|Flag of Pa'atua|
|Motto: One United Circle|
|Leader||National Speaker Ahute Lakatasari|
|Currency||Pa'atuan pound (Ŧ£), Alfegan aureus|
|Calling code|| |
|ISO Code|| |
|NS NSTracker Sunset XML|
Pa'atua is one of the smallest countries in the world, with a current resident population of just 93. Of these, only 24 low live in the capital village, Ufanua. The national population was 972 until recently, but most of those have been resettled on the Alfegan island of Los'vi. They maintain residency rights in Pa'atua.
A large majority of Pa'atuans are Polynesian. The are also 43 "other Pacific Islanders" (Melanesians, Micronesians...), 13 "Europeans", 1 "Asian" and 8 people of "mixed ethnicity". Of the 93 still living in Pa'atua, 92 are Polynesian and one of mixed ethnicity.
In addition, a small number of Pa'atuans live and work abroad, sending remittances back to their homeland or to Los'vi.
427 Pa'atuans (44%) are aged 17 or younger. 78 (8%) are aged 60 or above.
Prior to resettlement, the country was run on the national level by a Fono (Parliament) in which any person aged 60 or above was entitled to speak and vote. The Constitution states that decisions in the Fono must be reached by consensus, rather than by majority vote. What this means in practice is not clearly defined, but the country has a millenia-old tradition of decision-making by consensus, so customary decision-making was applied.
This system has been maintained on Los'vi.
The Fono chooses a National Speaker as the symbolic head of State. The National Speaker plays no real role in government; his or her function is to represent the country on the international scene. Thus he or she is more of a foreign affairs minister than a head of State. The National Speaker may be recalled at any time by the Fono.
The Fono meets on an irregular basis, whenever there is an important matter to discuss. At any other time, each village, islet and community is essentially autonomous.
In the capital, a resident member of the Fono was selected by his or her peers to serve as both mayor and judge. In this latter capacity, he or she could call upon the Fono's assistance when ruling on a matter brought to his or her court. There are few written laws; oral customary law, as interpreted by the elders (ahigi, members of the Fono) applied.
Now that Pa'atua itself has only a minuscule resident population, there is no longer a resident national government. Nor is there a resident mayor and judge in Ufanua. By informal agreement, decisions may be made by the 21 elders still living in the country.
Main article: History of Pa'atua
Pa'atua was first settled by Polynesians about 3,000 years ago. For at least eight hundred years, it maintained trade links with other parts of Polynesia, but these eventually declined, and the atoll entered a sustained period of isolation.
It was around the 6th century BC that an attempt was made to establish a single ahigi as ruler of the atoll. Structures were built from imported stone, near the present site of Ufanua. Their ruins can still be seen today. The attempt was ultimately a failure, as it contravened the socially important value of maa'suto (harmony, consensus).
A series of small fono were superseded in the 13th century by the national Fono as it exists today.
In 1848, the first francophone Catholic missionary arrived, and converted part of the population, leading to the current religious division between te Kisatani (Christians) and followers of ancestral spiritual beiliefs.
Recently, an agreement was reached with the government of Alfegos, whereby most of the Pa'atuan population was resettled on the Alfegan island of Los'vi.
Photography was introduced by missionaries, and precious snapshots have been conserved by the Church, offering a glimpse into Pa'atuan life at various periods of the 20th century. A corner of the country's only church served as National Museum of Historical Photographs, until the pictures were taken to Los'vi.
These are some of the many photographs:
- 1910s: a young Christian lady poses in Europeanised dress
- 1920s: a Pa'atuan home
- 1930s: the national Fono
- 1930s: a canoe on the lagoon
- 1930s: a Pa'atuan man tends to his crops
- 1940s: a scene of daily life
- 1950s: an ahigi and three other Pa'atuans, dressed up for ceremony
- 1960s: a man carving a wooden bowl
- 1970s: a scene of daily life
- 1970s: a young woman dressed up for ceremony
- 2000s: on Los'vi: a male dancer at a show of gratitude put on for foreign dignitaries and workers
- 2000s: on Los'vi: a show of gratitude put on for foreign dignitaries and workers
Pa'atua is an atoll. Its total land surface is 2.4 km², encircling a lagoon with 275 km² of water. The climate is tropical.
