Samoa Head Of State Delivers Powerful Address At American Samoa Flag Day

Tui Atua encourages youth to turn away from social media toward God

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, April 18, 2017) – With new communication technology taking communities by storm, Samoa’s Head of State, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi says the traditional method to protect boundaries, le tuaoi, seem useless on social media, which is being used widely by today’s youth. Drawing from the words of psalmist, found in the Bible, Tua Atua said, “We must not forget or discard our mythologies, histories, values, customs and language for they are what gives us identity and power” — “the verities that makes us Samoa.”

American Samoa leaders gave Tui Atua the honor of delivering this year’s special Flag Day address, during yesterday’s ceremony at Veterans Memorial Stadium, marking 117 years since American Samoa became a US territory. This year’s theme focuses on the youth.

Before introducing the Head of State, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga delivered a brief message in Samoan about this year’s celebration focusing on the youth. He said the outcome of research by experts around the world has showed that a successful future of any country is dependent on its youth, by developing them to prepare them to take the torch to lead that country.

He said this was also a wish of our forefathers, in their quest to search for a better future for Tutuila and Manu’a through prayers, to ensure that the future of the territory remains strong, for future generations. And this was achieved through two Deeds of Cession — 1900 for Tutuila and Aunu’u; and 1904 for the Manu’a islands.

Lolo then thanked Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Alo and his staff for the successful challenge in federal court over the federal decision to reduce the Large Vessel Protected Area in territorial waters, with a federal judge pointing to the importance of the Cession Deeds, which it said were not considered by the US National Marine Fisheries Service in its decision to reduce the LVPA.

Lolo said the future of American Samoa is in the hands of American Samoa’s youth and urged them to take this torch — from our forefathers — and carry it forth. He said the future of the territory is not sought through Facebook and social media, but through church ministers and God.

The governor introduced Tui Atua saying that territorial leaders decided that on this special occasion, Tui Atua would be given the honor for delivering the special Flag Day Address.

Lolo noted that Tui Atua is a well known around the world as well as in American Samoa, which has always referred to the Head of State as the “father” of both Samoas.

SAMOA HEAD OF STATE KEYNOTE ADDRESS

While it’s not usual among governments to have a keynote speaker from outside of its country at such an event, Tui Atua reminded the audience, including those watching live on TV, that “Samoa and American Samoa are forever bound through our bonds of kinship.”

He recalled that an elder once said that on an “occasion like this, we must search the heights of heaven and the depths of our family histories and mythologies in order to gain insight and perspectives.”

In his search, Tui Atua said he was drawn to the words of a psalmist, “If I forget you Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skills, let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.”

“The words, ‘if I do not remember you, if I do not set you above my highest joy, then let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth’, are sharp and vivid,” he said. “They pave a harsh message — they are cries of pain that urge to embed and nurture in our hearts and minds, in our thoughts and deeds, and in those of our children —  the verities that makes us Samoa.”

Tui Atua said the Psalmist “implores that it is when we are in exile, that we must be more vigilant, not to forget this. We must not forget or discard our mythologies, histories, values, customs and language for they are what gives us identity and power.”

He also pointed out the importance of “our language”, saying that Psalmist “reminds us, it is through our languages —our Samoan, Hebrew, English languages — that God celebrates with us, as a unique culture and us with Him.”

“It is through our mother tongue that we come to know and retain the heights and the depths of who were are as unique peoples,” he said, adding, “We know this through the beauty of language and through the language of faith.”

Tui Atua said the question of Jerusalem is also a question of boundaries — the boundaries of land. “In old Samoan, land was most functional and sacred. It was a gift from God. Its boundaries were both material and sacred and reflected history and culture,” he said, adding that in old Samoa — Samoa extended from Saua, Manu’a in the East to Analega, Falealupo (Savai’i island) in the west.

He also shared the old tradition, saying that the ritual of planting the placenta and umbilical cord into the land, underlined a belief in the shared genealogy of kinship between land and people.

“The word for land in Samoan is fanua,” which is also the word in Samoan for placenta and “both nurtured the birth of life,” Tui Atua said. “The continuation of these rituals are testament to the philosophical heights and depths of our Fa’samoa — Samoan culture and values, our Samoan identifies, culture boundaries, culture role designations and responsibilities.”

Of boundaries, Samoa Head of State said, the “biggest problem facing our families, villages and churches and government today, is the crossing of boundaries or ‘sopo tuaoi’, when there is a cross or breach of the boundaries.”

For example, in a situation, where children, especially adult children, impose great disrespect towards their parents or treat them badly, elders believe misfortunate, sometimes describe a curse, would befall them.

“By the same token, those children who show genuine care and respect for their parents would receive blessings or fa’amanuiaga,” he said. “With the breakdown or loss of traditional values and believes, and domestic violence statistics, our church, government and non government sectors are also not above the reach of ‘sopo tuaoi’.”

Tui Atua then spoke about the role of new communication technology, such as the Internet and Facebook, saying they “have taken our communities by storm. Traditional method for protecting... the ‘tuaoi’ in the social media space, seems useless.”

He reminded the gathering that “Samoa is bounded in the east in Saua and bounded in the west in Analega” and “those are the boundaries of our fa’a Samoa... those are the boundaries of our heritage, language, history and mythologies.”

“As our ancestries have said, ‘I am you and you are me, for we born from the same womb, we share the same inheritance, speak the same language, and live and die in search of the same destiny’,” Tui Atua said. “If we forget you Samoa, let our right hand forget their skills, let our tongue stick to the roof of our mouth.”

“Today we remember you and honor you. I wish you all a blessed Flag Day,” Tui Atua concluded his English address, which was also delivered in Samoan.

The one-day Flag Day celebration closed late yesterday afternoon, after siva & pese performances by chosen church groups.

The Samoa News
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