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Samoan community comes together in Hawaii for Heritage festivities

Fiame Naomi Mataafa and Gov. Lemanu P.S. Mauga

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — With the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific Band leading the way, the 2024 Samoan Heritage Festival in Hawaii opened at Keehi Lagoon Park on Saturday, June 15, 2024.

This year, a total of thirty-nine organizations marched, including the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture delegations from American Samoa and Tokelau. The parade featured the 25th Infantry Division Haka Team, religious organizations, male and female cricket teams, private sector groups, and nonprofit organizations. Each diverse group of Samoan descent showcased their pride and commitment to their shared heritage.

The invocation delivered by Afioga Sea Koneferenisi Nuusa, leader of the Samoan Methodist Church Synod in Hawaii, set the stage for a spiritually enriching event, seeking blessings for unity and cultural preservation throughout the celebrations. The sermon highlighted an excerpt from the book of 1 Samuel 8, where the people desired a king that could be seen and admired, instead of the unseen King who required faith to know. The sermon further explored the analogy structure of the Va’a, delving into the origins of certain Samoan words and proverbs.

Master of Ceremonies, Tofa To’oto’o Tauese V. K. Sunia formally greeted distinguished guests and commenced the official opening of the Festival.

Samoa Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa delivered special remarks that deeply resonated in the audience. She stated: “This annual celebration of the Samoan heritage week by the American Samoa Government for all the Samoans in Hawaii, resonates the importance of our cultural preservation and inculcating in our young generations, the essence of identity and determination. Heritage week is a key platform for all Samoans living in Hawaii to maintain connections with their homelands and continue sharing the practices with their children because without these dedicated practices, our faasamoa will gradually pale into obscurity and submerge between the rising tides of foreign social norms that are not always in line with our Samoan values and ancestry.”

During the ceremony, two young people took the Oath of Enlistment to join the Hawaii National Guard. On behalf of the Hawaii National Guard Commander, Brigadier General Stephen F. Logan, 1st Class Sergeant Pili Faoa expressed gratitude to Gov. Lemanu P. S. Mauga and the ASG for including the short ceremony during Heritage Week Opening to conduct the Oath of Enlistment for a Son and Daughter of American Samoa. The Oath of Enlistment was led by Captain Candyce Tsunayoshi. The enlistees were Private First Class Sio from Tafuna High School and Private First Class Tanielu from Samoana High School.

A traditional Ava ceremony, led by Sinoti Metotisi, took place to signify community bonding and reverence. This was followed by the Aso O Tupulaga program, featuring eight performance groups, including the American Samoa Delegation for the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture.

As the Samoan Heritage Festivities continue, participants and visitors can look forward to cultural competitions and games, interactive traditional workshops, car shows, and engaging performances that reflect the vibrant spirit of Samoa.

Coming on the heels of the highly successful 2024 FestPAC that finished over last weekend, the heritage fest highlights the Samoan culture as it manifests in the 21st century.