The Canoe Is the People
Indigenous Navigation in the Pacific
Island type: Low coral
Island group (geographical): Caroline Islands
Island group (political): Yap State
Country: Federated States of Micronesia
Area: 1.3 square km
Population: About 500
Main foods: Taro, bananas, breadfruit, coconuts and reef and ocean fish
Like other Carolinians, Satawalese navigators know how to use the stars, winds, and sea patterns to travel to distant islands. Canoe houses (for building, storing, and caring for canoes) line the beach. Some people now have motor boats, but gasoline is expensive.
Satawalese women take care of the gardens, and the men mostly fish. Some people also have government jobs in Yap, the district centre. The government ship comes every few months, bringing rice, coffee, sugar, soap, fishing nets, concrete, and other things.
Kenneth Urumolug, a young man from Satawal, recently became a Catholic priest. About 1000 people from neighbouring islands came to the celebration. It included a shortened version of the pwo ceremony (initiation ceremony for navigators) adapted for the occasion and led by master navigator Mau Piailug. Some parts of the ceremony are shown on this website.