Opinion Editorial: The Pohnpei HPO Needs Your Help!

SEP 2016

As reported in K-Press, in July, Nan Madol was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and placed on the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger. This is wonderful news, and has taken years of hard work on behalf of FSM’s Office of National Archives, Culture, and Historic Preservation, Pohnpei’s Historic Preservation Office (HPO), and many other scholars and community members who are committed to protecting our cultural and historic sites. This prestigious listing will require years of hard work to ensure that our sacred site is properly maintained and protected for future generations to come.

Pohnpei’s HPO will also play a role in the efforts to care for Nan Madol, however, our Historic Preservation Offices (both Pohnpei and FSM) serve a purpose beyond this one site. Many people are unaware of what our HPOs do. In much of Micronesia, the HPOs were established by the U.S. National Park Service at the end of the Trust Territory administration with the cooperation of Micronesian leaders and cultural experts. These Offices were intended to help maintain, preserve and educate the public about the value and significance of our historic places, as well as our cultural heritage. Our HPOs were intended to protect and preserve our tangible (sites like Nan Madol, the Spanish Wall and the German Bell Tower) and intangible (songs, chants, oral histories) cultural heritage. The tangible and intangible go hand in hand; after all, what would Nan Madol mean to us today if not for the oral histories passed down for generations about these man-made basalt and coral islets? Therefore, historic preservation requires the work of archaeologists, anthropologists, cultural experts, historians and more to properly document and preserve what our people deem to be worth “saving” and maintaining. It is challenging work.
Here at the Pohnpei HPO, “the struggle is real” in that we, like many other Pohnpei State Government agencies need financial assistance. We have big dreams for the future that include a museum to house some of Pohnpei’s material culture and a small library. However, for the time being, we have more pressing needs. We are located in a historic building, which initially housed a Japanese elementary school then served as Pohnpei’s hospital for many years. Shortly after we moved into the building in 2015, a typhoon blew the roof off and we have been rebuilding since. Our office needs a new computer, air conditioning, fresh paint and tile for our floors. We are asking for your help. Donations are welcome! Feel free to call our office at 320- 2652, or come by and visit.
Emelihter Kihleng, PhD
Cultural Anthropologist
Pohnpei State HPO