Custodians of PNG World Heritage Site to Revive Area

The Kuk World Heritage site in Western Highlands in Papua New Guinea (PNG) was launched this past June after ten years of struggling to revive the historical site.

The Kawelka tribe, who are the custodians of the land on which the site is located, through their association, Kuk Kawelka Incorporated Land Group (ILG)  invited all stakeholders in Western Highlands to witness the occasion.

ILG chairman Michael Tori said the main motive is to revive the renowned site and bring economic development into Ku Baisu area, Western Highlands and the country. Tori outlined that Kuk has tourism, agricultural and scientific significance that they want to utilize to create economic benefits for the country.

Kuk Early Agricultural Site consists of 116 ha of swamps in the western highlands of New Guinea 1,500 metres above sea-level. Archaeological excavation has revealed the landscape to be one of wetland reclamation worked almost continuously for 7,000, and possibly for 10,000 years.

Kuk

Kuk Early Agricultural Site, Papua New Guinea

It contains well-preserved archaeological remains demonstrating the technological leap which transformed plant exploitation to agriculture around 6,500 years ago. It is an excellent example of transformation of agricultural practices over time, from cultivation mounds to draining the wetlands through the digging of ditches with wooden tools.

Kuk is one of the few places in the world where archaeological evidence suggests independent agricultural development and changes in agricultural practice over such a long period of time.

In 2008 UNESCO listed Kuk Swamp as a World Heritage Site. To ensure that they do not destroy the integrity of the archaeological site, modern farming activities have been maintained at a low-key. Archaeologists who have worked on the site have ensured that the scientific work and the excavations on the site comprise the highest international professional standards. Contemporary land use is restricted to only modern incarnations of the old methods.

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New World War II Museum Website Launched in Vanuatu

The Vanuatu Daily Post reported that after months of development, the South Pacific World War II Museum in Vanuatu is proud to announce the unveiling of its official website.

“This is a very exciting time for us and is the culmination of a lot of hard work by the team in Vanuatu,” says Alma Wensi, Manager of the museum. “We’re also very thankful for the generous support and hard work by James Carter of brokenwings.com.au who built the website for the museum,” he said.

“It lets us share our vision for the museum with everyone and we’re looking forward to people from around the world visiting the site and seeing what we’ve got planned here on the island of Espiritu Santo.” The museum which is in its initial phase of planning, will be a world-class complex built right beside the Sarakata River in the middle of the town of Luganville — once home to U.S. Navy base during World War II.

Luganville

Its location, so close to Luganville’s main shopping and commercial area, will provide an economic and cultural centerpiece for the town and provide ongoing employment and training opportunities for the local ni-Vanuatu people. The museum aims to be more than just displays of war-era relics, but a fully immersive, interactive experience about the Pacific Theater during World War II. It will also feature a café and restaurant, a theater, extensive archives, conservation areas and recreations of significant military sites throughout Vanuatu, among its vast displays.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to explore Santo’s rich World War II history first hand. With around 400,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen stationed on the island at its peak, the diversity of former airfields, bases and other World War II sites all over Santo is nothing short of astounding. As the museum’s Founding Chairman Bradley Wood puts it, “the museum will stand in the middle of the biggest museum in the world.”

And it’s these sites that visitors will have the chance to visit. Some of the tours will be walking distance from the museum, while others will involve guides from local villages taking visitors on all day hikes through the jungle to reach them. This aspect of the museum is what will make the South Pacific World War II Museum so unique and quite unlike anything anywhere else in the world.

The museum has been designed by leading Australian architect John Pierce who has been influenced by the traditional World War II Quonset Hut design and has turned it into something quite spectacular. The huts, still a historic feature of Luganville, were built by the Americans during World War II for a range of uses. It is their unique, hangar-like roof design that forms the basis of John’s vision for the Museum.

Having been granted title from the Vanuatu government for the land upon which the museum will be sited, the team are now swinging into fundraising mode to take the project to the next stage.

To view the South Pacific World War II Website simply click here.

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The Eruption of Pele’s Anger

The Goddess Pele is a Hawaiian volcano and fire goddess. She is known as the goddess who shapes the sacred land. Pele is the volcano, the expression and embodiment of divine creative power. She is the Flame of Passion and the Fire of Purpose.

Our next legend is an exhilarating story about Pele and what happens when she gets angry and jealous. Believe me- you don’t want to make her mad.

