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


page 63


Certain themes wove right through the period which has been reviewed in the preceding pages. The basic one - in the nineteenth century - being the rivalry between Tumua and Pule, and the attempts of foreigners to introduce some form of stable government to Samoa. Because of the Tumua-Pule struggle and the machinations of the foreign minorities (and the Governments) within Samoa, the Samoans could not produce a stable government.

In the face of Samoan conservatism, papalagi attempts to solve the Samoan ‘problem’ failed. The papalagi usually had to resort to the ‘mana’ of guns and warships. But even this failed. When the odds proved unfavourable, the Samoans characteristically vanished into the bush, and, offering no effective opposition, refrained from recognising authority; this being the traditional manourve against any ‘malo’ whether papalagi or Samoan. (An opposition technique later employed, during the nineteen twenties and thirties, to frustrate the New Zealand ‘malo’).

From 1900 to 1917, the Germans and the Samoan leaders (in this instance Tumua) identified with them, were the new ‘malo’ because of superior might. Those in opposition plotted (and prayed for more propitious times) to oust it from power. The ‘lack’ of concerted rebellion against the German ‘malo’ did not mean full acceptance of German authority. The time (and odds) were not favourable to physically oppose Dr. Solf. Opposition could only be against the Samoan leaders (in this case Mata'afa) whom the Germans had placed at the peak of the Samoan political system, (and who, to Pule, had no right to such a position). If Tumua could be defeated, the German Regime would fall with it.

When New Zealand assumed control, the ‘problem’ was still unsolved. page 64 The onerous task of cushioning the impact of papalagi civilisation on Samoan culture (and the ‘natives’) seemed insolvable. The problem was complicated further by the fact that the papalagi did not understand Samoan culture, which, even though crumpling at the outer branches, was still intact and strong at the trunk and roots. It was made more complex by the racial antagonism which had grown up between the Samoans and the papalagi, and between the papalagi (officialdom) and the European residents. Reinforcing this antagonism were the racialist myths, which had evolved during the lengthy period of cultural contact.

The ‘problem’ needed skilful, diplomatic handling. Tate abstained from meeting the ‘problem’ head on; favourable conditions saved him from the storm. Nevertheless, the storm clouds of Samoan-European-part-European discontent began to amass ominously during his term of office.