Toa o Samoa (Warriors of Samoa)

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Guest Blogger J.M. Levi is half-Samoan or afatasi and grew up in Missouri. We are pleased to feature her thoughts on Samoans who serve in the military in honor of Memorial Day. Complete biography below the blog.

Warriors of Samoa

Warriors of Samoa

In 1872, Samoa agreed to allow the United States of America to build naval bases at Pago Pago, Tutuila in return for Military protection. (American Samoa became a Territory of the United States in 1900.) Later, during World War II, males 14 years and older trained for the opportunity to serve in the US Armed Forces. My grandpa, Atonio Fuimaono, served in WWII and was stationed at Wake Island in Hawai’i on the island of O’ahu.

Although my grandpa did not die during his time of service, I still find myself thinking about him as Memorial Day approaches. Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember and honor those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces; whereas, Veteran’s Day is the day set aside to remember all Veterans.

My grandpa died a veteran. He was able to come home and continue his life. But, I find myself wondering how he came to serve—was it something his parents put him up to or did he enlist on his own accord? And what if he had died while serving? Would he have been surrounded by friends and loved ones as he was when he passed away at home? Or would he have been in a strange land surrounded by strange people?

Pieces of this make-believe scenario are unanswerable, but after talking with a friend and co-worker at the Polynesian Cultural Center, Chance Meredith, I know my grandpa would have been surrounded by friends and loved ones no matter where he died. The Samoan culture provides a natural brother-/sisterhood among those who are willing to accept their love and friendship regardless of ethnicity.

American Samoan Soldier

American Samoan Soldier, Chance Meredith

When I picture a Military Base, I picture strict rules and punishments and only enough energy to eat and train. It has always felt like a recipe for loneliness, to me.

However, Meredith, who serves in the US Army Reserves, tells me that while in service of the military, the bonds strengthen as Samoans and other Polynesians reminisce about their upbringings. He says that they talk about “how they overcame the odds and how they suffered to get to where [they’re] at. And it makes them [appreciate] what they have become, unifies them, and makes them fight for the same cause.”

Unity within the ranks is an important factor to success, as well as a load off of the leaders. It also helps to ease the sense of isolation for those serving. To emphasize the idea of unity and family when there are no blood relatives around, Meredith states, “We get together as families when [we’re] off duty. [That’s] all we got when [we’re] off the clock, we usually all get together, play volleyball, and have bbq.”

Although serving in the US Armed Forces is not all fun and games, it’s comforting to know that time exists where they can reflect, connect, and reminisce. As we concluded our conversation, Meredith says, “We all know how Samoans run our families so we run all of our families together so we [don’t] miss home as much, [‘cause] we still need to be there to fight for freedom [and] get gain for our families back home.”

Even though Samoa is only a territory of the US, the patriotism of Samoan Nationals is as strong as any American. In an article for the Samoa News, Aumua Amata says, “Sadly, we have suffered disproportionately greater combat casualties than any other U.S. State or Territory but although I do not have statistics to prove it, I believe American Samoa also provides a disproportionate number of Army enlisted leaders as well.”

American Samoan Casualties Iraq

American Samoan Casualties

Toa o Samoa means “Warriors/Heroes of Samoa.” The Samoans serving in the US Armed Forces welcome all their fellow soldiers into their circle. As long as there are Samoans (and other Polynesians) serving, others serving will have a brother/sister for life. Your loved ones did not die alone, and those serving are not alone.

Thus, I understand that whether my grandpa died during service or not, he would have been surrounded by people who loved him and would have mourned his death. Sure, he would have missed home and his family, but his enlisted family would have been close. And he would have known he was loved. He would not have been isolated because they would not have allowed it—comes with the Samoan and Polynesian culture, I suppose.

