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American Samoa, CNMI, Guam, and Hawaii form regional humanities group

Pacific Islander Humanities Councils founders

HONOLULU — Leo Pangelinan, the executive director of the Northern Marianas Humanities Council, signed a memorandum of understanding with his counterparts from American Samoa, Guam and Hawaii to establish the Pacific Islander Humanities Councils or PIHC.

Under the MOU, the Amerika Samoa Humanities Council, the Hawai’i Council for the Humanities, Humanities Guahan and the Northern Marianas Humanities Council will work together.

Each council has committed to “foster a culture of knowledge sharing and collaboration among the PIHC and associated communities; amplify Pacific Islander community voices and perspectives in discussions on local and global issues, especially as it pertains to cultural protection and climate resilience; facilitate humanities capacity building and professional development opportunities for Pacific Islanders; and strengthen community engagement and outreach activities across the region and major Pacific Islander diasporas within the U.S.”

In addition, the heads of each humanities council in the network have pledged to meet in person and online in order to create opportunities for mutually beneficial humanities programs.

These programs are aimed at “strengthening the reach and impact of the…regional network” as well as “fostering community engagement with the…regional network,” among other things.

Funding for the PIHC comes from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which, in 2023, awarded $220,000 to each individual council so they can “develop and implement regional collaboration... focused on convening a regional forum for information exchange; engaging in capacity-building and professional development activities; and developing individual council and regional strategies for local and diaspora community outreach and engagement.”

Shelly Lowe, chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, was present to witness the MOU signing. She spoke about the significance of the newly formed network.

“Some of the diverse islands in the Pacific who call this area home are part of our very diverse American tapestry and I am so honored to be able to support these four the work that they are doing to really move forward humanities, to move forward our cultural knowledge, ancestral knowledge, and to ensure that we are making a lasting and positive impact in the region in terms of their cultural landscape, their communities and their cultural heritage,” she said. 

For his part, Pangelinan said the PIHC will help bring more accessibility to Pacific people and issues.

Speaking to Lowe during a panel discussion, he said:

“We always talked about wanting this network to elevate Pacific Island voices and your work to put this together and other events for us here in Hawaii…has helped us to do that,” he said.

Pacific island delegations, including the CNMI’s, are in Hawaii for the Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture, “the world’s largest celebration of indigenous Pacific Islanders.”

FestPac started on June 6 and will end on June 16.