Volume 66 1957 > Volume 66, No. 4 > Ta'u: stability and change in a Samoan village, by Lowell D. Holmes, p 398-435
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TA'U Stability and Change in a Samoan Village
PART 1 (Continued)

Infants are delivered in one of the two dispensaries in Manu'a, under the direction of the Samoan Medical Practitioner who replaced the Navy Pharmacist Mates in 1951. The dispensary in Ta'u village serves the entire island of Ta'u, and one in Ofu serves the islands of Ofu and Olosega. Most mothers make the seven mile journey from Fitiuta village to the Ta'u dispensary, but those who remain at home are attended by either the visiting Samoan nurse who serves the village of Fitiuta, or by a village midwife, approved by either the Samoan Medical Practitioner or the Samoan nurses. Midwives without official approval are fined, and they have all but ceased to practice in Manu'an villages.

The disposition of the umbilical cord is a matter of some importance, as it is believed by many to determine the future success of the child. A piece of the cord, three or four inches in length, is secretly buried by the grandmother nearby or preferably in a hole in the floor of the church. This action is believed to ensure future piety on the part of the child. Care is also taken to bury the cord so a rat may not find and eat it, lest the child grow up to be dull witted and troublesome.

Children are named as soon as they are born, and their name is given to the village pastor and mayor (pulenu'u), and registered in the village dispensary. Every childbirth must be recorded, and complete birth records dating back to 1904 were found in the government files. Children are named by their fathers. The members of the father's family often suggest desirable names, and if the parents are living with the wife's family they may do so also.

Names are not chosen during pregnancy, but are often derived from events at the time of birth. In Tutuila one chief has the name Sonoma, because he was born at the time of the arrival of the Matson steamer by that name. Children are often named after deceased members of the family in order to keep their names alive, but few children are named after their fathers. Most children are given names of common birds or objects of nature. In Si'ufaga village the following names of children were recorded: Lupe (pigeon), Manu (chicken), Galu (wave), Ao (cloud), Matagi (wind), Fetu (star), Sami (sea), Vai (water), all male; and Lagi (sky), female. Nicknames are commonly used. These are usually contractions of the given name, such as Gū for Talagū, Tonu for Fanuatonu (grave) or Fasi for Fasialofa (go with love).

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Several earlier investigators have stated that the first baby must always be born in the village of the mother, who must go to her family home for this occasion if she resides with her husband's family. The same information was given by informants in 1954, but an analysis of government birth records for July to January of 1926 showed that only 77.8% of Manu'an mothers gave birth to their first children in the village of their family, while 22.2% did so in other villages. Since 1926 this custom has been increasingly disregarded, and birth records for January to October of 1954 reveal that 56.2% of first births occurred in the village of the mother's family, while 43.7% took place elsewhere.

The birth of a child to a High Chief is always marked by a feast, but feasts are not confined to chiefly families, and may be given even by the families of untitled men. One informant, an untitled man, has had five feasts for his five children. This is in part an innovation, in that a generation ago feasts were held only for the first child.

Feasts celebrating childbirth are accompanied by an exchange of property between the families of the mother and father. These gifts parallel those exchanged at marriage and may be referred to as toga and oloa, 1 respectively. The wife's family gives little mats and pieces of cloth in which to wrap the baby, and as repayment for these, the husband's family gives food to the wife's family. In families of high rank, gifts of the wife's family may include fine mats, while those given by the husband's family may include food, tapa, and even money. Some of the gifts are given to the child, but the parents of the child receive nothing.

Babies are fed only milk for four or five months, and are nursed whenever they cry. Occasional children who cannot be nursed are provided bottles and canned milk under the direction of village medical personnel. Breast feeding continues for approximately one year, and solid food, consisting of mashed papaya, taro, green and ripe bananas or soft bits of fish, is introduced at approximately four months. Children are usually weaned at about one year, but the nursing period varies from eight to twenty-two months, a figure given as the maximum by informants and by Susan Holmes. 2

The weaning experience (vavae) begins by removing the child from its mother's side for three or four days. During this time the child is with its father, or is removed from the household entirely and left with a grandmother or other relative. When the child desires a drink it is given a cup of water in place of the breast. If the child still has a desire for the breast after it returns to the mother, the breast is given, but the nipple is smeared with lime juice. This is repeated until the child loses its desire for nursing.

When a baby is about 4-6 months old, the mother resumes her work on the plantation. The child is left in the care of a sibling or grandmother for as long as six or eight hours a day, which results in irregular feeding. Even after weaning there is often the problem of irregular and inadequate feeding. In Manu'a as Holmes says of - 400 Manono, children from one to two years “will be fed by older children or by the mother, in either case he will share a food mat. His nutrition depends to some extent on the amount of thought which the eating companions give to his meal.” 3

A newly born child is wrapped in several layers of cloth and placed upon a mat with a piece of cloth or mosquito netting laid over its face to keep off the flies. Occasionally, a tent of netting is suspended over the child.

Small babies do not wear any sort of diaper. The mother merely cleans up the mat after each elimination. Toilet training is begun at about one year. When the child begins to urinate, or when its bowels begin to move, it is set outside the house. If children fail to learn from this method they are often spanked, for the parents feel that the children know enough to go outside but are too lazy.

Children are bathed daily in fresh seepage water on the beach, or in tubs using either rain water or water that has been carried from the pipe outlet from the reservoir. Women have a special method of removing soap and water from the babies' eyes. They place their mouth against the eye socket and blow, thus forcing the soap and water out the corner of the eye. After each bath the child is rubbed with coconut oil. Babies' legs or hands are not massaged as in Tonga, and the head and nose deformation, noted by early observers, no longer exists.

Infant mortality is relatively high among the Samoan people, but it is declining. Records show that from July 1925 to July 1926, 78 mothers gave birth. During their lifetime these 78 mothers gave birth to a total of 316 children, of whom 240 were still living. The women reported having lost 76 children, or 24 per cent.

More effective medical care and the use of imported foods has greatly reduced the loss of life in infancy. Records for mothers in 1954, a generation later, show that 141 Manu'a mothers gave birth during the year. During their lifetime these 141 mothers gave birth to 660 children, of whom 581 were still living. The women reported having lost 79 children, or 12 per cent.

Exact ages at death for these children were not available, but statistics of death for all American Samoa during the calendar year 1949 show the highest incidence of death in the first month and in the second year of life. The period from one to two years of age is normally that of weaning, and malnutrition and complicating diseases take a great toll of Samoan children.

In 1954, when the infant morality rate for all of American Samoa was 79.9 per 1,000 births, the three leading causes of death were: bronchopneumonia (54 deaths), malnutrition (21 deaths), and arteriosclerosis (15 deaths).

Very young children tend to be overdressed, causing a good deal of discomfort and an increased susceptibility to skin diseases from excessive perspiration. As a child becomes stronger it is permitted less and less clothing, and robust children often go completely naked from four months to two years of age.

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When children are carried they are always picked up under the arms and carried either on one hip, with the child's legs straddling the waist, or on the small of the back. In the latter position the child sits on the hands of the carrier, which are interlocked behind the back, and places its arms around the carrier's neck. Children learn to hold on to the neck of the one who carries them as early as seven or eight months of age.

Children first stand at about seven or eight months, but few start walking before one year of age. They were observed walking as early as nine months, but this was rare. An unhealthy child sometimes does not walk until two years of age. Children are aided in walking by their parents, who take their hands and support their efforts. If a child is slow to walk it is buried up to the top of its legs in a hole dug in the sand on the beach. It is allowed to stand in the sand for a few minutes and then is violently jerked out. This is believed to make a child walk within a week or two. Another method to hasten walking is for the mother to stand thigh deep in the water of the lagoon and swing the child so that its buttocks and legs strike upon the surface of the water seven or eight times.

At about the age of one year children begin to be trained to bring things and to sit down while inside the house. Standing in the house is considered to be very bad manners and is discouraged even when only the immediate family is present. Children are also trained not to go near the sleeping mats of their parents and never to talk while there are guests in the house.

Some children begin to talk at one year, others not until two, the average being about eighteen months of age. A parent says words for a child to repeat. The first words taught are eat ('ai), drink (inu) and sleep (moe), so that the parents may understand the child's desires. The Samoan child also learns the given names of his mother and father, as kinship terms are not used in address. “Baby talk” is sometimes encouraged, but most parents correct children, making them speak correctly. Kinship terms and salutations are not learned until much later; in fact, the correct use of salutations is not expected until a child is about twelve years of age.

Punishments may be severe. Slapping the buttocks, legs or face, or whipping the child's legs and buttocks with a broom of coconut leaf midribs or a belt often accompanies the attempts at early training. Children are generally punished by their mothers, but the belt whippings usually are administered by the fathers. Very young children may be spanked or slapped repeatedly for not remaining seated inside the house, and one instance was observed when a very small child who bit while nursing was thrown bodily onto the floor from a distance of at least three feet. However, children are not usually punished by spanking or slapping before one year of age, after which age the parents feel the children should understand what is expected of them.

Children are sometimes sworn at when they fail to obey and are often frightened by being told that the spirits of the dead (aitu) will get them. A common punishment is refusal to allow a child to go out into the moonlight when the other village children are out playing. - 402 Children are punished for not sitting down in a house or for making too much noise, but seldom for throwing stones at their siblings or bullying smaller children. A small baby who cries without stopping often receives a shower of small pebbles from its parents, but usually just shouts of “Stop it!” (soia), “Enough!” (uma) or “Peace!” (filemū).

Until one year of age babies sleep several hours each morning and afternoon. From one to three years of age children sleep only about two hours in the afternoon. Until they are three children retire after the evening meal, then sleep with their mothers. At three they are given sleeping mats of their own, and must roll them up and fold their sheets each morning. At this age children retire with their parents between nine and eleven o'clock. Mothers attempt to make them sleep in the afternoon but seldom succeed, even on Sunday, when most of the adults also rest.

Very small children are never taken out at night, for it is said that the spirits (aitu) will touch them and make them ill, but children of five or six years of age and older are permitted to go outside on moonlight nights in order to play games with the other children of the village. The children are expected to return between nine and ten o'clock.

The care, training and education of Samoan children is the same for both sexes until they reach the age of three or four. Even at this age, there is little difference in the treatment of boys and girls, but as early as this patterns of sex division of labour being to emerge.

While girls of three or four are seldom given the responsibility of caring for younger children, they often aid in feeding them, and they take on many of the simpler tasks connected with the running of the household. Little boys tend to enjoy more freedom from the labours of the household, but they too are often called upon to collect fresh coral pebbles from the beach for replacing house floors, to carry pails or kettles of water from the pipeline outlet, or to feed the chickens.

