Postcards: Micronesian Culture in Milan


ANNOUNCER: The following
program is a production of   Pioneer Public Television.   [music]   NARRATOR: In this
episode of Postcards.   The Micronesians came
mainly because Eric   Thompson, who’s the
local banker in both the   communities of
Appleton and Milan.   After he got
out of college,   he went into the
Peace Core for two years.   They came from
the state of Chuuk,   which is one of the
four states of Micronesia.   Their island if Romanum,
which is an island that’s   one mile square, about
physically about the same   size as the city of Milan.   The more they come out,
the more I would say this   is Romanum, our
island in Micronesia.   [Postcards theme
music playing]   [Postcards theme
music playing]   ANNOUNCER: This program
on Pioneer Public
Television is funded by   the Minnesota Arts and
Cultural Heritage Fund,   with money from the vote
of the people of Minnesota   on November fourth, 2008.   Additional support
provided by Mark and   Margaret-Yackel Juleen, in
honor of Shalom Hill Farm,   a non-profit, rural
education retreat center   in a beautiful prairie
setting near Windom in   southwestern Minnesota,
shalomhillfarm.org.   The Arrowwood Resort
and Conference Center.   Your ideal choice for
Minnesota resorts offering   luxury town homes,
18 holes of golf,   Darling Reflections
Spa, Big Splash Waterpark,   and much more.   Alexandria, Minnesota, a
relaxing vacation or great   location for an event.   Explorealex.com.   Easy to get to,
hard to leave.   [Fireworks exploding]   [Music]   [Vocalizations, fireworks
continue]   [Vocalizations, fireworks
continue]   ¶ We begin where we began, ¶   ¶ same old story with a
different plan. ¶   [Music, fireworks]   [Music, fireworks]   [Singing in Chuukese]   [Singing in Chuukese]   My name is Michael Elias.   I’m from Romanum Island from
Chuuk, Micronesia.   When I grew up, my parents
would go everyday to the   church or
outside the church,   they just gathered
together and sing,   all the kids
playing around.   And see growing up you
wanted to go in the group   and you start singing and
here we are we are in the   United States, we still
wanted to sing together.   It’s, it’s hard to explain
but we just like to get   together and sing.   [Singing in Chuukese]   I’m Carissa Herman,
first generation   Micronesian living in
Milan, Minnesota.   Many people who live here
are Norwegians and now I   would say half the
people living   in Milan are Micronesians.   [laughs] Yeah.   There’s more generations
coming now and more   generations being
introduced to Milan.   Living here is reminding
me of living back home   because the more
they come out,   the more I would
say this is Romanum,   our island in Micronesia.   [Singing in Chuukese]   You know it’s a nice
community to be in.   I have all my
family’s here so my dad,   my two sisters,
and my two brothers,   my mom and then
Michael Elias.   We were the first families
to be out here and then   just kind of started
bringing everybody out as   the year goes by you know.   A couple people come
out or more or so.   [Singing in Chuukese]   I was very young when I
left back home.   I now thinking about it
I don’t really kind of   remember much.   I mean I know I want to
go there all the time.   [Singing in Chuukese]   It’s not easy to see on the
map where it is.   We just say like
it’s close to Guam.   Its southwest
down from Hawaii,   Honolulu.   It’s about
4,000 miles down.   It’s a group of island.   I’m from small
island called Romanum.   They came from
the state of Chuuk,   which is one of the
four states of Micronesia.   Their island is Romanum,
which is an island that’s   one mile square, about
physically about the same   size as the city of Milan.   [Music]   Milan is like all communities
in west central Minnesota.   The population has been
declining since the 1940s.   Our younger folks move
in to the urban centers   because that’s
where the jobs are.   Milan I think is a
very unique community in   itself, but it’s extremely
unique to be a small   community in western
Minnesota   with a growing population.   One of our things that we
do everyday is like we’re   always going in the
park playing volleyball.   Even if it rains, we’ll
go in the park and play.   Everybody goes down there
during the afternoon or   evening and play there.   They do play
in the island.   They get their nets
and wrap   it around trees sometimes.   Well in Micronesia
our main sport is like   volleyball, that’s like
the main   sport we always play.   We’d have
tournaments here,   we had a big tournament
in Utah where all the   Micronesians around the
states come gather and   play against each other
and so it was pretty fun   going down there and
meeting new people.   The Micronesians came
because of Eric Thompson   who’s the local banker in
both the communities of   Appleton and Milan.   After he got
out of college,   he went into the Peace
Core for two years and was   stationed in Chuuk.   So Janet how, how old were
you the last time I saw   you in the islands?   Maybe like eight or ten.   So we’ve both
changed a lot since then.   Yeah…   I stayed with a family
called the Herman family,   and their, oh 15 year old
son was far enough down   the totem pole that he was
tasked with taking care of   me while I was there.   And after my
