Alice Te Punga Somerville in Conversation with Iain McCalman


Professor Iain McCalman sits down with Alice Te Punga Somerville (Te Āti Awa, Taranaki) to talk about how the environment is reflected in her cultural identity, kicking off the conversation with a large and difficult question – to what degree do Islander people gain their identity from the environment?

In speaking from her own context as a Maori woman (0:28), Alice explains that her identity is linked to her mountain name and states that nature, the mountains and the rivers are inextricable from what it is to be a person from the Pacific. However, Alice highlights the importance of recognising that the environment plays a different role for different groups of Islander people and in different contexts.

Alice also talks about how important the role of navigation is for Pacific Islander identity, particularly in Polynesia where there has been a revitalisation of navigation in the region (3:30).


Alice Te Punga Somerville (Te Āti Awa, Taranaki) is an Associate Professor in the Māori and Indigenous Studies school at The University of Waikato. Alice writes and teaches at the intersections of Indigenous, Pacific, literary and cultural studies. She has taught at Victoria University of Wellington, University of Hawai’i-Mānoa, and Macquarie University. Her first book was Once Were Pacific: Maori Connections to Oceania (Minnesota 2012). She also writes the occasional poem.

The Global Ecologies – Local Impacts Conference was held at the University of Sydney on 23 – 25 November, 2016.

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