Lulani Ritok

Lulani Ritok Oral History Interview

Brendon Shigematsu 

Sheena Nguyen 

Lulani Ritok

Cal State East Bay

November 18, 2019

 

Summary

Not only do the Marshallese people struggle with their traumatic past, but as the years pass on their story slowly begins to be forgotten because less and less Marshallese people speak about their story like the way lulani has been doing. 

The interview we had with Lulani was a very good eye opening experience. In addition, what I  witnessed when filming the interview was very real and raw expressions. It was emotional but it also was straight to the point on how she and her community feels about the history about the Marshall Islands.

Lulani talks about her history and her relationship with the Marshall Islands. She talks about what the island is like from her perspective and talks about how the unfortunate events that happened on the island. She talks about the types of problems  that are happening on the Marshall Islands and about other activism movements too. I appreciate Lulani taking the time for us to interview and for her to share her experiences with us.

By the end of this interview, the missing part of history about the Marshall Islands are answered from Lulani Ritok herself. She talks about how everyone on the island has their own story to tell yet they still need to be heard and she’s taking the extra step to help them get their voices heard.

Lulani Ritok speaks her story of people trying to preserve what is left of their island’s history, culture, and traditions. Faced with the threat of losing her home to rising sea waters which followed from years of destruction by nuclear testing, Ritok shares her story and claims her Marshallese identity to raise awareness among the public. The Marshall Islands is a nation that was left traumatized by western militarism; the preservation of their lives and cultures is left to the Marshallese youth and Lulani effectively shares it with the world by being vocal about it despite many of these problems often being glossed over or being completely ignored by the media.

Listening to Lulani’s interview for the first time was so intense, emotional, yet empowering and inspirational, as we got the opportunity to learn and add real-life backstory and context about the Marshall Islands history, religion, culture, roots, and heritage from what we previously learned in our class. To learning directly from one of our own Cal State East Bay Marshallese advocate and peer who was vulnerable and open to talk about her and her family’s truth and experience.  

Lulani spoke from the heart when discussing the Marshall Islands. She talked about how her culture and customs came about and the meaning they have to her. Lulani also discussed the environmental issues the people in the Marshall Islands face due to climate change and what that means for their future. It was powerful to understand that she was the only Marshallese person on campus and how proud and serious she took that responsibility of representing her people.  

 

10 Key Words

  1. Resilience- The capacity to regain strength and survive through difficulties. 
  2. Resistance- The refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument.
  3. Nuclear Bomb- during the cold war, the US and other nuclear-powered nations tested nuclear weapons in the pacific by using various islands in the pacific; The effects of the bomb testings  
  4. Culture and Tradition- the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded of the customs and beliefs from generation to generation
  5. Climate Change- the testing of nuclear bombs affected the environment of the Marshall Islands 
  6. Environment- the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates
  7. Radiation- Has Nuclear testing create health problems for civilians living in the Marshall Islands 
  8. Militarization- to equip or supply with soldiers or other military resources 
  9. Matrilineality- group adhering to a kinship system in which ancestral descent is traced through maternal instead of paternal lines
  10. Invasion- An unwelcome intrusion into another’s domain

[Other words]

  1. Mourning- the expression of deep sorrow for someone who has died
  2. Fetishization- have an excessive and irrational commitment to or obsession with something
  3. Monster – an imaginary creature that is typically large, ugly, and frightening.

 

Annotated Bibliography

In Marshall Islands Nuclear Testing and Health Effects by Matthew Gutwald talks about the Nuclear testing that took place right after World War II. Where Matthew discusses the rationale behind the United States’ decision to “take sought out a location where it could test and develop it’s newly proven and developed Nuclear Arsenal”. As he further discusses the intense effects that have been caused by the radioactive particles from the nuclear bombings. “Many unforeseen effects from the radiation on the islands have left residents with health problems and long-lasting effects on their ecosystem” and environment. 

