Pasifika Women and History

The Sea of the Unknown

As some of you know, I live in Nashville, TN and you could say that the resources and access to Pasifika history are bleak. Not to add to the fact that I’m looking for specifically Pasifika women in history. That’s a hopeless case. So, where do I turn to? Google of course! However, I feel like I’m lost at sea just trying to find one piece of land that has a mountain of information. I wish I was in New Zealand or Samoa or really any island where I could dig to find information, but I’m not, and that’s quite frustrating. I feel like I should be able to easily find quotes from our women, but the thing is it seems like our women’s voices didn’t really matter until the 20th century and barely during that time.

Even a Queen Had to Talk Through Actions

There is something to be said about your actions speaking louder than your words, but y’all know that words have meaning to them. They are truly impactful. Growing up, no matter how many times I said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, words will never hurt me.” They still hurt and sometimes I would’ve much rather had sticks and stones thrown at me. What I’m trying to get at is that our women’s words matter. Their voice matters. What they have to say does make an impact.

Today, I was searching for my “Pasifika Woman of the Day Quote,” and was truly struggling. Then I remembered an episode I had listened to from For the Qultures about Queen Salote III from Tonga. Y’all her life is one that you need to read about. From the brief skimming that I did from blogs, prezzis, news articles, Queen Salote III went from being Tonga’s least likely to be a favorite to a boss lady who was well-known around the world. So much so that England crowds gave her a huge applause at their own queen’s coronation. Plus, she is the monarchy that gave women the right to vote in Tonga in 1951.

Anyways, for someone who lived an amazing life and overcame so much, I just had to find a quote from her. Anything that would inspire this generation and many generations to come. I found…NOTHING. Maybe I wasn’t digging hard enough, but there was no record of any of her political speeches (if she had any), why she thought women deserved the right to vote, etc. Now, I found some books about her, but haven’t gotten those purchased yet. I also saw that she has a collection of poetry, but I couldn’t find a publication of it online. I found a video clip of her on YouTube after her visit to England, but to me, it looked like someone had scripted that for her. After much searching, I just figured I would save her quote for another day, but why was it so hard? She was a queen for goodness sakes during a time when people were recording EVERYTHING. It’s not like they didn’t have anything to write down.

I just find it disheartening that a queen – a Pasifika queen – wasn’t important enough for people to write down speeches she may have. There is no doubt that she was loved. You can see how much her people loved her, but why didn’t anyone take the time to interview her? Find out more about what she had to say about the world? Maybe it wasn’t something she did and that’s totally fine. I totally understand if she wanted to be more private, but I just feel like there is a good piece of history missing.

Missing in Time

There are so many times in history that Pasifika women have made movements happen, but no thought it necessary to actually sit down and talk with these women and write down what they had to say. Take for instance the group of women who were part of the Mau movement. When the men got arrested, the women took over. They also helped feed their village by sneaking food in the washing! I mean how cool is that?! If only I could sit with those women and pick their brains. What did this movement mean to them? What did it mean to them that future generations be free?

These things matter. They matter because it gives us a guide to the future. They matter because our women’s voices matter. Period. I could go on with reasons, but do I need to? Our women’s voices matter because they do. That’s it.

Moving Forward

Thankfully, in recent years, our women’s voices are being heard and recorded. We have women like Haunani Kay Trask and Merata Mita that we can find quotes from to gain inspiration to keep the culture alive. And, that’s part of it right there. Keeping the culture alive. If it weren’t for people like Merata and Haunani, generations wouldn’t have the inspiration to keep the culture alive. They show us that it’s important to fight for our people. We have survived colonialism, continue to survive straight-up racism, and are working through systematic racism. I mean there is SO much work to be done. It can get overwhelming and disheartening.

That is why it is so important to have records of those that came before us. Those did their part to keep fighting. I’m sure they had days where they felt like they wanted to give up, but they didn’t. Why? Because they knew you and me would need a space to be who we are. A place where we could be unapologetically Pasifika. Their quotes and words of wisdom help me continue, and inspire me to learn more about my heritage so I can teach my children and future generations. We’ve got to record our voices and that includes women. That’s why this month it has been important to me to record #EmpoweredPasifikaWomen. We are able to keep their words of encouragement, their advice, and their wisdom forever with us. If that’s the part that I play in our history, that’s the part I want. To keep our stories alive and to stay with us forever in time.

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