Hundreds of family members and relatives of the Suafa To’alepaiali’i, Suli of Salesa To’alepaiali’i family gathered at their traditional home at Vaia’ua’u Satapuala, recently to mark the 100th anniversary of their annual commemorative Lotu.
The gathering is normally held in May each year but this time, the event was held during the end-of-year holiday period to allow as many people as possible to attend, especially from abroad.
The two-day programme held on the 29-30 December 2016, brought together generations of the family to meet-many for the first time- and to reconnect and reflect on shared values and concerns.
According to a family spokesperson, the Lotu was founded by Salesa To’alepaiali’i F.S and his wife Siolo Selepa Vaeafe.
While serving as the foundation L.M.S. pastor of Toamua from 1880, Salesa seemed to have been increasingly drawn to a personal desire to sort out and to settle the affairs of his ancestral family at Satapuala, left in disarray following the Samoan wars and the impact of the loss of much of Satapuala and neighbouringAana land to European-owned plantations, in the latter half of the 19th Century.
He resigned his service with the Church in 1897 and embarked upon a mission to reclaim his family and land. It took Salesa nineteen years before his efforts were rewarded. He marked it with a thanksgiving prayer service (Lotu) on Christmas Day in 1916, and left a much-revered Mavaega challenging his children to make it an annual celebration and honour his wishes in the Mavaega.
His descendants and their families were now gathered in one big family reunion, one hundred years later to honour his legacy.
Those present at the reunion included the only two surviving 2nd generation descendants, sisters Lagilagiā Tofaeono Nonu of Auckland, NZ and Lagilelei Ta’atiaivaiauau Filemoni of Satapuala, daughters of the youngest son Lua Salesa To’alepaiali’i.
A family publication of 65 pages “Salesa Toalepaialii ma lonaAiga” prepared especially for the occasion by a committee of family members of Muaguti’aAkeripa, Mulitalo Esekia Solofa and Toeolesulusulu Damon Salesa who, edited and typeset after input from members of the family.
The book shows the family tree extending to seven generations after Salela and Silioolo Selepa Toalepaiali’i.
Some prominent members of the family included Reverend PeluTuai (3rd generation) and his wife Funaki who recently retired after 34years of service as Minister of the Ranui Pacific Presbyterian Church Parish, in Waitakere, Auckland (Rev. PeluTuai was named among the awardees of the Queen’s Service Medal in the NZ New Year Honours 2017).
Also present is well-known former Manu Samoa captain and player, Lilomaiava Taufusi Salesa (3rd generation), former Vice Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific, Mulitalo Aliimuamua Esekia Solofa (3rd generation), and Member of Parliament in the last parliamentary term Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster (4th generation), and among several familiar names in the religious ministry, educational fields, and sport fields and administration.
More than 520 people attended, many have travelled from overseas.
A part of the programme was the opening (Fa’apa’iaina) of the “chiefly” house- Le Maotai Vaia’ua’u- and the unveiling of the family insignia on the first day, which added significantly to the sense of the occasion.
The new iron and concrete building is the third maota on the present site since Satapuala village was displaced from its original home, and replaced the second icon and concrete maota built in 1972.
The builder, agaiotupu le fetalaigaiaTauvala’auTinei of Satapuala and his crew of six took 44 days to complete the project and renovate the building.
As it often at family reunions, the cultural ceremony (saofa’i) to bestow chiefly (matai) titles was the final part of the programme, rounding up the activities of the second day.
Thirty eight, mostly young men and women, many from overseas were bestowed matai titles of the Toalepaiali’i family including Afiogatutasi, Aiono, Lilomaiava, Muagututi’a, Toeolesulusulu, Tuifa’asisina, Tiumalumatua, Tusanilefaiaao, Aigafa’alagilagi, Iliolemale, Fata, Tapuala and Tiumalu.
Fine mats and much money changed hands between the family and the village leaders amidst the banter and counter of opposing orators while the newly bestowed matai watched in ernest, probably wondering if that’s all that was in store for them.The family will reunite again in the next five years.