A woman on a mission

Kasia Renae Cook. Remember that name if you live in Samoa and are of German descent.  

She is a remarkable woman, an educated woman, and she is on a mission. No. Not the kind of mission you might be thinking.  

Her mission call came from the late Joe Keil months ago after knowing of her expertise in German history in the South Pacific.  Here’s a brief overview of her story.

Kasia is from the U.S.A. – born and raised in Idaho. For those of you who don’t know, Idaho is an important part of the Wild West and is the potato capital of the world!  She is a woman who is more comfortable in mountain gear than on the sandy and beautiful beaches of Polynesia.  

So, how did she get involved in such an undertaking?  If you ask her, she unabashedly gives all the credit for her current status to God, who, in his Heavens, saw the need and the opportunity to use her talents to expand on a topic that has been on the Joe Keil’s prayer bucket list for many years: a book documenting all the German families who lived in Samoa historically.  

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Kasia was studying and doing research for her doctorate in Auckland a few years ago on a topic equally far from the desert she’s from: German-Tongan descendants around the world. While in the last year of her program she prepared to come to Samoa to do a comparative study and was first introduced to Joe Keil, through a mutual acquaintance in New Zealand. 

At that point, Kasia’s knowledge about Germans in the South Pacific was specifically directed toward Tonga, but her work with Joe and other prominent German-Samoan descendants at that time opened the door to her deeper interest in Samoa, where German involvement played such an important role early in the twentieth century. 

After meeting her and hearing of the recent publication of Germans in Tonga, for which Kasia’s thesis was the epilogue, Joe’s passion and vision went into high gear.  His German DNA spurned and motivated a plan to move forward on the book  he had always wanted to write and Kasia’s coming on the scene was, in Joe’s mind, the path forward.  Kasia, on the other hand, was not too sure about where all of this might be going.  Mentally, she had other plans.  And she told Joe to contact her in a couple of years when she saw the next major gap in her life’s plan.  She would then consider taking on Joe’s dream project to document the lives and families of the seed stock the German government sent in those earliest days of their occupation.

Joe developed a different agenda and possible time constraints had entered because of uncertain health challenges.  He arranged a meeting during the early part of his stay in America for medical treatment, to present his case to Kasia and his sense of urgency.  

Events on Kasia’s side did not happen in her overall plan and it brought her to the realization that helping Joe achieve his objective of a specific history of Germans in Samoa: 1860 - 1914 might move forward.  There was the hand shake with Joe – noted for its deliberate firmness– and an official contract, and the partnership/professional relationship was launched.

At Joe’s urgent request before his death, Kasia has been in Samoa for the past two weeks—it is her second trip here this year.  Her ‘mission’ here is to gather as much personal information on German families as possible.  She prefers to get the information first hand from family documents or witnesses.  She reports that her experience has been phenomenal and that the ‘gathering’ process has been more satisfying than she could ever have imagined.  As it turns out, the word gets around via first-had knowledge and via the coconut wireless for which Samoa is so famous.  She is now ready for the final drive to get as many stories as possible.  And, that’s where this story leads.

If you are of German descent and have stories from your family history that you believe have value in the establishment of the German influence in Samoa, we invite you to contact Kasia via the project email: [email protected] or through her very interesting Facebook page: Germans in Samoa.  

Don’t let your family stories get left out of this highly influential historical research book sponsored by the not-for-profit Samoa Historical and Cultural Trust.  It’s up to you to provide the information so that it can be preserved and your family history and your posterity will know that you have done your part to bring honor and respect to those who have gone before.

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