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Often they leave behind families saddled with medical debt.

Mote described the struggle in his community as part of a legacy of broken promises made by the U. – promises that the islanders displaced by the nuclear program would be able to return; that those relocated or sickened would be provided for; that the testing was for “the good of mankind.” America tested 67 nuclear bombs in the islands, Mote reminded me. ” * * * he way Mote tells it, he chased an old car tire to Oklahoma.

He is one of nearly 3,000 Marshallese living in Enid, a town of 51,000 built on oil and wheat. That’s where I first met him, on a warm March afternoon.

He wore beige slacks, a red and white checked shirt, and wire-rimmed glasses.

Fresh seafood is hard to find in the dry, windy city where he lives now – Enid, Oklahoma, a hunkered-down prairie town at the eastern edge of the Great Plains.

To Mote (pronounced “mo-tay”), a hundred miles isn’t so far.

Grain elevators, meatpacking plants, and strip malls border the town before it falls away into farmland; to the south lies Vance Air Force Base.

For some 2,000 years, his ancestors found their way in the 750,000 square miles of south Pacific Ocean punctuated by the narrow coral islets that make up the Marshall Islands.

They navigated by the stars, charts made of sticks, and a mysterious technique for reading patterns in the water, known as wave piloting.

He grew up in a town called Arrack in Majuro Atoll, a ring of 64 volcanic islands.

He and his 13 siblings lived packed into a small house made of wood scraps painted various colors and collected by his father, a construction worker. Mote was close with his mother; she taught him to cook and to weave, tasks usually reserved for women. He did the same thing on the way home, and the day after, and the day after that, chasing the tire back and forth. Mote himself became faster, until he was the fastest runner in his school. The thousands who have taken advantage of the treaty have formed tight-knit communities in Springdale, Arkansas; Costa Mesa, California; Spokane, Washington; Salem, Oregon; and elsewhere.

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