‘Pacific Islander’ an insulting umbrella term, researcher tells Royal Commission

The Royal Commission into Abuse in Care is holding hearings at Fale o Samoa in Māngere (file photo). Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

RNZ – 5:28 am on 22 July 2021 by Andrew McRae, Reporter andrew.mcrae@rnz.co.nz

Researcher Seini Taufa, who is a New Zealand-born Tongan, said the names were not indigenous terms and were insulting.

Taufa is research lead for Moana Research and Senior Pacific Advisor for the Growing up in New Zealand Longitudinal Study.

She has given evidence to the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care’s Pacific inquiry being held in South Auckland.

Taufa quoted author, Albert Wendt.

”I am called a Pacific Islander when I arrive at Auckland Airport. Elsewhere I am Samoan.”

Taufa said lumping everyone together robbed people of their true identity.

”We did not name ourselves Pacific Islanders, we did not name ourselves Polynesian. These are terms that were constructed by palagi within a colonial context.”

She said preconceived ideas around being called a Pacific Islander or Polynesian influenced the way Pacific people self identify.

”While the umbrella term Pacific is useful when making global comparisons, it’s futile when applied to actual people and groups of people who consider themselves not Pacific or Polynesian, but Samoan, Tongans, Fijians, Cook Islanders and so on.”

Taufa said, in a New Zealand context, Pacific people have been marked for as long as they have settled in Aotearoa whereby the Pacific embodiment is interpreted differently from context to context.

”On the rugby field and among the All Blacks, Pacific male bodies are celebrated. In a crime and punishment context, Pacific male bodies are associated with racist discourses of violence, rape, gangs, fear and danger.”

”Pacific people thus construct their identities and live their lives at the intersection of positive histories, language and culture and negative and stereotypical ideas and beliefs produced by the dominant group,” she said.

Taufa said many abuse survivors experienced racism and discrimination first hand.



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