Hafa Adai to My Blog Audience

To lovers of the arts, history, and Chamorro culture - this blog is for you!
I hope to share tidbits that I enjoy, and I hope you enjoy them too.

Oops - that sounds too much like a poem, and I am not a poet.  However, I admire poets - passionate Poetry-Slam students of Mel Borja and powerful word pictures evoked by Craig Perez, lyrics sung by Candy Taman...

I'm passionate about people who are passionate about our beautiful Mariana Islands - the beauty and the good people who inherited these lands, as well as the issues that drive their passion to make things better.

But I'm not an active activist.  I prefer to observe and reflect; to engage people in discussion about issues - to keep the discussion going so that hopefully issues will be enlightened by the pros and cons and be resolved by collective thinking towards the greater good.  So, I'm an idealist.

I like to create beauty that extends from my art to my house, to my garden, to my yard, to my village, and throughout my island; and on to our neighboring islands and to the ocean that connects us all.

That sounds like a segway into an awesome conference I recently participated in at University of California Irvine:  AN OCEAN OF KNOWLEDGE

Organized by Drs. Simon Penny and Sylvia Frain October 18 and 19, 2017, this gathering brought together traditional masters of star navigation and canoe building, scholars who are also practitioners and innovators, representatives of ocean conservation NGOs, along with dedicated preservationists whose life's work takes place on remote islands throughout the Pacific.  My brief descriptions of the presentations don't do justice to the depth and breadth of oceanic knowledge covered over the two-day gathering:

