Wearing festive, colorful garments, woven shell jewelry and wuts, students and teachers in the Kwajalein School System observed Manit Day on U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll Sept. 30, 2022.
On Kwajalein, the garrison joins in the cultural celebrations each year to share in the rich heritage of the Marshall Islands. Past Manit Day festivities have included weaving demonstrations by teams of expert artisans; displays of amimono, or handicrafts, jewelry and wuts; traditional storytelling; live music; sampling traditional foods; and dance performances by jepta teams and Marshallese Ri-Katak students.
Leading up to Manit Day, students in the Kwajalein School System have received an array of lessons focused on the language, customs and folklore of the RMI. They engage concepts in engineering and environmental awareness to build and race small outrigger canoes and boats made from found materials.
Out of an abundance of caution for COVID-19 in 2022, Manit Day festivities throughout the atoll were reserved. However, staff in the Kwajalein School System were able to continue the observance in two schools-only events.
The school’s special presentations convened at elementary school and high school assemblies on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 2022, respectively. Teachers introduced Marshallese student speakers from the KSS Ri-Katak student program to their elementary school peers, who led activities and readings, and shared their relevance in Marshallese life and customs.
Keeping in common with Marshallese civic events, school functions and community activities, the student assembly opened with a prayer. Attendees respectfully bowed their heads to listen to the invocation. Next, they lifted their voices to sing the Marshallese national anthem.
Demonstrating the importance of family, high school student Konelila Tagoilelagi entertained the young students with a reading from Marshallese folklore, “Debolar’s Brother Lokan, The First Coconut In The Marshall Islands,” a tale of rivalries in not-so-faraway Ailinglaplap. To close out the ceremony, the high school Ri-Katak students treated their audience to a choreographed line dance routine.
Strengthening cultural ties through celebration and practice, Manit Day helps to preserve vital Marshallese customs and expressions of identity into the future. The Kwajalein community looks forward to the chance to share Manit Day 2023 with its host nation.