MICRONESIA

ASPECTS OF CHUUK

According to legend, five brothers once lived on the island of Moen in Chuuk lagoon. Before their parents died, their father called all the boys together and told his sons about a lost island near Moen and said that some day they should search for it. Some years after the father died, the five brothers decided to look for the island and for three days they searched but could not find it. With the exception of the youngest brother, the brothers felt the father's story was not true.

However, the youngest son believed the father and set sail by himself in search of the island. After travelling a short distance, he saw a huge white shark that was leading the canoe to the area of the lost island. The boy thought that the shark must be the ghost of his dead father. The shark disappeared once the canoe had reached a certain spot.

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The youngest son lowered his sails and dropped anchor. He then dived deeply below the surface of the sea and found the lost island. When he returned to the surface, he boarded his canoe but found his anchor was stuck and he could not raise it. So finally, he cut the anchor rope and sailed back to his home on Moen.

When he returned, he told the other brothers what had happened and early next morning they sailed off to find the island. When they arrived at the island, the oldest brother swam down and tied a rope to the island. After returning to the boat, he pulled on a rope as hard as he could but could not raise the island from the bottom. The second brother tried, and then the third and the fourth, but the result was the same - the island could not be raised from the ocean floor.

Finally, the youngest brother tugged on the rope and the island amazingly came up to the surface. At that very moment, a black bird flew overhead and called out to the brothers that the island should be called Pisiiras and must remain forever the property of the youngest son who had believed his father.

About a mile north of Moen sits a small island all by itself. There, the descendants of the youngest brother still live. The island is still called Pisiiras, the name of the clan of the brothers.

OWNERSHIP OF LAND ON CHUUK

The islands of Chuuk are relatively small and are of volcanic origin. They also have one of the largest population of any group of islands in Micronesia which makes ownership of land extremely important.

Traditionally, there were six ways that land could be acquired on Chuuk however only four of these are still in existence. The first way is to acquire land by inheritance from one extended family or one's parent. Land can also be purchased with money or goods, or it might be acquired as a gift. In the past, land could be taken from a defeated enemy or it might be discovered uninhabited.

The Chuukese value land as being more important than any of their possessions. If a person does not have a piece of land or two, then he is not considered to be a real Chuukese. A person who has no land will be considered to be very poor and he may lose his identity and self-respect. The Chuukese value land so much that fights can occur if there is a dispute over its ownership, even between close relatives. The Chuukese firmly believe that a man can only exist if he has land. Land is the source of food as well as wealth to the Chuukese.

There are other advantages of land ownership apart from food and wealth. All parts of native thatched roof houses can be made from parts of trees that grow on one's land. Without the product of the land, the Chuukese would not be able to build boats and make the equipment necessary for fishing.

Land can be used to validate or strengthen a marriage. A man who has a lot of land will also be able to marry the most beautiful girl. Land is also given as a gift to someone who takes care of a sick person or it can be used as a way of seeking forgiveness. For instance, if the child of one family gets hurt by the child of another family, land gifts might be used as a way of settling the matter.

More recently on Chuuk, land provides a cash income for people who are employed. When his crop is harvested, he will sell some of his crops for income after he has kept what is needed for his family. In summary, land is of extreme value to the people of Chuuk because it allows them to live and to survive. 

TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE PRACTICES IN CHUUK

Traditionally, before a man can consider marriage, he needed to have experience in farming, fishing, and boat construction. He also had to be able to build his own house. When he had these skills he would inform his parents that he was ready for marriage. The parents would then search for a suitable young woman to be his wife. When they had decided on a girl, the parents of a man would visit the girl's parents. They would introduce themselves at the purpose of their visit and discuss possible marriage with the girl's parents. If a marriage is agreed upon, the young man would stay with the girl's parents and the girl would reside with the young man's parents up until the wedding day. Prior to the marriage, both families would prepare a feast which would be attended by the leaders of their respective families. According to custom, the girl's family would provide enough food for the man's family and his family would do the same for the girl.

There are some possible attitudes on marriage that have been retained from the past among the Chuukese people. While both the man and woman will desire compatible sex partners in marriage, they look even more for good workers. A person incapable of work is unlikely to be successful at marriage in Chuuk. A person is well aware of the character and abilities of those in the community and selects a partner accordingly.

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 (E-mail: jane@janeresture.com -- Rev. 14th May 2012)
      
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