An Account of Samoan History up to 1918
The Constitution of the Samoan Family:
The Constitution of the Samoan Family:
The term Aiga as used in the Samoan sense inoludes not only the immediate family, father, mother and children, but also the whole union of families of a clan and even those who although not related are yet subject to the family control. The origin of some of the members of the Aiga can be traced back to forced or willing subjection. Tilling submission may be brought about by what is termed “Togiola” payment for saving life.) If for any reason a person takes refuge in the Aiga of another family he will submit to the domination of that family or ruler in gratitude for the protection afforded. He remains on the land of his protector and under his control and his offsprings do likewise. Reference to their seeking protection is resented by them if referred to by a third person.
It does not always happen that the farious branches of the family or Aiga live close together. Usually they are to be found scattered over the two or all the Islands in smaller families. The various families living together in different villages is also referred to as the Aiga in a narrower sense. The village families of the Royal family of Tupua are referred to as the “Fuaifale” instead of Aiga. (The most important are:- Satuala, Saletalasi, Safenunivao, Satumafono, Sapeseta, Saamituans'i, Tauaiga and Tauaana. The name of the family itself is formed from the name of an ancestor with the prefix “as”. In large and powerful families such as those just mentioned, the village family is divided into several further families - Aiga in the narrowest sense- and each family is subject to an elder matai. One of these matai is the superior of the whole village families and is termed the “Matai Sill” or head matal. Many families have this subdivision. In families of lesser importance the organisation is more simple and they have only one matal.
Each matai possesses a name or “Suafa” by and through which he exercises his rights in the family over which he presides. Before the advent of the European the “pule” or authority of the matal extended to life and limb but this power has been absorbed by the white man's Goverrment and the matai's authority is confined to the parental right of chastisement.page 2
The various members of the family are called upon to serve and pay their respects to the Hatai who in turn is supposed to look after the welfare of his family. The “tuaigoa” or those holding titles are also oalled upon the serve the matai if it so happens that they are under the pule or control of a chief matai or principle matal.
A matai may be either an “Alii” (ohief) or a “Tulafale” (orator). The Alii are the blue bloods of the country and the Tulafale are the speakers who serve the chiefs. In former times the term Matai applied only to Tulafale but as times changed the term became applicable to Chiefs or Ali'i generally and has continued down to the present time, Chiefs sometimes appoint Tulafale within their own families for the purpose of strengthening their following and influence. It is now not a dishonour for the son of a chief to acopet a high speaker's title. The title of a family matai which is peculiar and particular to that family is the subject of tradition and is faithfully recorded by the family and passed on from generation to generation. It may generally be accepted that the basis of the explanation of the origin of a family name is reasonably true and the repetition of the story is a fairly clear indication that the language like all other languages has passed through a period of refinement. An instance may be given here:-Leauialii (he who joins the chiefs) changed to Auialii and later on to Auali'i.
Matai names are for the most part very old ones and are handed down from generation to generation. It sometimes happens that new names are for some reason taken and the old ones discarded or passed on to lesser chiefs. To illustrate:- From the earliest times the political power in the village of Aleipata was in the hands of two Tulafale families - Leifi and Tautolo. At some period in the history of the country these two families assumed the titles Fuataga and Tafua and these names remain as the most influential down to the present time. The two first titles were not discarded altogether but were passed on to lesser people. They remained minus their power to command the respect that formerly attached to the names. This condition was also arrived at in connection with the titles Seumanutafa and To omaletai in Vaimauga District. Their former titles were Leufi and Efu.page 3
The Samoan “Gafa” (pedigree, ancestors, descent) will usually conmence from the person who first brought the name into prominence and caused it to be respected, It does not necessarily mean that the family commenced as from the institution of a name or that the individual holding the title was the founder of the family. Former matais of the family have by comparison become unimportant and their names have fallen into disuse or become uninfluential.