Commenting on the extra load of household labours often carried by the little girls of the family, Grattan says:—

Children, particularly girls, have even more important responsibilities where there are younger children in the family; this is how the Samoans solve what local problems there are in regard to the care of large families. There are few girls who have not at some early period of their lives been responsible for a younger member of the family, as soon, probably, as they were strong enough to carry an infant . . . It is one of the duties of children who are older to keep the young quiet by any reasonable means, especially within the hearing of gatherings of adult people. A complaining child who cannot be quieted must quickly be taken elsewhere. 4

Care of small children is entrusted to older siblings who may be as young as six or seven. Most frequently this task is given to girls, but if no girls are available in the family the responsibility may be given to boys. This care consists mainly of carrying the smaller children about on the back, entertaining them, keeping them from disturbing others, - 403 and protecting them from other children. While the beginnings of a sex division of labour is apparent in the selection of girls as the guardians of small children, most of the labours assigned to pre-school children are done in common by both sexes. As Grattan states:—

Before the advance of maturity defines the sexes too clearly and raises bars of conduct and behaviour, young people are accustomed to perform many of the more trifling tasks in common. They spread out cocoa or copra to dry in the sun or cut the grass before the guest house or about the malae. They dance together, weave coconut leaf baskets for casual use, make 'aulama, or torches from bundles of dry leaflets for reef or lagoon fishing, or catch crabs on the beaches or in the swamps at night. 5

By the time a child is seven or eight years old there is little labour of the household to which it has not been exposed. The methods of pot boiling and oven (umu) cooking are learned, and the collection of firewood is always a task shared by the smaller boys and girls of the home. It is not unusual to see a mother taking one or two small girls with her out on the reef flat at low tide to help her fish for small octopi, eels or crabs. Even the smallest of children appear to have little fear of the octopi that are dragged by hand from holes in the reef and bitten in the eye or beaten on a sharp piece of coral in order to kill them. Training in fishing techniques is taught the boys by the older men of the household and begins at a very early age. It is common to see pre-school children watch their grandfathers setting woven fish traps in the shallows of the lagoon, or lassooing the moray eel on the reef flats.

Children of both sexes engage in spreading out pandanus leaves, for mat making, in the sun to dry and turn brown after they have been trimmed and curled about the hand. The care of these materials at this stage is in the hands of the younger children who rush to take them inside if rain should threaten. Spreading of copra in the sun to dry is also the task of the smaller members of the family. The removal of fallen leaves and other rubbish which collects about the household is another task of the children, and the smaller girls of the family often aid their mothers or the older women in weeding the grounds about the house.

Manu'an culture is so organized that there is no dichotomy between a carefree childhood and an adulthood in which economic self sufficiency and other responsibilities are suddenly thrust upon an individual. The transition from childhood to adulthood is a smooth and gradual one in which children are increasingly taught the activities and responsibilities of adults. A Samoan child is given increasingly useful and difficult tasks when it is felt that he is able to cope with them. As Mead states:—

Work consists of those necessary tasks which keep the social life going; planting and harvesting and preparation of food, fishing, housebuilding, mat-making, care of children, collecting of property to validate marriages and births and succession to titles and to entertain strangers, these are necessary activities of life, activities in which every member of the community, down to the smallest child, has a part. 6

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Throughout childhood, boys have more freedom to play than girls. Small groups of six to ten boys are often seen playing cricket, launching sticks, wrestling, swimming, playing tag, or pelting one another with Tahitian chestnuts. There are numerous swimming games resembling tag, and boys also engage in contests to see who can remain under water for the longest period of time. Small children make toys of tiny immature coconuts connected with a stick, which are rolled through the sand much as a European child might push a toy car about. Boats are made of wood or sardine cans with two or three sticks for mats and pieces of coconut leaf for sails. No dolls were observed in Manu'a.

There are also play activities in which little girls engage to fill leisure hours. Playing marbles is as much a sport for little girls as it is for boys. A game (musa), 7 similar to hop scotch, is played for hours by girls of all ages. Probably the most popular pastime activity of girls is group singing and dancing. Children have been observed performing a recognizable dance (siva) almost as soon as they are able to walk. By three or four years of age girls have become adept at mimicking the dancing of their older sisters. Moonlight evenings are popular times for the small children of the village to meet on the village square (malae) for fun making. On any of these evenings several small groups of children may be seen sitting together singing and clapping their hands while one of their number dances the siva. When the moon is not shining, it is a common sight to see children dancing in houses by the light of the kerosene lamps while family members clap, sing, and encourage their efforts.

Any special event featuring singing and dancing of the older people in the village will draw scores of children. They love to watch the dancing, and they will stand quietly observing all the steps and techniques of the more mature performers.

While boys are not without ability in Samoan dancing, they tend more toward more athletic and competitive activities. Boys from twelve to fifteen years of age often engage in surf riding in outrigger canoes (paopao). Paddling out, they catch the waves just after they have broken inside the reef and ride them in. Capsizing appears to enhance the fun. Marbles are played both by very small boys and also by men in their twenties, using the seeds of the fetau tree or sometimes glass marbles.

All games of the Manu'a children test the strength and dexterity of the participants. Tug of war, stick throwing and cricket are the most popular activities of the boys. There are no games such as European chess or checkers which demand concentration and mental alertness. Hidden object games come the closest to games involving thought.

In every group of children one child is usually crying. Larger children often hit smaller ones with no apparent provocation. There seems to be a game in which one child takes a piece of bark or a belt and chases the others trying to hit them. Although usually done in fun, the smaller children often cry when struck and seldom strike back. If a larger child strikes a smaller one, the smaller child merely goes away. - 405 If a child strikes another of his own size the latter waits until the child is not looking and then hits it or throws a stone from very short range with all his strength, and with surprisingly good aim. In some cases an older sibling or friend is called to carry out the revenge.

A child who is hurt, or pretends to be hurt, cries with his head up in the air so that his wails will carry as far as possible. This pattern applies not only to small children but also to children of eight or nine years of age, and was even observed in a boy fourteen years who was completely surrounded by other boys of his own age. There seems to be no shame connected with crying. When a child begins to cry everyone leaves him or merely laughs at his plight. No sympathy is given him by other children or by his parents. Children seem to delight in watching another child being punished by his parents. In Samoa there is no such thing as a mother coming out of a house in order to sooth a hurt child.

There seems to be no “best friend” relationships. No two children were observed playing constantly together. There are a few children who invariably play alone at the edge of a group without really joining into the group activities.

Prior to the age of six or seven years boys and girls frequently play together, and the segregation of sexes at seven years of age, referred to by Mead, was never observed. Grattan confirms this observation in the quotation cited above 8 in which he states that before puberty boys and girls dance together and catch crabs at night on the beaches and in the swamps. During youth there is no more segregation of sexes than is found in Western society. Adolescent girls can often be seen swimming, playing volley ball or playing cricket with boys of their own age. At approximately nine or ten years of age, the brother-sister avoidance patterns begin to regulate the activities of children in the home, thus producing segregation of siblings of opposite sex, but this has little bearing on their relationships with children of the village.

The work and play patterns that once existed in the Manu'a group have been greatly altered by government schools. Formal schooling has somewhat delayed the education in the home in labour activities and crafts and has caused a large share of household duties to fall upon adult women.

Although the exact school attendance figure for Ta'u is lacking, it must have been close to 250 in 1954. The village boasts two primary schools and one junior high school. In Si'ufaga and Luma each primary school includes grades one through three, with two teachers conducting the three grades in one large room. Children enter first grade at age six. The curriculum follows the early pattern of European styled education and features: reading, conversational English, writing, science, arithmetic, agriculture, music and art.

A junior high school with a staff of four teachers and a principal, situated in Luma, serves grades four through nine for all of Ta'u island. Instruction is entirely in English, and the curriculum includes reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, general science, history, music, art and - 406 agriculture. Pupils are required to attend school through the ninth grade or until the age of fourteen years, and truant children may be prosecuted by the district Samoan judge.

Ability in formal education is always acclaimed, and the achievements of a child are celebrated on a small scale within the family. As early as 1934 Keesing recorded:—

Still another typical characteristic emerging in schooling is the competitive spirit. “The Samoans never pass on any knowledge to others if they can avoid it. Even the native teachers are not free from this. They guard all the information they get hold of and hate to give it out,” said a white teacher. “They love to display their superiority; I find them setting little kiddies long impossible sums and doing them when they cannot . . .” The teacher is, perhaps, hardly to be blamed for this, living as he does in a society where prestige is valued above all else. 9

While attitudes are generally changing concerning all education, there is still a tendency to feel that formal education is not necessary for Samoan girls. It is not infrequent for a school principal to have to force a family to keep a girl in school until she has attained the age when it is legal for her to drop out. Instances were observed where families insisted that a girl remain home and work, saying that her labour in the home would be much more valuable than any education the school could provide. Few girls complete the 9th grade in school if they reach the age of fourteen years first.

It is true that in most cases formal education is of little use to the Samoan girl. Village life seldom demands anything more challenging than the ability to read the Samoan Bible and hymnal and the ability to write letters in Samoan to relatives in distant villages. Government political appointments are not open to women. A number of professions are open to men in Samoa, but only two can be followed by women—nursing and teaching. The total number that can be accommodated in these two fields in all of American Samoa is restricted to about sixty a year. A very small number of Manu'an girls go to Tutuila to complete high school only to find that to put their knowledge to use they must leave Samoa for either Hawaii or the United States. At present only two scholarships for college education are available in all of American Samoa, and in the past these have been given to men. The destiny of most girls lies in the domestic life of the Samoan household.

School hours are from eight o'clock to two-thirty o'clock and thereby occupy a great deal of the children's time which could otherwise be put to household or agricultural labour. However, before and after school each day the children help about the home and learn the essential industrial techniques required of every adult Samoan.

During after-school hours and on Saturdays young boys are often taken into the bush by their fathers to help work the plantations. As early as eight years of age boys begin to assume their share of the plantation work by carrying huge loads of taro and bananas from the plantations on a yoke.

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In addition to the government school, the church school occupies the children's time from the hours of three o'clock to approximately five o'clock daily. This school, taught entirely in the Samoan language by the assistant village pastor, trains the children aged nine to eighteen in Bible reading, writing, arithmetic and Bible study. 10 Twice a year a board of pastors visits the Manu'a group and gives examinations to the children, rewarding them with pencils and composition books. In addition, a pre-school age class is held from seven to eight o'clock in the morning by the church for children two to six years of age. This school instructs children in the use of the Samoan alphabet and numbers, in addition to which Bible lessons are also given.

As girls approach puberty they are commonly released from more menial tasks and given more responsibility within the home. By the age of twelve they have become strong and adept enough to shoulder some of the more difficult tasks, and it is felt that they are capable of preparing pandanus and weaving it into floor mats, weaving coconut carrying baskets, taking over a large share of the family cooking and helping bring produce from the plantations. From about twelve to fifteen years of age the Samoan girl is free from the tasks of baby tending, which is turned over to her younger sisters.

