Planning for the Future of Helen Reef:
Socio-cultural Features of the Tobian Community and Their Implications.
A Report and Recommendations.
Prepared for the Community Conservation Network for use in aiding the development of a management plan for Helen Reef by the people of Tobi, Republic of Palau. Produced with funds from the New England Biolabs Foundation.
Peter W. Black
George Mason University
Fairfax, Virginia 22030
703 993-1446 (FAX)
15 January, 2000
PLANNING HELEN REEF'S FUTURE
Community Conservation Networks efforts to encourage local-level planning by Tobians for the management of Helen Reef will be more likely to succeed if those efforts are built on a solid ethnographic foundation. This report summarizes relevant social, ethnohistorical, and cultural information that should prove useful. It concludes with a set of recommendations.
Various sources are available which are directly or indirectly relevant to this project. They include written accounts of Tobi dating from the 19th century, a major monograph from a 1909 German ethnographic expedition, several Japanese language reports written during the Japanese administration, and U.S. government documents dating from the Trust Territory period. Particularly useful important Trust Territory documents include a series of Southwest Island Field Trip Reports, spanning the years from the early 1950s to the 1970s. Throughout the 20th century there also were occasional reports by independent travelers and researchers.
From 1967 to 1968 and again from 1972 to 1973, I lived on Tobi Island. During that time I collected a good deal of ethnographic data, much of which I have since published. During the 1990s I made several research trips to the Tobian community in Koror, most recently during the summer of 1999 when I gathered material specifically for this document.
My comments here draw on my familiarity with the documentary record and my first-hand research, and are rooted in a 30 year involvement with Tobians and their culture. This is a relationship of some depth, both scholarly (anthropological) and personal. Nevertheless, what I have to say in these pages remains subject to revision based on further research and/or local (especially, but not exclusively, Tobian) input.
Before beginning the substance of the report, I must, for claritys sake, specify how I am using certain names and terms. I will also take this opportunity as a way to introduce certain facts about the current Tobian situation. A good place to start is with the name of the society in question.
Tobi Island has been known by a variety of other names, most commonly Togobei and Lord North Island. This can lead to confusion, in particular for anyone carrying out library or archival research and such a researcher is well advised to search under both of those names as well as Tobi. Hatohobei State is the modern name of the Palauan political unit that includes both Tobi Island and Helen Reef (known in Tobian as Hatohobei and Hosarihi, respectively). To avoid adding to the confusion and introducing yet another name into the scholarly literature, I use Tobi and its derivatives (Tobian, etc.) when writing in English, unless referring to the state (Hatohobei) or its government (Hatohobei State Government or HSG). When writing in the local language, I use the term Hatohobei. This parallels the usage adopted by Palau, which is called Belau when writing or speaking in Belauan and Palau when using English.
Politically Tobians are citizens of Palau; Hatohobei State is one of 16 states making up the Republic of Palau. Linguistically and culturally, Tobians are quite distinct from the Palauan majority population. Currently, very few Tobians live on Tobi, one of the small and remote Southwest Islands of Palau, on a regular or permanent basis. Most Tobians live with people from the other three Southwest Islands in a hamlet called Echang, on the outskirts of Koror town, the capital of Palau. The people from those other three islands (Sonsorol, Pulo Ana, and Merir) are closely related to Tobians both linguistically and culturally. The languages and cultures of all four islands are versions of the languages and cultures of the outer islands of Yap and Chuuk, to the east in the Federated States of Micronesia. The term used for this general or areal culture is Carolinian; the Southwest Islands of Palau can be thought of as Carolinian outliers. I use mainstream Palauan culture to refer to the culture of the majority population of Palau, the descendants of the indigenous inhabitants of what I call Palau proper, that is, the main islands of Palau. Before the colonial era, Palau proper was characterized by great uniformity of culture and language and an integrated political system of some antiquity, all quite foreign to the Southwest Islanders. I use the adjective Echangese to describe the language and culture of Echang hamlet. Echangese language and culture are syntheses of those of the four Southwest Islands and are increasingly influenced by the language and culture of Palau proper as well as the ever more cosmopolitan culture of Koror, host to people from many different parts of the world.
Structure of the Tobian Community
Contemporary Tobian social organization is characterized by great openness. Social boundaries are increasingly porous. I refer here to the ties of friendship, marriage, exchange, and association that connect more and more Tobians to an ever-wider array of social fields. Moreover, an increasing number of people from the other Southwest Islands and from mainstream Palau (and beyond) have in one way or another become part of the community. This boundary permeability results from a number of factors, not least Tobian cultural values of generosity and openness. It has had significant social, cultural, and personal impact.
Two related trends, which also have had important consequences, are increasing urbanization and increasing dependence on cash for sustenance. The great majority of Tobians now live permanently in Echang where they are full participants in the market economy.
All major areas of Tobian communal life (economics, politics, education, religion, kinship, and family) have changed dramatically and rapidly in recent years, and this process continues. These changes have combined to produce a community that is markedly different than it was in the past. Until the late 1970s, life was organized around subsistence fishing and gardening on the remote island of Tobi. Today in Echang, salaried and entrepreneurial incomes provide most of the basis for subsistence and household economics. This is true even though fishing and gardening continue to contribute significantly to individual diets. Levels of consumption continue to rise, with many people managing to achieve near-mainland levels of (material) living. Housing and sanitation remain two areas in which there is a considerable gap between Tobians and other residents of Palau, let alone mainlanders.
