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An Account of Samoan History up to 1918

Tumua and Pule. — Construction and significance in the Political history of Samoa

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Tumua and Pule.
Construction and significance in the Political history of Samoa.

The words Turaua and Pule are not the names of individuals but of appointments or authorities conferred on certain clans or individuals at some time in the Political history of Samoa; and this authority was and is still centred in certain villages spread over the country.

The term Pule is applied to the authority in Savai'i and the word Tumua is similarly connected with Upolu. The Pule was given to Savai'i at a date subsequent to the appointment of the Tumua of Upolu.

The Pule of Savai'i is vested in individuals located at
Safotulafaiin FaasaleleagaDistrict.
Saleaulain Gaga'emaugaDistrict.
Safotuin GagaifomaugaDistrict.
Asauin VaisiganoDistrict.
Satupaiteain SatupaiteaDistrict.
Palauliin PalauliDistrict.

and the Tumua of Upolu is located at

Leulumoega in Aana District.
Afega and Malie in Tuamasaga District.
Lufilufi in Atua District.

Vaa-o-fonoti comprises Faleapuna and Fagaloa and is excluded as this district had its own system of control as did also Aiga-i-le-tai which includes Mulifanua, Manono and Apolima.

The word Tumua means to stand or speak first and was originally applied to individuals by Malietoa Savea.

When the Tongans were driven from Samoa, Savea was invested with the title Malietoa Savea (the first Malietoa). At this time there was no assembly that could be likened to a Government. Nalietoa was the supreme head and his word was law. Two orators from Savai'i, Fata and Maulolo, came to Upolu with their sister Luafalaasaga in search of their brother who had been washed away by a flood in the Tufu river. The name of this lost brother was Vaafutu. When they arrived at the village where Malietoa was living (Faleula) they heard the people talking about Malietoa Savea and the amount of food and servants he had. They became frightened and after a discussion with their sister decided that she would offer herself as a wife to Malietoa and they would hide beneath a rubbish heap near the village. The maiden approached Malietoa and was kindly received by him despite the fact that he was a cannibal. Luafalaasaga became his wife and after each meal she took the food remaining and thre it on to the rubbish heap when it was eaten by page 2 her two brothers. Malietoa notied the actions of the girl with regard to the food and asked her why she did not give the food to the servants instead of throwing it away. Luafalaasaga confessed to him her reasons for throwing the food on the rubbish heap and Malietoa told her she was very foolish and ordered her to bring her brothers before him. They reluctantly came expecting to be killed and eaten but to their surprise Malietoa was pleased with their behaviour. Some time later he addressed them as follows: “I have no councillors to assist me and I will appoint both of you in that capacity and we will institute a Government”. He then bestowed on them the authority and name Tumua and they lived at Afega. Subsequent to this he further appointed Lealali to be a Tumua of Aana District and Lealali lived at Leulumoega (then called Malaeolevavau.) Malietoa further appointed his brother Fata to the position of Alataua (director of wars) in what is now Safata District. Tuna he promoted in the Faleata District to be Ituau (Controller of Troops.) Paepule and Suga who had materially assisted Malietoa Savea in the wars against the Tongans complained to Malietoa that they had been overlooked in the division of honours and Malietoa gave them the powers of Tumua and appointed them to the Atua District. In this appointment there is some difference inasmuch as it appears that the Tumua of Lufilufi are expected to refer matters to Tafea and Fuataga of Aleipata before finally deciding.

Under the rule of Malietoa Nanaaga the Pule (which seems to be the same power as Tumua) was bestowed on Saleaula and Safotulafai in Savai'i. These two villages ruled the whole of Savai'i which was at that time divided into three Districts - Faasaleleaga, Itu-o-tane and Itu-o-Fafine. Safotulafai controlled Itu-o-fafine and Faasaleleaga and Saleaula held sway over Itu-o-tane. At some time subsequent to this further Pule were bestowed in Savai'i.

The foregoing is one version of the origin of the Tumua and Pule. Although sketchy in outline the version fits in with other generally accepted historical claims, and even if incorrect the story does not effect any change in the part the Tumua and Pule have played in the political history of Samoa.

