Palauans have collected a total of $32.5 million dollars over a 5 year period to pay for funeral customs according to data collected by Oukerdeu Dr. Patrick Tellei, President of Palau Community College.
Dr. Tellei who has been collecting data on the amount of money, toluk (turtle shell money) and Palauan money collected at every funeral (kemedliil), settling of will (cheldecheduch) and house buying (ocheraol) customs for over 10 years, reported the outcome of last five years study of funerals at the Mechesil Belau Conference yesterday at Ngarachamayong Cultural Center.
Contrary to most beliefs, number of deaths have not really grown according to Dr. Tellei’s report. Since 1954 until 2019, number of deaths annually in Palau have not exceeded 1% of the total population.
Dr. Tellei said he believed that there are about 35,000 Palauans in the world today with around 12,000 living on-island. “This means Palauans living in Palau are a minority,” added Tellei.
According to the report, in 2016, total of 201 Palauans passed away and a combined total of $7.2 million was collected from the funerals. This averaged out to about $35,000 per funeral collected.
In 2017, 194 people passed away and $6.8 million was collected. In 2018, 189 people passed away and $7.1 million was collected raising the average spending per funeral to $37,000 dollars. This year so far, 168 people have died and $6 million has been collected bringing the average to $37,600. The numbers for 2019 may change as the year comes to a close.
The last five years, according to Dr. Tellei, Palauans have collected over $32 million dollars for funeral customs of 915 individuals. 32,210 pieces of toluk (turtle shell money) and 608 pieces of Palauan money were also collected during these funerals in a five year period.
In Palauan custom, when a person dies, family and clan members come together and collect money to pay the cost of the funeral including paying off the wife and the children if any exist. The amount raised from a funeral depended on many factors including the deceased age, clan status, familial relations, level of contributions to others when he/she was alive and others. The highest amount collected for a single funeral was nearly $400k and the lowest was around $5,000. (By L.N. Reklai)