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Polynesians are an ethnolinguistic group of closely related peoples who are native to Polynesia (islands in the Polynesian Triangle), an expansive region of Oceania in the Pacific Ocean. They are part of the larger Austronesian ethnolinguistic group who trace their urheimat to Southeast Asia. They speak the Polynesian languages, a branch of the Oceanic subfamily of the Austronesian language family.

Total population
c. 2,000,000[1]
Regions with significant populations
New Zealand131,000
United States1.4 million[2]
French Polynesiac. 215,000 [3]
Tuvalu9,234+ [4]
Polynesian languages (Hawaiian, Māori, Rapa Nui, Samoan, Tahitian, Tongan, Tuvaluan and others), English, French and Spanish
Christianity (96.1%)[5] and Polynesian mythology[6]
Related ethnic groups
other Austronesians

There are an estimated 2 million ethnic Polynesians worldwide, the vast majority of whom inhabit independent Polynesian nation states (Samoa, Niue, Cook Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu) and form minorities in Australia, Chile (Easter Island), New Zealand, France (French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna), United Kingdom Overseas Territories (Pitcairn Islands) and the United States (Hawaii and American Samoa).



The Polynesian spread of colonization of the Pacific throughout the so-called Polynesian Triangle.
Polynesian warrior canoes

Polynesians, including Samoans, Tongans, Niueans, Cook Islands Māori, Tahitian Mā'ohi, Hawaiian Māoli, Marquesans and New Zealand Māori, are a subset of the Austronesian peoples. They share the same origins as the indigenous peoples of Southeast Asia (especially the Philippines, Malaysia and eastern Indonesia), Madagascar[7] and Taiwan. This is supported by genetic,[8] linguistic[9] and archaeological evidence.

The origins of the Polynesian people are addressed in the theories regarding human migration into the Pacific, which began about 3,000 years ago. These are outlined well by Kayser et al. (2000).[10] The most widely accepted theory is that modern Austronesians originated from migrations out of Taiwan between 3000 and 1000 BC; travelling via the Philippines and eastern Indonesia and from the northwest ("Bird's Head") of New Guinea, on to Island Melanesia by roughly 1400 BC, reaching the western Polynesian islands right about 900 BC. However, Soares et al. (2008) have argued for an older pre-Holocene Sundaland origin within Island Southeast Asia (ISEA) based on mitochondrial DNA.[11]

Analysis by Kayser et al. (2008) discovered that only 21% of the Polynesian autosomal gene pool is of Melanesian origin, with the rest (79%) being of East Asian origin.[12] Another study by Friedlaender et al. (2008) also confirmed that Polynesians are closer genetically to Micronesians, Taiwanese Aborigines, and East Asians, than to Melanesians. The study concluded that Polynesians moved through Melanesia fairly rapidly, allowing only limited admixture between Austronesians and Melanesians.[13] Thus the high frequencies of mtDNA B4a1a1 in the Polynesians are the result of drift and represent the descendants of a few East Asian females who mixed with Papuan males.[14] The Polynesian population experienced a founder effect and genetic drift.[15]

[16] A popular theory among scholars and native Royal Polynesian Monarchy (Tongan, Tahitian, Hawaiian; Monarchies) is that the genesis point from which Polynesia was finally populated was through the Polynesian Island archipelagos of Samoa (Sacred Center).[17] The Islands of Samoa are theorized to have been the gestation point from where which the initial roots of Polynesia patiently formulated over time, religion, philosophy, spirituality, language, Arts, culture and then spread forth through eastern Polynesia through the spreading of Samoa's Religion (Aitu, Kahuna, Tafuna). Through their Polynesian Aitu religion, the worship of animal, human deities and a pantheon of Gods and Demi-Gods which would grow exponentially in Eastern Polynesia, with the construction of monolithic Tiki Deities in Tahiti, Rapanui and the spread of the spiritual belief of Mana; a Polynesian spiritual life force which governs all living beings.

