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Students build bridges with Native Hawaiian youth on spring break exchange

Apr 20, 2017

Students build bridges with Native Hawaiian youth on spring break exchange

By Blake Thorkelson April 20, 2017 Native culture and history were the focus of the Spring Break Hawaii Cultural Exchange, held March 12-19 over Yale’s spring break. The Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program (YIPAP) and the Native American Cultural Center (NACC) worked closely with indigenous leaders and schools to bring 14 members of YIPAP and NACC to the island of Hawaii for workshops, discussions, and site visits. The group included undergraduate and professional students, faculty, and staff. The exchange was an opportunity to build connections to the Native Hawaiian community by working with youth, said Kapi’olani A. Laronal, assistant director of the NACC. Careful and sensitive planning were hallmarks of the project, she added. “It’s important in our own communities to do things with good intention and in the right way,” Laronal said. “In Hawaiian, we say things should be done and practiced in a ‘pono’ way — that is, acting with a good heart, to give, to receive, to help and to heal.” The program began with a welcome to Hawaii by students from the Kanu o ka ‘Aina Charter School. Participants visited Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, a U.S. national historical park on the west coast of the Big Island. Through the 18th century, the site was a place of refuge for Hawaiians who had broken traditional laws or had been defeated in battle, and it is home to ceremonial sites still used today. Participants also camped near Waimea at Pu’ukhola Heiau. The 18th-century stone temple at this site was constructed by King Kamehameha I prior to his consolidation of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1810. Students studied the historic site and engaged in educational exchanges with Kanu School students and faculty about the ongoing importance of language, history, science, songs, dance, and religion in Hawaiian culture and society. Participants visited the gravesite of Henry Opukaha’ia, who once lived with Yale president Timothy Dwight. (Photo courtesy of the Yale Group for the Study of Native America) Participants visited the gravesite of Henry Opukaha’ia, who once lived with Yale president Timothy Dwight. (Photo courtesy of the Yale Group for the Study of Native America) Participants also camped near Waimea at Pu’ukhola Heiau. The 18th-century stone temple at this site was constructed by King Kamehameha I prior to his consolidation of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1810. Students studied the historic site and engaged in educational exchanges with Kanu School students and faculty about the ongoing importance of language, history, science, songs, dance, and religion in Hawaiian culture and society. Participants traveled to other cultural and historic sites, including the resting place of Henry Opukaha’ia at Kahikolu Church overlooking Napo’opo’o Bay in Kona. Opukaha’ia was a 19th-century Native Hawaiian studentwho studied at the Foreign Missions School in Cornwall, Connecticut, where he died in 1818. In 1992 his descendants began to advocate for his repatriation to Hawaii. Kapi’olani Laronal, of the Native American Cultural Center, is a descendant of Opukaha’ia. “The connections among Yale, Cornwall, and Hawaii may not seem readily apparent,” said Mary Kathryn Nagle, executive director of YIPAP. “But as contemporary Native individuals working and living at Yale, it is our responsibility to honor them. Almost 200 years ago my great-great grandfather attended the small boarding school for Indian boys in Cornwall. Opukaha’ia attended the same school after spending time at Yale...

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Samoan star of LION KING gives commanding performance

