Stretching all the way from the black-sand beaches of  New Zealand to the welcoming palm trees of the Hawaiian Islands, the Pacific Islands have historically had a close relationship with America. But these islands, known for their great natural beauty and friendly people, are also home to numerous rich cultures and traditions. In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we’re taking a closer look at some of these timeless practices.


Māori Warriors Perform a Haka
The 'haka' is a traditional war cry, dance, or challenge from the Māori people of New Zealand. Originally performed by warriors before a battle, proclaiming their strength and prowess in order to intimidate the opposition, the haka is also performed for various reasons such as welcoming distinguished guests, or to acknowledge great achievements, and even to say farewell to the departed. (Image via Flickr CC - Shiny Things)

New Guinean Men Take Part in a Sing-Sing
In some parts of the New Guinea highlands, people engage in colorful local rituals that are called 'sing-sings'. They paint themselves and dress up with feathers, pearls, and animal skins to represent birds, trees or mountain spirits. (Image via Flickr CC - Drew Douglas)

Receiving a Traditional Samoan Tatau
The Samoan tattoo, or ‘tatau’ as it is known traditionally, is deeply tied into the culture of Samoa. 'Pe'a'is the name for a traditional male tattoo, which can only be given with certain rituals and ceremonies. The process can be very painful and long, and is administered by a master tattooist using pieces of bone, turtle shell and wood. (Image via Flickr CC - Christopher Jetton)

Sand Drawings from Vanuatu
Produced in sand, volcanic ash, or clay, sand drawing is an artistic and ritual tradition practiced in Vanuatu, recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. (Image via Flickr CC - Oliver Teicke)

Performers Engaged in a Hawaiian Hula
The hula was developed in the Hawaiian Islands by the Polynesians who originally settled there. There are many sub-styles of hula. Ancient hula, as performed before Western encounters with Hawaii, is called ‘Kahiko’. (Image via Flickr CC - Kaiscapes Media)

Women in Tonga Weaving Mats
Mat weaving is an ancient Tongan handicraft, and woven mats are commonly used for bedding and flooring. They are also presented at special occasions such as births, deaths, and weddings. (Image via Flickr CC - Behan)

Fijian Men Prepare a Lovo
An earth oven, or 'lovo' in Fijian, is an ancient cooking structure that is at its most basic, a pit in the ground used to trap heat and bake, smoke, or steam food. (Image via Flickr CC - CameliaTWU)

Moai Figures on Easter Island
The art of Easter Island is distinctively Polynesian, much of it centering on the creation of religious images. The most recognizable art forms from Easter Island are its colossal stone figures, or 'moai' - images of ancestral chiefs whose supernatural powers protected the community. (Image via Flickr CC - David Berkowitz)

Tahitians Celebrating Heiva
In Tahitian, the word 'heiva' ('hei' meaning to assemble, and 'va' meaning community places) refers to activities, pastimes, physical exercise, and festivals. Music, dancing, singing, and sporting events have always held an important place in Polynesian communities. (Image via Flickr CC - Gilles BONIN)


Dive deeper into these unique island cultures – Make plans to fly there now!

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About The Author

Mark Silvester

From Australia, skateboarder/explorer.