The legal fraternity achieved a first on Friday when the first First Nation Samoan was admitted to the bar as a barrister and solicitor at the Supreme Court.
Pualele Margaret Craig was admitted during a ceremony before Justice Lesatele Rapi Vaai.
Born in Canada, Pualele is the daughter of George Atoa of Tuaefu and Mary Telma Spotted Bull (a Native American or known as First Nation). She is a member of the Blood Tribe of the Blackfoot Nation who are the largest tribe in Canada. They are also found in Idaho and are known in the U.S. as the Blackfeet Nation.
Pualele received her certificate for Master of Laws last year on the 11th of December 2015. She then went on to complete her professional diploma in legal practices this year on 15 July, all while raising three children.
Sleepless nights, less family time and an abundance of stress were what Pualele had to go through but all that now seems to be a thing of the past.
Pualele dedicated her achievement to her grandmother, the late Nuanua Uitime Sooaemalelagi, who always prayed for her success.
“I just feel so humbled,” she told the Sunday Samoan. “It’s a very great feeling and I am grateful to God and my family for helping me get this far.”
Although her journey began ten years ago, Pualele says she is just happy that she was given the strength to both be a mom and study what she loves.
“I took my first law course ten years ago and I liked it,” she said. “So several years later I decided to take it full time but I had young kids so I had to do it online. That allowed me to be a mom to my children and to be at home while still getting this education."
“It was seven years of full education and within those seven years I had another child and that’s why it has taken so long for me to finally be admitted to the bar."
“Right after my bachelors I went straight into my Masters because I had a newborn baby and I didn’t want to go to Fiji.”
And of course, there were many challenges and bumps along the way but Pualele says God has been faithful.
“It has been seven years of challenges,” she said. “But with God and the loving support of all my family and friends, I was able to make it. It’s difficult at the time when you have to do assignments and to study but I know that if you put God first, it will all work out.
“So my secret is to always put God first and if that meant putting my family first then yes. But somehow it always worked out for me."
“I had a lot of nights where I didn’t sleep at all and I didn’t get to see my children for two days because I was locked up doing a research paper.”
So where to from here?
“I hope to practice law here and also in the future at some point be able to serve my first nations people, Canada,” Pualele said.
“Thank you (Samoa) for giving me this opportunity and I guess allowing me to be admitted. I will try my best to serve God and country.”
Married to Daniel Craig who is the General Manager of Craig, Pualele had represented Samoa in basketball and archery during the 2007 South Pacific Games. She attended Church College in Pesega.