Key Terms: Marshall Islands, nuclear testing /arsenal, radioactive, effects, environment 

Gutawald, Matthew Marshall Islands Nuclear Testing, and Health Effects March 23, 2017, http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2017/ph241/gutwald2/

Radiation from atomic testing in the Marshall Islands still too high for human habitation article by Bob Yirka addresses Columbia University’s research on the current “radiation levels from atomic testing in the Marshall Islands”. Researching and testing the after-effects of the “67 nuclear explosion tests in the Bikini and Enewetak atolls in the Marshall Islands. The tests were conducted to learn more about nuclear weapons and their destructiveness”. Where the researchers decided to collect the soil to test and analyze the effect of the radiation particles on the environment and their people. Where they presented their finding after analyzing the soil samples, where they discovered that the islands are presenting a dangerously high level of radiation. Their findings lead to the discovery of fruits containing a high level of radiation, that could potentially be harmful for human consumption.”They also found that radiation levels in soil sediments in the crater were still several orders of magnitude higher than normal levels.”

Key Terms: radiation, Bikini and Enewetak atolls, effects

Yirka, Bob Radiation from atomic testing in the Marshall Islands still too high for human habitation JULY 16, 2019 https://phys.org/news/2019-07-atomic-marshall-islands-high-human.html

The US Tested Bombs on the Marshall Islands. Now, Victims Are Seeking Justice, by Dahr Jamail, presents the story and experiences faced by a  Marshallese native Jiji Jally. Jally’s family, like hundreds of others, have lived with the scars and daily reminders of the nuclear bombing ever since, Jally uses this platform to talk about the physical, mental, and emotional effects that we’re caused by the Nuclear Bombing on the Marshall Island. As she talks about her scars, the scars caused by a result of cancer that lead to the death of her brother and cousin. “For Jally, working as a medical interpreter highlighted the health care disparity her Marshall Islands community faces, even here in the US. She has, therefore, become an advocate for their right to health care.” As an activist, Jully attempts to voice her concerns in an attempt to seek justice for those Marshallese who were directly affected by the bombings.  As a result of the “ deadly reminder of the lingering health impacts from nuclear weapons testing during the Cold War, untold numbers of Marshall Islands residents continue to seek healthcare, and justice, for having unwittingly been made human test subjects to nuclear tests.”

Key Terms: Cancer, healthcare,  Marshallese, 

Jamail, Dahr US Tested Bombs on the Marshall Islands. Now, Victims Are Seeking Justice October 24, 2018 https://truthout.org/articles/the-us-tested-bombs-on-the-marshall-islands-now-victims-are-seeking-justice/

https://matadornetwork.com/life/9-signs-born-raised-marshall-islands/

This article talks about how there are 9 signs that can define one person if they are born and raised in the Marshall Islands. Some are unique compared to others like thinking about Kool Aid taste good on everything. For the explanation, it talks about Kool Aid is the greatest powder substance since sugar which means the supreme packet of flavor shall always have a place in your home since it brings joy. Something that wasn’t shocking seeing one’s self, family, friends, and neighbors in the newspaper for no reason since it’s such a small island. 

https://www.sacnas.org/2019/09/09/president-heine-announcement/

President Hilda Heine of the Marshall Islands is the head to discuss climate change in Hawaii. She is fighting hard to fight against this before what she calls home becomes uninhabitable. The main purpose is to encourage a diverse group of global stakeholders to get everyone invested in a method for climate change and people in the group may be students, professors, or even politicians. The 2019 SACNAS is the largest multidisciplinary and multicultural in the STEM diversity event in the country it serves to equip, empower, and energize those who are apart. 