Although cooking is not their delegated duty, girls of twelve may be able to prepare bananas, coconut cream and taro for cooking, select young taro leaves and use these in making Samoan cabbage (palusami), and wrap fish, octopi and land crabs for baking. The making of soups, a fairly new addition to Samoan fare, is entirely in the hands of the girls and women.

Boys of twelve years of age know fishing techniques and can handle an outrigger as well as many adult men. They have become proficient in agriculture and preparation of the food. In Manu'a the preparation of family food is largely the duty of the boys of the family, although girls sometimes assist. From twelve years of age and upwards boys prepare the family oven and cook the daily food before going to school. They are responsible for scraping breadfruit and taro, peeling bananas and grating coconut flesh to make coconut cream.

As boys approach their teens, more and more of the cooking is turned over to them in anticipation of the time when they will be responsible for ceremonial cooking. As early as eight to ten years of age boys are trained in the cleaning, stuffing and baking of pigs, although active participation in the preparation of ceremonial food for the chiefs is reserved for the organization of untitled men (aumaga).

The cutting and preparation of copra is a male activity. Boys of four and five are very adept at splitting coconut shells with the back of a full sized bush knife, while boys in their teens are able to climb the trees, husk and cut copra, see that it is thoroughly dried, and take it - 408 to the copra shed for weighing. Teen aged boys are also adept in building simple house structures, while very small children of five and six are well acquainted with the use of carpenter's tools. Young children of the household find great fascination in the construction and rethatching of buildings of the household. The boys of the family are often responsible for the collection of the vines and woods used in the construction of buildings. Boys apprentice themselves as carpenters in their teens to learn the carpenter and boatbuilding trades.

Nearly all of the men have been circumcised in the traditional Samoan manner. Although many of the boys have been circumcised by Samoan medical practitioners in the European manner, many others have preferred to go to a native specialist (tufaga) for Samoan circumcision. Boys decide for themselves at the age of nine or ten that it is time for circumcision. When a boy has decided to brave the ordeal he chooses a companion (soa), who may be either a family member of a friend, to accompany him to the specialist. The Samoan operation is simple and yields a minimum of pain. A pointed stick or a pointed piece of coconut shell is inserted under the foreskin and a single longitudinal cut 11 is made in the top of the foreskin with a straight razor, bamboo knife or piece of glass. After this incision, the boy bathes in the sea and is dressed with the leaf of homalanthus nutans (fanua mamala) tree and bound with white bandages (formerly white bark cloth). When the cut heals the foreskin rolls back and the penis appears as if the foreskin had been removed.

Circumcision is an important step in any young man's life. His voluntary submission to the specialist proves his bravery, and circumcision is a mark of cleanliness, a very important thing in Samoan culture, since girls look with disdain upon an uncircumcised lover. 12 Circumcision is performed on a pair of boys or upon a group who go together as each other's partners.

After the operation the boy brings gifts of food or tapa from the family to pay the specialist for his services, the usual payment being one chicken or a basket of cooked breadfruit, taro and Samoan “cabbage” (palusami). In villages where circumcision is performed by a Samoan medical practitioner, the families still believe that payment is due him, and send food gifts for his services.

When a boy has completed his schooling he is eligible to enter the village organization of untitled men known as the aumaga. His family head (matai) may suggest aumaga affiliation or in some cases a boy goes to his family head and expresses his desire to join. If the family head agrees that he should, he goes with the boy, bringing a kava root to the village council. While the boy sits outside, the family head presents the kava root in his name to the village council. This presentation represents the official recognition by the village council that a young man may enter the untitled men's society.

After being thus recognized by the village council, he prepares for his actual entrance into this society. At their next meeting the boy - 409 goes by himself with his gift of food (momoli), which usually consists of a six pound tin of corned beef and other foods such as taro, bread-fruit and Samoan “cabbage” (palusami). After placing his gift in the centre of the floor the boy takes a seat in the back of the house and waits patiently while the business of the group is discussed. Finally he is recognized in a welcoming speech by one of the “Talking Chief's sons” (tamato'oto'o). He replies with a speech, after which one of the Talking Chief's sons distributes his food, and he is officially accepted as a member of the group. Thereafter he takes a seat at a post corresponding to the rank of his family head, at the front of the house if his family head is a Talking Chief or at the end of the house if his family head is a Chief.

Formerly, a girl of fourteen or fifteen would be ready to enter the group of unmarried girls (aualuma) who slept together and formed the entourage of the village ceremonial virgin (taupou). Traditionally this group entertained ceremonial visiting parties (malaga), carried out village work projects and served as aids to the taupou, who served the village in the capacity of ceremonial hostess and dance leader. The taupou system has greatly degenerated since the turn of the century. In 1954 the daughter of one of the High Chiefs (Lefiti) served as a temporary taupou on ceremonial occasions such as the arrival of visiting parties (malaga) or at special dance festivals such as Flag Day, when she took the role of Samalaulu, the traditional taupou of Ta'u village. During these ceremonies, she is addressed as Samalaulu and serves as the ceremonial hostess and dance leader. Few of the restrictions that once surrounded the taupou 13 remain. Although formerly she held her title only as long as she remained a virgin, at the Flag Day ceremonies in Ta'u village in 1954, Lefiti's daughter served as Ta'u taupou although she is married, has several children and actually lives in Tutuila. The taupou of a visiting malaga from Tutuila, which arrived in May, 1954, was also a married woman with children.

The aualuma, once a very important organization in every girl's life, remains, but its function has changed to such an extent that it can hardly be recognized. The group no longer lives together and no longer serves a taupou. It is composed of the unmarried girls of the village of about fifteen years of age and older, and widows of all ages. In some villages it also includes wives of untitled men. The group meets only when some special occasion requires its services. If a visiting party is expected the girls convene to make plans for the ceremonial welcome of the organization of untitled men (aumaga) and their leader (manaia). The aualuma is often called upon by the village council to aid in some work project for the village—to prepare a group dance for a large ceremony, or to aid in raising funds for the church. The group often convenes in the home of one of the girls for weaving bees (lalaga).

Somewhat before a boy enters the aumaga he begins to take a sexual interest in the girls of his age group in the village. In Samoa no official ceremony marks the beginning of puberty, circumcision usually occurring before its onset. Sex activity in Manu'a centres around the - 410 boy's intermediary (fa'asoa) 14 who approaches the girl and arranges a rendezvous with the boy.

A boy may have two or three intermediaries of either sex, but usually boy friends, who are seldom his relatives. The intermediary is not necessarily of a boy's own age group nor even an unmarried person. Depending upon age and sex, intermediaries are called tamafa'asoa for a boy, tamaloafa'asoa for a man, teinefa'asoa for a girl, and fafinefa'asoa for a woman. Girls also have intermediaries, though in Manu'a the male usually takes the initiative.

The functions of the intermediary are to arrange rendezvous of all kinds, to give warning if a girl's brother is watching, to argue for his principal with a reluctant object of affection and finally to transmit a proposal of marriage to a girl.

Such meetings take place after the families of the principals have retired, when they slip out of their houses to a specified rendezvous. Something of the intrigue of sex activity among Samoan young people may be observed in the following account.

When it was late at midnight, I put on my black lava lava and crept over as quiet as an ant to where was Tina asleep. I threw a little pebble to her body and she woke up. She came outside, and we went over under the big mango tree. I brought a mat from the boy's fale, and we sat on it together. I said lover words to her, and got her more and more near, and then we were lying down. But she was afraid, and when she wouldn't with all my coaxing, I had to force her. Then she cried and said, “Oh, how bad you are, Loa. You have destroyed my girl life!” 15

An unpopular form of sexual activity is “sleep crawling” (moetotolo). A young man slips into a girl's house and attempts to have intercourse with her without revealing his identity. Informants state that a boy will resort to this rather dangerous activity only if he is not able to get a girl otherwise. A “sleep crawler” runs the risk of receiving bodily injury from the family members if he is discovered, and if he is caught, he will be shunned henceforth by both boys and girls. He may be taken to court, or he may have to make ceremonial apology (ifoga) to the girl's family. In many cases the head of the boy's family is fined by the village council.

There is no prostitution in Manu'a, but in Tutuila several prostitutes meet the ships, selling their services to white sailors and tourists. They are referred to as “girl for one thousand” (teine faselau). Adult homosexuals of both sexes are ridiculed. There are three or four recognized male homosexuals in Ta'u, the most extreme case being one who wears women's clothes, does women's work and is the constant companion of women.

An intermediary is employed in legitimate courtship but in a somewhat different manner than in arranging a rendezvous. The intermediary makes the initial advances and arranges meetings with the - 411 family. Something of the suitor's progress in courting may be measured by his reception by the girl's family when he brings gifts of food. This is described by Grattan as follows:—

Food taken by a young man just before the time of the evening meal to the family of the girl he is courting is also tauga . . . He would be badly received if he went with empty hands, and what he does take must be better than ordinary food. If his offering is refused, he judges that his suit is not prospering; if it is accepted, he is encouraged to continue. His gift may include something he has grown or caught himself, but tinned goods purchased at a store, and designed to tickle the palates of the girl's parents, are also correct on such occasions. 16

On many occasions, the intermediary accompanies the boy on these visits. The actual proposal of marriage is made by the intermediary who tries his best to convince the girl of her suitor's good qualities and potentialities. After the girl's consent is won, the intermediary and the suitor go together with good gifts to the girl's family to discuss the suitor's intentions and desires. The intermediary of the High Chief in courtship is usually a High Talking Chief, and in these cases the greater share of the negotiations is carried on with the girl's family head, her consent being secondary.

Betrothal may last from two months to several years; however, the official engagement is considered to be the period of fourteen days between the posting of the wedding notice by the district judge and the day of marriage.

Marriage usually comes for men at twenty-five and for women at approximately twenty years 17 of age after numerous affairs and flirtations. Samoan girls enjoy a considerable amount of sexual freedom without the conflicts that confront the American teen-aged girl. Promiscuity is condemned by the church but winked at by the family. An unmarried girl who finds herself pregnant will face a certain amount of verbal abuse from her family, but the matter is soon forgotten, and the newborn child is welcomed with open arms, without any stigma attached to it. One seldom hears of a forced marriage, for a family would rather, in most cases, have a daughter who is an unwed mother, than take a young man into its midst whom they do not care for.


When the formal announcement of a forthcoming marriage is made, the families of the boy and girl begin to prepare for the wedding and ceremonial visit (nunu) for the exchange of wedding gifts. The girl's family prepares fine mats, barkcloth, sleeping mats and food and the boy's family collects money and food and wrap-arounds and dresses for - 412 the girl and her family. 18 The following account, given to Copp by a Samoan, clearly illustrates the elaborate preparation for the wedding of a High Chief.