The last place to be settled by Polynesians was Aotearoa (New Zealand) estimated at around 1300AD.

The results of research at the Teouma Lapita site (Efate Island, Vanuatu) and the Talasiu Lapita site (near Nuku'alofa, Tonga) published in 2016 supports the 'out of Taiwan' theory although with the qualification that the migration bypassed New Guinea and Island Melanesia. The conclusion from the research published in 2016 is that the initial population of those two sites appears to come directly from Taiwan or the northern Philippines and did not mix with the ‘AustraloPapuans’ of New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.[18] DNA analysis of modern Polynesians indicates that there has been intermarriage that results in a mixed Asian-Papuan ancestry of some Polynesians. The research at the Teouma and Talasiu Lapita sites implies that the migration and intermarriage, which resulted in mixed Asian-Papuan ancestry of some Polynesians,[19] occurred after the first initial migration to Vanuatu and Tonga.[18][20] The preliminary analysis of skulls found at the Teouma and Talasiu Lapita sites is that the skulls lack Australian or Papuan affinities and instead have affinities to mainland Asian populations.[21]


Female dancers of the Hawaii Islands depicted by Louis Choris, c. 1816
A portrait of Māori man, by Gottfried Lindauer.
Kava ('ava) makers (aumaga) of Samoa. A woman seated between two men with the round tanoa (or laulau) wooden bowl in front. Standing is a third man, distributor of the 'ava, holding the coconut shell cup (tauau) used for distributing the beverage.

There are an estimated 2 million ethnic Polynesians and people of Polynesian descent worldwide, the majority of whom live in Polynesia, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.[1] The Polynesian peoples are shown below in their distinctive ethnic and cultural groupings (estimates of the larger groups are shown):


Polynesian outliers:

