Jemenei Day, Marshall Islands

Jemenei Day

May 1st…Jemenei Day!
Celebrating the independence of the Marshall Islands – its people, culture and traditions as well as commemorating the adoption of its Constitution 45 years ago.

Following occupation by the United States during World War II, in 1947 the Marshall Islands were made part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands under US jurisdiction. Through a referendum held in 1978, the Marshall Islands adopted the Constitution which came into effect on May 1st, 1979, with amendments up to 1995.


In 1983, The Marshall Islands signed a Compact of Free Association with the United States and gained independence in 1986 with the commencement of the Compact. This meant that the Republic of the Marshall Islands became a sovereign state in free association with the US.

I was fortunate enough to have been in the Marshall Islands at a time when all who were present were so proud to celebrate their country and culture. And, from what I hear, Marshallese all over the world were celebrating in their own way as well.

The celebrations began for me at the Marshall Islands Resort pier where I boarded the official rescue boat skippered by Captain Hirobo.

An amazing ancient tradition was the first event of the day, that continues to be practiced in The Marshalls today — the use of the traditional canoe for ocean voyages and competitions.

Onboard were several dignitaries including Mr Alson Kelen, Executive Director and Founder of WAM (Waan Aelōñ in Majel — Canoes of the Marshall Islands).

Among other notable accomplishments, Alson is renowned as a Master Navigator, Traditional Canoe Builder, and Wave Pilot.

The epitome of the “Marshallese Way of Life”— Alson actively practices what his elders taught him and is handing it down to the next generation: preserving, perpetuating and promoting the yokwe spirit wherever he goes, and always willing to help anyone in need of his assistance, with the most humble manner.

It was a privilege and honor to be with him as we monitored the race that day.

Nine canoes featured in the competition, all of which were designed, engineered and built under the Waan Aelõñ in Majel Program founded by Alson.

It’s also impressive to note that the captains and crew constructed their own canoes under the guidance of Alson — himself, an esteemed Traditional Canoe Builder.

When it was time to commence the race, Alson went to the front of the rescue boat and sounded the horns…

…and the canoes took off — like rockets through the water!

The race course stretched from one end of the lagoon to the other, with several laps that had to be completed — altogether taking around 2.5 hours to complete.

Yes indeed, it was an exciting start to the day!

Then a full program of impressive events was enjoyed at the recently-built, multimillion-dollar 2,000-capacity Olympic-grade multi-purpose stadium in the district of Jenrok.

The stadium played center stage for hundreds of participants from all walks of life. There were military marching bands, school groups, government agencies, foreign embassies, outer atoll organizations, civic groups, private companies, local cultural performers and groups from the Pacific Islands of Tuvalu, Kiribati, Fiji and Fami — it seemed like the whole country and their neighbors were in joyous attendance to celebrate their 45th Constitution Day!

Every year, May 1st is a great time to visit The Marshalls — as that is when the celebrations are full on. Happy Constitution Day!

The Republic of the Marshall Islands — always something new and exciting to experience.


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