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As Councillors of the King the Tumua and Pule were people of recognised authority and had much influence in the country; as normal human beings they had a common desire to increase and consolidate that authority and as time progressed they became the real power in the country. In addition to being the accepted Government in the country they held the power of conferring the high titles on any Samoan whom they wished to be King and also decided whether there would be war or not; they were in fact the sole authority in all matters of great import. This state of things continued until 1873 when the first Government on a semi European basis was formed. It was termed the Government of Taimua and Faipule and held its meetings at Mulinu'u. The Taimua and Pule were all what is termed Aloali'i (men of Royal descent.) It is not generally known bout they were appointed by the Tumua and Pule in accordance with their hereditary right in such matters. The Taimua and Pule continued to have office until 1905 when they were dismissed by Dr Solf who had fully realised the power and also the danger of the Tumua and Pule who appointed them. (see Savali for Sept. 1905.) The result of Dr Solf's action was that the Tumua and Pule were suddenly shorn of all power as far as the European Government of Samoa was concerned and his threats of severe punishment should they continue their machinations was evidently sufficient to cause them to withold any active answer to his orders they might have contemplated. They remained reasonably quiet for about two years after this but there is abundant evidence that they were working quietly along definite lines and their efforts culminated in the trouble with Lauati who with others was banished. Lauati was the tool of the Tumua and Pule although they at the time strenuously denied having anything to do with the trouble. It is interesting to remember that Tamasese, Tuimalealiifano, Autagavaia, and Namulauulu were also threatened with banishment but Dr Solf reconsidered the matter and cancelled the banishment on their pledging to obey in the future. Today these same men are and have been the leading spirits in the political trouble. In 1929 I asked Tuimalealiifano if he recognised that he was repeating the action that Dr Solf threatened to banish him for in 1909. Tui replied that he recognised it but that the New Zealand Government did not and in any case they were too afraid to banish anybody. Dr Solf's action in 1909 seemed to have definitely page 4 decided the Tumua and Pule that they must obey and politically from a European point of view they ceased to work actively. However, the influence and general standing in the Samoan community was ever present and there is evidence that they were abiding the time when it would be judicious to again attempt to assert their authority openly.

The occupation of Samoa by New Zealand troops released the control of Germany over the Islands and incidentally removed all those Officials who were versed in Samoan political history. No action of importance was taken by the Tumua and Pule during the duration of the war as it was uncertain how the outcome would Ceffect Samoa. Shortly after the commencement of the civil administration of Samoa by New Zealand in 1921, a petition was forwarded from the Faipule to the New Zealand Government seeking redress and recognition in certain directions. The petition was ostensibly from the Faipule but it subsequently transpired that it was inspired by the Tumua and Pule and at least three of the Faipule who signed the petition have admitted that they were acting on instruction from them. It is a point worth noting that Toelupe who was active in the drawing up of this petition, was a Faipule and was also a member of the Tumua.

Lofipo was probably one of the most active members of the Pule in Savai'i and had been for some time. He is an old Orator with fifty years political experience behind him and he has been a thorn in the side of both the German and British Administrators. His district is Gaga'emauga in Savai'i and during the control of Mr Cooper, Resident Commissioner of Savai'i, he lead that official into an impossible position in connection with the control of Saleaula over the district of Alataua-i-Sisifo, which district he had for many years desired to come under his pule. A hurried visit had to be made to Savai'i by the Secretary for Native Affairs, Mr Griffin, and the result of the disturbance was that Mr Cooper was relieved of his position. He is sufficiently clever to hide his participation in most of the incidents connected with the Tumua and Pule and the Samoans are somewhat reluctant to admit his activities as they recognise that as a member of the Pule he has considerable power. Three other members of the Pule of Savai'i who have been consisten and influential trouble makers are Autagavaia, Lagaia and Namulauulu. The first and the page 5 last mentioned were threatened with deportation by Dr Solf.

