The CNMI will soon have a Cultural Maritime Training Center (CMTC) thanks to a grant award from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Native Americans (ANA).
Key partners in the CMTC are the CNMI Indigenous Affairs Office, who provides 500 Sails with its boatyard in Lower Base and the Guma Sakman in Oleai, and the Northern Marianas College’s Community Development Institute, who will provide a Certificate of Achievement for the Traditional Canoe Fabrication and Maintenance track, and Chamolinian Cultural Village Inc./Canoe Federation traditional navigators who provide instructional support in sailing, voyaging, and navigation.
“We are excited to partner with 500 Sails and other agencies and organizations for this project and look forward to building maritime training activities and capacity among our residents,” NMC President Dr. Galvin Deleon Guerrero said.
The three-year Social and Economic Development Strategies (SEDS) grant provides program funding for 500 Sails’ Taotao Tåsi – Maritime Career Pathways project that will provide new job training and professional development opportunities through learning tracks that prepare native jobseekers for successful entry into maritime professions.
These include: Traditional Canoe Fabrication and Maintenance; Traditional Canoe Sailing and Voyaging; Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW); Operator Uninspected Passenger Vessel (6-Pack License); Able Seaman; Merchant Marine Credential (MMC); Water Safety Instructor (WSI); Lifeguard Certification and Recertification; and Traditional Navigation (developed and taught by Carolinian Navigators of the Weriyaeng school of traditional navigation).
“Taotao Tåsi is Chamorro for ‘people of the ocean’,” 500 Sails Executive Director Pete Perez said. “Our islands were once known for its people who excelled in swimming, canoe building, and sailing. It takes no stretch of the imagination to see that a community with a deep and historic affinity to the ocean, that built ingenious sailing canoes and voyaged to distant islands using their own system of navigation, would likely have continued to thrive on the water today had their maritime practices not been disrupted by colonial rulers. The project aims to establish a strong native presence on the water again, in maritime professions that are a natural fit for islanders.”