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WASHINGTON D.C. —Congressman Faleomavaega attended the annual King Kamehameha Lei Draping Ceremony last Sunday in the nation’s capital and paid special tribute to King Kamehameha. 

Organized by the Hawaii State Society, the event took place in front of the King Kamehameha statue inside of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center Emancipation Hall.  Faleomavaega also paid tribute and made a special presentation on behalf of the people of American Samoa to Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka being that this year’s ceremony is his last prior to his retirement at the end of this Congress.

Although he is not an official member of the Hawaii State Congressional Delegation, Faleomavaega for many years has been invited and attended the celebration just about every year since he has been in Congress.  This year, Faleomavaega was again a guest speaker along with Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye, President Pro-Tempore of the U.S. Senate, and Hawaii Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa.

Standing in the shadow of the statue of King Kamehameha I, Congressman Faleomavaega began by first honoring the life of the late King by sharing his legacy as one of the greatest Polynesian warrior-kings who ever lived.

“So as we gathered here under the shadow of this magnificent statue portraying the legacy of one of the greatest Polynesian warrior-kings who ever lived, His Majesty King Kamehameha I, we are here to honor his life – a prophecy that stood for a thousand years that one day there will be a chief who will be known as the killer of other chiefs – and a belief among the then ruling chiefs of Hawaii that whoever is able to move the Naha Stone, believed to weigh over 4,500 pounds, would rule the Hawaiian Islands,” Faleomavaega stated.

“As a young man, Kamehameha was trained by one of the greatest warrior chiefs of his time, Kekuhaupi’o.  He was knowledgeable of military tactics and was fearless in armed combat, and he was determined to bring all of the Hawaiian Islands under his rule, a monumental task that took him about ten years to achieve.”

While honoring Kamehameha, Faleomavaega then welcomed members of the Washington D.C. Samoan community to join him on the stage to pay tribute and present gifts to Senator Daniel Akaka and his family when they return to Hawai’i upon his retirement.  Faleomavaega presented an ie togaor Samoan fine mat, three Samoan war clubs as gifts from the people of American Samoa in recognition of the Senator’s tremendous tautua or service to American Samoa.  Faleomavaega also presented a large siapoor tapa that was displayed by Caroline Sinafifita on behalf of the Tongan community. 

“I believe it is also appropriate that we recognize and honor a son of Hawaii, and truly a son of Kamehameha, who has served with distinction the good people of Hawaii for some 36 years now in the U.S. Congress, our own U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka.  If there is one thing I have learned from Senator Akaka, it is that his life is a true example of what it means to be a true Native Hawaiian.  He doesn't just talk the talk, he lives it.”

“The cultural core values of the Polynesian people are best described as follows by our Hawaiian cousins.  Ho’okipameans hospitality, lokomaika’imeans generosity,  ‘olu‘olumeans courtesy, ha’aha’ameans humility, malamameans caring, kuponomeans integrity, na’auaomeans wisdom or intelligence, ho’omanameans spirituality, koameans courage, ma’ema’emeans cleanliness, pa’ahanameans industrious or diligence, huikalameans forgiveness, ho’ohikimeans keeping promises, kelameans excellence, hanohanomeans with dignity, alaka’imeans having leadership, kuponomeans honesty, kuha’omeans self-sufficient, ho’omanawanuimeans patience, and you put all these words together and they mean aloha.”

“I cannot find any word in the English language to describe how much aloha I have for Kaniela (Daniel) and Auntie Millie, his dear wife.  I will always appreciate her advice and guidance in dealing with the atmosphere here in Washington.” 

Faleomavaega also shared in jest and to the laughter of about 400 people in the audience the story of the “Polynesian Congressional Caucus” as Faleomavaega and Akaka are presently the only Polynesian Members serving in the U.S. Congress.  “In all the years that I have lived in Hawaii and here in our nation's capital, no one has exemplified more the character of the Hawaiian people than the gentle and soft-spoken, my elder statesman and chairman of our little Polynesian Congressional Caucus, U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka. The unique thing about our Polynesian Caucus is that Kaniela is the chairman, and I am the Vice-chairman, secretary, treasurer, doorkeeper, and bouncer!”

“American Samoa, like the rest of the U.S. Territories and Washington, D.C., do not have representation in the U.S. Senate, and for all the years since Akaka has been a Senator, he has supported, along with Fofoga o Samoa – Senator Daniel Inouye, the issues and matters of interest to American Samoa and the Samoan people in general.  Without doubt, Senators Akaka and Inouye have been most kind and generous with their support to American Samoa and the Samoan community for decades.”

Congressman Faleomavaega also honored the presence of Senator Inouye or Fofoga o Samoa and his wife Irene who were present at the Ceremony, highlighting the Senator’s leadership on behalf of Native American communities.  “Senator Inouye was instrumental in the formation of the Select Committee on Indian Affairs which today is now a full standing Senate Committee, providing Natives from the mainland, as well as from Hawaii and Alaska, a more powerful voice in the U.S. Congress,” Faleomavaega said.  “The Committee currently addresses the needs of over 6 million Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians throughout the Nation.  Senator Inouye chaired the Committee from 1987 to 1993, when he championed the legislation to remove “select” from the title of the committee, further solidifying the legitimacy of the Committee.”

Congressman Faleomavaega concluded his remarks and gift presentation telling the crowd that, “I normally do not dance except on special occasions.  So in honor of my senior matai, Fofoga o Samoa (Senator Inouye) and my retiring friend, Senator Akaka, I will perform the Samoan siva.” 

At the conclusion of their siva, Faleomavaega and members of the Samoan community sang “Tofa my Feleni” to bid farewell to Senator Daniel Akaka.

Source:  Cong. Faleomavaega's office