to fourth term.

1991

1991: RMI joins the United Nations.

1994

1994: The U.S. Department of Energy releases thousands of previously classified nuclear test era documents, many of which confirm the wider extent of the fallout contamination in the Marshall Islands.

1994

1994 December: A five-year study of 432 islands in the Marshall Islands shows that 15 atolls and single islands were dusted by radioactive fallout from the U.S. nuclear weapons tests of the 1950s.

1995

1995 February: Marshall Islands officials testify before U.S. President Clinton’s Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments in Washington, D.C., stating that fallout exposed many more than the four atolls acknowledged by the U.S. government, and that islanders were purposefully resettled on contaminated islands so the U.S. could study the long-term effects of radiation.

1996

1996: President Amata Kabua is elected to fifth term.

1996

1996: Amata Kabua dies.

1997

1997: Imata Kabua, Amata Kabua’s brother, is selected to finish the presidential term.

1997

1997 December: Typhoon Paka hits the RMI and handicaps the copra industry.

1998

1998: El Niño further exacerbates the copra industry.

2000

2000: Kessai Hesa Note is elected president.

2001

2001 First Compact of Free Association expires.

2003

2003: Second Compact of Free Association approved by U.S. Government.

2003

2003: President Kessai Hesa Note is elected to second term.

2003

2003: US President George W. Bush signs new Compact of Free Association, worth $3.5 billion over a 20-year period, with the Marshall Islands and Micronesia.

2004

2004: In January President Kessai Note begins his second four-year term.

2007

2007: The December election results show no clear winner. They are challenged in court and by a number of recount petitions.

2008

2008: The Nitijela elects former speaker Litokwa Tomeing as president.

2009

2009: Litokwa Tomeing is ousted in a vote of no confidence. Jurelang Zedkaia is chosen by the Nitijela to replace him.

2012

2012: In January, Christopher J. Loeak is elected president.

New Era

2016 Election saw changes with long time members retiring or losing their seats to a fresh group of young candidates dramatically effecting the votes for opposing parties. 2016 marked a first of many changes to come with 7th elected President, Casten Nemra being ousted in a matter of weeks by opposing party members. The move proved to be historical in the former President Nemra being the youngest elected and also the shortest term in office when opposing members electing 8th Dr. Hilda Heine as the first woman head of state in Micronesia in the Freely Associated States.