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About the Marshall Islands Story Project

History of the Story Project

The Marshall Islands Story Project started in 2007 with a grant written by Dr. Ron Tanner, of Loyola University-Maryland. Dr. Tanner lived in the Marshalls as a teenager and later visited the islands and wrote about them. He returned to Majuro, the capital island, in 2007 to establish an educational partnership with the College of the Marshall Islands. He proposed a project to help teach Marshallese college students how to gather and archive stories from their elders. Intregral to the project was the students' practice of communication skills. Specifically, the project called for them to build a website to house the stories they collected. The hope was that this undertaking--the combination of gathering/translating stories and broadcasting them--would motivate the youth of the Marshall Islands to sustain the preservation of their oral culture.

ayson interviews chuchiHad there not been considerable support both from the College of the Marshall Islands and key people on Majuro, the project would not have started. Similarly, considerable support had to come from Dr. Tanner's own university. Most important was the support from Newton Lajuan, a CMI counselor who agreed to act as primary interlocutor and cultural liaison. For an acknowledgement of all who helped make the project possible in its pilot phase, please go to the "thanks" page (above).

In the fall of 2007, the National Park Service (American Samoa and Micronesia Program) approved the grant proposal and funded it through the Historic Preservation Office of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. In spring '08, Tanner took a leave from his university and spent the semester as a guest of the College of the Marshall Islands, where he taught two classes: "story-telling" and "web-design." The first helped students understand the world context for the Marshalles stories (and the importance of stories in general). The second taught them how to build a website. Both classes exercised the students' abilties to read and write English.

Pedagogical Concerns

The same students took both the story-telling and the web-design courses. This was important because, by mid-semester, the work in one (translating stories) became central to the work in the other (posting the translations on the website). The shared coursework also helped students take firmer ownership of the enterprise. Fieldtrips were central to the coursework. The students took a week-long trip to Arno Atoll, which allowed students to experience "outer island" life and further appreciate traditions that have all but disappeared from cosmopolitan life on Majuro, the capital island. Initially, interviews with story-tellers were conducted by Newton Lajuan, a CMI educator and the Project's co-investigator, but eventually students themselves were called upon to conduct interviews (from a set of questions developed by Mr. Lajuan). Also students were encouraged to ask questions and engage the story-teller in an exchange, especially when he or she was recounting his or her life story.

The primary premise of the Project is that the more students involve themselves in the gathering of stories, the more they will involve themselves in the preservation and promotion of that material. Field trips included visits to story-tellers on Majuro itself. Students often worked in groups of 3-5 to translate their findings. Such small-group work contributed to a sense of shared ownership. The demands of translation called for considerable one-on-one tutoring as the teacher helped students negotiate the difficulties of English.

Ultimately, revision was the key exercise both in translating stories and in making websites. Final edits of the stories were overseen by Newton Lajuan, an experienced translator. Given the time constraints, students were able to translate only a fraction of the material gathered. Newton Lajuan translated the rest.

Cultural Concerns

Cultural sensitivity was critically important. This made Newton Lajuan's role central to the project. A Marshallese educator, and himself a respected elder, Mr. Lajuan made inquiries and explained the Project's intentions to prospective story-tellers. As the Project's consent form makes clear, participation in the project is wholly voluntary. The story-teller has the right to stop the interview at any time and the right to withdraw his/her story at any time. A few story-tellers, after expressing initial interest in the project, did indeed decline to participate or felt unable to complete the story they had begun. There were some topics, too, that story-tellers could not touch upon due to cultural taboos. What is more, some aspects of oral culture are not supposed to be shared broadly; rather, they are supposed to be told to a select few (i.e., knowledge is power). In all cases, extreme care was taken to ensure that the story-teller felt respected and secure.

Bwebwenato in Story Project eo

sako interviews silk Marshall Islands Story Project in ekar ijino ilo 2007 eo kin juon grant im kar jejein Dr. Ron Tanner jen Loyola University-Maryland. Dr. Tanner ekar jokwe ilo Majel in ke ekar juon likao im kar jeblaaktok tok elik im jeje kaki. Ear jeblaaktok nan capital Majuro ilo 2007 nan ejake juon bunton-jemjera ikijien jelalokjen ippan College of the Marshall Islands.

Eaar kobbolalaik juon projeek eo naj nan jiban katakin ri-jikuul in Majel ro ilo college wawein aiin im kokon bwebwenato ko jen ritto ro aer. Juon mottan projeek in e-aorok ej iminene eo an ri-jikuul ro ikijjien konono im ronjake. Projeek in ekar karok bwe ri-jikuul ro ren ejake juon website nan kakwon bwebwenato ko rej aini. Kotmene eo ej bwe jerbal in, einwot aiini, ukoti, im kobbolalaiki bwebwenato kein naj maron lubjerjere jodikdik in Majel nan kokajoorlok jerbal in kojbaroki bwebwenato ko ad. Ne eaar jab kin jiban ko rellap wot jen College of the Marshall Islands im jet ro elap kilaer ion Majuro, projeek in eban kar maron ijino. Bareinwot an aorok rej jiban ko im kar itok jen jikuul eo an Dr. Tanner make. Im elaptata ej kar jiban eo kar itok jen Newton Lajuan, juon counselor ilo CMI eo im ekar monono in jerbal einwot ru-kook im juon eo ej boktok melele ikijjien manit. Nan lale im kile ro raar jiban kokajiririik projeek in, jouij im etal nan “thanks’ page eo i-tulon.