For our share of the wedding food we had sixty big pigs, and as the nowadays custom is, my father had two hundred dollars American. And he got this two hundred dollars, some from the Bank of American Samoa where he owns an account, and some for selling copra to the trader, and the rest from the others in our aiga, or family, in that place . . . And after he gets married with that virgin girl (taupou) her own aiga will give plenty of mea alofa, or love gifts, with her, fine mats, and tapa-cloths, and lavalavas. And then my father will share out these gifts for all the helping people in his own aiga, by money or food, and so everybody will come out even. 19

During the fourteen day engagement period, invitations to the wedding feasts, in the form of letters, are sent to friends and village chiefs. Wedding dresses are also prepared. The girl's family prepares a dress to be worn at the wedding ceremony, and the man's family prepares a dress for her to wear at the festivities which follow. No pre-wedding feasts are given for, or by the groom.

On the day of the wedding, the bride and groom, accompanied by a wedding party (aumea mamae) composed of from four to forty of the boy's and girl's best friends, go to the district judge where a civil marriage ceremony is performed. After the civil ceremony, the bride, groom and wedding party proceed two by two to the village church where they enter by the front door and go down the aisle in a group. Here the families of the bride and groom have assembled to observe the sacred ceremony which follows the usual Protestant ritual.

Following the church ceremony the wedding party and relatives proceed to the wedding festivities. Both the bride and groom's families may give separate feasts, but usually they combine and give one large one. After dancing, eating and speech making by Talking Chiefs of the bride's and groom's families, the wedding festivities are over and the two families go to their homes to prepare the goods to be used in the wedding exchange (nunu). The reciprocal exchange may take place at the same time, or one family may wait as long as two or three years to return gifts of equal value. Of the many gifts exchanged the bride and groom seldom receive more than sleeping mats with which to set up their home.

In rare cases, the wedding festivities include a defloration ceremony. While this is forbidden by Government law and frowned upon by the church, it is still occasionally practiced. Formerly it was always performed on a taupou and frequently on other girls as well. Such a ceremony, which took place in Luma village in 1952, was described by an informant as follows:—

The ceremony took place in the evening following the marriage ceremony. The blinds of the house were up so that the whole community could watch. In this case, the husband of the girl did the actual - 413 defloration (traditionally it was performed by a Talking Chief of the groom's family). She came to him with a white lavalava on, put her hands on his shoulders and spread her legs. The fingers were inserted and the white bark cloth (wrapped around them) was red. The girl allowed the blood to stain the white lavalava. This lavalava was displayed in front of the house for many days.

The intrigues that often accompany the defloration suggests the society's attitude toward sexual freedom. While proof of virginity at marriage is applauded by the families of both the bride and the groom, informants state that many a girl has been saved embarrassment by the substitution of a chicken bladder full of blood for that normally produced by a broken hymen.

On the wedding night the groom takes his bride to the house of his family. The couple sleep in the same house with the rest of the family, but the family hangs up a curtain to separate them from the others. According to Mead, old custom dictated that initial consummation of marriage take place behind a tapa curtain immediately following defloration.

In addition to the conventional form of marriage there is also elopement (avaga). A boy and girl may simply run off to the bush and live together for a period of a day to a week. A couple may elope because the girl finds herself pregnant and fears her family will not permit marriage with the boy. Elopement is often precipitated by disapproval of the match by the girl's family, and the returning couple usually must face their anger. Both the boy and girl may be beaten, and in some cases the girl's hair is cut off by her family as a mark of disgrace. Usually, however, after much recrimination, the family becomes reconciled and prepares for a wedding ceremony. This ceremony invariably follows elopement, and serves as a balm to sooth the tempers of the families involved.

Marriage in the Samoan family is based upon a consideration of compatability, ability to have children, ambition and contrary to some observers, in many cases, a certain amount of love and affection. While many men speak with great affection of their wives, the relationship between spouses on the surface appears very cold. Husbands and wives rarely appear together in public. In church, the men sit on one side and the women on the other. They walk to church separately and on Sunday evening go for walks separately. The only close relationship between spouses is in the home.

Because Samoan houses have no partitions, sexual intimacies often have to take place with others sleeping in the same room. While some couples have intercourse every night the average seems to be about three to five times per week for couples of child bearing age. However, the frequency of intercourse is greatly limited by the fact that husbands sleep apart from their wives while they are pregnant.

Sterility is not common in women, but when found, the cause is recognized to be physiological. Barren women are not treated in any special fashion, although barrenness is generally considered unfortunate and believed by many to be the result of promiscuity. One woman laughed at the idea of frigidity, but men stated that frigidity often - 414 produces family tensions, and that either husbands or wives may be responsible.

No contraceptives are used, and many Samoans expressed surprise that such a thing existed. The very idea of contraceptives seemed strange to informants who live in a culture where the more children a man has the better off he will be in old age. Abortion (fa'apa'u) is practiced infrequently by an unmarried pregnant woman who feels that the man responsible for her condition will not marry her, or that family censure will be severe. In the case of married women it is practiced by those who wish to have no more children or who fear the process of childbirth. Massage (fōfō) is often used, and it is believed that abortion can be produced by inserting a rolled tapioca leaf into the vagina.

Manu'ans recognize a common law union (fa'apouliuli) wherein a man and woman live together without being officially married. The birth of children to a union like this does not necessarily force a wedding ceremony. A man and woman living under these circumstances may worship, but are barred from church membership. The term for common law marriage also applies to a relationship where a man and woman are not living together but the man is responsible for all of the woman's children. Unmarried adults of either sex are rarely found in Manu'a. Only one unmarried woman over thirty years of age, an albino, was encountered in Ta'u village.

Residence may be with either the husband's or the wife's family. At marriage the young couple usually is given a small sleeping house (fale o'o) on the household village land. Since most Samoan men are untitled when they marry, they continue to carry out their obligations to the family head of their own or their wife's family, depending on residence.

Whether the Samoan bride moves in with her husband's family or remains at home her duties as the wife of an untitled man are much the same. She must help work the family plantation, assist in carrying home the produce, care for the smaller children of the family, sweep the pebbled floor of the house every day, roll up the sleeping mats and fold up the sheets every morning, see to the drying of copra and mat materials, make wrap-arounds and shirts and dresses from trade cloth, and weave new floor mats, sleeping mats and blinds. She must direct the smaller children in bringing water or carry it herself, care for the family chickens, aid in the family cooking, and contribute to the family fare by reef fishing. Nearly every morning the wives of the untitled men, and many times the wives of chiefs, as well, will be seen sitting in the shallow water near the beach doing the family washing. There is little leisure time for the young married women of the village, and only on Sunday will a short afternoon nap give her brief release from the duties of the household.

A wife's most important role is that of childbearer. Large families are always desired, for they insure a labour force to work the family land and promise a leisurely old age for the parents. Pregnancy, which is recognized by the cessation of menstrual flow, is surrounded with a myriad of taboos. A pregnant woman must not eat by herself. This is to prevent her from eating selfishly (nanoa). It is believed that a - 415 woman guilty of this will give birth to a child with a birthmark with long black hairs growing out of it, like the hide and bristles of a pig. Again, she may not drink from the eye of a coconut, but must have the top of the coconut broken open. If she breaks this taboo the child will be born with a round pursed mouth. Nor may she drink from the spout of a tea pot or coffee pot, lest the child be similarly deformed. She must not cut food that she is holding in her mouth, or the child will be born with a hair lip (laugutu motu). She must not steal and eat anything from anyone's land, or her child will be marked by skin blemishes. She should also not go too near the fire. 20

The following account of a Samoan describes the life of an untitled man.

While the young man is at home, he must continually ask his matai (family head) how to do many things, such as: the fa'alupega (courtesy titles) of the village; the exact turn of each chief to take his kava cup; the exact time which each chief may make his speech in the village or in the district meeting; the genealogy of the family and also the lands of the family.
It is necessary to cook the food every day for the chief's meal (sua). Every night, he must get coconuts to satisfy his chief's thirst. So that he can cook every day, he must work very hard in the plantations (taro, banana, coconut, breadfruit, etc.) so that he will get as much as he wants for his chief—both to feed him and also to supply food offerings by his matai for the village. If he is zealous in doing all these things, he will be known as a good young servant.
If there are many young untitled men of the family, one of them is the head of them all (this is the matai taule'ale'a). His duty is to ask their matai what work is to be done for the day. So, every young man must obey him. He allots the daily tasks. This allotment must be changed every day so that each young man may take his turn in doing each task—cooking food, fishing, working in the fields. He must supervise and see that all duties are performed. He must lead in the work in the plantations, fishing, cooking and also in feeding fowls and pigs. If he has a wife, he must instruct her to go to the wife of her matai to get her orders for the day about weeding taro, mulberry, sugar cane and other fields, and all women's tasks. She must take care of all the lavalavas of the unmarried young men of the family and look after the wives of the young men of the family.

Within the daily flow of family life personal difficulties arise than can be settled only by one member leaving the group. The chief ground for divorce in Manu'a is adultery. Being caught in this act is considered worse for a woman than for a man, and usually involves violence of some type. Today a husband does not go to the village council to have the offender punished as described by Turner in 1861, 21 but he may file a case against the guilty party in the district court. A case of adultery involving the wife of a pastor, doctor or teacher is considered a village affair, and the village council imposes a punishment, because the pastor, doctor and teacher are considered the “sacred children” (feagaiga) of the village.

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Adulterers often flee into the bush for one or two days. If a married woman wishes to marry another man, elopement (avaga) is the surest method of forcing a divorce. When the couple returns from the bush they go to the mayor 22 (pulenu'u) for protection. Divorce almost always follows, and the man is expected to marry the woman with whom he elopes. In rare cases if the wife were just having an affair, and if the husband feels that she is a good wife, he may take her back.

Cruelty and desertion are also grounds for divorce, but according to government records, adultery is the most common cause. Divorces are relatively easy to obtain, involving a fee of $25 and either proof or admission of guilt. However, according to the census made in the restudy, there have been very few divorces in Ta'u village, and almost none among the chiefly class. Children of the divorced couple remain in the household where they had been residing and are visited infrequently by the parent who has found residence elsewhere.

