What is an "Outer Island?"

Micronesia is home to many small islands, and the outer islands are the smallest.

As a contemporary political grouping, the Outer Islands of Yap includes the Atolls of Ulithi, Wooliae, Ifaluk, Lamotrek, Eauripik, Faechlap, Ngulu, and Sorol, as well as the stand-alone islands of Fais and Satawall. These are the islands that are within Yap State, but lay “outside” of Yap Proper, or Waab as it was traditionally known. The “Neighboring Islands” is the more politically sensitive, though less commonly used, term. Sorol is presently uninhabited and Ngulu is home to a mixed Yapese-Outer Island people.

The term “Outer Island” has historically covered a broader group, including some of the southerly, or outer islands, of Palau, as well as islands to the west of Truk (Chuuk), which are now part of Chuuk State. These atolls are all “low” islands, without the hills or small volcanic mountains that can be found in the larger islands that presently serve as state capitals, such as Yap Proper, the Islands within Chuuk Lagoon, or Babeldaob in the Republic of Palau. In addition to their low elevation, these outer islands contain very little landmass, and have very rocky soil. The linguistic and cultural continuity extends from east to west, but does not reach north to the Marianas, nor does it includes Yap Proper itself.

In modern times there is a frustration among some Outer Islanders that foreign-sponsored economic and technological development efforts are (for reasons of scale) focused on the State and District Capitals (Yap Proper and Chuuk Lagoon for example). Many Outer Islanders feel they must “move in” in order to advance themselves in these new systems, but the complicated caste and social system on Yap Proper can make this difficult. Others simply dont want to leave their home and families.

Habele believes that advances can occur simultaenously in the main centers and their sourrounding islands. We work to develop capacity in the community schools serving outer islands, while also sponsoring some Outer Island students to attend boarding schools in more developed areas. For more information please read about our projects on the Habele.org website.