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Fa'asamoa dilemma

TALKING CHIEF: A Samoan orator makes a speech on behalf of his family in the background during a funeral. His staff and the fly brush over his shoulder are symbols of his seniority as a matai. [courtesy Auckland Now]

Young Samoan men raised in the ways of their forefathers are born into a life of service to the church, family and community.

The pinnacle of that service comes when they take on a matai or chief title in the family.

Names are passed down through generations of men and sometimes women.

A person who inherits a matai title is called by that name as a mark of respect which is central to the tradition.

Respect is paid to those who hold status including people older than yourself, matai, ministers, politicians, doctors or teachers.

Today's generation of Samoans, in the islands and in New Zealand, often defy this unquestioning demand for respect as they gain higher education and adopt different values.

FOREFATHER: Renowned Samoan talking chief Lauaki was the first leader of the Mau Movement which was a non-violent protest for Samoan independence from colonial rule during the early 1900s. He was exiled to Saipan in 1909. [courtesy Auckland Now]


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