Ilo kar iolapenlok 2007 eo, National Park Service eo (Progam ko an American Samoa im Micronesia) ear koweppen juon grant im kar letok an jaan iumwin Historic Preservation Obiij eo an Republic eo an Marshall Islands. Ilo kar jinoin 2008 in, Tanner ekar bok jidik ien jen jerbal eo an ilo jikuul eo an im jolok juon semester einwot ri-lotok ilo College of the Marshall Islands, ijo im ekar ri-kakiik ruo kilaaj: mellan bwebwenato im kajjutak website. Jerbal in mokta kar jiban ri-jikuul ro melele karkan bwebwenato in Majel ko nan bwebwenato ko ibelakin lal in, ak aorok in men in bwebwenato. Eo kein ka-ruo kar katakin ri-jikuul ro kilen komman website. Aolepen kilaaj kein kar irajonjone maron ko an ri-jikuul ro nan riid im jeje Kajin Palle.

Lomnak ko Ikijjien Mellan Ri-kaki

Ejja ri-ikuul ro wot raar bok aolepen kilaaj kein kijein bwebwenato im komman website. Eaar aorok men in bwe ilo iolapenlok jemejta eo, jerbal ko ikijjien ukot bwebwenato ko kar oktak im mottan wot jerbal eo juon, kolaki lok ukok in bwebwenato ko nan website eo. Koba in kilen katakin kein ruo ekar bareinwot jiban kolaplok kile im enjake eo an ri-jikuul ro bwe ej mweir projeek in. Biiltreeb ak driwojlok im jerbal ilikin kilaaj ruum ej lap an aorok im mottan wot jerbal ko ilo kilaaj ruum eo. Ri-jikuul ro raar jolok juon wiik im etal nan aelon in Arno, emakit eo im kar maron na ialan an ri-jikuul ro maron melele kin mour ko ad make, ko im reiton jako ilo Majuro in. Ilo kar jinoin, bwebwenato ko im kar komman ippan ri-bwebwenato ro kar komman jen ippan Newton Lajuan, juon ri-jerbal in CMI im eo ej kein karuo ilo projeek in. Ijo wot ke eddo eo kar etal nan ri-jikuul ro bwe ren kommani ien bwebwenato ko ilo aer loor jet kajitok ko im kar kommanin Mr. Lajuan. Kar bar rojan ri-jikuul ro bwe ren kajitkin ri-bwebwenato eo im lukkun eoron ennaanin mour eo an.

Jibarbar eo kein kajuon an projeek in ej bwe ne elon lok ri-jikuul ro rej bok konaer ilo jerbal in ae bwebwenato, innem enaj laplok aer bok konaer ilo jerbal in kojbarok im kobolalaik tobrakin jerbal kein. Biil treep kein kar koba lolok ko nan ri-bwebwenato ro ion Majuro make. Ri-jikuul ro ekka aer jerbal ilo kumi ko 3 lok nan 5 uwaer im ukoti melele in bwebwenato ko raar aini. Jerbal ilo kumi jiddik ko ejibanlok enjake eo bwe jerbal eo ej an aolep. Eddo ko ikijjien ukok ekomman bwe jerbal in jiban eo jen ri-kaki nan ri-jikuul enaj juon eo ekemraeiklok aban ko kijjien Kajin Palle.

spear fishing torchEliktata, jerbal in kajjimwe ekar key eon an ukot bwebwenato ko im bareinwot komman website. Jerbal in kajjimwe ko eliktata kar pad iumwin onake eo an Newton Lajuan, juon eo im eto an jerbal in ukok. Im itok wot jen an drik ien, ri-jikuul ro raar maron wot ukot jet ian bwebwenato ko. Newton Lajuan ekar ukot ko jet.

Lomnak ko Rejelet Manit

Kile manit ekar juon men eo elap an aorok. Men in ekar komman bwe ijo konan Newton Lajuan nan projeek in en bwe an lap. Juon Ri-Majel eo eto an jerbal in katakin ekoba juon eo kile einwot juon ritto, Mr. Lajuan ekar bok melele im kalikar jibabar im kotobar ko an projeek in nan ro raar bojak in kwalok bwebwenato ko aer. Einwot an alikkar ilo consent form ak pepa in kemelim eo an projeek in, ej an wot juon ri-bwebwenato bebe in bok konan ilo projeek in. Ri-bwebwenato eo ewor an jimwe im maron nan kabojrak bwebwenato eo ilo jabrewot ien im bar einwot wor an maron in kajejtokjen kemelim eo an jabrewot ien. Jet ri-bwebwenato, elkin aer kar mokta kwalok aer itok limo, kar wonmaanlok wot im bok konaer ak kabojraki bwebwenato ko aer ilolaplap.Ekar bar wor jet mennin konono ko im ri-bwebwenato ro raar jab maron in tibriki itok wot jen aer jelet manit. Ejjab men in wot ak ekar bar wor jabon konnaan ak roro ko im kar jab maron kwalok nan jabrewot armij einwot ke men kein rej an jejjo wot. Ijoke, me kar ta ak kar lukkun lap kojbarok bwe ri-bwebwenato eo en utej im inemman.

kids at keyboard





design by Ron Tanner
© 2008 Historic Preservation Office,
Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands