Lecturer revisits war history

By Aruna Lolani ,

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HISTORY LECTURER (N.U.S.): Saui’a Louise Mataia Milo presenting on ‘Women and their little Marines’.

HISTORY LECTURER (N.U.S.): Saui’a Louise Mataia Milo presenting on ‘Women and their little Marines’. (Photo: Misiona Simo)

Women’s lives are important and they must be recorded. 

This is the message from Saui’a Louise Mataia Milo, a History Lecturer at the National University of Samoa (N.U.S.).

She was reflecting on the wartime history of Samoan women as part of her research titled “Women and their Little Marines (O keige Samoa ma a lakou kamai Maligi). 

The issue was a feature of the lives of Samoan women in Samoan memories of the Second World War. 

At the N.U.S., Saui’a presented a range of women’s wartime experiences as a way to reconstruct the narrative of Samoan women’s wartime lives. One of the things that history teaches is about the behaviour of Samoan women towards the marines when they arrived.

 “I did not accept the history that was given to me and I thought it was too much of an archetype history,” she said. 

“But I found in this research journey that although Samoa is a small place, Samoa is a big place. 

“It’s got a wide variety of experiences, lots of different things, different villages and all different dynamics that have helped shaped the experience during the war, especially the arrival of the troops and the initial reaction.”

The arrival of the troops was met with mixed feelings.

 “While some were amazed by the arrival of the troops and the artillery, the older people were reluctant saying that they didn’t like it because it disrupted life and it disrupted the normality of life and some of the things they could not do because they had to follow the rules. 

“I did this research because I did not accept this history that this is the only thing that Samoan women did back then, is waiting for the marines. 

“Not every woman was like this. Everyone’s life is different. So there is no need to judge all women from the actions of some women. 

“There were other aspects from the lives of these women that weren’t easy to be shown back then.

“So that is why I wanted to research on this because of the stories and insults about those women and it the outcome is that it wasn’t all true.”

Through recent oral history interviews of Samoan women who experienced the war, Sau’ia explored aspects such as wartime roles and sexual encounters that damaged the lives of some Samoan women. 

“For those who have had violent experience, it was not easy but I did talk to them. It required a lot of patience.”

This is only the beginning of this research and Sau’ia plans to continue.

“The presentation today is just a snippet of what I tried to put together from some of the personal quote from the people who I interviewed.

“They are of the women who have lived during the war and some of them were children and some of them were adults.

“So there was a wide range of different experiences and different aspects of their lives during the war.

“Some of the things they had to do were beyond their control and because we were a colony at the time and we were a mandate of the United Nation, and American Samoa was a territory of the United States

“Totally different systems going on but during the war, it was the military that oversee the protection and the security of the Samoa.”

Saui’a believed the women she had interviewed have contributed a lot to her research.

“Some of them have passed on since the interview and I do thank all of them for contributing to Samoan Women’s History.”

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