The Samoan appellation for a male person not a Matai is a “Taule'ale's. The real meaning of the word which is derived from the word Le'ale'a (immature) is a young man who has not reached maturity, It is now-a-days applied to any male person who is not a matai and is also used to indicate that any male person even a matai is not an old man. In this sense it signifies young or comparatively young just as “Tosina” is used to signify that a man is aged whether he be a Matai or a Taule'a le'a. It is permissible for a Taule'ale'a/ (not a matai) to change his name as often as he wishes. A chance remark or an outstanding incident will often be the determining factor in naming a Taule'ale'a. To illustrate:- a boy in my office was named “Taime”. When he was a mere boy he found an American dime on the road and on asking what the coin was he was informed that it was a Dime. The Samoan language has no “D” and this letter was changed to “T” giving the name “Time” which spelled faaSamoa is “Taime”. From this time on the boy has been called by the name “Taime.” Should a Taule'ale'a be appointed a Matai he will retain his last one or two taule'ale'a names as christian names in addition to his new Matai title. The Christian names serve also to distinguish him from other Matai holding the same title. As a result of or in order to avoid trouble a title is sometimes divided and their may be several joint holders. The Samoans explain this by saying that a man has a “Fasi igoa” - a piece of the title. Instances are the Leiataua, Aiono and Futi titles. This division of titles does not apparently settle troubles but would seem to multiply them as subsequent to the division there are endless further disputes re the pule and lands. The subdivision of a title, ultimately will result in its degeneration and probable extinction as each subdivision takes from the original name the authority and respect that as one undivided name it could command. A subdivision of a title also creates further divisions page 4 in the family. When a Matai becomes old he may decide to relinquish his Matai title and if so he will tranfer his authority and name to his successor. He does not revert to the status of a Taule'ale'a but takes a new complimentary name and retaining only a portion of the family lands and property for his own use retires to comparative quietness. A retired Matai usually enjoys the respect of his family and is referred to as the “Faatonutonu folau” the steersman of the boat. He does not actually do the sterring but his advice is listened to and his family profit from his ripe experience. A woman can hold a matai name and have the pule of the family but this does not often occur. Should she have both she will usually bestow her Matai title on one of her family, probably her husband, and retain the pule. An instance is the Seumanutafa title of which Van has the pule but she has not the title. It has been noted that very often there is a tendency on the part of the males to object to the pule of a woman in a family.
Besides Matai names or titles there are chiefly titles the bestowal of which is in the hands of Orators. These titles are bestowed on high chiefs by the orators and payment is made for them. This payment is usually in the form of fine mats but latterly other items have crept into the purchase price. These titles are not inheritable and on the death of the holder a net bestowal is made and paid for. The bestowal of the four highest titles “Tuiaana, Tuiatua, Gatoaitele and Tamasoali'i” on one individual was tantamount to declaring the recipient “King” of Upolu, Manono, Apolima and Savai'i. The Manua (American Samoa) Group had an independent Kingly title of “Tuimanua.”
Kava names or titles: (igoa a ipu) Each chief has a Kava title which is called out when he is presented with the Kava cup in assemblies. It is a term of respect and is conferred on a chief by an Orator who receives payment for the same, such payment taking the form of eatables. These titles are hereditary. Sometimes, though not often, the Orators have a Kava title.
The aggregation of male members of the village is called “Aualuma o tane” and the term “Aualuma o teine” is applied to the female members. The leader of the female section is a young page 5 daughter of a chief (Taupo) and a young chief or son of a chief termed a “Manaia” is the leader of the “Aualuma o tane.” Kach chiefly family has its own sa'oaluma (title) the bestowal of which must be sanctioned by the Orators. The Manaia and the Taupo appear on public occasions, noticeably at matchmakings.
Originally the terms Afioga and Susuga were of equal value. The Queen Salamasina ordered that the Term Susuga should be reserved exclusively for Kings and it was thought by the Europeans that Susuga denoted a higher rank than Afioga. The Samoans have somewhat come to undertand the distinction also.
Terms used in addressing Samoans are:-
Afioga for Chiefs.
Susuga for chiefs.
Tofa for high Orators.
Failauga for lesser Orators.
The term “Ituaiga” means a branch of the family and also the various members and descendants thereof.
Tama (Father) is used in the sense of master or family head but when the parent is understood or meant the expression is Tama moni - own or real father. The difference between Tama and Matai is that the former indicates a personal relationship and the latter a special inclusive authority.
