From micronesian to pacific islander...the possibility of supporting language minorities in hawai'i
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From micronesian to pacific islander...the possibility of supporting language minorities in hawai'i



This is a presentation I gave to a critical linguistics class at UHH on March 14, 2014. It sums up my research findings about the reasons for the rapid first language attrition and loss of COFA ...

This is a presentation I gave to a critical linguistics class at UHH on March 14, 2014. It sums up my research findings about the reasons for the rapid first language attrition and loss of COFA migrants to Hawai'i.



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From micronesian to pacific islander...the possibility of supporting language minorities in hawai'i From micronesian to pacific islander...the possibility of supporting language minorities in hawai'i Presentation Transcript

  • From “Micronesian” to “Pacific Islander”: The future of Pacific Island Languages in Hawai’i CHEIRON McMAHILL, PhD. Professor, Daito Bunka University. Visiting Researcher, UH Hilo, 2013-14.
  • Language Ideologies……Make us believe in and support the necessity and superiority of a single American culture, identity, and language …Glorify this idealized version of American English and American culture, and stigmatize Pacific Islander languages and cultures
  • Language ideologies are not static or unitary; neither are they natural or inevitable
  • Language ideologies can be countered; there is always dissent. The survival of indigenous and minority languages depends on counter- ideological struggle. Examples of scholars and writers who have influenced my thinking: Teun van Dijk, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Paolo Freire, bell hooks,Alistair Pennycook,Tove Skutnabb- Kangas, Epeli Hau‘ofa, Hilde Heine, Joakim Peter, JamesW.Tollefson, Gunther Kress, Norman Fairclough, Pierre Bourdieu, Michel Foucault, Jim Cummins, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Cherríe Moraga, Gloria E.Anzaldúa....
  • Dominant ideologies… are rooted in attempts to legitimize colonialisation and military occupation  1945-1986 Former “Japanese possessions” considered unable to govern themselves and in need of the U.S.’ guidance- entrusted to U.S. by United Nations as the TrustTerritory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI).  66 to 70 atomic and hydrogen bombs tested in the “tiny” Marshall Islands. Six islands were vaporized by nuclear weapons and hundreds of people were irradiated [Salvador, 1999]. When divided amongst all concerned parties over the years since the first test, the U.S. government has paid on average $15 compensation per person in the Marshalls annually. Claims by non-Marshallese have been denied. *  In early 60s, U.S. decides to impose an American education system using “only English” and dispatching 100s of US teachers, to try and cultivate an administrative elite loyal to the U.S.. My effectiveness as a peace Corp volunteer in the TT in the 60's was great for me and some individuals who got educated, but it also supported American colonial goals and dependency (Severance , personal communication, 9/25/13) *U.S. NUCLEARTESTING ON THE MARSHALL ISLANDS: 1946 TO 1958 Kim Skoog University of Guam uclear%20Testing%20on%20the%20Mars hal%20Islands.pdf
  • Dominant ideologies omit the U.S.’s pursuit of its own interests US signs Compact agreements with RMI, FSM in 1986 and Palau in 1994 for: 1) greater control and exclusive access to over a million square miles of the Pacific, allowing for additional military and weapons testing at facilities like the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, a critical support for the US's Space Surveillance Network. 2) The right to "strategic denial" (exclusive territorial control), and use of military sites like Kwajalein for decades even if economic assistance and other defense provisions are not renegotiated. RMI, FSM and Palau citizens receive: 1) the right to live permanently or come and go at will in the United States.As legal residents (but not citizens), COFA residents can work, study, receive medical treatment and are required to pay local, state and federal taxes.
  • Dominant ideologies shift the blame for the U.S.’s broken promises to the victims 1996: The U.S. Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act excludes FAS citizens in U.S. from Medicaid benefits Compact of Free Association Amendments Act of 2003 – RMI and FSM citizens lose access to federal work study and loans2009- Lingle Administration took Micronesians off the rolls of Med-QUEST, Hawaii's Medicaid program 2011- Med-QUEST for FAS citizens was reinstated in January, after a lawsuit by Micronesians and their supporters.
  • Ignorant Unfairly pampered Have to suffer VictimsDeficient They have nothing. They are destitute. They lack English. They lack work ethics. They get a free ride. The US government gives them everything. We Hawaiians bear the burden. Their islands were destroyed by the U.S. bomb tests. People here treat them like the Mexicans in California. When I see a Micronesian coming, I think, “Here comes diabetes. Here comes high blood pressure.” They’re going through what every group had to go through.. It’ll take several generations to assimilate them. They’re so lucky to be able to come to this country without a visa. Ungrateful Dominant ideologies make it acceptable to voice racist opinions at the individual and local level Testing bombs on their home is terrible and the fact that families are still suffering from medical problems is even worse. But are we really helping by supporting them? If everything was given to me for free perhaps I'd lose my drive to learn and grow as well. The "You owe me" attitude. Let me ask how many Micronesian families do you have living in about 100 yard radius of you. How many have taken things from your yard or garage? How many harass older people, pick on younger children or just have a general lack of respect for anyone? …anywhere in the world, minorities who adapt to their new home by blending in to the local scene will fare better. If I am traveling in a foreign country, I learn about the customs of the place where I am going, including dress and appearance. The comments in balloons were posted by Americans in response to an online Hawaii news article criticizing Hawaii residents for discriminating against “Micronesians.” Those in boxes are from my research notes.