Mar 31, 2017

By ELLEN FAGG WEIST (Sltrib.com, March 28, 2017) Forget about being a 2-decades-old entertainment headline: “The Lion King,” now playing a four-week return run in Salt Lake City, offers its trademark beautiful theatrical spectacle. This touring cast is terrific. The opening “Circle of Life” animal parade through the audience works beautifully in the spacious aisles of the new Eccles Theater, as does anchoring dueling percussionists on the theater’s second tiers. And the house’s star-field ceiling adds depth and atmosphere to the musical’s Under the Stars scenes — especially as the king of the jungle, Gerald Ramsey’s Mufasa, schools his young son, Simba (Jordan Williams, who alternates with Devin Graves), in the influences of his ancestors. In Salt Lake City, “They Live in You” plays like a song written specifically for Utah’s genealogy-loving families. All the elements that make this show the world’s top entertainment ticket are expertly delivered. The variety of puppets and majestic sets are only topped by director Julie Taymor’s cleverly conceived costumes and masks, co-designed by Michael Curry. I could have watched the giraffe puppets amble across the stage for days. And then there are the spectacularly athletic dancers, performing Garth Fagan’s Tony Award-winning choreography, that humanize the stories of these animals. As fans of Disney’s 1994 animated movie and the 1997 Broadway musical know, “The Lion King” tells the “Hamlet”-esque story of Simba, a lion cub, who is forced to confront difficult truths about his restlessness after his uncle masterminds the king’s death. From the show’s opening notes, South African actor Buyi Zama (a Broadway, London and Las Vegas veteran) stands out as the trickster Rafiki, the story’s shamanlike baboon/narrator. I keep thinking about what Rafiki conveyed through the rifling motions of her elongated digits. The singer’s pipes on “Nants Ingonyama” — the Zulu lyrics roughly translate to “Here comes a lion, Father” — have roof-rattling power. Ramsey, a native Samoan who was a lead performer at Hawaii’s Polynesian Cultural Center, is commanding as Mufasa, the wise father. As the young lion cub, Williams is frisky and energetic, all elbows and bouncy hair — his wig deserves its own cameo notice. He’s well matched in energy by the sprightly Grier Burke, who plays the young Nala (alternating with Meilani Cisneros). In the second act, Dashaun Young’s Simba (a veteran of the Broadway and Las Vegas casts) has charismatic stage presence and graceful chemistry with the adult Nala, Nia Holloway, whose standout “Shadowland” is richly textured. Simba’s friends-on-the-range, the meerkat Timon (played by understudy Tony Freeman) and warthog Pumbaa (Ben Lipitz), offer a charmingly comedic first-act closer in “Hakuna Matata.” A few quibbles: Mark Campbell’s Scar, Simba’s power-hungry uncle, offers an arch delivery that causes his lines to be swallowed in the sound mix, while the villainous character never rises above caricature. Scar’s scenes with the cleverly conceived hyenas stretch on too long, as does the vaudevillesque Timon-and-Pumbaa subplot. Expertly delivered, but tiresome. And while this might be a family-friendly musical, the crying babe-in-arms at the end of my row wasn’t very enthralled by the animals of Pride Rock. Overall, though, the big-ticket magic onstage holds up well. This tour of “Lion King” delivers a satisfying blend of Disneyfied commercialism with ambitiously clever puppetry, dance and costuming. Forget hipster irony: This is a story worth returning to for...

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How Far They’ll Go: ‘Moana’ Shows the Power of Polynesian Celestial Navigation

Feb 21, 2017

How Far They’ll Go: ‘Moana’ Shows the Power of Polynesian Celestial Navigation

  By Duane W. Hamacher, Monash University and Carla Bento Guedes, UNSW | February 16, 2017 05:40pm ET This article was originally published at The Conversation. The publication contributed the article to Space.com’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights. This article contains minor spoilers. One of the greatest feats of human migration in history was the colonisation of the vast Pacific Ocean by Polynesian peoples. They achieved it thanks to their sophisticated knowledge of positional astronomy and celestial navigation. The Disney film “Moana” has drawn attention to these accomplishments and helped inform a new generation about the complexity of Indigenous astronomy. Polynesia forms a triangle across the Pacific, with Hawaii to the north, Rapa Nui (Easter Island) to the southeast, and Aotearoa (New Zealand) to the southwest, with Tahiti in the centre. But Polynesian voyaging extends beyond this triangle; there is strong evidence they reached the coast of South America and sub-Antarctic islands. Moana touches on Polynesian voyaging, showing the eponymous main character using traditional celestial techniques to navigate across the sea. During production, Disney created the Oceanic Story Trust – a board of experts, including Polynesian locals and elders – to advise on cultural accuracy. The film accomplished this reasonably well, especially in respect to celestial navigation, despite the producers facing criticism for cultural appropriation and commodification. Navigating by hand To navigate the wide expanse of the Pacific, voyagers need to map the stars to determine their position from our perspective here on Earth. Navigator and Polynesian Voyaging Society president Nainoa Thompson explains: If you can identify the stars as they rise and set, and if you have memorised where they rise and set, you can find your direction. Since 1976, the famous Hokule’a voyages have demonstrated how Polynesians used traditional sea-craft and navigational techniques to cross the expanse of the Pacific, from Japan to Canada. The Southern Cross is visible throughout the southern hemisphere. The Southern Cross is visible throughout the southern hemisphere. Credit: Wikimedia, CC BY-SA So what are some of these navigational techniques? To calculate their position on Earth, voyagers memorised star maps and used the angle of stars above the horizon to determine latitude. For example, the top and bottom stars of the Southern Cross are separated by six degrees. When the distance between those stars is equal to the bottom star’s altitude above the horizon, your northerly latitude is 21 degrees: that of Honolulu. When the bright stars Sirius and Pollux set at exactly the same time, your latitude is 18 degrees South: the latitude of Tahiti. Voyagers measure the angles between stars and the horizon using their hands. The width of your pinkie finger at arm’s length is roughly one degree, or double the angular diameter of the Sun or Moon. Hold your hand with the palm facing outward and thumb fully extended, touching the horizon. Each part of your hand is used to measure a particular altitude. In Hawai’i, the “North Star,” Polaris, is Hokupa’a, meaning “fixed star.” It lies close to the north celestial pole. The altitude of Hokupa’a indicates your northerly latitude. In the film, we see Moana Waialiki using this technique to measure the altitude of a group of stars. Look closely and you can see that she’s measuring the stars in Orion’s Belt. The position of Moana’s hand...

