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August 5, 2019 | by  | in Features |
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Through Blood, By Blood

 

 

If you’re standing before a crowd, speaking to hundreds of school students striking for better climate action outside Parliament steps, it’s probably not a good idea to look around. 

 

I felt adrift in a sea of signs and hundreds of students chanting. Then I saw it. One sign in the crowd that silenced all my racing thoughts and nerves. It allowed me to exhale a really big breath that I didn’t even know I had been holding. There, in the brown arms of two St Bernard’s boys, waved the flag of Tokelau. In my moment of panic, I was reminded of a greater purpose as a fellow descendant of Tokelau. They stood—outnumbered, but absolutely not alone.

Although I saw no words leave your mouths, I heard you. I saw you. Whakawhetai lahi lele.  

 

I didn’t grow up with my Tokelau side at all. I stepped into it when I moved to Wellington (aka Toke City). Our population is small and so Tokes at uni felt like family because we’re all related… like really. My Tokelau nana was so proud when she found out I joined Te Namo, Victoria’s Tokelau Students Association. She called her cousin to carve a Pa for my first performance. Then she asked him to weave a Fau for the one after that. Learning about my family and where I come from has been incredibly fulfilling.

 

Further familiarising myself with the land of my ancestors, I’ve realised that this future is at risk because of the state of our climate. When I learned about Tokelau’s geographic makeup, I started paying more attention to climate policy and action. 

 

This is one of many stories central to all Pacific climate warriors. Historically, not many climate organisations have amplified indigenous voices or referred to the climate issues in the Pacific with dignity and respect, painting us, rather, as ‘victims’ in need. However, 350 Pacific Climate Warriors is a youth-led grassroots network that has been fighting for climate change in the Pacific, as people of the Pacific. We are not victims. We are telling our own stories, urging for better climate action and international co-ordination. 

 

I want to acknowledge all Pacific Island climate activists for taking up space that hasn’t been the most welcoming or accessible to our communities. Despite all our historic livelihoods and traditions of what we have come to know as ‘stewardship’, we are the first victims of a preventable disaster. Pacific nations are on the frontlines of climate change. Rising sea levels, saltwater intrusion destroying plantation crops, and of course, a warmer atmosphere that leads to warmer seas which upheave the delicate balance of its ecosystems. 

 

Everyone has a climate story. Whatever it may be, use the tool of storytelling to stand in solidarity with us to fight for more than just our islands. Our identity is so closely intertwined with our islands and oceans—they are a part of us. I believe we have a responsibility to the homes of our ancestors who migrated across the Pacific, and recently, to New Zealand and Australia. We would not be here if not for their sacrifices. After all, what makes us Pacific? What are Pacific people without an anchor, without a Tūrangawaewae—the place of belonging and essence of our identity? My ancestors are indebted to those before them, who crossed oceans and sowed seeds from which they reaped and laid foundations to last lifetimes. I am indebted to protect these foundations, that lay in the islands that was brought to them by the stars. “We sweat and cry salt water, so we know that the ocean is really in our blood.” – Teresia Teaiwa.

 

Small changes make a big difference! Stay informed! You can support through the following actions:

  • Read! Read! Read! Keep up to update with our International Agreements as well as our own government’s environmental goals. 
  • Follow various climate activist groups, and groups purposed to elevate Indigenous perspectives, such as 350 Pacific Climate Warriors.
  • Utilise a KeepCup! 
  • Keep a reusable bag, metal fork and spoon in your backpack. 
  • Shop at op shops or, borrow your friends’/family’s clothes for special occasions.

 

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