Hard work and determination paid off for 31-year-old Tammy Tambe, who received her PhD in Social Anthropology from University of Bergen in Norway this month.
Tammy, who is a Solomon Islander of I-Kiribati and Tuvaluan descent, had written a thesis called ‘Ngaira Kain Tari – We are people of the Sea: The Gilbertese Resettlement to Solomon Islands.
The thesis documents the relocation history of groups of Gilbertese Islanders (I-Kiribati) by the British Colonial Administration from the Gilbert Islands to the Phoenix Islands (both island groups now part of the nation of Kiribati) in the late 1930s as a result of what was perceived as overpopulation and land hunger.
“I'm both happy and humbled,” Tambe told the Sunday Star through an email from Norway.
“It's not only a personal accomplishment and an achievement supported by my families, friends and colleagues, but I owe it to the Gilbertese elders, many of whom have departed this life,” she added. \
“The thesis itself carries the voices of the Gilbertese elders and people and the memory and history of their relocation which has not often been shared or told among the Gilbertese, especially the younger generation.”
Most of the Gilbertese people have settled in Western and Choiseul provinces.
Tambe comes from Wagina in South Choiseul.
She said there was no secret in her achievement but she believed in hard work and determination and that nothing is impossible if you do your best to attain it.
“The education journey is never easy but sacrifice, hard work and determination are essential to endure the challenges encountered.
“Giving up should not be an option even if takes longer than one expects. Believing in yourself is also very important,” she added.
Furthermore, Tambe said there is a lot of potential among Solomon Islanders to attain further education, but they need more access to these opportunities and also guidance.
“There's a lot of opportunities outside of Solomons which are not often easily accessed by people in our country because they are not known, and that's one thing that we need to improve - the dissemination of information on scholarships abroad and also encouragement and guidance for those interested,” she added.
In her thesis, Tambe said the Gilbertese people were relocated from Phoenix Islands to Solomon Islands in the 1950s and 1960s after long periods of drought and environmental degradation.
She said despite these factors, many of these settlers in the Solomon Islands claimed that they were forcefully relocated from their home islands to escape the aftermath impacts of Britain’s nuclear testing, which was conducted on Christmas Island in the late 1950s.
With the use of colonial archives and literature, and oral narratives from the settlers, Tabe attempts to bridge the gap of silence that exists between the colonial history as documented in the colonial archives and writings and the oral history presented by the Gilbertese settlers, based on their memory of their events that took place prior to their relocation to the Solomon Islands.
While the thesis encapsulates the entire relocation history of the Gilbertese people in Solomon Islands, it focuses primarily on Wagina Island where Tabe has conducted long-term fieldwork and where she spent part of her childhood and youth.
In her research, she examines the challenges and changes the Gilbertese people encountered as settlers in a foreign land that is geographically, environmentally, and culturally different from their home of origin.
It also explores how they have adapted and become integrated into the Solomon Islands society over the years, through the re-establishment of their social capital in terms of social structures, cultural traditions, language and way of life observed in their home islands.
Her thesis also covers fishing activities and seaweed production on Wagina which has for several years been the main source of income for the Gilbertese people on the island, and who have continuously maintained their identity as people of the sea.
Her analysis of the Gilbertese relocation to Solomon Islands also contributes to the body of literature documenting the migrations of Pacific peoples who due to rising seas and climate change stand to lose their island homes.
Tambe said she hopes that her contribution to the Gilbertese community and the Solomon Islands through her thesis can inspire young Solomon Islanders, especially women, to pursue further studies in any given opportunity.
Tambe begun her high school at King George Sixth before moving on to get a Bachelor’s degree in Geography and Marine Studies and a Postgraduate diploma in Marine Studies from the University of the South Pacific in Fiji.
She obtained a Master’s degree in Pacific Islands Studies from the University of Hawai’i, Manoa.
She has just recently received her PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Bergen, where she is also affiliated with the Bergen Pacific Studies Research group.
She is currently working as a freelance researcher affiliated with the Bergen Pacific Studies Research Group in Norway.
She’s now one of the few local women with a doctoral degree under her belt.
By EDDIE OSIFELO