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Wells Fargo to ring in Fire Rooster Year with $50k to APIASF Scholarship Fund

Feb 21, 2017

Wells Fargo to ring in Fire Rooster Year with $50k to APIASF Scholarship Fund

SAN FRANCISCO — The Fire Rooster ushers in the Chinese Lunar New Year this year with auspicious gifts for the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF). As part of the festivities to kick off San Francisco’s Chinese New Year celebration, Wells Fargo Bank presented its $50,000 grant at ceremonies held at the Chinese Cultural Center at the Hilton Hotel Chinatown facility. It has been 165 years ago this coming March 18 since Wells Fargo opened its doors to the San Francisco community. The bank’s legacy of serving the community lives on as it continues to invest in Asian and Pacific Islander American youth and their education. Since 2006, APIASF and Wells Fargo have worked together to support educational access and success for AAPI students and their families through scholarships, financial education, mentorship, college tours and national events that support student success. To date, Wells Fargo has generously donated over $6.8 million and funded over 1,300 scholarships. In this past year, 70 percent of APIASF/Wells Fargo Scholars lived at or below the poverty line and 73 percent were the first generation in their families to attend college. Greg Morgan, EVP and president of the Greater San Francisco region of Wells Fargo, presented the check to Neil Horikoshi, president and executive director of APIASF, together with three of this year’s scholars, Guohua Xie, Lani Yoshimoto and Nikkola Napolitana. Horikoshi knew of what he spoke as he praised the scholars and the journey they have been through since he, too, walked the same path as an underprivileged aspiring scholar years ago. “In our decade-long relationship, Wells Fargo has been a committed supporter of APIASF, our wcholars, families, and the greater AAPI community,” he said. “We are honored to have Wells Fargo’s continued support to help increase opportunities for underserved students nationwide.” Lani Yoshimoto is a sophomore at Mission College majoring in psychology. Prior to continuing her studies, she served in the United States Marine Corps from 2005 to late 2009 with two overseas tours that included Fallujia, Iraq. She espouses LGBTQ causes and currently represents the group in 114 community colleges in California. Since being discharged from the military she has appeared in a documentary sponsored by the Veterans Affairs Healthcare system in conjunction with Stanford University. The documentary titled “The Camouflage Closet” had been shown at various schools and VA Hospitals nationwide to help enlighten healthcare providers about care and concerns of LGBTQ veterans. She intends to continue her advocacy after graduate studies and open a clinic for LGBTQ patients and others from low-income families. She wishes to be a contributing factor in their journey. Guohua Xie studies at City College of San Francisco majoring in computer and information systems. As a new immigrant, he saw how hard his parents worked to put food on the table. Their sacrifices inspired him to study and work hard to augment the family resources. He is now a sushi chef although, he started as a dishwasher because of his limited English skills when first he arrived. In school, he tutored students with programming assignments, and interned as a mobile performance staff at Salesforce. He and his parents strongly believe in education as a path that can help elevate their lives in the future. Nikkola Napolitano is a freshman at San Jose State...

