Fa'a Samoa, means the Samoan Way. This is an all encompassing concept that dictates how Samoans are meant to behave. It refers to the obligations that a Samoan owes their family, community and church and the individuals sense of Samoan identity. The concept of respect is also very important. You must always respect you betters, this includes those older than you, matais, ministers, politicians doctors and teachers. This unquestioning demand for respect is taking its toll in modern Samoa as the younger generation, which is invariably better educated than its predecessors, constantly finds itself trying to balance the demands of a conservative Samoan society with its knowledge of the world, increasingly gathered from overseas education and experience. This has lead to one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
Fa'a Samoa is also evident in the legal system which is actually two seperate systems, a western style system administered by a police force and justice department, and a traditional system administered at a village level. The two systems do occaisionally come into conflict with one another but generally things work smoothly enough. Modified: 23/11/97
The word matai means chief, and is an honour that is bestowed upon someone. The role of the matais is very complex and interwoven deep into the fabric of Samoan culture and history. Matais have family, civic, political and prior to the arrival of the European, religious duties to perform.
A matai title can be given to either men or women, although you will find far more men with titles than women. It is usually given to someone in acknowledgment for services that have been rendered. A family might give a title to a relation who has been able to support them through hard times or village might give a title to someone that has done something that has been of benefit to the village as a whole. However currently there appears to be a tendency to give a matai title to someone in order to receive favours in return, be they of a financial or other nature.
Until recently it was only possible for matais to vote in parliamentary elections. It used to be a relatively common practice that prospective parliamentary candidates would ensure that members of their constituency would receive titles to ensure that they could increase their share of the vote. Even today only matais are elegible to seek parliamentary office.
Within each village every family has a matai that is a member of the fono (council) and represents the interests of the family. The fono is responsible for administering justice within the village and can pass down a wide range of judgements upon a miscreant. The leader of the fono is called the ali'i, and is assisted by a pulenu'u. The ali'i was considered to be far too important to be bothered with actually discussing peoples problems and so the position tulafale (talking chief) arose. The tulafale acts on behalf of the ali'i at social occaisions, ceremonies and in discussions with other villages and external bodies. Modified: 23/11/97
In Samoa the aiga (extended family) is all important. Every village is composed of several aiga. The larger the aiga the more important it is and more power it can wield in village affairs. This leads to, what is a usually, healthy competition between aiga.
Samoan families are usually large; it is not unusual for there to be 12 or more children. Traditionally members of the family would work land that was allocated to them by the matai, but now it is increasingly common for families to encourage their children to work in Apia so they can earn a wage.
There are now more Samoans living outside of Samoa than in the islands themselves. Most of these send money back to the family on a regular basis. Modified: 23/11/97
Like most of the other Pacific Islands, it was neither governments seeking colonies nor trade looking for new oportunities that was responsible for most of the early contact. It was the churches seeking to introduce Western philosophies and standards of morality for the benefit of indeginous peoples.
Prior to the arrival of missionaries Samoa had a complex polytheistic religion, which differentiated between non-human (Atua) and human (Aitu) gods, and which also incorporated elements of ancestor worship. Because there were no outward signs of religion, as there were in other Polynesian cultures, they were commonly mistaken to be godless. The Samoan religion however contained the seeds of it's own destruction because the war goddess (Nafanua) had prophesied that there would come a new religion which would end the rule of the old gods. This prophesy, combined with the fact that the Samoan religion, which was perfectly suited for an isolated pacific community, was unable to cope with the new world view that arose once the Europeans had arrived, made the Samoans easy pickings for the first missionaries that arrived.
In 1830 John Williams of the London Missionary Society arrived at Sapapalii in his ship the Messenger of Peace, with 8 Tahitian and Rarotogan teachers. Here he was met by Malietoa Vainu'upo, a direct descendent of the recipient of Nafanua's prophesy. When Williams returned to Samoa in 1832 he found that Malietoa had managed to obtain, through battle, the title tafa'iafa (Four-In-One), which made him the highest ranking chief in Samoa and that he had also become a Christian. The eight teachers had also been well looked after and were sent out to spread the word through rest of Samoa. Before long hymn books and prayer books and been printed in Samoan and in 1848, the first Samoan version of the New Testament was printed, followed by a Samoan version of the Old Testament in 1855.
John Williams was not actually the first missionary to arrive in Samoa nor the first person to teach Christianity. Beachcombers and shipwrecks had been living in Samoa from the late 1700's, and had been teaching Christianity in a haphazard form, and a few Samoans had already been converted to Christianity. In 1828 Peter Turner, a Methodist missionary, visited Samoa and found that there were already Methodists in the Islands. Methodists had an established mission in Tonga and because of family ties between Samoa and Tonga the religion had spread. Turner did not set up a mission, but returned to do so in 1835 with a number of Tongan teachers, and reported that there were about 2,000 Samoans interested in becoming Methodists. However in 1838, it was decided to withdraw Turner and leave Samoa to the LMS. It was not until 1857 that another Methodist mission was opened in Samoa.
Both the LMS and Methodists were forms of Protestantism and shared a common dread of the Catholic church gaining a presence in Samoa. Catholicism was the church of France and it had been observed in other islands that after the Catholic priests arrived, French traders would follow. Once the traders had settled they would then call for France to annex the territories, in her commerical interests. In Sepetember 1848, two Catholic priests arrived in Samoa with two Samoan men. After a somewhat shaky start they managed to find a village, Sale'aula, that was willing to accept them; negative propaganda about the Catholic church had been spread by both the LMS and Methodists.
The arrival of new churches has continued in a stready stream through to the present day. In most villages you will encounter three or four, and in some cases more, churches of different denominations. When the missionaries first arrived payments of coconut oil were made in public to the churches. Samoan families used to compete with one another to see which could give the most, and although donations now tend to be of a monetary nature this practice still continues. As a result the churches and to a lesser extent the houses of the pastors tend to be the grandest buildings you will encounter in any village. Church attendance is very high, and as you drive around the islands on a Sunday you will come across hundreds of people walking to and from church in their Sunday best.
Rugby is probably the sport for which Samoa is best known, following it's emergence onto the World Cup rugby scene in 1991, when they beat Wales at the Cardiff Arms Park, and lost to Scotland at Murrayfield in the quarter finals. Samoan rugby players have been playing for New Zealand teams and the All Blacks for some time, but the 1991 Rugby World Cup was the first time the nation emerged as a force to be reckoned with in it's own right.
Their style of play is characterised by a fast-running, hard-tackling, free and open game, and the vigour with which they embrace the physical aspect of the game has earned Manu Samoa the grudging repsect of many sides. Samoan rugby players are now sought after by clubs around the world, but the majority of them still play in New Zealand. This has been the cause of what has been perceived as divided loyalties, since many are eligable to play for the All Blacks, arguably the best rugby team in the world. Those players that fail to be selected for the All Blacks will then make themselves available for selection for Manu Samoa.
Like the All Blacks, Manu Samoa throw down a ritual challenge, on the pitch, to their opponents prior to the kick off.
Le Manu Samoa e, ia manú le fai o le faiva Le Manu Samoa e, ia manú le fai o le faiva Le Manu Samoa lenei ua ou sau Leai se isi Manu o le atulaulau Ua ou sau nei ma le mea atoa Ma lo'u malosi ua atoatoa Ia e faatafa ma e sósó ese Leaga o lenei Manu e uiga ese Le Manu Samoa! Le Manu Samoa! Le Manu Samoa e o mai i Samoa! Hi!
Samoan cricket bears only a passing resemblence to that played elsewhere. The similarity consists of the fact that there is a bat, with three sides which makes controlling the direction very hard, and ball. There are no limits in the number of players in a team, which are of mixed sex.
Kirikiti is played all year round usually between teams from different villages. If as you wander around the
islands you come across a game in progress, ask the villagers playing, and you may be able to take part.
Siva is the Samoan word for dance, but it also refers to a particular type of dance in which the performer usually stands and enacts an everday activity. For the siva the performer usually wears a tuiga, a headdress made of feathers and human hair.
The Taualunga takes a similar form to the siva. It is performed by a female dancer, but instead of performing alone there will be various points at which a group of men will participate. In addition a sei, headdress of flowers, will be worn.
The Sasa is a group dance for men and women performed both sitting and standing. Hand movements are used to depict activities taken from every day life.
Myths and Legends
Because of the absence of a written script, Samoa had a very strong oral tradition with songs, poems and familiy histories being passed by word of mouth from generation to generation. Every member of a family would start to learn the family genealogy from a very early age since this generally related to the claims to land titles as well. Because everyone learned the same histories it was very difficult for one person to alter, or for errors to occur without them being detected. However, as time passed the earliest ancestors appear to have acquired mythical status.
Because navigation and boats were integral to the Samoan and Polynesian way of life stories we told of the great journeys undertaken and even of the history of boats.
Like all other cultures there was an explanation of where Samoans came from and how the world was created.
Va'aiga Tuigamala talks about religion
Apollo Perelini talks about religion
Leiataua Ioritana Leauga's Samoan Legends page