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  • Writer's pictureBy Alex J. Rhowuniong

I am Chuukese! Well, not really

“Dude, are you a Chuukese?” asked Michael C. Jordan from the free-throw line. “I never knew you were until someone told me the other day; saying you're going to get deported back to Chuuk soon!”

Michael F. Jackson grabbed the rebound and dribbled past his friend to the top of the key. "No, jelu! I am not a Chuukese!"

He leapt into the air and let the basketball fly. It arched perfectly and swooshed through the net as Jackson added. "Well, not really, anyway."

Jordan collected the ball and put it under his arm.

"What do you mean, not really; are you from Chuuk or not?"

"I am."

"Okay, so you are a Chuukese!"

"Not really."

"What in the world are you saying."

"That I'm not really a Chuukese."

"Wait! Stop!"


"No! Stop! Shshsh! Don't say anything."

Jordan started dribbling the basketball, but stopped again.

"Okay," he started again, "so you are from the islands of Chuuk?"


"But you're not really a Chuukese?"

"That's right!."

"Okay, so what do you mean exactly?"

Jackson grabbed the basketball from his friend, and held it.

"Well, it's not complicated," said Jackson.

"I'm listening."

"Okay, so I am a Chuukese."

"That's what I've been telling you!"

"But I'm an outer island Chuukese."

"What's the difference?"

"I'm not really sure."

"So you're still a Chuukese."

"No, an outer island Chuukese."

"A Chuukese is a Chuukese, no matter how you cut it, period!"

Jordan grabbed the ball back from Jackson. "And your butt is still getting deported, outer island or whatever! Don't make no difference to Uncle Sam. Besides, you all come from the same pool in the ocean anyway!"

"You keep saying I'm getting deported. Why?" Jackson said trying to slap the ball away.

"Because your people don't want to be part of FSM no more," Jordan looked at his friend, "and next year, you guys will vote to be on your own. Then you will be illegal on Guam. That's when the governor deports your butt in a heartbeat!"

"Wow! I guess you're right," said Jackson. "But I'm still confused. Who is uncle Sam? Is that like one of our old neighbors or something?"

"Oh, Jackson! You really are from the outer islands!"

This, of course, is a fictional dialogue with fictional characters. But the message in the conversation is very real.

Although these people who come from the same geographical location on the map called Chuuk are one and the same people, they are also two very unique and distinct people within this identity. Chuukese. One is from inside the Chuuk Lagoon, the other from outside.

They do not even identify themselves with each other. Well, not really! When you come across people from Chuuk they will tell you they are either from Chuuk or from the outer-islands of Chuuk.

"Hi! My name is John Doe. I'm from Chuuk." Or "I'm Jane Doe from the outer-islands of Chuuk."

But if you happen to ask first if they were Chuukese, they would tell you: "Yes, but I'm from the outer islands."

There is always a "but" qualifier, as if to tell you they are not the other Chuukese.

Outer-island Chuukese on Guam will proudly tell you they are not the perpetrators of most of the criminal activities in the island community.

And the less-than-bad reputation for the Chuukese people on Guam does not originate from them either. In fact, they will go as far as saying with other people: "Yes, these Chuukese people like to get drunk and fight!”

In their own minds, they are somehow different people — a different kind of Chuukese, if you will.

Back on Weno, the island capitol of Chuuk, outer islanders are called Refan (those beneath us), a derogatory label that has almost lost its meaning to the new generations of outer-islanders.

Chon fenapi or Refenapi (from the low islands with sandy beaches) are two other variations.

To a degree, these labels still carry negative connotations for the older outer islanders, even here on Guam.

Perhaps, this explains the hint of separation in attitudes, but especially in the minds, of these Chuukese citizens on Guam.

To date, those from the outer islands Chuuk on Guam don't really consider themselves Chuukese no more than those within the Chuuk Lagoon consider themselves Refan on Weno.

Exactly the reason behind talks on social media suggesting a splintered Chuuk state if the Yes vote becomes a reality for Chuukese everywhere come March 5, 2019 when the Chuukese voters will cast their ballots for or against Chuuk independence from the Federated States of Micronesia.


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