Traditional leadership is in abeyance because important chiefly offices currently are either empty or strongly contested. At the same time, constitutionally-mandated offices and operations of Hatohobei State Government have become increasingly central to the life of the community.
Education at higher and higher levels, both within Palau and beyond, is ever more common. Near universal literacy has been achieved in Tobian, as well as Palauan, and, to a lesser extent, English. Every child attends elementary school, many graduate from high school, and a significant number of people have now earned college degrees.
Membership in the Roman Catholic church continues to be important even though regular church attendance has dropped markedly. The socio- or group-centric orientation characteristic of previous Tobian religious attitudes seems to be giving way to a more individualistic focus on personal salvation.
Marriage with people of non-Tobian and even non-Palauan background is increasingly
common. Not everything has changed, though, and matrilineality and matrifocality both
remain central in the life experience of most Tobians. Household organization is more and
more focused around nuclear families consisting of married couples and their children.
One useful way to describe the actual structure of the Tobian community is to focus on the several large complex families and family fragments of which it is composed. These social units are thoroughly interconnected by marriage, adoption, and descent. They provide the context which structures most social relations for most people most of the time. They are also the main social feature linking Tobians to the larger worlds of Echang, Palau, and beyond. The actual number of these families and their membership is best left to Tobians themselves to determine, because questions remain about which marriages (both formal and informal) are part of larger families and which have achieved separate status. For now, ten seems to me a reasonable estimate of the number of such families. In any event, these more complex and permanent families have largely replaced the household-kitchen based units of neo-traditional Tobi.
Despite Tobians great skill at maintaining pleasant and cooperative social relations with one another, a number of cleavages and social divisions are present within their community. For instance, there is an emerging gap between those with and those without membership in one of Tobis traditional clans.
Over time, demographic processes have led to a sharp reduction in the number of Tobian clans. Clan membership, though, shows signs of becoming more and more central to discussions over the management and allocation of resources. Since clan identity is acquired from ones mother, those whose mothers are not members of a Tobian clan do not have Tobian clan membership.
Clans as a social phenomenon and clanship as a feature of personal identity have become increasingly important for a number of reasons, not least the pervasive influence of mainstream Palauan culture. An ever-larger percentage of the Tobian community construes clanship in distinctly Palauan terms. Clans in this way of things are hierarchical, competitive, resource-owning, and title-conferring social institutions. Each of these attributes makes Palauan clans quite different from the Tobian clans of the last few generations, which had as their sole social function the partial regulation of marriage through a rule of clan exogamy.
Significantly and increasingly today, some of those whose mothers belonged to one or another of the traditional Tobian clans use the lack of clan membership of those who do not have such a mother as an invidious mark of less than full Tobianness. This is a relatively new ploy and it is highly divisive. Deeply resented by its targets, in its exclusivity it marks the emergence of something like modern ethnicity as a basis for political action and cultural identity. People making this distinction refer to those without a Tobian clan membership as Wasera, which translates into English as "drifting canoe." According to a quick count I made this summer, those able to claim membership in the Tobian community by virtue of either birth or marriage number around 270. Those with membership in a traditional Tobian clan, acquired from their birth mother, form a very small percentage of this group. It only remains to point out that such an attention to "authenticity" is something quite new in Tobian history and contrasts markedly with the openness mentioned at the beginning of this section. Membership in the community has always before depended on shared participation in its life, much more than on putative purity of matrilineal descent.
The very rapid social changes of the last 20 years mean that there is a major difference in the childhood experiences of the younger and older generations. This has led to something like a generation gap. Those who grew up 30 or more years ago came of age in a society quite isolated on its remote island, and still largely self-contained and machine-free. It was a society spiritually centered around a rather old-fashioned Roman Catholicism, and economically based on a subsistence system of male fishermen and female taro gardeners. Canoes, thatch houses, and taro fields were the primary features of the human landscape. Cash from copra sales provided the income to purchase the relatively restricted range of trade goods which people had come to desire. Politically, a working arrangement had evolved in which the traditional chief retained responsibility for customary values and ritual while an elected magistrate dealt with the colonial and post-colonial administrations in Koror. The title of Ramoparuhe was held by a senior woman who was a direct descendant and namesake of the woman who discovered Tobi and founded its society. Ramoparuhes role in ensuring compliance with tradition and the suppression of overt conflict complemented that of the chief.
Fundamental cultural orientations toward conflict, innovation, and the relationship between spiritual and material worlds remained remarkably consistent. An ecological balance had been achieved which consisted of a successful adaptation capable of supporting large numbers of people. But that balance, in such a remote and fragile ecosystem as Tobi Island, was always precarious. Innovation could lead to disaster. Traditional ways of doing things tended to be viewed as sacred or at least moral and new ways as sacrilegious and immoral. Maintaining this balance was within the chiefs purview. Ways of managing conflict were directly related to sustaining that balance.
Middle-aged and older Tobians who grew up in that long-gone world are the people who made the decisions that led to the creation of the very different world of their children. In fact, it was largely to give their children a chance to succeed in all the new opportunities becoming available in Palau that they made those decisionsespecially the choice to leave Tobi for Echang.
