The Northern Marianas Humanities Council honored four individuals at the 23rd Annual Governor’s Humanities Awards last Saturday at the Charley’s Cabaret of Pacific Islands Club Saipan.
This year’s Governor’s Humanities Award recipients were Stephanie Soder, Anita Ayuyu Sablan, Eusebio Camacho Borja, and Ambrose Bennett, who were all honored for the outstanding work they have done for the humanities.
Soder, a Delaware State Historic Preservation Office archaeologist, was honored for the Preservation of CNMI History. She first traveled to Saipan to participate in several historic projects while pursuing her master’s degree in maritime archaeology. For her thesis, she researched the Chamorro and Carolinian post-World War II internment camps. In the process, she collected 30 oral histories from community members who had never before shared their stories or the stories of their family. Soder presented her findings at the American Memorial Park with the support of the Humanities Council.
Soder said she was truly honored that the community would find the work that she did worthy of the award. “You always hope that the research you do is meaningful and important to those who were part of it. Now I know that with this project,” she said.
She credits the success of her findings to members of the CNMI community who were involved in her project. “I know this project would not have been successful if the community had not been so willing to be an active part of it. I know it took a lot of trust to invite me into their homes and share personal, and many times, difficult recollections. I hope that I can continue to conduct research in the CNMI that is significant to the community and help broaden the reach of the rich culture and history. Thank you again for this wonderful honor,” she said.
Sablan, who was with the CNMI Public School System for 18 years, was awarded as Outstanding Humanities Teacher.
Sablan is an adviser for the Marianas High School POLKSAI Chamorro Club since 2007.
Sablan said she does all she can to encourage the youth to follow their passion and the path they want for their future. “With me, I’ve always dreamed to become a teacher someday and when I was a senior in MHS, they offered the Teacher Academy Program so I was a product of that program. That’s when I felt education was my passion and my calling. Thank you so much, it’s a lot of work but I do whatever I can to impact our children. They are our future and I want to make sure that they’re ready for their own career as well,” she said.
Borja, recognized by the CNMI government as the Master of Arts and Culture through Commonwealth Resolution 21-8, was honored for the Preservation of Traditional Cultural Practices.
Borja was recognized for his work in preserving traditional cultural practices by promoting the use of traditional ox cart or the karetan guaka and his talents in domesticating livestock. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Humanities Council, the board members, the directors, supporters, and all those who came out today. I really thank you for supporting the humanities,” he said.
Bennett, a former CNMI Board of Education member, teacher, author, and a staunch advocate for social equality, was awarded for Lifetime Achievements in the Humanities.
Bennett marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. For the CNMI, he authored several books and other educational resources that focused on the history and economics of Micronesia.
Bennett said he is extremely thankful and humbled by the award from the Humanities Council because the award is a “pinnacle point” in his life and his efforts to address and influence the many issues that have faced the youth and the CNMI.
“Being an activist for the people is not an easy job as there will always be someone against anyone who are trying to make things better for people. But I’m so thankful and fortunate that good always conquers evil. …What makes this award very special to me is that it is for trying to help the people and for that, I am so thankful,” he said.
Bennett also thanked his wife and children who have supported his work. “I thank my wife Lillian for not only nominating me, but for literally changing my life. She is the reason I chose to come out here and raise a family and to be here in the CNMI,” he said.
According to Robert T. Torres, Humanities Council chairman, this year’s awarding was special because they were able to host the event face-to-face, which is what humanities is all about—human interaction.
“The best thing about today is that we are not virtual, we are interacting, we are talking, we are communicating, we are engaging each other and that is really the heart of the humanities. We hope that the day will come again where we will no longer need to social distance from each other because the humanities is organic, it’s tactile, you experience the humanities,” he said.