Protecting Indigenous Lands in Solomon Islands

The Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, said his government wants to amend the Constitution to restrict the sale of land to foreigners.

Sogavare made the comments during the conclusion of parliament and said the proposal would be an effort to protect the country’s resources.

Speaking in parliament to conclude Sine Die, Sogavare said the amendment to the country’s constitution is to protect the ownership of the country’s resources.

“These will include a temporary restriction on the sale of land to foreigners by individuals, protection of indigenous peoples ownership over their traditional lands, relook at the customary land tenure system, introduction of the customary lands trust board, enacting provisions for free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) by ratifying and implementing the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous People [UNDRIP (2007)]”, Sogavare says.

He said any amendment would include a temporary restriction on the sale of land to foreigners, the protection of indigenous people’s ownership of traditional land, a relook at the customary land tenure system and the introduction of the customary lands trust board.

Permanent Secretary of Lands, Stanley Wale, recently said indigenous Solomon Islanders were selling land to foreigners. Wale said currently there was no more land left in Honiara to be sold, saying most of it was now in foreign hands. “Most of the land now in foreigners’ hands are being sold to them by indigenous Solomon Islanders. It is us that gave our land away”, Wale said.

Prime Minister Sogavare said while his government was aware of the need to bring in investors, it also remained committed to protect its citizens, especially indigenous communities and resource owners. “On those grounds, DCGA is proposing an amendment to our constitution to protect the ownership of our resources”, Sogavare said.

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Traditional village house, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, photo from ICAS

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The Pacific Virtual Museum

Gude Hi Hai, Ni Sa Bula Vinaka, Håfa ådai, Fakaalofa lahi atu, Halo Olketa, Tālofa, Bonjour, Kia orana, Mālō e lelei, Ia Orana, Mālō nī, Talofa lava, Tēnā koutou katoa and warm Pacific greetings…

The Pacific Virtual Museum pilot project website, https://digitalpasifik.org/is now live. The site will provide access to Pacific cultural heritage items held in the world’s museums, libraries, archives, universities, and other institutions.

The aim is to empower people in and of the Pacific Islands, enabling them to see, discover and explore items of digitised cultural heritage that are held in collections around the world. People of the Pacific may not be aware these items or records exist, and we want to support them as they connect with these aspects of their own culture and history.

During this pilot, the role of the team is to support the ongoing development and delivery of the site and to ensure it is meeting the needs of Pacific people. To do so, we are focused on these areas:

  • Supporting our existing content partners, as they seek to add new records and refine the metadata of existing ones.
  • Engaging with any new content partners, based in the Pacific and beyond so that their knowledge and digitized content can be seen and found by those using the site.
  • Considering and managing the rollout of new functions and features, based on the feedback from users of the site, and ongoing advice from our co-design group.
  • Providing support and engagement to those who use the site. Our focus is on supporting educators and young people in the Pacific, but we are keen to connect with anyone with an interest in Pacific cultural heritage, including families, community groups, and researchers.
  • Monitoring and evaluating the use and impact of the site, to support the design of a sustainability plan for the site beyond February 2022.

“The design of the site allows Pacific Island peoples to see and explore items that are mostly held far away from their islands. We know that people of the Pacific may not be aware these items exist, and so it’s exciting to have developed a site that makes it easy and accessible for them to find and learn about these.” says Tim Kong, Program Manager of the Pacific Virtual Museum pilot. “We hope that the site will help Pacific island people of different generations connect and better understand the many unique cultures that make up the Pacific region.”

The website is designed by, with and for Pacific peoples, educators, learners and researchers. Representatives from libraries, universities, archives and museums from around and within the Pacific, as well as NGOs and those working with community groups, made up the initial co-design group.

The pilot project is funded until February 2022 and within that time the digitalpasifik.org site features will be further developed, content partners will be added, and the co-design group will continue to guide the delivery. A key part of the project will be to explore ways of sustainably implementing and supporting the pilot project aims beyond this date.