Tina (mother) or Tina moni depending on what relationship it is desired to claim.
Matua means real or adopted parents and grandparents.
The word “Fanau” means the dependants of a family head and if the real children of two parents are indicated the term Fanau moni is used.
The brother of a male or the sister of a female is termed “Uso”.
A “Tuagane” is the brother of a female.
A “Tuafafine” is the sister of a male person.
It is customary amongst the Samoans for all those people belonging to the same family and socially on the same footing to refer to each other as brothers and sisters although they may be very distantly related. The adjective “Moni” is used to indicate the relationship when it is that of real father to real son etc.page 6
Brothers and sisters born of the same parents are referred to as “Tuofe” which means standing like the stems of the bamboo, closely connected.
Brothers and sisters of different parents are called “Taufeagai”.
“Usoalil” refers to brother chiefs, those men in the family union holding matai names. The all may enjoy the same rights or be under the control of one matai who is termed Sao in which case the other chiefs are referred to as Tuaigoa.
The word “Ulumatua” means the eldest of several real brothers or sisters.
“Ui'i” the youngest.
A favourite younger brother or sisters is referred to as “Tei”.
“Tama” and Teine are the common terms for boy and girl with the addition of the word “Moni” when real brother or sister is indicated.
“Atali'i” is a son.
“Afafine” is the daughter of a father.
“Tama” or Tama tane a son.
“Tama” or Tama Teine is the daughter of a mother.
It is perhaps advisable to point out here that the terms Tama Tane and Tama fafine indicate also what is to the Samoans a very important matter - the female and male line of descent of the family. The words do not differentiate between the sexes of the desqendants, merely the line of descent. Tama Tane are those members of the family who have descended from the male side or sons of the family- Tama Fafine those from the female branch or from daughtero of the founder of the family. This is a matter of paramount importance in the Samoan family and should it so happen that the founder of a family has no daughter he will adopt one in order that the female side may be carried on. The Samoan vocabulary does not contain any distinct word for a brother of the father or the brother of the mother. The relationship is explained in full as “Uso o le Tama and Tuagane o le tina respectively. If a child is born of parents not of the same rank the child is regarded from the viewpoint of the higher rank “Gafata i tua” - retrogressive and when from the point of view of the inferior family “Gafata i luma.” The descendants of this child are referred to as Gafata as long as the family connections remain.page 7
Many such family connections end through various reasons and gradually become extinct. Every family on earth has these family connections but in the majority of cases they have been lost sight of. This applies to the Samoans though not to the same extent as amongst the more civilised races. In recording their pedigrees and family histories they show a remarkable mental development and many of them can trace their descent through several hundred years. The authority of the Matai is not unlimited. He is called upon to discuss with the family all important matters and the family includes the taulelea belonging to the family union as well as the matais. If the matter be of minor importance and only of interest to the immediate village family the more distant relations may be omitted. Matai subject to a matai sili are independant in family matters concerning their own single family unless they have a tuaigoa name only in which case they are not referred to at all in family matters and may be deprived of their names at the will of their superior at any time. There are numerous instances of unauthorised persons participating in family discussions and this participation has been suffered until such time as patience was exhausted when the disturber was deposed and a new ruler appointed.
Regarding property rights: the matai of the family is the administrator and representative of the family property. The first impression gained of the Samoans is that they are rabid communists but a deeper study of their social system reveals that the term cannot be truthfully strictly applied to them in a wide sense. Man in the primitive state was a communist but as the family idea developed the communistic order became less binding and although there still remains a few practices really communistic, generally the term can at the present time be applied only to the family circle and even that is weakening. As an instance- Those Samoans whose house is situated near to a boundary line is allowed to take away fruit from the land of the neighbour but even in this there must be some satisfactory reason such as relationship by marriage, relationship as friends and neighbours and even then the conferring party will see that payment in some form is made immediately or at a later date.page 8
Instances of the breaking up of the communistic idea are shown by the acquiring of land or other property from another by an individual - I lona lava lima (through his own strength.) This property may be freely disposed of without reference to the matai of the family. Cases such as this are as yet isolated but are slowly creeping in and latterly some of the Samoans have been acquiring freehold property from the Government. Generally speaking the family property is the rule.
