Decolonization Resource Collection: Pacific

The signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on February 6, 1840. Marcus King. Image courtesy of Archives New Zealand.
Primary sources

Primary source collections

Hawaiian Language Newspapers
This collection, created and maintained by the University of Hawaii, contains over a dozen Hawaiian language newspapers published during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Besides providing digitized versions of Hawaiian newspapers, this site also contains references to other indigenous language source sites, bibliographies, and more.

Maori Research Sources and Resources
This site contains dozens of online resources useful to those interested in studying Maori or New Zealand history. Sources include access to public databases, online libraries, repositories, bibliographies, and primary sources all relating to Maori culture, language, education, and history.

This collection, maintained by UC San Diego, illuminates aspects of the vibrant cultures and diverse peoples of the Pacific Islands through 20th-century photographs, dissertations, and films. Topics range from anthropological studies of the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea to public health projects in Vanuatu, Tonga, and other small island nations.

Pacific Manuscripts Bureau
This database, maintained by Australian National University, contains copies of archives, manuscripts and rare printed materials relating to the Pacific Islands. Its aim is to help with long-term preservation of the documentary heritage of the Pacific Islands and to make it accessible. The database also includes the most extensive collection of non-government primary documentation on the Pacific Islands available to researchers.

University of Otago Indigenous Studies Collection
This research and source collection, maintained by the University of Otago, contains hundreds of primary and secondary sources relating to indigenous studies, particularly in Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania. Researchers can explore sources by type.

Extracted primary sources

Treaty of Waitangi (1840)
Originally signed in 1840 between the British Crown officials and Maori leaders, this treaty briefly protected Maori lands from British colonial encroachment and mandated that Maori peoples function as subjects of the Crown. Throughout the remainder of the 19th century, colonial governments grew increasingly ambivalent towards the treaty, and the Maori lost a significant amount of land and resources, much of it by way of illegitimate exchanges. While today many regard the treaty as the founding document of New Zealand, Maori peoples have used it for legal leverage since the 1950s in the long battle to reclaim full sovereignty from New Zealand governments.

Epeli Hau’ofa, Kisses in the Nederends (1995)
This satire weaves a tale of improbabilities around the seat of the last great taboo. Oilei Bomboki wakes one morning with an excruciating pain that sends him anxiously searching for a cure. Unsuccessful treatments at the hands of various healers and doctors, culminating in a bizarre operation, lead the desperate Oilei to seek the help of Babu Vivekanand–sage, yogi, and conman. Through Babu’s teachings, Oilei learns to love and respect the source of his own complaint. By turns savage and absurdly comic, this brilliant satire allows Hau’ofa to comment on aspects of life in a small Pacific community perched precariously between traditional and modern ways.

Secondary sources

Articles and essays 

Hau’ofa, Epeli, “Our Sea of Islands,” The Contemporary Pacific 6, 1 (1994).
In this essay, Hau’ofa rejects macroeconomic and macropolitical analyses of Oceania, focusing instead on how grassroots movement and ordinary peoples dictate Oceanic influence and presence in global politics. Hau’ofa discusses the paradox of neocolonialism in Oceania, of how imperial forces seek to gain political and economic control of its islands and peoples while also denouncing the area as remote, disconnected, and unimportant.

Heim, Otto, “Island Logic and the Decolonization of the Pacific,” Interventions 19, 7 (2017).
This essay addresses the conditions of decolonization in the contemporary Pacific in the context of renewed investment in and competition over the regional construct of the Asia Pacific. Considering the apparent idiosyncracies of political arrangements across the region and the ongoing reproduction of states of precariousness due to militarization, depletion of resources and environmental damage, it asks what conceptual and discursive coherence the postcolonial Pacific can lend to movements of decolonization constrained by globalization.

Thaman, Konai Helu, “Decolonizing Pacific Studies: Indigenous Perspectives, Knowledge, and Wisdom in Higher Education,” The Contemporary Pacific 15, 1 (2003).
In this article, published after her keynote lecture at the 50th Center for Pacific Island Studies Conference, Tongan scholar Thaman discusses the paradox and necessity of decolonizing higher education. Thaman joins a number of decolonization scholars in calling for a paradigm shift in academia, one that involves a fundamental reconsideration of how researched is approached and centered, and who is conducting research.