The Eruption of Pele’s Anger

In the time of the chief Kahoukapu the great festival of Lono Makua was being held at Puna on this land Hawaii. They were carrying the god about the land and taking in the offerings of chiefs- much taro and kumara, many fowls and pigs red feathers, garments, mats, dried fish. These things were all collected for the god and laid upon the ahus, and there were boasting contests, hula dancing and sport of many kinds. The chiefs were skilled in sliding down the hill on papa holua, the risky sleds.

It was Kahawali, the handsome chief of Kapoho, who was riding down the slope. He was racing with his sled, his friend Ahua was against him. Kahawali ran to the track with his sled in one hand; he took the left rail with to the other hand and threw his body on the sled and dived. The people all applauded and shouted when Kahawali came down whizzing like a surfer on his well-oiled papa holua. Ahua slid well, indeed, but Kahawali was the winner.

The great noise of the people caused Pele to descend from Kilauea to watch the games. The goddess left her home in the burning crater, stood near Kahawali’s sliding-place and admired his skill. Pele, who was in the form of a woman, watched Kahawali and challenged him to race with her. A woman broke the tapu of the chiefly sport, the sport of chiefs alone!

Kahawali let the woman ride the track. She did not know the skill of sledding and Kahawali defeated her. All the people applauded him. Jealous Pele asked the chief, “Then let me try your sled, your papa holua whose runners are more oily.”

Said Kahawali crossly to this person, “Aole! Do you think you’re my wife that you can use my papa holua?” He then took his run, ran past the goddess, leapt on his sled and raced downhill.

Pele stamped her foot and the whole land shook. The people cried in fear. She called her word to Kilauea and all the burning rock came out, the fire and lava- the mountain’s blood. Then Pele changed, she changed from woman into akua (deity) again, and came rushing down the sliding place with all her fiery creatures. Roaring thunder, leaping rocks, streams of burning lava followed her down the hill.

When Kahawali reached the bottom of the slope he looked behind and saw the anger of Pele pursuing him from Kilauea. The people fled with screams. Kahawali took his spear which he had planted in the ground before the race, and grabbed his friend Ahua.

The burning lava came from Kilauea; it poured upon the people and burned them all. Pele came in fire-form riding on its wave as her anger showed. The singers, dancers and drummers were all devoured by Pele.

Pele's anger

“The Eruption of Pele’s Anger,” illustration by Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2017.

Kahawali and Ahua came to the high ground of Puukea to Kahawali’s house and family. The chief threw off his cloak to run more quickly. He ran to his house of his mother at Kuki’I and made hongi (rubbed noses) with her. He said to her, “Compassion great to you! Pele comes devouring!” He then came to his wife. They made the hongi and said farewell. “Stay here with me! Let us die together!” she said. But Kahawali answered, “No, I go. I go.” Then he made the hongi with his children and said to them, “I grieve for you two.”

The lava came on. Kahawali ran and came to a deep ravine. He could go no further. Then the chief stretched out his spear with a powerful word and made it stretch the chasm. He laid it down and walked across. Ahua followed behind.

Pele came speeding with her fire to eat the chief. Kahawali came to Kula where he greeted his sister. He only had time to say, “Aloha oe!” and ran down to the sea.

Kahawali’s youngest brother came with his canoe from fishing out at sea. He saw Pele’s anger and Kilauea pouring fire. Kahawali and Ahua jumped into the canoe and paddled out to sea. The flaming Pele saw them getting away and hurled great burning stones at them. The rocks fell around and singed the sea, but they did not hit the canoe of Kahawali.

When Kahawali had paddled a certain way the east wind blew, it drove them from Pele’s anger. Smoke and ash came after them. Then Kahawali set his broad spear upright as a sail and they sailed across the sea to Maui where they rested for the night.

Then they sailed to Molokai, afterwards to Oahu where Kahawali’s father and sister lived. There with his father and sister afterwards remained and dwelt quietly in their home.

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Protection for Land and Culture in American Samoa

The Samoan News recently reported an intriguing article stating that American Samoans prefer the compromise that limits enforcement of the United States Constitution’s equal protection clause to limit the risk to Samoan lands, according to Tapaau Aga, Executive Director of the ASG Office of Political Status, Constitution, and Federal Relations, during his presentation to the United Nations Decolonization Committee this past June.

Tapaau made American Samoa’s perspective presentation on behalf of Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, at the May 16-18 Decolonization Committee’s Caribbean Seminar hosted by St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The presentation covered four specific issues, according to a revised copy of Tapaau’s written presentation posted recently by the Decolonization Committee on its website.

One issue covered in the presentation is the “Samoan Way of Life” in which Tapaau declared that “We are an indigenous people” and that “Today, we live a distinct way of life with democratic and egalitarian features unique in Polynesian societies. Our greatest hope is to pass on this way of life to future generations.”

He went on to point out provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Articles which states in part that – “Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination… the collective right to live in freedom, peace, and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide…and the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.”

map_of_american samoa

Where is American Samoa?

Tapaau also referred to the UN General Assembly Resolution 1541 that says  an integrated status must conform to calls for the integration to be “on the basis of complete equality” with “equal status and rights of citizenship.” He asked, “Does the notion of complete equality in Resolution 1541 support and reconcile with the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples? Or are there contradictory elements?”

He responded by saying that from the US perspective, the principles of equality and integration were codified in the US Constitution as the 14th Amendment, that forbids states from denying “any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” “If enforced vis-à-vis American Samoa’s political relationship with the US, the equal protection clause would pose an existential threat to the Samoans,” Tapaau pointed out. “We do understand how important it is to apply the US constitution in a manner that is just for all people.”

“The youth are taught to respect diversity, practice tolerance, and have empathetic reciprocity for all people and residents in American Samoa,” he said.  “Yet, we have self-evident truths of our own. They were not written down in books, but were passed down in oral traditions from generation to generation.”

“They tell us that these islands are our home and must be protected for the ones we love – even for those yet unborn. No one takes the land with him or her. We are merely stewards,” he added. “Ours is a compelling interest to preserve who we are as a distinct cultural community and to make fundamentally important decisions for ourselves.”

“Legally, American Samoa has a compelling interest in preserving lands of Samoa for Samoans. Put another way, the Samoans will defend their family lands with their very lives,” he said.

Tapaau noted that some have argued, there is little to worry about – that the laws already exist to protect our lands, even saying that losing our lands will never happen. But from the perspective of the people who have the most at risk and the most to lose, there is a great deal of historical evidence that says otherwise. “What happened to the Native Americans? What happened to the Native Hawaiians? What has happened to the Chamorro?” he asked.

“The real danger is not equal protection itself. It’s the toxic mix of free market profiteering, artificially altered demographics, and legally sanctioned access that could set us down the slippery slope or deliver that fatal blow,” he noted. “We must exercise all the due diligence we can to prevent this from happening.”

“We understand our US constitutional rights are limited. But for now, we prefer the compromise  that limits enforcement of the US Constitution’s equal protection clause to limit the risk to Samoan lands,” he said.

Since 1951 with the first large-scale migration to the US, generations of Samoans have been born and raised as Samoan-Americans, he pointed out, adding that more than 180,000 people of Samoan descent live stateside. “This is 3 times the population of American Samoa,” he said and noted that after the Native Hawaiians, Samoan-Americans are the second largest Pacific Islander group in the U.S – (based on the US 2010 Census story published in Samoa News.)

“Samoan communities or “urban villages” have been established along the West coast and across the nation. Strong family, church, and cultural connections are maintained between the islands and the states,” said Tapaau.

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CNMI Museum Receives Funding for Repairs

CNMI

The CNMI Museum, Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Museum received $105,000 from the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation and from the Marianas Visitors Authority (MVA) for the repair of the museum building, new museum director Danny Aquino said.

Lawmakers appropriated $55,000 while the MVA board voted to provide the museum with $50,000, he added. “The museum’s roof is leaking and the plumbing needs to be repaired,” he said, adding that some paintings have already been damaged by the leaks.

Aquino said the museum has to be closed until its leaking roof is fixed. “It’s dangerous to open with the puddles of water on the floor.” He said they also have to remove paintings and photographs from walls. The Office of the Mayor of Saipan also assisted the museum with ground maintenance, including tree trimming, brush-cutting, water-blasting and debris removal. “I’m very grateful to Mayor David Apatang and his field personnel for helping us out,” Aquino said.

The museum, Aquino added, also needs more space for its growing collection of artifacts. “We have so many boxes of remains from the past that there is no longer any room for storage. Offices have been used for storage,” he said. A part of the museum was the old Japanese hospital constructed in 1926, he said, adding that the remodeled building opened in 1998. “Once all the repairs are completed, we will reopen. The CNMI Museum Board of Governors and I will begin to create a marketing plan to raise funds so we can be more independent and self-sustaining.”

cnmi (1)

Where is CNMI?

The museum was established as a public corporation by Public Law 10-5 while Public Law 12-57 allows the museum to generate revenue, establish trust funds, engage in fundraising activities and spend donations. Aquino expressed gratitude to Gov. Ralph D.L.G. Torres for appointing him as museum director and thanked the board for supporting him. “The job is challenging, especially with our limited budget but government agencies are offering their help,” he said.

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Weaving Festival on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands

The Solomon Star published an interesting article about a unique festival that took place at Lela Beach in the Kakabona area, West of Honiara this past week. The festival is the first of its kind and is the result of a massive effort including representation of all 21 Wards of the Guadalcanal Province.

Debbie Lukisi, a member of the Guadalcanal Weaving Festival Committee said she is looking forward for the event. “I’m so passionate about supporting the rural women.  Since I was a young child, I see my relatives bringing their beautiful weaving work into town, walking the streets and trying to sell – they sometime struggle to sell it and make money to send their children to school,” Lukisi said.

She also said, “Solomon Islands needs more avenues to support work like this – platforms that support arts, crafts and the informal sector.  I hope that this festival will attract many customer for my people and that they too will learn something about our culture and kastom.”

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Weaving on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands

The event will feature demonstrations of traditional weaving from across Guadalcanal. There will be opportunity for the public to try their hands at a weaving workshop, demonstrations of traditional food preparation, a kid’s corner for kastom stori, traditional dancing, pan pipes and sting band, presentation of a Chupu (gifting ceremony unique to Guadalcanal) and a modern twist with recycled weaving – transforming your everyday rubbish items into useful goods!

The Weaving Festival has been an idea in the works for a number of years, inspired by a weaving group based in Australia ‘Weaving Connection’ that showcase their products throughout Asia and the Pacific.

When Ms Lukisi saw their work, she immediately recognized the similarities with the traditional weaving she had grown up with in the Guadalcanal Highlands and was able to connect the Australian based group to the Tourism and Culture Officer of the Guadalcanal Province.

With the support of the Guadalcanal Provincial Government and Premier Anthony Veke, Debbie and the Tourism and Culture Officer, Jacinta Vagha, undertook a scoping mission in October 2016 in order to learn how to re-create the event here in the Solomon Islands. “This kind of even is important not only as a livelihood opportunity for the women of Guadalcanal, but as important tourism attraction and an opportunity for everyone in Honiara and beyond to engage with Guadalcanal’s culture, and to learn more about the lifestyle of the people in different geographical areas, the history of those people, their art, their weavings and other elements that help shape their way of life,” she said.

In preparation for the event, committee members have gathered together to give the venue a facelift – Lela Beach is owned and run by Francis Pako and his siblings. The Guadalcanal Weaving Festival Committee would like to humbly thank the Guadalcanal Provincial Government for their outstanding support, and to thank their hardworking committee members for ensuring the festival is a success.

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Freedom of Information Law in Samoa

About a month ago the Samoa Observer ran an article written by Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu about the status of the Freedom of Information Law in Samoa.

The Samoa Law Reform Commission (S.L.R.C.) is looking at the need for a Freedom of Information Legislation to facilitate the exchange of information between the government bodies, media and members of the public.

The plan was confirmed by the Acting Executive Director of S.L.R.C., Ulupale Fuimaono. The Freedom of Information consideration is among a number of projects the Commission is considering with the blessings from the Attorney General’s Office. “Samoa does not have a standalone law that governs the flow of information among the government ministries and with members of the public and the media,” said Fuimaono.  He added that they are looking at whether it’s appropriate for Samoa to have this freedom of information act, how effective it will be and what it seeks to achieve for Samoa.  “If we have one, we have to have this legislation tend to our needs and our own circumstances in Samoa,” he said.

Fuimaono pointed to the fact there have been longstanding issues relating to exchanging information between government ministries. This includes delays in releasing information requested leading to inconsistent, unreliable, and outdated information. “There is a lack of procedure around what information is available to the public and the media to ensure accurate reporting and accountability in government, whilst also protection confidential information,” said Fuiamaono.

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Rainbow over Samoa

The proposed Act will also look at mandating the government agencies to update their websites, allow free information exchanging between the Ministries. “We have already consulted with the Attorney General who has given his blessing for this project.”

According to the Acting Director, neighboring islands, Cook Islands and Vanuatu have standalone Freedom of Information laws in place and other pacific island countries like Fiji, Tonga and Solomon Islands are also considering the same.

Fuimaono said such a law would enhance the respect for transparency, accountability and promote good governance in government decision making. He also spoke about the challenges that comes with the law. “The Commission anticipates and if referred this project, intends on exploring challenges including changing perceptions that government information is private property, managing leaks of private or sensitive information held by government, what necessary measures are needed to manage non compliance, resources and funding constraints, accessibility types of information to be disclosed, time frames for disclosure, complaints mechanisms and enforcement.”

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