Foreigners receiving Samoan chiefly titles
Mon, 09 Jul 2012 3:47p.m.
Opinion by Falaniko Tominiko
It has just been brought to my attention that our very own Mayor Len Brown has just been bestowed a matai or chiefly title by the village of Lepa. Lepa also happens to be the village of Samoa’s Prime Minister, Tuila’epa Sailele Malielegaoi, and it explains the photo of them together in the article in which I read this.
So what do I think about this? To be honest, as a proud Samoan, I don’t mind it at all that foreigners are bestowed chiefly titles. I liken this to New Zealanders receiving a Queens Service Medal or the New Zealand Order of Merit etc. They are titles that are rewarded to the recipient for their outstanding service to New Zealand. That is the basis on which I support foreigners getting titles, i.e. on account of ‘service’ they have rendered to the village or the country as a whole.
Len Brown follows in the footsteps of former politicians Robert Muldoon, David Lange, Jim Bolger, Barry Curtis, Jim Peters and more recently John Key who have all been bestowed Samoan chiefly titles. Whether these people have rendered service to Samoa, only those people who bestowed them would know. I support Len’s appointment to a chiefly title. Although as mayor of Auckland Super City, it doesn’t seem like he has pushed the Pacific cause much, but as a former mayor and resident of Manukau City, he has been a loyal supporter of Pacific and Samoan communities.
“O le ala I le pule, o le tautua”, “The way to leadership, is service” – is a Samoan saying reflecting the path one must take to become a leader, to become a matai. What it fails to say is that service does not stop once you have become a matai. In actual fact, as a matai you are expected to continue serving your aiga (family) as long as you are a matai. That is where the true mark of a good matai is. Now if we look back at the previous foreigners named above whom all were recipients of Samoan titles, can we say they were good chiefs? I can’t really answer that question because there is no evidence that they continued to serve the villages that bestowed them the titles or Samoa as whole. This in Samoan custom is called your monotaga, your continual support and contribution to your village regardless of whether you live there or reside overseas.
So my advice to Taua’aletoa Len Brown, I’m sure you have many people critical of your bestowal as a chief. Obviously you have been recognised as being a servant of Samoa however what really counts, and what you will eventually be judged on is your service, your work and your monotaga that you will continue to do for Samoan and Pacific people in general.
Ia tafetoto ou ala Taua’aletoa
 Ia tafetoto ou ala – ‘May your paths be bloodied’ – a saying wishing a warrior all the best in their battles.
 Taua’aletoa – Matai title bestowed on Mayor Len Brown by the village of Lepa
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Falaniko Tominiko is studying a PhD in Pacific Studies, focusing on Chiefly systems. He discusses the development and changes of the Matai (Chief) system in Samoa.
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