Transcript - "Indigenous Pacific Islander Eco-Literatures"

Transcript - "Indigenous Pacific Islander Eco-Literatures":  Book Talk with the Editors

April 14, 2023 -- Radical Kinship Series

Listen to "Indigenous Pacific Islander Eco-Literatures"with Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, Leora Kava and Craig Santos Perez.

Good afternoon and welcome to today's Center for Race and Gender event the Radical Kinship Series event, Indigenous Pacific Islander Eco Literatures: A book talk with the editors Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, Leora Kava and Craig Santos Perez.

Before we begin let me say that there's live captioning available if you locate the bottom on the on the bottom right hand corner of your screen.

Let me begin with a land acknowledgment. We take a moment to acknowledge that Berkeley sits on the territory of xučyun (Huichin (Hoo-Choon), the ancestral and unseated land of the Chochenyo (Cho-chen-yo) speaking Ohlone people the successors of the historic and sovereign Verona Band of Alameda County.

This land was and continues to be of great importance to the Muwekma (Muh-wek-muh) Ohlone Tribe and other familial descendants of the Verona band. We recognize that every member of the Berkeley Community has and continues to benefit from the use and occupation of this land since the institution's founding in Consistent with our values of community and diversity we have a responsibility to acknowledge and make visible the University's relationship to native eoples by offering this land acknowledgment we affirm indigenous sovereignty and will work to hold the University of California Berkeley more accountable to the needs of American Indian and Indigenous peoples.

My name is Leti Volpp and I'm the Director of the Center for Race and Gender here at UC Berkeley. We are thrilled that you can be with us for today's event which is the fourth and final event this year in our Radical Kinship Series.

I want to thank our sister sponsors for today's event the Multicultural Community Center, GenEq -The Gender Equity Resource Center, the LGBTQ Cluster of the Othering and Belonging Institute, and the Townsend Center for the Humanities. Thank you so much for your support. Let me now introduce and thank the fabulous organizer of the Radical Kinship Series and the curator of today's event Alan Pelaez Lopez. Let me say that today marks the end ofan era.

Alan has curated this series for the past three years and brought so many brilliant creative scholars and artists into conversation. This is the very last of the series that Alan will organize for the Center for Race and Gender and we're so grateful to Alan for creating such a generative and rare space for sharing work and discussion that has been so valued by so many people Thank you Alan.

Alan is an Afro-Zapotec artist and scholar from Oaxaca, Mexico. They are the author of "Intergalactic Travels Poems from The Fugitive Alien" published by the Operating system in 2020, which was a finalist for the 2020 International Latino Book Award, as well as "To Love and Mourn In The Age of Displacement," which was published by Nomadic Press in 2020. Alan was recently named a recipient of the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargeant Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship among the largest and most prestigious awards available for young poets in the United States and is also an Assistant Professor of Race and Resistance Studies at San Francisco State University. Thank you and without further ado, I will turn this over to Alan. 

ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ:  Thank you so much for that introduction Leti. Welcome everybody to the Centers for Race and Gender Zoomspace. I am thrilled to be introducing today's event. So I'm going to share my screen very briefly. Split into seven sections, "Indigenous Pacific Islander Eco-Literatures," calls readers to reflect their own politics and relations to other people, organisms more than human species, the environment and climate change. As I read the collection I was struck by two questions I perhaps once considered but I've never deeply engaged with the editors ask,  

What does water teach? What is Oceanic --in thought, in memory, in practice?

In 2019, the Center for Race and Gender's Arts and Humanities Initiative hosted Lehua M. Taitano, Chamorro poet and visual artist, also posed a similar question to the audience. I was thrilled to see Taitano work on these pages and be witness to their visual forms. And their insistence on creating a typographical archipelago on the page that comes together in its existence in rendering a story. In the introduction, the editors speak of finishing the monograph amidst the pandemic and later in the work the editors asked, What place protects you? What place is worthy of your protection? 

For those of you who are watching this panel be it live or in the archives I hope that you ask yourself these questions too. To do so is to commit to a relationship with land but also a relationship with living organisms and like some Indian ecology have pointed out with rocks, clouds, the Sun and more.

Today, Leora Kava, Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, and Craig Santos Perezs will each speak about their experience as editors and select a piece from the anthology that informed changed or nuanced our understanding of perhaps indigeneity or race or sexuality in Pacific Islander literature.

I'm going to read brief bios of the editors and then I'm going to hand over the digital space for them.

The first editor who will be seeking today is Craig Santos Perez who is a Professor in the English Department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. And then I will be followed up by Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, who is a climate Envoy for the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the director of Jo-Jikum, an environmental non-profit. Following Kathy will be Leora also Lee Kava who is an Assistant Professor of Critical Pacific Islands Negotiating and Studies at San Francisco State University.

I'm going to stop my screen sharing and end of the space to archives for this.

CRAIG SANTOS PEREZ: Aloha, thank you Alan, for that very generous introduction. Thank you for bringing us all together and inviting us to to be part of this final event in in the Radical Kinship Series. I've been a big fan of of your poetry, scholarship and multimedia art for many years so it's wonderful to to share the same space with you. And I also want to of course emphasize and support let's use acknowledgment of the indigenous peoples of the Berkeley area which I'm of course a alumnus of UC Berkeley and I want to also acknowledge the Kānaka Maoli or native Hawaiian people where the archipelago where I live now.

Also shout out to my co-editors Lee and Kathy who I haven't shared space with in a while. So it's wonderful to to see you both and looking forward to hearing your voices.

And so yeah as Alan mentioned this we completed this anthology during the pandemic but it's it seeds go back nearly 10 years where we first started conceptualizing this project. As a faculty member at the University of Hawaii at Manoa I was very blessed to have both Lee and Kathy in one of my graduate Pacific Literature courses and I was really struck by how they both represented the environment in their writing from from a Pacific Islander perspective and that really inspired me to invite them to on this crazy journey to try to edit this massive project together and you know given it it took us like I said almost 10 years our lives have changed quite a bit. I'm the last one left at the University and they both got on to do amazing things in their careers.

And so this Anthology was was such an honor to to work with both of you together and to see in the world circulating. It just really has been a special project for me so thank you both.

All right with all that said the poem I wanted to share is from the section on a human animal relations.

And it's a poem by Teresia Teaiwa, who was kind of a mentor to all of us in different ways and and very sadly she passed away during the editing of this project. So even though she sent us some amazing poems she didn't get to see the the final project, the final product so I wanted to to read one of her poems just to honor her and to really I think kind of roottoday's event in really the deep space that she articulates. It's called, "My Jesus is a Monk Seal."  

And for those following along at home it's on page 270, and as you'll see it really speaks to and  

the relationship between indigenous identity, spirituality and ecology.

My Jesus is a Monk Seal --  

The path to hell

is paved with good intentions,

and I had every intention of going to mass

on Easter Sunday, 2015.

Nothing physical prevented me from walking

the 1.9 miles from the New Otani Kaimana Beach

to St. Augustine by-the-Sea

for the 6 a.m., 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 5 p.m. masses.

So many options for fulfilling this

Holy Day of obligation,

I really had no excuse.

Nothing other than a sneaking suspicion

that my savior was not going to reveal himself to me

as a Middle Eastern man

but as a Hawaiian monk seal.

That’s my excuse.

That’s my Jesus.

Sure, it’s blasphemy according to

Canon Law.

But as my friend Flo says,

laws are made by men,

and therefore can be changed.

Like the law which states

that the body of Christ

can only be represented

by wheat bread,

and his blood only by grape wine.

Church law, therefore,

dictates that the body and blood

of our Savior must always be imported—

shipped or flown in from foreign faraway lands.

In Hawai‘i, in Fiji, in Kiribati—

Jesus is always colonizer, tourist, or cargo.

And in good conscience

I feel I must follow Flo.

Our savior was crucified

according to the laws of men.

Change the laws.

Let my Eucharist be

breadfruit and coconut

grown from the lands of

my birth, adoption and ancestry!

Let the sun of God baptize

all us wanderers

on the sidewalks in Waikiki!

And let us all step off the pavement

to worship this majesty.

My faith is being decolonized

and my friend Father Kevin

is concerned about binaries.

“Why either/or?

Can it be and/both?

Universal and particular?

Connected and distinct?”

Settler and native?

Anthropocentric and animistic?

Because history has entangled us,

theology confounds us,

and language shortchanges us.

But memory is what will define us.

And the truth is that

long before there was a me,

a young fisherman at sea

was startled by a creature

that jumped into his outrigger.

It barked. Terrifyingly.

And then dove back into the ocean.

It was no dog. So was it a devil?

The young man paddled back to shore,

and his story became legend.

Until the time came

when he had to exchange his youth

with his eldest son,

who came back from university in Hawai‘i

certain he could explain the mystery

of the barking marine being.

“A lost seal,” my father told his father,

“A lost seal.”

And so the legend continues,

because now I can tell my sons

about the seal I encountered

perfectly at home

among both tourists and locals,

malihini and kama‘aina,

haole and kanaka.

And like Jesus after the Resurrection,

he would be taken into heaven.

Except his heaven and mine

is deep undersea.

Thank you to Teresia Teaiwa.

So now that I'll pass the mic to our second reader who I believe is [laughter] Kathy.  

KATHY JETNIL-KIJINER: Hi, thanks so much Craig really appreciate sharing that piece and grounding us in Teresia's words. Teresia is such a an important person for so many of us her scholarship and her work. I think beginning with her is perfect. I'm going to share a piece from uh my friend, Teresa Siagatonu, "Atlas." I thought it'd be nice to kind of come come around to sort of the legacy of Teresia. You know Teresa like myself was you know has has learned so much from Teresia and is now kind of beginning her own journey as a writer who's doing some really interesting things out there as a Samoan poet but also now YA novelist. You know that she's working on  so really grateful that she was able to share this piece with us.