  • The internalization of dominant ideologies in Hawai’i  “Submersion education” in “standard English,” both at home and in the public schools; forced assimilation to an idealized European-American culture  The marginalization of heritage languages and local languages; the stigmatization of Hawai’ian creole as an improper form of “broken English”
  • Shifting the center: UHH as a hub of the Pacific Region  1971-72: UHH becomes a four-year college, with a mission to be a hub for the Pacific Region. “Micronesians” considered central to this mission. TTPI citizens begin to attend in earnest, paying resident tuition.  Former Peace Corps volunteers steer Micronesians to UHH: “We believed Micronesians would adapt more easily to life on the Big Island, and would experience less culture shock.”
  •  1972-TTPI students become eligible for federal financial aid (grants, loans, work study)  1993- Former Chancellor Kormondy signs articulation agreements to faciliate the transfer to UHH from community colleges in the FSM and RMI : “Building on our long-time experience with students from Micronesia (the connection dating back to Hilo’s Peace Corps days…)” …(Inouye & Kormondy, 2001: 153).
  • US and UHH support for Pacific Islander students contested after COFA Compact of Free Association Amendments Act of 2003 – RMI and FSM citizens lose access to federal work study and loans UH Board of Regents votes to change Pacific Islander students’ tuition to non-resident (same as other international students). Faculty, staff, students, protest. A compromise rate of 150% of resident tuition, called the “Pacific Islander Exemption,” is established. Thanks to former vice- Chancellor Ken Miser, the Pacific Islander Scholarship is established and automatically awarded to those with status of “Pacific Islander Exempt” In 2007
  • 2004-UHH alumni and supporters form Micronesians United- Big Island  Our Mission:To empower Micronesians for greater Self- Reliance, and to Educate Micronesians and the Larger Community about their Respective Cultures, Rights, and Responsibilities.
  • Counter-ideologies valuing „other Pacific Islanders“  “Our sea of islands”(Epeli Hau‘ofa, 1994, 1998, 2000)  “despite the diversities of languages and cultures, there is an ocean of connection among Islanders” (Jolly, M. 2007. “Imagining Oceania: Indigenous and Foreign Representations of a Sea of Islands.” The Contemporary Pacific 19 (2): 508-45.
  • The first voyage of the Hokule’a …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… (quote attributed to Pius “Mau” Piailug upon his death in 2010) July 29, 2010 in the Honolulu Star- Advertiser
  • Establishment of Pacific Island Studies Certificate at UHH, 1994 The University of Hawaii at Hilo also has the largest Hawaiian student enrollment of any campus in the UH system with very strong Hawaiian Studies and Hawaiian language programs. When Hawaiian and Micronesian students interact, they both find their identities positively reinforced. That’s part of the connection here (Severance,“The University of Hawaii in Hilo:A Home Away From Home”, 1993).
  • Hawai’ian language and cultural revitalization: An ideology countering American cultural assimilation and English monolingualism College of Hawai’ian Language established at UHH in 1997
  • The value of Pacific Islanders to “campus diversity”  2007 “…campus diversity improves student learning; prepares students to work in multi-cultural organizations and in a global society; and improves teaching and mentoring (UHH Faculty and Staff Diversification Plan 2007-8). 2010:The PISC is created. Director from FSM is hired. Staff, programs funding secured from 2012. Culturally and linguistically tailored student support services.2012: PISC uses AANAPISI grant to fund HELP and other on- campus employment positions Relative to other administrative areas on campus, Division of StudentAffairs professionals are more reflective of the student population in terms of ethnicity, gender and other identities, thus serving as visible positive role models (Strategic Planning & Implementation Team (SPIT) | Summary of SWOT Analysis, 2013). We have a richly diverse student population, with a unique blend of local, mainland and international students, all living and learning together.We recently ranked 6th nationwide for campus diversity in U.S. News and World Report (Why Students Choose UH Hilo, 2013).