The remarkable changes of the last two decades have opened up many new opportunities for everyone. Many of the older people, for example, have turned to the HSG structure as a vehicle for contributing to the community while also acquiring status. Younger people, especially those who have taken advantage of the new schooling available, have achieved much in Palau and beyond. Everyone, young or old, who wants or needs to work seems able to find employment. Yet all this has not come without cost. Older people are less able now than in previous generations to give guidance, since they are much less sure of the shape of the future. Older Tobians do view with great distress what they see as the failure of many of the younger members of the community to take education seriously. For their part, young people cannot help but resent the efforts of their elders to guide them, efforts that often seem misinformed and counter-productive. A possible reflection of some of this tension may be the discomfort expressed by many people, both young and old, with the outbreaks of drinking and rowdy behavior which occasionally disrupt Echangs peace and quiet.
Finally, in any discussion of the divisions within the Tobian community mention must be made of several important struggles between families. Some of these quarrels are quite old, going back several generations, others are of more recent vintage. They tend to be over questions of land and other resources, and over titles (both traditional and elected). Such conflicts tend not to be so much resolved as temporarily suspended when the interests of all parties can be served by such a suspension. In the last decade or so, a "court house" strategy has been adopted by more and more people. This involves the threat and sometimes the actual filing of legal papers as part of the rumor-based system of maneuver and counter-maneuver by which these conflicts are enacted.
Not all tensions and disputes participated in by Tobians are contained within their community, of course. External struggles with the other Southwest Islanders, all citizens of Sonsorol State, grow out of longstanding competition between Tobi and Sonsorol. Echangese residents are more or less forced to cooperate on some issues, however, in the hamlets continual effort to hold its own in mainstream Palauan society. Furthermore, the Tobian community has for years been at odds with other users of Helen Reef, many of whom never ask permission to use the reef, even though they readily acknowledge Tobian ownership.
Continuities such as these are not at all unusual in the Tobian scene. Indeed, despite the many significant social and cultural changes sketched above (and far from all of them have been mentioned) much persists. For example, ever since the early years of the 20th century, when Southwest Islanders first pioneered the Echang settlement, Tobian society has been dual in nature, with an urban, cash-based, pole based in Palau proper, contrasting with a rural, subsistence pole, located on Tobi Island. By the late 1960s everyone except one elderly widow had lived significant parts of their lives in both places, as individuals and families cycled back and forth on the field trip ship. All but that one old woman had become fluent in Palauan; everyone but her was well able to cope with life in both places. Today many people still go back and forth. The major change, deserving of the title "urbanization," is that the visits to Tobi have become shorter and shorter, and the resident population there smaller and smaller, while more and more people have come to spend more and more time in Echang. Their society is still dual in its fundamental nature, though.
Another continuity is in the realm of values. Traditional Tobian notions of what makes for a good person, a good society, and a good life have persisted with remarkably little change. Generosity, good humor, cooperation, and tough mindedness--all these traits, and others, continue to be seen as important virtues. The change that is apparent in this area is a shift toward individualism and nuclear families. Nevertheless, a family (however defined) and its land are still seen by just about everyone as inextricably one, and as a near ultimate good. As time goes on, the influence of Palauan culture in the realm of values is likely to increase. For now, though, this is one area where the Tobians of today are quite similar to those of the past. Another striking continuity is in the commitment Tobians continue to show as they exert their claims to responsible ownership of Helen Reef. That commitment is a constant theme in the oral history of Tobi.
Ethnohistory of Tobians and Helen Reef
Tobian oral history contains many references to Helen Reef. The name by which Helen Reef is known to them Hosarie) can be translated as Tridacna Reef. Lacking good stone or an extensive reef of its own capable of supporting large populations of giant clams, Tobi offered its inhabitants no materials from which large cutting and chopping tools that would hold an edge could be made. Tobians say this is the reason for the prehistoric (that is pre-metal) trips regularly made by navigators across the 40 miles of sea that separate these two parts of the Tobian world. The legend of the early navigator, called Man Mei Youh (Person of the South), credits this important Tobian culture hero with the discovery of Helen Reef and its bounty, not only of highly useful tridacna, but of many other riches as well.
Another story sequence which details events of the very early contact period, tells of Tobians working as crewmembers on the ship of a man they call Bouchor (Mr. Gums) or Captain Borrie. Before being arrested by the British Navy and taken to Sidney for trial, Borrie and his crew were engaged in gathering dried sea cucumber at Helen Reef for shipment to Manila and eventual sale into China. It may well be that Borrie was the infamous Bully Hayes, a notorious Western Pacific labor kidnapper and scoundrel of the late 19th century.
With the imposition of colonial control and the end of the era of freebooters like Hayes, Tobians began to reconstruct their society, creating in the process that neo-traditional way of life sketched above. For the entire span of this era, that is, until the mass migration to Echang in the early 1980s, Helen Reef constituted an important focus of Tobian culture, as it remains to this day.
Tobians periodically made sustained efforts at harvesting Helen Reefs resources, especially trochus. During the middle years of the American administration numerous small parties of Tobians lived there for periods of from three to six months. These people tended the island, planting trees and making other improvements, while harvesting trochus and/or (I think) sea cucumber and tridacna, making copra, and feasting on the fish, turtles, and birds which were so plentifully available.