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Sunset in Palau, photo by Brandon Oswald

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Pitcairn Island During Pandemic

I came across an interesting article written by Sally Round of Radio New Zealand about how honey is helping to keep Pitcairn Islanders afloat after the global pandemic stopped cruise ship visits, a growing source of revenue for the island.

This year 21 ships were due to visit Pitcairn which was settled by Fletcher Christian, his fellow mutineers [of the ship Bounty] and their Polynesian wives in the late 18th century. Their descendants, who make up most of the 42-strong population, make money selling souvenirs and other local produce when the vessels anchor offshore during tours of the Pacific.

Homestay experiences were also part of the offering to the few tourists who venture to Pitcairn, a two week boat journey from New Zealand.

Pitcairn Islander Meralda Warren said locals depended on the tourists and households were making between $NZ12,000 and $20,000 annually. She said there had only been three cruise ship visits this year and income from tourism was now “almost non-existent.”

Where is Pitcairn Island? Map from http://www.spc.int

Since March the only ship allowed to visit is the supply vessel, the Silver Supporter, based in Tauranga, New Zealand. “We’re very strict. No yachts, no ships are allowed to stop. We’ve had a few come by but they haven’t been allowed to come ashore,” Warren said.

But thankfully online sales of honey had increased over the past couple of months, she said. “So the honey is still flowing however it’s terribly, terribly slow,” she told RNZ Pacific, pointing out the delays in shipping out of New Zealand because of the pandemic.

Since August the island, a British territory, had also been receiving extra aid from the British government to the tune of $500 per person per month, according to Warren. “It goes towards our store bill and paying off our medical loans,” she said.

I came across an interesting article written by Sally Round of Radio New Zealand about how honey is helping to keep Pitcairn Islanders afloat after the global pandemic stopped cruise ship visits, a growing source of revenue for the island.

This year 21 ships were due to visit Pitcairn which was settled by Fletcher Christian, his fellow mutineers [of the ship Bounty] and their Polynesian wives in the late 18th century. Their descendants, who make up most of the 42-strong population, make money selling souvenirs and other local produce when the vessels anchor offshore during tours of the Pacific.

Homestay experiences were also part of the offering to the few tourists who venture to Pitcairn, a two week boat journey from New Zealand.

Pitcairn Islander Meralda Warren said locals depended on the tourists and households were making between $NZ12,000 and $20,000 annually. She said there had only been three cruise ship visits this year and income from tourism was now “almost non-existent.”

Since March the only ship allowed to visit is the supply vessel, the Silver Supporter, based in Tauranga, New Zealand. “We’re very strict. No yachts, no ships are allowed to stop. We’ve had a few come by but they haven’t been allowed to come ashore,” Warren said.

But thankfully online sales of honey had increased over the past couple of months, she said. “So the honey is still flowing however it’s terribly, terribly slow,” she told RNZ Pacific, pointing out the delays in shipping out of New Zealand because of the pandemic.

Since August the island, a British territory, had also been receiving extra aid from the British government to the tune of $500 per person per month, according to Warren. “It goes towards our store bill and paying off our medical loans,” she said.

EU-funded improvements to community buildings had also helped the island this year, Warren said. Workers were being paid $10 an hour to build a new community center, store and post office.

Isolation of Pitcairn in a pandemic “emotional”

Pitcairn Island is one of only a handful of places world-wide which are free of Covid-19, which made Warren feel privileged but quite emotional. “We’re in isolation anyhow yet I don’t feel isolated. Sometimes I feel sad knowing how many people are dying. I sometimes feel guilty I’m living a normal life here on Pitcairn, one that I’ve known all my life and others … out there, they’re struggling.

“That makes me really, really sad that I can still drive or walk around Pitcairn and I can stop at a bush and pick off a berry or pick a banana off a tree, or taro from the valley,” she said.

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Battlefield Tourism in Kiribati

The anniversary of one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War, in then Japanese-controlled Kiribati, has been marked in the Pacific nation today.

20 November marks the 77th anniversary of the start of the US Marines invasion.

The Islands of Kiribati lay claim to a number of the bloodiest battles that were fought out in World War II. Seventy years on and much of the evidence of these battles still remain available for travellers to view as a living museum of this part of history; in particular Tarawa, Butaritari and Abemama of the Gilbert group, and Banaba island.

