Palau Constitution Day is observed annually on July 9. On this day, most public events occur in the capital of Ngerulmud and the city of Koror, with citizens taking the day off from work to spend time with their loved ones. The national holiday celebrates Palau culture and history, marking its journey to independence from the U.S. through popular referendums. In 1981, Palau opted not to join the rest of Micronesia and adopted its own constitution, which is modeled after the American constitution, outlining its relationship with the U.S. through free association.
History of Palau Constitution Day
Archeological evidence suggests that people from Southeast Asia inhabited the present-day Republic of Palau between 3,000 and 4,500 years ago. The ancient Palauans practiced extensive agricultural terracing using specialized technology made of shell and stone. The first Europeans to arrive on Palau were the Spaniards who controlled the territory until 1899 when Germany purchased the islands.
In 1914, at the start of the First World War, the Japanese took over the islands. Under their rule, Palau developed modern infrastructure and industries, and Japan’s dominance continued for decades. By 1935, the island of Koror — one of the most densely populated islands in the world — had more than four times as many Japanese as locals. World War II turned Palau into a strategic military base for the Japanese, acting as a launchpad for Japanese operations in the Philippines. Following the defeat of the Axis Powers in 1947, Palau became a U.S. administered territory.
In 1981, Palau adopted a new constitution, but it wasn’t until 1986 that they agreed on a draft Compact of Free Association with the United States. Palau voted to amend the constitution to allow approval of the Compact, with 73% voting in favor of the motion. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court would rule this amendment unconstitutional, leading to years of strife for the small island nation. Palau eventually met America’s demands, and on October 1, 1994, Palau achieved self-governance in free association with the U.S.
Palau Constitution Day timeline
During World War I, the Japanese assume control of the islands, establishing industries.
The United Nations decides that the U.S. will administer Palau as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.
Palauans approve their new constitution through a referendum.
Palau becomes an independent nation in free association with the U.S.
Palau Constitution Day FAQs
What language do Palauans speak?
The official languages of Palau are Palauan and English.
Is Palau part of Asia?
Palau is in the Micronesian area of Oceania, to the southeast of the Philippines.
Does Palau have crocodiles?
Yes, there are saltwater crocodiles in some parts of Palau.
How to Observe Palau Constitution Day
Make some ulkoy
Ulkoy is a dish of deep-fried shrimp and squash fritters. These crunchy snacks are a national favorite in Palau, among both tourists and locals.
Fly the Palau flag
Palau’s flag was adopted in 1981 after the country broke away from the United Nations Trust Territory. The blue represents their transition from foreign authority to independence, and the golden disc represents the moon, which is notable in Palau culture. The full moon is associated with good harvests, generous fishing hauls, and tranquility.
Read about Palau culture
On Palau Constitution Day, study the nation’s rich culture and strong links to the homeland. The islands were inhabited over 4,000 years ago. There’s lots of fascinating history to explore.
5 Unique Facts About Palau
No nuclear activity
Palau is the only country with a constitution banning nuclear activity, including nuclear energy production, tests, and weapons development.
Palau is a matriarchy
In Palau tradition, women are the decision-makers, evident in their matrilineal practices in funerals, marriages, and inheritance.
No national military
Through the Compact of Free Association Agreement, the U.S. is responsible for defending Palau from military threats and foreign invasions.
World’s first shark sanctuary
In 2009, Palau set up the world’s first shark sanctuary, banning all commercial shark fishing in its territorial waters.
An unlikely tourist attraction
Palau has only one jail, and it is a popular tourist attraction due to the beautiful wooden carvings sold by inmates at the jail’s retail facility.
Why Palau Constitution Day is Important
Palau is a marine life sanctuary
The spirit of Palau’s constitution safeguards the nation's waters from pollution and poaching. They’re dedicated to conserving marine life, including sea turtles and sharks.
Palau cares for the environment
Palau has some of the strictest environmental laws. They became the second country to ratify the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016. Palau’s constitution recognizes the importance of a clean, healthy environment, a worthy cause we should all emulate.
It celebrates culture and patriotism
Palau Constitution Day is a source of national pride. The day celebrates an event that brought the people of Palau true independence and national identity.
Palau Constitution Day dates