How does FestPAC advance justice across Moananuiākea?


Photo: Angela Correa-Pei

By Angela Correa-Pei, Of Counsel Attorney, NHLC

As Hawaiʻi proudly hosted the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FestPAC) in June, it was empowering to witness the celebration of Native Hawaiian culture and those of the 27 other participating nations – an exceptional collective of Indigenous peoples.

A primary objective of the festival is “to promote cultural exchange and understanding among the participating nations.” Through this exchange, we not only gain a deeper appreciation for one another’s cultural practices and values, we are reminded of the challenges Pacific Island nations are facing from political struggles to the continued taking of Indigenous lands, and the detrimental effects of climate change on island homes of the Pacific.

In September 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The UN and the member states that have accepted it acknowledge “that Indigenous peoples have suffered from historic injustices as a result of their colonization and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, thus preventing them from exercising, in particular, their right to development in accordance with their own needs and interests.”

UNDRIP further asserts the urgent need to respect and promote the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples, especially to their lands, territories, and resources. The UN proclaimed, among other things, the rights of Indigenous peoples to self-determination, the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, social and cultural institutions, and their right to not be forcibly removed from their lands.

Through the knowledge shared at FestPAC, we are better equipped to advocate for one another for justice consistent with UNDRIP’s Indigenous human rights standards and principles, as well as our respective Indigenous traditions and customs.

For example, we keenly felt the absence of the Indigenous Kanak people of New Caledonia who are fighting for their political empowerment after France’s parliament passed a new constitutional amendment on May 15, 2024, that will allow French residents who have lived in the Pacific Islands territory for 10 years or more to vote in provincial elections. The Kanak, who make up 40% of the island’s population, fear this will undermine their efforts to win independence from France. As another example among many, we were also reminded that the 33 islands of the Republic of Kiribati, according to the Human Rights Watch, are each day closer to becoming “uninhabitable as ocean levels continue to rise due to climate change.”

Each nation celebrated during Fest-PAC, including our own, continues to face challenges to our ʻāina and the rights of our peoples. However, coming together is a confirmation that we are a united people of Moananuiākea. Together we are strong, and we will seek justice for the betterment of the collective while honoring and preserving the integrity of our distinct and beautiful peoples and cultures.

Despite the challenges we face and our continued, hard pursuit of justice, FestPAC instills hope and bolsters our conviction to stand together for our shared future. Eō, hoʻoulu lāhui.

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