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Samoa Under the Sailing Gods

Appendix xv — An Independent American Witness

page 328

Appendix xv
An Independent American Witness

An account of the Apia shooting was given to the Auckland "Sun" (New Zealand) by an American visitor to Samoa, Mr. J. D. Durksen, of San Jose, California, who had been touring the Islands and arrived at Auckland on the "Tofua" on January 20, 1930

"I had been touring for eight days in Samoa, seeing native life and studying native customs before the day of the shooting," he said.

"Three or four days after we returned we were asked by natives to participate in the welcome that led to the trouble, but, knowing that it was looked on with disfavour by the authorities, we declined."

Before going further, Mr. Durksen asked the Sun man if "he would get into any trouble in New Zealand by telling his story." He did not know the law, he added. On being assured that he was free to state his opinion, he continued:

"We watched the shooting through field-glasses from the Casino Hotel, perhaps two-and-a-half blocks from the actual scene. After it was over I investigated the circumstances and studied them carefully before coming to an opinion. I came to the conclusion that the shooting had been planned by the authorities and executed according to plan. Afterward, when I attended the inquest, I felt that that opinion was justified.

"I consider that the use of rifles and machine-guns was entirely unwarranted. In my opinion the natives are friendly, and would do anything in the world for the white man. They did tell me that they had grievances, but I was there to learn of their habits and customs, and was not in any way biased by what they said.

"Two hours after the shooting, when I thought it was safe to move, I went over the battle-field. There were bloody pools and blood-marks extending for about a block in both south-easterly and north-westerly directions.

page 329

"The probability is that most of the shootings were done with rifles. The natives were picked off by sharpshooters from the Courthouse, where three marksmen were stationed. It looks as if the police are trying to make out that they were unprepared for the shooting, but that, to my mind, cannot be so. The police party met the procession farther back, but did not attempt to arrest the wanted men till they were right in front of the Courthouse. The sergeant's explanation was that he did not recognize the men till they had reached as far as that. It was an extraordinary coincidence.

"This is a hard accusation to make, but I cannot come to any other conclusion. The police could have taken the wanted men at any time.

"Afterward I was asked to meet the Administrator, but I was too disgusted with what I had seen. I felt I could not be civil to him, so I refused the invitation."

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