Friday, February 10, 2012

Pacific Islander America: Salem, Oregon

What are the three most commonly spoken second languages in the homes of public school kids living in Salem, Oregon? Spanish, Russian... and Marshallese.

In January of last year, we blogged about the growing Marshallese community in Northwest Arkansas. This January, a local paper in Salem, Oregon called attention to the same thing in their own community, noting that Marshallese is the third most commonly spoken second language. You can read that article here, which also links back to another article from a few years ago (also about the Marshallese in Oregon).  An updated article, which also mentions that approximately 22,000 Marshallese live in the 50 states, is available here.  That's nearly a third of the total population on the Marshall Islands. To draw a comparison, this would be like having 100 million Americans (a third of the US population) living in China or India.

If you want to learn more about the link between the Marshall Islands and the U.S., there are books, articles, and web resources out there. A quick primer on the Marshall Islands is available at the Department of State's website. Among other things, it notes the decades during which the Marshall Islands were administered by the USA as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. While the Marshall Islands is now a sovereign nation, it is in "free association" with the United States, so the Marshallese are able to travel or immigrate to the US with fewer restrictions than other sovereign nations.


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