Indigenous peoples in Bougainville
The colonial history of Bougainville follows the histories of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Solomon Islands closely. Geographically and culturally, Bougainville is part of the Solomon Islands chain. Politically, it has been part of PNG, as “North Solomon Province”, since the country gained independence from Australia in 1975 and claimed Bougainville. It has, since 2005, had separate status with an Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) although military, external and judicial powers have been reserved by PNG. The first government was established in June 2005 following elections in May 2005 that were overseen by international observers.
The majority of the 175,000 inhabitants of Bougainville (approximately 85%) still survive on subsistence farming. Cocoa and copra are produced for cash cropping. The people live in numerous small, traditional societies and belong to about thirty language groups. Women play strong leadership roles and some degree of customary land rights still exists, supported by ABG policy.
During the first year of Joseph Kabui’s term as President of the ABG, several avenues for economic development have been explored, including cruise-line tourism and mining.