Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Samoa Celebrates Sara's Birth

No wait. That's not it.

Samoa Celebrates Queen's Birth.

Oh, no wait. I was wrong.

Samoa Celebrates It's Independence.

Yes! That's it.

My birthday happens to fall during the three-day national holiday celebrating Samoa's independence. According to our Peace Corps trainers, Samoa actually gained it's independence on January 1st in 1962, but celebrates on June 1-3. Our trainer's said independence was not celebrated in January because New Year's was already a national holiday and they didn't want to waste two national holidays on the same day. Cale was also recently informed that before independence Samoa celebrated the Queen's birthday on the first Monday in June (same as New Zealand). I suppose they decided to keep that day as a national holiday and switched it to Independence Day.

According to Wikipedia:

...initially peaceful protest by the Mau (literally translates as "Strongly held Opinion"), a non-violent popular movement which arose in the early 1920s to protest the mistreatment of the Samoan people by the New Zealand administration. The Mau was initially lead by Olaf Nelson, who was half Samoan and half Swedish. Nelson was eventually exiled during the late 1920s and early 1930s but he continued to assist the organization financially and politically. In following the Mau's non-violent philosophy, the newly elected leader, High Chief Tupua Tamasese Lealofi, led his fellow uniformed Mau in a peaceful demonstration in downtown Apia on December 28, 1929. The New Zealand police attempted to arrest one of the leaders in the demonstration. When he resisted, a struggle developed between the police and the Mau. The officers began to fire randomly into the crowd and a Lewis machine gun, mounted in preparation for this demonstration, was used to disperse the Mau. Chief Tamasese was shot from behind and killed while trying to bring calm and order to the Mau demonstrators, screaming "Peace, Samoa". Ten others died that day and approximately 50 were injured by gunshot wounds and police batons. That day would come to be known in Samoa as Black Saturday. The Mau grew, remaining steadfastly non-violent, and expanded to include a highly influential women's branch. After repeated efforts by the Samoan people, Western Samoa gained independence in 1962 and signed a Friendship Treaty with New Zealand. Samoa was the second or third Pacific Island country to become independent, after New Zealand and arguably Tonga.

There were very few Independence Day related activities going on as far as I could tell. There was a march or parade of some kind at sunrise or so Monday morning. Most school children were required to be there in school uniform to parade around. Teachers were supposed to attend as well. I decided that I didn't want to spend my birthday getting up at 5 am so I could go for a 20 minute walk, so Cale and I skipped that event. There were also boat races and some "traditional activities" according to Radio New Zealand International.

Personally I think they needed some fire works. They could have had a show over the water in the harbor in Apia. It would have been spectacular and would have been a great way to lure people (and tourists) downtown. Then, with all those people downtown, they could have had food vendors and booths with traditional crafts. Oh, wait...that is how we celebrate independence in the states. Never mind it would have been a great way to celebrate my birthday.

— Sara


Barb Carusillo said...

you deserve fireworks on your birthday!

whatever said...

Samoa used to celebrate Independence the way you said they should, but it seems like they have replaced it with that stupid Teuila Festival. Independence Day there June 1-3 was a big three day event with food stalls, boat races, school parades, marathon, singing competetions, dance competetions, sports, etc....but have no idea what happened.