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Vanuatuan film nominated for Oscar

Feb 20, 2017

Vanuatuan film nominated for Oscar

Sunday, February 19, 2017 – 16:49 Tanna, Vanuatu A Vanuatuan film called “Tanna” has been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in the upcoming Academy Awards next Sunday, February 26. Tanna is a romance movie set on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu. The movie follows the story of a Vanuatuan boy and girl who decide to marry despite their parent’s disapproval. Tanna has been described as the Pacific Islands version of Romeo and Juliet. The movie was shot entirely in Vanuatu and in the native Vanuatuan languages of Nauvhal and Nafe. The main actors, Marie Wawa and Mungau Dain, were locally casted. The movie has already won numerous awards including the Audience Award Pietro Barzisa at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival, Best Foreign Film at the African-American Film Critics Association, and Best Original Music Score at the AACTA Awards. Meanwhile, Disney’s “Moana” has also been nominated for an Oscar, for best Animated...

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Input sought from Native Hawaiian vets

Feb 20, 2017

Input sought from Native Hawaiian vets

Published February 20, 2017 – 12:05am By KIRSTEN JOHNSON Hawaii Tribune-Herald Native people have served in every war since the American Revolution — more so than every other segment of the population. The problem is, most Americans are unaware. The National Museum of the American Indian wants to change that by constructing the National Native American Veterans Memorial, a public memorial dedicated to Native Hawaiian, American Indian and Alaskan Native veterans. The museum is part of the Washington, D.C.-based Smithsonian Institution. On Thursday, representatives from the museum will be in Hilo holding a public meeting aimed at getting input on memorial plans from Native Hawaiian veterans. The meeting runs from 10 a.m. to noon in Student Activity Room 112 of the Hale‘olelo Building at the College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Project leads hope to see a strong turnout of Native Hawaiians who’ve served, but all are invited to attend, said museum spokeswoman Eileen Maxwell. The memorial is slated to be unveiled on Veterans Day in 2020. It will be located at the Washington Mall in Washington, D.C., but the exact location within the park hasn’t been determined. “We want to reach as many Native Hawaiian veterans as we can,” Maxwell said. “Native Americans [as a whole] have served in higher numbers per capita than any other (segment of the population) and it’s just an extraordinary fact. They’ve served in great distinction as well. It’s an unusual situation and it deserves to be recognized.” In 2005, there were about 25,000 Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander military veterans, data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows. Other reports say that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are over-represented in the Army by 249 percent. The museum doesn’t have data as to how many Native Hawaiian veterans reside in the state — or on Hawaii Island specifically — but Maxwell said it hopes to get a better sense after the Hilo meeting. The memorial was first authorized by Congress in 1994, but ultimately stalled due to nuances in the legislation which created fundraising challenges. In 2013, Congress amended legislation to allow the museum to raise money for the project. It’s now working to raise $15 million which it says will fund the design process, installation and create an endowment for programming, cars and maintenance of the memorial. A similar meeting is scheduled in Honolulu on Tuesday. Meetings are slated to wrap up later this year. For information, visit...

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NMC students sought for BUILD EXITO program

Feb 7, 2017

NMC students sought for BUILD EXITO program

By Press Release |Posted on Feb 06 2017 Tag: Beda Mundo, EXITO, NMC, Portland State University <img src=”http://www.saipantribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Build-pix-300×200.jpg” /> Northern Marianas College graduate Beda Mundo, who is now a student at Portland State University, is one of the BUILD EXITO scholars. (Contributed Photo) The Northern Marianas College, in collaboration with Portland State University, is announcing its third round of recruitment for students interested in participating in the BUILD EXITO program. The BUILD EXITO program is an undergraduate research training program funded by the National Institute of Health that is geared toward training students/scholars who are interested in conducting scientific research in biomedical, bioengineering, behavioral, clinical, health, and social topics. The goals of this program are to help engage scholars in finding solutions to today’s major health problems and to give them an opportunity to have hands-on, paid research experience. Participating scholars will have the opportunity to receive over $1,000 per month stipend, receive faculty and peer mentoring, and attend Portland State University to earn their bachelor of science degree. Currently, NMC is in its third year participating in the program and has five scholars who have already begun their training. Beda Mundo, an NMC scholar who is currently attending PSU and working towards earning her bachelor’s degree in Health Studies: Community Health, recently said, “Being an EXITO scholar has helped me grow as a future researcher. With the amazing support of my mentors, I was able to navigate not only PSU, but also other areas of Portland such as the Oregon Health Science University, thus having a strong network. The best part of being an EXITO scholar is being paid to study more on research relating to what you want to learn while being supported on your way to success.” To be eligible to participate in the program, applicants must meet the following requirements: 1) are either U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or non-citizen nationals, 2) are full-time undergraduate students at NMC, 3) have at least three years remaining in their degree program (projected graduation date no earlier than spring 2020), and 4) have a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher. The application deadline is Feb. 28, 2017. Application information can be found on www.pdx.edu/exito/prospective-scholars. For further information about BUILD EXITO, contact Charlotte Cepeda, NMC School of Education Director, at charlotte.cepeda@marianas.edu; Dr. Beylul Solomon, associate professor for NMC School of Education in Rehabilitation & Human Services, at beylul.solomon@marianas.edu, or Roland Merar, assistant professor for NMC School of Education in Elementary Education at roland.merar@marianas.edu....

