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Interview of Anjua Loeak

Life Story

Note: The interviewee is noted by initials, the interviewer by [Q].


How Life is Different Now

[Q] Could tell a little about your childhood. Such as the place where you were born, your favorite passtimes and so on.

[AL] Jabwor, Jaluit.

[Q] You were born on Jabwor, Jaluit?

[AL] Yes

[Q] Can you tell a little about life back then?

[AL] In those times, life was very different. It is different from the life today.

[Q] What kinds of traditional houses were built and what kinds of food were eaten?

[AL] Well, the houses in those times were made from pandanus leaves and were called ‘em-aj’ [traditional house]. As to the food, they ate local foods such as breadfruit, bwirom[breadfruit preserves], pandanus, coconut, and so on.

[Q] In the past, there were two harvests.

[AL] Huh?

[Q] Um, angon-ean and angon-rak.

[AL] Yes, there were seasons.

[Q] Can you explain angon-ean and angon-rak. Can you explain the difference between angon-ean and

[AL] In angon-rak, actually it is named rak. There is food to harvest like breadfruit, etc. That is the season when there is lots of food to harvest. There is a season for breadfruit. There is a season for pandanus, among other harvests. In angon-ean season, it is very different. There isn’t as much to harvest as in rak. There are actually several foods, but they are foods mostly containing starch and so on.

[Q] So there are only two seasons angon-ean and rak?

[AL] Yes.

[Q] Can we go back to the previous question about the housing? We know there are huts for the chiefs, the clan heads, and the commoners. For the chief’s huts, how big were they? and did they have any special name?

[AL] Huh?

[Q] Did the chief’s huts have special names?

[AL] Names, right? Well, they were often called lapuj.

[Q] Lapuj?

[AL] Yes.

[Q] And for the small huts?

[AL] Big huts...Yes, they were big and they often called them lapuj.

[Q] So you are saying that there were two different names? Lapuj and em-lap?

[AL] Yes.

[Q] Let’s go to the next question. Question number five. We heard from friends and relatives about the big change in the life today such as working together, caring for one another and so on. We see and read newspapers about brothers and sisters suing one another in the courts for land rights. In your opinion, what causes these to happen?

[AL] Well, we can say that money is the biggest cause of change today. And life today is very different from before. Before, people were very close to one another. They fed one another, shared meals and so on. The sharing of food within a community was often practiced and that was the way we cared for one another through sharing. There were no crimes in that time.

[Q] Were there any crimes or violence in that time?

[AL] In truth, there were no crimes. I think life was peaceful.

[Q] So you are saying there were no crimes at all?

[AL] No, there were never any.

[Q] Ohh.

[AL] The crimes you see nowadays, well, are very different from the past practices. In my youth if I saw a woman, I would not see her wearing pants and so on. Also, women were not....[long pause] let’s just say, life in the past was different from life today for many reasons.

[Q] Can you give another example like the one you just mentioned about women?

[AL] Yes. Our customary practices have changed in many ways.

[Q]  Do you see any traditional customs still practiced today? Which ones?

[AL]  Still practiced?

[Q] Do you think our customs are still practiced?

[AL] Oh, well I think some of them are still practiced, but some are not while others are fading.

[Q] Do you think there is evidence of mixture in the life nowadays?

[AL] It is mixed. And this makes it different from the life in the past.

[Q] You said that it is mixed, what is one example?

[AL] Where is that [on the list of questions]?

[Q] Where? Oh, what I was asking was about the mixed lifestyle today.

[AL] Mixed practices, right?

[Q] Yes.

[AL] [Paper rattling] Oh, you might want to repeat yourself because I missed that [on the paper].

[Q] [Emphasizing loudly] In your opinion, do you see any mixed practice in the life today? Is it mixed?

[AL] Yes.

[Q] Let’s move to question, number eight? In the US court system, do you see any cultural interference?
Do you see anything that interferes against our custom in the US court system? Let’s say when a lawsuit is over and a verdict has been reached about land rights...

[AL] Um?

[Q] In question eight, it asks about difficulties in the US court system.

[AL] [Rattling the paper] and who or what....

[Q] And who or what took the place of the policeman or court in the past.

[AL] Well, there are some for....there are some cases, but these are mixed for you who work on the
verdicts concerning their lands in some places.

[Q] Maybe as well... How is it mixed because some people do not follow the verdict in the cases.

[AL] Yes, some. There are some cases in which the verdict should have been in accordance to the customary practices, but because their lawyers are good the court takes...lets them win.

[Q] So it depends on the lawyers. Ohhh. But in the past, who used to be the policeman when you were young? Or who used to make the verdicts in those times.

[AL] Well, in those times, in the Japanese era, we said the policemen did their jobs.

[Q] They used to work?

[AL] Yes, and they would see to the verdict. The policemen were the ones who used to do their jobs. And they would oversee any incidents that came up and work on them, especially concerning land rights. It is true that the policemen used to....

[Q] When the policemen used to do their jobs...well, that is good. It is good because we now understand. And now, the last question: from your point of view, do we still have time to preserve our culture and language and how would we do that? Are there any strategies?

[AL] Well, yes. There is still time to preserve our culture and keep it safe. If some can...yes. There is still time to save our culture.

[Q] Are there any examples that you can provide?

[AL] Yes it is all based on our culture. We need to...[looking at paper] Why is it that here it says, “As you see it, is there still time to save or keep our culture and language?”

[Q] And how can it be done?

[AL] And how can it be done? [pause] Well, now can I answer? the answer here is yes. And how will it be done? How will it be done?

[Q] If you have any answer, you can give it, but if you don’t have any, you can say yes there is time to keep our culture, and there are strategies.

[AL] Now how can it be done? If we think back, for example the jobwa [the famous Marshallese stick dance which is only to be performed at the request of a chief]

[Q] Isn’t it right that the jobwa only is done where there is a big event in the Marshall Islands and only for the chief and the jobwa, it is like only a few....people don’t often get to see it, and this is part of our custom. We can keep them because...and do the jobwa because some people might see the jobwa once in a year. And that is also part of the culture. I just picked a jobwa so we can discuss it. But we don’t just show it [frequently] because according to the chief we have to get permission from him and this is part of the culture that we look back upon. I notice that this is part of the culture we need to hold on to so the jobwa doesn’t disappear because it is really important to us.

[AL] One example is the game about the race. It is based on the old culture. For us to keep and safeguard for now when we look at it they say, “Now the cost for gas has exploded. The cost for necessities is also expensive.” If we go back to our way of life in the beginning concerning transportation we wouldn’t need gas and the like. We would only use the wind, which is free. Is this right that there is still time to save our culture, our language? [inaudible] for us to keep our culture.

[Q] Very well, are you done? Eh?

[AL] Because in the question it says, “Is there still time to save our culture and language?” Well, my answer is yes. There is still time, but in truth many parts of the culture have already disappeared. Are already gone.

[Q] Man, can I....can we change the questions to another question? It is is part of this question so that it can be answered here where it says, “how.” From your perspective, where would culture, language....From your own where would they go?

[AL] Well, they can go to the schools, they can be included in the school curriculum. Start teaching the children these things, but I don’t know how much or in what capacity.