  •  The goals of the Center include:  provide a welcoming, supportive and safe environment  facilitate the retention and graduation of Pacific Islanders  increase interaction and dialogue among students from different cultures  support intercultural understanding and social justice in the pursuit of a more just society  enable students, faculty and staff from all cultural backgrounds to learn about Pacific peoples, histories, languages, cultures and contemporary issues  •combat stereotypes and ethnocentrism The Pacific Islander Student Center (PISC)
  • The co-constructed narrative identity of “EFFENG” My family has a long history with Hawai’i. I come from a long line of educators. My grandfather attended the East-West Center in the 60s. My father attended UHH in the early 80s. But financial limitations and family obligations interfered with their graduating. I am “Mortlockese” (i.e. from the outer islands of Chuuk in the FSM), specifically I am from the island of Lukunor. Each island has its own language variety. I am related to others and see my identity in terms of my relation to my mother’s and father’s clans. Family obligations are the most important thing in my life, even more than school or work. If my family needs me, I must be there for them. Americans can and are adopted into our families and cared for, too. A member of an educated family with long ties to Hawai’i
  • Surviving sorrow and loss My family moved to Hawai’i when I was in intermediate school to seek medical care to save my mother, who was dying of cancer. I believe my mother’s cancer was caused by the atomic bomb testing in the Marshall Islands. We all share the same air and the same ocean. My mother asked us to stay on after she passed away, so we kids could get a better education. I was homesick, and I cried everyday. But almost my whole family had immigrated to the U.S. by that time. I never thought of myself as “Chuukese” or “Micronesian” until people called me that in Hawai’i. I saw many of my Micronesian friends drop out of school. Many were sent back home. I was the only one of my friends from intermediate school who graduated from high school on time. I still speak in my native language everyday, but older people tell me I have forgotten parts of my native tongue, such as the special language used to speak to important people.
  • I have many friends at HCC fromYap, Marshall Islands, the Philippines, and so on. I was put in ESL classes again though I had finished ESL in intermediate school. I have gotten active with the Pacific Islander Student Center. I & my friends enjoy fooling Americans about our ethnicities, as they cannot tell Chuukese apart from other Micronesians. I hope to be the first person in my family to actually graduate from a 4-year university. I am trying my best not just for myself, but for my whole family, and also for my deceased mother.Also to be a good example of “a Micronesian” in order to counter negative stereotypes of Americans. I consider myself a resident of Hawai’i, but I don’t want to become a U.S. citizen; I want to keep my FSM passport, and return to Chuuk sometimes to help my people. Some Americans tell me I am lucky to be here, and that there is nothing for me in Chuuk, but that makes me angry. Sometimes I think Americans simply cannot understand my feeling. A Chuukese Resident of Hawai’i
  • One powerful way I identify myself is as a bilingual singer. I enjoy singing both English and Chuukese songs, and composing songs in both languages. Music is the most important thing in my life. It allows me to connect with people beyond ethnicity and language. Music might take me around the world someday. A local talent & a future star
  • Language and power, language and culture Are Pacific Island languages neglected in terms of Skutnabb-Kangas 2009, and in need of maintenance and development? Example of Chuukese (itself made up of many varieties): • Estimated 45,000 speakers • Those in Chuuk State study in their native tongues only through the fourth grade • Fifth grade through university education in English • English used as official language of the FSM • Perhaps half of Chuukese now live outside the state of Chuuk, FSM without any mother tongue support (including those here on the Big Island) • Adoption of English as language of communication in the home in the case of marriage to a non-Chuukese or long residence abroad
  • What is the future of Pacific Island languages in Hawai’i? Small group discussions Reports Final questions, comments
  • How can the languages of Pacific Islanders in Hawai’i be valued as resources? 1) Pacific Islander children in Hawai’i learn and use their first/heritage languages at home, at church, and in community gatherings. However, there are no formal classes aimed at maintaining or developing these languages in Hawai’i. Many 1.5 or second generation Pacific Islander youth lack the literacy, vocabulary, command over registers, etc. necessary to use their heritage languages at a professional level. • Could these children ever get foreign language credit in public schools for developing their first languages? 2) Progressive ELL teachers in certain public schools hire bilingual instructional assistants from the various immigrant groups. UHH students also volunteer as tutors. However, these assistants and tutors do not teach the children’s first languages, but only assist in the children’s acquisition of English. • Could these assistants and tutors be upgraded to heritage language and literacy teachers? 3) COFA nation educators presented on attempts to standardize, revitalize, develop curricula, materials and methods for using indigenous languages in schools in the COFA nations at the Stabilizing Indigenous Languages Symposium (SILS) 2014, held January 15-19 at UHH. • Will these efforts have a wash-back effect on ex-pats in Hawai’i?
  • 4) Since 2008, Pacific Islander students in the College of Hawai’ian Language can get two semesters of credit for their native language, and can also further study their native language in the “Certificate in Contemporary Indigenous Multilingualism.” “The basic idea comes from within the movement to revitalize and maintain the Hawaiian language, even though it seems on the surface that the movement is all about the Hawaiian language and culture” (Scott Saft, personal communication, Feb. 18, 2014). • Will more Pacific Islander students find out about and take advantage of this option? • Will such UHH grads one day get inspired to start Pacific Islander heritage language classes in Hilo? 5) Since 2000, charter schools have become legal in Hawai’i and have played an important role in the development and support of effective Hawai’ian language immersion programs. • Could Pacific Islanders and those interested in them ever unite to found a charter school in which children can be taught at least six to eight years in their first/heritage language?
  • Final words  “The Bridge Poem” I’ve had enough I’m sick of seeing and touching Both sides of things Sick of being the damn bridge for everybody Nobody Can talk to anybody Without me Right? … I do more translating Than the Gawdamn U.N. Donna Kate Rushin