The Marshallese culture is defined by pre-Western interaction and the subsequent effect of that contact on its people. The Marshall Islands were geographically remote. The inhabitants became expert navigators, able to travel to neighboring atolls using the currents. Prior to close interaction with Westerners, infants were nude, and men and adults were topless, wearing only skirts fashioned of local matting.
Land was and continues to be the most significant indicator of a family’s wealth. Land is passed down via the maternal line.
Since the advent of Christian missionaries, the society has changed from a subsistence-based economy to a more conventional western economy, with modesty norms expanding to include women covering their bare thighs.
The folks are kind and quiet. Strangers are welcomed with open arms. The Marshallese people value consideration for others. The importance of family and community cannot be overstated. Concern for others stems from their reliance on one another. They have spent decades living on remote coral atolls and islands. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and distant relatives are all considered close family. Strong familial connections lead to close-knit communities founded on compassion, generosity, and respect. A child’s first birthday is one of the most important family occasions.
The battle for Kwajalein Atoll during WWII, as well as the United States nuclear testing program on Bikini Atoll between 1946 and 1958, had a significant effect on the island culture. Former inhabitants and their descendants who were evicted after WWII are compensated by the US government. Residents’ allegiance has moved away from traditional leaders as a result of their need on assistance. The presence of approximately 2000 foreign personnel on the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, which includes rocket launch, test, and support facilities on eleven islands of the Kwajalein Atoll, as well as Wake Island and Aur Atoll, has had a significant impact on island culture today.