As a member and an admin of FB Palau 2012, I have come across our own Belau myths, fables and folklores and more…. Some of these members are very well-educated on our stories… I have seen alot and I used to think, these are great lessons for us. We, Belauans all should know them. But they don’t show up all the time, it takes one member to come up with the right question to set the whole thing rolling… Anyway, I decide to post them here for now, much easier to do so than in Facebook. Later I will go back to old the post and dig the old one and post here… For now, it will be random stories, till I get more and put them in order…. Sulang to all the contributors!
Lebuu was buried at the patronage of the East India Company near the entrance to St. Mary’s Church with the following epitaph inscribed across the tombstone:
“To the memory of Prince Lee Boo, A native of the Pelew, or Palos Islands; And son to Abba Thulle, Rupack or King of the Island of Coorooraa; Who departed this Life on the 27th of December 1784, aged 20 years; This Stone is inscribed, by the Honorable United East India Company, as a Testimony of Esteem for the humane and kind Treatment afforded by his Father to the Crew of their Ship the Antelope, Captain Wilson, which was wrecked off the island in the Night of the 9th of August 1783….Stop, Reader, stop– Let Nature claim a Tear— A Prince of Mine, Lee Boo, lies bury’d here.”
From HB by JN (1999)…. Kebliil and Klebliil…
“The traditional organization of the Belauan society begins with the ruling council of ten chiefs- Klobak- each one heading a clan. Ten units of clans- Kebliil make up a village, a traditionally recognized unit of principality. Used loosely –blai- have common to designate the broad and extended kinship arising from fraternizing circumstance of people settling down to a locality. Kebliil and Klebliil have been erroneously used interchangeably. Neither hare they synonymous nor are they analogous. Only rhymed because they employ the same root word inflection of the word Blai.”
“The crucible in determining a person’s right to or accountability in the society is the Kebliil –clan. But since a host of factors are brought into play in that regard, it has not been easy to place a person in the hierarchical profile within clan organization, especially in situations of conflicting claims of rights to titles or property interests. The purpose here is to present the foundational makeup of Kebliil and Klebliil as the basic crucible of a person’s connection to the community in the unique Belauan hand-level egalitarian society. In this context, it is imperative to keep in mind the distinctness of Kebliil- clan and Klebliil – clan affiliates- two words which have been grossly confused in daily usage, so that it has taken our courts a great deal of time and effort to sort out conflicting rights arising from these kin terminological manifesto.”
“Kebliil designates relationship rooted in traceable common ancestry, as the rule of thumb, so to speak. In our culture where familial descent and genealogy are passed down orally the kinship lines dim fast in the blur of time efface. In regard to such time-warped connection our elders are given to relegating indistinct term such as “Kede tal Chad”- we are same people. As though a device of remedial crucible of kinship there is that time-honored label Klebliil. So as not to forego needful familial rootings Belauans have come to employ this word Klebliil as term of endearment for time efface kindred. Astute assertiveness of the elders in each particular situations of claim, come in backtracking familial descent, has often been the usual criterion in successful management of clans’ affairs, of growth and increase in power.”
“Where traceable lines of common ancestry exists the common rule, rule of thumb, so to speak, governs and that is to say that clan members of matrilineal descent prevail over all others for matter of traditional jurisdiction of a clan. It is in the area of clan’s peripheral kinship that has been troublesome for those who have endeavored to establish one governing rule of thumb or a rule of precedence. Many foreign writers have littered the landscape with writings of special scholastic exploits of limited depth and breadth that have only distorting effects.”
“For the limited purpose here Klebliil, used in the sense of broad affiliation to a clan is a designation of kinship rooted in shared account of people who existed and moved in a band type kindred. As regard locality of abode it may refer to people who immigrated and settled in a band. Such band, having separated for reason of surviving an aggression or hostility arising from lack of food or land space, may still come together at later years and at another locality to recoup and regroup in the framework of Klebliil, distinct familial linkage having effaced by laps of centuries….”
From HB by JN (1999)…. REKLAI and IBEDUL
“In Belau today, the actual coronation of King Reklai of the northern provinces is held on a small island in the Ngcheangel (Kayangel) group on the northern tip of the Belau chain. This is where the ancestors of the royal clan of Udes landed on their route of migration from Asia and from which these ancient settlers spread southward to establish the northern kingdom. The spirits of these primordial ancestors are thought to have remained on these islets since, and therefore, King Reklai must physically submit himself at the spot for the bestowal of the divine blessings on his office. The ritual involves the retrieval of a talismanic object, previously buried in the sand, to be placed on the King as highlighted the majestic ritual of coronation.”
“On the way home to Artingal, the capitol residence of the crown, the royal entourage follows the same track travelled by their ancestors making stops at historical places in the reenactment of the ancient voyage. The beginning of his reign is marked by an assemblage of his royal court the day of his arrival from the coronation trip, in which assembly a designated Rubak at a designated point call out the name “Reklai” in a clear audible voice as a welcoming salutation to the throne. No one should address him Reklai before that point in time. The bestowal of the royal ascendency is essentially a process of advice and consent among the living and those in the spirit world and by the forum of the nobles, a council of chiefs called Klobak.”….
Likewise, for the King Ibedul of the southern kingdom, the coronation festival begins in the hamlet of Ngerchemai in Koror where a turtle is ritually served. King Ibedul then is said to have had dipped his hands in turtle meat. Like King Reklai of the North, King Ibedul embarks on a voyage that back tracks history to the island where his primordial ancestors landed- Beliliou. It is a call of tradition that he submits himself to his ancestors in the spirit world for the bestowal of divine blessings on his office. His ancestors are part of the emigrational trend that bypassed Belau in the initial instance, rebounded in the island groups of the East Indies and landed on Peleliu. The crown should not actually vest on him until he had completed the trip and the attendant rituals. It is in going back in history that the two Belauan monarchs revisit the origin of their respective ancestry where modern mind and souls of the ancient intertwine.”….. 201
~~~….saw this article on A Le Ko Kau Forum, good read….
I suppose everyone knows the core social structure of Palauan Klauchad. There are three distinct but interrelated level of Klauchad. And they are Ongalek, Telungalek, and Kebliil.
Briefly, Ongalek is the basic unit of Klauchad. Ongalek can be as small as a nuclear family – a couple and their children. However this sphere of ongalek can extend beyond nuclear family to include parents of the nuclear family or grandparents of the nuclear family and continue to extend itslef but where it ends varies and cannot be determined completely. The senior male leader of Ongalek is Okdemaol. A number of Ongalek who originated by the same female line would together form a Telungalek and among the Okdemaol of the group one becomes a Merredele-ra-Telungalek. A group of Telungalek which don’t necessarily be related by blood would form Kebliil. And among the Merredele-ra-Telungalek one becomes the title bearer of the Kebliil.
A process of choosing a leader is the same from within the Onaglek, Telungalek, and Kebliil. There is always an element of competition between and among the members of the Onaglek, Telungalek, and Kebliil. And the selection always comes down to whose Ongalek, Telungalek who carry out their responsibility and contributes more to the family. There are of course variables involve in the selection process. But usually the eldest of the family that have contributed more to the Ongalek becomes a leader of the Ongalek. The Okdemaol then vie to be the leader of the Telungalek. And among the Merredel-ra-Telunaglek they compete among themselves for the Kebliil title.
Now with the above definition (my definition) as a backdrop, how does these structure of Klauchad work is best exemplified by an account of the U.S military in Angaur immediately after the war. When the military government started issuing emergency relief supplies to the people it brought to fore some unforseen cultural complications. One of the items they distributed was shoes. Without clear understanding of the social stratification an attempt to establish who needs shoes evoked a community-wide controversy. Shoes were not merely an article of wear but a mark of status. And their distribution must be funneled through the head of the Kebliil down to Telungalek and then to Ongalek. However, the U.S military government concerns about the well being of the people brought the American democratic concepts of social equality that all should have shoes. This clashed with native concepts of social stratification.
Our highly stratified and hierarchical system of kinship that provides organization and well being for everyone in Ongalek, Telungalek, and Kebliil have been messed-up by the concept of social equality – all individuals are equal. This is where Klauchad is today and I see a transformation to a more alienating one tomorrow. The leaders have seen their authority erode within the affairs of their sphere if influence Ongalek, Telungalek, and Kebliil. When the head of the family’s influence wane which is the case today Klauchad then becomes more between individuals then between Ongalek, Telungalek, and Kebliil.
Members of the family becomes disillusioned when they see others despite of their status in the family accumulate physical goods or become wealthy and start influencing matters of the group. Realizing that there is no longer an order of things in the family social structure one (family/individual) start to chart own way. Seeing that accumulation of wealth is one sure way to gain power and influence, a competition starts among and within Ongalek, Telungalek, and Kebliil.
A culture of competition has now commenced. This new culture creates alliances among the members of the group, and alliances can shift for profit motives, families torn apart. The destructive cycle continues and has manifest its way through the social stratification stucture that a leader for Ongalek, Telungalek, and Kebliil are in dispute. Our family social structure has been turned upside down from a group values to individual values. To try and turn it right side up today is like pushing water uphill.
One evidence for that is when parents send their children to school they send them with a mantra “rungalel ke mo blak a rengum er a skuul meng mo sebechem el mo dikau ra tara klebesei”. There’s a concept of inidividualism in that statement. No longer do people value the klauchad in the kinship structure. In this dod eat dog world, one has to fend for his/herself. And that is the future of Klauchad that can be seen today.
Posted by Kambes Kesolei (email@example.com)
few comments: RE: above article (lessons here too..)
~Buu’l Diil is used during the Ngasech or Omengat…..this is the term for the money gathered by the family of the new father/groom….the Buu’l Diil is usually given to the maternal uncle as it was the traditional role of that uncle to cut open the mother’s stomach to retrieve the child….ngerchelel a Oktemelel a redil el mo omuu er a delel e melai er a ngalek therefore the term Buu’l Diil.~the other terms for money given by the family of the new father/groom at Omengat or Ngasech are:
1. Bus – the money contributed to tie the marriage; Sengk er a Ngalek or Ketmeklel a Ngalek – money set aside specifically for the expenses of the child….~uaisei e Kebru Kine….
in the old days and to some degree these days, when a Palauan woman becomes pregnant the maternal uncle must be informed….as M. Alyil Taima mentioned, kldiull a beluu el kodall..…because of the cutting open of the stomach….in this same sense, it becomes the responsibility of the maternal uncle to ensure that the pregnant mother has all she ever wants or needs in the world for the duration of the pregnancy as she may not survive the cutting of the stomach…..~in the old days the survival of the mother and child were not guaranteed due to the cutting of the stomach…..it goes to follow that we Palauans celebrate child birth in elaborate ceremonies such as the Ngasech (Angaur only) and the Omengat (the rest of Palau) because we are celebrating the survival of both mother and child….not to mention the treating of the young mother as the “Queen” for she faced certain death…..this is the main reason i am proud to be a Palauan…..no where else in this world is the mother and child celebrated as they are in Palau……