Every young man looks forward to the day when he will have a title, but it cannot be said that the untitled men are envious or covetous of the position of family head. They strive to work diligently and faithfully for the family and wait patiently for the time when they will be chosen for a family title. 23 When an untitled man is elevated to titled status, much of the menial labour of the Samoan young man is left behind, 24 but he now has new responsibilities to his family and to the village. The following passage from Copp describes his adjustment to the new titled status:—

And so I got to be a matai. And I can't go often now and play cricket with my boy-gang or sing love songs along the road by the moonlight. And also, when a happiness-time is in the village, I can't sing and dance any more like I used to make them laugh, but I have to sit in my place and watch the company of young men sitting there is their own place and doing everything.
And I'm sorry for this. But I'm glad too. Because now I am a real family head, and I can sit with the other chiefs in the meeting fale and give my opinion too and have my share of food. And I am leaving now the heaviest work of a young Samoan boy, serving for everything, when it is hot or when it is raining cold, and keeping on in doing all things even when he is too tired, because this is his special duty. 25

During middle age, women often attain a great deal of prestige in the village. As wives of chiefs, they hold important positions in the Women's Committee and have a good share of the responsibility for civic projects. The Women's Committee, composed of (1) wives of Chiefs and Talking Chiefs (faletua ma tausi), (2) wives of untitled men (avā a taule'ale'a), (3) unmarried girls and widows (aualuma), is a group dedicated to civic welfare projects. 26 In Ta'u village it raised the money for the pastor's new house, and it maintains a welfare fund - 417 which is used to purchase new equipment for the dispensary. The women of this committee aid the village nurses in child clinic programmes and stand ready to assist the village medical personnel in times of epidemic. It is often called upon by the village council to make mats for the pastor's house or to watch over land that has been tabooed for some future use.

If a visiting party (malaga) comes to the village, the women give the welcome ceremony (aiavā) for it, bringing kava roots for presentation to the chiefs and providing a feast for the group. While the basic organization of the traditional aualuma is reflected in the new women's organization, its function and structure has changed a great deal. The church has destroyed the sanctions that once maintained the aualuma but it has enlarged the group, channelled its activities into philanthropic projects, and produced a group that functions ceremonially but yet contributes to a greater extent to village welfare.

In Manu'an society prestige increases with the advancing years. The aged are respected for their wisdom and knowledge of Samoan tradition, and they are often called upon to give advice in the family and in the village council. It is the duty of the children to care for their parents when they are old. Parents come before wives, and if there is a shortage of food, the elderly are fed first. Generally the sons provide food and money for the care of their parents, but parents may be taken in and cared for by their daughters. Having raised a large family, the old women are believed to be entitled to duties involving less physical labour. A great share of their time is occupied in tending the smaller children, weaving mats and blinds, or making thatch and tapa. They are responsible for very little of the cooking or laundry.

Old chiefs spend many hours conversing with one another, but elderly women usually work with the younger members of their family. Old men have less to do than old women, but they may often be seen assisting the older women in household tasks such as weeding, or making blinds and thatch. It is not unusual to find an elderly grandfather taking a turn at caring for the small children. In any household the major producers of sennit are the old men, who roll and braid the fibre while they pass the time of day with their friends. Old people are a definite asset to the household, for they discharge many of the menial tasks about the house that the younger, more active, members of the family find tiresome.

One of the most important functions of the old men is that of educating of the younger men in Samoan tradition. The fa'asauga is a meeting of old men of the village to discuss Samoan myths, legends and customs. While these discussions are restricted to chiefs, the young men of the village may sit outside the house and listen. Similar discussions are held within the family to acquaint the young men with family history and genealogy.

The ritual burning of candle nut for tattoo pigment still lies with the old women of the family, but since very little tattooing is done these days, the custom is rapidly passing. The same may be said for the profession of midwifery which was formerly in the hands of the older women. The old women of the village are still a storehouse of know- - 418 ledge concerning the medicinal properties of herbs, and many of the specialists in massage (fofō) belong to this age group.

Old people sleep more in the daytime than do other adults, but seldom go to bed any earlier. As a matter of fact, many of the meetings of older chiefs take place in the evening and extend far into the night.

Statistics are not available for Manu'an life expectancy, but from observation of the age at which adults die, it seems comparable to the age of death for adults in the United States. Once past infancy and childhood, during which mortality is high, people attain fairly ripe old age. The average age of adult deaths would probably fall in the range of about sixty to sixty-five years. In a village census nine individuals (.025%) gave their age as over 70.

Dying men usually refuse to go to the hospital in Tutuila, believing that if they should die away from home their spirits will be troubled and cause the family harm. When a man dies in the home all blinds are immediately raised and a boy of the family is sent running to toll the death on the bell of the village church. The body is immediately prepared in full view of interested friends and bystanding children. It is dressed in white clothing and placed on a mattress or on a pile of sleeping mats covered with a white sheet at the north end of the house. The female branch (tamasa) of the family takes its place behind the body to watch over and care for it until it is placed in the grave. The village pastor is usually in attendance to do what he can for the mourning family. Grief is not excessive and there appears to be no retention of the former practices of bruising one's head with stones, cutting oneself with sharp objects, or cutting one's hair.

As soon as the news of a death reaches the village, the choir calls a rehearsal to prepare for their visit (leo) to the home of the deceased. Within four or five hours of the death, the choir arrives, dressed entirely in black and is seated within the house. After singing a few opening hymns, a speech for the dead (lauga i maliu) is given by a choir member, usually a Talking Chief, selected by the choir leader. If a family head has died the speaker should be a titled man, but if the deceased is an untitled man, the speaker may be untitled. While the village choirs are composed of both men and women, only men may deliver these speeches, which are intended to console the family, particularly those who are caring for the body. In reply, an appointed member of the deceased's family, who is usually a Talking Chief, gives a speech of thanks to the choir for conducting a leo to honour the dead person. After the exchange of speeches, another hymn follows, and the choir departs.

As long as the corpse remains within the house, the women of the house never leave it. They are forbidden to sleep, and if one of them should fall asleep, as a mark of her neglect, ashes are placed on her forehead which may not be washed off until after the funeral. From time to time throughout the night, young men come in and play guitars and sing to help the relatives stay awake.

Soon after death, friends of the family and relatives from other parts of the village begin to arrive with gifts of trade cloth, tapa and fine mats. While the funerals for untitled and titled men are roughly - 419 the same, the death of a chief occasions the giving of many fine mats and tapa. The death of a chief often brings upwards of forty or fifty mats, which are displayed on the mosquito netting wires strung about the house. One large and particularly valuable fine mat (afuelo) hangs behind the body, and after the funeral it is given to the female relative who cares for the corpse. Bodies are seldom kept for as long as twenty-four hours.

In cases of childbirth where there is a question of saving either a mother or a child, the mother is always saved. Whenever a woman dies with her child still unborn, the foetus is removed and put in a separate grave. A doctor or Samoan medical practitioner, if available, or in isolated places, the woman's husband, incises the abdomen and removes the foetus. It is believed that the mother and her child must be separated or their spirits will not rest and will cause the family trouble.

Whenever death results from a very serious illness, the family head or another male family member incises the abdomen of the corpse after it has been placed in the grave. This cutting (fa'apoi) is to stop the disease, so that the illness will be taken away by the spirit and not bother the family further.

The family head selects the spot for the grave, which is always dug on the land of the household. When the family head dies, the spot is chosen by another influential titled relative of the family. The grave is dug by family members aided by friends, or, if of a chief, by other village chiefs who receive a payment (lafo) for their labours after the funeral. The body is carried to the grave by members of the choir or of the household, and laid to rest carefully wrapped in the sleeping mats, sheets and tapa that the body was displayed upon. Goods such as dishes, pipes or other personal belongings are often interred with the body. Graves are dug in two levels and the corpse is placed at the bottom. A large piece of galvanized iron sheet is placed over the lower level, and large stones are piled upon this metal partition. This is done because of the generally accepted belief that the spirit will return to wander among the living if it is not properly secured in the grave.

A Christian funeral service, as found in Congregational churches, is performed by the village Samoan pastor with the village choir in attendance. After the pastor has thrown three handfuls of sand into the grave, all relatives and mourners near the grave who wish may do likewise. The grave is then filled with sand and, in the case of an untitled person, is left without any marker except a bouquet of flowers and perhaps some coral slabs set on edge.

The death of a Samoan woman is marked by funeral rites similar to those of an untitled man. A very old and respected woman may be honoured at death by the bringing of many fine mats, but nothing like those which would be presented at the death of a High Chief. Like the grave of an untitled man, the grave of a woman is marked by coral slabs, decorated with flowers for a year, and then forgotten.

In the case of a High Chief or High Talking Chief a grave marker (tia) is built. This is a large cairn of round stones usually constructed in the form of a pyramid, although recently these have been cubical in shape and made of concrete.

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During the funeral services, the more distant relatives of the deceased cook the food (laoaua) which is distributed immediately after the funeral. Special shares of pork, chicken, fish and vegetables are set aside for the village pastor, and food is given to the relatives and friends of the deceased, and in some cases to every household in the village. Special care is taken to reimburse the donors of fine mats and tapa with food or goods of equal value. Payments (lafo) to individuals who aided in the funeral proceedings are made, and the ceremonial distribution of fine mats within the family is begun. These fine mats will be held within the family for use as gifts when other members of the village die. Proxy burials are the same as described above except that an insect or other creature, which represents the returned soul of a person lost at sea, is buried in place of the corpse.

A period of mourning is observed for approximately a year, at the end of which the family calls an official end to mourning. During the period of mourning the grave is decorated every day with flowers. After a number of years the coral slabs that mark the graves of untitled men and women sink into the ground and become covered with sand, and the graves become indistinguishable, only the grave-markers of the High Chiefs remaining.


The fact that Samoan culture has remained untouched in its basic structure in contrast to the rest of Polynesia has often been remarked by students of Polynesian culture. Thus Oliver states:—

Samoan presents a radically different picture from the usual South Seas spectacle of native peoples cheerfully and unknowingly losing their identity and their heritage in a setting of successful and expanding economy established and controlled by white men . . .
To the scientist they provide a fascinating and almost unique example of Polynesians surviving the strong impact of western civilization without changing their everyday lives and without losing their numbers, their strength, their dignity, or their zest for a good fight. 27

Mead, in a similar vein, characterized the Samoans as possessing “all the strength of the tough willows, which bend and swing to every passing breeze, but do not break.” 28 This flexibility and sensitivity to minute change, she believes, proves to be a highly conservative factor.

