Author, teacher Aumua Mataitusi passes on

Well known Samoan language educator and author Aumua Mataitusi Simanu passed away in Hawaii early this month.

The late Aumua was 99-years-old at the time of her passing on 2 August 2020 with her death publicly announced by her daughter, Tuiloma Loau Dr. Luafata Simanu-Klutz in a Samoa Mo Samoa Radio i Hawai’i broadcast 6 August 2020 on Facebook by journalist Ken Aiono.

Affectionately called “Mama” by her many pupils, Aumua taught the Samoan language to international students for more than two decades at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.

She held a Master of Arts Degree [awarded in 2004] by the Le Iunivesite o Le Amosa o Savavau and specialised in teaching Samoan respectful language and ceremonial speech. 

In 2014, for her service to the independent nation of Samoa, Aumua was awarded the Head of State’s Service Order Medal by His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi.

She was recognised with an Excellence in Teaching Award by the Hawai’i Association of Language Teachers in 2008. Additional groups that her are the Catholic Charities in Kalihi, Hawai’I and the Wall of Tolerance co-chaired by American civil rights champion Rosa Parks.

In 2009, the City and County of Honolulu and the Government of American Samoa recognized Aumua with an award for her accomplishments as a teacher and author in the field of Samoan language and culture. The award, presented during Samoan Heritage Week, was signed by then Governor Togiola Tulafono and Mayor Muliufi Hannemann.

Aumua held certifications from the Western Samoa Teachers College, Victoria University of Wellington and UH-Manoa as well as Certificate in Advanced International Study [Pacific Women: Culture, Identity and Self-Determination].

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and current U.S. Senate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are among the people who have written to her during her career, to express their thanks for her support of the Clinton family and the Democratic Party. 

She authored two textbooks for the advanced study of Samoan language and culture titled ‘O Si Manu a Ali’i and O Faia Faatumua o Samoa Mai Tala o le Vavau. With her daughter Tuiloma, a professor at UH, Aumua co-wrote the Samoan Word Book. She retired from UH-Manoa at the age of 92.

Aumua was born on 24 February, 1921 in Samoa and is the only educator in the United States designated by Radio Samoa and Samoa International Media as "Samoa's Living Treasure" in the U.S.A.

Dr. Sailiemanu Lilomaiava-Doktor, a professor at UH-West O’ahu, is among the Samoans who have expressed their sadness over the loss of Aumua.

“She lived an amazing long life all the way to the end strong. Malo ma faafetai tausimatua. Gone but her legacy in Samoan knowledge lives on in us,” said Dr. Lilomaiava-Doktor.

“I’m so proud to have known her and shared in her mystic Faasamoa cultural wisdom. Manuia lau malaga tina pele Aumua.”

Her funeral service will be held on Wednesday, 19 August at Borthwick Mortuary. Aumua will be interred at Valley of the Temples in Kaneohe.

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