peace core service,   I went back to
graduate school,   after which I went
back to Micronesia,   including some
more time in Chuuk.   I got a letter from
my, my Chuukese brother,   the one who was tasked
with taking care of me as   a volunteer, and he
wanted to come visit.   He visited twice
and then he said,   “You know what?   I’d like to
bring my family.”   So he and his wife and
five kids and a nephew   moved here to Milan,
enrolled the kids in   school, which was the   reason that he brought them.   He found a job and it
wasn’t long before other   family members
decided to come.   [Music]   It was hard when we got here
because   we did not know anybody.   The weather, it was
totally different,   no English at
all, no friends.   It was difficult but as a
young person I think it’s   easier to catch on than
it is when you’re older.   The adults who immigrated
here grew up on an island   with no roads, so they
don’t know how to teach   their children
street safety.   Out there there’s a jungle
and   140 inches of rain a year.   You just throw stuff in
the jungle and it’s gone.   Here we have to take a
little   more care of our garbage.   So those have been issues
and you know issues about   what is expected in terms
of neatness outside the   houses and, so there’ve
been some challenges.   On the main island, life
is not that much different   from other urban
third world areas.   But on the outer islands
you know the people spend   maybe three, four hours a
day collecting their food   for the day either from
the ocean or from the   trees and then cooking it.   Now the housing stock is
improving and a lot of the   eating happens inside.   Not a whole lot of people
back home depends on money   because we plant
our main crops,   we have our land, you know
you build your own house,   you don’t have
to pay rent,   you don’t really make a
whole lot of money there.   Whatever little money we
make here we help people   down in our island just to
help em up and something,   whatever they need.   [Music]   Every generation will also be
more attuned to what is   expected of them in the U.S.,
all the   issues that weren’t
an issue back home.   But I think all
those things are minor,   relative to the life
that they   brought to the community.   I don’t think I’ve ever
had a bad reaction to any   other person
since I’ve been here.   I mean like they, they’ll
have times when they’ll   get tired of us, but then
they’re pretty nice to us   out here.   When I was a young man,
we used to go to town on   Saturday night and we
would see and visit people   that you wouldn’t see
anytime you know on the   rest of the week.   But it was a
gathering night.   They’ve all been off on
their farms farming all   week, and they all come
together to socialize.   The Chuukese people
here in Milan   do that same thing.   They continually come
together and they don’t   finish their work in the
afternoon and go home and   shut the door and hope the
phone doesn’t ring and no   one comes to visit.   They want to get together.   Kind of brings back my
memory of what rural   Minnesota used to be with
a larger population of   people and, and
of all age groups.   [Singing in Chuukese]   We just like
cook food and   then just gather together
and pray together and then   we just party you know.   Music and have
fun, laugh, talk,   its pretty fun.   Someone like makes a big
accomplishment and if like   someone comes here
from Micronesia,   then we have a big party.   So it’s pretty
usual having big,   big parties around here.   When they do this they
have huge feasts where   they’ll, they will prepare
multiples of different   types of food from fish
to chicken to pork and all   kinds of their
native rice meals.   When I went to Chuuk
for the first time,   I ate new food that I
really didn’t remember   eating, Their
food is pretty,   is a pretty good
tradition too.   [Music]   Every time we have a big
meal like a big   celebration, there’s
supposed to be a dance go   along with it.   It’s just things to cheer
up the celebration or   something like that.   We have cultural dance
that I don’t really know   how but nowadays we just
kind of do more of like   the hula dancing.   [Micronesian music]   Some of the girls dance and   some of the guys make their own
routines you know.   The guys when they want
to dance they don’t hula   dance but they make up   their own like hip-hopish dance.   Since we got here we dance
to American songs and   there will be times where
we would dance to our kind   of culture songs, so.   My mom you know she was
really good dancer too   when she was young so I
kind of learned from her.   I learned to dance
from some of my uncle,   great uncle, they pretty
much know all the culture   dance and that’s what I’m
afraid of if somebody’s   gonna lose all the dance
and nobody will teach   young children.   [Micronesian music]   [Singing in Chuukese]   When we get together even if
we’re just like visiting   at our houses you know
dancing and singing is one   of our biggest
things that we do.   Usually like when we’re
like together you know   like in a big, just
like a meeting you know,   then we sing, in
church we sing together.   [Singing in Chuukese]   Thank you!   [Singing in
Chuukese]   When we sing, like there’s
certain songs that everybody