Peter Buck feels that

the pleasure derived from the exercise of native institutions is perhaps the most important factor that has led to the persistence of Samoan customs and helped them to resist the disintegration that has - 421 taken place in other parts of Polynesia. The Samoans are thus more conservative than other branches of their race and their satisfaction with themselves and their own institutions makes them less inclined to accept the change that foreign governments consider would be of benefit to them. Their viewpoint is bounded by their own immediate horizon. The Samoans are self contained. 29

Keesing also comments on the conservatism inherent in the social structure, religious organization, material culture and economic pattern, stating that much of this conservatism is due to the fact that “leadership continues to lie with the old, who are often torpid and conservative, and there is no encouragement of innovation or outlet for youth's enthusiasm within the native group.” 30

Another student of Samoan culture, Rev. J. D. Copp, suggested to Stanner that:—

Samoan custom now serves as a ‘refuge’ from the conflicts of choice and judgment resulting from Western contacts. That is, he postulated a fear of “change,” and a belief that change is “wrong,” as elements integral in the fa'a Samoa tradition. Against this are now ranged the material attractions, the manifest superiorities, and the greater power of the West; its divided Christianity, antagonistic secularisms, and now-exhorting now-scolding Governments; the fascination of new ideas, the trade cycle, the clash of sovereignty, internal social shifts, and much else there is no need to list. All these, it was suggested, sowed in Samoan minds the fear that 'non-change’ was also “wrong.” The consequence was a conflict of choice, of great poignancy and irresolubility. In such circumstance fa'a Samoa remained not only deeply “right” but also became a place of refuge. Fa'a Samoa was “home.” 31

The present investigation confirms the stability of Samoan culture and the fact that the rule of the Samoan society lies in the hands of the titled men. Titles are conferred only in later life and therefore are held by a more conservative element of the society. Maintenance of position involves extensive ceremonial exercise, thus perpetuating the body of ceremonial lore and practice. The younger men of the group have no voice in community planning or politics and are completely subservient to the older titled men. The untitled men are considered the servants of the chiefs whom they must please in order to qualify for titles themselves. A young man may gain recognition only by being a better servant than other young men of his status, or by showing an interest in the ceremonial and traditional aspects of Samoan life. Much of the ceremonial life carried on by the chiefs gives validity and importance to their positions, and young men who seek other kinds of recognition can find it only outside the society, thus leaving the traditionally minded behind. Rebellion from accepted ways is impossible, since the pressure of the village organization is too strong. The body of chiefs is the executive and legislative and, to some extent, the judicial body of the - 422 village, and this council of titled men stands as a strong opposing force against cultural change. The basic satisfaction of the Samoans with the traditional way of life was repeatedly noted even after a short period of residence within the society.

The preceding paragraphs have commented on Samoan culture in general. The culture of Manu'a, functioning in relatively greater isolation than is enjoyed on other islands, presents an even more conservative picture.

More than a generation ago Mead wrote of Manu'a:—

Given no additional outside stimulus or attempt to modify conditions, Samoan culture might remain very much the same for two hundred years. 32

It can truly be said that no additional outside stimulus to cultural change exists today in Manu'a that was not present in 1926. Now, as at that time, the American Government continues to govern the island group according to the following section of the Legal Code:—

Sec. 2. Samoan Customs and Local Regulations: The customs of the Samoans not in conflict with the laws of American Samoa or the laws of the United States concerning American Samoa shall be preserved. The village, county, and district councils consisting of the hereditary chiefs and their talking chiefs shall retain their own form or forms of meeting together to discuss affairs of the village, county, or district according to their own Samoan custom . . . The village councils may enact village regulations concerning matters of a strictly local nature to the extent otherwise permitted in this Code. 33

No other island, or group of islands, in Samoa (with the exception of Swain's Island, which is privately owned) is as isolated as the Manu'a group. There are no permanent white residents on any of the three islands of Manu'a, and no government salaried workers, aside from native doctors, nurses and school teachers. County chiefs, clerks and village officials, who receive monthly salaries so small that they are insufficient to support them, are local inhabitants who have little contact with the outside. Government officials visit the islands from time to time, but seldom stay more than a day or two in any one village. There are no permanent public works labourers or stevedores. There is no dock in Manu'a, so that landing of passengers and freight from the inter-island schooner must be made by long boats which must negotiate the dangerous reef passages. The only commercial contact with Pago Pago takes the form of shipments of foodstuffs to individual families or to Toaga Sotoa, the keeper of the only store in Manu'a.

Missionary activity is also negligible in Manu'a. Mormon missionaries from the United States often reside in Fitiuta village for several months at a time, but their influence is not greatly felt since they have direct contact only with the three Mormon families in that village. At the time this study was being concluded one of the Mormon missionaries was attempting, without success, to establish a Boy Scout - 423 troop in Fitiuta. One Catholic priest visits the Manu'a group about four times a year for a week at a time, but his influence extends to only about a dozen families in the entire group. Otherwise, the pastors are Samoans.

Two Navy Pharmacist Mates representing the Government Department of Health were stationed on Ta'u and Ofu Islands in 1926 during Mead's study, but were withdrawn in 1951. Their influence has been greatly felt in the realm of modern medicine. Daily sick calls, conducted by native nurses and doctors, are well attended, and delivery in the home has almost completely disappeared, except in the village of Fitiuta, where a medical practitioner is not in attendance. Even here, however, most children are delivered by visiting Samoan nurses. In spite of the long residence of medical practitioners in the Manu'a group, there is still widespread suspicion of many aspects of Western medicine. “Bush medicine,” as practiced by recognized specialists, is still largely employed.

With the exception of the Pharmacist Mates, there were no servicemen on Manu'a during World War II despite the thousands of American personnel stationed on Tutuila. A few of the young men of the villages of Manu'a went to Tutuila as labourers because of the wages offered by the Naval Government, but generally the Manu'a group did not suffer from the problems connected with the influx of easy money as did the rest of Samoa.

The Samoan native governors have been important in influencing the lives of the Manu'a people. Each of the three districts of American Samoa is administered by a native governor of high hereditary rank. The first governor of the Manu'an district was the deposed King of Manu'a, the Tuimanu'a. Following his death the position passed to the Tufele family and was held by three successive Tufele titleholders. The first was a member of the Navy Fita Fita guard stationed in Pago Pago; the second was educated in Hawaii; and the third spend approximately ten years in the United States. His successor, Lefiti, was also a member of the Navy Fita Fita guard. Of these native governors two are known to have instructed the Manu'a people to maintain their own ways as the only road to their salvation. Since Mead's time the only documented changes away from traditional custom effected by these governors have been the abolition of costly funeral feasts and the introduction of new agricultural crops, mainly cocoa.

Navy retirement checks and government service allotments affect very few people. The major source of income is today, as it always has been, the production of copra. Annual reports for the last decade show that Manu'a produces approximately 85% of the copra of American Samoa. During and shortly after the war Manu'a produced almost all the copra of the area, although it contains less than 30% of the arable land and only 17% of the population.

In Western Samoa the greatest agents for change have been individuals of mixed parentage. Constituting approximately 5% of the total population of Western Samoa, they have been accorded “white status” by the government courts, providing they can prove literacy. They have become the major land holders and entrepeneurs of the area. - 424 In American Samoa as in Western Samoa, those of mixed parentage operate the major private business enterprises of the area, but governmental laws restrict their ownership of land. They constitute approximately 10% of the population, but are almost entirely in residence on the island of Tutuila.

In Manu'a, individuals of mixed parentage constitute less than 1% of the total population and are scorned, rather than looked to for guidance, with the possible exception of Toaga Sotoa, the storekeeper, who holds a certain amount of prestige in the village of Ta'u because of her useful role.

There have, of course, been changes in Manu'an culture. From an analysis of changes in Samoan culture as described by (1) nineteenth century observers 34 and by (2) Mead, Buck and their contemporaries, it can generally be stated that those elements of aboriginal Samoan culture which have disappeared, are those which clashed with government or missionary policies. Where direct pressure from the American government has been exerted, conflicting Samoan cultural patterns have tended to wither away. Judiciary powers of village councils have been curtailed, sovereignty of district chiefs has been overthrown, and European medical practices have been taken over by the people.

Other changes may be observed in the areas of material culture, but generally, European goods have been added to the traditional artifacts, except in a few cases where the new has replaced the old. These substitutions involve such things as trade cloth for daily clothing, metal knives and adze and spear heads, fishing line, certain types of nets, weapons, and had been made prior to 1900. On the other hand, iron roofs which are occasionally seen in the villages, have not replaced the traditional thatch as the preferred form of roofing. Longboats (whaleboats) are now used for local transport without replacing the traditional bonito boat or the dugout fishing canoe. European foods have been added to the diet but have not replaced traditional fare. Dishes and metal pots are in use for cooking, but they have not reduced the prestige of the breadfruit leaf or the wooden food bowl (tanoa). European cigarettes are smoked, but they have not replaced native grown tobacco. Silk and satin are now used for ceremonial dress, but barkcloth and fine mat clothing is still a mark of prestige on ceremonial occasions. Despite the introduction of cocoa growing, there is no neglect of the traditional crops such as coconuts, yams, taro, breadfruit, and bananas. It is apparent that in their material culture, the people of Manu'a have evidenced an ability to accept desirable Western innovations without losing their cultural identity. It is also apparent that in those areas of culture where outside influence has been most effective, innovation has been an additive rather than a substitutive process.


An analysis of the ramifications of early white contact has led Keesing to postulate that a “Samoan-mission-trader” equilibrium of culture existed from 1830 to 1870. It is on this culture that the present - 425 fa'a Samoa (Samoan custom) is based. During this period “the Samoan accepted those goods he wanted from the trader and bowed to the voice of an evidently superior Deity.” 35 Of subsequent periods Keesing writes:—

From 1870 on came a period of political and judicial changes in accordance with the will of alien authorities whose word was backed by warships and prisons. Most recently (1934) a set of influences that may broadly be called educational have commenced to spread out from the urban centres, by way of the schools, and through the part-Samoan population. The latter two phases of change, however, have been much less drastic than among members of other native peoples, particularly in temperate lands, desired by the whites for colonization. Samoa's smallness, isolation, and tropical climate, together with the political rivalry of the powers and the elements of disunity inherent in the native polity have enabled the native life to stand fairly firm. 36

Thus it may be seen that the greatest amount of cultural change due to European contact occurred during a period of about forty years, after which the culture stabilized and has been relatively successful in resisting subsequent acculturation until the present day.

A careful analysis of traditional culture, as recorded by nineteenth century observers, and that encountered in 1925-30 by Buck, Mead, Handy and Keesing was made to ascertain the early impact of the coming of European culture. While changes were found, the list is relatively brief. In the realm of material culture the following changes took place prior to the 1925-30 period.

  • 1. Cotton sheets replaced barkcloth for bedding.
  • 2. Feather stuffed pillows were introduced but did not completely replace bamboo ones.
  • 3. Fire hearths within the house had disappeared.
  • 4. Kerosene lamps were introduced for house lighting.
  • 5. Milled lumber was used infrequently for certain supporting pieces in the framework of roofs.
  • 6. Sennit baskets (once primarily used for transport of carpenter tools) were no longer made.
  • 7. Nails replaced sennit as fasteners in the construction of planked whale boats.
  • 8. Coiled basketry was introduced to supply tourist trade.
  • 9. The use of coloured (dyed) wefts was introduced into the plaiting complex.
  • 10. The use of sails had been abandoned.
  • 11. Perforated sheets of tin replaced coral for grating fish poisons.
  • 12. The circular Chinese casting net (upega tili saina) had been introduced.
  • 13. Iron replaced wood for fishing spear points.
  • 14. Iron replaced stone for adze heads and drill points.
  • 15. Trolling hooks larger than the bonito hook were no longer used.
- 426
  • 16. The netting of pigeons for sport had disappeared.
  • 17. Spear throwing tournaments and club matches were no longer held.
  • 18. Weapons were no longer manufactured.
  • 19. Several of the traditional musical instruments such as wooden trumpets, pan pipes and wooden sounding boards had disappeared, and guitars had been introduced.
  • 20. Religious objects such as wooden temples, material incarnations of gods and wooden idols had disappeared.
  • 21. Styles of hair dressing had changed and elaborate ornamental combs were no longer used.
  • 22. Body ornaments such as human hair belts and pig tusk breast ornaments were no longer seen.
  • 23. Horse tails had in some cases replaced the traditional braided sennit in the manufacture of fly switches.
  • 24. Soap, matches, European tobacco and tinned meat had been introduced.
  • 25. Tailored cotton garments were adopted by women, and some hand sewing machines had been imported.
  • 26. Cotton netting had replaced barkcloth for mosquito protection.
  • 27. Metal buckets and a few pieces of china were observed to be in use.