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USC football recruiting: Falaniko becomes second American Samoan Trojan

Feb 2, 2017

USC football recruiting: Falaniko becomes second American Samoan Trojan

SHOTGUN SPRATLING Yesterday at 10:29 AM Despite late Pac-12 pushes, four-star outside linebacker Juliano Falaniko becomes second American Samoan Trojan. Late in the recruiting cycle, the new coaching staff of Oregon’s Willie Taggart and the tried and true staff of Utah’s Kyle Whittingham took turns trying to sway Pago Pago (A.S.) Leone outside linebacker Juliano Falaniko from his commitment to USC. But on Wednesday, Falaniko signed his National Letter of Intent and faxed it in not to Taggart or Whittingham, but to Clay Helton and the Trojans‘ coaching staff, solidifying his spot in the 2017 recruiting class. Welcome to the #TrojanFamily, @juliano34733998! From Pago Pago to LA, USC lands Juliano Falaniko from American Samoa. #F1GH7ON pic.twitter.com/ns6mVWmXyX — USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) February 1, 2017 With his actions, Falaniko helped break a bit of new ground. While USC All-American nose guard George Achica and offensive lineman Titus Tuiasosopo were both born in American Samoa, the only Trojan letterwinner from the small Pacific island that is closer to Sydney, Australia than Los Angeles was defensive tackle Travis Tofi. Listed at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, Falaniko seems like an obvious redshirt candidate, but with USC’s minimal outside linebacker numbers, it is possible that Falaniko could get thrust into the mix sooner rather than later if a couple of injuries hit. He still is very raw with a lot to learn technique wise, but he has the desire and passion to be a terror on special teams and eventually coming off the edge as a pass rusher. Juliano Falaniko Leone HSPago Pago, AS 6’4″ / 200 lbs OLB RANK28 AS OLB RANK1 COMMITTED Spotlight Falaniko loves to hit, so much so that he was thrown out of the all-star Polynesian Bowl in Hawaii after drawing two personal foul penalties, including one for turning himself into a missile when he launched himself at an offensive player. He is the No. 1 rated player from American Samoa and the No. 28 outside linebacker. While Falaniko will be the only American Samoan on the team, USC has collected a host of talented Polynesian players in the last two draft cycles, including Hawaiian linebacker Jordan Iosefa, who was a three-star outside linebacker recruit, but moved inside. Iosefa could be a good example of Falaniko after he was able to come in and contribute immediately on special teams and now has the inside track to take over Michael Hutchings’ middle linebacker spot next season. Check out these Juliano Falaniko highlights:...

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How Samoan my heart is – An interview with a White House Commissioner

