The Country of Stone Money

By: Douglas Scott

Yap is an island in the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean. Colonia is the capital of the State of Yap. The soil on the islands is very fertile, which promotes a lot of vegetation. However, there are not very many species of animals that inhabit the islands. The islands are under their own government but are loosely associated with the United States. They do most of their trading with Japan and the United States.

English is the official language but they are three indigenous languages spoken Ulithian, Yapese, and Woleaian. Yap actually consists of 4 major islands linked by road.

Many Yapese still wear traditional attire of loincloths or thus for the men and grass skirts or lava lavas for the women. Dances are an important part of Yapese culture because they are used to celebrate significant events.

Fresh fish is the main source of protein. Chicken, pork, and crab are also common. Important to the Yapese culture are taro, sweet potatoes, tapioca, coconut, breadfruit, bananas, mangoes and papaya.

The island opened for tourism in 1989. It has also featured in the Skin Diver Magazine as the most interesting island in Micronesia.

All the land and beaches on Yap are privately owned by traditional clan leaders and chiefs. Visitors wishing to explore off the beaten track need to request permission from the tribal elders and may have to pay a small fee.

Yapese stone money originally came from the neighbouring island of Palau. The stone money of Yap, is not legal tender in the international currency market, but is still used as legal tender on the island for almost all traditional transactions including sale of property and marriage dowries. This stone money also known as Fe are large donut-shaped, carved disks of calcite of various sizes. The U.S. dollar is the official currency.

Yap is famous for its clear waters where schools of tuna, dolphins and reef fish are found. It is the world's foremost destination for seeing manta rays up close and personal.

Yap Day, occurs during the first week of March, it is a celebration of dance and competition. Performers practice all year long for the dances which tell the stories of the history. Competitions in various common Yapese practices, such as spear throwing and basket weaving, are also common. This celebration symbolizes the most important elements of the Yapese culture dance, history, competition, and togetherness. The Yapese have been celebrating with dance since before their documented history began.

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