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FestPAC 2024: Pacific Traditional Leaders Sign Tuurama Ariki Declaration

Tiana Haxton, in Hawai'i

A historic meeting of traditional leaders has been a poignant moment at the 50th anniversary Pacific arts and culture festival in Hawai'i.

Traditional leaders from across the Pacific have met during the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FestPAC) to sign a declaration solidifying their commitment to strengthen relationships and share knowledge on how to collectively face challenges confronting Pacific people.

In March, a catalyst for the re-gathering of traditional Pacific leaders occurred in Fiji, when nation's Great Council of Chiefs met after a 16-year hiatus.

Leaders held a ceremony to formally honour the ali'i and to celebrate connection of culture.

The Tuurama Ariki Declaration signing saw leaders promising to utilise indigenous traditional knowledge to lead the way forward in communities.

The word 'Tuurama' sheds light on ancestral wisdom guiding the journey ahead.

FestPac director Dr Aaron Sala said it's a historic event for the region.

"Te end goal for this series of engagements was to just find a way to bring traditional leaders together and talanoa, dynamic, challenging, but casual conversation around the issues that are confronting us as Pacific Islanders, like economic development, health, social welfare, and how do we consider them from a traditional perspective, from a traditional mindset," he said.

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The purpose of Pacific traditional leaders has been to bolster regional unity and cooperation, address shared challenges like climate change and sustainable development.

Meanwhile, Aotearoa New Zealand has offered to lead the way forward and plan further events.

The Kiingitanga's chief of staff Ngira Simmonds said the declaration formalises relationships between traditional leaders across the region.

"In recent months, there's been a lot more focus and attention on the establishment of a declaration that gives life to a forum that unites traditional leaders.

"We firmly believe that traditional leaders have a different focus, that's a bit more long term and focused on different issues. And we want to celebrate that and connect them across the ocean."

Simmonds said this has been a long time coming and that it was a significant step in the right direction for Kiingi Tuheitia the New Zealand Maori King.

"This year, the Kings been on a journey of Kotahitangi/Kotahitanga how we can unify our people, and that's really important for us. What took place today is the next step in that journey.

"It all relates back to what we're doing it our home, what you're doing at your home, and what our brothers and sisters across the Pacific are doing in their homes."

The inaugural Pacific traditional leaders forum was held at the 'Iolani Palace coinciding on King Kamehameha Day.

King Kamehameha III was known for establishing diplomatic relationships with Pacific monarchs during his reign.

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