I write as a teacher of Micronesian history, a resident of Guam, a daughter of Tinian on my dad's side and Saipan on my mom's side. I write as a native CHamoru of the Marianas, and a proud Micronesian islander to say that I am deeply saddened and disappointed with the lack of Refaluwasch Marianas – Northern Marianas Island CHamorus, and Chamolinians' voices in the recently released anthology titled Indigenous Literatures from Micronesia.
Micronesian islanders as a whole have always faced exclusion, and in many cases, discrimination when talking about the Pasifika experience. Our stories, our perspectives, our voices were historically left out of conversations about what it means to be a Pacific islander. Having anthologies like this means a lot. It means representation. It means a chance to be heard. It means a chance to feel seen.
This is especially important for Micronesian islanders who may live outside the region itself, who are minorities within a minority always having to explain not just where they are from, but what being native to a region like Micronesia means. I say this both as a teacher who currently has students – from Saipan, Tinian, and Guam – pursuing educational opportunities far away from home, and as a person who was once that student in a far away place feeling the pressure to succeed, wanting to represent my home, but also feeling the struggle of not being seen for who I was.
It is with this thought that I am saddened even more when I realize that my former students from Saipan and Tinian who may read this anthology may continue to feel the deeply painful emotion of being unseen. They include the CHamoru girl from San Jose, Tinian, in Oregon, the Refaluwasch boy from Tanapag, Saipan, in Washington, a CHamoru boy from Sinapalo, Rota, currently in grad school in California; and the Chamolinian girl from As Matuis, Saipan, serving overseas. Why were their stories not included? Do they not deserve to feel seen too?
For the record, what I was told when I directly inquired about this issue during the book launch was that there was only one submission from the CNMI and that one submission did not pass the blind reading because it was not “provocative enough” to be included in the anthology. I was told it didn't pass specifically because this anthology is for use in the college classroom.
If that one submission in 2010 was not “provocative enough,” in the almost decade that followed prior to publishing this anthology, were there not more chances for more recruitment in the CNMI? How far was the reach for the recruitment? Who in the CNMI was contacted or not contacted about this? The exclusion feels deeply shameful and I don’t think the excuse holds up.
The true beauty of our region is in the connection we all feel to both our greater identity as Micronesians, but also the specific cultures that we come from. The CHamoru voice from all over the Marianas is important. The Refaluwasch Marianas voice is important. The Chamolinian voice is important. Hopefully, if another anthology aimed at shining a light on Micronesian voices is released, all voices will be included.
Chellette Mina Aldan San Nicolas is a teacher, resident of Yigo and a daughter of Tinian and Saipan.