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'Fight against the extinction of Pacific people'

AMERICAN SAMOA DANCE TROUP
Source: RNZ Pacific

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The world's largest event celebrating pacific culture has united thousands of delegates, leaders, performers and spectators through uplifting marginalized indigenous groups fighting extinction and the right to self-govern.

A community elder from Guam Anthony Borja said Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FestPAC) was about more than "revitalizing cultures".

Borja said he saw the festival was "a fight against the extinction of Pacific people".

"You get so emotional when you think of extinction. But we're gonna do something about it!."

Fijians are standing in solidarity for Kanaky people of New Caledonia by occupying their designated space at FestPAC.

The team have set up a kava corner where any interested can with with them as a show of support for their indigenous Kanaky neighbours.

It comes after an alliance of over two dozen Pacific non-government organiZations has condemned France for what they say is a "betrayal" of New Caledonia's Kanak population.

The Fijian delegation's deputy head of mission Emosi Caniogo said their act of brotherhood and solidarity has been well received by other nations, with social media posts saying it is a "powerful" movement.

"Fiji is supporting the brothers and sisters from New Caledonia, it is really really amazing. Even though we come from different islands, we can see that we are all part of the big family of the Pacific and they should not lose hope."

Over 2000 delegates from all across the Pacific have travelled to Hawaii for the 10-day festival.

The Rapa Nui delegation attending FestPAC have made history by bringing their largest delegation ever.

In previous festivals, there have been delegations as small as 15 people.

This year, they have sent over 100 indigenous people to share a variety of traditional artforms.

A performer in the team Hotu Iti Ariki said their large team of people of all ages is a walking showcase of intergenerational knowledge.

"We come with children from 9 years up to 65-70 years old. It's a huge variety in this delegation where you can see different points of views from different generations all in the same place at the same time."

Rapa Nui's champion dancer Ariki Vahine Nehe Nehe Atan said it was her first festival.

"I'm very happy, I'm so proud to be here to represent my culture, my people and my island.

"We are here to share our culture and to enjoy with you and to learn about the others."

The festival wraps up this weekend and the 14th edition is scheduled for 2028 - set to be hosted in New Caledonia.