Last month the Fiji Times Online published an article written by Sikeli Qonadovu about how the The Ministry of iTaukei (indigenous people of the Fiji Islands) Affairs is encouraging chiefs, village elders and everyone to share their traditional knowledge with the younger generation. Further loss can be suffered if the knowledge is not shared.
It is wrong to say the forefathers should be blamed because of their failure to share this unique identity. Technological advancement and the evolution of time should not be a reason either. The question that needs to be asked by every indigenous person registered under the Vola ni Kawa Bula is who has the prime responsibility and the duty to preserve, protect and teach the unique identity, that is never found anywhere else in the world? When will we begin and who will share this traditional knowledge?
“We (indigenous) are going through one of the most trying times in our lives and that is the protection of traditional knowledge,” said iTaukei Affairs Ministry permanent secretary Naipote Katonitabua.
“In some of the villages we have visited, we have been informed there are those who are running away from their traditional roles and responsibilities. Some do not know how to speak their own dialect and practice the social practices they are known for. The message from the iTaukei Affairs Ministry is simple — it begins at home. Can parents, village elders and chiefs take the lead role and teach their children their traditional roles and responsibilities? Speak to them in their own dialects, because this is the only way to preserve our identity.”
Since 2004, officials from the iTaukei Affairs Ministry had visited 13 provinces in the country through its cultural mapping program. Katonitabua said, “The records we have are accessible to members of the public but in saying that, we encourage you to please share your knowledge and teach your children now. Do not rely on the education system to teach your children their cultural and traditional identity. The best classroom is at home. Teach them from home and teach them now.”
Director of the iTaukei Institute of Language and Culture Emi Bainimarama said through their cultural mapping program, they had detailed accounts and records from oral traditions, stories, myths and legends, social practices, rituals and festive events, herbal medicine and so on. Bainimarama said all records were kept in their traditional knowledge and expression of culture database and were accessible to members of the public through certain conditions.
She added they also had a special revitalization unit that could help teach those who had somehow lost their traditional knowledge. Bainimarama said they were working closely with the curriculum advisory services under the Ministry of Education for student-based programs.
If Government is trying its best to protect, conserve and teach our traditional knowledge and way of life, it is only fair to say that every indigenous also has a duty to do the same.