JBPHH donations aid local Chuuk community

Attendees of the utteirek unveiling ceremony sit next to the utteirek at the Hawaii Plantation Village, July 28. The project, which took nearly six months, was made partly-possible due to the contribution of mangrove wood cleared from JBPHH.

Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Stoltz

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Public Affairs

Leaders from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) had the opportunity to visit the Hawaii Plantation Village, July 28. However, this was not a trip of leisure, but a trip of learning — and one of gratitude.

The trip was specifically to highlight and celebrate the grand-unveiling of a Chuuk structure, called an “utteirek,” created from mangrove wood donated from JBPHH.

The project, which took nearly six months, was a collaboration between the Chuuk Language and Cultural School, Hawaii Department of Education, Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL), and the Hawaii Plantation Village.

In the Chuukese culture, the utteirek is a multi-purpose structure which provides shelter for learning, meeting, resting and entertaining. The utteirek is an important place in the Chuuk community, and is akin to an area for social gathering and education.

Those two concepts — social gathering and education — were present that day, as more than 100 people gathered to celebrate the utteirek, and share in song, dance, and learning.

Students and teachers from the Hawaii Chuuk Language and Cultural School filled the area with sounds of song as many joined them — teaching newcomers and strangers songs from home. At the same time, some members of the audience — who actually flew from Chuuk and Guam to attend the ceremony — sang along with the songs they already knew and love.

While many contributed to the overall project, Setiro Paul, former Chuuk senator and lead for the project, said it could not have been possible without the generous contribution of the mangroves from JBPHH.

“The mangroves are the most vital part of the utteirek,” Paul said. “Without the mangrove, the utteirek does not stand. The mangroves hold it (the utteirek) upright, and will allow us to continue to teach and educate visitors and our children alike about the Chuuk culture — about their culture.”

After Paul’s speech, the crowd was treated to more songs and dance. Following the festivities, the audience also had the opportunity to listen to various civic leaders, including Cmdr. Corey Hurd, chief staff officer for JBPHH.

“It is amazing to see what mangrove can do,” said Hurd, during his speech. “As good neighbors and partners, Joint Base is always happy to be of assistance when we can. When we received your request to cut some mangrove on Navy property, little did we know it would lead to something as amazing as this.”

As Hurd concluded his speech, he pointed to the utteirek, which towered over the crowd.

“I know this structure will provide a valuable gathering place for learning, teaching and resting for members of the Chuukese community,” Hurd said. “Thank you for sharing your spirit and culture with us and the rest of the community.”

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Category: News