Talking Chiefs

In Samoa there are talking chiefs who give talks. Once there was this old man who was giving a talk. He was not very good, but he had a daughter who was good at giving speeches. She sat behind her father and quietly told him what to say and he repeated her words as he heard them. At one point she noticed that he had to adjust or tighten something that he was wearing. So she said something like, “Pull up your lavalava.” As he had been doing, he repeated what she said, “Pull up your lavalava.” So all the people listening to his talk then knew that it wasn’t him talking.

Sometimes when people learn things, they memorize or read words, without forcing their minds to think and know the importance or meaning of what they are learning.


(This story came from the Journal of the Polynesian Society, in the year 1949 or 1950 they had an article about Samoan Proverbial expressions and this story was in it.)

“The Igaga is a Little Fish”

Once the fish had a ‘fono’, that is a council or a meeting where everyone expresses their ideas. The fish had this fono to decide if they should go to war against the birds. In the fono the fish decided to go to war. However, when they had planned their fono they neglected to invite the igaga fish because the igaga fish is so small.

Even though the igaga was not invited to the fono to express his opinion about going to war, when the fish went to war, the igaga helped the other fish. So in Samoa, when chiefs have a fono, sometimes someone will come who was not invited and will want to express his opinion. That person will start his words by saying: “O le i’a ititi le igaga”, which means: “The igaga fish is a small fish.” They are referring to the igaga fish who helped, even if he had not been invited to the fono to plan the war.


Revised: March 1, 1996

Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff