Tui Atua: Impact of climate change in Samoa “evidences a breakdown in our guardianship”

Breakdown in our responsibilities over kin… our faasinomaga… our tuaoi

In his Flag Day address, on Monday, Samoa Head of State Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi spoke of the impact of climate change on Samoa and the Pacific region and also shared some of his traditional knowledge of the palolo rising, which occurs in October and November, seven days after a full moon.

However, many elder Samoans have noticed over the years that this Samoan delicacy is not in abundance compared to years ago; and some elders believe that the lack of palolo is because people are selling it.

Tui Atua was given the honor of delivering the Flag Day address for this year’s 117 Flag Day ceremony at Veterans Memorial Stadium. He says the impact of climate change “on our Samoa” and the Pacific “evidences a breakdown in our guardianship, responsibilities over kin, over what is done, over what is our faasinomaga (our Samoan identities) and our tuaoi (cultural boundaries).

He recalled, “There was a ‘sa o manuvao’ or ritual performances acknowledging sacred boundaries between people and the forest...”

In those days, he said, ‘all ritual... was paid to ‘manuvao’ before a tree could be cut, before land could be cleared” but those sacred boundaries “have today been sadly forgotten and rejected.”

“A breakdown in relation between people and nature is further emphasized when we consider changes to our fishing culture and the loss of traditional fishing knowledge and its associates,” he said and cited for example, the annual palolo rising.

“We used to know when the palolo would rise, by reading the appearance of the moon. When they rose, we would ritually welcome them by chanting ‘fanau mai, fanau mai — be born, be born’,” Tui Atua explained. “Our ancestors knew that in the act of rising, the palolo were also birthing. This was evident by the lingering of their palolo chant.”

And he asked, “But how did our ancestors know when the palolo would rise or that the palolo were actually giving birth?”

He responded, “They knew through careful and active observation. They knew by watching and counting lunar movements and noticing how seasonal clocks work in the natural world. They knew because they took time to converse with nature and with God.”

“There is an old adage which says, e le la’a le uto i le maina — a floater cannot intrude on the function of the sea — and, e le sopo foi le sami i le lau eleele — the sea cannot encroach on the boundaries of the land,” he said.

“The adage reminds us, that in everything, there are sacred boundaries,” he said, and went on to point out that the “biggest problem facing our families, villages and churches and government today, is the crossing of boundaries or ‘sopo tuaoi’...”

See yesterday’s Samoa news edition for other details from Tui Atua’s address.

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