knows,   so everybody will start
singing and put harmony to   it and it
sounds really good.   [Singing in Chuukese]   Usually we have a   keyboard, so that’s
pretty much our musical   instrument that keyboard,
sometimes a guitar.   So like when we
have big parties we,   we usually have a group
song too where everyone   sings it, so it sounds
pretty   good once everyone sings.   Music and dancing and
singing is a big thing in   our lives and the elder
people teach their younger   ones and pass it down to
generation to generation.   We don’t want to forget
how to do those things.   It’s happiness for us
to do things outer,   especially
during the summer,   we want it to be
active, do some work,   especially the family,
we always wanted to work   together on
the same thing.   They want to become more a
part of their community,   but they don’t know
really how to do that.   When Bob Ryan became
aware of a USDA grant,   which almost seemed to
have been written for this   group, he talked to me
about whether it might   make sense and we talked
to Michael’s other brother   Gabriel and said, “Well
here’s an opportunity.   Do you think your
group would like to,   to try to take
advantage of that?”   And eventually I think
almost everybody signed on.   [Music]   We pulled this
community together to talk   to them about what
they would like to do,   as long as it fit into the
parameters of the document   that I wrote, and they
decided they wanted to be   gardeners because back
home in Chuuk they always   have been food producers
and just didn’t understand   how to do it here.   The name of our
program is ANACH Co-op.   It means two things it
means like our path and   our food.   They use the word pumpkin
in their language to mean   pretty much any squash and
when there’s a typhoon you   know it can take all the
food off the island and I   was on one island that
said storm came through   wiped everything off
and within two weeks,   their first pumpkin that
had ever grown on their   island were growing.   So the storm
blew some seeds in,   so it’s kind of a mystical
vegetable on some islands.   Yeah I remember one year
we had the typhoon and   next maybe three weeks,
all the squash coming out   hanging down from trees
and everybody just start   picking and it was, we
were wondering where,   where they come from.   I learned about them and
they learned about me and   we held classes in food
production in gardening   and tried to look at the
different ways that they   did their typical
gardening at home and we   tried to copy
that as much as we,   as we could.   The Chuukese people
learned an awful lot about   how you plant and how
you nurture that seed.   And then I learned an
awful lot from them about   what I would say
would be called weeding.   Farming in a permaculture
process is designed to   farm in the
habitat that exists.   So weeding became less
and less a part of the,   of the gardening process
as I learned with them   teaching me about how
plants can companion with   each other and how the
weed can actually protect   the, the plants.   [Speaking in Chuukese]   We’ve been learning
a lot of things.   Especially we don’t grow   this green pepper back home.   We thought we were gonna
just buy stuff from the   store but we ended
up growing ourselves.   It’s been a good
opportunity for them to   work together as they used
to back home and learn a   little bit more about
actual farming techniques   and learn a little more
about business techniques.   It’s very hard for
these men that work,   almost all of them
work night shifts,   so they usually
get home between,   one shift gets off at 1:30
in the morning and the   other one gets off at
4:30 in the morning.   So they’re almost 12 hours
off from how we act and   interact with our
gardens here you know.   We get off at five in
the afternoon and we maybe   have some dinner and maybe
do some family things and   then we do a little work
in the garden and go to   bed you know nine,
ten, eleven o’clock.   They’re just
twelve hours off.   Sometimes we go 18
guys to help out.   We got less women and then
when the start time for   weeding, that’s when the
woman comes out and start   help out with the weeding.   Back on the island they
pull weed waiting for the   men come from fishing,
come back go and get   breadfruit and ladies get
them prepared for dinner.   The Micronesian culture
is a tribal culture,   male dominated, that’s
extremely   hard here in the U.S.   compared to in, in Chuuk.   But they also realize
to be able to live in a   society that
doesn’t operate that way,   we have to adjust to it.   The guys have a say in
everything so that’s kind   of different from here.   Like you’ll find it here
in Milan that most of the   men go to work.   I mean we women can go to
work too but we’d rather   stay home with the kids
and do the house stuff and   then the guys go to work.   We have a lot of
religion and   stuff that we
have to follow.   Example for us ladies we
have to   wear skirts or a dress.   It wasn’t really allowed
to wear pants just because   for us that’s like wearing
skirt all the time is like   showing
respect to the guys.   When I go to school I wear
pants but when I get back   home with my other
relatives I’m another   Micronesian I guess.   Our outfits we wear are
