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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 26


‘The Samoans never fully accepted the fact of political dependency.’22 The two crude ‘rebellions’ during the German period offer adequate proof of this. Four years after the beginning of German rule, Ta'imua and Faipule attempted to overthrow German chains. Dr. Solf, fully understanding the gist of Samoan politics, quickly altered the old system of Samoan government, abolishing the terms ‘Tumua and Pule’ in a declaration proclaiming that there was no room in Samoa for any form of ‘power’ which threatened the peace, order and good government of the colony. However, this move only postponed Samoan attempts to regain their political independence. The terms Tumua and Pule were abolished officially, but the old Samoan political system - based on the power-houses of Tumua and Pule - continued to ‘rule’ the country-side outside Apia, the seat of the German ‘Malo’. The ‘revolt’ of 1904-1905 did not involve any actual fighting. After Solf's declaration, the opposition factions, within the Samoan political elite, chose to agree with the ruling ‘Malo’ for reasons of political expediency. However, they continued to work behind the scenes, to oust this Malo.

In 1908-1909, Pule, now the opposition party because Mata'afa - the leader of the Tumua Party - had been placed at the peak of the Samoan political system by the Germsns, attempted to throw off the German yoke and make Malietoa Tanumafili (the ceremonial head of Pule) the Ali'i Sili. This movement was known as the ‘MAU A PULE’.

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Why did this ‘rebellion’ occur in 1908-1909 and not before or after? Certain factors, operating particularly in Savaii, seemed to have forced the issue.

1907 was an extremely trying year for Savaii, the mainstay of the Pule faction. During this year, a dysentery epidemic hit the Group. Outbreaks of whooping cough and fever struck the children of Savaii. In the same year a severe volcanic eruption engulfed large areas of Savaii, destroyed crops and vegetation, and forced several villages to migrate to Upolu. Between 1907 and 1909, a criticalland shortage occurred.23 In Samoan wars, the lands of the defeated were confiscated by the triumphant party. This practice was extended, during the second half of the nineteenth century, when the victors usually sold these lands, for arms and ammunitions, to the papalagi. By 1894, over 135,000 acres had been alienated, over half of this total having been sold to German nationals. Up to 1899 and partition, much of this land remained unclaimed. The ever-recurring state of civil war between the Samoan factions discouraged the settlers from claiming them. However, with the establishment of law and order after 1899, many Samoans were forcibly evicted by the German authorities, from these lands.

All these factors put Savaii in a bitter frame of mind; this discontent was directed at the Germans (the ‘malo’ in power) and the Tumua party, which was associated with that malo. In such a climate of discontent, an able leader could easily organise Savaii against the German Regime. And such a leader did exist in Savaii; Lauati Namulau'ulu, one of the ‘ablest orators’ in the Group.24

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This man did not posses a chiefly title. The title of his family - Namulau'ulu - had been bestowed on his elder brother. But during the years prior to 1908, he had, through his own efforts, increased the ‘mana’ and prestige of his tulafale name, Lauati. He had proved himself as a leader in the wars of the late eighteen nineties, throwing his power behind the Mata'afa faction in 1899 after Malietoa's death in 1898 and the unpopular appointment of Malietoa Tanumafili as Malietoa's successor, by the Supreme Court. In Samoan politics he was a highly skilled tactician, agitator, organiser, and orator. When Germany assumed control of Western Samoa, Lauati was instrumental in placing Mata'afa in the position of Ali'i Sili, believing that Mata'afa, who was an old man, would not remain for long in that office; that Mata'afa would be replaced by Malie toa's son, Malietoa Tanumafili. Malietoa, of course, was the ceremonial head of Pule, the party now led by Lauati. There is no existing written evidence as to whether Lauati was one of the ringleaders of the 1904-1905 ‘revolt’, but, being the manipulator that he was, it is not difficult to imagine that he had been one of the engineers of the Ta'imua-Faipule ‘revolt’.

While Dr. Solf was away in Germany during the latter part of 1908, Lauati organised the discontented forces in Savaii behind a ‘Mau’. The immediate demands of this Mau were: that a statement should be published in Samoan showing the receipts and disbursements of the administration; that the chiefly elite should again constitute an advisory council.25 Pule aimed at overthrowing Mata'afa (Tumua), and, with him the German Regime. Lauati planned to start his actual campaign when Governor Solf returned.

