Samoan Exiles on Saipan, 1909-1915
Samoan chiefs just before departing to Saipan (photo courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand).
A nearly forgotten chapter of local history will be highlighted during an upcoming public program hosted by the Northern Marianas Humanities Council next month.
“Samoan Exiles on Saipan, 1909-1915,” scheduled for 17-20 June, will explore the events and personalities associated with the exile of ten Samoan chiefs and their families to Saipan during the German administration.
These chiefs, led by the orator Lauaki Namulau’ulu Mamoe, were banished from Samoa due to their involvement in the Mau a Pule (Opinion of Pule), an indigenous resistance movement that sought to reinstate traditional chiefly authority banned by the German colonial government in the late 19th century.
The program will feature public presentations, the dedication of historical markers, oral history interviews, and a special ceremony hosted by Saipan’s Samoan community.
There will be two presentations. The first, scheduled for the evening of Thursday 18 June, will feature a talk by Dr. Malama Meleisea covering the Mau a Pule. Dr. Meleisea is the director of the Center for Samoan Studies at the National University of Samoa.
The second presentation, scheduled for the evening of Friday 19 June, will focus on the youngest of the exiled chiefs, Iiga Pisa, who gained fame by undertaking a 120 mile voyage from Saipan to Guam in a traditional Samoan paddling canoe. This presentation will be made by a senior representative of the late chief’s family.
Both presentations start at 6:00 pm at the Visitors Center Theater, American Memorial Park. They are free and open to the public.
The program will also include the dedication of two interpretive signs marking sites associated with the exile’s six year stay on Saipan; one just north of Lower Base and the second at Agingan Beach.
Activities will conclude with a special ceremony on 20 June hosted by members of Saipan’s Samoan community who have been planning the event in conjunction with the Humanities Council for the past few months.
A longer term goal of the program is the preparation of a booklet that provides a history of the exiles that may be used by the Public School System and Northern Marianas College.
This booklet will include information from both written and oral historical sources and illustrated with period photographs. The Council hopes to complete this publication by early next year.