The American Children of the Cook Islands
The friendly invasion of Aitutaki and Penrhyn (Tongareva) by U.S. military forces during WW11 was welcomed by the Cook Islands’ people as a time of security, employment and unforeseen prosperity. In spite of the racism and segregation they witnessed, Islanders welcomed both African-American and white servicemen, and friendships developed between people of all ages. The children born of romantic attachments remain as a legacy of that time, and while growing up, they often heard “Marike koe” (you are American). This label was a constant reminder of difference, but seldom held negative connotations. Attitudes generally reflected the debt of gratitude felt toward the Americans, and most war babies were cherished and accepted. Nevertheless, many had a deep need to learn more of their American identity. This chapter recalls life in the Islands during wartime and reflects on the lifelong realities of being raised as an American child of the Cook Islands.
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