The month of May brings Asian-American and Pacific Islander heritage to the forefront. Weber State University’s Center for Diversity and Unity hosted a festival Monday, reining in the celebration a little early, to show students what it means to be an islander.
“It’s a good culture,” said Pacific Islander students senator Jared Shaw. “It’s a culture that centers on good family values, and because of that it’s integrated into Polynesian life, school and everything that we do.”
The festival had booths set up to showcase traditions of the different Pacific Island countries. One booth showed students how to make leis, and another showed how to make poi.
Poi are smalls balls tied to a string that were once often used by women in a dance. Swinging the balls around with their fingers as they danced helped keep their hands flexible for weaving. Men would use poi to increase the strength, dexterity and flexibility of their hands in preparation for battle. Nowadays, they are used for traditional dancing.
Eveni Tafiti, a multicultural counselor at WSU, displayed flags and artifacts from Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and the Republic of the Fiji Islands for his booth. Tafiti spent years collecting artifacts from the Pacific Islands. His displayed artifacts included books, art, pieces of weapons and items used during traditional dances.
“We are trying to promote Pacific Islander heritage and our culture,” Tafiti said.
Volunteers said that being involved with different cultures on campus is important to them because it teaches them about diversity. To show their support, they set up a booth and taught students how to make paper flowers.
“I think it’s good to be diverse and get involved in other cultures that you don’t know about, and it’s a cool way to learn new things,” said volunteer Felicia Baca, an art education major. “I think that’s what our school needs more of, all these different cultures and these fun activities to do. It’s nice to learn something that you don’t know.”
Island music played throughout the event, inspiring a few students with Pacific heritage to dance.
“I have a passion for performing and showcasing the stories and the legends behind every movement that I do in our performing arts,” said Uinise Pasikala, social work major. “The purpose is to show the family history within it.”
Several Pacific Island students joked about the food being their favorite thing about their culture.
“My favorite thing is the food!” said Kalolaine Pasikala, a nursing major. “Second is the kindness, the family love for each other. Even if you’re not family, they still care for you. I just love the traditions.”
According to Tafiti, WSU has over 200 students registered as Pacific Islanders. The goal of the festival was to celebrate their culture, but also to teach other students about the traditions and heritage of a culture different from their own.
“To me it’s important to learn about Pacific Islanders, because a lot of students are half Islander and half something else, and they don’t know their Pacific heritage,” Pasikala said. “We’re helping them to get in touch with their inner islander.”