Nature, Tradition On Minds Of Kosraeans

by Olivier Wortel

OKAT, Kosrae (Marianas Variety): July 25, 2002 - The delegation that represented Kosrae at the 2nd Annual Indigenous Leaders Conference in Pohnpei last week, apart from the host island agenda, brought with them a five-point list of issues of their own.

The issues of the Kosrae indigenous delegation were as follows:

  • endorsement of Compact of Free Association renegotiations between the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and the United States;

  • the establishment of a historical commission or cultural institution, to promote and showcase traditional and cultural heritage;

  • the creation and establishment of an endowment; and lastly,

  • the enforcement of cultural and traditional properties repatriations.

As far as the Compact renegotiations are concerned, it is mentioned that the FSM and the Marshalls "need to secure support from other entities in the Micronesia region" in order to impact the United States' positive response for future funding of "cultural and historical preservation services - and senior citizen's programs."

Second on the agenda, the establishment of a Historical Commission, or Cultural Institution, would help in alleviating the problem "of the bias of foreign authors" in the representation of Micronesian "history, culture, and customs." The current cultural bias that exists within most current resources, it is stated, "is not representative of indigenous views."

Another agenda item is "the understanding and appreciation of Micronesian traditional and cultural values - and all current changes around us. It is of essence to showcase all of our fast-dying out skills and products."

According to the list, to combat the "modern changes that interfere with many of our ancient skills," the FSM states should "interact with the Guam/Micronesian Fair Committee to work out some definite arrangements for showcasing events," and "expand showcasing and exhibitions throughout Micronesia, including Kiribati and Nauru."

Another agenda item for the Kosrae delegation is the creation of an endowment "to protect, preserve, conserve, and promote traditional and cultural values and valuables."

A consistent funding source, and a "body" to manage it, is important in order to prevent the further loss, deterioration, pilfering, and recovering of many Micronesian valuables.

Lastly, there is an issue of enforcing cultural and traditional properties repatriations. Traditional leaders would "spearhead a diplomatic effort" to regain artifacts long removed and "displayed in other museums and institutions through out the world. These properties carry with them island prides and integrities. Educational approaches toward the Micronesian tradition and cultures cannot be complete without these removed artifacts."

Alokoa Talley, head of the Cultural Affairs Office, and a member of the delegation, also expressed a desire to discuss the issue of modern developments upon the traditional culture and the natural environments of Kosrae, alluding to some of the negative impacts that development inherently brings.

One thing that Talley also noted, chagrined at the prospect, was that even though the mayors, specialists, government higher-ups, and directors who made up the delegation are not particularly indigenous leaders, Kosrae sent these people because there are no longer any traditional chiefs.