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Once Were Pacific

Māori Connections to Oceania

2012
Author:

Alice Te Punga Somerville

Once Were Pacific

Explores the relationship between indigeneity and migration among Māori and Pacific peoples

Once Were Pacific considers how Māori and other Pacific peoples frame their connection to the ocean, to New Zealand, and to each other through various creative works. In this sustained treatment of the Māori diaspora, Māori scholar Alice Te Punga Somerville provides the first critical analysis of relationships between Indigenous and migrant communities in New Zealand.

Alice Te Punga Somerville’s Once Were Pacific is the first major study of how Māori and Pacific people talk to each other in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Oceania. It is a splendid book, remarkably lucid, insightful, comprehensive, and accessible.

Albert Wendt, author of Leaves of the Banyan Tree

Native identity is usually associated with a particular place. But what if that place is the ocean? Once Were Pacific explores this question as it considers how Māori and other Pacific peoples frame their connection to the ocean, to New Zealand, and to each other through various creative works. Māori scholar Alice Te Punga Somerville shows how and when Māori and other Pacific peoples articulate their ancestral history as migratory seafarers, drawing their identity not only from land but also from water.

Although Māori are ethnically Polynesian, and Aotearoa New Zealand is clearly a part of the Pacific region, in New Zealand the terms “Māori” and “Pacific” are colloquially applied to two distinct communities: Māori are Indigenous, and “Pacific” refers to migrant communities from elsewhere in the region. Asking how this distinction might blur historical and contemporary connections, Te Punga Somerville interrogates the relationship between indigeneity, migration, and diaspora, focusing on texts: poetry, fiction, theater, film, and music, viewed alongside historical instances of performance, journalism, and scholarship.

In this sustained treatment of the Māori diaspora, Te Punga Somerville provides the first critical analysis of relationships between Indigenous and migrant communities in New Zealand.

Awards

Prize for Best First Book from the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association

Once Were Pacific

Alice Te Punga Somerville (Te Ātiawa) is associate professor in the Department of English at the University of Hawaiʿi at Mānoa.

Once Were Pacific

Alice Te Punga Somerville’s Once Were Pacific is the first major study of how Māori and Pacific people talk to each other in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Oceania. It is a splendid book, remarkably lucid, insightful, comprehensive, and accessible.

Albert Wendt, author of Leaves of the Banyan Tree

Once Were Pacific will help us to push beyond orthodox understandings of complex and contemporary Indigenous identities and representational practices through rigorous scholarship that is Māori focused.

Chadwick Allen, Ohio State University

Alice Te Punga Somverville has writtem a scintillating text that explores the relationship between Maori and our Pacific forebears...

Ella Henry, Interface

Critical yet imaginative, formalist, and specifically indigenist, the analyses throughout this work are informative, entertaining, and engaging. Ultimately, Once Were Pacific explores works and spaces never before addressed critically.

College Literature

Alice Te Punga Somerville has contributed an outstanding and challenging text to contemporary literary studies in Aotearoa and beyond. With new readings of existing texts, Once Were Pacific offers an impressive depth of analysis about the trade in cultural identity that has evolved in the Polynesian world. This book should be read repeatedly for the insights and understandings the author has carefully presented in its pages.

Journal of New Zealand Literature

Once Were Pacific

Contents

Ngā Mihi: Acknowledgments
Introduction: Māori and the Pacific

Part I. Tapa: Aotearoa in the Pacific Region
1. Māori People in Pacific Spaces
2. Pacific-Based Māori Writers
3. Aotearoa-Based Māori Writers
The Realm of Tapa

Part II. Koura: The Pacific in Aotearoa
4. Māori–Pasifika Collaborations
5. “It’s like that with us Maoris”: Māori Write Connections
6. Manuhiri, Fānau: Pasifika Write Connections
7. When Romeo Met Tusi: Disconnections
The Realm of Koura

Conclusion: E Kore Au e Ngaro
Epilogue: A Time and a Place

Notes
Publication History
Index

Once Were Pacific

UMP blog excerpt - Writing in Place with Alice Te Punga Somerville

Any book is a product of place: one always writes somewhere, and I am writing in a discipline, in a university, and in Aotearoa. Throughout Once Were Pacific, arguments will return to the place of place, from this point right here through until place is given the final word in the epilogue. The roots of this book lie partly in a chapter of my doctoral dissertation, written in the lands of the Cayuga Nation (upstate New York) and the Kanaka Maoli (Hawai̒i), but more particularly, the roots of Once Were Pacific are embedded in this place. One specific point of genesis for this project was an interaction in Hawai̒i when someone mentioned that he was pleased that there was another Pacific Islander in the English department that year; I replied, “Awesome—who is it?” before realizing that the person was talking about me. In that moment and that place, a Māori person was unproblematically Pacific Islander, but Māori and Pacific Islander are distinguished in New Zealand to the extent that I had not recognized myself when I had been spoken about.

Read the full excerpt.