Physical characteristicsEdit

Polynesian persons are noted to have, on average, larger bone structure and muscle mass than Caucasian persons,[22] which has implications for BMI (Body Mass Index) comparability in measuring obesity.[23][24] Polynesians' physical characteristics help them perform well in some physical sports, including American football[25] and rugby.[26]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "The Pacific Islands & New Zealand".
  2. ^ Population Movement in the Pacific: A Perspective on Future Prospects. Wellington: New Zealand Department of Labour Archived 2013-02-07 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ See page 80 in Landfalls of Paradise: Cruising Guide to the Pacific Islands, Earl R. Hinz & Jim Howard, University of Hawaii Press, 2006.
  4. ^ "Population of communities in Tuvalu". 11 April 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  5. ^ Christianity in its Global Context, 1970–2020 Society, Religion, and Mission, Center for the Study of Global Christianity
  6. ^ Wellington, Victoria University of (1 December 2017). "Arts, humanities and social sciences". Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  7. ^ Bellwood, Peter; Fox, James J.; Tryon, Darrell (2005). The Austronesians: historical and comparative perspectives. ISBN 9781920942854.
  8. ^ "Mitochondrial DNA Provides a Link between Polynesians and Indigenous Taiwanese". PLoS Biology. 3 (8): e281. 2005. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0030281.
  9. ^ "Pacific People Spread From Taiwan, Language Evolution Study Shows". ScienceDaily. 27 January 2009. Retrieved 29 April 2010.
  10. ^ Kayser, M.; Brauer, S.; Weiss, G.; Underhill, P.; Roewer, L.; Schiefenhövel, W.; Stoneking, M. (2000). "Melanesian origin of Polynesian Y chromosomes". Current Biology. 10 (20): 1237–46. doi:10.1016/S0960-9822(00)00734-X. PMID 11069104.
  11. ^ Dr. Martin Richards. "Climate Change and Postglacial Human Dispersals in Southeast Asia". Oxford Journals. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
  12. ^ Kayser, Manfred; Lao, Oscar; Saar, Kathrin; Brauer, Silke; Wang, Xingyu; Nürnberg, Peter; Trent, Ronald J.; Stoneking, Mark (2008). "Genome-wide analysis indicates more Asian than Melanesian ancestry of Polynesians". The American Journal of Human Genetics. 82 (1): 194–198. doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2007.09.010. PMC 2253960. PMID 18179899.
  13. ^ Friedlaender, Jonathan S.; Friedlaender, Françoise R.; Reed, Floyd A.; Kidd, Kenneth K.; Kidd, Judith R.; Chambers, Geoffrey K.; Lea, Rodney A.; et al. (2008). "The genetic structure of Pacific Islanders". PLoS Genetics. 4 (1): e19. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0040019. PMC 2211537. PMID 18208337.
  14. ^ Assessing Y-chromosome Variation in the South Pacific Using Newly Detected, By Krista Erin Latham [1] Archived 2015-07-13 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^
  16. ^ Kallen, Evelyn (1982-01-01). The Western Samoan Kinship Bridge: A Study in Migration, Social Change, and the New Ethnicity. Brill Archive. ISBN 978-9004065420.
  17. ^ Kuykendall, Ralph S. (1967). The Hawaiian Kingdom: 1874-1893, the Kalakaua dynasty. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 9780870224331.
  18. ^ a b Pontus Skoglund; et al. (27 October 2016). "Genomic insights into the peopling of the Southwest Pacific". Nature. 538 (7626): 510–513. doi:10.1038/nature19844. PMC 5515717. PMID 27698418. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  19. ^ Kayser, M.; Brauer, S; Cordaux, R; Casto, A; Lao, O; Zhivotovsky, L. A.; Moyse-Faurie, C; Rutledge, R. B.; Schiefenhoevel, W; Gil, D; Lin, A. A.; Underhill, P. A.; Oefner, P. J.; Trent, R. J.; Stoneking, M (2006). "Melanesian and Asian Origins of Polynesians: MtDNA and Y Chromosome Gradients Across the Pacific" (PDF). Molecular Biology and Evolution. 23 (11): 2234–44. doi:10.1093/molbev/msl093. PMID 16923821.
  20. ^ "First ancestry of Ni-Vanuatu is Asian: New DNA Discoveries recently published". Island Business. December 2016. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  21. ^ Skoglund, P; Posth, C; Sirak, K; Spriggs, M; Valentin, F; Bedford, S; Clark, GR; Reepmeyer, C; Petchey, F; Fernandes, D; Fu, Q; Harney, E; Lipson, M; Mallick, S; Novak, M; Rohland, N; Stewardson, K; Abdullah, S; Cox, MP; Friedlaender, FR; Friedlaender, JS; Kivisild, T; Koki, G; Kusuma, P; Merriwether, DA; Ricaut, FX; Wee, JT; Patterson, N; Krause, J; Pinhasi, R; Reich, D (3 October 2016). "Genomic insights into the peopling of the Southwest Pacific - Supplementary Note 1: The Teouma site / Supplementary Note 2: The Talasiu site". Nature. 538 (7626): 510–513. doi:10.1038/nature19844. PMC 5515717. PMID 27698418.
  22. ^ Stride, Peter (10 January 2016). "Polynesian Bones". British Journal of Medicine and Medical Research. 16 (7): 1–9. doi:10.9734/BJMMR/2016/25651. Retrieved 14 April 2018 – via ResearchGate.
  23. ^[full citation needed]
  24. ^ Snowdon, Wendy; Malakellis, Mary; Millar, Lynne; Swinburn, Boyd (2014). "Ability of body mass index and waist circumference to identify risk factors for non-communicable disease in the Pacific Islands". Obesity Research & Clinical Practice. 8 (1): e36–45. doi:10.1016/j.orcp.2012.06.005. PMID 24548575.
  25. ^ Sonny, Julian. "Why Polynesians Are Genetically Engineered To Be The Best Football Players In The World". Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  26. ^ "Why Pacific-island nations are so good at rugby". The Economist. Retrieved 14 April 2018.

External linksEdit