Friday, 17 June 2016

Views from the 808 – O’ahu, Hawai’i

By Jasmin Winter, 1st year MDP student

“Whatever we produce must not be a version of our existing reality…it must be different, and of our own making. We should not forget that human reality is human creation. If we fail to create our own, someone else will do it for us by default.”
– Epeli Hau’ofa, “A Beginning,” A New Oceania, 1993:128-9.

Beautiful view of the coral forest at Hanauma Bay

I think that many people, after hearing that I am doing a summer field placement in Hawai’i, envision long days spent on palm tree-lined beaches, soaking up the sun with fresh coconuts in hand. I am happy to report that my placement so far has been full of that and much, much more. 

Jasmin (R) in front of the WAO office with Kathy Martin (L), case manager

My placement is with the organization We Are Oceania (WAO), which consists of an amazing team of people promoting empowerment and self-sufficiency amongst the Micronesian population in Hawai’i. Micronesians are the most recent migrant group to Hawai’i, and WAO works towards creating an environment of cultural pluralism in which they can navigate Hawaiian systems and services while still maintaining their home values and traditions. They strive for a world in which Indigenous peoples are respected, celebrated, and honored as part of the local culture of success, and can therefore play an influential role in the shaping of society. 

Through my time here I have gained a deeper understanding of the complex intersection between migrant and Indigenous identities. As WAO is also working towards becoming an independent 501(c)(3) public charity under the mentorship of the Partners in Development Foundation, I have also gained greater insight into the highs and lows of non-profit work. 

Enjoying a fresh coconut at popular shrimp truck
Serendipitously, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) held their annual meeting in Honolulu on May 19-21. Julie Nagam, my supervisor from the University of Winnipeg, was gracious enough to allow me to sit on her roundtable to speak about the Initiative for Indigenous Futures project ( The discussion that ensued was fascinating, and engaged with questions about technology and traditional knowledge and the tension between its ability to connect or isolate us when it comes to other people, the land, non-human and spiritual relationships. We talked further about Indigenous participation in gamification, video games, augmented and virtual reality, and it was so cool to sit amongst a room full of people who were on the same page about the potential for Indigenous peoples to be at the forefront of these futuristic conceptualizations. 

In my spare time, I am playing quidditch with the University of Hawai’i’s Alohamoras (the most clever Harry Potter inspired team name to ever exist), and trying not to think about how I am already half way through my time here already!

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