The First Breadfruit Tree- Palau

Our next Pacific Islands legend comes from Palau and can be found in the book, Legends of Micronesia. The story is about the beginning of the breadfruit tree on the island. Breadfruit is a traditional staple throughout all of the islands in the Pacific and is sometimes called the tree potato for its potato-like consistency when cooked. When it is small and green, it tastes like an artichoke. When it is starchy and mature, it is the equivalent of a potato. When it is soft and ripe, it is dessert.

Enjoy the story.

The First Breadfruit Tree

There was once a small island called Ngibtal. It lay outside the reef near Ngiwal village on Babelthuap Island in the Palau Islands. On that little island, there stood a strange, large tree. People came from everywhere to see it. Whenever anyone cut off one of its branches, out came live fishes, large enough for food.

The people of Ngibtal Island didn’t have to go to the lagoon or outside the reef for fish. All they had to do was to cut off a branch from the tree and catch the fish in baskets. In that way, they got all the fish they could use. They were happy about their good luck.

Every time a branch was cut, there was heard the sad crying of a woman, somewhere on the island. She could be heard, begging the people not to cut off the branches of the tree.

“Who is this woman that cries when we cut the tree?” the people asked. “Let’s ask her why she does this.” They went around the island looking for her. At last, they found her. She was a wise woman who lived by herself. They asked why she cried when they cut a branch of the tree.

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“The First Breadfruit Tree”- illustration by Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2017.

“Because it’s a tree that will grow bread for you,” she said. “It’s the only one in the world. If you keep on cutting it, branch by branch, then one day, it will die.”

At that time, no one had ever eaten breadfruit or known a breadfruit tree. “A tree growing bread?” cried the people. “Can there be such a thing?”

“You already have that tree,” she said. You should keep it always.”

“What shall we do now?” asked the people.

“First of all,” replied the woman, “stop cutting the tree. Then, after a while, it will have large green fruit. It will be good food for you. Just wait and see.”

The people stopped cutting the tree. They went again to the lagoon to catch fish. Soon, the tree gave them breadfruit, and the people learned how to cook it and eat it. Since that time, breadfruit has been one of their best foods.

The little island of Ngibtal, on which grew the first breadfruit tree, can no longer be seen. It sank into the sea, a long time later. Some people say that it was covered by great tidal waves. Today, only part of Ngibtal Island can be seen in shallow water beyond the main reef of Babelthuap Island. Ships cannot pass over it, for the water is not deep enough.

Sometimes fishermen paddle their outrigger canoes over it. “There’s Ngibtal, the home of the first breadfruit tree,” they say, looking down through the clear water.

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Vanuatu Celebrated National Chiefs Day 2017

Here’s a story that I’ve been meaning to share, but haven’t had the chance to do so until now. The story was posted last month by the Vanuatu Daily Post regarding Vanuatu’s National Chief Nakamal (a traditional meeting place used for gatherings and drinking kava).

On March 7, 2017 Vanuatu celebrated National Chief’s Day which was a public holiday in Vanuatu, and communities around the country gathered together during the day with their chiefs. These celebrations usually reflect appreciation to chiefs for the work they do in communities for their people.

In Port Vila (the capital of Vanuatu) another major event took place on this day next to the Vanuatu Cultural Centre at the Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs headquarters. The double celebration not only recognized chiefs, as well as it was a day to honor the re-opening of the National Chiefs Nakamal that was damaged two years ago when Cyclone Pam wreaked havoc in most of the islands in Vanuatu.

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National Chief’s Nakamal, Port Vila, Vanuatu… before Cyclone Pam

The Chiefs Nakamal has been built this time stronger and with new features. The first new feature to the Chiefs Nakamal is a new veranda that is attached to the main entrance complete with a lounge-like concrete floor and a concrete slope that connects with the flat surface at the door.

Chief Executive Officer of the Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs, Chief Jean Pierre Tom explains that the current design has taken into account the need for people living with disability to be able to enter the nakamal on a wheelchair.

Also in times of a traditional state funeral, a vehicle carrying the casket can drive up the slope for the President of the Malvatumuari to receive it on the flat concrete floor.

Another totally new feature is a long veranda on the northern side of the nakamal, with a cleverly designed Malvatumauri Chamber at the Eastern end of the building. The Chamber is restricted to the members of the Council for their meetings.There is a Custom Protocol Officer’s Desk and a Catering Space inside the entrance to the building. You have to be inside to believe it.

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News from New Caledonia

I don’t often have news from New Caledonia, but a couple of stories recently broke out that I believe are appropriate for sharing on this blog…

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Where is New Caledonia?

New Caledonia Candidate to Push Indigenous Rights of Kanaks

Radio New Zealand  reported that a teacher, Germaine Nemia Bishop, in New Caledonia has announced that she will stand in the election of the French National Assembly in June to push for better recognition of the rights of the indigenous Kanaks.

Mrs. Bishop said her main point was to secure the application of the UN declaration on indigenous people’s rights which would boost the role of traditional chiefs in the running of the territory. Bishop, who has the backing of pro-independence teachers, said she was also driven by the independence referendum due next year which will conclude the 20-year decolonization process set out under the Noumea Accord.

