In a previous blog post, my colleague Togi Lemanu talked about the “10 things that you need to know about Pasifika peoples in Aotearoa”. I wanted to explore some of these ideas in more depth, in particular the notions of cultural identities. Seeing as it is Samoan language week on May 26th-30th, we will look at a cultural identity model I developed that focuses on the multiple identities of Samoan culture.
I’m interested in the idea of an “identity continuum”, which I explored in my article, Faaea-Semeatu (2011) based on Anae’s (1998) doctoral thesis. The notions that underpin this Samoan identity model, focus on two key areas: language and the practice of Samoan customs, traditions and protocols.
Based on Anae’s (1998) thesis
Identity confusion——————————————————-Secured identity
NZ-born Samoan NZ-born Samoan Samoan-born Samoan
No language fluency Language fluency Language fluency
We can further explore the identity continuum by looking at the ‘types’ of Samoans that people with Samoan heritage recognise amongst their own — that reflect these ideas about the fluency of Samoan language coupled with the knowledge and practice of fa’aSamoa (Samoan customs, traditions and protocols). Samoan children know from an early age that fa’aSamoa plays a huge part in living the Samoan way.
Add to the mix, migration – Samoans who migrate to host societies and form their own diaspora communities. The descendants of those migrant Samoans in turn, could become transnationals. This helps to explain why there would seem to be ‘identity confusion’ or cultural ambivalence that occurs, where second or third (in Aotearoa, we are even up to fourth) generation Samoans who were either not allowed to speak gagana Samoa (Samoan language) or chose not to.
Multiple identities of Samoans
- Samoa mao’i – “Samoa mo Samoa” (Samoans with gagana and fa’aSamoa)
- Fluent gagana Samoa, no fa’aSamoa
- Fluent Fa’aSamoa, no gagana Samoa
- Some gagana Samoa, no fa’aSamoa
- Some Fa’aSamoa, no gagana Samoa
- Brought up in the Fa’aSamoa, chooses not to engage in Fa’aSamoa or speak gagana Samoa
- Not brought up in the Fa’aSamoa but chooses to engage in Fa’aSamoa and gagana Samoa
- No gagana Samoa, no Fa’aSamoa
Contributing factors to the multiple identities of Samoans:
- Diaspora Samoan vs. Samoan born Samoa
- Second language learner (gagana Samoa is the mother tongue)
- Academic language learner (gagana Samoa is studied at tertiary level)
- Passive vs. Active (understanding gagana Samoa rather than speaking it)
- Relationship between gagana Samoa and Fa’aSamoa, practises gagana Samoa
- Formal school learning environment (does it allow for gagana Samoa and Fa’aSamoa?)
- Family environment (is gagana Samoa or Fa’aSamoa practised as family values?)
- Palagi showing cultural competence – Palagi developing fluent gagana Samoa and now teaching it
- New millennium Samoan
- Ethnicity vs. Identity
Other Pasifika cultures will experience the same struggles or challenges in the maintenance of their heritage cultures and languages in Aotearoa.
The question for educators is:
If these are the levels of diversities within Pasifika cultures – what can we do to ensure that the achievement of Pasifika children is secure in Aotearoa?
For more information about increasing the understanding of Pasifika diversities and Pasifika learners, visit the following links: