Last week the Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL) announced the exciting news about the launch of the Pacific Storytellers Cooperative, an internet platform for place-based stories from all Pacific Islands to be shared with a global audience. This multimedia effort embraces the rich Pacific storytelling heritage and brings it into the internet age.
PREL is an independent, nonprofit organization with staff from mainly Micronesia countries, plus Hawaii and American Samoa. Their mission is to enhance community well-being through partnerships in education, and they envision strong schools, healthy communities, and thriving cultures with Pacific hearts and global minds.
Dan Lin who is The Pacific Storytellers Cooperative Founder and Director, as well as a senior research and policy specialist at PREL, said, “This project seeks to find the nexus between oral traditions of our island communities and present-day modalities of communication, especially among youth of the Pacific.”
The project originated when Lin, who is a regular contributor to National Geographic and the Associated Press, as well as a crew member on Hōkūleʻa’s Worldwide Voyage, saw a need for an accessible and inclusive digital storytelling platform. Lin continues, “Storytelling is a very embedded part of Pacific culture and Indigenous cultures generally. We want to encourage the younger generations to take up the mantle of telling stories and to take advantage of greater levels of connectivity and improved technical capacity—which exists even in remote places.”
The Cooperative accepts submissions in all forms from Indigenous Pacific Islanders and residents including written stories, photos, videos, and poetry. An editorial advisory group composed of volunteers from across the region will serve as content curators and submissions will be edited for clarity and length. “As long as someone is willing to tell a story, we’re willing to help them be heard,” Lin stated. “Within the Pacific, Indigenous communities are too used to someone else telling stories on their behalf,” he observed. “It’s time to reclaim the role of tellers of our own stories, which is critical for bridging the gaps between generations.”
Renowned Marshallese poet, activist, and Pacific Storytellers Cooperative collaborator Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner affirmed the Cooperative’s importance. “This project sees the value in the art form, as well as in other mediums such as using film and social media, and I’m excited that we’ve been able to reach youth in the Marshall Islands, Guam and Saipan so far. I’m really looking forward to getting this project to other parts of the Pacific as well,” she said.