The Enewetak community on the Big Island of Hawaii came together March 10 for a celebration and reflection on the challenges of building lives in exile from their home atoll, a former nuclear weapons test site.
“People from Enewetak understand that it is not safe to return to a contaminated and radioactive home,” said event organizer David Anitok, an organizer with the COFA Alliance National Network. “Now, they’re raising their families and children here on the Big Island. They want to understand good ways to live out on these native Hawaii islands respectfully and to be respected members of the society here.”
“If I had to sum it up to one thought, it shows the resilience of the Enewetak people, but with an expectation that justice is yet to be done for our families and communities,” said Oregon resident Loyd Henion, a lobbyist for COFA Alliance National Network who flew to Hawaii for the event.
The March 10 gathering “showcased both the past that we shall not forget and the future of fulfilling the promises for our children to live healthier and fair lives,” said Lucinda Brokken-Anitok, President of the Manit and Ejmour Alliance.
The event was recognized by Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth and state legislators. RMI Consul General Isabela Silk attended the event.
The gathering had two main purposes for the Enewetak community on the Big Island.
It was “to commemorate being liberated from WWII and give thanks,” said Enewetak community leader Jonithen Jackson. “Secondly, to expose the community on Big Island from Enewetak, for they are here due to the US nuclear legacy in their islands.”
He pointed out the US did not fully clean up their nuclear wastes at Enewetak. “It is extremely important for our people to be brave in bringing up these on going issues during the Compact negotiation with the US,” Jackson added. “We need US citizens to help us with these generational disparities cause of the nuclear testing while US gained nuclear power.”
Jackson recognized Hawaii Island Mayor Roth and the State Legislature for acknowledging March 10 as Enewetak Liberation Day. He described it as a “step forward for all our people and community in Big Island.”