Today the small island nation of Nauru celebrates Angam Day.
Angam means “jubilation” or “homecoming”. The jubilation doesn’t refer to any election, battle, revolution, legislation, or victory. It celebrates a birthday. It’s the birthday of a woman named Eidaruwo, who was born on October 26, 1932. But Angam Day doesn’t celebrate anything she did. In fact, it was first celebrated on the very day she was born.
For nearly all of its 3000 year history, Nauru’s remote location ensured its isolation, ever since Polynesian and Micronesian travelers first settled there. Contact with the West in the 19th century could not have come at a worse time. Not only was the country ripe for exploitation, the importation of guns and ammo exacerbated deadly tribal wars that devastated the island’s population.
The population of the island fell from 1,400 to 900 and didn’t recover. After World War I, an Australian study determined that the island’s population was so low that the race was in danger of dying out. Nauru would have to reach 1,500 in order to ensure healthy survival.
The mission to achieve 1,500 people united the island. It took many years, but on October 26, 1932 a baby girl named Eidaruwo was born. The whole island celebrated her birth, and they have celebrated the date as Angam Day ever since, except during World War II.
Today Nauru’s population is over 13,000, making it one of the most densely populated countries in the world. But during the 20th century, phosphate mining depleted the island’s natural resources.
Now the nation has a new mission: sustainability.