In like manner the non-material aspects of Manu'an culture exhibited relatively little change from a nineteenth century condition. Mead sets forth the following innovations: 37

  • 1. A thorough entrenchment of Christianity as the religion of the people.
  • 2. The development of copra as a cash income crop.
  • 3. The establishment of a network of Manu'an government officials such as a district governor, county chiefs, county judges, mayors and village policemen.
  • 4. The establishment of a government court system thereby limiting the judicial powers of the village council, eliminating the life and death powers of family heads, and outlawing blood revenge in the settlement of disputes and differences.
  • 5. The development of the military (Fita Fita guard in Tutuila) and the ministry as prestige occupations.
  • 6. The establishment of government schools with European patterned curriculum.
  • 7. The alleviation of exclusive control of building by craftsmen through the introduction of superior European tools.
  • 8. A softening of the moral code.
  • 9. A decline in the importance of tattooing.
  • 10. The elimination of long canoe voyages.
  • 11. The change from chewing to pounding in the preparation of kava.
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Some difficulty was encountered in determining the amount of change from a nineteenth century condition from a reading of Mead's accounts. Although she states that her emphasis is “upon cultural dynamics, the study of social processes rather than description of cultural traits” 38 many evidences of acculturation were not recorded, and the work contains accounts of contemporary society juxtaposed with reconstructions of the culture as it existed a century earlier. A similar situation was encountered in Coming of Age in Samoa, where behaviour patterns derived from “months of observation of the individuals and of groups, alone, in their households, and at play” 39 were so given that, by implication, they appear in a traditional culture setting unaltered by change. Samoan culture as it actually existed in 1925-26 is discussed systematically only in the appendix to this work. 40

The principal aspects of acculturation which had already occurred but which seem to have been neglected in Mead's work are:—

  • 1. The importance of Christianity in marriage and funeral ceremonies.
  • 2. The effect of Christianity on the social and political life of Manu'a.
  • 3. The disintegration of the taupou system including the disappearance of a permanent society of unmarried women (aualuma).
  • 4. The importance of government schooling in altering the patterns of enculturation within the home.

Church and civil ceremonies at marriages and funerals have been documented by Keesing, who states that in 1930 all Samoan pastors were authorized to perform marriages, government registry of marriages having been required as early as 1904. He further states:—

Along with church and civil sanctions, the wedding dresses, rings and cakes, now more or less adopted from Western culture, are found the old celebrations at which mats and other goods are exchanged between the families. Similar blendings of custom are found in connection with birth and death ceremonies and at many other points in Samoan life. 41

The influence of the church on the social and political life of Samoa is also noted by Keesing:—

In social life the church still forms the essential stabilizing, regulating, and integrating force: sanctioning the old kinship and matai systems together with traditional customs, providing new outlets in place of those passing or passed—opportunities for assembling and engaging in co-operative activities, means of self expression and competition as in singing, giving, church going, and the like—and making adjustments and fusions between the old way and the new. 42

- 428

These influences were not innovations introduced after Mead's investigation, for in 1929 the Samoan district of the London Missionary Society was well enough organized so that control of local affairs could be placed in Samoan hands, with but one white missionary representative (a co-treasurer) sitting on the district mission council.

Keesing writes that by 1930:—

The taupou system, by which the ceremonial life of each community revolves around the person of a village virgin, is passing: chiefs who are entitled by tradition to the honor of having a taupou find the entertainments connected with the position too costly; again, due to the breakdown of the older order, the marriage of such maidens has lost its former value in securing political alliances and economic and ceremonial advantages; the missions have discouraged the custom as heathen, preferring the unmarried girls and unattached women who formed in the old days the taupou's entourage (aualuma) and slept together in her house, to live at home or in the pastor's house; the old women find guarding and caring for her a burden. 43
The . . . society of unmarried and unattached girls and women (aualuma) has already all but disappeared as a formal institution. 44

Mead's definition of the aualuma as the organization of unmarried girls past puberty, wives of untitled men and widows, 45 indicates that its breakdown had already begun. Traditionally, the aualuma was composed of only “single ladies,” 46 and the inclusion of wives of untitled men suggests a movement toward the Women's Committee 47 which Grattan states came into being in Samoa about 1928. 48 At any rate, Mead's description of the taupou system 49 is not characteristic of Ta'u village, the village principally discussed. Here the existence of an official and permanent taupou title passed with the death of the last King of Manu'a (Tuimanu'a) in 1909.

Formal government education is described by Mead as imparting hazy English, part singing, cricket and other games and elementary ideas of hygiene, with the most promising students being selected to become nurses, teachers and Fita Fita guardsmen. The principal effects were reported to have been the breaking down of “barriers between age and sex groups and narrow residential units.” 50 Actually the influence upon Samoan life was considerably more penetrating, involving interference with enculturation in Samoan family industries and in some cases the loss of traditional techniques. A school was established in Manu'a as early as 1904, this being one of the conditions demanded by the chiefs who signed the deed ceding their islands to the United States. In 1911 the Governor of American Samoa issued a regulation making compulsory the attendance at school of every child between the - 429 ages of six and thirteen for at least four days a week during the school year. 51

The annual school report of 1926 gives the following picture of Manu'an education.

Ta'u School:

Grade Enrolment
Chart 132
Primer 38
First 13
Second 21
Third 7
Fourth 4
Fifth 4
Total 202
Course of Study:
  • Chart (started at five years of age)—Reading, phonics, numbers (count to 50), conversational English, music.
  • Primer—Reading, phonics, numbers (count to 100 by 1s, 2s, 5s, 10s, subtract, add, divide, multiply), conversational English, hygiene, music, spelling.
  • First—Same as above only more difficult content.
  • Second—Same as above only more difficult content.
  • Third—Reading, phonics, arithmetic, English, geography, hygiene, music, spelling sewing.
  • Fourth—Same as above. Wider and more difficult content.
  • Fifth—Reading, phonics, arithmetic, English, geography, hygiene, music, spelling, sewing, manual training.

Something of the effect of compulsory education upon the life of the Samoan family may be sensed in the following statement of a Samoan recorded by Keesing:—

Education is creating an ignorance of fa'a Samoa (Samoan custom) since the whole of our customs are bound together in one sheaf we fear that too much education will destroy us. 52

The removal of children from the home is greatly felt, and was responsible for initial hostility toward the schools. Keesing notes that although parents could be fined for keeping children home from school, they often did so to aid in plantation or household work or to aid in family ceremonials. 53

Buck's account of Samoan material culture distinguishes between artifacts in use and those no longer manufactured, thus presenting somewhat less of a problem for the analysis of cultural change, although there are notable omissions of European introduced items.

A number of changes can be established as having occurred since 1925-30. The use of lumber and galvanized iron in the construction of - 430 Samoan houses has only become part of the building complex in recent years. Handy does not mention the use of European materials in Tutuila in 1923. Buck recalls having seen but a single case of milled lumber being used in house building, and this was only a single piece used for roof framework. 54 Keesing records that in 1930 buildings in non-native style existed only in villages accessible to urban centres, which is not the case in Manu'a.

In 1925-6 Mead observed that “Furniture, with the exception of a few chests and cupboards, has not entered the house.” 55 Buck reports that even mattresses were rarely used in 1927, and that wooden storage boxes were imports from the Tokelau group where such articles were traditional. 56 Handy does not mention the presence of European furniture.

While copra has long existed as the principal cash crop of the Manu'ans, cocoa was introduced by government agricultural officials about 1951 and promises to be an important addition to Manu'an income. Other products such as tomatoes, cabbage, corn, beans and carrots have also been introduced but have met with little interest among the inhabitants. The cultivation of many foreign crops has been sponsored by a Ta'u village group called the Faselau (four hundred). This group, composed of both titled and untitled men, was founded by High Chief Tufele about 1952 in order to increase Manu'an incomes through the production of new commercial crops and co-operative enterprise. This group has been largely responsible for the growing interest in cocoa production.

Spear guns consisting of three foot metal projectiles and sling shot launchers, and imported metal fish hooks for shallow water angling are not mentioned in the literature of the 1925-30 period and must be innovations. The recent acquisition of European fishline and netting was established by informants who recalled complete use of sennit and hibiscus bark for these types of tackle. The use of pilfered dynamite for blast fishing no doubt dates from its use in public works projects, but control over such materials is probably less strict today than under Naval Administration. No record of dynamite fishing may be found in the earlier literature.

The use of European cooking utensils is an innovation which can be documented. Pot (ulo) cooking over a direct fire was never observed by Keesing in his 1930 studies, 57 although the making of soups and stews by this method is very popular today. The present use of frying pans, observed also by Susan Holmes 58 in Manono in 1951, appears in no earlier literature, and considering the scarcity of such utensils in Manu'a in 1954, they are apparently of recent introduction. The baking of cakes is now carried on as a result of the acquisition of a few kero- - 431 sene stoves and the availability of packaged cake mixes. The first production of bread as a commercial enterprise was in August, 1954.

In addition to tinned foods such as corned beef reported by Keesing in 1930, new foods such as chop suey, rice, tea and cocoa have become popular for feasts and gatherings of chiefs. These foods were also observed by Susan Holmes in Manono in 1951.

The substitution of such materials as silks, satins and velveteens for barkcloth and fine mats as dance clothing for taupou is apparently an innovation. The literature 59 refers to cotton trade cloth being used for daily and Sunday wear but specifies matting or barkcloth as the appropriate attire for dance leaders. It has been a common practice for dance groups to purchase an entire bolt of trade cloth from which wrap-arounds are made to be worn under the traditional leaf and bark kilts.

Paper mulberry plantations were formerly co-operatively worked by the unmarried girls of the village, and as such, no longer exist. Both Mead and Buck report such plantations but informants in 1954 stated that paper mulberry is now grown only by the individual producers of barkcloth. Both Mead and Buck specifically mention 60 tablets constructed of pandanus leaf for printing bark cloth designs. These have completely given way to the more enduring carved wooden tablets observed during the course of this study.

