Kiribati is an island country in the central Pacific Ocean, about half way between Papua New Guinea and Hawaii, made up of 33 islands. Only 20 of these are inhabited. Although the land area is small, the islands are scattered widely. Most of the islands are very low-lying atolls (ring-shaped coral reefs). Kiribati is home to the South Pacific’s largest marine reserve.

Its permanent population is over 119,000 as of the 2020 census, with more than half living on Tarawa atoll

The area now called Kiribati, mainly the 16 Gilbert Islands, has been inhabited by Austronesian peoples speaking the same Oceanic language, for least two thousand years. The language is known as Gilbertese.

The Gilbert Islands gained independence as the Republic of Kiribati in 1979.Then, in September, the United States relinquished all claims to the sparsely inhabited Phoenix and Line Islands. Although the indigenous Gilbertese name for the Gilbert Islands proper is “Tungaru”, the new state chose the name “Kiribati”, the Gilbertese spelling of “Gilberts”.