What is the significance of Che’lu?


Editor’s Note: The following is the authors’ public statement in support of House commemorative resolution to celebrate the 10thbirthday of 47-foot indigenous Chamorro sakman named Che’lu. The resolution was read at yesterday’s session of the CNMI House of Representatives by Rep. Sheila Babauta (D-Saipan) and was unanimously passed. Construction of Che’lu was finished on March 25, 2011.

It is well built and beautiful.

Its design is based on the Anson drawing of one of the last large Chamorro canoes before they disappeared for over 265 years.

It is a continuation of one of the world’s most successful sailing vessel designs.

But it is much more. This canoe represents many thousands of Chamorros in many places over many years.

It represents our ancestors who designed and perfected the canoe—the people who sailed them and relied on them for thousands of years.

It represents Chamorros of the CNMI in the U.S. mainland who set out to build a genuine Chamorro voyaging canoe—the people who did the research, raised money, planned the construction, and built the canoe.

It represents the Chamorros in Guahan who welcomed Che’lu home to her islands and to her ocean. At the 2016 Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture in Guahan, Che’lu welcomed canoes from across Micronesia as the representative of Chamorros in Guahan and the Diaspora.

This canoe has a mission: to restore and strengthen traditional maritime culture in the Marianas.

Che’lu has been entrusted to us to be used to carry out her mission. She has been entrusted to us because we have the resources to do this important work. we have the facilities to maintain Che’lu. We have the programs to teach people to sail. We have the seafaring knowledge of our Carolinian voyages and navigators. Here in the CNMI we have Chamorros and Carolinians working together to ensure that our maritime traditions are not lost and that our youth will always have canoes in their lives.

This is the significance of this beautiful canoe. This is the opportunity this canoe represents. Recognizing the 10-year anniversary of the birth of Che’lu is our statement to those who have entrusted us with this canoe and with her mission that we are up to the task—that we know what this canoe represents, that we are proud to take the lead on this important work, that we will do this work proudly and out of love for our islands, for our ocean, for our culture, and for our people of the Marianas, past, present and future, wherever they live.

Pete and Emma Perez (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Pete and Emma Perez are the co-founders of nonprofit group 500 Sails, which is advocating for the revival of the CNMI’s traditional maritime culture.

Pete and Emma Perez (Special to the Saipan Tribune)

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