Prevention in the Mariana Islands: Achieving Cultural Competence in a Small but Diverse Nation

Prevention in the Mariana Islands: Achieving Cultural Competence in a Small but Diverse Nation


Our islands are located fifteen degrees above the equator but
we’re one of the farthestmost islands in what’s called
Micronesia. The region called Micronesia in Oceania. We are right along the
Marianas Trench. And the indigenous peoples, the Chamorro peoples, have been
there for four thousand or so years. Substance use and substance abuse is very
high amongst the indigenous populations. At the same time, too, we are also a minority
amongst our islands, currently. And that’s difficult in how we want to translate
how we do prevention work. Because currently our population is about 53,000 in the CNMI, and less than 10,000 are of our ancestry. It’s a difficult balance we have to play,
because in terms of cultural competency we want to make sure
that we reach the majority of people. It’s difficult sometimes, when we’re
framing in the context of our indigenous culture because it can be
seen as racist. Or, because of the singlarity of
how we operate. But at the same time, too, if we focus on
all of the other ethnic groups, then we’re seen as “Oh, you’re reaching out to
minorities!”, which is great. But it’s difficult
for us because we want to frame it in a context that is familar to the place
where we come from, but it’s also to serve them without losing the integrity of
how we understand and live our lives, and have lived our lives in these
islands. We have to look past those things that exist out there
and try our best to be inclusive in every process, to bring those people on
board with us because they are a part of our community now. We are part of their
community. We co-exist together. We’re not homogeneous entities as we were once, you
know, throughout the Pacific. And our communities today are very, very diverse. And when we talk about cultural competency,
as it relates to the local language, it often means diversity and ethnicity. And so we tried to incorporate that
in every process that we do so that we’re able to effectively reach our community, as we define it, in our islands.

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