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ASCC/SSI and 2012 Lunar Calendar

The Samoan Studies Institute (SSI) at the American Samoa Community College has collaborated with the Western Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Council (WPRFMC) and other partner agencies on the recent publication of the 2012 American Samoa Lunar Calendar.

Unlike the typical Western calendar based on the cycle of the earth around the sun, the environmentally based lunar calendar follows the regular 30 day cycle of the moon. Prior to the introduction of the Western calendar, Samoans used the lunar method of measuring time passage, around which they based a number of cultural practices, particularly fishing.

“At the SSI, we count research, publication and outreach projects with our community partners as part of our mission,” said SSI Director Okenaisa Fauolo-Manila. “We view this calendar as an important means of ensuring the continuity of Samoan culture and the preservation of traditional knowledge. Our people traditionally practiced their own form of fishery management based on the lunar cycle, which seems more environmentally conscious versus what we have today. Our ancestors had a different name for every day of the moon’s cycle, so this project also has a strong element of language retention and usage.”

While the calendar appears identical to your typical Western style calendar, it actually begins with the new moon of January 24, 2012 and ends on January 11, 2013, the day before the next new moon. Below a graphic of the moon phase of each day, the calendar lists the Samoan name for the day of the cycle, and below that the Western calendar date and weekday. Each of the twelve cycles included comes with a colorful environmentally themed illustration courtesy of students in Tutuila’s elementary and high schools.

As stated in the introductory notes, the current publication is the third lunar calendar the WPRFMC has created in collaboration with the SSI. Institute Director Okenaisa Fauolo-Manila explained how the calendar has involved research on an ongoing basis for her and her staff.

“The SSI conducted the research on clarifying and confirming names of the months and also the names for the moon phases,” explained Fauolo-Manila. “These confirmations and clarifications were used in the 2011 Lunar Calendar. For the 2012 edition, traditional fishing methods and other important information concerning fishing were included, based on our research started in 2010.”

She said that besides contributing to a valuable community resource, the institute’s work on the calendar enables them to demonstrate to their students the richness in Samoan language, Samoan traditional knowledge and survival skills, and also the contrast between traditional and modern relations between humans and their environment.

“The SSI mission of promoting the continuity of Samoan culture means an active involvement not only with our students, but also with the community when they seek our assistance”, reflected Fauolo-Manila, “so in addition to teaching classes, we also conduct research, create publications, and participate in community projects.”

Besides its work on the lunar calendar, the SSI has contributed to culturally significant local projects such as research on Rose Atoll and the establishment of the Leone Healing Garden.

The Department of Marine & Wildlife Resources (DWMR) contracted the SSI to research the connections between Samoa and Rose Atoll,  or Muliava as it is traditionally know, and the ongoing project will soon result in a DVD documentary, an official report, and a brochure for the public. The SSI is also producing a documentary on the recently-dedicated Leone Healing Garden, and the institute’s Cultural Artist Patrick Mafoe created a sculpture for the site.

For anyone seeking a copy of the new lunar calendar, Fauolo-Manila recommends to contact WPRFMC On-Site Coordinator Fini Aitaoto at 633-5102.

The public can also contact the SSI itself, but their supply of copies has temporarily run low. “We’ve distributed copies of the calendar to the faculty, staff and students here at the College,” explained Fauolo-Manila, “but I have to keep some copies in reserve for the Tautai we interviewed in the Independent State of Samoa.”