MARSHALL ISLAND

OCEANIA'S COUNTRY

CULTURE

Cultural values and customs or manit, make Marshallese society unique. Land is a focal point for social organization in this island nation. All Marshallese have land rights as part of a clan or jowi, that owes allegiance to an Iroij, is supervised by the Alap, and supported by the Rijerbal. The Iroij have ultimate control of such things as land tenure, resource use and distribution, and dispute settlement. The Alap supervises the maintenance of lands and daily activities. The Rijerbal are responsible for all daily work on the land including cleaning, farming, and construction activities. The society is matrilineal and, therefore, land is passed down from generation to generation through the mother.

With the land to tie families together into clans, family gatherings tend to become big events. One of the most significant family events is the kemem, or first birthday of a child, where relatives and friends come together to celebrate with feasting and song.

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IMPORTANT INFORMATION

CAPITAL: Majuro

LANGUAGE: Marshallese/English

IMPORTANT CITIES: Majuro, Ebaye and Arno

ETHNIC GROUPS: Marshallese 92.1%, mixed Marshallese 5.9%, other 2%

HOLIDAY AND FESTIVALS

Many Marshall Islands holidays have similar counterparts in the United States. During the same weekend North Americans observe Labor Day, Marshallese celebrate Rijerbal Day in honor of the islands’ working class. Another national holiday, Gospel Day, is similar to Thanksgiving, with a stronger emphasis on church services. Manit Day, however, celebrates the Marshallese’s own distinct culture. Sailing races and fishing tournaments are among the islands’ most popular sporting events.

Marshall Islands Memorial and Nuclear Victims Day

This tribute to the victims of the 1954 Bikini Atoll hydrogen bomb explosion ranks among the most serious of all Marshall Islands holidays. Bravo was the most powerful hydrogen bomb the United States had ever tested. People on no fewer than four atolls were forced to evacuate and several experienced severe radiation poisoning. March 1 is a day of prayer, emotional speeches, candlelight vigils, and somber reflection for the current residents of those atolls.

Coconut Cup Regatta

Sailing crafts of all sizes from luxury yachts to traditional Marshallese canoes, are welcome to participate in this unique regatta held in Majuro between late March and early April. Even windsurfers can take part in the main Saturday afternoon race, which follows a triangular pattern to and from the Robert Reimers Enterprises complex. There are also races for miniature canoes called riwut and vessels built entirely from recycled materials. A weekend affair, prizes are awarded on Saturday, a picnic takes place on Sunday and the Marshall Islands Resort hosts a soirée on Monday.

Manit (Custom) Day

The most important aspect of Marshall Islands culture, family, is the focus of this cultural festival held the last Friday of September. Anyone on the islands can set up booths and sell food or handicrafts outside the Alele Museum. Basket weaving and coconut husking are among the most popular contests. Local school children perform traditional dances, skits, songs, and stories. The day coincides with the week-long Lutok Kobban Alele festival created to preserve and promote Marshallese culture.

LANDFORMS

Marshall Islands is located in the central Pacific Ocean, the Marshall Island has 870 reef systems with about 160 coral species. The ocean floor around the Marshall Islands is also the final resting place of numerous Japanese and American battleships, sunk during World War II. Consists of 29 atolls each made up of many islets and 5 islands in the central Pacific

FOOD

Life has never been easy in the Marshall Islands: the effort demanded to produce food continues to be great and the diet austere. Fish from the surrounding seas has naturally been the traditional support of life, while the scanty land has yielded three grudging crops - breadfruit, pandanus and swamp tare, in addition to the. ubiquitous coconut. By skillful management of the harsh terrain, its cultivation has sustained existence over the centuries in a system perfectly adapted to the demands of the region.

The breadfruit trees are most carefully tended when young: they are planted in a hole at least a foot deep, which is filled with all kinds of compost. Soil is added, sometimes rotted coconut gratings, and the seedling protected by a fence. Breadfruit is prepared in many ways to bring variety; it can be preserved too as an out-of-season food. Pandanus is grown from rooting slips, their leaves bound, tamped into a damp hole in cleared bush and no further attention given to it since it will either perish or bear fruit within a year or two. The cult of the wetland tare depends on the making of pits. These are dug at a level suitable for their plants to take root in ground-water -- whose height varies with the tide - and much care is needed to supply their needs adequately but not to drown the roots. Great pits were excavated in the middle of the larger islands with constant ground-water; cultivation was systematic and intensive, using pots of pandanus leaves, humus stakes, and intensive observation.

THINGS TO DO

Visitors can venture to the smaller Island atolls to enjoy breathtaking beaches, spectacular scuba diving and water sports. Local tour operators can help organize fishing charters, scuba diving excursions and scenic boat rides between atolls.

The world’s only diveable aircraft carrier and biggest diveable shipwreck is the USS Saratoga. This vessel at the Bikini Atoll’s bottom is larger than the Titanic and resides near the Imperial Japanese Navy battleship, HIJMS Nagato, which led the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack.

Visitors can also try to catch any of the over 1,000 fish species around all 25 major Marshall Islands atolls.Wildfire Charters is among the leading fishing boats, but there are many other individual charters which roam the waters.

Another way to relax is a yacht cruise around the coral atolls aboard Seven Seas Yacht vessels. Passengers can choose between half-day daytime picnics or serene sunset cruises in the evening. Yacht reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance.