I am a Pacific person of Samoan heritage whose home is Aotearoa-New Zealand. I wear the marks of my culture on my body--the pe'a--which reminds me of sacred relationships--Le Va--between myself and the spiritual world, first and foremost. And though I am a mere speck in that universe, I am still a part of that universe and I have a responsibility to shine my own light by serving others.
The tatau I wear on my body remind me that my second sacred relationship is with my fellow human beings. First my roles and responsibility as a son, a brother, a husband, a father and a matai. Not only in my immediate circles, but also extending out to the wider community, my country, and the world--with the roles and the responsibilities that I hold. This sacred relationship reminds me that we each have a mutual responsibility to support one another and to maintain peaceful and harmonious relationships. That whatever role we have, we must perform it well. As my mother reminded me, 'whatever thou art, act well thy part'.
My pe'a reminds me that my third sacred relationship is with my environment--the trees, the rivers, the mountains, the forests, the oceans, the rain, the winds, the sun, the moon and the stars, the birds, the fish and all living things therein. We each have a responsibility to be guardians and to leave a legacy for the benefit of future generations. We are all connected in the Pacific, whether it be through genealogy, through the colonial past of strife and war, or through trade or sport. We are in and of and will always be of the Pacific.
Academics have called us Polynesians, Melanesians or Micronesians. We are simply peoples of the Pacific. The youth of Aotearoa refer to us as Pacific Nesians. Maori refer to us as Moana Niu a kiwa: peoples of the vast Pacific ocean. Maui's canoe is the South Island, its anchor is Steward Island and the North Island was the fish Maui caught with his hook. Therefore, New Zealand is a nation that is firmly anchored in the vast Blue Pacific region.
I am also a minister of the government of AotearoaNew Zealand. I am the first to take my ministerial oath in my first language, my heritage language--the language of the angels, and I will not be the last. I am called Aupito--of the extended Aiga Salevalasi. I am also called Toesulusulu --of the extended Aiga Sa Tuala. I am called Tofae--of the extended Aiga Sa Fenu'unu'uivao. And I am also called Su'a--of the extended family Aiga Sa Su'a of Samoa.
I belong to these families, and these families belong to me. These families originate in Samoa, but their members now reside throughout Aotearoa as well as other parts of the world. I am one of five ministers of the government of New Zealand who are of Pacific heritage. Combined with ministers of Maori or indigenous heritage, we make up 45 per cent of the government of New Zealand.
Pacific peoples share similar...