Culturally, Pa'atua is renowned for its oral narratives, songs, dances, and sand drawing. All of these serve a practical purpose, as they are used to express local or national history and custom, cementing communal or national unity as well as the maintaining of customary laws and practices. Sand drawing is exquisitely detailed, and, as a culturally distinctive practice, is one of the country's few tourist attractions.
Almost no Pa'atuans are atheist or agnostic; indeed, these categories are not included in the census, which recognises only two possibilities: Kisatani atua or custum atua (followers of the Christian god or of traditional gods). Officially, there are 390 Christians (all Catholic) and 582 followers of the atoll's traditional religion.
According to the latter, Pa'atua was created by a family of oyster gods, who came together in a circle of unity and became a string of islets. The first human inhabitants were born of their flesh, which had become the earth of the islets. Each islet identifies a number of initial ancestors, who are recalled through oral genealogies (wahasaka). These genealogies legitimate land ownership by descent for the current inhabitants of an islet.
The traditional religion is centred on religious rituals designed as prayers to ancestors. Some prayers are addressed to recently deceased ancestors, while others are addressed to ancestors from much longer ago, right up to the "first ancestors" or, in some cases, the islet-oyster god him- or herself.
Both religions are recognised and protected. Proselytism is forbidden, as it is considered socially divisive, and thus contrary to the spirit of ma'asuto (unity, harmony).
There are few instances of religious animosity. Both faiths preach tolerance (if not understanding).
Pa'atuan is a Polynesian language, closely related to other languages of its family. Most Pa'atuans speak only this language. Some basic French is taught in the Catholic school.
The country has two schools, both located in Ufanua, both faith-based, and both serving as primary and secondary school. Both are free; teachers' needs (food, etc...) are met by parents on a generous voluntary basis. One school has its own building, and is run by members of the traditional religion; the other is a Catholic school, and makes use the church premises. The schools provide a basic education in literacy, numeracy, history, science and religion. Parents, elders and local communities are expected to supplement this by teaching children traditional skills and knowledge.
The two schools in Pa'atua remain theoretically open. Two new schools are due to open on Los'vi.
Main article: Economy of Pa'atua.
Pa'atua's economy is primarily a subsistence economy. An official currency exists (the Pa'atuan pound), but is no longer in active use. It was used only for luxuries (imported food, a bicylcle), mainly in Ufanua. Few Pa'atuans have ever had access to money, except through remittances sent by expatriate family members.
Almost the entire population still residing in Pa'atua relies on a subsistence lifestyle.
Prior to resettlement, Ufanua had a supermarket and a grocery store, the latter operated by the country's only Chinese-born citizen. These are now closed, as their owners have moved to Los'vi.
A small group of volunteers in Pa'atua once operated a national radio news service. The news was read out on the radio every evening at 5:30pm. This service ceased in Pa'atua with resettlement, but was re-implemented on Los'vi. There are no newspapers, and no television.
Climate change crisis
Pa'atua is a country disappearing into the ocean. International observers agree that climate change will cause the atoll to vanish completely within, at most, thirty-five years. The government has sought international assistance to relocate the population while preserving its national community cohesion. Several countries agreed to assist, and the vast majority of the Pa'atuan population eventually moved to Los'vi island, in Alfegos.
Implications of resettlement
The Pa'atuan Fono, now located on Los'vi, retains legal jurisdiction and sovereignty over Pa'atua.
Images of the flooding
- Children play in the waves constantly advancing on Pa'atuan land
- For adults and children alike, flooding is a real problem
- The country is almost continuously flooded
|Internet code (TLD):||.pta|
|Telephone dialing code:||45|