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Unit One Materials

Pacific Islanders and the Americans

Pat Tillman
Marathon Runner
Don't Quit Poem
Walking the Road to Success
Pacific Islanders and the Americans

ACTIVITY 8: Pondering Perception

The Story of

the Pacific Islanders and the Americans


The first visitors from the United States to the islands in the Pacific found a society which had not changed for hundreds of years.  The people were seemingly content, and they didn’t have any sickness.  Through the centuries the culture of the islanders had survived.  Then the Americans came.  The Americans were shocked to see the people of the islands wearing very little clothing.  (In our country at that time people wore many more clothes than they do now.  They were more self-conscious about the human body.)  Therefore one of the first things these American visitors did was to make clothing for the men and women of the islands.


The Americans also carried the germs of their environment.  The islanders had not been exposed to American bacteria before, and they were not immune to American diseases.


The islanders, unlike the Americans, paid no attention to the rain.  They worked and carried out other daily activities in the rain.  Ordinarily they could do this, of course, since they wore little clothing which could get wet, and because they had been a traditionally very healthy people.  But when the islanders began to wear clothing given them by the Americans they continued to go out in the rain, wearing their clothing even after they had become drenched with water.  The combination of this practice and the introduction of new germs into their environment was fatal.  A great number of the islanders caught pneumonia and died.


The Americans had changed only a few traits of the islanders’ culture – a few pieces of the jigsaw puzzle.  But they changed the entire culture forever.

Thought Questions


After reading the selection about the Pacific islanders and the Americans:
  • Were the Americans right in what they did?
  • Why did the Americans act this way?

Bonstingl, John Jay.  Introduction to the Social Sciences.  Newton,

     Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon, 1985.  Pages 196-197.