How I Became Polynesian Royalty
Pago Pago, American Samoa – Summer 1988
I’m a princess. No, not that kind of princess – although I do have my tendencies… I’m a Samoan princess.
I know you don’t believe it, but it’s true. My father was made an honorary Samoan chief and I have all the royal paraphernalia to prove it. See, Dad was a consultant to Pacific Island nations, and for this particular gig he was working for the U.S Government running the commissary stores in the American Territory of American Samoa, capital Pago Pago. (There are two Samoas. Western Samoa is a whole other set of islands and an independent nation.) Dad was a pretty charismatic guy and I guess he made quite a few friends the 2 years he lived in Pago Pago. At the end of his stint, he was made an honorary chief. This is quite an honor for anyone –but particularly a haole (read: white dude).
As part of his induction ceremony he was given several items: a 6 ft. wooden staff, a red feather boa-type thing (I know his isn’t really a boa, I think it might tie around your waist), a very large fly swatter, and a wooden bowl, beautifully carved.
In the bowl, he was served kava kava, a native hallucinogenic drink traditionally made by virgins. He drank the kava kava as part of the ceremony. He said he got only a slight buzz. Supposedly as an honorary chief he was also given access rights to land in American Samoa. I’m not so sure I want to press my luck by claiming precious beach-front property on the main island. Samoans are big people. Samoans are not just large in stature, but also renowned for their strength and toughness, especially in the sports arena and on the battle field. In fact, one of my Dad’s favorite stories about his time in Samoa is when he was watching a neighborhood rugby game. During the match, one of Dad’s good friends dislocated his shoulder. Apparently his friend simply ran to the sidelines, wrenched his shoulder back into place by himself, and returned to the pitch to continue playing — pretty tough SOB.
Samoans gain this reputation of toughness from early childhood. From what I hear, Samoans are not supposed to cry at all and you’ll be laughed at if you show any signs of weakness. Even little kids.
From all accounts, Dad had a grand old time in Samoa and I, being an admiring daughter, continue to think of him as a chief among men.
Of course, I also consider myself a true princess. Yet when I bring up my royal lineage to my mother and brother, they are quick to point out their own titles of queen and prince.
Whatever. It’s best to be a princess.
This entry was posted on Friday, September 18th, 2009 and is filed under Erin Then.