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On his return, Solf immediately made a tour of Savaii. In a ‘fono’ at Safotulafai, he castigated Lauati for inciting the people against Mata'afa and the Government; he told the districts that he would only listen to their demands at a ‘Fono’ which was to be held at Apia on the Kaiser's birthday, 27 January, 1909. As soon as the Governor left Savaii, Lauati again reorganised his followers, and, leading a flotilla of 25 fautasi (long boats) packed with warriors, came to Upolu.

Solf, fearful of the consequences of a clash between Tumua and Pule, ordered Lauati to disperse his followers. Lauati promised to do so, but did not. Solf planned to play Tumua off against Pule. The Governor gathered the leaders of Lufilufi and Leulumoega (Tumua) and informed them of Lauati's intention (which was to reopen the struggle between Tumua and Pule, so Solf claimed). The Tumua Party, led by Mata'afa, asked Solf for arms to subdue Lauati's party. Solf refused to comply. The Tumua Party's request for arms, however, was taken, by Lauati, as a declaration of war. So he sent the Governor a letter, which Solf claimed was an ‘open declaration of war’.26

Solf and Mata'afa, at a meeting with Lauati at Vaiusu (near Apia), forced Lauati to sue for peace. Lauati promised to return to Savaii and keep the peace.

Once in Savaii, Lauati restrengthened his party. Solf knew it was time to act, firmly. He cabled for three warships. These arrived in March 1909. The warships cordoned off Savaii from Upolu. In the face of superior physical odds, Lauati planned to hide in the bush for a time. Governor Solf worked through the missions to get Lauati and his followers to surrender, peacefully.

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After Asiata Taetoloa and Asiata Magaolo - two of Lauati's leading organisers - surrendered, Lauati was persuaded by Reverend Newall to come out of hiding.

Lauati and his leading followers were tried on one of the warships. With his brother Namulau'ulu and fifteen others, Lauati was deported to Saipan in the Marianna Islands, where both Lauati and Namulau'ulu died.

In 1912 after Mata'afa died, Solf granted equal titles, as Fautua, to both Malietoa and Tupua families. This was an attempt to prevent future clashes between Tumua and Pule, and to identify both factions with the German ‘malo’.

These two ‘rebellions’, manifesting clear signs of ‘nationalism’, were forecasts of the Mau of the nineteen twenties. The Mau of Pule and Lauati became a heroic part of Samoan folk history, romantic themes of folk song and oral tradition. The leaders of the Mau during New Zealand rule - even Nelson - were well-versed with the details and aims of this Mau, and undoubtedly drew inspiration from Lauati's example.

Lauati was truly representative of the old Samoan political system, of the warrior past; the skilled manipulator of Samoan political techniques, completely learned in the art of manipulating the Tumua-Pule rivalry in order to make and break ‘malo’. There was little or no European influence evident in the Mau of Pule, either in its organisation or its methods. It was loosely organised. Lauati depended on the Savaii chiefly elite, in the various villages and districts, to organise the movement from above. He also depended on age-old jealousies (between Tumua and Pule) and the ‘mana’ of his name and tongue to sway Pule behind him. The discontent concerning the papalagi, which had developed during nearly a century of European contact, page 31 only needed an able leader to bring it into the open.

This Mau was adequate proof that even the Germans were not successful in solving the Samoan ‘problem’. European influence was still confined to Apia and its immediate environs. The ‘fa'a-Samoa' reigned supreme beyond this area. The papalagi, at his best, was viewed, by the Samoans, as a child who had to be tolerated because of his superior weapons.

When Solf officially abolished the terms Tumua and Pule, the Samoan chiefly elite (especially those in opposition) saw such action as another papalagi attempt to undermine the power of the Samoan elite. The result was the Mau of Pule.

Western Samoa enjoyed fourteen years of peace under the Germans. But Old Samoa, after the failure of the Mau of Pule, was simply waiting for favourable omens. The New Zealanders themselves, through their zealous efforts to promote Samoan progress and welfare, brought that time closer and closer.