It cannot be gainsaid that the community ownership of lands is the strongest tie that binds the Samoans together. Under the management of one or more matain the lands are divided amongst the various families for their own use and are viewed by these families as their unassailable rights. The matai has the right to transfer to a stranger a section of the family lands and to receive from the receiver of the land some payment such as the fruits of the land occasionally. This tenant is called an “Aifanua” literally one who eats of the land. It a a term of meekness which if used by another person becomes a term of abuse. If the Matai demands a payment which is beyond the ability or the willingness of the tenant to pay, the friendly relationship will soon cease and the tenant may decide to claim that he is a member of the family and thus has a right to the land. On the contrary a member of the family may be charged by the matai with being an “Aifanua” for the express purpose of depriving him of the land and getting rid of him. The possibility of family land being ultimately disposed of is recognised by the Samoan but the tenacity with which he sticks to his hereditary soil is worthy of commendation. Even after a nection of land has been disposed of he will invariably refer to it as the land of the first owner, but is owned by so and so now. There is a Samoan proverb that reads E le soifua umi le tagata faatau fanua - the man who sells family land will not live to an old age - devils will bring about his early death. Down the centuries various claims to lands have been made and established and lacking lasting verification and demarcation numerous and interminable quarrels have resulted. This condition applies even at the present time. Apparently no one claims large areas of land lying on the hills and in the bush but let some imposter attempt to page 9 cultivate or assume ownership of these lands and the owners or those claiming to be the owners of the land will quickly appear. And these claims cannot be brushed aside as foundationless because it must be remembered that at no distant date the hills and back country was inhabited. Living on the beachen dates from comparatively modern times, possibly one hundred and fifty years ago.
The influence of the matai is felt not only in the village but in the district as well and even beyond. Each village consists of groups of families living together and they have from reasons of relationship or protection come together. The active factor in the life of the village is the village gathering or “Fono” and its members are the Matai. If a matter is of importance the assembly is held on the “Malae” the the open space in front of the village. The speakers address the assembly and stand to do so. The listeners are comfortably seated on mats. When a matter of no great importance is to be discussed the meeting is held in the house of an Orator and all remain seated. Those not taking part in these assemblies are described as “Tagatanu'u”, (common or unimportant men,) and include men, women and children. Democratic ideas do not prevail at these fonos and decisions are independent of majority or minority rule. The decision of one or more matai sili is decisive. The remainder who are merely at the fono to listen agree with the decision or decisions given. It is permissible for the minor matai to discuss the matter with and endeavour to try and influence the Matai sili before the fono commences. Before the fono commences preliminary councils are held (taupulega) by the different groups and at these councils the single family heads exchange opinions and endeavour to convince each other and to creat harmony in order that when the actual fono eventuates everything will move smoothly. Some matai are permitted to speak at these fonos without having any right to make a decision. Before a settled Government controlled Samoa serious differences of opinion were ended by violence, Tulafale, Orator, Failauga, Speakers: these terms are used for Samoans holding the position of speakers or mouthpieces of Chiefs and they are found in all villages. They serve the means of conveying the orders or wishes of chiefs to the people. An Orator is otherwise of great value to a chief. He is the recorder of family histories and events page 10 and is indispensible at public ceremonies. There are many Samoan public events at which the distribution of mats will take place. Many of these mats, particularly the fine mats (Ietoga) are valued very highly both from a monetary point of view and also from a historical and sentimental viewpoint. The more important mats bear respected names. The most noteworthy occasions on which mats are presented are marriages, births and deaths and the bestowal of a chiefly title on some one. At public ceremonies the Orators only are presented with mats. There are a few exceptions to this rule whereby certain chiefs may receive mats on public occasions. The chief Aiono of Fasitoouta may accept mats publicly as he is entitled to do so by ancient authority of the King Fonoti. In family matters when mats are presented the chiefs receive consideration but without ceremony inside the house. It is possible for a chief to assume the title of his Orator for the purpose of distributing the mats. It