These expeditions to Helen Reef were organized by the chief and magistrate and were usually bachelor affairs, although on occasion women went too. Such trips required the cooperation of the colonial authorities, however, since the government field trip ship was the only way onto or off Helen Reef for modern Tobians.
Tobians lost the habit of making the crossing to Helen Reef unaided after they were forbidden to do so by the Japaneseprobably either just prior to or during WW II, although it might have been earlier. Tobians did retain the ability to make the trip with sailing canoes even though there were no longer local navigators who had the skills and knowledge to sail directly to Helen. They had worked out a scheme by which, if necessary, Tobis entire fleet of sailing canoes (probably nine or ten) would leave Tobi together in the direction of Helen Reef. One canoe would stop just before Tobi Island dropped out of sight, the next one just before that canoes sail dipped below the horizon, and so on until the signs of Helen Reef finally became visible and the fleet could reassemble and sail to it. This scheme was never put into practice, but its existence indicates the islanders stubborn insistence on keeping as much autonomy as possible and their concern with retaining the ability to come and go to their collective property, Helen Reef, without reference to any outsiders.
To this era probably belongs the well known observation that one can always recognize people just back from Helen Reef because, grown fat on all the food they had eaten there, they could just barely squeeze through a door. It was probably in this era also that the custom emerged of bringing something wonderful or unusual back from Helen Reef upon returning to Tobi.
Stories from this period tell of numerous encounters, some hostile and some not, with outside interlopers, mostly long line fishing boats from East Asia and small scale fishers and gleaners from Indonesia. Turtle and bird eggs drew these people, as did huge populations of adult turtles, birds, fish, and giant clams. It wasnt just illegal poachers who were of concern to the Tobians during this time, though.
During the entire period, a constant problem for the Tobians was the behavior of field trip personnel at Helen Reef. Field trips occurred three or four times a year, at sporadic intervals. Representatives of various government departments, commercial enterprises, the Roman Catholic mission, and others with business to conduct in the Southwest Islands formed what was known as a field trip party, traveling south from Koror on one of the governments ships. They visited each of the Southwest Islands for a few hours, buying copra, saying mass, conducting meetings and health calls, inspecting the islands for various purposes, and in general, bringing the outside world (Koror version, of course) to the peoples of what they viewed as remote outposts. All this was hot and exhausting, the ships were uniformly slow and uncomfortable with minimal accommodations and often barely adequate food. By the time the field trip party had finished with Tobi, the final working stop on the Southward swing of the cruise (usually about a week after leaving Koror), the call of Helen Reef, in its beauty and richness, was almost irresistible. When the ship left Helen Reef for the north on the following day, it was heavily loaded with turtles, birds, fish, and (often enough to be a standing joke), a seriously hung-over field trip party.
Those Helen Reef binges were a minor scandal in Palau for many years. Many administrative actions were taken to try to curb them, with only limited and temporary success. The point here is that Tobians, through their chief and magistrate, regularly complained to government officials and others about the damage that was being done by field trip personnel to the resources at Helen Reef. They also passed several municipal ordinances, setting out fines and quotas. Sadly, these ordinances had even less effect than the administrations efforts.
It became quite apparent as a result of all this that many members of mainstream Palauan culture tended to view Helen Reef the way they viewed unowned rock islands. Both were places of almost unlimited personal freedom, where the regular rules of behavior did not apply. A problem of very long standing for Tobians has been to somehow overcome this perception.
In recent years Tobian oral history of Helen Reef has changed dramatically. In place of the stories of fatness and adventure told about the visits there during the previous era, Tobians now recount stories that express their concern with Helens diminishing resources. Tales of contemporary events tend to stress destruction and diminishment, not just of the various forms of organic life there, but of Helen Reef itself. It seems to me that this concern helps to explain the Tobians involvement with CCN. During the course of that involvement, certain features of Tobian culture are likely to prove very important.
Culture of Resource Use and Resource Management
Certain Tobian cultural premises seem destined to play a major role as the community attempts to develop a management plan for Helen Reef. Such premises do not rigidly determine action, but they do tend to shape perspectives on ways to approach problems. Thus they will play an important part at least in the preliminary responses to CCNs suggestions and initiatives.
When faced with the necessity of dealing with ongoing public difficulties, people tend to first look back to the past in order to see where the roots of the problem may lie. Their intention is, as it were, to unknot whatever has become tangled. This often entails a deferral to "elders" who are assumed to have special knowledge of the past, acquired either from direct experience or indirectly from even older, and now deceased, people. This culturally appropriate maneuver is increasingly problematic, however. At present there simply are no old people with pre-colonial or even much pre-war experience. Furthermore, not all of the oldest members of the community are recognized as being in full control of their senses. When such people make claims about what they were told by their elders, considerable confusion can result. And when others claim to speak for them, it is often unclear exactly whose ideas are being reported. The lack of uncontested experts on the past frequently leads to a deadlocked quality in discussions about how to cope with long standing issues.
Following a failed effort to turn to the elders it is highly likely that one or another person will offer a plan or proposed set of actions under the rubric of an "idea to help the island." This is another feature of Tobian culture of which CCN should be aware. The use of an "idea to help the island" is often a rhetorical token in the continuous politics of reputation and rumor. In this sense "ideas to help the island" constitutes a cultural category whose use in social relations is not so much to actually propose solutions to communal difficulties as to demonstrate positive qualities of the person deploying it. Those positive qualities are intelligence and altruism. The opponents of the person deploying that maneuver (that is, the person offering an idea to help the island) typically deny those qualities by attacking the idea as unworkable and as being designed to secretly benefit the family of the person making it. There is a game-like quality to much of this; frequently the only person to take seriously a particular idea to help the island is an outsider.
For outsiders part of the difficulty in all this is the often mistaken assumption they may hold about the cultural appropriateness of commitment to the preservation and prosperity of the Tobian community. I am not speaking here of the actual depth of feelings of social solidarity and/or willingness to sacrifice self and family interests in behalf of the larger community. These feelings differ from a greater to a lesser extent among Tobians just as they do within any human group. Groups do differ culturally, however, in how much they encourage their members to engage in public expressions of those feelings, to accept them as genuine when expressed by the self or others, and to set them high in the order of values.
Samoan culture, for example, is famous for the degree to which it encourages public expressions of loyalty to Samoa and fidelity to the "Samoan Way." Tobian culture, in contrast, encourages people to view such claims with skepticism and to assume that they mask more private family interests. Traditionally, one of the main responsibilities of the chief was to encourage people to rise above self and family interests to act on behalf of the whole community. There is no one today to whom most people are willing to assign that duty as of right. To repeat, outsiders make a mistake if they assume an automatic predisposition among Tobians to sacrifice for communal well being.Tobian culture, like any culture, is encoded in language. Therefore it seems to me that a Tobian vocabulary focused on resources and conflict should prove useful to CCN. For this reason I have included the beginnings of one below. These words and phrases should offer clues to Tobian cultural assumptions and cognitive predispositions regarding what I take to be the two most important topics for planning the management of Helen Reefresource use and conflict management. This section of the report is particularly tentative, and is subject to correction and amplification. I have tried to be consistent in spelling and to indicate the alternative meanings offered by different people.
The following material comes from interviews carried out in Echang in July 1999. Some of it was gathered by Aunchalee Loscalzo, and I thank her for providing me with a copy of her work, all of which is very interesting and some of which I quote here. I have marked those quotations with the initials AL.
A Vocabulary of Resource Use and Conflict
|YEWO FAUHUR||THERE IS A PROBLEM|
|MOR EMOH FAUHUR||SOLUTION (LITERALLY, THE PROBLEM HAS BECOME GOOD)|
|HOURFARUH||ENVIRONMENT (LITERALLY, THINGS OF A LAND)|
|FARUH||ISLAND, MORE GENERALLY, LAND|
|PIPI MATARTAR HOURFARUH||MANY KINDS OF RESOURCES|
|HAWEREWER||ANOTHER POSSIBLE WORD FOR ENVIRONMENT (LITERALLY, APPEARANCE)|
|YANGIRI||SURROUNDINGS; SOMETHING THAT SURROUNDS (AL)|
|MAKA ET AHUN NI HICHI RANGI INA TATI MA FARUH||THE THINGS THAT SURROUND US, THE AIR, WATER AND LAND . . . EACH SPECIFIED SEPARATELY AS A WAY TO INDICATE ENVIRONMENT (AL)|
|EMOHORI FARUH||ENVIRONMENTAL CLEANLINESS; THE ISLAND IS CLEAN AS IT IS NOW; GOOD THINGS AROUND THE ISLAND|
|E PIPI A MATAMATARI FARUMIR RA EMIR IRANI TETI ...||BIODIVERSITY; DIFFERENT KINDS OF, E.G., FISH AND TURTLES (AL)|
|EBE PIPIYERAHO||ABUNDANT/ABUNDANCE; GROWING IN NUMBER; CONTINUOUSLY GROWING AND MULTIPLYING (AL)|
|ETAMAL||POLLUTION (LITERALLY, IT iS BAD OR SOMETHING BAD)|
|ETAWAS||POLLUTION (LITERALLY, IT IS WRECKED OR BROKEN)|
|HATAWASI||TO BREAK SOMETHING DOWN (AL); EVERYTHING IS USED UP|
|HAMARAR||TO DEMOLISH (AL)|
|HATORAP||TO TAKE MORE THAN YOU NEED; TO RUIN|
|BWISIRI IH||SCHOOL OF FISH (LITERALLY, A SAME-SEX SIBLINGSHIP OF FISH)|
|EYAHARO FITARIH||TOO MUCH FISHING (OVER FISHING)|
|HATAICHI||USE LITTLE BY LITTLE|
|HATORAP||USE A LOT, MORE THAN YOU NEED (OPPOSITE OF HATAICHI)|
|ETAIMIR||NOT HERE. NOTE: ALSO REFERS TO THE DEAD|
|ETIAWOH||THERE IS NO MORE|
|MASA||TO AGREE (AL)|
|SIBWAFA MANGIMAN||PLANNING, E.G., FOR HELEN REEFS USE, FOR A TRIP, TO BUY A CAR|
|MAYA MAYERI FITERI||MONITORING PROJECT; TO LOOK AND SEE SOMETHING BUT ALSO TO TAKE ACTION UPON IT, LIKE A WATCHMAN DOES (AL)|
|HORI MOHOH||WISE USE|
Terms for Conservation, Supervision, and Monitoring
|ETAB||TABOO (LITERALLY, IT IS WRONG AND FORBIDDEN)|
|PIHEIMOARU||TABOOED FOR CONSERVATION
|BAU||LIKE PIHEIMOARU AND ALMOST LIKE ETAP; CLOSED, LIKE FISHING SEASONS HAVE OPENING AND CLOSING BY CHIEF; FOR HATEH TIMING WAS UP TO CHIEF|
|TOUTUB||RELIGIOUS REGULATIONS AND RITUAL, ESPECIALLY OF THE PRE-CHRISTIAN ERA|
|WATOUTUB||SPECIALIST IN MAGIC|
|YAUYO||CUSTOM OF OLD DAYS (OR TO CREATE A CUSTOM)|
|MOUMO||SOMETHING THAT BELONGS TO THE PAST BUT STILL MUST BE PRACTICED; TRADITIONAL WAYS OF DOING THINGS, USED FOR ACTIVITIES; RULES OF BEHAVIOR (AL). CUSTOM ALREADY APPROVED, IN CONTRAST TO YAUYO|
|ITEIT||SAVE OR KEEP, E.G., MONEY OR FOOD|
|MAYEHI FARUH||TO MONITOR OR OBSERVE A PLACE|
|MAYEHI IH||TO MONITOR OR OBSERVE FISH|
|MAYEHI YAHAMAT||TO MONITOR PEOPLE (BY, FOR EXAMPLE, THE CHIEF OR RAMOPARUHE)|
|HACHI||WATCH OUT FOR|
|YAR||USED TO EXPRESS OWNERSHIP OF LAND (AL)|
|USUWERI||TOOWN, TO BE IN CONTROL OF (DIFFERENT THAN MAYEHI). SOMEONE WHO IS IN CHARGE, SOMEONE WHO GIVES PERMISSION WITHOUT NECESSARILY BEING THE OWNER (LIKE THE GOVERNOR). IF THE USUWERI IS ALSO THE OWNER THEY MUST SAY THAT DIRECTLY. IT INDICATES THAT THERE IS SOMETHING THAT YOU CAN TAKE CHARGE OF BUT YOU CANNOT TAKE AWAY. THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENT WAYS TO OWN (E.G., BY CHIEF, INDIVIDUALS, ALL THE PEOPLE (AL)|
|HAHOU||TO CONTROL (DRIVE) CAR, CANOE, SHIP, ETC.|
|NANG NIFARI||I CONTROL IT (CAR, I KEEP THE KEY). NOTE: BOTH HAWEI AND NIFARI CAN BE USED FOR BEING IN CHARGE OF PEOPLE BUTUSUWERI IS USED FOR CONTROL OF ONE'S CHILDREN|
|HEIHARITIR||CONTROL; LIKE BAUSTINOS CARETAKER JOB AT NGERDIS, WORKING FOR THE REAL OWNER|
|HEIMEMEYAR||TO WATCH OUT FOR|
|HAFANIH AREWEICH||TO BABY SIT|
Terms for Values and Their Distribution
|PITER WAHAHAH||VALUE, BEST LOVED|
|PITER NIYAFIYAF||SAME AS PITER WAHAHAH BUT STRONGER|
|HIFI IF||HOPE; DESIRE; IDEA (AL)|
|PARUHEN||MONETARY VALUE (lITERALLY, WHAT YOU PAY) (AL)|
|ITIPERI (IMASERI)||VALUED THING (LITERALLY, I LIKE IT) NOTE: THE FIRST IS TOBIAN, THE SECOND SONSOROLESE. MOST PEOPLE SAID THEY WERE INTERCHANGEABLE. IN A DISCUSSION OF WHAT YOU USE ITEPERI FOR AND WHAT YOU USE IMASERI FOR, ONE PERSON DISTINGUISHED BETWEEN LIKING THINGS Of THE LAND (ITEPERI) AND THINGS OF THE OCEAN (IMASERI). FOR SOMETHING LIKE THE CONSTITUTION ONE CAN USE EITHER. CANOES AND SHIPS WERE SAID TO REQUIRE ITIPERI, WHILE RAIN, SKY, AND WIND CALL FOR IMASERI. ITIPERI SEWA (TO LIKE VERY MUCH) MEANS TO LOVE in TOBIAN, AS DOES IMASARI SEWA IN SONSOROLESE)|
|HAFAHOF||POOR; WITHOUT. NOTE: NOT USED IN A GENERAL SENSE BUT ONLY WITH RESPECT TO SPECIFIC THINGS, E.G., HAFAHOF IFIRI TABAKA, POOR WITH RESPECT TO TOBACCO OR WITHOUT TOBACCO)|
|FAUHU||DISTRIBUTE AMONG THE PEOPLE (AL)|
|IRETI||DISTRIBUTION BY EQUAL SHARE|
|IRITI YAHAMAT||DISTRIBUTION ONE PERSON BY ONE PERSON (EVEN FOR BABIES IN THE WOMB)|
|IRITIRI IM||DISTRIBUTION BY HOUSEHOLD. NOTE: AGE CAN BE IMPORTANT IN A DISTRIBUTION; OLDER PEOPLE SOMETIMES GET MORE.|
|CHUU||TO SHARE THE USE (SMOKING A CIGARETTE TOGETHER, FOR EXAMPLE, OR SHARING LAND).|
Terms for Conflict and Conflict Management
|HAFAINIYAU||ARGUE. (LITERALLY, MOUTH-FIGHTING)|
|HABOUBOU||ANOTHER WORD FOR ANGRY YELLING (BOUBOU IS AN ONOMATOPOETIC REPRESENTATION OF A DOG'S BARK)|
|HANONOR||ENEMY; TROUBLE BETWEEN PEOPLE|
|HAMAUNOR||PEACE MAKING; APOLOGIZE; BRING RECONCILIATION GIFTS|
|BORUBORU||SOME SAY THIS IS THE SAME AS HAMAUNOR|
|MARUHARUH||PEACE; LOVE (LITERALLY, LOOSE FITTING, NOT TIGHT, AS WITH CLOTHES, LIVING SPACE, OR RELATIONSHIPS); FREE; HAPPY|
|HATOWAHI||RESPECT; TO STOP OR BACK AWAY FROM TROUBLE BECAUSE OF RESPECT FOR SOMEONE LIKE A BROTHER OR THE CHIEF OR RAMOPARUHE|
|HAPAR||ANOTHER WORD FOR RESPECT|
|TIHONG||COMPROMISE OR MEDIATION: TO ASK QUESTIONS OF ALL PARTIES TO A DISPUTE|
|HASUAR||EXCHANGE AS PART OF A SETTLEMENT, GENERALLY ON THE BASIS OF COMPASSION FOR THE PARTY WITH THE GREATEST NEED|
|NIFAR SEWA I EYOR||VERY IMPORTANT (TO SOMEONE)|
|MORIBONG TITIR||THE END OF THE DISPUTE (LITERALLY, THE TALKING IS OVER)|
Many of these English terms are far from transparent in their meaning, and may carry much unnoticed cultural baggage. At a minimum, a comparison of the cultural assumptions carried by these terms and equivalent items in Tobian should prove quite enlightening to all parties. This can begin if CCN tries to imagine how these terms could be explained to a Tobian who is unfamiliar with them. If speakers of other languages (e.g., Indonesian, Palauan) are brought into the discussions, an expanded comparison should be carried out. Below is an unorganized and preliminary list of what seem to me to be key English terms. They have all been culled from various documents and conversations associated with CCN.
RELY ON FOOD
STATE OF FISHING
NATURAL VS. MANMADE
hEALTH AND SICKNESS (OF NON-HUMAN PHENOMENA, SUCH AS REEF)
SENSITIVE OR FRAGILE
In addition to the information presented in the previous sections of this report, I think it appropriate that I conclude with a set of explicit suggestions for CCNs consideration.
The following recommendations are offered to help CCN achieve its goals. They fall into five issue areas in which problems and difficulties are liable to arise.
Issue Area One: Distance.
Very often it is erroneously assumed that technical capacity is all that is required for long distance communication. A cultural predisposition to engage in such communication must also exist. At present, that predisposition is weak, if not non-existent in the Tobian community. The equipment to send and receive e-mail, FAXes, telephone calls, and letters does exist (within the limits set by Palaus relative isolation) but messages sent via all these means typically go unanswered. To a large extent, Tobian social life is still very much a face-to-face affair. This is especially true for initiatives requiring group decision and/or action. In as much as CCN relies upon long distance forms of communication it may well experience problems sustaining interest, commitment, and especially compliance with agreed upon courses of action.
Recommendation One: Plan on Follow-up Visits. CCN should budget for routine follow-up visits. Scheduling these visits to coincide with the run-up to important deadlines would be wise.
Despite CCNs best efforts to avoid reliance on long distance two-way communication, however, it is highly likely that important business will still need to be done via e-mail and FAX.
Recommendation Two: Hire a Liaison. CCN should budget for a liaison position in Palau. The person in this position should be provided with internet access and training if necessary. Nothing requires that this person be one of the few highly educated (and much in demand) Tobians. A smart and responsible high school student with reasonable English skills would be very suitable, I should think. The important thing is that he or she could be relied on to pass messages, convey answers, run errands promptly, and in general act as the "face" of CCN in those necessary face-to-face interactions. It is important that this person be a member of the Tobian community and not, for example, the proposed Peace Corps Volunteer.
Issue Area Two: Consensus, Disagreement, and Disappointment
Traditionally, and largely still true today, every adult Tobian held a veto on any significant proposed community action, since consensus was a requirement. Passive non-participation in processes leading up to a decision was often an indication of disagreement. This, by the way, is one reason Tobian meetings tend to begin with an informal survey of who is not there and why. CCN should be wary of any meeting that enthusiastically endorses a proposed course of action. Who was not present? The best strategy, I think, is to assume that there will be disagreement and even conflict as a continual accompaniment of whatever is decided upon.
Recommendation Three: Include Conflict Management. Planning for conflict and its management should be built into every proposal. Explicitly addressing the possibility of conflict and working out ways to handle it (mediation, for example) will decrease the probability that CCNs efforts will come to naught.
One common cause of the failure of outside-sponsored initiatives in Palau is a kind of cascading disappointment caused by unrealized, (if often unrealistic), expectations.