Toki, Valmaine, “Decolonization and the Right of Self-Determination for the Pacific,” in Austin Sarat (ed.) Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, Emerald Publishing Limited, 2016.
Indigenous peoples are often alienated from their lands and culture. This has arguably result in Indigenous peoples figuring disproportionately in social and economic statistics that chart poverty and other measures of disadvantage. The right of self-determination is often touted as a panacea to these statistics. The focus of this paper is to rethink the notion of self-determination and examine whether the process afforded by the United Nations Decolonization Committee can assist or whether the sway of state politics and state power imperils this right for Indigenous peoples.

Books and readers 

Banivanua Mar, Tracey, Decolonization and the Pacific: Indigenous Globalisation and the Ends of Empire, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016.
This book charts the previously untold story of decolonization in the oceanic world of the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand, presenting it both as an indigenous and an international phenomenon. Banivanua Mar reveals how the inherent limits of decolonization were laid bare by the historical peculiarities of colonialism in the region, and demonstrates the way imperial powers conceived of decolonization as a new form of imperialism. She shows how Indigenous peoples responded to these limits by developing rich intellectual, political and cultural networks transcending colonial and national borders, with localized traditions of protest and dialogue connected to the global ferment of the twentieth century.

Binney, Judith, Encircled Lands: Te Urewera, 1820-1921, Wellington, NZ: Bridget Williams Books, 2009.
For Europeans during the nineteenth century, the Urewera was a remote wilderness; for those who lived there, it was a sheltering heartland. This history documents the first hundred years of the ‘Rohe Pōtae’ (the ‘encircled lands’ of the Urewera) following European contact and up until the abolition of the Urewera District Native Reserve under New Zealand Law in 1921-22.

Buchanan, Rachel, The Parihaka Album: Lest We Forget, Wellington, NZ: Huia Publishers, 2009.
The 1881 invasion of Parihaka is one of the most disturbing events in New Zealand history. Blending the personal and the historical, this book tracks the author’s discovery of her family’s links with Parihaka and her Maori and Pakeha ancestors’ roles in the early days of the city that is now Wellington.

Curran, James and Stuart Ward, The Unknown Nation: Australia After Empire, Melbourne, AU: Melbourne University Press, 2010.
Rejecting the self-serving interpretation of Australia’s so-called “new nationalism” of the 1960s and 1970s, this study argues that the receding ties of British influence left the country’s citizens adrift in regards to identity. Revealing how everything from currency to the national flag became subject to scrutiny, Curran and Ward tell how Australia’s methods of celebrating its past achievements became a source of public controversy and political hand-wringing, forcing leaders to find the appropriate rhetoric to invoke the coming nation.

Davidson, J.W., Samoa mo Samoa: The Emergence of the Independent State of Western Samoa, Oxford, UK: University of Oxford Press, 1967.
This book covers the political history of Samoa and the Samoan people from the arrival of European Christian missionaries in the 1830s, through over a century of colonial political jockeying and conflict, up until independence in 1962. Davidson devotes much attention to the non-violent resistance movement, the Mau, that helped to end New Zealand’s nearly 50-year colonial regime.

Field, Michael J., Mau: Samoa’s Struggle for Freedom, Auckland, NZ: Polynesian Press, 1991.
On 29 August, 1914, New Zealand troops landed in German Samoa and established a colonial rule that was to last almost 50 years. The new administrators were an odd assortment of benevolent misfits. Their unchecked power led to widespread racism and the distortion of justice and bureaucratic bungling. This book is the story of the courageous and non violent freedom movement known as “Mau” that forced this government out. 

Field, Michael J., Black Saturday: New Zealand’s Tragic Blunders in Samoa, Auckland, NZ: Reed Publishing, 2006.
New Zealand ruled Samoa from 1914 to 1962 and during this time managed to kill 25 percent of the population in the space of a couple of weeks through the careless introduction of Spanish influenza. Faced with growing Samoan calls for independence New Zealand responded violently, gunning down eight people in the streets of Apia, including high chief Tupua Tamasese, in 1929. The working title comes from a line in a speech given two years ago by Prime Minister Helen Clark when she went to Samoa and offered a formal apology for the events above. The book relates the story of New Zealand’s rule, from the invasion by soldiers from Wellington to Auckland, up to Helen Clark’s apology.

