Sunday 10th July – Saturday 16th July 2022 is Wikin te Taetae ni Kiribati, Kiribati Language Week.

To celebrate we will share Kiribati items from our collections, light up the museum
walls with the national colours of blue, red, yellow, white and share a video of
knowledge holders visiting our Kiribati collection at the Museum, as well as a
Zoom panel discussion.

Header image: Te iriba n bobai, ornamental fan. Kiribati. AWMM. 2002.95.1; 55961. More information


From Sunday 10 July we will light up the Museum for a week in the colours of the Kiribati flag.

Our people

Learn how our Museum whānau celebrate their heritage in their work

Charles Enoka Kiata, MNZM

Pacific Advisory Group

Charles Enoka Kiata, MNZM

What does sustainability and climate change mean to Kiribati as one of our sinking islands in the world?

Kia ora, Pacific greetings and ko na mauri!

My name is Charles Enoka Kiata, I hail from the sovereign Republic of Kiribati and migrated to New Zealand in 2002. I am married to a beautiful lady from Nikunau, Nei Teeren Tabuarorae and we have six children and five grandchildren. We live in Ranui the best in the west of Auckland. I have been a member of the Pacific Advisory Group of Auckland Museum since 2022.

When we speak about sustainability, we often look at the environment, economic and social aspects and we like to understand what to do and how to manage these areas the way we expect them to be.

In my perspective, it is significant that the environment, economic and social behaviour is not compromised neither being disturbed from external forces due to direct or indirect impacts of climate change.

Climate change affects every aspect of our lives on a global scale. It touches and impacts our environment, society and economy. It challenges our way of lives to a different level that needs a well-planned and coordinated approach with incredible solutions.

According to Kiribati cultural belief and history, our ancestors were great environmentalist and conversative people as being true to their wellbeing and survivals.

Our ancestors acknowledged and respected the atmosphere they breath and lived in, with the sun, moon, stars, clouds and sky to serve as great navigational tools and information. They also acknowledged and respected the lands that provided water and all living creatures to live. They were able to manage and control how much they needed from the ocean and marine resources to provide for human consumption and purposes over centuries and for many generations. Our peoples have been treating the environment with great respects and careful approach as their lives depend upon the airspace, the land and ocean.

In modern days, we see all kinds of problems, damages and pollutions to our environment and ocean depriving the lives our ancestors and peoples once enjoyed and protected. We see alarming evidence of marine lives being poisoned and contaminated. Peoples are now living in a contaminated ocean and air polluted environment and an overpopulated society with economic crisis. The impact of climate change on water sea rising are eminent and threatening. Many small low atoll islands are submerged under water, eroded and disappearing. Many water wells are not drinkable as saltwater seeps through water lenses. Many vegetations have been destroyed and no longer growing.

The future of our people, culture and language is uncertain and at stake due to the impacts of climate change on the lives of our people and wellbeing.

In our cultural context, Kiribati shall rise to protect the environment which includes the airspace (karawa), land (tarawa) and ocean (marawa). These are the three spheres that Nareau the creator of Tungaru (Kiribati) has bestowed upon an IKiribati to live upon in order to compliment his social and economic terms and aspirations.

Yes, we should ensure sustainability when we bring and maintain good balances to protect the livelihood of our economy, social life and of course our environmental wellbeing. In these efforts, we need a lot of people and all voices with all kinds of ideas coming to the table to talk about credible solutions to combat climate change with inspirations and hopes to protect our islands, people, culture, language and the planet we live in.

I like to leave you with one of the Kiribati famous composed songs (waiata) about the iconic bird of Kiribati, the frigate bird. The song is prophesying about the uncertainty of the future due to climate change, water sea rising. 

Ko batin rabwa.

Ana bau Kiribati i aora ni kabane are te Mauri, te Raoi ao te Tabomoa


Things to watch

Tune in to some of our engaging Kiribati Language Week video content

Learn some Kiribati words

Kiribati knowledge holders visit

Last year we were fortunate to be joined by esteemed members of the Kiribati community in New Zealand, who came to Auckland Museum to discuss some of the Kiribati collection items, and share their knowledge about them. In this video, Auckland Musuem's Ma'ara Maeva was joined by Dr. Matikora Itonga Marea, Mr. Baitika Toum, Charles Enoka Kiata and Dr. Janet O’Connor.


Zoom Talanoa: Kiribati treasures

For Kiribati Language Week 2020, Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum held an online talanoa session titled "Kiribati treasures: Te Kun and taona n riri", and it highlighted a migratory bird from the Museum's collection, as well as a dance costume from the Natural History and Pacific collection. 

Rebecca Bray (Collection Manager, Natural Sciences) and Fuli Pereira (Curator Pacific) were joined by Nei Kaetaeta Watson, Nei Louisa Humphry, Dr Janet O’Connor and Charles Enoka. Together the panelists and participants engaged in an inspiring discussion that included exploring the migratory habits of Te Kun, as well as the cultural and customary use of the taona n riri and its role in the identity of Kiribati dance worldwide. 

Long reads

Have a moment to spare? Take a deep dive into some of our stories

Moving the needle

Chris Charteris

Moving the needle

For Kiribati Language Week, we spoke to artist Chris Charteris about studying Kiribati objects in Auckland Museum's collection to find out how they were made, how he plays with form, the utility of artworks, and making things the hard way.

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Recognising WWI Gilbert Islanders – i-Kiribati service personnel

Recognising WWI Gilbert Islanders – i-Kiribati service personnel

Do you know of anyone from the Gilbert Islands (now known as Kiribati) who enlisted in the New Zealand Army during WWI? Our Online Cenotaph team have identified 25 i-Kiribati  servicemen but would love to hear from you if you know of any others not represented on this list.

Read more

Exploring the first book known to be published on Kiribati culture

Exploring the first book known to be published on Kiribati culture

Discover the story of ‘Aia Karaki nikawai i-Tungaru. Myths and legends of the Gilbertese [Kiribati] people. 1942’, the first book on Kiribati culture published in Gilbertese [i-Kiribati]. 

Read more

From the collection

These items from our collection offer a glimpse into the Kiribati way of life, an introduction to the island's people, customs and a detailed exploration of precious and daily objects.

On the move

Recently our Collection Care team very slowly and carefully maneuvered several large vaka between collection stores. The one shown here is from Kiribati, and is called Te Ang Ni Raoi (The Fair Wind).

Get a closer look at an i-Kiribati tibuta

Get a closer look at an i-Kiribati tibuta

Te tibuta is the Kiribati national top. Worn by a girl, this tibuta has been made from a pink cotton lawn fabric and a smocking technique has been used to gather the shoulders and chest area. Three crocheted rosettes have been embroidered across the chest area upon the smocked fabric, and the bottom edge has been left unseamed as the cloth has been cut along the fabrics selvedge.

You can watch the Zoom interview with Brian Sagala from 531PI, Mrs Terenga Tebwebwe and Andrea Low (Curator, Pacific) about i-Kiribati textiles and dance costumes here.

Te tibuta. AWMM. 2001.12.17. More information ›
Te Kun

Frequent Flyer

Te Kun

The Te Kun or Pacific golden plover is a truly amazing Pacific wanderer. These small shorebirds breed on the summer Arctic tundra of Alaska and Siberia which has an abundance of insect food and few predators to pose a risk to their nests.

However, as the weather grows colder in August and September the birds migrate southwards into the Pacific, to the islands of Kiribati, Oceania and even as far south as New Zealand. Here they feed on the shoreline of lagoons and estuaries on a broad diet of worms, crabs, insects, spiders and plant seeds and berries.

In March and April, the birds travel northwest to Japan or Hawaii, where they rest for a few weeks before making the final long journey back to their breeding grounds.  Their remarkable annual journey ranges from 16,000 – 27,000 km with each leg made as a non-stop flight of 3–8 days. 

Auckland Museum holds three specimens (LB2767-LB2769) of this species from Kiribati. All are study skins collected in 1937 from Canton Island by Major Geoffrey A Buddle (of Auckland) during the Total Solar Eclipse expedition. The specimens are held in our collections and cared for by our Land Vertebrates department. You can see images of the specimens on our collections online resource here.

Kiribati Kiore and the fight to save Pacific island biodiversity

Kiribati Kiore and the fight to save Pacific island biodiversity

The Auckland Museum holds a specimen (LB13) of Rattus exulans, the Kiore or Pacific rat, collected from the Phoenix Islands, Kiribati. This specimen is stored in alcohol in the Land Vertebrate wet collection and was collected August 17 1937 by Major Geoffrey A Buddle (of Auckland) during the Total Solar Eclipse expedition.

The Kiore is one of three rat species that have hitched a ride with humans across the globe. Recent molecular studies indicate that, in the Pacific, these rats first spread on the waka of voyagers from the Island of Flores in South East Asia, and subsequently became widely established across Polynesia approximately 2500 years BP. Kiore have had a profound impact on Pacific Island ecosystems. They consume plants and their seeds, impacting native forests but are also capable predators, consuming a broad variety of prey that is below their own body mass including invertebrates, reptiles, small birds and the eggs and chicks of larger species.

In 2008, the government of Kiribati established the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, one of the largest protected areas on Earth, to conserve the stunning land and sea biodiversity of this remote oceanic region. A feature of this project has been the eradication of Kiore, as well as other invasive mammals such as rabbits, from islands within the group to protect threatened biodiversity, such as the 19 species of tropical seabirds which breed there. 

Matt Rayner (Curator, Land Vertebrates)

Kiribati objects from our collection


Colour in a Te Kun pacific golden plover, or try our Kiribati Language Week Quiz

Colouring-in sheet

Colouring-in sheet

Colour in a Te Kun pacific golden plover, strolling along a Kiribati beach.

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