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/12/02/world/The-Marshall-Islands-Are-Disappearing.html

This article talked about at this very moment the Marshall Island is constantly facing floods due to the constant rising seas. Even with the people in the community putting a temporary barrier isn’t helping from the streets being filled with seawater and mud. Many don’t know what’s going on this island, but Tony A. deBrum who is a former minister of the Marshall Island is changing that by telling stories about people who call the Marshall Island their home and getting the word out that help is needed. Mr. deBrum did a lot for the island from doing to Paris to talk about plans to set a meeting for every 5 years to talk about the international carbon-cutting policy to help with climate change.

https://csueb-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/ssgv91/TN_wj10.1002/ocea.5104

This article is really thought provoking in that it really focuses on the two sides that nuclear power holds. Nuclear power is a force of destruction and because of testing has triggered or worsened climate change but at the same time it has the potential to alleviate climate change problems because it’s a relatively cleaner than fossil fuels. So what was used to destroy islands in the past can also hold the key to saving them now in the present.

https://csueb-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/ssgv91/01CALS_ALMA51439119800002901

The excerpt Uncomfortable Fatigues: Chamorro Soldiers, Gendered Identities, and the question of decolonization in Guam explores the idea that militarization of Micronesian countries, specifically Guam in this chapter, have encouraged a hyper masculinization of men. [pre-colonial] Micronesian cultures and societies were typically matrilineally organized, but because of the gendered subjugation of colonization by patriarchal powers, the emasculation of Micronesian men leads them to join the US military to try to reclaim their masculinity. This article can be useful to show how militarization is not only changing the economy of Micronesian countries, but also their culture and hierarchal dynamics.

https://csueb-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/ssgv91/TN_cambridgeS1816383116000163

Offers detailed, statistical evidence of effects from nuclear testing in the pacific region. Study was done by the Red Cross to gauge the effects of nuclear testing on the environment and on humans. 

Eschner, K. (2019). The Crazy Story of the 1946 Bikini Atoll Nuclear Tests. [online] 

Smithsonian. Available at: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/crazy-story-1946-bikini-atoll-nuclear-tests-180963833/ [Accessed 8 Nov. 2019].

This source is meant to give a general overview of what happened on the Marshall Islands.  This source also includes small incidents that happened during the testings. It includes animals being used and other different ways they tested these bombings.  This research fits into our project because the audience needs to know the history of where the destruction of the Marshall Islands began.  

The Guardian. (2019). Bikini Atoll nuclear test: 60 years later and islands still unliveable

[online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/02/bikini-atoll-nuclear-test-60-years [Accessed 8 Nov. 2019].

This source of information is used to show the audience that despite 60 years passing, the Marshall Island natives are still reluctant to return to the Bikini Atoll.  This is because of the nuclear radiation that the bombs left behind after the testing. This should let the audience know that even after a whole 60 years the island is still suffering from the harmful effects of what the U.S. did to it.   This source is meant to convey the fact that the bomb testing’s damage is still being dealt and one cannot only view this event as something only in the past.  

University, C. (2019). Radiation in Parts of Marshall Islands Is Higher than Chernobyl. [online] Lab 

Manager. Available at: https://www.labmanager.com/news/2019/07/radiation-in-parts-of-marshall-islands-is-higher-than-chernobyl#.XcdpmOhKjIUhan-chernobyl#.XcdpmOhKjIU [Accessed 10 Nov. 2019].

This source is meant to point out how severe the radiation at the Marshall Islands is.  The importance of this information is defined by the comparisons it makes to other known harsh radiation environments such as Chernobyl and Fukushima.  This shows an importance in the project because everyone has heard of the fukushima bombings and Chernobyl, but no one knows about the Marshall Islands.  This shows how overlooked th 67 bomb testings were and how neglected this tragedy has been.

Kabua Amata . “Back In The Day Archives.” The Marshall Islands Journal, https://marshallislandsjournal.com/category/back-in-the-day/. Web

This source is a collection of newspaper and journal articles that highlight what was happening in the Marshall Islands after the nuclear testing and bombing that happened there . It tells you things like how the name The Pacific Proving Grounds was given by the United States government to a number of sites in the Marshall Islands and a few other sites in the Pacific Ocean at which it conducted nuclear testing between 1946 and 1962. The U.S. tested a nuclear weapon on Bikini Atoll on June 30, 1946. Some keys are and themes are the Marshall Islands and the people living there. It mentions the after affects of the bombing and how it affected the people. The source is good in that it gives you insight into what people were dealing with on a daily basis. The limits are that its written by journalist and most aren’t first hand accounts. Its a journal and newspaper source that I believe is a good source to understand what is going on at the Marshall Islands. 