Jan 26, 2017

How Samoan my heart is – An interview with a White House Commissioner

  When I was first appointed by President Obama, I was both deeply honored and terrifyingly humbled that I was being asked to take a seat at a table that presumed to reflect, represent, and serve 18 million Asians and 1.5 million Native Hawaiians & Pacific Islanders in the United States.. By: Jacob Fitisemanu, Jr-November 20, 2016 1:41 PM Jacob Fitisemanu Jnr In 2015, Jacob Fitisemanu was appointed by President Barack Obama to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. This position requires him to be part of a team of Commissioners that represents, and serves 18 million Asians and 1.5 million Native Hawaiians & Pacific Islanders in the United States. When he’s not at the White House repping our people, Jacob is the Manager of the Health Clinics of Utah program and lives in West Valley City, Utah with his wife Lucia and their two daughters.  Samoa Planet is honored to have this exclusive interview. Did you ever have that “oh no who am I” struggle growing up? If I did, I don’t remember it. I reflect on an incredibly rich upbringing that permeated our family with a strong comfort level, indeed an embracing, of the fact that our family was multiethnic, multiracial, multidenominational, multipartisan, “multi everything” … and that that was OK. There was no denial to dwell on and I can’t remember ever feeling like I had to “choose” between separate identities, but rather a clear understanding that my identity was comprised of many facets. On the drums with his club – the Jung Hing Lion Dance club. Our Samoan father supported observance of Chinese New year, participated in family trips to Korea, and instilled in us a sense of obligation to acknowledge and honor our mother’s Asian family and culture.  Likewise, our Hawai’i-born Chinese, Korean mother has always shown an incredible pride and respect in the fa’a Samoa and the critical values and practices that were offered her children by virtue of having Samoan ancestry. What has given you that foundation of certainty and ease with the diff pieces of you ancestry? I think the integrity of my personal identity is rooted in the fact that in my household there was no negative connotation ascribed to “duality” or “multiplicity.” We were always Samoan and Chinese and Korean and Kiwi and American… it wasn’t an either/or issue. It could be assumed that having our dad’s Samoan surname and our mom’s Asian face would be a constant challenge or a recurring question about “who I am,” but in reality it’s become an ongoing catalyst for us to learn about all sides of who we are, so that you can question how Samoan my face looks, but not how Samoan my heart is. I think that kind of upbringing makes you a master at code switching, assessing social context, and following social cues. For me, it’s not so much about knowing every possible detail and nuance about Samoan language, Chinese culture, or Korean history, but more about learning how to be an effective communicator, a respectful learner, and a confident participant observer so that you can walk in, between, and through multiple spaces. An ava ceremony in Hawaii Advice for others out there? For parents raising children with mixed ethnic identities? I have only been a parent...

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Moanas in real life: Samoan man teaches his daughters traditional Pacific voyaging skills

Jan 13, 2017

Moanas in real life: Samoan man teaches his daughters traditional Pacific voyaging skills

By Iona Salter in Samoa Updated: Saturday January 7, 2017 12:21:44 EST http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-07/moana-in-real-life-samoan-man-teaches-daughters-voyaging/8166564?pfmredir=sm An ocean-crossing, island-saving teenager is the Disney heroine kids are likely to be playing these school holidays, but for three Samoan sisters the fantasy is not so far from reality. Nafanua, Leilani and Emma are 14, 12 and 10-years-old respectively, and their dad Xavier Lui is teaching them the traditional skills of Pacific sea voyaging. Emma says she likes seeing turtles, riding the bow of the va’a (“boat” in Samoan), and feeling connected to her culture. “It uncovers the history and you can make your own history while you sail, go on that big boat and make your own,” she says, gesturing to the Samoan Voyaging Society’s double-hulled canoe, the Gaualofa. The history Emma refers to is that of a feat either worthy of, or too complex for a Disney movie, depending on who you talk to. It is the real-life epic of the people who populated vast specks of land dotted across an ocean that takes up nearly a third of the face of the Earth. They did so without maps or navigational instruments, but by memorising stories from their forbearers and reading the stars, currents and waves. They are skills that Xavier Lui says have been all but lost in Samoa. “Life has changed and we’ve now become land people, no longer the sea voyagers that we were back in the days where the ocean was our playground,” he says. “The first time I took these girls on the va’a we had some guests, some older Samoan ladies, and they said to me ‘are you serious about taking the girls out there?’ “That’s what I mean, our people have moved and become so comfortable with the land that they’ve stayed away from the sea … most Samoans don’t really know how to swim.” The story will sound familiar to anyone who has seen Moana, the latest Disney film. It begins on a fictional Pacific island where villagers are too scared to take their fishing canoes beyond the reef. Despite her father’s warnings, teenage Moana — which means ocean in most Polynesian languages — finds herself drawn to the water. When the fishing nets start coming up empty within the reef, her grandmother shows her a hidden fleet of boats that their ancestors once used to sail far and wide. Mystery of why the voyages stopped Pacific Island scholars such as Doug Herman have interpreted that plotline in Moana as a reference to the Long Pause — a period of almost 2,000 years between the colonisation of present-day Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, and that of the more southerly and westerly islands of present-day New Zealand, Tahiti and Hawaii. For almost two millennia, for reasons people are still trying to figure out, long-distance sea voyaging came to an abrupt halt. Fast forward to 2017 and Xavier Lui has a number of theories about Samoa’s present-day voyaging pause. “The very first question that I got asked in most of the villages that we went [to attract new Gaualofa crew members] was ‘how much do you get paid?’ “There’s no money in this, we don’t get paid, we volunteer to do this work because we know how important it is to do this work, that [va’a culture] has...

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