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‘Guardians and Wards’ : (A study of the origins, causes, and the first two years of the Mau in Western Samoa.)

The Last Tafa'ifa (Malietoa Vainu'upo)∗

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The Last Tafa'ifa (Malietoa Vainu'upo)

For three hundred years, before 1830, the ‘malo’ had remained with A'ana. By the early nineteenth century, however, some of the leading families had withdrawn from it. I'amafana was the last Tafa'ifa to lead this ‘malo’. But even before he died in 1802, the unity of the A'ana ‘malo’ was Disintergrating. Both Malietoa Vainu'upo and Tamafaiga (Leiataua Pe'a of Aiga-ile-Tai) were manoeuvring to occupy the Tafa'ifa. The ‘mana’ (power) of the great goddess Nafanua, even before I'amafana's death, had gone to Manono, to Tamafaiga and Lelologa, now the Taulaitu Sili (‘High Priests’) of the goddess. And without this mana the A'ana malo was further weakened.

Before I'amafana died he chose Malietoa Vainu'upo to succeed him to the Tafa'ifa. But Malietoa's succession was opposed by most of the faleupolu (the orator groups who had the right to bestow the Tafa'ifa titles), especialy the ‘Faleiva’ of A'ana. The only other serious contenders to the succession were Mata'afa (leader of Atua) and Tamafaiga (leader of Aiga-ile-tai and militarily the mainstay of the A'ana malo). Malietoa, unsure of this ability to openly oppose Tamafaiga's quest for the Tafa'ifa, supported Tamafaiga's struggle against Mata'afa. Supported by nearly all Savai'i and Upolu, Tamafaiga gained the Tafa'ifa after defeating Mata'afa in 1827 or 1828 in a short but brutal war known as, ‘O le Taua o le Taeao-fua’.

Tamafaiga's reign was short but brutally tyrannical. His harsh treatment of the A'ana people eventually turned the A'ana leaders against him. They hatched a plot to kill him; this, they did at Fasito'o in 1829.8

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The way was now open for Malietoa to gain the Tafa'ifa, after thirty years.

The murder of Tamafaiga turned Manono against A'ana; something which Malietoa had hoped for. Tamafaiga's death also turned most of the powerful families - who, through marital ties and historical circumstances, were related to Tamafaiga - against A'ana.

Faced by the overwhelming alliance of Tuamasaga, Savaii and Manono, led by Malietoa, A'ana could do little but make a last valiant stand.

Malietoa's armies ravaged the whole district, burnt villages to the ground, overran the pallisades of the defenders. Those who were captured - warriors, old men, women and children - were thrown systemmatically into a pit known as Tītō, and burnt alive. The fire raged for days.

The missionary John Williams arrived at Sapapali'i (Malietoa's main village in Savaii) in August 1830 and saw the last column of smoke billowing from A'ana. He condemned the massacre in his journal ‘Missionary Enterprises’, yet it was this battle which facilitated the task of planting the Christian Jehovah in Samoa. All Samoa, after this battle, was united under Malietoa. When he was converted to christianity, his ‘Kingdom’ quickly followed his example.