Tarawa, Photo from http://www.battletours.com

To mark the occasion the Tourism Authority of Kiribati released a series of videos and personal interviews from the i-Kiribati survivors of the 1943 battles of Tarawa and Makin.

The locally produced videos share very personal stories of trauma and survival by i-Kiribati children who witnessed the atrocities of the war first hand.

The Authority’s Marketing Head, Sarah Teetu, said the stories of the battles hold a significant place in Kiribati’s history.

The remnants of the Second World War are still visible throughout Kiribati and the Authority wants to encourage battlefield travellers to visit.

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Sustainable Fashion in Fiji

I came across an interesting article from the Fiji Times and written by Shweta Vandana that I would like to share. It was about how the Haus of Koila launched its inaugural Sustainable Fashion in Suva last week celebrating resilience and sustainability through fashion and culture.

HOK director and established Fijian fashion designer Adi Koila Ganilau said the event was a culmination of resilience, adapting fashion to the new normal and embracing changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Coronavirus has made the fashion industry around the world come to a halt and like many in the industry; we’ve taken this hiatus as an opportunity to reassess our fashions direction of trend,” Ms Ganilau said.

“The pandemic has exposed the cracks in the system and pushed our brand more online and unfortunately for others, it took a shock like this for bigger companies to open their eyes.

“We hope that through this platform we inspire many others to continue doing what they do in the creative sector and adapt to sustainable measures in the long run.”

The event also initiated the brand’s corporate social responsibility arm for positive social impact empowering women and youths through sustainable entrepreneurship and development.

Featuring a retrospective collection by Haus of Koila, the event also paid homage to Adi Koila’s lineage of inspirational women.

“The new collection is a time capsule collection reflecting the different generations from my late grandmother, the late former first lady, Ro Adi Lady Lala Mara to her great granddaughters, who are learning to embrace the new world that has and will become post COVID-19,” Adi Koila added.

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Fijian Fashion Designer, Adi Koila Ganilau, picture from fijivillage.com

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Internally Displaced People’s Traditional Knowledge at Risk

 

Journalist Mavuku Tokona of the Vanuatu Daily Post recently wrote an interesting article about how the customs and traditions of the Internally Displaced People (IDP) of Vanuatu could be at risk if said traditional knowledge is not practised constantly while on an adopted island.

“If we don’t practise it could be lost, you (the young generation) must know your language and custom before we pass, custom from marriage, we hold on to our custom, even for circumcision, shaving, we keep our custom,” said Chief David Albea of Mele Maat.

Chief Albea was part of the original 36 evacuees from Ambrym to Efate in 1951. Being displaced for almost 70 years, the Chief said different people from different islands joining the community in Mele Maat has threatened their custom, island language and traditional methods, but they have endured and held on. According to Chief Albea, he was part of the original 36 people who fled the volcanic eruption from Ambrym and now close to 10 remain from what he can remember.

Since Cyclone Harold, International Organization for Migration (IOM) in collaboration with the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) have published a document in June, detailing displaced individuals post-TC Harold, which is 6,218, 46% of that figure are under the age of 18. The 36 individuals from Ambrym may have made it easy to hold on to one’s customs and traditions, but over 6,000 may be a different conversation altogether.

IOM Chief of Mission for the Country Office in Vanuatu, Dr. Jessie Connell stated that displacement from natural disasters could have irreparable damage to island identity. “Displacement from disasters, including sudden and slow-onset events, can threaten the survival of traditional knowledge and culture, including intangible losses, such as knowledge about the natural environment and sustainable practices.”

The IOM Chief of Mission said aside from cultural identities and the importance of knowing one’s heritage and traditional knowledge has much more to offer. “Traditional knowledge and kastom have, over centuries, enabled communities in Vanuatu to address environmental, economic and social challenges.

“Through traditional family and tribal linkages, extended kinship networks and long-standing cultural practices, communities have been able to overcome destabilising and traumatic events including past and modern-day disasters, conflicts and, in colonial times, blackbirding. Traditional knowledge and cultural practices offer important cultural safety nets for Ni-Vanuatu people, especially in response to disasters and displacement.”

