A growing momentum to protect sacred lands
I am a Ph.D. candidate with The National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago/Te Ao O Rongomaraeroa in Dunedin, on the South Island of Aotearoa/ New Zealand. I am writing from Aotearoa to tell the people of the Marianas that they are not alone in the struggle to protect our sacred planet. You have friends and supporters beyond Oceania that stand in solidarity with you in opposition to the proposed military live-fire training on Pagan and Tinian.
I grew up on the other side of Oceania in California, and although I was not raised in the Marianas, my mother lives there and I have been visiting every summer for several years. Over the past year, I have become increasingly involved with the nonviolent and artistic resistance occurring in the Marianas and throughout Oceania in relation to the American foreign policy Asia-Pacific Pivot and Trans Pacific Partnership. I have been in contact with Moñeka De Oro, using her powerful statement from the CNMI Joint Military Training Draft EIS/OEIS public meeting at Tinian Junior Senior High School in my methodology chapter and her poetry in a poster I presented. I contacted Arley Long regarding the online petition and asked ways in which she would prefer for me to publicize it and share. Most recently, I joined and contacted Alternative Zero Coalition. I established direct communication with Cinta M. Kaipat and asked if there was particular message that I should include in my research and presentations. Cinta asked me to please continue “raising awareness of our strong desire to stop the military’s destructive plans to bomb Pagan and Tinian.”
As a combination of scholarship and activism, I worked to raise awareness of the further colonisation and continual militarization of the Marianas through several methods and at varying venues across Oceania.
In March, I spoke on Mutiny Radio, in collaboration with KPFA, broadcasted from the Mission District in San Francisco and available online. I discussed the proposed buildup of the Marianas and other Oceania activism on “Women’s Magazine with Global Val,” an hourlong radio program that presents and discusses women’s lives and issues globally and locally from “a radical, multiracial, feminist, mujerist, womanist perspective.” (http://podcasts.pcrcollective.org/WomensMagazine/WomensMagazine-20150227.mp3).
In April, I gave an artistic presentation on the Community and Cultural Development: Pacific Projects Panel at the Contemporary Pacific Arts Symposium. The transnational event held at Footscray Community Art Centre, on the banks of the Maribyrnong River on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people, Kulin nation in Melbourne, Australia.
Two week later, I presented research at the National Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies’ Research Seminar Series: Nonviolent Visual Resistance on Guåhan and in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI): Photography as a form of nonviolent resistance to contemporary colonialism & everyday militarization. In May, I presented the visual poster titled: Tip of the Spear also at Te Ao O Rongomaraeroa in Aotearoa. Following the presentation, at least 10 people from Aotearoa signed the online petition. I also shared the link with the Association for Anthropology in Oceania (ASAONET) email list serve and War Resisters’ International tweeted it on their official twitter account. Here is a direct link: www.tinyurl.com/StopIslandBombing.
In addition to speaking and presenting about the continual militarization of the Marianas, other nonviolent resistance organizations and groups have been showing solidarity through social media. Facebook organization page, ‘Alternative Zero Coalition’ (https://www.facebook.com/AlternativeZeroMarianas?fref=ts) and Facebook community page ‘Our Islands are Sacred’ (https://www.facebook.com/ourislandsaresacred?fref=ts) are at the forefront of providing logistic information, status updates, and video commentary regarding the Department of Defense’s proposal. Facebook public groups, ‘We Are Guåhan Public Forum’ (https://www.facebook.com/groups/201035718843/) and ‘Manhita Marianas- Marianas Together’ (https://www.facebook.com/groups/471177866379761/) create space for dialogue and brainstorming. The network of organizations ‘DMZ-Hawai’i/ Aloha ‘Aina’ (http://www.dmzhawaii.org/?p=11107), and the Facebook community ‘I Oppose the Expansion of US Bases in Okinawa’ (https://www.facebook.com/closethebase?fref=ts), also shared stories of protecting the Marianas and opposing U.S. military Asia Pacific-Pivot. Other Facebook groups that share the online petition and continue to collaborate include Pacific History Association, Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific, Peace Movement Aotearoa, and the Pacific Youth Council.
Stella Magazine (http://www.stellamag.com), a “thinking women’s magazine based in Papua New Guinea,” will feature regular stories from the Marianas beginning this August to spread awareness to Pasifika communities.
Although I am based on the South Island of Aotearoa, I am also a research associate with the University of Guam/ Unibetsedåt Guåhan Micronesia Area Research Center. I am returning to the Marianas in the first week of June to highlight the activities relating to nonviolent and artistic resistance visually. I manage the Facebook Page: ‘Oceania Resistance’ (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Oceania-Resistance/883965481628059?ref=hl) as an online visual platform that shares my activism and research, offers news and articles, photographs and films, features events, highlights youth organizations, and showcases artistic activism in Oceania.
I am hoping to show the tremendous momentum that is growing within the CNMI and beyond. Oceania is intensifying; from the protectors on top of Mauna Kea in Hawai’i, to the ‘kayakivists’ in harbour of Seattle, to the elders in the streets of Okinawa, the teachers in the school hall of Tinian, environmentalists in Alaska, lawyers in the Marshall Islands and the Pacific Warriors from across the region, international solidarity and activism is directly challenging militarization and exploitation.
I aim to contribute to the resistance and offer my solidarity and support to stand up for sacred lands. If you have any questions, comments, input or suggestions, I can be reached at Sylvia.Frain@postgrad.otago.ac.nz.
Aotearoa, New Zealand