sometimes happens that an Orator is aware that a chief has a fine mat which he the Orator desires to obtain and he will supply the chief with food so consistently that the chief for shame sake is compelled to hand it over. In some villages there are what are termed Tulafale Alii. These Samoans are speakers whose forebears were chiefs and these chiefs for some reason relinquished their titles and became Orators through their own power and choice. The motive was probably the desire to obtain more mats or valuables. The terms Tulafale Ali'i or Tulafale Sili indicate Orators of great influence - to mention a few - Tafua of Aleipata, Fuataga of Aleipata, Alipia of Leulumoega, Autagavaia of Palauli. At the present time the marriage ceremony performed in conformity with the rites of the Christian religion is termed “Faaipoipoga” which word is borrowed from the Tongan. To distinguish a legal religious marriage from the old method of marrying, the word “Faapouliuli” is used (as in the days of darkness or heathenism.) According to the true Samoan custom the contracting of marriage meant merely that the girl left the house of her parents and resided with her lover which act was termed “Avaga” or marriage. It was necessary for her to gain the consent of her parents and unless this was done she would be “Faato” (cursed), and disowned. Within a short time after the incident it was customary for some relations to intercede on the girls behalf and a reconcil- page 11 iation would be brought about. Abduction of women as a Samoan custom is not in evidence. Abduction or more properly indecent assault was severely punished and the punishment extended to the family of the culprit and even the village. (This form of assault is called “Toso le teine). If the girl was a willing party to the escapade the efforts of the family would be directed to bringing about her return peaceably; but should the couple be caught before they have reached a safe locality the indignant parents and villagers will administer a severe thrashing to the gallant and the girl will be dealt with by the parents. If the families have been willing that the marriage should have taken place an exchange of presents will be made usually taking the form of Samoan foodstuffs and valuables and this exchange of presents continues for some time especially if children are born. The family of the husband bring goods to the wife's relations which goods are manufactured by males; the wife's relations reciprocate by presenting the husbands people with articles of female production. The more important the families concerned in the marriage the greater will be the number and value of the presents. The parents will probably present a piece of land on the understanding that it will be the property of any children failing which it will revert to the family of the husband. Many families recognise that the land they posses came to them in this manner.
The marriage of a Taupo (village maiden) with a man of chiefly family is attended with much ceremony. The courtship is often of long duration and is much discussed. The faleupolu (people or followers) of the wooer support him and should his suit be successful they receive the mats. The Faleupolu of the lady decide whether the proposal should be accepted or not and if they favour the match they will receive the foodstuffs given and occasionally a portion of the other valuables. The consent of the girl and of her family also is sought by the man, but the real authority lies with the faleupolu who were responsible for bestowing her title on her. If it should happen that the girl and her parents refuse to agree to the union no force is used but serious differences will arise between them and the Faleupolu and she will be forced to leave the page 12 village and will in addition forfeit her title. This right of the Faleupolu is explained by the fact the Taupo holds an honoured position in the village and is accorded great respect by her people. She is their leader and her marriage will materially benefit them. The village power and standing will be increased by her marriage into a distinguished family and the faleupolu will receive the food presented at the wedding. For these reasons she is expected to place the welfare of her people before herself and accept the husband chosen for her.
Adoption of children often takes place. The adopted child bears the same relation to the family as the legitimate children of the parents. The adopted son is called a “Tama fai” and an adopted daughter a “Tina fai.” Should the person adopted be of full age the term used is “Tama or Tina fa.” Should parents wish to adopt a child they will do so from the relations of the wife and if this is not possible from the relations of the husband. A girl or a boy are chosen for adoption depending on which sex is desired.
A married couple who wish to secure the future of their own children will attemp to adopt a child of an influential chief or Orator (usually a son) and thus create protection and influence. Children thus adopted are termed “Tama Si'i.” Children are sometimes adopted because they are orphans or because they have some attribute that will be of benefit to those adopting them. The ceremony of adoption is also attended with the exchange of presents or goods.