American Samoan All Wars

American Samoan Casualties All Wars

So, as we remember those who’ve given their lives in service for the freedom of the US, remember also that they were likely surrounded by friends and loved ones. We are still free in the US—their deaths have not been in vain. Let us honor their sacrifice by making the most of our days we have right now. Tomorrow is not promised, but thanks to our brothers and sisters in service, we have our freedom today.

samoan soldiers hymn

Polynesian Soldiers singing a Samoan Hymn

Fa’afetai tele lava lo’u aiga Milikeli. Thank you very much my Military family.

J. M. Levi

Aumua Amata’s full article: http://www.samoanews.com/?q=node/74936#sthash.ugVLTroB.dpuf
More on American Samoa Military Bases: http://amsamoa.net/military-bases
Samoans, WWII, and Military Work: http://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/bitstream/handle/10125/15564/OP36-173-179.pdf?sequence=1

Respect to a few of our fallen Toa o Samoa:
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jason Asotama Atuatasi Togi: http://www.samoanews.com/node/77650
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert ‘Danny’ Hollister: http://www.samoanews.com/content/en/fallen-toa-o-samoa-staff-sgt-hollister-honored

About Jerrica
My name is Jerrica M. Levi and I am married to Mark Levi, who is training to be a supervisor at Subway in Laie. I am Afakasi (half-Samoan) and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from Missouri. I originally came to Laie to help my sister, Shyla Lafaele, babysit, but I stayed because I fell in love with the Aloha Spirit and refused to part from it. Eventually, I attended Brigham Young University-Hawaii. I excel in English reading, writing, and analyzing. Up until a few months ago, I was a Shift Manager at Pizza Hut Laie and a Student Manager at the Brigham Young University-Hawaii Reading Writing Center. In April 2014, I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, minor in Psychology. Now, my professional title is a Part-Time Instructor for the English Department at Brigham Young University-Hawaii teaching English 101.

My hobbies and interests include singing, dancing, and writing. I am drawn to and passionate about charitable organizations, such as Locks of Love and Radiating Hope. Activities that include the outdoors, spending time with children, using my creativity, and/or helping those in need are activities of which I am honored to participate. I also enjoy playing various games, watching Anime, and experiencing other such adventures with my husband. Someday, we will have children of our own, but until that time, I value opportunities I receive to spend time with children and help them grow and learn. My ultimate teaching goal is to teach in a Middle School because that is when I feel creativity blossoms the most. My ultimate writing goal is to write something that will influence or change at least one person’s life for the better. I suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and hope to become a strong and professional beacon for others who struggle with likewise symptoms. Life is tough, but bit by bit, we can make it through. Keep your head high and do not be ashamed of your healing tears.

Achievements

-Graduated with a 3.6 GPA -2014 Woman of the Year for National Association of Professional Women

-Initiated member of the Sigma Tau Delta: International English Honor Society (Alpha Beta Delta Chapter) -Nationally Certified Level 3 CRLA English Tutor

Publications:

“How It Feels to be Artistic Me.” Kula Manu. (2014): 10-12. Brigham Young University-Hawaii. Print. “Locks of Love.” Kula Manu. (2014): 60-66. Brigham Young University-Hawaii. Print. “Valentine? Gimme a Break.” Ke Alaka’i. 106.6 (2014): 18. Brigham Young University-Hawaii. Print.  “For What It’s Worth.” Kula Manu. (2013): 88-90. Brigham Young University-Hawaii. Print.

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wonderstone warrior          hibiscus plumeria suncatcher]          toa o samoa1

 

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So, who was Prince Kuhio?”, our friend from Oregon asked.

The three locals in the room looked at each other and shrugged in embarrassment. We knew he was a Hawaiian Prince but other than that all we knew about him was that he was a holiday.

So, who was Prince Kuhio? He was a fascinating, internationally educated, charming, passionate man who spent the majority of his life serving his people who he loved deeply.

Born to the sister of Queen Kapi’olani, Esther Kino`iki Ke-kaulike and David Ka-hale-pouli Pi`ikoi, on March 26, 1871, Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole Piʻikoi was adopted by his aunt, Queen Kapi’olani after the death of his parents and was declared a Prince by King Kalaukaua. Prince Kuhio Day is celebrated on his birthday.

Educated in Honolulu, California and England he also traveled extensively throughout the United States and Europe. He was known for his smile and charm and from a young age was affectionately called Prince Cupid.

prince kuhio 1
Groomed from an early age to be King, he found himself without a kingdom when he was only 22 years old. After an aborted attempt to restore the Kingdom through a revolution, Prince Kuhio and his wife, Elizabeth Kahanu Kalanianaʻole left Hawaii and traveled the world for a few years.

Finally reconciled to the new future of the islands of Hawaii and his people, the Prince of the People as he became known returned to his beloved islands and began to shape the future that we know today.

prince kuhio 2
The first Native Hawaiian and only member of Congress born as royalty, Prince Jonah Kuhio served 10 terms, almost 20 years in the Senate.

Forty years before Hawaii became a state he drafted the first Hawaii Statehood Act. He moved the hearts of the entire Senate when he spoke of the plight of his people and their dwindling numbers, loss of their land and the fear of losing their culture. Among other accomplishments, he was able to push through legislation for Hawaiian Homelands, set up the current county system, reorganized the Royal Order of King Kamehameha I, was the founder of the Hawaiian Civic Club and dedicated the rest of his life to the betterment of his people.

prince kuhio 3
The love of the people for Prince Kuhio is shown in the many public places and schools that bear his name. While the Hawaiians did not achieve the independence he originally fought for as a kingdom, they have independence and freedom that allow them to continue to grow as a Hawaiian people, perpetuate the Hawaiian culture and continue the Hawaiian legacy that Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole Piʻikoi, the Prince of the People, spent his life serving.

Susan Noanoa

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Kala Woodglow Tenor Ukulele

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                                                             Map of the Sandwich Isles

The People of the Sea

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My oldest grandson is a mix of a lot of ethnicities–he is, on one half–Maori, Tongan, Hawaiian, Chinese, Samoan with traces of Fijian and on the other half a European mix from Norway to the Netherlands. His name reflects this mixture, influenced by his Maori, Samoan, Scottish and Tongan ancestors. But it is the name that we are called the most that truly becomes who we are and how we think of ourselves. His name is Ngatiwai. His paternal grandmother, who is Maori, suggested that name, it being the name of her tribe, Ngāti Wai, or the “People of the Sea”.

From Te Ara we learn that “Ngāti Wai are descended from Manaia (the captain of the Māhuhu-ki-te-rangi or Ruakaramea canoe) and his people Ngāti Manaia, and are another earlwhangaruru harbory Whāngārei tribe. The history of Ngāti Wai is intimately connected with the coastal waters. The tribe’s name comes from a tradition at Manawahuna, a cave beneath Motu Kōkako, where priests would foretell their fortunes from the way water (wai) passed through the cave. Well known as coastal raiders and traders, Ngāti Wai have links to ancestors from Whangaroa in the north to Tāmaki (Auckland) in the south, and eastward to Little Barrier and Great Barrier islands where Ngāti Rehua, a sub-tribe of Ngāti Wai, settled. Today, most of the tribe live north and south of Whāngārei, and are interspersed with other coastal groups such as Ngāti Kahu, Te Whānauwhero, Te Ākitai and Te Panupuha.” http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/whangarei-tribes/page-2

In December, Ngatiwai’s younger brother, one-year-old Neeson spent two weeks with his paternal grandparents visiting his great-grandparents who still live on coastal tribal lands in Northland, New Zealand. In the distant past Ngāti Wai traded seafood up and down the coast, interspersed with the occasional raid.

