Huskies from football, volleyball, women’s basketball and crew are leaving this weekend for UW’s second study of colonization in the South Pacific in as many Junes. Anthropology professor Holly Barker is again leading the trip. Linemen Danny Shelton and Shane Brostek are returning to do graduate-level research.
By Gregg Bell
UW Athletics Director of Writing
SEATTLE – When Danny Shelton, Shane Brostek and about 10 other Huskies spent part of last summer studying colonization and giving adults football clinics in Tahiti, they learned many who live in the South Pacific’s seemingly idyllic island nation lack shoes.
That’s why the inside UW’s academic-services offices looked like a Foot Locker warehouse this week.
Shelton and Brostek are returning Sunday to Tahiti for graduate-level studying of its culture with an eye toward each lineman eventually applying for graduate school. A dozen other Huskies are going with them to Tahiti, including national volleyball player of the year Krista Vansant and All-Pac-12 women’s basketball guard Jazmine Davis.
UW anthropology professor Holly Barker is again leading this unique study-abroad program. Washington’s assistant director for campus and community engagement Ink Aleaga was on the advance party that left Thursday. The rest of the group will leave Seattle at dawn Sunday, hours after UW’s annual commencement ceremony at Husky Stadium.
Wednesday afternoon, Barker and UW Student-Athlete Academic Services advisor Liberty Bracken were standing on the top floor of Conibear Shellhouse amid boxes and bags filled with UW athletic gear. And those shoes, loads and loads of worn cleats, high-tops and turf kicks.
"People in Tahiti were writing on Facebook to Danny saying, ‘Can you bring more shoes?’" Bracken said, adding Shelton replied he was bringing as many as the Huskies could carry halfway across the world.
UW student-athlete academic advisor Liberty Bracken (left) and anthropology professor Holly Baker stand among the athletic gear -- and loads of shoes -- 14 Huskies will take with them to Tahiti as part of a second study-abroad program there in as many Junes.
"A lot of people there don’t have shoes to wear,” Bracken said she learned last June while on the first trip.
Other Huskies student-athletes going to Tahiti to study this month and stay in the homes of local families there include volleyball’s Cassie Strickland, crew’s Amy Fowler, women’s basketball’s Alexus Atchley, plus football’s James Atoe, Andrew Hudson, Micah Hatchie, Cory Fuavai and Siosifa Tufunga.
Bracken and Barker created this program to study Tahitian life in its homeland and learn first-hand the effects of French colonization on the culture there. Shelton and Brostek went in June 2013, along with football teammates Hau’oli Kikaha and John Timu plus Husky softball players Kaitlin Inglesby, Hooch Fagaly and Kimberlee Souza. They led Tahitian schoolchildren in a joyous singing of Katy Perry’s “Firework,” among other highlights of that first trip.
Aleaga included a pack of video equipment with him on his advance trip Thursday. He said he intends to bring back more footage of the Huskies in Tahiti this year.
That will provide evidence back home of how Washington has become Tahiti’s team.
The natives there have spent the last year sporting Huskies gear for their new favorite college team. After the Dawgs visited in 2013, some Tahitians found ways to watch UW’s football games online last fall. The Huskies that had given Tahitian adults free football clinics during their stay last summer still get regular e-mails and Facebook messages of support from Tahiti.
Last year Shelton, Brostek and their fellow Dawgs spent 10 days seeing a Tahiti to which travel agents don’t send tourists.
They experienced the struggles of a small nation better known for being paradise for its majestically blue waters and white sands, but one whose people are unsure of whether they want independence from French colonization. Kikaha, who returned to Tahiti this past January into March for more study on his own, still remembers seeing a Tahitian farmer being denied the water he needed for his crops and family. The pipes instead U-turned away from the farmer’s property, diverted to support the tourists staying at Tahiti’s glimmering hotels down the way.
The Huskies saw last June first-hand what they had been studying for months: The damaging effects of decades of nuclear testing – almost 200 atomic explosions in all -- by the French in Tahiti, in the south Pacific on about the same latitude as Peru far to the east and as the northern tip of Australia to its west.
They saw a Tahitian culture struggling to stay alive amid school and government requirements that are almost entirely French.
And the Tahitians saw Huskies willing to help, serve and learn about a new culture.
“They are such great ambassadors for the University of Washington,” Barker said last year following that first trip. “Everyone on the island was throwing their “Dubs” up, wanting to be Huskies.
“Washington is definitely a known commodity in Tahiti now, without a doubt.”