  • "Global Warming and Sea Level Rise" by Francois Primeau, Earth System Science UCI - A lot of interesting and alarming facts about these issues, including forecasts for sea-level rise impacts on our small atolls.
  • "A Changing Climate for Coral Reefs" by Dr. Kristen Davis, Earth System Science UCI - The impact of coral bleaching as it threatens the world food chain.
  • "The Importance of Oceanic Subtropical Gyres as Debris Accumulation Zones and How They Effect Ocean Life" by Katie Allen, Executive Director of Algalita -  Most of us have heard of the floating islands of junk in various areas of our oceans, primarily the huge field of tangled long-liner ropes, fishnets, floats, and various plastic debris located in the northwest Pacific.  She passed around a baby-food-size bottle of water collected one meter below this floating mass.  It was oily with bits of plastic ranging from dime-size to tiny micro-bits.  And it never goes away!  Swallowed by birds or fish who die, the undigested mass goes back into the ocean, on to our beaches and into our food chain - scary!
  • "Empirical Mathematics in Constructing the Flying Proa" by Mario Borja of CHE'LU (San Diego) - Using a length of rope, Mario mezmerized us with computation of length, width, and heights used in the building of a traditional sailing canoe as taught to him by a Yapese master canoe builder.  He tested these principals during the building of several models of the Chamorro ancient sailing craft, the Sakman, which used scale drawings made by Commadore Anson who captured a canoe in Tinian in 1742.  The project culminated in the 47-foot Sakman CHE'LU, which was built from a redwood log by Chamorro novices in San Diego in 2011; and sailed with the canoe flotilla gathered in Guam for the Festival of Pacific Arts in May 2016.    
  • "Navigation Without Map or Compass: Non-western Cognitive Skills" by Eric Metzgar of Triton Films - Dr. Metzgar, a scholar, filmmaker, and master practitioner of traditional navigation, spoke about star navigation in terms that made the concepts understandable even to me.  The concept of moving islands around the canoe which remains stationary involves complex knowledge of star configurations that "appear" over an island not yet visible to the navigator.  In the evening he showed his film, SPIRITS OF THE VOYAGE (30-minute highlights, 1996) documenting the resurrection of the ancient Micronesian navigator initiation ritual called Pwo by Master Jesus Urupiy on Lamotrek.  
  • "What's So Special About Pacific Sailcraft?" by Simon Penny, UCI - This lively and interesting slide show presented canoes from around the world that modeled the defining aspects of the Flying Proa, which has identical bow and stern, and can change direction by moving the sail from one end to the other.  A variety of materials and innovations used this defining characteristic.
  • "Lata's Wayfinding System and Climate Science" Keynote with Mimi George premiered a new film, "We, the Voyagers: Matou, Nga Maku Puna O Lata" (56 minutes, 2017) - This documentation of the Tepuke of Taumako in the Solomon Islands is the culmination of Dr. George's 25 years documenting and helping  these islanders to revive their indigenous seafaring traditions.  The remoteness of these islands made this revival important to the survival of the islanders themselves, since they do not receive any commercial boat service.  
  • "Carolinian and Chamorro Carving Demonstration" by Master Antonio (Tony) Pialug and John (Mamis) Castro, Dept of Community and Cultural Affairs, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas (CNMI) - This master and apprentice team demonstrated on Thursday morning and continued on their own throughout the day, to complete the canoe model.  It was given as a gift to the conference organizers during the closing session.
  • "Finding the Way Home" by Judy Flores, RFT Micronesian Area Research Center, University of Guam - Guam FESTPAC 2016 celebrated the Chamorro revival of their ancient seafaring traditions with traditional canoes that joined voyagers from throughout Micronesia.  This is especially significant because this knowledge was completely lost during the 300-year Spanish and American colonial periods.  The presentation outlined significant activities and achievements since the 1970s that reclaimed their lost traditions.
  • "The Science of Wayfinding: Can Ancient Knowledge and Values Inform Modern Conservation Decisions" by Angelo O'Connor Villagomez, Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy - This presentation showed examples of how overfishing methods used by longliners and trawlers is depleting our world fishing resources. He proposes that traditional conservation practices he observed during his boyhood in Saipan can help reverse the decline.  
  • "The Role of Women in Navigating Social Change and Justice in the Marianas" by Moneka De Oro, Independent Guahan/Our Islands are Sacred - The presentation showed views of the pristine areas of Litekyan in Guam, and the islands of Tinian and Pagan which will be impacted by the U.S. military move from Okinawa.   She outlined the local resistance movements and outcomes, often with women as the leaders.  
  • "Beyond Restoration - Building a Future on Ancient Foundations" by Pete J. Perez, Director of 500 Sails, Saipan - With the goal of putting 500 sailing canoes in the water by 2030, the director of this project showed how prototypes of traditional sakman (Chamorro voyaging canoes) can be made of fiberglass rather than deplete the islands' supply of trees.  Their holistic approach includes the basics of teaching today's generation to value and use these canoes as part of a sustainable modern lifestyle.  He stressed that they will give a canoe to anyone who will come help build it and participate in the program goals.  Project highlights and challenges were presented.
  • "Looking for the Alternate Solution" by Dr. Larry Raigetal, Waa'gey Foundation, Yap - A master navigator and western-educated scholar, he began his presentation by showing his strong traditional roots through a chant after donning traditional wear.  He began with a story of his own experiences of growing up in Yap and wanting to see the world, whereby many young Yapese lose their way and never return.   He decided that he must return to Yap to help the present generation learn seafaring traditions and values.  He founded Waa'gey, a community-based organization that teaches canoe building and navigation as part of the school curriculum.  In the evening, he showed a 22-minute film documentary about their 500-mile sail to Guam to attend the 12th Festival of Pacific Arts (Guam Festpac 2016).
  • "Where We Go From Here" Closing Roundtable with Dr. Sylvia Frain, University of Otago & University of Guam - Presenters gathered to discuss how to continue the discussions and issues brought up in this conference.  It was decided that we needed to continue the momentum of seafaring gatherings which began with the Guam Festpac Canoe Summit in 2016.  The next Seafaring Conference is scheduled to take place in Yap on December 7, 2017, organized by the Yap State government and the Waa'gey Foundation.  For more information, contact Dr. Larry Raigetal at larry.waagey.org in conjuction with the 8th Annual Yap Canoe Festival Dec. 8-9
    (http://www.visityap.com/blog/2017-canoe-festival/) is being organized by
    the Yap Visitors Bureau, the Yap Traditional Navigation Society, and
    Waa'gey.




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