Dr. Connell added that keeping in touch with cultural ties and traditions is a form of closure and recovery which makes the perpetual traditional practices even more valuable during displacement after a natural disaster. “Lessons learned from the recent Tropical Cyclone Harold, a Category 5 cyclone which made landfall in Vanuatu on 6 April 2020, as well as the mass evacuations from Ambae and Ambrym and other relocation experiences in Vanuatu, reveal the need for people to remain connected to existing cultural practices and relationships during and following displacement to support resilience and recovery.”

Vanuatu’s National Displacement Policy, Strategic Area 11 states: “Displacement can threaten the survival of traditional knowledge and destroy records relating to personal identification, ownership of assets and land.

“Traditional knowledge is the practices, systems, skills and “know how” developed by a community and passed on from one generation to another, forming part of the spiritual and cultural identity of a group.”

While the government recognizes the importance of protecting “cultural identity and spiritual resources of communities” the communities and leaders themselves also have an integral part to play, to ensure the customs and traditions survive and are not lost by the next generation.

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Slit Drums, Port Vila, Vanuatu

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Learning Traditional Ways of the Past in Cook Islands

A couple of months ago The Cook Islands News ran an article written by Katrina Tanirau that I have been meaning to share. It was about how there was no better place for future generations of Cook Islanders to learn about traditional cultural practices than at the Highland Paradise Cultural Center- the 600 year-old village site that was home to the Tinomana tribe.

Nearly 3000 children have had the joy of competing in the Highland Paradise Cultural Competition since its inception nine years ago. Tutu Pirangi said they were proud to host the ninth annual school cultural competition at Highland Paradise – Maungaroa. “When we initiated this competition, our aim was to create a passion for our culture, a way of engaging our children in cultural practices in the most authentic and traditional way,” Pirangi said. “This competition is an integral part of our overall vision to preserve and showcase our culture to ensure it is never forgotten.”

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The different categories of the competition were: Tau Umu, Rutu Pau, Rangaranga, Taki Tua, Ko Akari, Ute and Akatangi Ukarere. For some of the students, Pirangi said, “It’s probably the only opportunity that they will have to prepare an umu on their own. It’s a fun interactive way for them to learn.”

Grandfather and mataiapo Danny Mataroa said when children participate in the competition, they get to know each other and learn about traditional ways, while treasuring the experience. “Hopefully later when they go overseas they will return because of their love for Cook Islands culture,” Mataroa said. “Sometimes we get so churchy, that we become so strict on our kids and limit them from mixing with other kids that they just want to leave the island when they’re older.”

Principal of Papaaroa School June Hosea said it is events like this that encourage the students to learn and make use of traditional skills. “If it wasn’t for this event, I don’t think we would be motivated to do this,” Hosea said.“The kids love it, learning how to weave and husk a coconut – some have never husked one.”

Hosea also added, “Because of Covid it’s helped us realize we need to get back to our knowledge and it is events like this that encourage our children to do just that. I’m very happy the kids are participating in this.”

Tutu Pirangi expressed gratitude to their sponsors for their continued support – Primefoods, Rangi and Mataamua Taru, Cook Islands Tourism, Ministry of Cultural Development, Solomon and Tuakana Pirangi, Eddie and E Matike Dance team, Danny Mataroa and their judges.

Most of all they are grateful for the long partnership with the schools, because without them there would be no competition. “We thank them for their foresight and commitment and for including the competition in their programmes each year,” Pirangi said. “We understand this can be a challenge for the schools and we therefore seek that Cook Islands culture be incorporated into our Cook Islands schools’ curriculum – so that Cook Islands culture isn’t just extracurricular but a core part of learning.”

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Tradition and Culture Considered in Tongan Court Trials

I came across some interesting news from Tonga where Tonga’s Parliament has unanimously voted to change the constitution to allow Tongan tradition and custom to be applied in the courts.

Under the legislative change, introduced by the acting Justice Minister, Samiu Vaipulu, they want Supreme Court Judges to take account of Tonga’s traditional culture when they are making decisions.

RNZ Pacific correspondent Kalafi Moala said, under the Clause 89 amendment, the judges would be required to consider custom, traditions and culture. “In other words if there are customary things that are in place, that whatever judgement they do in court they need to take those into consideration, to influence or affect their judgement.”

Some in Tonga have welcomed the incorporation of tradition into the Constitution. A former solicitor-general, Aminiasi Kefu, said culture was relevant to the interpretation of law but he said that was already happening in Tonga.

He said Tonga culture is already recognized by the courts with the Tonga Apology being allowed during mitigation, but sometimes defendants have abused this. “The courts have taken a cautionary approach to considering when they perform Tongan Apologies by the family of the defendant against the victim, because the courts and judges, since the 1990s have realized that some defendants have just gone in and conducted the Tongan Apology just as a way of getting out of culpability,” he said.

Acting Justice Minister, Samiu Vaipulu, said the constitutional changes were just following similar moves in the Pacific. Vaipulu acknowledged that the ‘Tongan Apology’ was already part of the legal process, but he said it was not written into law. “It is something that other Pacific Islands have done, but here in Tonga we haven’t done it, so there is no law or legislation being changed at all, it is just for the judges to take it into consideration.”

Samiu Vaipulu said the amendment didn’t need to go to public consultation because was is not changing any law, just adding to it.

The Clause 89 amendment still had to be signed off by King Tupou VI before it becomes law.

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Tonga’s National Cultural Centre- photo by http://www.kanivatonga.nz

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Teine Sāmoa Project Shines Light on Samoan Women

Radio New Zealand journalist, Koro Vaka’uta, wrote an interesting article a couple of weeks ago about a Samoan author who wrote a book during a week of New Zealand’s Covid-19 national lockdown. She hopes her new project will show the value of Pacific women of all ages.

The paperback version of Teine Sāmoa, or Samoan girl, was launched this month following on from a popular e-book of the same name.

Dahlia Malaeulu is a teacher, turned author, who wrote the e-book while in lockdown this year. Since then, she has spent time gathering the stories of how seven students and seven educators, all Teine Samoa, navigate the challenging world of two cultures in New Zealand.

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Malaeulu added these stories to the original material with other additional features including discussion points designed to be used in the classroom. “As Tagata Sāmoa, as Tagata Pasifika, only we can see the world the way we do so it really should be up to [us to] share our stories so our stories reflect us and help others to understand us better and connect with us,” she said.

Malaeulu said that connection was something that could help bridge gaps within the education system. “You hear about the ‘brown tail’ that we were labelled once and how Māori and Pasifika tamaiti really dominate underachievement so when you are Pasifika yourself and you actually have the insight into this world, you actually understand how rich and how knowledgeable our tamaiti are and also what our cultures are and that no learning can actually happen without culture.”

Vaia’ua’u Pilitati has been a teacher for more than 35 years and said she had seen a gradual change. “People in the community, in the schools, parents are more aware of celebrating not only Samoan, but all our Pasifika sisters and brothers, so yes [there’s] definitely a growing awareness and also not just thinking about it and hearing about it but also putting into action that celebration – whatever it looks like.”

Niusila Faamanatu-Eteuati, a lecturer at Wellington’s Victoria University, contributed to the project and agreed that sharing stories was valuable. “Most of the time we tend to think that we are inferior, I mean in the world that we are living in, and we think our story and our gagana and our experiences are not that important so having this project is a way to share those stories and inspire young people … to use their own knowledge and their own experiences of their culture as sources of empowerment with the work they do.”

The youngest contributor, 13-year-old Telesia Tanoai, was doing some inspiring of her own. Born in Taiwan but schooled in New Zealand, Telesia said she had struggled with her identity and being accepted. During lockdown she created a short film based on her journey, during which a young girl holds a conversation with a spirit version of herself. “She’s basically explaining, I don’t feel Samoan, I feel like a foreigner to my family, I feel like I’m not accepted and Telesa [the spirit] says ‘it doesn’t matter how much Samoan blood runs through your body or if you speak the language or if you live on Samoan land. You are Samoan and no-one can tell you otherwise.'”

