AM SAMOA GOVERNOR RECALLS FIRE DANCING DAYS

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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, May 14) - The first
American Samoa World Fire Knife competition attracted many local youth who were
looking forward to asking the master of fire knife dancing, Paramount Chief
Letuli Misilagi to pass his knowledge to them.

Governor Togiola Tulafono welcomed participants to the annual
event proclaiming, "It is an honor to welcome all competitors and spectators to
American Samoa for the 1st Annual "World Fire Knife Competition" sponsored by
the Flaming Sword of Samoa Association."

Tulafono continued, "The art of knife dancing has been an
integral part of our Samoan cultural tradition. Paramount Chief Letuli Olo
Misilagi of American Samoa mastered this art form and took it to another level
adding fire to the knife. Under his tutelage, many Samoans have ventured forth
into the world giving breathtaking fire knife performances that are the
highlight of any Pacific cultural event."

Revealing his time as a fire knife dancer, Governor Togiola
said, "In 1964 I was one of the privileged members of the fire knife dance team
under the direction of Letuli which represented American Samoa at the 1964
World's Fair in New York. The opportunity to perpetuate this art form and
represent my culture on a world stage will always be a proud and unforgettable
chapter in my life." said Governor Togiola.

He went on to say, "It is therefore only fitting on this
occasion, that we honor Paramount Chief Letuli, the "Father of the Fire dance"
for his vision and efforts in preserving our culture."

Governor Togiola reminisced about his days as a fire knife
dancer and praised the creator of the dance for his dedication to promoting
Samoa through entertainment and he also revealed that his fire knife dancing
helped pay his school fees.

Paramount Chief Letuli who is known as the king of fire knife
dancers also told stories of the old days saying, "In 1946 at Golden State Park,
San Francisco, I started the fire knife dance of Samoa."

"I was intrigued by the Hindu fire eaters and a young girl
twirling her baton fitted with lights bulbs on either end. All of us were
rehearsing our particular talents to perform for the Shriner's Convention," said
Paramount Chief Letuli.

He pointed out, "I asked the Hindu man for some of his white gas
and I wrapped my towel around the blade of my knife and although it was not
perfect, the flaming sword of Samoa became a reality."

Letuli continued, "Many people helped me and advised me on
materials to use to hold the fire to my knives and in turn, I did my best to
perfect the fire knife dance and to pass on this talent to others."

PC Letuli in his statement carried in the proclamation stated,
"I did not dream that the fire knife dance would become so widespread and that
so many people with such diverse backgrounds would pursue the Samoan fire knife
dance."

PC Letuli thanked Pulefano Galea'i and the people of the
Polynesian Culture Center in Laie, Hawaii for hosting a World Fire Knife
Competition every year. He also thanked Lene Leota and the Ailao Club from the
Independent State of Samoa for hosting the fire knife dance competition recently
in Samoa."

Reportedly the Ailao Club of the Independent State of Samoa will
convene at the Kitano Tusitala for their last fire knife dance competition to
select representatives for the World Fire Knife Dance Competition in Hawaii next
week.

May 16, 2003

Samoa News: www.samoanews.com

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