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Polynesia (from Greek, "many islands") is a large grouping of islands in the central and southern Pacific Ocean.

Geographically, Polynesia is a triangle with its corners at Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island. Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, French Polynesia are the main other island groups.

Malayo-Polynesian languages are spoken by the Polynesian indigenous people. Culturally, Polynesia divides into two distinct groups, Eastern Polynesia and Western Polynesia. .

The culture of Western Polynesia is conditioned to high populations and infective diseases. It has strong institutions of marriage, and well developed judicial, monetary and trading traditions. It reaches almost from Japan, through Indonesia up to but not including the Marquesas Islands. Because of strong parallels with Christian cultures, it readily adopted Christianity.

From the Marquesas Islands eastward, the cultures are highly adapted to isolation. Populations were genetically in-bred. Women traditionally sought sex with off-islanders, to enhance their chances of bearing a healthy child. Religion, farming, fishing, weather prediction, catamaran construction and navigation were highly-developed skills, because the population of an entire island could hang on them. Trading was distinguished between luxuries and emergency aid and evacuation. Many low-lying islands could suffer severe famine if their gardens were poisoned by the salt from the storm-surge of a hurricane. In these cases fishing, the primary source of protein, would not ease loss of calories. Navigators, in particular, were revered almost like chiefs, and each island maintained a house of navigation, with a boat-building area.

See also Polynesian mythology

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