In November 2011, the University of Otago, New Zealand, formally launched a document outlining its Pacific Research Protocols. In keeping with its mission to document the growth and maturation of Pacific Islands studies as an academic field, The Contemporary Pacific (TCP) requested and received permission from the protocols' editors and compilers to reproduce a slightly updated version in its Resources section. The original version is available online at http://www.otago.ac.nz/research/otago028669.pdf
As part of the journal's standard referee process, the protocols were submitted to anonymous readers, which ultimately yielded two questions that the TCP editorial board felt were important to address when publishing the protocols: (1) why there is no reference in the document to either Russell Bishop or Linda Tuhiwai Smith, given their significance as scholars examining the nature of research among indigenous peoples of the Pacific, and (2) whether the protocols go far enough in repositioning relations between researcher and researched, such that true equality is engendered and reflected in the research project. In the second case, the reader who raised this question felt that, though the protocols call for collaboration, the researcher remains as the driver of the project, rather than one who is engaged in a mutually collaborative endeavor.
We therefore invited Professor Judy Bennett, coeditor and chair of the committee that compiled this document, to write an additional introduction for the journal, in part to address these specific questions, but also to [End Page 95] more broadly place the protocols within a context that might aid readers unfamiliar with the setting in which they were produced.
The Contemporary Pacific
Many thanks for the publication of the University of Otago's Pacific Research Protocols. In draft form this document was sent far and wide in New Zealand and to universities and some government departments in the wider Pacific. Comment was taken on board but someone has to take the first step, subject, of course, to revisions. No one raised the points your readers have, so we are grateful for the opportunity to respond.
While the eminent academics you mentioned have stimulated research thinking in regard to Māori ways of knowing and of kaupapa Māori research methodology, our view was that many Pacific thinkers have taken things further to better fit their specific situations and places, which often are not entirely comparable to Māori. Māori have a unique place in this country as a partner to the Crown/state under the Treaty of Waitangi. Your readers will appreciate this is an Aotearoa/New Zealand perspective where Pacific peoples are still a minority and who come from or whose immediate ancestors came from many different island states—from Kiribati south to Fiji, from Tokelau and the Cook Islands south to Sāmoa and Tonga, and others as well. Pacific peoples in this country share the same status as other tauiwi or settlers and are not first peoples of the land. They are seeking their own paths in this country. While respecting Māori, the tangata whenua (people of this land), Pacific people also look to their own communities' needs here, as well as in their former homelands, almost all of which have been independent states for thirty to fifty years. Unlike Aotearoa/New Zealand and Hawai'i, the vast majority of these Pacific homelands are not European/American settler societies and thus have their own intellectual, philosophical, and epistemological traditions, valued by their descendants here.
In the wider Pacific context, there have been many indigenous challenges to Western thinking in arts, education, and areas such as anthropology as well, and articulation of indigenous-based research methods, going back to at least the 1970s. Albert Wendt asserted Pacific values and poetics in "Towards a New Oceania" (1976); Epeli Hau'ofa advocated of a more humane anthropology (1975); and Mālama Meleiseā offered a critique of [End Page 96] introduced ideologies (1987). Konai Helu Thaman's work on education and Tongan ways of knowing spans the 1980s to the present (1988, 1998, 2000). David W Gegeo showed the significance of indigenous knowledge...