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The Åmut Walk: A symbol of cultural renaissance in the Mariana Islands


A file photo of Donald Mendiola at an Amut Walk held earlier this year. Mendiola was asked to teach a group of community members about local medicine. Photo courtesy of Marianas Variety


By Ron Rocky Coloma 

 

In the Mariana Islands, the Åmut Walk has risen as a remarkable embodiment of cultural revival, environmental awareness and regional solidarity under the stewardship of the Micronesia Climate Change Alliance.

 

This grassroots organization is dedicated to community-based solutions to the climate crisis, particularly in Micronesia. The walk, which began in 2022, has become a symbolic journey of healing across the Marianas, addressing the impacts of militarization, colonization and climate change on the region and its people.

 

In 2023, the third Åmut Walk continued to weave a tapestry of peace and climate justice. The walk progressed through three islands: Saipan, Guam and Rota, with each island contributing unique experiences and lessons.

 

The Åmut Walk is linked to the environment, emphasizing the need for stewardship and sustainable practices. It has also become a platform for raising awareness about climate change and fostering regional cooperation. 

 

By linking the walk to events that discuss militarization, colonization and their impacts on climate change, the initiative broadens its reach and deepens its impact. 

 

"It's setting a standard for these spaces, creating alternative spaces for decision-making surrounded by nature and ancestral knowledge,” said Cami Egurrola, communications director for MCCA.

 

The movement’s focus on identifying and valuing native plants and sacred spaces fosters a deeper connection and responsibility toward the environment.

 

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Another aspect of the Åmut Walk was the unification ceremony. Egurrola described the movement as a powerful moment of connection: "Each island has brought waters from their own island, and we have a unification ceremony where we combine our waters. It's a way to visually see how our people come together." 

 

The act of merging waters from different islands symbolizes the shared destiny and interconnectedness of the Mariana Islands. The walk concluded with communal feasting and celebrations, embodying the importance of shared meals and stories in Marianas culture. The gatherings fostered a sense of belonging and togetherness, vital for communal healing and resilience.

 

Egurrola also highlighted the importance of cultural preservation and the revival of ancestral knowledge as tools for empowerment. 

 

"Through ancestral knowledge and the preservation of cultural practices. We can build relationships and integrate themes of peaceful futures across the Marianas," Egurrola said. "They teach us through storytelling and it really does bring out a sense of pride in our ancestral knowledge."

 

Looking ahead, the Åmut Walk aims to expand to other islands, including Tinian. The project, initially funded by a two-year fellowship from the Tishman Environment and Design Center at The New School in New York City, hopes to integrate with existing festivals to reach broader audiences. 

 

The objective is to meet communities where they are, emphasizing the importance of indigenous knowledge and practices in addressing climate change and fostering peace.

 

The vision for the Åmut Walk's future is expansive. Egurrola envisions it as an integral part of the region's cultural calendar, aligning with local festivals to engage broader audiences. "We hope that these walks can be tied to festivals so that folks attending those festivals can have the option to also go on the Åmut Walk," she said. 

 

This approach seeks to weave the walk's themes into the fabric of everyday life in the Marianas. "This Åmut Walk is a way that folks can feel connected to the culture, be exposed to ancestral knowledge, and build a deeper community with our brothers and sisters and siblings in the sister islands,” Egurrola said.




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