Pacific Islanders are not from separate islands, but from one ocean. My hope is that one day, islanders from throughout the Pacific, including my three children, will understand and embrace this connection.
I was raised on Majuro in the Republic of the Marshall Islands in Micronesia. I attended high school in California, where I graduated from Costa Mesa High School. I returned to Majuro a few years later, where I met my husband, Lester, a Maui boy, who was working at the Bank of Hawai'i. We later moved to Saipan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, also in Micronesia, before moving back to his home on Maui in 1997.
Marshallese share many cultural similarities with Hawaiians, including land divisions, class structure and a number of similar words in our languages. We also share many of the same challenges in trying to succeed in American society.
Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce Director
When Johanna Amorin asked me to be her guest at a meeting of the Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce, I was hesitant, because I wasn't Hawaiian. She said I didn't have to be Hawaiian, just Hawaiian at heart. She insisted that I go to the meeting.
I felt welcomed and identified with the organization's mission of helping native Hawaiians succeed in business. I joined and have served as a director for the past five years. My involvement has resulted in the establishment of many new and valued friendships.
Micronesian Master Navigator Mau Piailug taught Nainoa Thompson the art of celestial navigation, which had been lost by the Hawaiians, and enabled the Hokule'a, the famous modern-day Hawaiian voyaging canoe, to sail to Tahiti in 1976 without the aid of modern navigational equipment. Mau is quoted as having said in his later years prior to his passing: "I have laid the stick that connects people together. Now it is up to you, your generation and the generations to come, to build upon that stick a bridge that will ensure the free sharing of information and teaching between the two peoples until the day we become united again as a single people, as we were once before; before men separated us with their imaginary political boundaries of today's Polynesia and Micronesia."
I hope that I can contribute, even if in just a small way, to building that bridge on Mau's stick to promote the Hawaiian value of lokahi, the creative and fruitful harmony that arises from our diversity.