Mwoakillaos celebrate 22 years of independence

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The members of the Mwoakillao Saipan Association perform a traditional Mwoakillese dance during their Constitution Day celebration last Saturday at the Chamolinian Utt. (Kimblery A. Bautista)

Their numbers may be small but the Mwoakilloa community in the CNMI made up for what they lack in numbers with pride during their Constitution Day celebration last Saturday.

A little over 30 Mwoakillese individuals who reside on Saipan showed up at the Chamolinian Utt as early as 9am to celebrate their pride for their island.

Mwoakillao is a small, inhabited atoll on the eastern side of Pohnpei and is and is located in the central Pacific Ocean. It geographically belongs to the Caroline Islands, but is a district of the outlying islands of Pohnpei of the Federated States of Micronesia.

The atoll is 4.5 kilometers long and 2.8 kilometers broad. The atoll consists of the three islands Uhrek, Kahlap (the capital), and Mwandohn. Only the northeast island Kahlap is inhabited, with the town facing the lagoon.

The population of Mwoakilloa decreased from 177 in 2000 to 147 in 2008. The inhabitants speak Mokilese, similar to the Pohnpeian language in the family of Micronesian languages.

According to Mwoakillao Saipan Association president Sandra Hedson, although Mwoakillao is a part of Pohnpei, the Mwoakillese consider themselves a separate entity and established their own constitution back in 1996.

“This occasion celebrates when Mwokillao established its constitution that legally recognized the island as an individual state with a semi-antonomous government with the state of Pohnpei,” she said.

Hedson has been organizing the Mwoakillao Constitution Day celebration on Saipan for five years now.

“It is important to celebrate this event for our young ones…because most of them are raised and born here [Saipan] so they don’t really know our customs and what the constitution is about, so it’s important to show them that it is important to celebrate the anniversary of signing our constitution,” she said.

Last Saturday, the MSA had games, a buffet of Mwoakillese favorites, and even a raffle drawing. The highlight of the event was the singing of the Mwoakilloa national anthem that was created just a few years ago.

“I want other Mwoakillese or Pohnpeians to come to our celebration of our constitution so they can teach their kids more about their island…we are inviting any Mwoakillese to come and invite their friends to celebrate with us,” said Hedson.

The Mwoakillese who reside on Saipan celebrate their Constitution Day every June in commemoration of the signing of the document back in June 5, 1996.

Hedson said there are more than 50 but less than 100 Mwoakillese on island.

Kimberly Bautista | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.

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