New Zealand Prime Minister, Bill English, has become a Samoan chief.
At the village of Faleula yesterday, he was bestowed the Leulua'iali’i-o-tumua* title.
The Prime Minister was accompanied by his wife, Dr. Mary English, and her father George Scanlan during the ceremony.
Traffic came to a complete stop while the Scanlan family made their way across the street to the guesthouse where the event was held.
They were led by a band while the village aumaga (untitled men) and family members danced and escorted Mr. English to his seat.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, were present along with Ministers of Cabinet.
The prayer and blessing was conducted by Faleula C.C.C.S Reverend Fili Matalavea who told Mr. English that being a chief is a calling from God.
During the ceremony, the New Zealand Prime Minister expressed how honored he was to have been bestowed a title by his wife’s family.
He was thrilled to have had received it with his elderly father in-law present.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa thanked Faleula for hosting such a significant event.
He said the Chiefly title for Mr. English strengthens the ties between Samoa and New Zealand and the gesture is part of the government’s welcome to Mr. English.
Following the ceremony, Leulua'iali’i-o-tumua said his family has just gotten bigger.
“I am used to big families. I come from a big family, and I married into a huge family and so it’s just got even bigger in Faleula,” he said. “It was great to see my father in law able to talk to people about all their relations that he knows.
“Today I think he would've been the oldest person there and he has a fantastic memory for the stories and the relatives. It’s great to see him have that opportunity as he left sixty years ago.”
The New Zealand Prime Minister said he is humbled to be honoured on behalf of the Scanlan family.
“It’s a real honor for me to accept it, but I am accepting it on behalf of my Samoan Scanlan family,” said Leulua’iali’i-o-tumua.
Mr. English’s proud wife, Dr. English said the Leulua'iali’i-o-tumua title bestowment not only signifies the strengthening of the relationship between the two governments but it’s also a tie to the Scanlan family in Faleula.
“I am very grateful for the honor, that has been bestowed upon my husband, but also for the people of New Zealand. It signifies the connection between the two countries in a formal way and an important way.
“The respect which has been shown both ways has been special.
“My father [George Scanlan] and my sister were present and saw that happen, is something very special to me. Because I think about my father being in his 80’s and I think about him as a young man coming to New Zealand in the 1950’s and not speaking much English, if any.
“Here he is to be able to live long enough to see this come in full circle and to see us come home and to say that his son-in-law the Prime Minister of New Zealand is a chief in his village.
“It makes my father very happy and that makes me happy.”
Dr. English said being able to connect with her Samoan people is the highlight of her trip.
“The warmth and friendliness of the people and being a part of the Independence Day festivities and seeing the nation’s confidence and proud of their heritage and culture is just overwhelmingly joyful.”
Dr. English added that her father has never witnessed Samoa’s Independence Celebration.
“He’s back and in his 80’s and he has finally seen it. Just being a part of his country’s Independence Day, makes me very happy.”
Incorporating the Samoan way of life into Dr. English life while as a little girl was challenging.
“My mother is not Samoan and her family were immigrants as well from Italy, so I couldn't learn the individual cultures. But what I learned from both my parents, was hard work, commitment and family working as a team, but most importantly their faith in God.
* An explanation is warranted here.
The title Leaulua’iali’i belongs to the Savea Leuleua’iali’i family of Afega.
That’s the family of the wife of the New Zealand Prime Minister, Mr Bill English.
Dr. Mary English is therefore the daughter of the Savea Leulua’iali’i family.
Yesterday morning, the honorary title, Leuluaiali’i-o-Tumua was bestowed on Mr. English by Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, at Faleula Village.
Dr. Mary English’s father is George Scanlan. His mother was the late Peiai Maria Leulua’iali’i Tuivaie’se 1, of Afega.
Mr. Scanlan, who lives permanently in New Zealand is in Samoa today, and so are other members of the family who’ve traveled from abroad, to attend yesterday’s ceremony.