The Importance of Travel to Washington, DC for the People of Bikini
There are times when questions get raised by our community about trips that our local government makes to Washington, DC. These trips are enormously important to the welfare of the people of Bikini Atoll. The first trip ever to Washington, DC by a delegation of Bikinians was in 1972 by then Mayor/Magistrate Lore Kessibuki, Moses Lewis and Nathan Note (see photo). This initial trip, which was during the period of time when the US government was trying to get the Bikinians to resettle Bikini Atoll, eventually resulted in the people residing on Kili getting USDA food and on this trip they also began their search for a US based attorney. You can read a really good story by Nathan Note from our website about this first trip: http://www.bikiniatoll.com/Nathan.html
These trips have occurred virtually every year since that time, sometimes more than once depending on if there are Congressional Hearings or other important business or issues that involve the people of Bikini Atoll.
When our budget was bigger we sometimes took our entire Council to Washington, DC. Senator Henchi Balos and then Mayor Tomaki Juda and a small delegation of Bikinians met with Vice President George Bush in 1983 to discuss Compact issues. On most trips to Washington former Liaison Ralph Waltz was included, then after 1986 current Liaison Jack Niedenthal traveled with the delegations.
We have met with sitting Secretary’s of Interior and other important US government officials over the years. It is very important that officials of the US government see the faces of those people asking for assistance. This is something that our lawyer could not do effectively by himself. This lobbying tool–that combines excellent legal representation with the skills of the Bikinian leadership–has resulted in over $200 million in trust funds and aid to the people of Bikini.
Anyone who questions the wisdom of these trips clearly does not understand the history of the people of Bikini. All of these trips are first discussed and approved by the local government Council, who are elected every 4 years to represent the people of Bikini. In recent years the delegations to Washington, DC have gotten much smaller because of budget issues.
Pictured below is our delegation from our most recent visit to Washington, DC, just after the worst snowstorm in 110 years, in front of the US Supreme Court where the people of Bikini currently have a case pending (February 2010).
As a direct result from Mayor Kelen’s May 2009 visit to Washington, DC, combined with the current delegation visit of February 2010 to the offices of Arkansas Congressman John Boozman, there has now been a request by 8 members of Congress to look into more funding for those US states and possessions that are impacted the most by the influx of Micronesian citizens (see attached .pdf letter). A copy of this letter was sent directly to us from the Congressman’s office as a response to our visit. GAO-Compact_impact_assistance_request_letter-02-26-2010
The impact of this letter could be huge for those Bikinians and other Marshallese living in Arkansas. We sincerely thank the office of Congressman Boozman and his staff for allowing us to visit and for taking the time to discuss the problems of those Marshallese living in Arkansas.
If anyone has any further questions regarding the purpose or the results from these trips, I am sure the Mayor will respond.