Hanlon, David, Making Micronesia: A Political Biography of Tosiwo Nakayama, Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai’i Press, 2014.
This biography tells the story of Tosiwo Nakayama, the first president of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Born to a Japanese father and an island woman in 1931 on an atoll northwest of the main Chuuk Lagoon group, Nakayama grew up during Japan’s colonial administration of greater Micronesia and later proved adept at adjusting to life in post-war Chuuk and under the American-administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. After studying at the University of Hawai‘i, Nakayama returned to Chuuk in 1958 and quickly advanced through a series of administrative positions before winning election to the House of Delegates (later Senate) of the Congress of Micronesia. He served as its president from 1965 to 1967 and again from 1973 to 1978.

Hempenstall, Peter, Pacific Islanders Under German Rule: A Study in the Meaning of Colonial Resistance, Canberra, AU: Australian National University Press, 1978.
Drawing on anthropology, new Pacific history insights, and a range of theoretical works on African and Asian resistance from the 1960s and 1970s, this book reveals the complexities of Islander reactions and the nature of protests against German imperial rule. It casts aside old assumptions that colonized peoples always resisted European colonizers. Instead, this book argues that Islander responses were often intelligent and subtle manipulations of their rulers’ agendas, their societies dynamic enough to make their own adjustments to the demands of empire.

Hempenstall, Peter and Noel Rutherford, Protest and Dissent in the Colonial Pacific, Suva, Fiji: Institute of Pacific Studies, 1984.
This volume details five distinct cases of anti colonial resistance movements across the Pacific: political protest in Samoa, economic protest in Tonga, industrial protest in Fiji, violent protest in Micronesia, and millenarian protest in Papua New Guinea. In the conclusion, the authors discuss how these resistance movements can inform future, lasting decolonization efforts in the Pacific.

Hiery, Hermann, and John Mackenzie (eds.), European Impact and Pacific Influence: British and German Colonial Policy in the Pacific Islands and the Indigenous Response, London, UK: Tauris Academic Studies, 1997.
British and German ambitions have clashed in the Pacific at many times in the last two centuries. This is a study of those episodes, and their effects on the European powers and the Pacific Islanders involved. It throws light on the activities of missionaries in Micronesia, head-hunters in New Guinea, law-makers in Tonga and the influence of the British and Germans in the region. The book considers: European perceptions of Pacific islanders and vice versa; the ecological effect of European intervention, both on the environment and its inhabitants; the efforts to impose a European rule of law in the South Pacific; the area of sexuality as a specific form of Pacific-European interaction where cultural differences between European and traditional behaviour was at its most marked.

Johnson, Miranda, The Land is Our History: Indigeneity, Law, and the Settler State, New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016.
Johnson tells the story of indigenous legal activism at a critical political and cultural juncture in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. In the late 1960s, indigenous activists protested assimilation policies and the usurpation of their lands as a new mining boom took off, radically threatening their collective identities. Often excluded from legal recourse in the past, indigenous leaders took their claims to court with remarkable results. For the first time, their distinctive histories were admitted as evidence of their rights.

Kaplan, Martha and John D. Kelly, Represented Communities: Fiji and World Decolonization, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2001.
Kelly and Kaplan offer an extensive and devastating critique of Benedict Anderson’s depictions of colonial history, his comparative method, and his political anthropology proposed in Imagined Communities. The authors build their argument around events in Fiji from World War II to the 2000 coups, showing how focus on “imagined communities” underestimates colonial history and obscures the struggle over legal rights and political representation in postcolonial nation-states. They show that the “self-determining” nation-state actually emerged with the postwar construction of the United Nations, fundamentally changing the politics of representation.

