Sunday, May 23, 2010

Blog Transfer

The Insular Empire blog has been MOVED. Please visit for blog postings, background info, and updated information on The Insular Empire.

Many thanks to Lara Kroeker at Randomlink Interactive for revamping The Insular Empire blog and website!.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A New Battle for Okinawa - which, by the way, is a great new online source for international news - just posted this excellent little piece about the ongoing protests to the presence of US military bases in Okinawa. Sadly, Guam gets only a minor mention - as the proposed location for the Marines the Okinawans want so desperately to get rid of. But since the Okinawans have been protesting, loudly, for eight years straight (or 60 years, depending on how you qualify 'protest'), I can see how they might get a bit more of the limelight. Guam's situation is so much more complicated, and so much harder to encapsulate in a short news piece...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Yapese Canoes Land on Guam

Larry Cunningham, Guam historian and long-time supporter of The Insular Empire, sent me this recent news of a remarkable voyage using celestial navigation. He writes:

Two Traditional Navigation Society outrigger sailing canoes departed Lamotrek for Guam on Monday, April 26th. Their plan was to sail north and pass to the east of Guam, sailing between Guam and Rota to approach the Hagatna Boat Basin Channel from the North.  But because of the strong current, this plan changed and they came to the Hagatna Boat Basin Channel from the Southwest, four days late, arriving on April 30th.  The canoes had sailed over 400 miles of open ocean, braving strong winds, high seas and rainy weather.

The two large (over 30 ft. long) ocean-going canoes anchored at the TASI (Traditions About Seafaring Islands) canoe house,  Sahyan Tasi Fachemwan, where they plan to stay, according to TASI President Frank Cruz.  The key organizer in Guam is Former Federated States of Micronesia Yap State Governor Robert Ruecho, who is operating from the Office of Guam Governor Felix Camacho.

Lamotrek Master Navigator, Ali Haleyalur, is captain of the Simion Hokule’a, a canoe built on Satawal.  He has a crew of 11.  Maap (Island in Yap) Master Canoe Builder, Chief Bruno Tharngan is captain of the Mathow Maram.  He has a crew of nine. Dr. Eric Metzgar is making a documentary film of this voyage from Lamotrek to Guam and then to Yap. Metzgar was an apprentice of Halayalur’s late father, Master Navigator, Urupiy.  Metzgar has made several documentary films about Micronesia, including “Spirits of the Voyage.”

This voyage is unique because the crews are outer atoll Carolinians and high island Yapese.  Also, the return voyage will be from Guam to Yap and this direct voyage of over 500 miles is not documented in credible historical accounts.

The purpose of this Carolinian and Yapese voyage is to put into practice the skills Ali is teaching in the programs of the Traditional Navigation Society in Yap.  They aim to keep this tradition of non-instrument navigation alive.  This is also the goal of TASI in the Mariana Islands.  Chamorro, Yapese, and Carolinians have a strong tradition of voyages of discovery that predate Columbus and Magellan – not by a hundred or two-hundred years, but by over 3,000 years.  Without these ancient seafaring skills there  would not be the rich and diverse cultures found in Micronesia today. Contemporary voyages like the one undertaken by Ali and Chief Bruno honor that proud tradition and the cultural identity of all Micronesians. 

Spanish colonization of the Mariana Islands in the late 17th century put a stop to the trade between the Central Caroline Islands and the Marianas.  The Spanish-Chamorro Wars and the introduced foreign diseases made it dangerous to visit the Marianas for many years.  After nearly a century, in 1787, Chief Lewito of Lamotrek re-opened the trading route from Lamotrek to Guam. He made the voyage to obtain iron tools.  By 1804 the trading visits became annual events and in 1816 some Carolinians from Satawal and Elato settled in Saipan. The descendants of these Carolinians and subsequent migrations of Carolinians form a vibrant community in the Mairanas today. 

Long Live the Navigators!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Standing Army

I'm not sure how I missed this - but I can thank Evergreen State College professor of Geography Zoltan Grossman for bringing a new documentary to my attention: Standing Army, by Thomas Fazi and Enrico Parenti. While The Insular Empire explores the human face of American empire in the Marianas, Standing Army connects the dots of America's 766 military bases worldwide. As Chalmers Johnson says in an interview for the film, "The unit for the American empire is not the colony, it's the military base." What makes the Marianas so complicated, of course, is that they are both.

Prof. Grossman, in an interview for the film, asks a question that helps explain everything that's happening right now in Okinawa and Guam: "Are these bases being built to wage the wars - or are the wars being waged to build the bases?"

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Evergreen State College Screening

Tuesday's screening at Evergreen State College was a huge success. Sponsored by the college's Asian Pacific Islander Coalition, and spearheaded by Evergreen student and Guam native Jayanika Lawrence, the screening was well-attended by both students and faculty. Ms. Lawrence had put together an information table full of books on the Marianas and American colonization, and also created a panel - comprised of herself, myself, and one other student from Guam - to answer questions from the audience after the screening. Their questions were incisive and intelligent - ranging from issues around the current military buildup and Guam's relationship with Okinawa, to questions about why we chose not to address environmental concerns (such as Guam's notoriously invasive brown tree snake) in the film.

Evergreen is an odd place - nestled in a rain forest, its 70's era cement brutalist buildings look inward at each other, ignoring the lush thickets surrounding them - but the people there were warm, welcoming, and very much engaged. One faculty member in particular, Dr. Zoltan Grossman, mentioned during the Q&A that he was planning to use the film in his course on a People's Geography of American Empire - a more fitting title than any I could have invented myself - and suggested that they might want me to come back again next year. I told them that I'd be delighted.

Yours truly (Filmmaker Vanessa Warheit) with Jayanika Lawrence (third from right) and members of Evergreen's Asian Pacific Islander Student Coalition.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Two West Coast Screenings This Month

I'm pleased to announce two public screenings of The Insular Empire happening this month:

Evergreen State College
Olympia, WA
May 4th, at 4pm
Vanessa Warheit will be at this screening to answer questions afterwards.

Cal State University East Bay
Hayward, CA
May 15th, at 4:30pm
Dr. Hope Cristobal will be at this screening to answer questions afterwards.

For more information on the Hayward screening, see the Famoksaiyan blog.

Friday, April 30, 2010 has found Okinawa... Let's hope they find Guam next. - a kind of online video news aggregator - just ran this story on the Okinawa base relocation. Unfortunately, this story didn't include Guam's (fairly major) role in the relocation debate - but maybe the next one will?