Tbarditngod is the Southern Cross

From the column “Words from Orakidorm” —-  

When anchored at Orakidorm, a corner of Ngetngod (a reef between of Ngchesar and Airai) at night you can see the Southern Cross perpendicular to Ngetngod and such the name, Tbarditngod (delbard er a Ngetngod– perpendicular to Ngetngod). A work by Ms. Jolie Liston and Mr. Melson Miko titled, Oral tradition and archaeology: Palau’s earth architecture paints an elaborate and quite complicated (at least for me) topographical discussions using “oral traditions as alternative data set to interpret archeological expression of social organization.” The work also include a lot of information gleamed from known Palauan and expatriate researchers and historians (Olsudong, Tellei, Basilius, Kesolei, Rehuher,  Nero, Marsh, Aoyagi and others) which gives this work a lot of credibility. The work is an attempt to marry archeological, anthropological and sociological data to construct a framework that allows for a glimpse of the creation of the Palauan worldview. (Okay, I am just trying to be  as smart as these people).

The work by Ms. Liston and Mr. Miko is a study of how land topography, land marks and the name(s) assigned to them can be studied in order to formulate an idea of what “might have happened” in past to create who we are today as Palauans. For example, the formation of various terraces (mesengebang), burial grounds (olekull), houses stone platforms (odesongel), hills (bukl), valleys (llechalech, delomeklochel) and others. These are discussed as they all relate to Uchelel Belau, how Palau came to be from island formation (genesis-uchelel) to now (revelation-obeketang). Palauanology (study of Palau) divides Palauan history to two distinct periods, Chuab Era and Milad Era. Currently, we are in Milad Era with her four children, Aimeliik, Koror, Melekeok and Ngaremlengui (modern names). Interestingly, Chuab and Milad were females, which bring another interface of linguistics and social structure (matrilineal). There are those of us who disagree that Chuab became a female and especially Palauan women who do not know the origin of our matrilineal culture must take sometimes to explore the “femaleness and femininity” of both Chuab and Milad.

As an archeological and linguistic idiot, several things could have helped me to understand this important work much better, although, I understand the purpose of the work. The first thing is to put this discussion in the context of scientific framework to frame the descriptions of the events as they were or are labeled linguistically. Scientific discussion from the shift of the tectonic plates, to volcano formations and eruptions, to coral formations and the collapsing into the crater (ulebecherou a Ngeruangel– the turning of Ngeruangel belly side up). This might clarify why we have fringing and barrier reefs around Palau. Could the barrier reef reflect the events of Chuab Era and the fringing reef, that of Milad Era? Secondly, it would have been helpful to have the application of the same research approach utilizing the names given to chiefly titles, reefs and elements of the cosmos. For example: the name of Southern Cross (Tbarditngod), which is only applicable on the east side of Palau because Ngetngod Reef is on the east side of Palau. What about Ngerdiluches Reef (to the north) but to the north of where? What about Mutiaur Reef (something about Ngeaur)? What about names such as Delachelbang (referring to trapping goatfish)? Even the name of the rock islands, such as Ngchelobel. Thirdly, to clarify how linguistically, a name is assigned in the Palauan context. Palau is a descriptive language and names are assigned descriptively for the purpose of understanding from whence things might have appeared, perceived or originated. Why do you think we adopt our father’s relatives’ names? So that we can be identified in this matrilineal society.

It is because of these three issues that any approach to construct a historically based Palauan worldview should include works such as this by Liston and Miko. However, in this work there is an inherent challenge for those in other disciplines to make similar contribution to such a construct of a Palauan worldview. This does not alleviate, eliminate or even excuse a layperson from contributing to such work. Contributions from all the fishermen gathered all over, Fish market, Siangel, Pier 6, Neco Plaza, Ngermlengui Coop and of course Did era Ngmatel will contribute immensely to this worldview.

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