Auburn’s Marshallese community to be highlighted by Burke Museum as part of Washington Stories Fund grant

  • Friday, October 25, 2019 6:07pm
  • Life

Auburn’s Marshallese community will be the subject of a Washington Stories Fund project through Seattle’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.

Humanities Washington, the state’s nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, announced the four recipients of its 2019 Washington Stories Fund grants this week. The purpose of the fund is to record and widely share the lesser-known stories of people or communities in the state. Started with generous seed funding from the Lenore and Charles Hale Family Fund, the Washington Stories Fund is a tool to dismantle barriers and add to the cultural richness of Washington State.

“Too often the stories of one culture dominate, and the voices of groups who might lack connections, power, or resources are buried,” said Julie Ziegler, CEO of Humanities Washington. “The Washington Stories Fund brings a larger megaphone to those communities whose stories can help us better understand our state and each other.”

Any nonprofit organization can apply and recipients are selected once per year through a competitive process.

Other 2019 receipients included the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe (Portrait of Gene: An Artist, a Time, and a Tribe); Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center (North Central Washington Native History Storytelling Project); and the Whatcom Museum Foundation (Elder Oral Histories Addition to the People of the Sea and Cedar Exhibit).

About the project

Recipient: Burke Museum Association

Subject: Home and away: Canoe Stories of the Marshallese Community in Auburn

The 70 square miles of the Marshall Islands extend more than 750,000 square miles of open ocean; the shared language and culture that exist across the region is a testament to the highly sophisticated canoe building and navigational skills that have connected these islands for centuries. In the 1940s and 1950s, U.S. nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands resulted in large-scale migration, including to the Puget Sound area, disrupting the intergenerational transfer of this traditional cultural knowledge.

Today, the Marshallese community in Auburn is an underserved and often misunderstood population. Holly Barker, the Burke Museum’s curator of Oceanic & Asian Culture, is partnering with the community to address this problem by building understanding and respect for the cultural gifts and strengths of the Marshallese people.

The project will support storytelling events in conjunction with a community-wide canoe building project, and will provide funding for Marshelle Island community leaders to work directly with Auburn residents. Partners include Canoes of the Marshall Islands, White River Valley Museum, the Auburn Library, and the city of Auburn.

About Humanities Washington

Humanities Washington, an independent nonprofit, opens minds and bridges divides by creating spaces to explore different perspectives. For more about Humanities Washington, visit humanities.org.

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