So maybe I'll just jump in and read the piece, but I also just really want to highlight how much you know work Craig put into helping to put together this anthology and leading us you know in putting it together. So much of our work is rooted in environmentalism but I don't get to participate in the curation or you know as much of an art space practice as I'd like. And being a part of this was such an honor,

So I'm just going to read the piece now. And this piece she wrote is dedicated to Teresia so that's actually also a good connection. so she wrote,

If you open up any atlas

and take a look at a map of the world,

almost every single one of them

slices the Pacific Ocean in half.

To the human eye,

every map centers all the land masses on Earth

creating the illusion

that water can handle the butchering

and be pushed to the edges

of the world.

As if the Pacific Ocean isn’t the largest body living today

beating the loudest heart

the reason why land has a pulse in the first place.

The audacity one must have

to create a visual so violent

as to assume that no one comes

from water

so no one will care

what you do with it

and yet,

people came from land

are still coming from land

and look what was done to them.

When people ask me where I’m from,

they don’t believe me when I say water.

So instead, I tell them that home is a machete

and that I belong to places

that don’t belong to themselves anymore

broken and butchered places that have made me

a hyphen of a woman:

a Samoan-American that carries the weight of both

colonizer and colonized

both blade and blood

California      stolen.

Samoa           sliced in half       stolen.

California, nestled on the western coast of the most powerful country on

this planet

Samoa, an island so microscopic on a map that it’s no wonder people

doubt its existence

California, a state of emergency away from having the drought rid it of all

its water

Samoa, a state of emergency away from becoming a saltwater cemetery

if the sea level doesn’t stop rising.

When people ask me where I’m from,

what they want is to hear me speak of land

what they want is to know where I go once I leave here

the privilege that comes with assuming that home is just a destination,

and not the panic.

Not the constant migration that the panic gives birth to.

What is it like? To know that home is something that’s waiting for you to

return to it?

What does it mean to belong to something that isn’t sinking?

What does it mean to belong to what is causing the flood?

So many of us come from water

but when you come from water

no one believes you.

Colonization keeps laughing.

Global warming is grinning

at all your grief.

How you mourn the loss of a home

that isn’t even gone yet.

That no one believes you’re from.

How everyone is beginning

to hear more

about your island,

but only in the context of vacation and honeymoons

football and military life

exotic women exotic fruit exotic beaches

but never asks about the rest of its body.

The water.

The islands breathing in it.

The reason why they’re sinking.

No one visualizes islands in the Pacific

as actually being there.

You explain and explain and clarify

and correct their incorrect pronunciation

and explain

until people remember just how vast your ocean is

how microscopic your islands look in it

how easy it is to miss when looking

on a map of the world.

Excuses people make

for why they didn’t see it


Thank you. Thank you. oh sorry I meant to say it pass it on to Lee. [laughter]

LEORA (LEE) KAVA:  Thank you so much, Kathy,I really appreciate that poem I teach it to my students. I was just teaching it in my film class in order for our folks to understand the ways in which our Pacific our ocean has become a project in the imaginations of others and how we are taking back that power of determination, self-determination, and then in order to steer toward a future where our Islands are still here.

So I think it's pretty awesome to like hear Craig's piece from Teresia and then of course Risa's amazing peace, Atlas, and I actually independent of each other we all chose things that bring us back to Teresia. I want to say thank you to Craig and Kathy so much for the years of like going back and forth, we are like hopping around different islands and emailing and going back and forth, and Craig thank you so much for training us in that graduate course and teaching us about the history of how our writers have gathered us together.

I think about this collection as part of a much longer genealogy of anthologies thinking back to Albert Wendt's work in gathering folks since the 60s and really Craig showing us over years and years of kind of modeling behavior and teaching us how to keep that kind of legacy going as we gather our words.

Even more Kathy I miss you dude, I like it's so like it's been a minute since we were like showing up late to Craig's class but I miss our family and I never forget all of those things that we were able to connect on being at UH and then being able to take those lessons and I carry both of 

you with me as I teach my students.

I am going to read another Teresia piece. For those of you following along, Alan I love your language and speaking to the future.  For those of us who are here right now in the present moment and to also to those of you who join us in the archive later it's on page 127. And this is also part of the section, Land and Islands. 

And her piece is, "To Island".

Shall we make “island” a verb? As a noun, it’s so vulnerable to impinging forces.

Let us turn the energy of the island inside out. Let us “island” the world! Let us

teach the inhabitants of planet Earth how to behave as if we were all living on

islands! For what is Earth but an island in our solar system? An island of precious

ecosystems and finite resources. Finite resources. Limited space. The

islanded must understand that to live long and well, they need to take care.

Care for other humans, care for plants, animals; care for soil, care for water.

Once islanded, humans are awakened from the stupor of continental fantasies.

The islanded can choose to understand that there is nothing but more islands

to look forward to. Continents do not exist, metaphysically speaking. It is

islands all the way up, islands all the way down. Islands to the right of us, islands

to the left. 

Yes, there is a sea of islands. And “sea” can be a verb, just as “ocean” becomes

a verb of awesome possibility. But let us also make “island” a verb. It is a way of

living that could save our lives

I just wanted to share that with everybody.

Yeah I think about that piece in the ways that Islands get us to think on a species level. Islands in so many ways in a colonial sense is always about you know being marooned on an island is the worst thing that could happen it was used as a punishment, but for us who come from islands and from water we understand that to Island is to understand ourselves in deep connection with one another. That we have to use absolutely all of our creativity and our practicality to make futures out of absolutely everything that we have at hand, and to do so sustainably.

Nothing can be left behind and nothing can be forgotten. I think about that in terms of where we are right now in this particular decade, the work that Kathy's doing in terms of climate change, in terms of environmental justice which are two major sections , section 6 and 7 of this anthology are climate change and environmental justice. Because I want. I want to use this, I am using this book in order to work with my students to imagine and work toward our better futures.

So, What would it mean if we all islanded ourselves?

Thank you. I'll give it back to Alan. Thank you so much everyone.

ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ:  Thank you so much, Craig, Kathy, and Lee for those beautiful renderings and articulations. I think that the way that you read and situated us, really made space for us to get right to it.

You know one of the things that came to mind is how I was hearing you read was the imagination that exists in Pacific Islander literature. And I'm wondering if one of you wants to address the role of the imagination when you were editing, kind of, kind of like the things really got you excited, or the things that maybe you had difficulty with because maybe you weren't part of those communities and the ethical choices you had to make. So the 

imagination and Pacific Islander literature.

CRAIG SANTOS PEREZ: Yes. I'm happy to to jump in first. Thank you, Alan, for that question.  

That was definitely you know, we had all studied specific literature and so we were kind of familiar with the themes and you know of course with many of these writers but what surprised me was you know how many new writers submitted to this anthology as well as how I was able to to kind of see the work of writers that I've you know I've studied and taught before but in a new lens.

Because you know so much of Pacific literature there are overlapping themes and so it's not just you know a poem about the environment but it's also about environmental justice, culture, identity, migration, diaspora, urbanization, and so on. And so to really kind of you know focus on on the particular topic of of the environment of ecology. Just kind of helped me you know imagine these writers in new ways, but also to imagine a whole new network of Pacific writers from across our region and our Global diaspora as well.

The anthology is intergenerational, so we have many younger writers as well who have not published books yet. So it's nice to bring them together into, you know again this kind of Imagine kinship network with with older more established writers, and then a lot of the work is is multilingual, too.

And so you know that did made me think differently about how we imagine the environment not simply through English which is you know that the work is predominantly written but also in our own Heritage languages and multilingually as well. And there are works in translation particularly from parts of the Pacific where some of the writers write in French and so we're able to work with translators there's also a piece from the Marshall Islands and from West Papua in different Heritage languages.

And so just being able to see the environment in a new way, through these different languages, different generations of writers, across the region you know from urban Islanders and you know folks who maybe live in more rural spaces, I've just really expanded my imagination. As you can see the book itself a hundred authors almost around 400 pages, so it really does kind of transform the imagination when you read it as a whole.

So yeah that was kind of my experience with that. Maybe I'll pass it over to Kathy now.

KATHY JETNIL-KIJINER: Yeah, I think you know I think it's so easy to get caught up in, for me at least you know I don't have as much experience with Anthology as Craig does so I was really leaning heavily as I said earlier in learning about it. You know and figuring out how pieces can have conversations with each other and there is also that intergenerational conversation happening right so I was really focused on getting some Marshallese writers who have not been published who are not really known who aren't in other canons to be in this in, in conversation with these other pieces and writers and more established specific authors.

So I think for me that you know there was there's that, you know I was definitely, you know hoping to kind of encompass that a bit better. But you know I think also I've just been thinking recently that Oceania is so complex, and even just looking at environmental issues within Oceana is very, very complex you know and there's different you issues we're all grappling with, and we have our different identities and it's so rooted in the land, and I think that, that's what makes literature so powerful is it gives us that possibility to possibility of being as big as the ocean.

You know, big you know and making ourselves bigger to encompass all of these different parts of our region, so and I think that's what this you know collection tries to accomplish in showing all of these gray areas and these complexities. So I think that's all I would just share is that that was like a learning lesson for me, yeah. Maybe I'll pass to Lee.

LEORA (LEE) KAVA: Yeah, I'm just going to uplift with Craig and Kathy are saying as well is the imagination is so important it's a very, very critical tool.

I think imagination gets really kind of downplayed as something like daydreaming, but I think back to and thinking of Walidah Imarisha and her introduction to Octavius Brood which I've been reading Teresia's piece really kind of gets me into thinking about science fiction, and so I think it's a an important way to kind of you know connect also to Octavia Butler's work but also Walidah Imarisha and her definition of visionary fiction that is meant to get us to look at structures of power which can actually be reiterated in mainstream science fiction.

And so thinking about the imagination Walidah Imarisha says in that introduction is that all social justice organizing is science fiction. And not in terms of like it's not real, in terms of like what do you need to do in order to imagine a future given the technologies that you have now. Given what you have, you have to push yourself to that what if?

What if we have a nuclear free? And what if we have a nuclear free and independent Pacific?

That was a movement, it was a whole movement, a deeply effective one, and one of the things that they talked about, one of the tenets of that movement is that what happens in one part of our ocean affects all parts of the ocean.

Kind of getting to let Terisa's work really points out is like this is an entire body. We have to shift our imagination or tilt our heads in order to kind of see past the projects that colonialism has created by seeing our Islands as completely isolated.

Looking at the ocean as a barrier other than a connector it's the imagination that allows us to reclaim our kinship networks that were so deeply interrupted and sometimes still have to push through. You know Colonial and Imperial boundaries, so the imagination I think it, I mean it's like. it's in the title, it's in the cover as well just thinking about like all of these things coming together. All of these pieces, Pieces of us, all parts of our body coming together requires deep imagination followed up by like deep practicality.

So I think that's how this Anthology kind of brings us all together too, like when you read each section you can see so many different kinds of things weaving together but you're also I think going back to Teresia Teaiwa work and her insistence on the importance of specificity or what she would call a specific, "s/Pacific", way of looking at things is that we have such complexity as Kathy said but in order to really honor that complexity and understand how we can move toward a future you have to be very deeply specific about how you interact with your environment, with your community, how you Tawila, or how you tend to the spaces between them.

So that's how I feel this this Anthology operationalizes that kind of care in that space between us and all our vastness and also in our specificities.

ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ:  Thank you, Lee. I think that listening to you talk about specificity it reminds me of Kathy the the afterward you are so intentional and political and afterward there's this quote that I'm going to read to you. I'm going to read you back your own writing if that's okay? You write, "Eco-facism is a political model that forgets the importance of the community, that doesn't value individual lives. our culture reminds us, though that every life counts."

I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about eco-fascism and kind of the political interventions that come up in Indigenous Pacific Islander Eco-Literatures in response to eco-fascisms.

KATHY JETNIL-KIJNER:  Yeah, I guess I can speak to a little bit to that I think the idea is just that there's a lot of solutions that are coming forward that you know within the the work that I do which is predominantly in a climate space, international climate space and it's a lot of time these solutions leave behind our most vulnerable community members. They expect sacrifices you know from Pacific, in particular.  "Well, you'll just have to leave that Island won't you? Because of the rising sea level." And there's also, you know, the idea that there's also been discussions about like population control you know, "Oh it's because there's too much people on Earth, so we have to control the population and that's why we're having all of these environmental issues. And there's all these really extreme solutions that, you know like. that leave behind our vulnerable community members, our elders, our indigenous people.

And I think it's just, I think that's what's so important about this collection is you know these voices that are uplifted and held in space and time, you know and their experiences are valuable and so I think that's kind of what, you know, I was referencing in the work that I've done.

So yeah a short, short answer I would say.  But thank you.

ALAN PALAEZ LOPEZ:  Absolutely. Does anybody else want to reply to that? No need to. No? Okay.

And now I'm wondering if you each maybe want to share something that you learned from another writer that kind of surprised you or that you're like, "Wow, I hadn't seen this that way?!" So if you can you know uplift the writer in the Anthology say their name, put it in the chat and then tell us what you learned from that specific writer.


CRAIG SANTOS PEREZ:  I could. I'll try to jump in first again. You pointed out Lehua Taitano's work, and one thing that's exciting to me about this Anthology as well is that there, there are a lot of kind of experimental writers. We're kind of composing it more like avant-garde and post-modern modes and so you know for me that was really exciting to juxtapose with some of the other narrative, lyric poems, as well as some of the creative non-fiction and fiction that's in this anthology.

And I guess what I learned from these you know avant-garde specific writers is that there is no one way to to write about the environment, or know like perfect technique, or form that can really capture all the complexity of you know kind of the human environmental relations across the Pacific.

And so you know I really learned how how diverse the aesthetics and just the the styles of all our writers are. And yet you know bringing them together feels very powerful because sometimes there there can be you know maybe aesthetic divisions, and maybe sometimes you know people will promote a certain way to write about these topics that may or may not be more effective, or digestible, or even accessible. And so for me I learned a lot about you know thinking these kind of unconventional experimental ways to write about the environment that I think really defamiliarize how we see kind of nature, and then offer us really different, you know , languages and forms in which to capture these relationships.

