Wanda Ieremia-Allan provides the second of the reflections from our PhD students who attended the recent AAPS conference in Canberra.
Fleets abound with Pacific scholars, creatives, activists and politicians met at the April 2023 ‘To Hell With Drowning’ Pacific Studies conference at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. As a child of Sapapali’i, Sāoluafata, Safotulafai, Lalomanu, Vaie’e, Matāutu Falealili in Samoa, I extend my Fa’afetai to people of the unceded Ngunnawal and Ngambri lands (Canberra Australia) for their warm welcome and hospitality to country. Thank you also to the Australian Association for Pacific Studies (AAPS) organising committee led by Professor Katerina Teaiwa and Talei Mangioni for their care. Fa’afetai to the AAPS for the Guy Powles travel prize that made it possible for me to attend and I am grateful to my supervisors Dr. Jess Pasisi (Otago), Professor Alice Te Punga Somerville (UBC) and Tootooleaava Dr. Fanaafi Aiono Le-Tagaloa (USP Samoa) for their unwavering support and guidance. Thank you especially to Dr Jess Pasisi for the academic manaakitanga extended to many PhD students.
On a panel with Dr Pauline Reynolds of the Norfolk Island Museum and PhD student Hineitimoana Greensill, I presented my paper on Indigenous Pacific language archives and its role in ‘Rethinking Australian Coloniality through Pacific Biography’. Utilising the intersections between Professor Epeli Hau’ofa’s notion of the ‘totality of relationships’ and Māori scholar Professor Alice Te Punga Somerville’s poem ‘Room’ provided an opportunity to think about: ancestral links; ideological connections; and spaces of reckoning and recovery.
My paper focussed on Samoan historiography and the kinds of work that are made possible when we centre on Samoan language archives as sites of Indigenous knowledge production and historical recovery. This resulted in the emergence of an intellectual, geographical, linguistic and cultural Pacific expansiveness alongside the rich long standing embodied stories of Pacific connectivity that not only interrogate pervasive Australia white settler colonial histories but demand more institutional university spaces to conduct decolonial work with our languages. Samoan language archives recovered links with fellow kin, in particular South Sea Islanders of Mer Island, Torres Strait Island region where Samoan missionaries and local Mer Island people established the London Missionary Society church named ‘O le Sulu Samoa’ in 1902. Letters from Badu Islands and Vanuatu recovered family histories and brought to light the many ways in which Pacific Islanders see each other and connect over oceans of memory.
Advocating for the use of our own epistemological paradigms in archival engagement is necessary because as matua Tuaopepe Albert Wendt asserts ‘Oceania deserves more than an attempt at mundane fact; only the imagination in free flight can hope, if not to contain her, to grasp some of her shape, plumage and pain’. This is the wero (challenge) set for us all.
 Hau’Ofa, E. (1994). Our sea of islands. The Contemporary Pacific, 148-161.
 Wendt, Albert, 1982. Towards a New Oceania. In: G. Amirthanayagam. (eds) Writers in East-West Encounter: New Cultural Bearings. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp 202-215.