Kennedy, Paul, The Samoan Tangle: A Study in Anglo-American Relations, 1878-1900, St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2011.
Exploring the diplomatic negotiations that led to the division of the Samoan Islands between Germany, Great Britain and the United States in 1899, this book is a significant study of international relations between the three late 19th-century superpowers. The author demonstrates how the Pacific islands were pawns in an international diplomatic chess game that involved Britain’s early, but often unwilling, acquisition of Pacific territory; Germany’s scramble to get its share to bolster its prestige and trading interests; and the United States’ late, but insistent, demands for its place in the Pacific. What emerges in The Samoan Tangle is a pivotal study of the development of Samoan political structure that calls to mind how often the Pacific Islands have been used to satisfy great power plays on the other side of the globe

Maynard, John, Fight for Liberty and Freedom: The Origins of Australian Aboriginal Activism, Canberra, AU: AIATSIS, 2007.
The Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association (AAPA), began life in 1924. Although less known today, current Aboriginal political movement are drawn from these roots. In this exploration of the life of founder, Fred Maynard, John Maynard reveals the commitment and sacrifices made by these Aboriginal heroes. Decades earlier than is commonly understood, Aboriginal people organized street rallies and held well-publicized regional and metropolitan meetings. The AAPA used newspaper coverage, letter writing, and petitions, and collaborated with the international black movement through Maynard’s connections with Marcus Garvey, first president of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).

McIntyre, W. David, Winding Up the British Empire in the Pacific Islands, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014.
Between 1970 and 1980, there was a rapid change in British imperial and colonial policy toward the Pacific. Accelerated decolonization suddenly became the order of the day, and hastily-arranged independence ceremonies were performed for six new states – Tonga, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, and Vanuatu. The rise of anti-imperialist pressures in the United Nations had a major role in this change in policy, as did the pioneering examples marked by the liberation of Western Samoa in 1962 and Nauru in 1968. In a global context, the tenacity of Pacific Islanders to maintain their cultures contrasted from more strident Afro-Asian nationalisms.

Meleisea, Malama, The Making of Modern Samoa: Traditional Authority and Colonial Administration in the History of Western Samoa, Suva, Fiji: Institute of Pacific Studies, 1987.
Since independence in January 1962, several constitutional court cases have exposed the dilemma which the Western Samoa Government is facing balancing fa’a Samoa (Samoan customs and traditions) with Western legal systems of authority. This book traces the clash between Samoan and Western notions of government and law from the 1830s to the 1980s emphasizing the hitherto neglected interpretation of events from a Samoan perspective.

Meleisea, Malama and Penelope Schoeffel Meleisea (eds.), Lagaga: A Short History of Western Samoa, Suva, Fiji: University of South Pacific, 1987.
This short history of Western Samoa examines thematically the influences of early European settlers, the major churches,the German and New Zealand colonial periods, the background to Western Samoa’s becoming the first independent state in the Pacific Islands in 1962,and the first two decades of the Independent State of Western Samoa.

O’Brien, Patricia, Tautai: Sāmoa, World History and the Life of Ta’isi O. F. Nelson, Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai’i Press, 2017.
This biography of Ta’isi O. F. Nelson chronicles the life of a man described as the “archenemy” of New Zealand and its greater whole, the British Empire, by leading Sāmoa’s nationalist movement, the Mau, between the wars. He was Sāmoa’s most prominent citizen who New Zealand exiled twice from Sāmoa and then became an internationally recognized figure in the rise of indigenous nationalist movements by taking the Mau cause to the League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission in 1928. Sāmoa’s Mau was the longest running protest movement of its kind. Ta’isi was also involved in the running of two newspapers that documented the Mau and other contemporary nationalist movements.  The efforts of the Mau led to Sāmoa becoming the first independent nation in the Pacific in 1962.

O’Brien, Patricia, The Pacific Muse: Exotic Femininity and the Colonial Pacific, Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2006.
This book offers a fresh perspective on a seductively familiar topic: the colonial stereotype of the exotic Pacific island woman. By tracing the evolution of female primitivism from Western antiquity to twentieth-century Hollywood images, the book sheds new light on our understanding of how and why this ideal has persisted and the major role it has played in the colonization of Pacific peoples. While examining colonial culture in its many manifestations, from art, literature, and film to the journals of explorers and missionaries, O’Brien rereads not only the canonical texts of Pacific imperialism, but also lesser-known remnants of this cultural heritage with an eye to what they reveal about gender, sexuality, race, and femininity.