So shout out to you Lehua Taitano maybe a few other folks in writing in that mode, No'u Revilla is another one, and Audrey Brown-Pereira. That's another piece in here that's that's really experimental as well.

Yeah. Maybe I'll pass it to Lee this time.

LEORA (LEE) KAVA: Yeah, I was like searching real quick I was going through this again have always I've always really loved Hone Tuwhare work, it was Maori Elder writer, and I've actually taught his work, "No ordinary sun" in conversation with Kathy's work. Both Kathy's poetry and activism with an approaching with frameworks of looking at solidarity through writing that Craig had taught me, taught us.

But I always like, it was just so shocked sometimes because there's these pieces hold so much weight, each one holds it's like different kinds of water to me, and I was going through and I found you know,  I return to this piece by Hone Tuwhare "Bird of prayer" which is very short. But I just wanted to read it here because this really does kind of stick out to me sometimes. It's just this kind of breath that still holds weight.  

And this is his poem.

On the skyline a hawk 

languidly typing a hunting poem with its wings.

[Kathy sighs]

And I think it's, that's the poem and I just think it's so elegant and so so very, it brings that kind of sense of familiarity when I read Hone Tuwhare's work and it also I feel is like a really beautiful gift to students as well, to our audience as well. As just our language is every like our languages have always been reflections of our relationship to our environments.

So for example like, and I use this a lot,  but I use the Tongan word "fono matala" it has you know a prefix "to make something" and then matala means "to explain".  In Tongan to make something explain, to make something understood to somebody. But it's root word is for flowers to bloom.

So this lesson, just one, one very deep lesson and just one word from song we have Marshallese speakers here, we have Chamorro speakers here. It teaches us an environmental ethic of that understanding, my ancestors understood, understanding as like this blooming of flowers when something is made understood. It's like a blooming and that required deep observation and engagement with their environment. And that got encoded into our language.

So I think about this in the ways that our people are also using multiple languages, not just, our even if we're reclaiming our languages. We're also using English. We're using French. We're using all of these. We're using multiple pigeons.

Going back to Hone Tuwhare's work is just like the language is all around you to give yourself some understanding. So I encourage my students to think about this as like the poetry is there.  

Here's our practice of observation which Hone Tuwhare does so beautifully in "Bird of Prayer" that piece.

[Kathy sighs].  

So I'll pass it over to Kathy. 

KATHY JETNIL-KIJINER:  Yeah, sure I also did not realize my mic was on. I was sitting here going um, um. [laughs]

I think for me all of what has just been said just for a quick addition is just I really appreciate the ways in which we are processing grief in this collection. It shows up time and time again and in really powerful ways. uh Donovan has a poem. Donovan Colleps has a poem about you know his mother going through cancer treatment and you know that connection and and the weight of that grief there and I really appreciated that piece. And it also felt for me it connects to so many other pieces but it shows up again for me on a personal level when there's this really you know when with what Craig said about avant-garde, it's not exactly avant-garde I guess.

But there's this note from Teresia where all she just writes is "I in truth I have gathered you all from the same garden" and it's just leaves. And it was just like these leaves she gathered herself and it's such a gift to have this you know, that she wrote herself in this photograph of it, in this piece. And also feeling like that's what she was doing with her scholarship and her work is gathering us all from the same garden.

I think that’s, those were kind of pieces that stuck out to me in the first initial reading was that concept of grief and how it's connected and layered throughout. Throughout, you know not just personal, and connecting that personal grief to ecological grief, you know and I think that's something I've been thinking again a lot about in my work is processing that ecological grief. The climate grief, that you know folks are beginning to contend with now. And so I think that's those were surprises for me. Thanks.

ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ:  Thank you for your generous reflections.  It is at 4:45 and this is a moment where we at the CRG want to open it up for questions from the audience. So if you're with us live right now feel free to type in your question in the chat or to click on the Q&A  box at the bottom of the zoom screen.

While we wait for the questions I was really struck with some of the the ways in which I identify with some of the pieces. There was one in particular that I translated it and read it to my mom and it's from John Puhiatau Pule. There's this quote where John writes,  

"Clouds understand the phenomena involved in earth movements, because they are nations in themselves." 

And my family is Zapotec and we consider ourselves "People of the Clouds" and we are next to the Mixtec which are "People of the Rain" and just interacting with this Anthology from somebody who's from you know the Southern Pacific Coast of Mexico, I was just like wow the amount of overlap in thinking with water, with clouds, was beautiful to witness. So thank you for bringing us such a gift providing us incubating the space.

So Zack Anderson has typed the question in the chat. Zack asks. Since publication are there any other pieces you think you could have included in the collection?

CRAIG SANTOS PEREZ:  Yes, I would say some some work by Zach himself, who's a wonderful writer.

Yeah I'll comment briefly on that. There is so much. You know we stopped editing this maybe and 2020 perhaps and after that it was just copy editing and you know the whole production process took about two years. And even just within that those two years from 2020 to 2022 there's been so many more publications by Pacific writers. So many more young Pacific writers kind of emerging as well, and then many established writers you know publish a bunch of new books, too. So literally we could do a whole second Anthology, volume two with work that we couldn't include in this volume.

And I think that's really exciting just to see the the kind of you know current renaissance of Pacific literature that's being published throughout the Pacific and the U.S. as well and there's a lot of already published literature that is out there too that we could have exerted from or you know tried to get permission to publish to republish but we were already at our maximum capacity. You know 100,000 words, we couldn't include anything more. But as we've alluded to you know the environment is you know a major theme pretty much in every, for every Pacific writer. And so yeah we could do, you know every five years, do a new one of these anthologies and not run out of work. But yeah, so there's many more including including Zach.

ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ:  Thank you, Craig. I think there's another question relationship to like resources and Josiah asks, Are there any text poems or otherwise that you find particularly useful or foundational for teaching undergraduates about Pacific Islander literature?

CRAIG SANTOS PEREZ:  Well, I'll definitely say Kathy's work is probably taught in every environmental literature class. And I think all of her poems and many of the video prompts you I think are perfect kind of foundational text. I'll also add in Lee's work, especially if you're teaching a unit on language and the environment. Many of Lee's poems kind of approach that that theme in interesting multilingual ways. So both of my co-editors here I would say to teach their work in a class.  

And maybe I'll pass it over to Lee have anothersuggestions because I know you're teaching as well.

LEORA (LEE) KAVA:  Yeah, I will also kind of just draw on my training at the University of Hawaii, the work that Pacific Islander faculty and affiliate faculty have been doing to support Pacific Islanders at the University. Especially Craig's activism in the English Department connected to the Center for Pacific Island Studies connected to Indigenous Politics connected to, like all of these like kinship circles, connected to Hawaiian Studies, connected to all of our work together. I think about Craig's insistence on really bring in genealogy.

And so one of the pieces from this work that I think would be a really important thing to orient students toward kind of shifting paradigms especially if you have, if you have. I mean I'm just going to speak from my experience, Alan and my experience, teaching at San Francisco State University we have Pacific Islanders in our classes but not the majority so we're teaching to students who have different levels of access to their cultural heritage to their history. And we're also teaching to non-Pacific Islander students who may have not engaged with these questions or been asked these questions before.

So, one of the ways both within Pacific Island studies and in Pacific Islander literature I usually begin with the Epeli Hau'ofa, Tongan anthropologist, who actually like took anthropology as a whole to task in the ways that it treats the Pacific. And in this Anthology there's an excerpt from "The ocean in Us" which I think is really, really helpful for getting students to orient and to get themselves to ask questions about how they were exposed to images and stories of the Pacific.  

Where did those images come from? So one the first things that I asked my students are when you hear or see the word Pacific what are the first images that come to you? And of course we get like beaches, ocean, water, palm trees. And I asked them about the beaches are there people on those beaches and a lot of the answer is "No". And these are images that are from, especially from U.S. and Colonial representations of the Pacific, as these open places where you can just go. There's no consequences. There's no way, like no one's there to ask you what brought you here, as like a kind of responsibility. It's always just these are open tourist spaces.

And what we do is we start there with like students being able to, and also we have Pacific Islander students, is like when I think of the Pacific I think my grandparents. I think of the love stories between my parents. I think about my younger siblings. I think about the fact that maybe I haven't been able to go see my ancestral Islands yet because of the stresses of like having to get there and get back. So Epeli Hau'ofa is a really good space to kind of open up that complexity of connection to the ocean. And the responsibilities to those histories from this ocean. So I would start with Epeli Hau'ofa and then also you know being able to build on that Teresa's poem that Kathy read, I teach that in the beginning of my mapping units every single class.

This is the con, these are the material and imagined and like embodied consequences of just looking at the maps of the Pacific. Where do these names come from? Melanesia? Or Micronesia? Polynesia? These are not our names. They were placed on us, so it's like, those are some. And I think throughout this entire Anthology you see the ways in which our writers are always in some way connecting back to reclaiming their histories or speaking back to 

Colonial definitions and then building futures. So, I guess that's the way that I would build the 

syllabus, I guess, but I'll pass it over to Kathy.

KATHY JETNIL-KIJINER:  Thanks Lee. I definitely think you should teach my writing. I'm just kidding but I definitely do think Craig also of course, Craig's writing.  And I think Lee really covered it "The Ocean in Us" and Epeli Hau'ofa are such like important texts in the Pacific and they are the basis for so much work and so much thinking and even now with people calling them you know preferring to be called you know from Oceania rather than Pacific Islanders.  

