How did this creole arise on Sapwuahfik? The answer is the 1837 Ngatik (old name for Sapwuahfik) Massacre. The massacre was led by C.H. Hart, a British trader based out of Sydney and captain of the ship, Lambton. Hart travelled the Pacific in search of tortoiseshell and landed in Sapwuahfik first in 1836. On his first visit he supposedly came across a large cache of tortoiseshell, but was forced to leave after one of his crew members started fighting a local. Approximately a year later, Hart returned to Sapwuahfik with extra armed men, including two canoes of Pohnpei warriors. Upon reaching the atoll, Hart and his men attacked and killed every adult male on the island (save one who was later killed several months later) and some women and children. Several of the female survivors, unable to deal with the overwhelming loss, killed their children and themselves a few days later. While Hart and his ship left the atoll soon after the massacre, though without the supposed tortoiseshell he was looking for, some of his crew members and a few Pohnpeians remained behind, thus beginning a new radical shift in the ethnic make-up of the atoll. Hart, however, returned later in 1837 bringing with him several Pohnpeian and white settlers to set up a for-profit tortoiseshell venture, which lasted several years. Hart’s rule of the atoll came to an end in 1839 when the British man-of-war HMS Larne landed on the island to investigate claims of the massacre. During this investigation, an unknown British naval officer assigned three of the surviving Sapwuahfik boys traditional Pohnpeian high titles to reestablish 'lawful' order on the atoll.
The period after Hart’s control over the island saw the revival of the population by several
immigrant groups. These immigrants came from all over the region, though mostly from Pohnpei,
Gilbert Islands (Kiribati), Mortlock Islands (Chuuk), and a few from Europe and the United States. A few decades later Protestant Christian missionaries from Hawai`i came to the atoll and converted most of the population. This too brought about another rapid change in the atoll's culture.
As a result of the massacre and the later conversion, much of the traditional Ngatikese culture has been lost and a new creole created. The Ngatikese language too most likely changed as well as a result of losing at least half of its speakers.
For more details about the massacre see Poyer, Lin. 1993. The Ngatik massacre: History and identity on a Micronesian atoll. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.