Walk Together, Dream Together, Achieve Together


A recent meeting of Pacific Indigenous women was a forum to build pilina and strategize

In conjunction with the 2024 Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture (FestPAC), the Pacific Indigenous Women’s Network (PIWN) hosted the “Weaving a Transpacific Indigenous Women’s Network” conference on June 7-8, 2024. Held at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center, this significant two-day event brought together Indigenous women from across the Pacific to foster relationships, share knowledge, and discuss strategies to address the challenges faced by their communities.

Friday, June 7

As wāhine from various parts of the Pacific arrived at the conference, they were greeted by the beautiful voices of Kainani Kahaunaele, Kaniaulono Hapai, and Emma Coloma-Nakano from Moku o Keawe. This mother, daughter, and aunty trio created a comfortable and safe space for networking among wāhine of all ages.

The event began with a circle of aloha, led by Kumu Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu (Hawaiʻi), who shared mele and oli to ground the participants in Hawaiʻi and celebrate their connections as part of Moananuiākea. Wong-Kalu emphasized the importance of understanding one’s kulana (role) and kuleana (duty), reminding the wāhine to fulfill their roles and responsibilities diligently.

Via a video message, Makau Ariki (Royal Consort) Atawhai of Aotearoa highlighted the strength of collective dreaming and achieving: “If I am to dream, I dream alone. If we all dream together then we shall achieve. Wāhine together; we are always stronger. Let’s walk together, dream together, and achieve together.”

Mililani Trask (Hawaiʻi), a founding member and kupuna of PIWN, delivered the opening keynote address. She shared the genealogy of PIWN and its commitment to self-determination for women, children, and families. Trask called for participation from all Pacific sub-regions – Micronesia, Melanesia, Polynesia, and Australia – stressing the need for diverse representation to achieve common goals.

A “Lei of Wisdom” dialogue session, moderated by youth member Julia Faye Munoz (Guåhan), featured elders Hema Wihongi (Aotearoa), Saina Faye Untalan (Guåhan), Grace Poll-Serious (Chuuk, FSM), and Ekela Kaniaupio-Crozier (Hawaiʻi).

Titled “The Role of Pacific Indigenous Women in Caring for our Communities and Preparing the Next Generation,” the panel discussed the vital roles of Indigenous women as life-givers and caregivers. They shared their respective cultural backgrounds, experiences, and wisdom, highlighting the importance of passing on traditions and healing power to future generations to help address today’s complex challenges.

Saturday, June 8

The second day of the conference began with a spiritual blessing and cultural sharing from the FestPAC delegation from Guåhan. This set a reflective and empowering tone for the day.

The day’s first panel, “Indigenous Women Leading Environmental Justice and Empowering Sustainability,” addressed climate change and environmental degradation – and their impacts on human rights – emphasizing approaches to sustainable development that consider inequalities and can be transformative if implemented. The moderator was Noelani Puniwai (Hawaiʻi) and included presentations by Hema Wihongi (Aotearoa) and Malia Nobrega-Olivera (Hawaiʻi).

The second panel of the day, “Mauliola: Taking Care of Self, Girls, and Family,” was moderated by Lillian Segal (Kosrae). Presenters included Emeliana Musrasrik-Carl (Pohnpei, FSM), Alicia Limtiaco (Guåhan), and Suzanna Tiapula (American Samoa).

This panel, focused on critical areas of concern – gender-based violence, health and education – that directly impact the human rights of Indigenous women and girls, and provided recommendations for effective and sustainable advocacy and public actions by Indigenous women that reflect their voices and priorities.

Saina Laura Souder (Guåhan), shared the keynote presentation during lunch called, “Indigenous Pacific Women Leaders: Looking at Ourselves through the Eyes of the Future.”

Souder, an Indigenous CHamoru, explored historical networking strategies used by CHamoru women organizers and discussed the continuity and revitalization of the CHamoru language and culture. She shared seven recommendations and lessons gleaned from her work in Daughters of the Island: Adaptability is Key; Intergenerational Ties Matter; Engagement can be both Formal and Informal; Balance Traditional Ways with Modern Reality; Personal is Political; Indigenous Knowledge is a Platform for Organizing; and Manage Conflicts and Contradictions.

The conference closing session was a collective visioning session for PIWN led by Lisa Natividad and Julia Faye Munoz (both of Guåhan) reviewing the needs identified by wāhine from each Pacific region represented.

Weaving a Transpacific Indigenous Women’s Network was more than just a conference; it was a movement towards solidarity and empowerment for Pacific Indigenous women. By coming together, sharing experiences, and strategizing for the future, we can collectively pave the way for a stronger, more resilient Pacific community.

The conference was a powerful gathering of voices, ideas, and actions that inspired and mobilized Indigenous women across the Pacific to lead their communities with wisdom and strength.

PIWN would like to say MAHALO NUI to our funders and supporting organizations: Pawanka Fund, Ahahui Siwilia Hawaiʻi o Moikeha, Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, and Waiwai Collective.

The Pacific Indigenous Women’s Network (PIWN) was incorporated in 2019. Its mission is to protect and advance the human rights of Indigenous women, their families, and communities in the Pacific Region through the formation of strategic alliances with other Indigenous women and their associations. The organization aims to mentor young Indigenous women and enhance their knowledge, skills, and abilities as leaders.

For more information or to subscribe to our email list go to https://piwn.org/ or follow us on FaceBook and IG @pacificindigenouswomen.