And so uh that's another one, and then of course Teresia, Teresia has a really good article, "Bikinis and Other Specific Notions”, which may be a little heady but I think what I appreciate about it is it highlights the nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands and that's something we you know there's just not enough awareness of.  So otherwise yeah I think a lot of this, this is a great foundational text actually because it covers so much of those, more those foundational texts. I mean the you know the elders, you know the ancestors, who came before us as writers. And it has these up-and-coming art artists and writers who are you know coming into their own and grappling with more modern issues. So yeah I would actually recommend this text as a good source for starting those classes and curriculum.


ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ: Thank you so much. In the Q&A box there's a question about your process as editors. And Alani Fuji writes, "I'm wondering if all working on the Anthology in 2020 in what way is the Black Lives Matter perhaps the hypervisibility or protest during this time affect the editing process if any or even thoughts on your own writing/teaching during this time?"

CRAIG SANTOS PEREZ:  Yeah, thank you for that question. Not only editing or trying to finish editing in 2020. You know about the with Black Lives Matter movement, all the the horrible police brutality that that continues to go on and you know even just the pandemic as well made it a very kind of difficult emotional process.

And you know as we talk about in the preference too in some ways the the Anthology kind of helped us kind of get through that to just have you know feel that sense of kinship and and connection with these writers to work on something that you know was towards kind of social justice, environmental justice and climate justice. And just like a way to to bring folks together.

You know for me personally with with Black Lives Matter, I was thinking about you know some of the the mixed race of Black Pacific writers that are out there because that became a big conversation during this time within the Pacific Community.

Shout out to Danielle Williams, who's a Chamorro Black writer, who is in this anthology. You know beyond that also thinking about Melanesia or you know melanie meaning black, kind of the so-called black Pacific, and you know wanting to make sure we had strong representation from Melanesia. From and you know from that region which is often kind of marginalized in some of the anthologization of Pacific literature.  

And so that was kind of at least the two ways you know the Black Lives Matter influence this work. On a personal note I did end up writing a piece called, "Black Lives Matters in the Pacific" for the Ethnic Studies Journal and that was just kind of a little bit of a mapping of some of the conversations that were going on with the Pacific communities during the Black Lives Movement.

So I don't know if Kathy or Lee anything to add I know we're we're running up against time as well.

LEORA (LEE) KAVA:  I think what, I think what I would want to say is in terms of looking at you know Black Lives Matter, I was in Tonga when the pandemic started and also like watching, is that because you know how do you support your family and friends who are out there putting their lives on the line and really reiterating very, very critical questions about power while also having to grieve and then also having to go up against State violence,  and then also having to address like deeper.

These are things that I was noticing also like in the ways that people were trying to connect over Zoom, to have those deep conversations about anti-blackness in the Pacific.  About how it is that we again, or to how is it that you maintain, or take care of the space between you? And I think it comes back to the ways that I think about the anthology are possibilities or modes of doing that kind of care.

And again, going back to Teresia's work, the specificity of that care needs to be very, it needs to be held sacred at the utmost in order to really do true solidarity building.  You have to be specific, you have to be specific about needs, about context, about experiences of racialization and racism.

And you have to we have to engage with our our deep histories. I mean the Pacific is named through anti-blackness. Right?! Polynesia, many islands. Micronesia, small Islands. Melanesia, black Islands. One of these does not fit with the other ones. The other ones are geographical. the other one has to do with skin color. So the ways we were mapped I think going back to Teresa's work also is that you have to engage very specifically with our with our history so that's what was coming to me while I was looking at this Anthology and then also watching things from Tonga and then having to have those conversations in Tonga.

So I don't know if this answers the question very much other than trying to open up more possibilities for more specific and more expensive work. I'll give it to Kathy.

KATHY JETNIL KIJINER: I don't have too much to add. I had to grapple with this kind of similar things as what Craig and Lee has been talking about.  I was in the Marshall Islands when that was all happening and from my part I didn't write but I helped organize our youth to show solidarity from the Marshall Islands with the Black Lives Matter movement.  

So that's what we kind of did. We had a we had an organizing session where we created art and

and shared you know publicly about our support for the Black Lives Matter movement so and that was kind of you know it.  The conversation isn't really out there in the Marshall Islands yet about why this was happening or you know the intricacies of it, so it was a really good moment for the Youth to be actually, you know, educating some of their Elders about what they knew and what they were learning. Which was from a lot of social media, to be honest, and yet it was so powerful and then I see someone as recommending, Pacifica Black, I haven't read that but I you know I think that's probably a good start, too, thank you.

ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ:  Thank you so much Kathy, Lee, and Craig for joining the Center for Race and Gender in this digital space. I'm gonna drop the link one more time for the edited volume. Everybody in the audience thank you for joining us this afternoon or wherever you may be because I know we're in very different places right now, but we really appreciate your time and your commitment everybody. Please scoop a copy of "Indigenous Pacific Islander Eco-Literatures".