cultural skirts that some   people make.   My mom makes some of ours
and we also have muumuus   that we wear to
church, it’s like a dress.   So this is a
naporapaw we call it.   It’s like a scarf I guess
and many ladies like to   wear these differently
like around their waist or   around our chest.   Usually us ladies
we wear these combs.   They’re made
from turtle shell.   We like wearing flowers.   You know we have a lot of
flowers at home where we   just take em and wear em
and then now they make em   like these.   The way we dress sometimes
it would get tiring having   to cover up but you know
I have to live with it   because it’s my lifestyle.   Being that this
society has been   mostly male dominated and
that we’re living in the   United States, we needed
to interact with the,   the women in the
community as well.   So half of the members of
the board   of directors are women.   We feel like yeah we do
lose things but we have no   choice right now.   We need to have somebody
on the board with good   English and that’s why
we allow this to happen.   So a little bit
American style now?   Yeah.   Right now we
kind of mixing up.   We’ve had a very, very
interesting year watching   those plants grow.   We found that we
do like to farm,   we do like to garden,
but we like to process   probably even more.   So our intention is to
finish out this year,   can as much of that
product as possible,   look at taking that
to a open market,   and to be able to
encourage more and more of   the local farmers within
the area to look at us as   in a way for them to be
able to add value to their   food as we have by,
for their processing it.   They decided to go ahead
with this project to see   if they can really
make a go of this.   It might be something for
their kids to do if they   can get a business
processing local foods,   maybe not just the foods
they grow but we have a   lot of local growers in
the area and I’m not aware   of a whole lot that do any
processing cause it’s a   matter of scale.   But if it’s something that
they could really get up   to scale, there might be
jobs for   their kids going forward.   So they, they do
think about the future.   This, this wasn’t just the
project for them to do for   one year.   It could help out for
many generations to come.   Just the experience of
doing something we’ve   never done.   Just to make yourself
proud would   be the main thing.   Also learning others,
others cultures will be a   good idea.   We’re not funded a second
year for the   Socialize Advantage Grant.   But that’s fine because we
need to move on into our   own environment in a way.   [Speaking in Chuukese]   So sorry we didn’t get the   new grant but very happy
we got the first one.   It’s been a very, very
rewarding experience.   I have a very hard time
looking at leaving these   people because they’ve
become a part of my   family, and I hope
I’m part of theirs.   I will continue to work
with them to do   what I can to help.   It’ll just be we’re, we’re
going to have to find   other ways of being
able to finance   and fund things.   [truck passes]   As of right now, more
people just wanting to   come here.   They heard about
things going up here.   They wanted to come and
learn some more things.   It seems like this is the
area we’ve been doing a   lot of good things.   You know Milan is right on
the verge of being able to   support anything.   You know in 30 years
maybe they’ll all be gone.   Move to other
parts of the U.S.   or move back home, or it’s
possible there could be   300 of them here,
we’ll see how things go.   You know if
they weren’t here,   the gas station would be
closed more often than it   is now, the grocery store
wouldn’t be doing as well   and they support the
community center by   renting the gymnasium and
the other facilities there   quite a bit.   So you know if
Milan is to exist,   it would be hard to
see how it could happen   without immigrants.   You know I see a lot of
opportunities for them and   I would just like to be
able to say someday that I   helped get them started.   Most of our children
leave as they grow up.   These people want to stay.   I feel more
comfortable right now.   I didn’t really care about
what others will think but   as I think we’re pretty well
fitted in here already.   We just got to pick up on
the way they want us to   live so right now I feel
more comfortable to call   Milan home.   ANNOUNCER: This program on
Pioneer Public Television   is funded by the Minnesota   Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.   With money from the vote
of the people of Minnesota   on November fourth, 2008.   Additional support
provided by Mark and   Margaret-Yackel Juleen, in
honor of Shalom Hill Farm,   a non-profit, rural
education retreat center   in a beautiful prairie
setting near Windom in   southwestern Minnesota,
shalomhillfarm.org.   The Arrowwood Resort
and Conference Center.   Your ideal choice for
Minnesota resorts offering   luxury town homes,
18 holes of golf,   Darling Reflections
Spa, Big Splash Waterpark,   and much more.   Alexandria, Minnesota, a
relaxing vacation or great   location for an event.   Explorealex.com.   Easy to get to,
hard to leave.   [Postcards theme music]   [Postcards theme music]   Captioned by Pioneer
Public Television 2014
[Postcards theme music]  