December is summer in the Southern Hemisphere with temperatures in Whangaruru ranging from the mid-fifties at night to the upper seventies during the day. While Ngatiwai was bundled up for a Utah winter Neeson spent his two weeks in Whangaruru running around in a t-shirt and eating seafood for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ngatiwai and his little sister Ngaio have also spent time in Whangaruru before Neeson was born. Memories that will forever keep them tied to their Maori roots.

northland fish

There is a special feeling about the land your ancestors lived on–a connection that is hard to define. Rock is rock and sand is sand, right? True, until you stand on land that was there hundreds of years before and someone you share a bloodline with once lived there. Then you close your eyes and you can feel the connection, a sense of security in ancestral lines that transcends geology and testifies to a deeper truth–that this rock and this sand connects you to your people.

Ngatiwai may not yet understand the heritage that he carries or the responsibility that comes with the name he bears to represent his people. First grade is a time for friends and playing. But with grandparents and parents who teach him–someday he will come to feel that same connection with the land and the sea that have been the legacy of the Ngāti Wai for over a thousand years.

Susan Noanoa

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creation at dawn      Hawaiian Voyage

Creation at Dawn by Tom Kuali’i                                   Hawaiian Voyage by William Horak

Wallis and Futuna…A Polynesian Discovery

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Discovery in that, I find I am woefully ignorant of what makes up Polynesia. Polynesian Triangle? Check. Six largest cultures? Hawaii, Tonga, Samoa, Maori, Tahiti and Fiji. Check. And then there are the Cook Islands, Easter Island, Kiribas, Niue, Tuvalu and Pitcairn Island among many others. But I hadn’t heard of Wallis and Futuna until recently. Looks a lot like Samoa to me and actually they share weather characteristics like only needing one number for the temperature and the humidity — 80.

W&F islands

While the islands lie between Samoa and Fiji, the language and culture of Wallis are more closely related to Tonga while Futuna’s roots are more closely tied to Samoa. For some reason there is a bit of rivalry between the two cultures. There is a third main island, Alofi which is mostly uninhabited. While a source of fresh water is currently a problem it seems the Futunians took issue with the Alofians sometime in the nineteenth century and basically wiped them out. You might want to look up the method of disposal–would be great for your next trivia challenge.

This from polynesia.com:

Scientific evidence indicates Wallis, which is traditionally called Uvea, and Futuna — which are located between Samoa and Fiji — were historically settled over 2,000 years ago. About 500 years ago, marauding Tongans captured the islands and intermarried with the Polynesian people there.

British navigator Samuel Wallis discovered Uvea in 1767, but the islands have been under French administration since 1842. Today, about 9,500 Polynesians live on Wallis and about 5,000 on Futuna. A relatively large number of Wallisians also live in New Caledonia and Vanuatu, which was previously a French territory.

W&F islands stamp

And there you have it — a brief glimpse of Wallis and Futuna, ancient cultures of Polynesia — a new discovery for me, modern Polynesian.

Susan Noanoa

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3dolphins                          hypnotik shirt

Three Dolphins                                                  Hypnotik Aloha Shirt

Afatasi…

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That’s me – afatasi, a Samoan word describing someone who is part Samoan and part something else. It literally means half of one. My grandmother comes from the village of Nu’uuli on the island of Tutuila in American Samoa.

Here at the Polynesian Cultural Center there are a lot of us who are afatasi–either by blood or by  the cultures we represent. We may be Tongan working in the Fijian village or Hawaiian working in the New Zealand village but we are all bound by the common threads of language and tradition that declare us Polynesian.

Then there is the international mix that extended living in Laie stirs–a student body at Brigham Young University-Hawaii that currently represents over 70 countries on every continent. That’s a lot of opportunity for afatasi through marriage and the blending of cultures. My neighbor’s children are (from their father) Tongan, Maori, European and (from their mother) Fijian, Indian. Definitely afatasi! Maybe even afa…afa…afatasi. (Can you be half of, half of, half of… of something?)

Diversity visits the Polynesian Cultural Center every day in the form of visitors from all parts of the world curious to learn about a culture that could navigate and populate an ocean larger than all the Earth’s landmass combined. Each guest takes away within them a little bit of Polynesia. You could almost say each one has become afatasi

Susan Noanoa

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Undated photo from pcc50.com

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