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Hosting village groups no longer a ‘village’ tradition

Even with financial assistance offered by the American Samoa government, villages in the territory were not rushing to host village groups from Samoa invited to participate in the Flag Day events, prompting the government to look at individual families as hosts, says Gov. Togiola Tulafono.

Questions were raised within the community this year as to why individual families hosted this year’s “siva and pese” groups from Samoa as well as the Samoa Police Band, instead of villages, which has been the usual practice.

And the question was raised directly to the governor on his weekend radio program, with the caller saying that it’s appropriate for visiting groups from Samoa to be properly hosted and greeted by traditional leaders of local villages.

Togiola said the goal of the Office of Samoan Affairs, along with the Flag Day Committee, is to have local villages — with their village councils — play host to their brothers and sisters from Samoa, and this has been a long standing Samoan tradition of respect and hospitality between the two Samoas for decades.

However, he said the problem faced by the government was that several requests to villages to host groups from Samoa were denied, which means villages here no longer want to play host. He recalled that since he has been at the helm at the Governor’s Office, some villages have played host only once and any new requests to the same villages were denied many times.

There are also some villages who have never hosted a group and were asked at least three times, Togiola said, but they didn’t have any interest to host.

He added that even when the government planned to provide financial assistance, that didn’t sway village leaders, who still rejected the requests.

The governorsaid providing money to help host villages was not the usual practice, but when he took office as governor, it was decided to provide some sort of financial aid to villages to soften their financial hardship, because it’s not easy being a host.

According to Togiola, there were past cases when the government and the Flag Day Committee were able to provide at least $10,000 to the host villages; however this type of monetary aid still did not sway some villages.

This prompted the government to seek out individual families as hosts, and for many years, Sen. Paogofie Fiaigoa and his family as well as the Galoia family — both of Pavaiai — have been frequently asked and have accepted requests to be hosts, said Togiola.

Togiola said that with the change of time through improvements in technology and transportation, the traditional hospitable Samoan way of hosting has vanished and village traditional leaders, despite urging, have also refused requests from the government.

For this year’s Flag Day, he said, the Office of Samoan Affairs was faced with the very difficult task in trying to secure host villages and this resulted in individual families becoming hosts.

House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale and his family hosted Saleaumua village from Upolu; Vui Seigafolava F. Saulo and her husband Muliagatele Meleisea hosted Lano village from Savai’i; and Vaimaona family in Lauli’i hosted the Samoa Police Band, said Togiola, who thanked these families for their willingness to host our Flag Day guests.

He said this will be the most difficult task for the government in the future, when groups are invited for Flag Day and local villages don’t want anything to do with hosting visitors. Togiola hopes that the community, being Christians, will utilize a Christian belief as cited in the Bible “to love thy neighbor” when it comes time to hosting groups from Samoa.

A village traditional leader who didn’t want to be identified said that even with financial help from the territorial government, there is still a lot of work and preparation to host a large visiting village group from Samoa, and village residents just don’t want to go through the hassle.