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Tongan sharing tradition is about caring

We can fight climate change by re-visiting the Tongan sharing tradition. Caring for our neighbors and caring for others is a way to fight climate change.

For Pacific Islanders, climate change is already happening and it is getting worse. Although it affects us more, it already affects us all. Caring for and respecting others, including nature is one part of Tongan indigenous knowledge that has helped us survive for generations. It also allows us to preserve and protect nature. I want share with two of the traditions from my little island of Tonga.

Growing up in one of the outer islands, in high school, parents would send their kids to school on the main island, where they stayed for the whole year. During the school year, parents would usually send gifts to their kids, especially fruit during each fruit's season.

Whenever any season begins, parents would usually mark the tree by wrapping its trunk with coconut leaves or tie a coconut leaf to one of the branches of that tree. When a tree is marked, that family continues to look after that tree until it is harvested. When someone sees a tree with the coconut leaves wrapped around it, he/she knows that tree is not to be touched or picked. In other words, they know that there is a special person out there that someone is caring for and for whom that tree is spared.

In Tonga, Sunday is called "Sapate" which is a literal translation of the English word Sabbath. As one of the traditions of Sunday, every family prepares good dishes for their neighbors. Every Sunday, each family will wake up and prepare their lunch and bake it in the underground oven before they go to church for the 10'clock service. When they come home and prepare their lunch, before they prepare their own lunch they will always prepare the best dishes for their neighbors.

I always remember when my brothers and I would always take the plates/dishes to our neighbors before we would sit down to have our lunch. Lunch is the main Sunday meal. Sometimes as kids, we did not eat too fast. Otherwise we would be full before the good dishes from the neighbor's would arrive. In doing that, we were able to share the small good things we had.

As we are coming near to the time of the year where gift sharing is important, we need to be mindful of the gifts we share. May we take the opportunity at this sharing season to share with our loved ones and our good neighbors something good and special.

Caring for one another here is one of the small steps that we can take locally to fight climate change for our own sake, for our children and their future.

During my time here in Spokane, I have witnessed different organizations sharing these good gifts with vulnerable populations, like Transitional Living Center, Communities in Schools of Spokane County, Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington and Liberty Park United Methodist Church.

As we continue this great tradition of sharing, may we continue to remember that our mother nature is always one of our neighbors and needs our good gifts of love and care.

Ikani Fakasiieiki - Editorial Writer

Copyright@ The Fig Tree, November, 2021