Indigenous knowledge and language in Samoa and Fiji 1

Indigenous Knowledge and Language in Samoa And Fiji
Indigenous Knowledge and Language in Samoa And Fiji
Indigenous knowledge refers to the skills and philosophies that societies develop during
the long historical interactions with the natural environment. Local knowledge dictates essential
decision-making process for indigenous people in their daily life. It is so complex that it entails
different cultural aspects such as language, ritual, practices on resource use and social
interactions. Indigenous language, on the other hand, is the language which is native to a
particular region or country and only the indigenous people speak it. In most cases, the
indigenous language is from a distinct community which has stayed in that region for several
generations (Semali & Kincheloe 2002). Arguably, the indigenous knowledge and language have
some significant implication on the Pacific and its people specifically to Fiji and Samoa as it
impacts the development, culture, and history of several generations.
The most outstanding impact of indigenous knowledge and language seen in the Pacific
region explicitly by the Samoan citizens is the national development. The development of the
individual citizens in Samoa has been realized in different aspects such as socially, politically,
economically and even by conservation of cultural values. This has been possible due to the use
of indigenous languages and has resulted in the promotion of cohesion, unity and well-being of
all citizens. According to Wendt, Fuamatu, Whaitiri, & Filipo (2014), the indigenous knowledge
and use of local language play a fundamental role on critical issues involving the whole nation
such as democracy and linguistic globalization. The impact has been so prominent in Samoa that
the country lives in complete harmony. There are no kinds of conflict or rumors of war as
witnessed in countries that lack unity.
The Samoan oral cultural knowledge and use of native language has been a significant
tool for transfer of knowledge and history for several generations. The Samoan culture is,
therefore, one which has been passed for generations and there is no chance of being extinct.
Their history has been written through rituals, dances, songs and names used for people and
places. The several dances teach the current generations of the great achievements of their
ancestors other than reminding them of their great history. Such an example of the Samoan dance
is the dance ritual of Solosolo. The rich knowledge in culture has also attracted other people all
over the world. The impact has been great in preservation of history and the maintenance of
ethnic pride which are all essential for personal development.
Indigenous people in Samoa and Fiji hold an extensive wealth of knowledge even though
that knowledge has not been realized by the western cultures. The understandings of the non-
indigenous world can only be achieved through the indigenous knowledge. This has been
recognized and tested in education because educators now use first people’s principles in
learning as the most effective approach to support deep learning and respond to the needs of the
learners. This type of knowledge includes the ecological, scientific and traditional knowledge.
Indigenous knowledge is often dynamic and adaptable and is connected to specific geographical
area such as the Pacific other than being based on skills and techniques of problem-solving.
The Itaukei (indigenous Fijians) take pride in the rich knowledge they possess. This has a
major implication in the world of science. This proves the fact that there are a number of
additional perspectives of science that the western science does not reflect. The incorporation of
other perspectives and knowledge not contained in the science of the west help to widen the
worldview of people and also help in understanding the relationship between the earth and the
environment. When this incorporation is done, there is a potential possibility of resolving social,
cultural and most importantly the environmental crises that have a general impact on all
humanity. According to Kawagley & Barnhardt (1998), a rich knowledge can be got if the
incorporation of indigenous knowledge is done to western science and much solution facing
humanity will be solved.
Indigenous knowledge of Fijian and the Samoan also has a major implication on English
language arts. A great example is the interpretation of stories. The meaning of story as defined
from first principles is different too as it is taught in the English language arts. To the Fijians and
the Samoans, stories refer to narratives which are mostly presented orally in the traditional
context. They are used in teaching skills, conveying news, explaining the natural worlds,
recording the cultural histories and most importantly to transmit cultural values and morals. The
stories have become the evolving part of the indigenous culture and this is evidenced by
storytellers creating spoken words and even music. Inclusion of indigenous literature in the
modern English language arts is understood to be very important because it provides a platform
from which literature originates.
The integration of the indigenous knowledge of the Samoan and the Fijian in all areas of
curricular is relevant and culturally responsive and it has ensured success for many students who
are conservative of their cultures. The inclusion of first people’s principles is, however, more
culturally relevant and is absolutely necessary for increasing the understanding of what is taught
(Gay, G.2010). The knowledge and language of first people’s principle are fundamental in the
integration process more so in classrooms. These knowledge and language are never taught
anywhere, but they form part of the collective history which is passed over to generations and
contemporary knowledge acquired in the process. This integration in a classroom setting implies
that it requires the educators to develop first by understanding; to act like learners.
