Hawaii high school students of Samoan ancestry celebrate their heritage at PCC
Participants said the “We Are Samoa Fealofani Day” festival on May 6, 2023 was an opportunity for them to show their pride in their Samoan heritage. “It was really lovely to see Samoans come out to represent the culture by retelling stories of ancestors who’ve paved the way for our identity and beliefs,” said Deviann Pula, an audience member from Laie and junior at Kahuku High School.
The festival, held at the Polynesian Cultural Center, hosted high school students representing Samoan clubs from Kahuku High School, Farrington High School, Radford High School, the Interscholastic League of Honolulu Poly Club and Kapolei High School.
The students celebrated their culture through song, dance and cultural activities such as basket weaving, banana peeling and fire making. The high schools were all able to raise money for their clubs, with Radford High School raising the most at $3,976.
Selelimalelei Lepule Esau, from Lufilufi, Samoa and whose daughter represented ILH and won the banana peeler competition, voiced his appreciation for the PCC’s presidency and all who made the event possible. “This is one of the most important events of the year. … I strongly believe that it’s a very great idea to always involve the rising generation in our everyday norms even though they were raised out of our home, giving them a sense of the way we as parents were raised in the times of old,” said Esau.
Hosted by Delsa Moe, vice president of Cultural Presentations at the PCC, and Steve Laulu, the PCC Islands’ director, the festivities also featured a special performance by the Oriana Academy group from Australia, along with greeting speeches by school representatives and cultural activities.
The seats were filled with family, friends, students, teachers and officers who attended to support those who performed. The celebration started off with a song and a prayer, followed by “Lauga ole faafeiloa’iga,” a greeting speech in the Samoan culture, by the senior ambassador of the PCC, Kap Tafiti. Following the speech, the flags of the United States, Samoa and American Samoa flags were raised to represent unity between the countries. Participants said they showed their excitement through cheers, songs and cultural dances, which had significance in the Samoan culture.
Pula added, “I admired the energy and the amount of commitment everyone had by dancing along, and I am definitely loving the Samoan foods that were sold by the different vendors. All of the things I have seen and witnessed today reminded me of who I am, a Samoan, and increased my pride and willingness to learn more about my culture for myself and family.”
The dances performed by each respective high school represented parts of Samoa’s history, such as the one performed by Kapolei High School, which memorialized the tsunami that hit the islands in 2009. The performance featured students dressed in blue to represent the ocean in the tsunami, and sound effects to convey what it would have been like to experience the disaster.
Maxi Christina, the Kap Club president from Waipahu and and senior at Kapolei High School, said, “As the president for Kap Club, I have come to learn of leadership, love and pride in representing my loved ones who have passed on, providing me with the great opportunity to live and grow in the paths they have paved for me today.”
She said skills she gained through leadership include being considerate at all times through learning and trying to adapt to the culture, making it normal to her and her club members. Christina added, “One of the most important yet interesting feelings I have gained and will live upon, that I have seen today, is the unity and support I have received from my family and friends. This is a symbol of love that gives me motivation each day to represent my family that are here today and those on the other side of the veil.”
“This is my first year participating in this event and I love it very much,” said Taea Moeai, a freshmen in the ILH Poly Club from Laie. She continued, “My mother was actually born in Apia, Samoa, and I found it very important being here today knowing that we were not raised in Samoa to do chores like my mom. In fact, I have learned so much from the activities I have actually seen today.”
Moea’i shared her ancestors came to Hawaii to help build the Laie Hawaii Temple and she felt filled with gratitude towards the hard work and examples her mother’s ancestors have provided. “I am forever grateful for the love of our Heavenly Father for directing my family to the right direction and making things happen.”
At the end of the festival, the hosts revealed how much money each group had succeeded in raising through contributions from friends and families during the last dance, the taualuga. ILH raised $3,281, Kapolei High School raised $1,368, Kahuku High School raised $2,800, Farrington High School raised $2,564, Radford High School raised $3,976, and Oriana Academy’s special performance brought in $1,903.
Click here to view a photo/video slideshow on We Are Samoa and the Fireknife competition.
Check out the interactive webpage of the story and more photos from the event.