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Peter and Marjolein van der Veen, The Linguist's Family

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Sat, 06/03/2023 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm
Event address: 
Village Books in Fairhaven
1200 11th St
Bellingham, WA 98225-7015

Join us for the launch of The Linguist's Family: Toraja in the Dutch East Indies, prisoners of wartime Japan, and the Republic of Indonesia.

With special guests Dr. James Loucky, Western Washington University, and Thekla Lit, Association for Learning and Preserving the History of WWII in Asia, BC Chapter.


In 1916, Peter’s parents accepted a contract with the Dutch Bible Society and moved to Tana Toraja, in what was then called the Dutch East Indies. Dr. Hendrik van der Veen, a linguist specializing in Indonesian languages, and his wife Louise, a talented nurse, found there a warm, generous, and deeply spiritual people. 
Peter was born in 1927 and grew up in Tana Toraja at his family’s bustling mission post near Rantepao. His father studied the language and unique culture of the Torajas, known for the elaborate funeral rituals, megaliths, carved boat-shaped houses, and rock-cliff graves.
Imperial Japan occupied the Indies in 1942, during World War II. The van der Veen family was confined to internment in camps run by the Japanese military. Peter survived six camps, and work on the Tjitjalengka railroad, but the family suffered irreparable losses.  
Spanning 1916-1956, this story tells of Indigenous life, colonial conflict, internment by Japan in WWII, and the national revolution.
Marjolein van der Veen, Peter’s daughter, joins him as researcher and co-author to tell this story of an atypical Dutch family who were supporters of Indonesian independence.

Peter van der Veen was born and raised in Tana Toraja, Indonesia, and was interned in six Japanese concentration camps during World War II. After the war, he studied agronomy at the University of Wageningen in the Nether-lands, and then spent most of his career working for the United Nations in the field of agriculture. In his retirement, he has been active with Voices for Peace in the Middle East, the Whatcom Peace & Justice Center, and social action committees.

Marjolein van der Veen has economics degrees from McGill University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  She has taught at various colleges and universities in the US, primarily in Massachusetts and the Seattle area, and in the Netherlands. She is active in peace and social justice work.