After a long hiatus, cultural festival celebrating Samoan heritage underway
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - One of Hawaii’s largest Pacific Islander communities is holding a cultural celebration this week at Keehi Lagoon Beach Park.
This is the first Samoan Heritage Week since 2016 hosted by the American Samoan Government Office in Hawaii. Through Thursday, the public can come out for sports competitions, entertainment, activities and local food.
The festival kicked off Monday afternoon with a procession, messages of talofa and aloha from leaders of American Samoa and a traditional ava ceremony ― an ancient Samoan ritual where guests of honor share a ceremonial beverage to open important gatherings.
About 3% of Hawaii residents are of Samoan descent -- many come from the U-S territory -- others trace their roots to the independent nation of Samoa.
“We’re Polynesians. We’re cousins. We’re brothers and sisters,” said Tuiafono Vaiuli Sua, Jr., director of the American Samoan Government Office in Hawaii.
The weeklong program runs at Keehi Lagoon from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Thursday, and closes with a gala banquet at the Filipino Community Center on Friday.
“We get to see the people, people that we hardly see here locally. And also we have some people coming from Alaska, the mainland in California.” Sua said.
Organizers say it’s a chance to connect with Samoans in Hawaii and share the culture with other ethnic groups.
“So we can reach out to every churches and every people that to to know and understand how value our language is. Our language is our culture,” Sua said.
The program includes fellowship among various churches, performances, arts and crafts and food trucks.
Twenty-five young Samoans were also awarded scholarships to pursue college.
“The Samoans who live in Hawaii away from home, we’re not in contact with the language and the culture but this is an opportunity for we can have these events and festivities so we can bring the culture to our Samoan local populace,” said Afu Lefaoseu III, of the American Samoan Government Office in Hawaii..
Customs the government hopes can be passed on to future generations.
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