Although the research and field work for "Wa Kuk Wa Jimor: Outrigger Canoes, Social Change, and Modern Life in the Marshall Islands" was conducted in 2009, Miller's interest in canoes developed several years earlier.
She came to the Marshalls as a volunteer teacher 2005. On Namdrik, an outer atoll where canoes are still used every day, Miller first felt the "strength, the meaning, and the power that the canoe embodies in Marshallese life."
"This feeling was further strengthened during my two years working at the non-profit youth vocational training organization Waan Aelōñ in Majel (WAM) in Majuro."
At WAM, young Marshallese men and women were transformed through a training program of traditional canoe building and sailing.
For her thesis toward a Master of Arts degree in Pacific Studies, she sought to analyze the canoe tradition, through interviews, proverbs, legends and the Marshallese language.
According to Miller, the people of the Marshall Islands are beginning to embrace the canoe as a symbol of pride and identity, and not a "relic from a backward past."
"It is my hope that this thesis might serve as the beginning of a much longer discussion – within the Marshall Islands and beyond – about the nature and potential of the canoe tradition today."
- Aenet Rowa, Yokwe Online, July 21, 2010
Thesis courtesy of Rachel Miller. Photo credit Waan Aelōñ in Majel
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