It is with heavy-heart that I must report that the Pacific Regional Branch International Council on Archives (PARBICA) 17 has officially come to a close today.

What’s PARBICA 17? It was the seventeenth conference that ran from 4 to 7 September 2017 at the Pearl Resort in Suva, Fiji. PARBICA 17 provided an opportunity for the archivists and records managers of the Pacific Islands region, Australia, New Zealand and the USA to renew professional contacts and share experiences with each other. PARBICA’s conferences are a biennial event that no archivist or records manager in the Pacific Islands region can afford to miss.

This year’s theme was Archives Engaged: Personal, Professional, Political. The sessions that were chosen truly epitomized the theme and we saw a wide range of excellent Pacific Islands archival endeavors, projects and programs being executed throughout the region. The program was structured with a mixture of conference sessions and practical training workshops. Conference content included topics such as engagement strategies and the implementation of engagement program (physical and virtual), building professional and strategic relationships. Workshops covered topics including; records management, oral history, disaster preparedness and UNESCO’s Recommendation on Documentary Heritage.

Because PARBICA is composed of a very colorful, passionate and close-knit group, collaboration among topics regarding archival issues and achievements was easily shared. Although we might be scattered across a mighty ocean, we feel closely connected by our devotion and love for preserving and making access to wonderful and unique cultural hertiages of the Pacific Islands.

Look for a more detailed report about PARBICA 17 in the coming weeks.


The beach at the Pearl Resort, Fiji

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ToKanao- The First Coconut in PNG

Keeping with our tradition of how the coconut tree came to the South Seas islands, here is an interesting legend about how the first coconut came to the be in Papua New Guinea. The story can be found in the book The Turtle and the Island: Folk Tales from Papua New Guinea. Enjoy!

ToKanao- The First Coconut

In a village beside the sea, in the days long ago, there lived a clever fisherman called ToKanao. None of the other villagers caught so many fish as ToKanao. Indeed, it often seemed impossible that any man could catch so many. No one ever saw ToKanao go fishing; he did not join the other fishermen and women on moonlit nights when they waded into the phosphorescent sea with blazing torches and spears. He always fished by himself during the day and returned laden with strings of glittering fish strung across his shoulders, so many that sometimes he could scarcely stagger home. Even at those seasons when all the fish seemed to have disappeared from the sea, ToKanao would bring home his catch.

One of the other villagers, a man called Talia, was especially jealous of ToKanao’s skill. He was determined to discover the secret of ToKanao’s success, and began to watch him carefully. It wasn’t long before his chance came. One morning ToKanao set off for the beach carrying the long strings of plaited vines on which he used to fasten his catch. But Talia noticed with surprise that he carried no spear nor any other implement with which to catch the fish. Stealthily Talia followed in ToKanao’s footsteps, taking care to make no sound as he made his way through the bush. At last they came to the shore where the sea lapped against the white, sandy beach. Here Talia hid himself under a tall tagia tree and watched to see what ToKanao would do next. He was utterly astonished to see ToKanao put both hands to his neck and began to unscrew his neck.

“Aiee! Can a man remove the head from his own shoulders?” Talia marveled. This was strong magic!

ToKanao left his head on the warm sand, under a shady bush. Then he waded out into the water until all his body was below the surface. He stayed like that for some time while Talia waited impatiently to see what would happen next. At last ToKanao resurfaced and waded back to the shore, then walked along the beach to the bush where his head lay. Here he bent over, and out from his hollow neck poured a shimmering, slippery stream of fish. After he had emptied his body of all the fish, he went back into the sea once more.

No sooner did he disappear beneath the water than Talia ran from his hiding-place, grabbed ToKanao’s head and ran away with it. Then he hurled it far along the beach into the undergrowth that grew along the shore.


“ToKanao- The First Coconut,” illustration by Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2017.

Presently ToKanao emerged from the water again, and emptied his body of fish a second time. Then he felt about under the bush for his head using his hands to try to locate it. When he could not find it, he began to move his hands more wildly and urgently but was no use: his head was not there. As Talia watched, he saw the fisherman return to the sea for the third and last time and disappear beneath the water forever. No one ever saw ToKanao again.

It happened some years later that Talia, walking along that same stretch of beach, came to the place where he had hurled ToKanao’s head into the undergrowth. He was amazed to see that a new, strange tree had grown up from the exact spot where the head had fallen. A tree such as no one had ever seen before. It was tall and slender, and its trunk, which bore ridges all around it like the bracelets on a woman’s arm, leaned to one side, and bore a topknot of graceful leaves like a head-dress of feathers. And growing amongst the leaves were a number of large, round fruits. One had fallen to the ground; Talia picked it up and began to remove its fibrous covering. Then he saw that he held in his hands a hard brown nut the size and shape of a human head. And on one side it bore three marks very like the eyes, nose and mouth of a man.

“Aiee! The skull of ToKanao planted itself in the ground and sprouted this strange tree of many heads!” he exclaimed.

Talia took the strange fruit back to the village. When it was tapped, sweet liquid flowed from it. When it was broken in half, soft white flesh was discovered. And the villagers named the new fruit ‘coconut’ in memory of ToKanao the great fisherman.

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EU Supports Traditional Knowledge for Adaption of Climate Change

The Fiji Times Online recently published an article about how the European Union (EU) supports Pacific Islands’ traditional knowledge as a solution, adaptation and mitigation measure for climate change.

In an interview with this newspaper, EU Head of Infrastructure and Natural Resources Jesus Lavina said it was very important that this traditional knowledge is made known to the world as the global community looks for ways to adapt to the growing impact of climate change. Mr Lavina said he supported the idea of traditional knowledge being presented at COP23 in Germany later this year.

After the conclusion of the two-day Climate Action Pacific Partnership event in Suva, Mr Lavina is convinced that traditional knowledge should be taken into consideration. “I was part of one of the working groups and we were talking about adaptations. And one of the points that came out of the discussion is how we can and why we have to combine the traditional knowledge with the new technology and with the science,” he said.


Coastline on the lagoon side, Funafuti, Tuvalu

Mr. Lavina also added, “Traditional knowledge is very good, but in order to replicate, collate or make the best use of the traditional knowledge, you must have to incorporate it with scientific knowledge and combine it with techniques that are already available in the Pacific. It is something we have already discussed and we have talked about how we can better share the knowledge and absolutely we will share this during COP 23.”

Crop production and extension co-ordinator for the Pacific Community (SPC), Dr Siosiua Halavatau, said he had found the best adaptation measure for food security. Dr Halavatau said it was traditional knowledge that had the ability of maintaining global temperatures below 2°C.

An article published by this newspaper last month revealed how maritime islands had found an ancient solution to rising sea level and the natural restoration of the shoreline. According to villages in Gau and Kadavu, the stone breakwater was a traditional knowledge which was passed down by their grandfathers that had the natural ability of restoring lost shorelines and protection from rising sea level.

The University of the South Pacific’s Associate Professor for Marine Studies, Dr Joeli Veitayaki said according to their research, breakwater was the best solution to saving islands from the impact of climate change.


Funafuti, Tuvalu


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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 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 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.


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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