An Ocean of Gratitude


Finding the words to write this letter has been difficult because there are no words to express our gratitude for what took place at the PISA Conference 2018 (PISACON18). There is a feeling that has been burning in so many of us after the conference and while we are familiar with the energy (mana), the act of feeling it is mostly unnamed. A colonial practice that is often imparted on our people is the idea of having to explain what is not fully understood or titled. This feeling that we know so many of you have; we offer that it is OK to just have the feeling and that it has more impact because we let it be, an unnamed shared energy and experience. Love, family and respect for space and time allowed us find this unique energy that only those who shared breath and space can understand. This is the power of being in relational space.

PISACON18 was widely successful considering the timeline we worked with (2 ½ months) and the amount of community support we received. This commitment made by our sponsors, staff, faculty and student leadership was a testimony of our desire to be where we always longed, together.

Together we released years of frustration in critical workshops, talanoa, safe and brave spaces. Together we embraced in our flavors, dance and music like hugs from our family. Together we supported our neighbor, cousin, classmate and teacher as everyone was accepted as an educator and contributor in our sacred space, our vasa, our ocean. (Va – space, Sa- sacred collectively make the word vasa meaning ocean in the Samoan language). In our own ocean ways, we lost our colonial boundaries and found ourselves living in the same water, together as ocean has intended.

As we create sacred spaces, we know that we are not able to do so without the support of our indigenous communities and support of Native American Student and Community Center and the Pacific Islander, Asian & Asian American Student centers.

To the financial support of the following groups:


To the many hands and helpers we say thank you to the following people, families and groups:

Johnstone Waayan Catering (J-linas)

Aunty Elsie and Uncle James Alexander

Mafutaga Tina EFKAS Portland

NASCC Student Staff

Uncle Noho Marchesi

Timoteo Porotesano

Ikaika and Allen Perreira

Fenton Lutunatuba

Aunty Sandy Tsuneyoshi

Stacie Taniguchi

Lahaina Phillip

Kevin Tugruwfaimaw

Anselmo Villanueva

Mari & Aaron Helenihi Ohana

Liane & Peter Jackson Ohana

Aunty Sheryl Bruno

Laurie Franklin

Vaeomotoka Valu

Stacy Siler

Joe Enlet

Andrea Lei I’i

Sami Lelo

Lilian Ongelungel

Robert Franklin

Trevino Brings Plenty

Justin Sipoloa



To all our presenters, our deepest appreciation:

And finally, to our organizing team:

Reagan Le from OSU for their commitment dating back to the first PISACON. To have reagan’s knowledge on our team was vital to moving forward. Also all the long trips from Corvallis to Portland, we are in your debts. 

Robin Fifita of OSU who has one of the busiest schedules we know, but shows up strong every time. To provide on site assistance and encourage strong student participation. 

Stacey Johnston from PSU, who joined our team with a month to go and came through in big ways that we are eternally grateful for.

Kris Galago from UO for stepping in with almost no warning that this was happening and making space for her newly found students on Eugene’s campus.

Chris Young from UO for hosting our first retreat back in May of 2017 and for always checking in with us even though he is unable to attend fall events.

Roz Guerrero the NW doesn’t know how lucky we are to still have her and PISA is a much better place to have this kind of leadership available. Roz is wealth of strength and knowledge. 

Irene Niedo: to have someone good with numbers and to have years of PISA experience is priceless in our work, Irene commitment and growth with PISA is truly appreciated. 

Melva Perez, Johanna Inoke, Coco Aiten, Desmoun Thompson, Lavinia Hau, Jennifer Sipoloa & Ashley Helenihi: From the beginning to the day of PISACON18, both in spirit and the present, these students answered the call to service. So many want to benefits of PISA, few are willing to fight to make it happen and without their commitment we are unsure if this conference ever happens. We feel blessed and assured with their leadership and will continue to seek their guidance in the feature.

The future of our alliance is bright and we have a lot more work to do. In the meantime, we offer all the love an ocean can provide to all our students, staff and community members. Thank you from the depths of our heart, with an ocean of gratitude.


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