In recent years the tendency has been toward a greater share of economic independence for non-titled members of the family. Records of copra receipts over an eight-year period from 1946 to 1954 show an increasing division of income among the various biological families comprising the household group, in place of turning over all family income to the family head who provided for family needs. 61 Fita Fita guard pensions and allotment checks from Samoans in the armed forces are also economic innovations allowing increased use of imported foods and other trade goods and making possible greater displays of wealth for the enhancement of family prestige.

Concerning such displays Keesing reports:—

In 1924 the Manu'a people proposed the abolition of “death feasts,” a custom calling for feasting and the accumulation of property, and when the other districts proved conservative they actually imposed it upon themselves independently. 62
While all funerals observed in Manu'a were followed by a feast and an exchange of property, there was nothing of the traditional dispersement of wealth which often amounted to thousands of dollars. This custom, which led to complete impoverishment of families, was done away with at the direction of District Governor Tufele.

The strict avoidance patterns for brothers and sisters as described by Kramer, Turner, Mead and others have generally been softened, since the 1920's. While definite avoidance patterns were observed in this - 432 restudy, they were by no means as strict as those recorded in the earlier literature. A similar observation was made by Grattan who writes:—

The position at the present time is that in some families the rule is still strictly enforced; in others much less regard is paid to it. Everywhere, however, it is still considered particularly improper for brothers and sisters to make doubtful remarks in each other's presence. This, although it may be said that personal standards in family relationships are now in many cases much more lax than they were formerly, is the only significant remaining aspect of this custom at the present day. 63

The chief development as concerns fluctuations in the prestige of chiefs has occurred in Fitiuta, and involves the status of the Tufele and Galea'i titles. With the removal of High Chief Tufele from the Manu'an District governorship there has been a decline in the prestige of the once paramount Tufele title and a corresponding rise in that of the Galea'i title. This was prompted by Tufele's fall from power, coupled with the strong personality of Galea'i who holds the important government position of Manu'a copra agent. There is reason to believe that the Galea'i title is traditionally one of the highest on the island of Ta'u, but due to various circumstances his prestige has long been over-shadowed by that of Tufele. After the removal of Tufele from the District governorship the position was awarded to Lefiti, now the paramount chief of Ta'u village, but he has never attained the status of the Tufele title holders.

The period since the investigations of Mead and Buck has seen the complete breakdown of the taupou system in Manu'a. In 1954, Fitiuta had no permanent taupou whatsoever, and numerous informants testified to the fact that not even a Tufele taupou had existed in eight to ten years. In Ta'u village only the Tuimanu'a was allowed a taupou, but following his death a number of chiefs—Soatoa, Alalamua and Lefiti—attempted to justify establishment of taupou with titles other than the traditional Samalaulu. Similarly, several of the higher chiefs attempted to establish manaia titles other than the traditional Solia. None of these attempts were successful and there has been no attempt to establish a permanent taupou in Ta'u village since about 1925. Temporary taupou function only on rare occasions. The disappearance of a permanent village taupou has all but eliminated the organization of unmarried girls (aualuma), which traditionally functioned as her entourage. While the organization was definitely on the decline in the 1920s, it functions today only as a component part of the Women's Committee which includes all village women.

In 1925-6 Mead reported that “untattooed boys were not allowed to make the kava.” 64 Due to the use of the word “were” in the sentence it cannot be definitely established whether this prohibition existed in 1925-6 or in the past. However, in 1954, the practice of tattooing had fallen away to such an extent that such a regulation would hardly have been possible. None of the higher status members of the society of - 433 untitled men (aumaga) were tattooed, and the wringing of kava by untattooed men was often witnessed.

Certain bonito fishing prohibitions were reported to have existed in Manu'a in 1925-6. These included (1) never taking food in a new bonito boat, (2) pouring water over the catch before women could touch the fish, (3) abstinence for sexual intercourse on the night before bonito fishing. 65 Additional taboos are listed by Buck to include (4) wearing nothing on the head, (5) wearing nothing above the waist. 66 While informants state that all of these prohibitions were formerly adhered to, few, if any, are in force today.

Further comparison of religious beliefs is difficult as Mead's account is primarily a reconstruction of indigenous religion and actual beliefs held in 1925-6 are infrequently mentioned.

Keesing recorded in 1930 that “matters connected with childbirth remain almost entirely in native hands. There are many Samoan women skilled in midwifery by Samoan methods, though on the whole these are crude and are responsible for no small proportion of the mortality among infants and women.” 67 In 1954 childbirth took place almost exclusively in either of the two Manu'an dispensaries, where mothers were attended by trained Samoan medical practitioners and trained Samoan nurses. In isolated villages such as Fitiuta trained nurses delivered children, or in rare cases, deliveries were made by midwives who had been authorized for such service by goverment medical personnel. This development in public health services has without doubt been responsible for the reduction in infant mortality. Government records establish a 100% increase in survival of young children in 1954 over 1925-6.

In 1925 Mead recorded, “for the birth . . . of a baby of high rank, a great feast will be held, and much property given away.” 68 In 1954 the pattern had changed to include feasts for children of untitled fathers, and informants maintained that while a feast was traditionally given for only the first child, the births of all children are now celebrated.

Disposition of the umbilical cord was reported by Mead to follow the traditional pattern of burying it “under a mulberry tree to ensure her growing up to be industrious at household tasks” 69 in the case of a girl or it was “thrown into the sea that he may be a skilled fisherman.” 70 The present practice is to bury the cord near the church to ensure pious qualities in the child.

There has been increasing disregard for the custom of giving birth in the mother's village—government birth records show that in 1926, 77.8% of children were born in the village of the mother's family, but in 1954 the percentage had fallen to 56.3%. Considering the fact that - 434 residence may be either matrilocal or patrilocal this figure would indicate that the custom has nearly ceased to exist.

In Coming of Age in Samoa, Mead reported that “food is . . . masticated by the mothers and then put into the baby's mouth on her fingers.” 71 This practice was not observed in this restudy, and there is reason to believe that pre-mastication has disappeared in most of Samoa. Susan Holmes records that on the rather isolated island of Manono this type of infant feeding was strongly disparaged by District Nurses and had been given up by most Samoan mothers. 72

A comparison of school records for 1925-6 and 1954 shows an extension of facilities to include grades up to the ninth and a broadening of curriculum at all grade levels. The marked segregation of boys and girls in play groups observed by Mead 73 cannot be confirmed by this restudy. This is undoubtedly due to the influence of the school environment which Mead felt was “breaking down the barriers between age and sex groups.” 74 This trend was also observed by Keesing who writes of the school situation that “distinctions are not drawn between the sexes, giving the girls a place they never took in earlier days.” 75

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  • KEESING, Felix, 1934. Modern Samoa. London, Allen & Unwin, and New York, Institute of Pacific Relations.
  • KRAMER, Augustin, 1941. The Samoan Islands. (Translation from the German) 2 vols. in 9, Rarotonga.
  • MEAD, Margaret, 1930. Social Organization of Manu'a. Honolulu, Bishop Museum, Bulletin No. 76.
  • — —1949a. Coming of Age in Samoa. New York, Monitor Books. Also published 1943 by Penguin Books, London.
  • — —1949b. Male and Female. New York, Morrow, English edition 1950. London, Victor Gollancz.
- 435
  • OLIVER, Douglas L., 1951. The Pacific Islands. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • POWELL, T. A. and PRATT, G., 1891. “Some Folk-songs and Myths from Samoa.” (Introduction and notes by John Fraser) Royal Society of New South Wales, Proceedings, 24:195-217.
  • PRATT, G., 1862. Grammar and Dictionary of the Samoan Language. Samoa, London Missionary Society.
  • STAIR, J. B., 1897. Old Samoa. London, Religious Tract Society.
  • STANNER, W. E. H., 1953. The South Seas in Transition. Sydney.
  • TURNER, George, 1861. Nineteen Years in Polynesia. London, Snow.
  • — —1884. Samoa a Hundred Years Ago and Long Before. London, Macmillan.
1   See p. 109. See also Turner 1884:82; Mead 1949a: 23.
2   Holmes 1951:14.
3   ibid.: 15.
4   Grattan 1948:165.
5   ibid.
6   Mead 1949a:150.
7   Musa may be a recent game as it is not mentioned in Buck 1930.
8   See p. 89, also Grattan 1948:165.
9   Keesing 1934:436.
10   When Mead resided in Ta'u village there was a pastor's boarding school for girls aged twelve to eighteen, who were more closely watched and enjoyed a lesser measure of freedom than those residing in their own homes. Mead used this group of girls as a control group in studying matters of sex behaviour. Only one or two girls now reside with the pastor, so no such group was available for the restudy.
11   It should be noted that this is not actually “circumcision.”
12   Kramer 1941:103.
13   Grattan 1948:109.
14   The term fa'asoa is actually a verb meaning “to make partners.”
15   Copp 1950:59.
16   Grattan 1948:100.
17   Averages computed from government records for 1954.
18   See also p. 23.
19   Copp 1950:142.
20   The reason for this was not given.
21   Turner 1861:285.
22   A position created by the government of American Samoa.
23   See pp. 42-3.
24   Mead 1949a:39.
25   Copp 1950:173.
26   Grattan 1948:20.
27   Oliver 1951:158.
28   Mead 1928:495.
29   Buck 1930:5.
30   Keesing 1934:479.
31   Stanner 1953:315. Fa'a Samoa may be translated as “the Samoan way” or “Samoan tradition.”
32   Mead 1949a:176.
33   American Samoa 1949a:1.
34   Turner, Stair, Brown, Powell, Churchill and Kramer.
35   Keesing 1934:476.
36   ibid.
37   Mead 1949a:172-8.
38   Mead 1930:7.
39   Mead 1949a:171.
40   ibid.:pp.172-8.
41   Keesing 1934:412.
42   Keesing 1934:412.
43   ibid.
44   ibid.:144.
45   Mead 1930:31.
46   Pratt 1862:76.
47   See p. 119.
48   Grattan 1948:11.
49   Mead 1949a:58.
50   ibid.:175.
51   Keesing 1934:425.
52   Keesing 1934:437.
53   ibid.:435-6.
54   Buck 1930:44.
55   Mead 1949a:174.
56   Buck 1930:80.
57   Private correspondence between Keesing and Susan Holmes. See Holmes 1951:9.
58   Holmes 1951:5.
59   Mead 1949a; Keesing 1934; Buck 1930.
60   Mead 1930:66; Buck 1930:308.
61   See p. 22.
62   Keesing 1934:342.
63   Grattan 1948:174.
64   Mead 1930:124.
65   ibid.:124.
66   Buck 1930:520.
67   Keesing 1934:390.
68   Mead 1949a:23.
69   ibid.:23.
70   ibid.:23.
71   ibid.:24.
72   Susan Holmes 1951.
73   Mead 1949a:46.
74   ibid.:175.
75   Keesing 1934:434.