Okihiro, Gary, Cane Fires: The Anti-Japanese Movement in Hawaii, 1865-1945, Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1991.
Challenging the view of Hawaii as a mythical racial paradise, this work presents the history of a systematic anti-Japanese movement in the islands from the time migrant workers were brought to the sugar cane fields until the end of World War II.

Osorio, Jonathon Kay Kamakawiwo’ole, Dismembering Lāhui: A History of the Hawaiian Nation to 1887, Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai’i Press, 2002.
Osorio investigates the effects of Western law on the national identity of Native Hawaiians in this political history of the Kingdom of Hawaii from the onset of constitutional government in 1840 to the Bayonet Constitution of 1887, which effectively placed political power in the kingdom in the hands of white businessmen. Making extensive use of legislative texts, contemporary newspapers, and important works by Hawaiian historians and others, Osorio plots the course of events that transformed Hawaii from a traditional subsistence economy to a modern nation.

Paisley, Fiona, Loving Protection?: Australian Feminism and Aboriginal Women’s Rights, Melbourne, AU: Melbourne University Press, 2000.
In the 1920s and 1930s a highly visible network of white women activists vigorously promoted the rights of Australian Aborigines. The telling of this little known story breaks new ground by linking feminist history and race relations.

Paisley, Fiona, The Lone Protestor: A.M. Fernanda in Australian and Europe, Canberra, AU: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2012.
The late 1920s saw an extraordinary protest by an Australian Aboriginal man on the streets of London. Standing outside Australia House, cloaked in tiny skeletons, Anthony Martin Fernando condemned the failure of British rule in his country. Fernando is believed to be the first Aboriginal person to protest conditions in Australia from the streets of Europe. His various forms of action, from pamphlets on the streets of Rome to the famous Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, distinguish this lone protestor as a unique Aboriginal activist of his time. Drawn from an extensive search in archives from Australia and Europe, this is the first full-length study of Fernando and the self-professed mission that was to last half of his adult life.

Salesa, Damon, Island Time: New Zealand’s Pacific Futures, Wellington, NZ: Bridget Williams Books, 2017.
New Zealand is a nation that exists on Pacific Islands, but does not, will not, perhaps cannot, see itself as a Pacific Island nation. Yet turning to the Pacific, argues Salesa, enables us to grasp a fuller understanding of what life is really like on these shores. After all, Salesa argues, in many ways New Zealand’s Pacific future has already happened. Setting a course through the ‘islands’ of Pacific life in New Zealand – Ōtara, Tokoroa, Porirua, Ōamaru and beyond – he charts a country becoming ‘even more Pacific by the hour’. What would it mean, this book asks, for New Zealand to recognize its Pacific talent and finally act like a Pacific nation?

Smith, Linda Tuhiwai, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, 2nd Edition, Dunedin, NZ: University of Otago Press, 2012.
To the colonized, the term ‘research’ is conflated with European colonialism; the ways in which academic research has been implicated in the throes of imperialism remains a painful memory. This volume explores intersections of imperialism and research – specifically, the ways in which imperialism is embedded in disciplines of knowledge and tradition as ‘regimes of truth.’ Concepts such as ‘discovery’ and ‘claiming’ are discussed and an argument presented that the decolonization of research methods will help to reclaim control over indigenous ways of knowing and being.

Somerville, Alice Te Punga, Once Were Pacific: Māori Connections to Oceania, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.
This book 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.

Trask, Haunani-Kay, From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawai’i, Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai’i Press, 1999.
Since its original publication in 1993, this book, an attack against the rampant abuse of Native Hawaiian rights, institutional racism, and gender discrimination, has generated heated debates in Hawai’i and throughout the world. This 1999 revised work includes material that builds on issues and concerns raised in the first edition: Native Hawaiian student organizing at the University of Hawai’i; the master plan of the Native Hawaiian self-governing organization Ka Lahui Hawai’i and its platform on the four political arenas of sovereignty; the 1989 Hawai’i declaration of the Hawai’i ecumenical coalition on tourism; and a typology on racism and imperialism. Brief introductions to each of the previously published essays brings them up to date and situates them in the current Native Hawaiian rights discussion.