American Samoans Attend Indigenous Peoples Events In DC

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Students join Living Earth Festival, First Stewards symposium

By James Kneubuhl, ASCC Press Officer

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, August 6, 2014) – American Samoa Community College (ASCC) Samoan Studies Institute (SSI) Director Okenaisa Fauolo-Manila and four Samoan Studies majors recently returned from Washington, DC where they participated in two events centered on the indigenous peoples of America. From July 18-20 the group took part in the Living Earth Festival sponsored by the National Museum of the American Indian, then participated in the First Stewards symposium from July 21-23. Both events took place in Washington, DC.

With travel resource assistance from the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (WPFMC) in Hawaii, at both events Samoan Studies majors Anna Afoa, Toni-Marie Hollister, Jerome Matagi and Faleosalafai Tipa shared their research on traditional Samoan expressions about fishing and climate, and the similarities these expressions share with other Pacific island cultures such as Tokelau, Fiji, New Zealand and Hawaii.

The students created a poster based on their research, which they displayed at both events, with at least one of them always on hand to answer questions. They also shared Samoan song and dance during the Cultural Reception on the first evening of the First Stewards event.

With its theme of "United Indigenous Voices Address Sustainability: Climate Change and Traditional Places," the First Stewards symposium saw Fauolo-Manila join the Cultural Resource Damage Assessments Panel to give a Samoa-based presentation on Cultural Resources Assessment and Climate Change.

Also attending the symposium from American Samoa was Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Poumele, a member of The WPFMC, who gave a presentation on Food Security and Climate Change.

Fauolo-Manila expressed pride at her and Dr. Poumele’s inclusion in the event. "It reaffirms the importance of Samoan Studies because solutions found in traditional knowledge are being recognized and valued by organizations such as First Stewards," she said.

"For example, even prior to western contact Samoa has had traditional responses to natural disasters which enabled us to survive and thrive. This was a valuable opportunity to share and learn with other indigenous people addressing contemporary issues."

The SSI Director also feels the experience gave the ASCC students a new perspective on their choice of Samoan Studies as a major. "It showed them the growing recognition for traditional ecological knowledge and its application to issues we face today," reflected Fauolo-Manila. "It also did much for their self-confidence, skills at public speaking, ability to relate to other indigenous peoples, and pride in their own cultural heritage."

Fauolo-Manila said their presence at both events generated a good deal of interest in American Samoa, with her students proving themselves exemplary ambassadors for the territory. "I’m proud of the four Samoan Studies majors for setting an example as respectful Samoans," she said. "I received many compliments from people who were impressed at how well-disciplined and courteous these young adults were. Personally, I’m grateful to these students’ parents for the values they instilled in their sons and daughters. "

Fauolo-Manila expressed her thanks to Ms. Kitty Simonds, Executive Director of the WPFMC and also Vice-Chair of First Stewards, and to ASCC President Dr. Seth Galea’i for their assistance in making the trip possible.

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