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Over the 100 years of Polynesian rule, Gilbertese Islanders and many islanders from all over the Mid-Pacific, migrated in and out of Ocean (Puakonakai) Island. The Polynesian language of the original settlers became extinct, except for some names still used on villages and land marks.
We have come up to about 100 years after the first discovery of the island by King Tutuk (Tutaki) and Queen Timirik (Nei-Kamoa). The Germans controlled trade in the Marshall, Caroline Island groups and Nauru Island. The British controlled what they called the Gilbert and Ellis Island groups. The Royal Family members with many followers were exiled to Kosrae (Kusie) and the missionaries on Puakonakai were in religious control of the remaining Chiefs and commoners. One of the commoners, Rotan Tieto, became their pastor and established a council of leaders with himself as chairman. By 1898, King Tisiniriak had died on Kosrae Island and his son now had the sacred turtle stone and technically, King of Puakonakai. His two sisters Tekoniti and Karianna II along with most of the Puakonakai returned to home via Nauru Island. A year later in Sydney, Australia, an employee of the then British Pacific Island Trading Company discovered that a rock used for a door stop at the Company’s Sydney’s Office was pure guano phosphate. One of the workers for the new company had brought it back with him from a trip to Nauru, an Island under German Trading control. It was by reason, that if Nauru had these rich phosphate rocks, perhaps the next isolated island to the east did as well. By May of 1900, a manager of the company, a Mr. Ellis with several other company members arrived off Puakonakai (Ocean) Island with the full intent of securing all rights from the native to mine the phosphate. They had sent a man named Mortensen from a visit to the Marshalls, to stop by Puakonakai in late 1899 and obtain some samples for testing in Sydney of the Puakonakai Island rocks. The rocks turned out to be very high grade phosphate. Thus the wheels of fortune started turning the greedy brain of the company owners. How to get control of this island they called Ocean Island without the neighboring German control Nauru finding out. A plot and plan was worked out amongst the company owners by which Britain would lay claim to the Island as part of the Gilbert chain. The company could then legally claim mining rights to it as a British owned company. Thus Mr. Arndel Ellis and with the help of Lord Stanmore in England, pulled off a deceptive deal before the Germans even knew there was phosphate on Nauru Island. In the meantime, Mr. Arndel had to get the rights to mine the Puakonakai Island fast, so before Britain included it in its protectorate of the Gilbert Islands, Mr. Ellis, Mortensen and a crew with trading goods arrived off the shore of Puakonakai with the full intent to get the rights from whomever, to mine the Phosphate. They were met by a canoe full of Puakonakaians from Tepewa (Tarawa) village. Some trading occurred and they went ashore to meet the village Chief. With the help of the Gilbertes missionaries, they told the native what they were after, the phosphate stones. Mr. Ellis no doubt in a great rush to get anyone’s signature on a quickly written agreement he devised, thought he was getting the X mark of the King and village Chiefs. The King in actuality was in Kosrae and the elders of three villages signed this quickly drafted agreement instead. They were promised money, material, and lots of can foods, tobacco, and alcohol in exchange for the rocks. None of this was ever communicated to the King Tintrunga. The family heads and elders as they were, had a meeting and decided they would divide up the land amongst themselves. The sisters were not told of this great land division either, that is neither Karianna II nor Tekoniti. With this so called agreement X marked by some elders, Mr. Ellis left for Sydney to get ready to immediately start mining what they now called Banapa (Panapa), Ocean Island. Puakonakai was now referred to a piece of land on the eastern half of the island with villages now expanded to the mountain top. The village chiefs and elders through the Gilbertese missionaries divided up the island as they saw fit to do so, each in turn claiming ownership of the island.