The native languages vary between the Fijians and the Samoans. Although the nations are
all located in the Pacific islands, they have different native languages. There is no one or
common language spoken or used by all pacific islanders even though they are closely located.
This, however, does not prevent the implication that the native language has to both countries.
The Polynesia language mostly spoken in these islands have impacted a lot on individual
countries. The native languages act as unique identifiers of the individual nations and form part
of their contemporary culture. The language dictates how the indigenous people of the nation
think, how the share information other than expressing opinions. The indigenous language of the
Samoan people have been vital in understanding their culture since a lot of information is lost no
matter how well translation is done (Thaman, 2003).
The implication of indigenous knowledge originates from the fact that it is tied to a
specific group explicitly. And this grows as a cultural knowledge even though it may attract
influences from other backgrounds. The relationship between indigenous knowledge and native
language is so intimate that they both define the identity of both Samoa and Fiji. The indigenous
knowledge can be recognized for the great traditional goals it has achieved other than being seen
in the context of contemporary. This will help in major appreciation of processes of knowledge
transfer over the generations. The harmony created through this has also resulted in the Fijians
and Samoans holding a common perspective concerning schooling as well as knowledge.
The understanding of the implication of indigenous language and knowledge can be
better if compared to a forest. The realization that the forest lacks rice, wheat nor cotton explains
it better. The forests just contain wild plants out of which the past generations grew food and
cash crops. Out of these forests, large landraces have been claimed and have formed the basis of
agriculture. The same scenario applies to the Fijian and Samoan nations. Their native language
and knowledge have formed the basis of everything that the citizens of both the nations enjoy.
Fiji is currently known for its excellent performance in rugby. The implication of this is that the
use of native language has brought them together and better understanding of their abilities
through sharing of knowledge has ensured their success in rugby game.
The implication that the indigenous knowledge has on the health sector in these two
nations cannot simply be ignored. The knowledge of the Fijian in the use of medicinal plants and
animals has helped grown their health economy. The technology of using these medicinal plants
to cure certain diseases belong to the indigenous community of Fijians and so remains their
property. A lot of income has been generated through this and this has contributed to the national
development of this nation. Foreign nations have acquired about this technology and through
sharing of knowledge, payment of these services is mandatory. Other than growth in economy,
the individuals of Fiji have grown health wise due to their knowledge. To ensure that this
knowledge stays forever, it is passed over to generations (Willis, 2018).
Although several positive impacts of indigenous and native language exist, there exists
the risk of losing these resources if not well looked upon. The rate of loss of cultural values and
traditions in these two countries is high. This means that the Samoan and Fijian cultures like
rituals, beliefs and even values are becoming extinct. The rich indigenous knowledge cannot also
be passed to generations and in the process is lost. The primary cause of this has been the effects
of the westerns. The locals have abandoned their cultures in pursuit of the western cultures and
losing their traditions and knowledge in the process.
In conclusion, there are several implications of indigenous knowledge and language
facing Samoa and Fiji as discussed. The implications cover several areas such as health,
education, social life and economy at large among other areas. The knowledge is very precious
and should be preserved to ensure that it is passed to the next generation. The implications exist
in every country because every community possesses its own native language.
Gay, G. (2010). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice. Teachers
College Press.
Kawagley, A. O., & Barnhardt, R. (1998). Education indigenous to place: Western science meets
native reality.
Semali, L. M., & Kincheloe, J. L. (2002). What is indigenous knowledge?: Voices from the
academy. Routledge.
Suaalii-Sauni, T. M., Wendt, M. A., Fuamatu, N., Va’ai, U. L., Whaitiri, R., & Filipo, S. L.
(Eds.). (2014). Whispers and vanities: Samoan indigenous knowledge and religion. Huia
Thaman, K. H. (2003). Decolonizing Pacific studies: Indigenous perspectives, knowledge, and
wisdom in higher education. The Contemporary Pacific, 15(1), 1-17.
Willis, S. (2018). Indigenous Knowledge: Its role in education. In African Science
Education (pp. 45-67). Routledge.

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