Wright George.  “How a Tiny Paper in the Marshall Islands Has given Voice to Victims of Nuclear Testing.” 2016. Columbia Journalism Review, https://www.cjr.org/analysis/marshall-islands- journal-nuclear.php. Web

This source is about a paper in the Marshall Islands that has given voice to victims of nuclear testing. Giff Johnson who is the editor in chief of The Marshall Islands Journal, from his home in the capital of Majuro last month, says that the journal is the only newspaper in this tiny country of around 50,000 people, spread across 29 coral atolls in the South Pacific. So its important to him that his community has the news and knows what is going on around the Marshall Islands. The main theme of the article is about how from 1946 to 1958, the US conducted 67 nuclear missile tests in the Marshall Islands and the most notorious, “Castle Bravo,” detonated in Bikini Atoll in 1954, was roughly 1,000 times more powerful than each of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II and how it affected the people and community of the islands. Its a web source that to me is a great source because its a first hand account of someone in the Islands with deep knowledge of his people and what is happening there. The source is useful to me in that it gives great insight in the after math of the bombings and what people were dealing with. To me there are no limits to this source and relates to my other sources because it talks about the Marshall Islands and how the bombing affected it.

De Ishtar, Zohl . Poisoned Lives, Contaminated Lands: Marshall Islanders Are Paying a High Price for the United States Nuclear Arsenal 2003 Digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu.  http://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1442&context=sjsj. Web

This source describes how the Marshall Islands bombs have affected the community and the diseases and how the environment has been contaminated from them. It goes into detail on the Marshallese people and how they are caught in a trap of U.S. militarization, enhanced by the Islands’ geographical isolation. The U.S. government has intentionally developed its nuclear arsenal in the Marshall Islands, hidden from the eyes of the world and far from the focus of the global media and the majority of social justice movements. This is a journal source, that is good source in that it has a lot of context and detail on the Marshall Islands and how they have been affected by these bombings. Its very useful because its a scholarly journal article that has great insight on the destruction and devastation that happened on these islands. There are no real limits on this source and it relates to my other sources in that it deal with the Marshall islands and how the community has been affected.

Colten, Katie. “The History of the U.S. Nuclear Stockpile 1945-2013.” Federation Of American Scientists, Federation Of American Scientists, 15 Aug. 2013, fas.org/pir-pubs/the-history-of-the-u-s-nuclear-stockpile-1945-2013/

In The History of the US Nuclear Stockpile 1945-2013 by Robert S. Norris goes into the past about the American Nuclear Stock that the US had for many years up to just recently. The amount of nuclear weapons the United States was insane having almost 150,000 at one point. They were also split across the Air Force, Navy, Army, and Marines. There was a strong belief, especially in the 1950s that nuclear weapons were a sign of security and superiority and the US was in a tight race especially with Russia. There was a lot of tension between the Soviets and the Americans and the Soviets let the Americans know that if they ever let their guard down for a second that they would strike.

International Community, Baha’i. “The Bahá’í Community of The Marshall Islands.” The Bahá’í Community of Marshall Islands, 2019, http://www.bahai.org/national-communities/marshall-islands.

Baha’i faith is unique to the Marshall islands. Baha’u’llah is is what many people might refer to as a “God” in the Marshall Islands. It is a dynamic pattern of life and it is taken places such as homes, schools, and even villages. These are some of the principles that help build the Marshall Islands. I find it interesting how the Marshall Islands focus so much on moral education.

Lim, Hyeyeun, et al. “Maternal Occupational Exposure to Ionizing Radiation and Major Structural Birth Defects.” Birth Defects Research. Part A, Clinical and Molecular Teratology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2015, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5937122/.

The National Birth Defects Organization did a study on radiation in the body and the effects on birth defects. Almost 40,000 mothers participated in the study over 12 years. The study proved that radiation from where you lived, or even from multiple doctor visits. One in every 39 babies have birth defects because of a direct contact with radiation. This is why so many women have birth defects on the Marshall islands.