Dahlia Malaeulu said although the 14 stories contained common threads, they also displayed how there was diversity. “Within our culture, our Samoan culture, as well as many of other Pasifika cultures, there is diversity within it. So that many years ago you had this idea going around or this stereotype of what a Samoan is; that they typically go to church, that they typically all speak the language.”

She said that was definitely not the case today. “There is so much diversity. There are families who have Afakasi children. There are families who have been brought here, scholarship children who have to be raised in a foreign country. There are teine Samoa who struggle with the dual worlds, our tagata Samoa who struggle with the dual worlds of pālangi and then their home life.”

But whatever the case she hoped the project would do at least one thing.

“It would enable us all to better support our tamaiti to succeed as themselves. So succeeding as Samoan, succeeding as Pasifika, because our language, our culture, who we are, is worth it.”

Malaeulu said schools across the region were already inquiring about the book.

The book can be purchased on Amazon.com.

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Focusing on Language amid Covid-19 Challenges- Tokelauans

This past week has been Tokelau Language Week in New Zealand. Radio New Zealand recently posted an interesting article about how preserving cultural identity and well-being is the focus of this year’s Tokelau Language Week in Aotearoa New Zealand…

Te Vaiaho O Te Gagana Tokelau was launched online last Sunday by the Tokelauan community in Taupō. The theme is Apoapo tau foe, i nā tāfea i te galutau. Ke mau mai, ke mau mai’ which means ‘Never give up hope, even amidst chaos and much uncertainty. Stay united, stay strong’.

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Where is Tokelau? map from http://www.worldatlas.com

Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, called on Tokelauans to stay strong in the face of challenges and remain true to their heritage and languages. Aupito said the theme was a “timely reminder” amid the difficulties communities faced due to the Covid-19 outbreak. “It reminds us we must never surrender to the challenges we face in our lives, but instead we must persevere and overcome them,” he said.

Aupito said, “The relationship between heritage and language is critical for our Pacific communities to realize their fullest potential of becoming modern-day navigators and explorers, creators and innovators.”

Aupito said the greatest treasure of “Pacific Aotearoa” was its cultural heritage.

He said this gave Pasifika confidence and a unique insight to develop innovative ways to address the challenges they faced. “Pacific communities have drawn on their confidence and insight, utilising digital technologies such as social media and streamed events to deliver the Pacific Language Weeks program in the face of the Covid-19 outbreak. They have not only succeeded in that delivery, they have expanded the reach beyond Aotearoa, through the Pacific and to the rest of the world.”

Aupito said this work had been vital to the growth and future of Pacific languages and cultures, and to the health and well-being of Pacific communities. “We know that embracing our Pacific cultures and languages will not hold us back, rather they will propel us forward, giving us the ability to determine and lead our futures with the wisdom and understanding of our cultural past.”

Comprising three coral atolls – Atafu, Fakaofo and Nukunonu which sit on extinct volcano peaks – Tokelau has a land area of 12 square kilometres. The 2018 Census showed there were 8,676 Tokelauans living in New Zealand with nearly half in the Wellington region.

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Fakaofo Atoll, picture from http://www.youtube.com

Tokelau, a member of the New Zealand Realm of nations, is also celebrating 72 years since the assent of its Administration Act which will be marked on 29 October. Celebrated since 2012, the Tokelau Language Week is the ninth and final language week this year.

There is an official Tokelau Language Week 2020 Facebook page where the public is invited to participate in the range of activities. To celebrate Tokelau Language Week, Auckland Museum will share staff stories, objects from the collections, and crosswords to help improve Tokelauan vocabulary as well as colouring-in pages.

Curator Pacific, Fuli Pereira, said her career at the museum was defined by an absolute shift in the way consultation is carried out and a dedication to descendant communities of makers and owners of collections in the care of Auckland Museum.

During Tokelau Language Week, Pereira said she would reflect on lessons she had learned, how change was made and what she hoped to see happen next.

The language week ends on 31 October.

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