The appointment of Faipule by the New Zealand Administration from amongst Samoan chiefs and the exclusion of the members of the Tumua and Pule (either intentionally or otherwise) together with the fact that they were not allowed to exercise their hereditary right to appoint the Faipule further antagonised the Tumua and Pule and when in October 1926 the present political trouble came to the surface they were but willing to openly side with those Europeans and halfcastes who opposed the Administration. They realised that their influence and assistance might reasonably be turned to account and in associating with Nelson they understood that they were dealing with a man who thoroughly understood their language and customs. Nelson indubitably had some definite idea of becoming a political power in Samoa and some time prior to his openly opposing the Government he paid a Samoan song maker to compose a song about him in which song reference was made to Nelson as Governor of Samoa. Nelson on his part fully realised the power of the Tumua and Pule and his first action was to convert the ruling villages in Upolu and Savai'i to his side. He commenced with Safotu and gradually drew into his following the other politically important villages. Having done this he could reasonably think he had all Samoa. No doubt his wealth and the many gifts he made materially assisted him and even to the present day it is the Tumua and Pule who are inducing the people to adhere to Nelson. Nelson as an individual has many of the weaknesses of the Samoans amongst which are bombast, love of show and power and that ouriously intriguing manner of action. He was Samoan enough to believe that his wealth would achieve anything and it is not believed that he thought for a moment that his activities would result in deportation. The morning he was arrainged before General Richardson and asked to advance some reason why he should not be deported, Nelson was a completely disillusioned man and from defiance he had changed to grovelling. His subsequent actions have been but the bitter desire to make someone pay for his ignominy. A coloured man's pride has been injured and some one must suffer with him, even it it means that he is stripped of everything. He has thus expressed himself.

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It would seem that in the natural order of things Tamasese (whoever holds the title.) is destined for tragedy. None have held the title for long and all within the period of the white man have been in trouble. Tamasese Lealofi (recently deceased) was a trouble maker and his natural conceit and love of power caused him to chafe at any attempt to make him obey the law. From the time he was appointed to the title up to the date of his death (he was then 24 years of age.) he had attempted to be a law unto himself. He is of the Tupua family as is Tuimalealiifano and one of the first steps of the Tumua and Pule when the present trouble became prominent was to promise to advance his claims to any important position should their efforts be crowned with success. He on his part saw an opportunity of getting power that was otherwise denied to him and we find him actively siding with the Tumua and Pule. However often it is iterated and reiterated that Tamasese tried to keep the pe ace it is undeniable that he was always evident in any law breaking or that he made no effort to stop those whom he knew were deliberately flouting the law. In a crisis and when he realised that there was trouble ahead for him he made a few half hearted efforts to recall his people but there is no evidence that he made such attempts before the trouble commenced.

Tuimalealiifano holds his influence with the Samoans merely because he is of the Tupua family. Intellectually he is a nonentity and even as one of the Fautua was a hindrance rather than of assistance to either the Administration or the natives. pressure was brought to bear on him by the Tumua and Pule and he took sides with Tamasese.

It is noteworthy in support of the contention that the Tumua and Pule are the real power behind the present trouble to remember that the meetings held at numerous intervals by the Samoans have always as far as possible taken place at one of the ruling villages and have been conducted by one or more of the natives of the ruling clans.

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During the past five years many and varied side issues have oropped up to blind one to the original cause of the disturbance and many are apt to view the discord through European eyes. It is also an easy matter to ascribe more influence than is rightfully due to Europeans and halfoastes and the situation thus becomes confused with such questions as copra, prohibition, finance etc. Admittedly these questions have been cleverly woven into the main cause but they are peculiarly and particularly European and have little genuine interest for the Samoan. It is possible to separate the purely European complaints from the native it will then be understood that the disaffection of the Samoans must be from a Samoan viewpoint and it is offered as an explanation that this disaffection is due to lack of control of their own affairs in their own way which means the way of the Tumua and Pule.

Once again as Dr Solf discovered: the Tumua and Pule must be recognised and made use of or must be so utterly supressed that their influence now and in the future is definitely destroyed.

The foregoing is a somewhat sketchy outline of the Tumua and Pule and their political influence and is offered for what it is worth. Dr Solf was faced with the identical situation when he took over the control of Samoa in 1900 and after five years realised clearly that he had to deal with the body of men who are the subject of this article. He did so and the country experienced political rest of a kind that it had hitherto not known.

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Pule 16

Pule 16

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Savai'i Island Salafai

Savai'i Island

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Western Samoa Upolo Island

Western Samoa
Upolo Island

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Tumua 24

Tumua 24

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