Kanaks, who make up about 40 percent of New Caledonia’s population, are only one of two peoples officially recognized within the French republic. Under the Accord, chiefs were recognized but lack formal powers in administering the territory. Mrs. Bishop said 90 percent of prison inmates were Kanaks, there were practically no Kanak lawyers, doctors or engineers and the drop-out rate was high.

Exhibition Promotes Protection of Whales Through Art

Radio New Zealand also reported that an exhibition entitled “Protecting Pacific Whales Through Art” recently opened at the Tjibaou Cultural Centre in Noumea.

It showcases work from 11 Pacific artists and commemorates the regional Protect Pacific Whales – Ocean Voyagers Campaign. The threatened and migratory species adviser at the South Pacific Regional Environmental Program Mike Donoghue said the beautiful artworks highlight the important work that needs to be done to protect whales in the Pacific.

Donoghue hopes that the exhibition will inspire governments in the region to get on the same page when it comes to issues affecting whales. He said the whaling hey days are now in the past but the biggest threat to the survival of whales is through human activities. “And underlying all of that is protect the oceans to protect our whales. So the fishing industry has a responsibility here not to dump their tangled up lines and nets in the ocean. The maritime industry has a responsibility not to dump trash in the oceans. And all of us who are doing anything to do with tourism and coastal developments need to minimize the impact on the oceans.”

The Centre Culturel Tjibaou, dedicated to Jean-Marie Tjibaou who died in 1989 while leading the fight for his country’s autonomy from the French government, is devoted to the cultural origins and search for identity of the native Kanak people of New Caledonia and the South Pacific.

A Little about New Caledonia

New Caledonia is an overseas territory of France. British explorer James Cook named the territory’s main island “New Caledonia” because the island’s purple hills reminded him of the the Scottish Highlands.

New Caledonia’s capital, Nouméa, is the seat of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, formed by Australia, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States in 1947 to promote economic and social stability in the countries of the South Pacific.

The unresolved issues of independence from France and resurgent Kanak nationalism have underpinned the affairs of the territory since 1985, causing protest and bloodshed.

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Pasifika Festival Celebrated Its 25th Anniversary

The Pasifika Festival that takes place annually in Auckland, New Zealand recently celebrated its 25th Anniversary last month on March 25-26. It is considered to be one of the largest Pacific Islands cultural festival in the world and over the years has featured many fashion shows, theatre performances, pop operas and a myriad of dance groups.

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The Pasifika Festival began as a joint Auckland City Council and community initiative in 1992 to celebrate and unite Auckland’s growing Pacific population. Co-founder Roy Vaughan said the very first Pasifika festival was held at Western Springs Park and attracted around 10,000 visitors. “The population of Auckland was quite a bit smaller then and you know, we’d been slaving over this for nearly a year. It was quite emotional I think for most of us just to see the type of support. Ordinary families and stuff like that, it was great,” he said.

Throughout the years the festival has boasted attendance numbers of more than 100,000 with an expected crowd of around 60,000 for its latest edition. It has attracted visitors from overseas and included trade and food products from around the Pacific region.

Vaughan said the Pasifika festival was now bigger than he ever dreamed it would be. “It’s fantastic to see the reality of it now. It’s more than just about culture and commerce, it’s about recognition and acceptance and pride in being a pasifika person. It was an event waiting to happen,” he said.

Business owner Tarita Holm travelled all the way from Palau to sell her traditional Palauan coconut candy and virgin coconut oil products at this year’s festival. She is one of many business operators from around the region who have booked stalls to promote their products. “This is my first time to New Zealand. I’m very excited so I didn’t realize it was this big, so I’m really excited about that. That’s about ten times our population so, it’s going to be amazing. Because I’ve always wanted to come to New Zealand so yeah, this is just a wonderful opportunity,” she said.

Village co-ordinator Bernard Tairea first got involved in Pasifika nearly 15 years ago when the festival was managed and funded by the Auckland City Council. After the reorganisation of Auckland’s various councils into one super-city, management and funding of the event was taken over by Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development agency. Mr Tairea said the festival continues to grow despite budget cuts over the years. “It’s growing from strength to strength and we find that over the years they’re moving the goal post just a little further all the time.”

“We’re getting a little less for the expectation of a little more. Probably less in the kitty. But I can tell you the spirit of Pasifika for us, we don’t look at the cost factor, we look at what’s important to celebrating our identity and this is a great platform for us to come together and to shine,” he said.

This year’s festivities were capped off with an anniversary showcase that featured contemporary music, dance and cultural performances.

Make sure to put this festival on your “to do” list for 2018!

Youtube has lots of performances that have been posted on their site from the past few years. Just type in “Auckland’s Pacifica Festival.”

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American Samoa Celebrates Easter and Flag Day

American Samoa is preparing for an extra special Easter weekend this year. Easter Sunday will be followed by the country’s Flag Day on Monday, Apr. 17 when residents will celebrate 117 years since the territory became part of the United States territories.

