Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

The PhD candidate amplifying Pacific voices in climate change spaces

MahMah Timoteo

Tohoa (MahMah) Tetini is an anthropology PhD candidate, teacher and climate change activist studying at the University of Canterbury. Her research centres around amplifying indigenous and marginalised Pasifika voices in climate change spaces.

For MahMah, a second-generation Cook Island va’ine living in Aotearoa, the impacts of climate change are personal. Due to rising sea levels, ocean acidification and increases in the intensity of natural disasters, MahMah fears her ancestral homeland in the Cook Islands may one day be uninhabitable.

“In our whenua, in our moana, we hold our faith, we hold our history. The way in which we feed ourselves, our culture, our traditions, our songs, our dance. Climate change threatens all of that,” she says.

MahMah’s research seeks to help people understand that Pasifika people are not vulnerable, helpless, or victims.

“Our whole history is based off resilience,” she says.

“In order for us to move forward in a progressive and sustainable way, everybody needs a seat at the table, and this includes our most marginalised people…By working together as a collective, all voices and lived experiences are valued, are worthy, are acknowledged.”

“A lot of the time, we looked to our ancestors for guidance and wisdom. But we also have to understand that one day we will be ancestors. What will we pass on to our tamariki?”

Watch MahMah’s story above – part of the Ministry for the Environment’s ‘Our Climate Future’ video series.

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