Janice Cantieri

Drought is a way of life on Banaba—a way of life Taboree Biremon knows all too well. “My wife and I didn’t eat. We fed the children,” explained Biremon, describing life during a drought that hit Banaba a few years back. “There was no food. We fed the children first, but we were starving. We...

Surviving on an isolated, infertile island is tough—but managing the scarce resources needed for thousands of families to survive on that island is an even greater challenge. The people of Kiribati have done so for centuries through the village maneaba, the consensus-based village leadership system. This is where the council of elders, te unimane, meet...

The morning was still dark when the young men arrived with their machetes and flashlights. We were on one of the most remote islands in the world, about to venture into an underground network of sacred caves known as te bangabanga. The land below the surface of Banaba, a Pacific island nearly 200 miles from...

BANABA ISLAND, Kiribati—Asbestos dust covers the floors of Banaba’s crumbling colonial houses, buildings, and schools. It’s in the field where people plant cassava. Broken pieces of asbestos sheeting litter the ground, and children use them to make toys and skateboards. All of this in an environment already littered with scrap metal, industrial waste, and oil...

After three dizzying days at sea, I was relieved to step off the boat in Tarawa, Kiribati. I’d just spent six weeks on the remote Pacific island of Banaba–a place so isolated that currently there is no phone, internet, or mail service. Being off the grid for more than a month was difficult for me,...

Author’s Disclosure: While interviewing the former leader of the Banaban Dancing Group, Maraki Kokoria, he explained that he had tried to organize a special reunion performance of the group for an event commemorating the Banaban displacement on Fiji’s Rabi Island, but found he could not afford to pay for the dancers’ transportation to the event...

For most of Lulu DeBoer’s life, the Kiribati islands existed only in dreams and in the stories she heard from her mother. DeBoer, 24, was raised in Texas, almost 6,000 miles away from the tiny Pacific island nation where her mother was born. Growing up, Kiribati “was always a mystery,” she said. “It just sounded...

“If, one day, the waves take away these sacred places and they’re gone, we will keep on telling the stories,” explained Takirua Tiare, a traditional storyteller on Kiribati’s Marakei Island. “But I can’t stop that—I don’t hold the answer of the waves.”  As a taani karaki, as the storytellers are known, Tiare, 68, is in charge...

“When I look at that place, I remember my wife. Now the waves are washing it all away.” As Itiaake Teuria talks, his eyes well with tears. “It’s sad if you see where we used to live. Now you can only see the ocean and the beach.” Teuria’s wife passed away this year of natural...

“This helps us. It doesn’t meet all of our expenses, but still, it helps,” smiles Tiitika Iita, as we sip water mixed with his homemade kamwaimai, a sweet coconut syrup. “We have a son in preschool, and this helps us provide for his books, pens, and other expenses.” Iita, 20, and his wife, Utireta Tebou, 21, live...

When I walked into Tarawa Island’s only air-conditioned coffee shop I was expecting to escape the 90° F heat, enjoy an iced coffee, and—if the Internet signal was strong enough—send an email. Instead I found myself face-to-face with the president of Kiribati. That chance encounter soon turned into a three-day journey to President Anote Tong’s...