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Tolotolo O Tama Uli has a colorful history

Samoa News Sports coverage of the 2012 Flag Day fautasi race is brought to you by the good people at GHC Reid and the cool refreshing and super cold as the Rockies blue mountain beer, Coors Light. 

There are 11 fautasi in the 2012 Flag Day tu’uga va’a. They are: Fetu Ole Afiafi (2), from Faga’alu, Matasaua from the District of Manu’a, Nu’uuli from Nu’uuli, the Sharks from Samoana High School, Ise’ula i Moana from Fagatogo, Aeto from Pago Pago, Fealofani Samoa lll from Fagasa, Fua’o from Vatia, Paepae O Ulupo’o from Aua, and the Tolotolo O Tama Uli from Salelologa Savai’i. Faga’alu’s late entry, the Fa’asaulala will race on the April 16 final for fautasi that do not qualify for the championship final on April 18.

Tolotolo o Tama Uli From Salelologa Savai’i

One upon a time, there lived some black people in the little peninsula at Salelologa village in the big island of Savai’i. They coexisted peacefully with the residents of Salelologa until the tama uli became troublemakers. 

They began to stop canoes and kulula (sculls) and any one that crossed the penisula to reach or depart Salelologa or villages nearby. They became pirates of the tolotolo.

Their acts of piracy continued for many years until the Salelologa leaders became tired of the violence and declared war on the tama uli. The Salelologa warriors defeated the pirates and order was restored. The two parties smoked the peace pipe and lived happily ever after.

“No one knew where they came from but according to folklore, the tama uli lived together with the Salelologa villagers after the war and settled down peacefully. The leaders of our village decided to name our fautasi, Tolotolo O Tama Uli to honor the warriors that liberated the peninsula and to respect the history of that piece of land in Salelologa,” Pauli Ivan William, captain of the fautasi from Salelologa explains.

Salelologa is the only port of entry to the big island of Savai’i. The government of Samoa and local ship owners operate ferries between Salelologa and Mulifanua, a village on the main island of Upolu. It is becoming a fast growing town area with many shops and hotels being built there. The Samoa government has designated Salelologa as its business center — banks and government agencies have been set up there.

In 2010, the Salelologa council of matai decided to build a fautasi and named it Tolotolo O Tama Uli. “The village has never had a fautasi since Samoa started faigamea ile tai before it became independent in 1962,” says Pauli.

The captain, whose mom comes from Salelologa, may have influenced the leaders to construct a fautasi. Pauli was born in Apia. His dad is from the village of Ma’agiagi.

Pauli did not know anything about fautasi until the matai from the village of Salua, Manono bought timber from his family lumber business to build their fautasi in 2000. Salua is famous for fautasi racing and boat building in Independent Samoa.

“Boat builder, Leiataua Pesa invited me to come and tryout for their fautasi. I agreed and won a seat in the Vaiaveaolifa fautasi. The next year, Salua built a new one, the Tava’esina, and I also became a crew member of that fautasi. We won the Independence race that year and many other races after that. I gradually made my way up the auva’a ladder and was appointed the foemua.

“In 2006, the village leaders of Salua asked me to skipper the Tava’esina. I was humbled and honored by their invitation but respectfully declined. But in 2007, the leaders again offered the captaincy and after some consultations with my family and close friends, I accepted.

“We won the Independence and the Teuila Festival tu’uga va’a that year and many races after that. However in 2010 I reluctantly resigned as my dad’s village of Ma’agiagi was building a fautasi and wanted me to be the captain,” Pauli says.

A year later, Pauli shifted his allegiance and talents to his mom’s village of Salelologa when the leaders ordered the building of the Tolotolo O Tama Uli. Boat builder from Manono, Mulipola Fa’alili and the sa Mulipola tufuga were contracted to do the work that was done in Salua.

In 2011, the Salelologa fautasi won the Independence tu’uga va’a in its maiden race. Four months later, the current Samoa fautasi champion, Tolotolo O Tama Uli defeated the Segavao for the Teuila Festival fautasi Cup. The Segavao from Si’usega was the champion of the American Samoa Flag Day fautasi regatta in 2006.

What is amazing about the Salelologa fautasi is the fact that it is not a fiberglass boat, according to captain Pauli. “Salelologa could not afford the fiberglass material as it is too expensive. We built the Tolotolo O Tama Uli from the materials available in Samoa.”

The Salelologa village did not bring its original fautasi to race here as it was built specifically for the shallow racecourse in Apia. “The boat is too low and will not withstand the deep and rough ocean of American Samoa,” explains kapiteni Pauli.

When Salelologa accepted Governor Togiola Tulafono’s invitation to take part in this year’s faigamea ile tai, the Savai’i leaders went to look for a fautasi to bring to American Samoa. They approached the Lepea village matai council for permission to use their fautasi, La O Samoa for the Flag Day race. Lepea agreed.

Next, the Salelologa leaders begged and received the Segavao Olympic oars from the Si’usega Catholic parish that owns the foe. Samoa’s prime minister, Tuila’epa Lupesoli’ai Malielegaoi Sa’ilele is the leader of the Si’usega parish and chairman of the Segavao fautasi committee.

“We are trying to get accustomed to the Lepea fautasi. The crew is fit and has been training for the past five weeks. Getting used to rowing with scooped oars is a different experience for us,” Pauli says.

Some auva’a tell this correspondent they miss their “taxi” fautasi. “Our taxi glides well in calm water,” one claims.

The Tolotolo O Tama Uli has a crew of 49 rowers. The village of Salelologa and the auva’a are hosted by the governor’s chief of chief of staff, Pati Fai’ai in Mesepa.

“It is an honor for Salelologa to be here and to compete in the faigamea ile tai,” Pauli says. “We would like to thank Governor Togiola for the invitation. We will give all we have to make it an entertaining race not only for the people of Tutuila and Manu’a but for the tapua’iga back home who are praying and supporting our campaign.”

The kapiteni says there are about 100 people from Salelologa who arrived last Wednesday from Samoa. “We are not only taking part in the fautasi race but our village has prepared some pese and siva for the fa’afiafiaga part of the Flag Day celebrations.”

Salelologa is not on the Fu’a program to perform siva and pese. The village of Iva from the district of Fa’asalele’aga in the big island of Savai’i is the official invited party to sing and dance traditional items. The two villages are near each other. Pauli says all his rowers make up the majority of the dancing and singing group from Salelologa.