Comments
  1. Great story, which many other growing ethnic groups around the state could probably relate. I would like to see more communities throughout the state work-together to help one another out.

  2. This is more about the culture of Chuukese.
    They're from the Caroline islands which are the Federated States of Micronesia in the REGION of Micronesia which include Guam, Palau, Marshall islands, Kiribati, etc.
    Micronesians are Chuukese, Yapese, Pohnpeian, Kosraean, Marshallese, Kiribati, Nauruan, Chamorro, Palauan, etc. when put together….
    But these are just Chuukese.
    Nice video 🙂

  3. This is very interesting and a beautiful story of Micronesian living in the Mainland. I just have to say that they should have titled it Micronesians: Chuukese Life in America or something like that. I say that because not all Micronesians are male dominated. Palau, Marshall and Guam are matriarchal societies and have been for centuries. I think it's imperative that people, especially here in the mainland who don't have a lot of exposure to micronesians, know that Micronesia is not one culture but many. And not all are the same. There are similarities, yes. But not all Micronesian women prefer to be stay at home mom's. Most Palauan women prefer to go out and work. Growing up on the island I remember a lot of women  owning businesses, including my mom. Based on my 17 years of life at home in Palau and almost 11 years of on and off reading and research about my culture, I wouldn't say Palau is a female dominated culture. We are matriarchal and women do love to work – do assume and take on a lot roles and responsibilities. But not female dominated, no. Men and women work alongside each other both outside and within the home. 

    So as much as this is a beautiful story it doesn't speak for all micronesains.

  4. Great story. Although, It should be made clear that Micronesia is made up made of many different people and cultures. Saying Micronesian is exactly the same as saying Asian or European.

  5. hey I'm From Marshall Islands  and I live here at Foreston,MN . I always thought me and my cousin are the only Micronesian over here! 

  6. Such an interesting video! I'm from Uman, Chuuk but I reside in Washington. It's great to see others doing so well 🙂 I hope this continues on! But I agree that the title is a bit misleading, and should be more specific. There are numerous cultures within Micronesia, and this one is about the Chuukese people. Great video though!!

  7. I was looking at something else on You tube when I came upon this story by accident. I am Micronesian myself. Pohnpei is my Island. I've spent most of my life in Hawaii and other states and have been in Minnesota several times but never did I think that there would be a community of Micronesians living there. What a wonderful surprise. I'm absolutely blown away. My grandfather is from the Mortlock Islands, by the way. So ran anlim ngeni ami menisin. I hope I said that correctly. I'd like to congradulate the two men who made the video. Great job and very well done. Aloha to you all.

  8. Oh yes. One more thing. Great title. It's the spirit that counts. Plus, when your doing a video and post it in a place like Youtube, you want maximum coverage and that means using a name that is more familiar to attract more viewers. So Micronesia is the way to go in this instance. Just my opinion.

  9. I'm Proud of you guys! I just wish the Micronesians here in Hawaii do the same. Like stand up and work hard. I'm not saying all I'm just saying. But yes I'm proud to be Micronesian 👍

  10. …thank you for helping me to understand, I come from Chickasaw Tribe, Egyptian / Chickasaw Father… always I like to understand & help when I can…

  11. i lived in fairland oklahoma,,same size as milan and ramonum,,,,living in the small places,,,realy help our kids in their future,,

  12. im micronesian and i love this video. i love myhome town i never want our place to belong to anyone but us.

  13. I was the first micronesian Mwaokilloa/Pohnpei in Austin High school MN back in 2000. Now there's a bunch including my family still there. And then I thought I'd be the only Micronesian here in Mason City IA, now there is a bunch more…. I dont really communicate with them due to the fact that I'm accustomed to the north Iowa life. But I still stop and talk when I see one. Big shout out to you all keeping it real up there in a dinky little midwest town.

  14. Im from Uman, our Uman culture is female dominated. The male only acts upon the females request & takes that duty & makes sure that duty is done. In other words the female cannot speak, so she has to use the leading males in her family to be heard & to get everything running. A village meeting cannot be held without the presence of our leading females & vise versa. Our own saying is you are not a man without any female behind u.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *