The 1st Ttirhoun Pollap-Fanatopw Conference was successfully convened on the weekend of July 3 – 4, 2014 at the Puerto Rican Association Hall in Honolulu, Hawaii. In attendance were leaders and other officers of the various Pollap communities within the FSM, Hawaii, Guam, and the US Mainland; thus the Conference participants descended unto Honolulu from Chuuk, Pohnpei, Saipan, Guam, Texas, Missouri, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Washington DC,. Among those seated at the leadership table were traditional leaders, representatives from the Chuuk State Legislature, church leaders, and resource persons and guest speakers.
After inspirational speeches from the traditional leaders and elders in attendance, the 20-plus participants in the inaugural meeting unanimously elected Mr. James A. Naich as the president of the Ttirhoun Fanatopw Conference. The other officers who were also elected unanimously were Justo Lokopwe as Vice President; Atanasio Hetiback as Floor Leader; Tony Hetiback as Chief Clerk; and Jerry Raigemai as Administrative Assistant.
Mr. Naich, who has long been serving informally as special advisor to the traditional leadership and municipal government of Pollap-Fanatopw, is also an FSM diplomat assigned to the FSM Embassy in Washington, DC. He spoke to his fellow islanders about the vision and aspirations of the Conference, the very first of its kind for the Pollap community.
“This gathering has its genesis in the dreams of Pisenty Roiluk Hallito (then the paramount chief of Pollap-Fanatopw convalescing in Honolulu at the time). It was Pisenty’s hope for us the sons and daughters of Pollap everywhere to come together one day and, applying our talents and newly acquired skills and drawing on our resources without being bashful to seek out the help of others as necessary and appropriate, to discuss ways to help out Pollap in her time of need,” Mr. Naich recalled in his opening statement.
The Conference president went on to share with his colleagues the final parting words of the paramount chief, who was also a grand master canoe-builder: “Your elders and I have built a sailing canoe for you; it’s time for you younger and future generations not only to sail but care for your canoe, which is called Pollap-Fanatopw.”
The sentiments expressed by the late Hallito were shared by present Paramount Chief Lambert Lokopwe and the elders of Pollap, including Nick Houmwarek and Thomas Olodey. The latter two were among the elders participating in the Conference.
The challenges facing the Conference are revealing in the very banner under which the gathering is named. According to Naich, “ttirhou” in the vernacular of the islands of Letouaafeng (Northwest) of Chuuk is a traditional technique of protecting or caring for a sailing canoe that is in trouble at sea due to stormy winds and turbulent waves. “Fanatopw” is one of the several names for which Pollap is known; it refers specifically to its ancient system of self-defense whereby the island protected itself by transforming itself “invisible” to the man-eating bird that, according to tradition, flew down from East to West and back eating up the people of the islands in its pathway but somehow always missed Pollap. Fanatopw also refers to the “trick” that Paluwlap (Grand Master Navigator) deployed on the man-eating bird by dispatching his daughter Neyofas to feed the bird, when finally allowed to land on the beach of the island, from her never-emptied bowl of “wot” or blue taro for which Pollap is also renown. This ancient trick whereby the bird became generous in revealing to Neyofas his vast expanse of pathways also led to expansion of the knowledge of navigation on Pollap.
The Conference agenda is a litany of the major and urgent challenges facing Pollap-Fanatpow as well as the other islands in the Letowaafeng region of Chuuk State, Federated States of Micronesia. The agenda includes the immense challenge of Climate Change & Sea-Level Rise, Food Security & Environment, Sea Transportation, solar energy & telecommunication, Education and Youth Development , and Preventive Community Health. The Conference also held discussion on the need to rebuild Sacred Heart Church and to finance the activities of the Ttirhoun Pollap-Fanatopw Conference which will be held at least annually.
The Conference planners had invited three guest speakers to address some of the areas of needs on the agenda. The first speaker was Vidalino Raatior, the Director of the Pacific Islander Student Center at UH Hilo, founder and program manager of the Fanapi Foundation (www.fanapi.org), and doctoral student at UH Manoa’s College of Education who has extensive experience in educational reform efforts in Chuuk spoke on educational reform efforts. Professor Norman Okamura from UH Manoa’s College of Social Sciences and Director of the Pan-Pacific and Communication Experiments by Satellite (www.peacesat.hawaii.edu/) addressed ways to tap into the telecommunications opportunities. Prior to returning to academia, Dr. Okamura managed Hawaii State’s entire telecommunications sector. He’s a telecommunication and energy consultant to various Pacific island countries and territories, including the FSM. The third speaker was Andrew Yatilman, Director from the FSM Office of Environment and Emergency Management spoke about the history and current affairs in environmental management around the world and in the FSM.
While the Conference was considered a success by most of the participants, Naich would rather be cautious. He is pleased with the efficiency by which the Conference was organized, the creation of eight standing committees and the selection of chairpersons and members to move the agenda forward, the high spirit of consensus-building and respect among the participants.
“Being a chronic optimist, I am just as excited as the rest of my fellow islanders at the Conference,” Naich noted. He went on to explain: “But I must be sensible and pragmatic. This is just the beginning, and one must start somewhere. We have a herculean agenda before us. If it were under normal circumstances and if I had it my way, we should address only two or three issues at a time, but we are pressed to address too many things at the same time, in part because the challenges are bearing down heavily on us.” Mr. Naich added: “I claim no area of expertise in any of the areas of priority needs, but I am just as determined to learn what we need to do for Fanatopw and our islands in Letowaafeng, and there is no doubt in my mind that we will need the good practices and expertise of others.”
At the closing of the 2-day conference, the leaders and participants adopted several resolutions which will serve as a course of action. They agreed to hold the conference on an annual basis with the next one scheduled for July 2015 in Joplin, Missouri hosted by the Pollap Community of the [US] Mainland or PCM.
For more information and to support the needs of the conference, contact Mr. James Naich (firstname.lastname@example.org). Discussions are underway for ways that the Fanapi Foundation will support future initiatives of the TFC conference.