A taste of Chamorro and Carolinian cultures

Posted on Nov 11 2019

Last Saturday’s Indigenous Cultural Expo and Kantan Isla Concert at the Civic Center in Susupe was a trip to hundreds of years ago, with the Saipan community taken on a full day of learning about the islands’ traditional ways.

Families were able to taste traditional food and medicines, learn from several weaving demonstrations of skirts, baskets, and hats, as well as pet and ride animals like chickens, goats, and a bull. They even got free rides on traditional canoes and learned some paddling skills.

“It is that time…where we showcase…the Chamorro and Carolinian culture,” said Indigenous Affairs Office director Roman Tudela Jr. “This is an opportunity for the youth who are not exposed to [the traditional ways] at home, to swing by and learn part of a culture that they have not experienced yet.”

With “Tree of Life’ as its theme, the expo showcased demonstrations of all things coconut, including the different ways of weaving its leaves, and traditional food preparations. Agriculture and aquaculture were also highlighted.

The more adventurous souls were also able to experience seafaring traditions through free rides being offered by 500 Sails on their three sakmans, a type of canoe of the ancient Chamorros.

“We are trying to bring back Chamorro seafaring maritime traditions here in the Marianas,” 500 Sails co-founder Emma Perez said, adding that the canoe is more than just about sailing.

“People like the idea of sailing because it is fun, but it is a lot more than that,” Perez said. “There are things that are more culturally based such as the concept of a captain, or a magas, that [on the canoe] somebody is boss, and you have to respect them, and do what they say. It is not a party boat. It is something sacred.”

The Northern Marianas National Paddle Sports Federation also gave paddling opportunities.

“It is beautiful when you look in and see the island from the lagoon. Paddling ties you into the cultural aspect of living on an island. You feel like you are an islander learning to work as a team,” NMNPSF president Justin Andrew said.

As if the activities were not enough, the community also even got their stomachs full with traditional food such as root crops, roast pig, beef, and fish, that were served in traditional fiestas, all while listening to great music from the Kantan Isla concert that went all night.

Iva Maurin | Correspondent
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at
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