Serious and constant attention is paid to the education of the sons of chiefs and Orators particularly to the enlightenment of those sons who it is anticipated will succeed to the titles. In addition to the elementary education they receive in the village and other schools the father is in duty bound expected to educate his sons and his tuition extends to such matters as good behaviour and the rules of respectful bearing towards relatives, chiefs, Orators and people generally.- a knowledge of the manner of approach in each village and district which addresses are termed the “Faalupega”.- a knowledge of the history and pedigree of his own village and family. These pedigrees are cherished and are not for public recital.page 13
Failing the assistance of his father in matters concerning his education the boy must learn by listening to the speeches of other chiefs and by asking questions. The Samoan term for a boy who has gained his knowledge in this manner is “Poto a'e” which really means self taught. The boy who can thank his father for his education is “O le na nofo tuavae” or literally one who sat behind the legs of his father.
Agnation is the principle upon which the Samoan right of succession is founded. The members of the male side are the heirs 16 the title and are entitled to all the rights and priviliges connected thereto. If no suitable tama tane (descendant of male side) is available the tama fafine (female side) will be considered. The line of succession may be likened to s, divided stewardship. If a matai has two sons and he appoints one to succeed him the children of the second son will be the ones to be considered should the first son die whilst holding the title and on the death of the son of the second son the title will revert to the descendants of the first son again and so on. Should a son be disinherited for some reason he is excluded from the inheritance unless the family pardon him. It is of little consequence whether brothers are by different mothers or not. Should the founder of a family create a name for each of his sons that title remains under the control of the branch awarded the title from the beginning and is inherited according to the laws of inheritance. This was done by Malufau of Fasitootai. He created one of his sons Tuigamala and chief and the other Tuiatua and Orator. Malafau was the son of Tuiaana Tamalelagi.
It is customary for a Matai to make a will (Mavaega) in which he names his successor (o le tama na mavaeaina). This will is made verbally in the presence of the family and usually an Orator is present to both act as a witness and to record the will. Should the Matai die “gugu” (dumb) without making a will his successor is appointed after a family discussion and with the unanimous consent of the family. Either by Mavaega or family appointment the principles of inheritance must be observed. Should an appointment be made contrary to the established customs it is believed that the wrath of the Gods will fall on the evildoers. Barriers to succession are imbecility, page 14 serious bodily defects and behaviour unbefitting a Samoan chief. Should the heir presumptive be too young a middleman may be appointed to the title but he must relinquish the same as soon as the heir becomes of age. If no legitimate heir is available it is possible that the Matai some time before will adopt a son. The Tama Si'1 also is legitimately entitled to succeed to the title and even the ordinary Tama Fai or adopted son may be preferred to a legitimate son. As a successor the adopted son enjoys all the rights and privileges of a legitimate son with the exception that he cannot make a mavaega to the advantage of his relations or of his adopted son. After his death the title falls back on the original family. It is perhaps only natural for an adopted son when appointed to the title to try and secure it for his real family and this has often given rise to serious trouble. Should a matai make a mavaega in favour of an adopted son he will frequently enjoin him to treat the matai's children fairly and kindly and hand them back the title when he in turn makes his mavaega. It is rarely that a family escapes trouble should a son be adopted. As soon as the matai who adopted the son has died scheming will ensue. When a matai dies the successor to the title is appointed and a saofai held at which is present at least the whole of the family. This saofai is an acknowledgment of his succession and position. He is presented with kava at which for the first time he is called by his new title. There will also be feasting.
The conditions usually taken into consideration in appointing a person to a title are;-
Suitability to fill the position;
Descent either legitimate or by adoption.
By mavaega or will
By unanimous choice of the family.
A matai may make a will in which he bequeaths certain property to others such as a married daughter but it should be noted that with regard to lands he cannot transfer rights beyond his own. The customs of the Samoans with regard to hereditary rights were not so fool proof that troubles were excluded. It was not possible to do justice to all members of the family and the matai could not also foresee the future developments of the family. As the family extended so did the number of dissatisfied. The disputes that arose were page 15 responsible for the dividing of the title in many cases and this division again resulted in further squabbles. Oftimes occurred as a result of this division and contention and of course victory went to the strongest. Club law ruled even as it civilised countries today under a different name.