NASAA Notes: December 2019

December 2, 2019

Northern Marianas: Maritime Traditions Revival

Two master navigators and four students review the stars’ alignments and location. Each rock on the mat represents a star that guides the navigators through their journey. Photo courtesy Commonwealth Council for Arts and Culture, Northern Mariana Islands

A top objective of the Commonwealth Council for Arts and Culture, Northern Mariana Islands (CCAC) is the preservation of Chamorro and Carolinian cultural traditions. This heritage is central to individual and community identity in the Northern Marianas, and is a central focus of the agency’s 2018-2021 Strategic Plan. A good example of this work is the revival of maritime traditions, which are historically important because the jurisdiction spans a chain of 14 volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean. The Council’s Seafaring Traditions Program is dedicated to preserving and promoting this part of Marianas culture, especially among the island’s youth, many of whom have not been previously exposed to this art form given the contemporary boating and air travel technologies widely in use today. The original art of hand-crafting ocean canoes and canoe houses is again being taught, along with celestial navigation and many related artistic traditions such as rope-making, carving and storytelling. CCAC plays a leadership role in this revival by identifying tradition bearers and facilitating educational sessions. To learn more, contact CCAC Executive Director Parker Yobei.

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