Recommendation Four: Be Cautious Making Commitments. CCN should avoid over-promising. Initial enthusiasm, in which those present at a meeting commit not only themselves but also people who are not even there, to some exciting new venture, very often leads to disappointment and (muted) recriminations. This is especially likely to happen if outside actors previously have made real or implied promises of future resources that have not been honored. Although this is changing, many Tobians may not attribute such unfulfilled commitments to the kind of impersonal, institutional forces with which CCN has to deal. When a foundation fails to come through with the expected funds for CCN, and a purchase or a hiring can not be made, many people may feel betrayed and let down by CCN, and not by the remote foundation.
Issue Area Three: Process, Structure, and Strategy
CCN has chosen to work with Tobians on Helen Reefs management, a topic very important to their future. These discussions and what comes out of them may in and of themselves play an important role in the evolution and creation of Tobian responses to their rapidly changing circumstances. In my opinion it is crucial that these discussions be as inclusive as possible.
. All planning documents, survey instruments, and as many as possible of the various grant proposals, reports (including this one), and other written material generated by this project should be translated into Tobian. This is very important, even though English is widely understood. For example, questionnaires in English, semi-translated by whoever happens to be administering them, are liable to mask important points of cognitive and perceptual difference between native English speakers and Tobians. One good use of the English and Tobian vocabularies included above might well be for CCN to convene a panel of English speaking Tobians to discuss the various words reported and their translations. Such a discussion could easily reveal important and hitherto unreported dimensions of Tobian culture. In any event, I strongly urge that this material be refined and expanded as soon as practical.
Recommendation Five: Use Tobian
As the planning process develops, a structure should be developed, institutional support recruited and the circle of those consulted should be widened.
Recommendation Six: Consider a Family Advisory Council. Given the contentious nature of clan identity, the dissension surrounding traditional titles, and the over-extension of the state, one possible course of action is to create an advisory council made up of representatives of each of the major families, as defined by the Tobians. The advantage of this idea is that questions of family membership can be left to the individuals involved and divisive questions of authenticity perhaps left unraised. In any case, under no circumstances should CCN allow itself to become part of the seemingly endless and unresolvable struggle over traditional chiefly titles. And of course, such a council should be as representative of the whole community as is possible, with some process worked out by which the smaller famiily fragments are also represented. No one in the community should be left without a spokesperson on the council.
In addition to facilitating the emergence of a structure rooted in the Tobian community, an effort should be made to attract institutional support from other potentially helpful parts of Palauan society.
Recommendation Seven: Involve the Roman Catholic Mission. Many bonds link the Tobian community and the Mission. These bonds often have been very helpful to Tobians, both as individuals and as a group, during the years since their conversion to Christianity. The church is also a significant venue for links between Tobians and their fellow Catholics in Palau. Other pro-social institutions and organizations with special ties to Tobi or special interests in Helen Reef might also be drawn in at this point.
Tobians, of course, are not the only users of Helen Reefs resources. A strategy to manage those resources wisely and effectively will be more likely to succeed if those other users interests are taken into account.
Recommendation Eight: Build on Existing Relationships. CCN should attempt to tap into already existing links between Tobians and other users of Helen Reef, especially Indonesians. Once stability is restored to Eastern Indonesia, serious consideration should be given to contacting and even visiting these people, their families, and friends.
CCNs strategy depends on sustaining an ongoing conversation among Tobians about Helen Reef and its management. Tobian cultural premises seem to impel a backward look to uncover the "true way" or "traditional way" or "custom" of Helen Reef. This may easily spin down into a rather fruitless quest for non-existent information. To my knowledge, there is no source of either written or oral history that directly describes the rules and regulations which ancient Tobians followed as they used Helen Reef. Even if such a source did exist, it is far from clear how useful it would be, since such a rule regimen would be intimately bound to a culture and society which no longer exist in anything like the same form. For these reasons also, eco-romantic appeals to indigenous conservation practices are not likely to be very productive.
Recommendation Nine: Approach the Topic Indirectly. Although there is no direct evidence of how resource use at Helen Reef was regulated before the imposition of colonial control, there is a good deal of evidence about Tobian use of those resources, as I indicated earlier. Much additional evidence is available that can be part of the conversation, in particular oral accounts from the last half of the 20th century and various court hearings and government documents. Another productive avenue would be to explore the topic of the area of land on Tobi called Hateh. Until it was allocated into separate holdings under the Japanese, this plot was more or less communal property, managed by the chief on behalf of the entire population. Hateh and its management might well prove useful as an analogy in imagining a future for Helen Reef. Farther afield, and given Tobis close cultural affinities with the low islands to the east, a discussion of how other Carolinian people manage remote resources could well prove very productive. Here, the example of Satawal and its remote and uninhabited larder island of Pikelot comes to mind.
Issue Area Four: Outreach
Building a Tobi-based, self-sustaining, deeply-rooted, and, most of all, successful process for managing Helen Reef requires support and interest in Palau beyond the immediate bounds of the Tobian community or even the total cast of Helen Reef stake holders. Such involvement could also play a very useful role in improving the cultural image of Tobians in Palau and their social relations with the other citizens of the Republic.
Recommendation Ten: Engage in Public Education. Radio interviews, newspaper articles, and school visits are only some of the possibilities for informing the other citizens and residents of Palau about the problems and prospects of Helen Reef and the steps the Tobians are taking to protect