American Samoa’s Governor, Lolo Matalasi Molina, said in his Easter message, “America Samoa attests to proclaiming the work of Jesus’ salvation as living testimonies seen in our cultural practices of family and religion.” He added, “The territory’s 2017 Flag Day celebration is when we as a country celebrate His resurrection and 117 years of God’s bounteous blessings and grace on our islands.”

American Samoa’s Bishop Peter Brown (who is the leader of the Diocese of Samoa in Pago Pago) also gave an Easter message and said, “I pray this Easter will bring American Samoa true peace and unity especially as we prepare for our Flag Day. May your home be filed with peace, love and happiness.”

The official Flag Day ceremony will take place on Monday at the Veterans Memorial Stadium. This year’s theme will pay tribute to the territory’s youth, “Tupulaga mo a Taeao” (or Youth for Tomorrow).  The opening ceremony will be followed by a day full of cultural performances with traditional oration, song and dance.

A little bit about the American Samoan flag…

Samoa never used any kinds of flags to represent their nation until the first Europeans set foot on the islands. Due to the contest of Germany, the UK and the USA over the islands, the islands were divided between them in 1899 and the borders were agreed at the Tripartite Convention. The United States took control over eastern half of Samoa and the American flag was raised in American Samoa on April 27, 1900 and it was considered as its official flag till 1960.

In 1960, the American Samoans adopted a new flag that is still in use today. The flag consists of a red-edged white triangle, dark blue upper and lower triangles and a bald eagle clutching a war club and fly-whisk.

The flag of American Samoa carries numerous symbols. Blue, white and red represent the colors, traditionally utilized by both the USA and Samoa. The bald eagle also represents the USA, although this bird doesn’t live in American Samoa. War club represents the government’s power and a fly-whist represents the wisdom of traditional Samoan leaders.

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The American Samoa Flag

Happy Easter to everyone and Happy Flag Day 2017 to all our readers in American Samoa and around the world!

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Reviving Ancient Art in Fiji

I recently came across an interesting article form the Fiji Times Online about Amelia Lesumai and her hand-made items which she sells at the Fiji Museum. From small intricate bowls, earrings and necklaces to replicas of Fijian artifacts such as that of the saqamoli or traditional Fijian drinking vessel, Amelia has created beautiful intricate designs on them. “I learnt this art from my aunt back in 1980,” she said. “I was a young mother then. It has helped put food on the table and supplement our family income.”

Lesumai’s village is Nasilai and is about a 40 minutes drive east of Suva. The village is well known for making terracotta pottery or baked earth. It is an ancient Fijian craft that continues to this day in certain villages around Fiji.

While the large pots are far from being refined, it is in their very earthy unpretentiousness that their charm lies. They are made in the way of the ancients, without even the aid of a wheel and takes extraordinary patience and skill.

Amelia has branched out from the usual pots and earthenware to making necklaces and figurines of turtles, frogs and so on. “I just sold a large saqamoli sculpture for $250,” she said proudly. “It is good money and I’m glad that people appreciate our work.”

However, the 68-year-old laments the loss of this art among the younger generation. She said the young people in her village had moved away to pursue education and have married or settled down. “Our indigenous young people are too engrossed with modern technologies and their jobs. They don’t know their wealth is their culture.”

While it takes time and skill to do this (pottery making) in the long run it will serve you well. She said, “This goes for our other traditional crafts. Fiji is blessed that we still have people practising ancient knowledge passed down to us over many generations. I hope young indigenous people read this and realize how important it is to preserve our rich culture.”

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A Fijian Kava Bowl

 

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ICAS’ Project in Tuvalu Update

The “Preserving and Processing of the Public Records Project” at the Tuvalu National Library and Archives got off to a good start. I did not realize that most of the records that we would be working on were being kept in 25 foot container. When one opens the container door, it looks to be a daunting task. But, I have seen it all before. With time, patience and training, there is no reason that these records will become accessible in the near future.

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Here’s our work!

 

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Our workstation!

There are a few outcomes from the project that will be very sustainable in the future after the ending of the project. In fact, the project is constructed to ensure that sustainability will continue long after the initial project date. Although ICAS loves to help and do the work of the project, we know how imperative it is for the host organization to continue the good work once ICAS has left. This is why that the training of staff is written within most ICAS projects.

For the Public Records Collection Project at the Tuvalu National Library and Archives there will be training for staff of the three most basic, yet, most important archival functions. These functions include: appraising, processing and preserving records. As I have mentioned before, Tuvalu is an isolated island nation. It is very difficult for staff to get training. Some information regarding these core archival functions can be found on the Internet, but the wireless connection in Tuvalu can be slow, expensive, or unpredictable. Thus, one-on-one training will be invaluable. I also like the idea that, once staff is trained, they in-turn will be able to train new staff and volunteers. This “passing down the knowledge” works quite well in the Pacific Islands. After the project, the staff will be able to apply their knowledge towards other new or old collections.

I will provide a full report in time and will place it on our Website. Stay tuned.

The past couple of days the island has been hit with torrential rains slowing our processing process. But, after a full days work on a nice day, here’s a great spot to go and relax…

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Funafuti Lagoon

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