(Honolulu, HAWAI'I)--Tears were shed when Samoans in Hawai'i gathered for a flag raising ceremony Saturday, June 1 on a small field behind the Kuhio Park Terrace Community Resource Center in Kalihi.
About 100 people of all ages joined newly-formed community group Leo O Tumua ma Pule, for the happy occasion.
Leo O Tumua Pule is comprised of: Fa’amausili Misa Tauave Galuvao and wife Tina; Ape Fuli Lei Poleki and wife Malia; Leafa Suliveta and wife Lufi and Seumanutafa Fouvale Aetonu and wife Sele.
Their mission is to highlight issues specific to Samoa citizens in Hawai'i and assist in meeting their needs.
Tattoo-clad men of Malofie Samoa Hawai'i, a new Samoan cultural tattooing group performed the ava ceremony that welcomed traditional leaders to the occasion. Founders of Malofie Samoa Hawai'i are Master Tattooist Su'a Peter Sulu'ape and Wadalife Executive Producer Tracey Poleki Puaina.
Malofie members Matt Fiatoa, Junior Stowers and Pisa Puaina raised the flags of the United States, Samoa and Hawai'i, respectively. The national anthems of the US, Samoa and Hawai'i were sung by the Samoan one-man band sensation, Fa'afitauli Seiuli and vocalist Lani Parker, a native of San Diego.
Hymns were provided by Ekalesia Fa'apotopotoga Kerisiano Amerika Samoa (EFKAS) in Kalihi. Leader of EFKAS Kalihi Rev. Tinitali Gafa offered the invocation.
Many attendees shed tears during the event, one senior citizen in her purple and white mu'umu'u crying as she reiterated the significance of Samoa Independence Day.
"Where is everyone?," she asked forcefully, in the Samoan language. "This is a very important day. This is a very important day!"
U.S. President Barack Obama sent a congratulatory message to the people of Samoa celebrating the country’s 51st Independence Day, reports Samoa News out of American Samoa.
Obama’s message, Samoa News says, was delivered in a letter presented by U.S. Ambassador to Samoa and New Zealand, David Huebner during a meeting last week with Samoa’s Head of State Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi.
“On behalf of the American people, it is with great pleasure that I congratulate you and all Samoans as you celebrate your nation's Independence Day,” Obama wrote in the letter released by the U.S. Embassy in Apia.
Obama pointed out that Samoa and the United States have long shared a “warm relationship” and work together closely on many areas of common interest. “Our friendship is founded on a mutual commitment to freedom, peace, democratic ideals, the rule of law, and cooperation on issues such as climate change, health, and conservation of ocean resources,” he said.
Obama also said that the U.S. was pleased to be able to assist Samoa's recovery in the wake of Cyclone Evan last December and noted that this is “one example of our collaboration.”
“We hope to maintain and strengthen this longstanding relationship between our countries and in the Pacific region in the future. Please accept my best wishes on this important anniversary of your Independence Day,” the President said.
Formerly Western Samoa, the country gained its independence from New Zealand Jan. 1, 1962. Samoa Independence Day is observed each year by the Samoa Government on June 1.
The Hawai'i flag raising ceremony came one day after Samoa (one day ahead of Hawai'i) celebrated 51 years of independence.
Following the taualuga in Kalihi, performed by Radford High School student Ledezna Leafa, attendees enjoyed lunch and danced happily.
The gathering closed with the singing of Lo Ta Nu'u.
Leo O Tumua Ma Pule plans to host this event each year.
In the Samoa Independence Day Rugby Festival also held June 1 in Hawai'i, at the Aloha Stadium, rugby enthusiasts saw the Toa Samoa defeat USA Tomahawks 34-10.
Both sides are gearing up for the Rugby League World Cup in October 2013. The Samoa/USA game was the first international test match to be played on the Hawaiian Airlines Field. (More on the festival coming up.)
The ceremony held in Kalihi is believed to be the first Samoa flag raising held in Hawai'i. It is not clear if there were similar events held in other parts of the United States.
To learn more about Leo O Tumua ma Pule, please go to our POLITICS section.
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