Fa’alemigao: Crimes and Punishment

Fa’alemigao: Crimes and Punishment
I. O le Gaoi
Sa le masani tele Samoa i po o le vavau i le gaoi, aua o se upu e maasiasi ai i latou. E fai fo’i le masani leaga ma luma o le tagata gaoi, e o’o fo’i lea luma i lana fanau.
Sa le masani Samoa ona gaoi mea o i totonu o fale. A’o mea e gaoi e tagata, o ulu, fa’i, talo, moa, atoa ma pua’a. Sa fa’asalaina lava tagata gaoi i sala ‘ese’ese e masani ai lenei atunu’u. E fa’atatauina fo’i le mamafa o le sala ma le tulaga o le soligātulāfono. O isi sala, o aufa’i e lima ma moa e lima; o le isi fo’i sala, o pua’a laiti e fa ma talo e selau.
A’o le sala e pito mamafa na fa’asalaina ai le tagata gaoi, o le saisai ma le fa’alāina lea. O le uiga o lenei sala, e nonoa vae ma lima o le tagata gaoi e peisea’ī o ia o se pua’a. Ona aumai ai lea o le amo i  ē ua tausoaina lea tagata ma fa’ata’atia i le la i lumāfale o le aiga na gaoi ai o ia.
A fai o se teine muli po’o se fafine na gaoi se mea, ona fa’asalaina ai lea o ia e vele vao i le ala po’o le malae.
E pei ona aliali mai i ia sala mamafa, ua matuā fa’alumaina ma inosia le tagata gaoi.
II. O le Fasioti Tagata
E taui le oti i le oti. E le fa’atali fo’i se’i maua le ua fasioti le tagata, ae tau lava o se vave maua e le aiga e o latou le tagata fasia, po’o le uso, po’o le matai o lona aiga, po’o sona atali’i, e sui a’i le ua oti. A ua iai se togafiti e mafai ai ona ola le sala. O le togafiti e fa’aola ai le pagotā, o le ifoga lea.
Ua faia lea ifoga e le matai o le pagotā atoa fo’i ma isi ali’i ma tulafale o lona aiga, po’o lona nu’u fo’i ua ave fo’i ma le pagotā. Ina ua o’o le ifoga i luma o le fale o le aiga e o latou le tagata oti, ona fa’apulou ai lea le pagotā i le ie toga. I le, ua latou nonofo i lalo i lumafale ma punonou ma fa’atali ma le onosa’i i se upu mai le matai o i le fale.
E tuai ona talia nisi ifoga. A fa’apea la, ona talanoa pea ali’i ma tulafale o i totonu o le fale, ua latou le āmana’ia ia tagata ua latou tigaina i le a’asa o le la. A e peita’i, ina ua o’o i se itula e maui ai lo latou to’asā, ona vala’auina ai lea o le aiga o le pagotā e maliu mai i le fale. O le fa’ailoga lea o le a talia le ifoga. Ona ulufale lea o ali’i ma failauga, a ua nofo i fafo pea le pagotā. I le, ua faia se lauga teuteu a le tulafale ua filifilia e fai ma fautua o le pagotā. Ua ia ofo fo’i le ie toga na pulou ai le pagotā e fai mo lona togiola. Ua ta’ua lea ietoga, “O le ‘ie o le mālō.” Ina ua talia le ietoga, ua faia fo’i le lauga. I le, ua fa’ai’u le ifoga i le sauniga o le ava.
III. O le ū teve
O le ū teve o se sala matuiā faigatā lea. Ai ua sili le faigatā ma le mamafa o lenei sala i lo le fasiotia loa. E le tioa ona fefefe tagata i lenei sala mata’utia.
Ae peita’i, e seāseā ona fa’ae’etia lenei sala ona ua matua tigaina ai le pagotā. Sa gata ona fa’asalaina ai le tagata na faia e ia se mea leaga tele, po’o le tagata ua uma ona fa’asalaina so’o talu ai o lona pi’opi’o tele.
O le teve, o le la’au la’iti’iti lea o lo’o tupu i le vao. E malū lona tino, ae so’ona feū ma o’ona le sua ua i ona a’a. A fa’asalaina se tasi i le ū teve, ona amia ai lea o ia i luma o le fale ua potopoto ai ali’i ma faipule o le nu’u. Ua nofo fa’atai le pagotā i lumafale, a o iai i ona tafatafa taulele’a la te leoleo i le pagotā ina ne’i sola; ma le tasi, la te u’una’i ia te ia e usiusita’i lelei i fa’atonuga a ali’i oi le fale.
Ona tū mai ai lea o le tulāfale. Ua ia matuā poloa’i i le pagotā e mama fasi a’a o le a tu’uina atu ia te ia e le tasi o taulele’a ua latou fa’atasi ma ia. I le ua fa’afo’i le tulafale i lona nofoaga. Ua usita’i le taule’ale’a ma le fefe, auā e le mafai ona te’ena a’a o le teve ona o taulele’a ua i ona tafatafa. O lea, ua ia tu’ua ia a’a i lona gutu ma saga mama ma le fa’aeteete ia a’a o’ona lava.
E le pine ona lagona e ia le feū o le sua. Ua mu ai lona gutu, ae le mafai ona ia tu’u le mamaina auā o taulele’a ua la lamalama ma fa’amata’u ia te ia i la’au pe a fai e tauau ina vaivai o ia i le faiga o lana sala. Talofa i si tama, ua mū nei ona tainifo ma le laulaufaiva atoa ma lona laugutu. Ua fula leaga uma le gutu talu le feū ma le o’ona o le sua o le teve, o le a matapogia si taule’ale’a ma le tele o lona tigaina se’iloga e vave fa’agata le sala.
Se manū! O le a ola si tama, auā o lo’o toe tu mai le faipule ma fa’apa’ū le fa’asalaga. Ua fiafia lava le taule’ale’a ina ua uma le teve, e ui ina le taitai ona uma le tigaina na pogai ai, o le a fula ai pea lona gutu atoa i po e tele. E le mafai lava e ia ona ‘ai i mea malō, auā e o’o lava i mea suavai e tigāina tele ai o ia.
Na manuia pea lenei taule’ale’a, auā na vave ona taofia lona fa’asalaga e le faipule. A’o ni isi, ua matuā mama’i i latou i le ū teve. O ni isi fo’i, e le gata ona latou tigāina i aso e tele, ae i’u lava ina oti ai.
IV. O le Fa’alemigao
O le tasi tū sa masani ai Samoa talu mai anamua lava, o le ava ma le fa’aaloalo lea, ona o le migao i ali’i ma faipule. Ua matuā sa le pisa ma le pa’ō i le afiafi ina ua latalata ona faofale o tagata e o’o i le itupo e uma ai talisuaga.
A fai o se aiga ua uma ona faia la latou talisuaga, ma ua inu a latou niu ma ta’ei a latou a’ano, a’o le a ta’e le niu mai le sua a le ali’i, ona fa’asalaina lava lea o i latou. Ua fasia i latou e taulele’a o le aiga o le ali’i. O le tasi sala, o le veteina po’o le tufaina o a latou mea, po’o le fasiga o a latou pua’a. Ua fa’asalaina i latou, auā o le amio fa’alemigao ua faia.
O le fa’ailoga lea o lo latou fiasili. A fai fo’i o se tagata ua ui ane i le malae po’o le maota o se ali’i ma fa’amalu i ni tauluulu la’au, po’o ni lau fa’i, pe fai sana faufautū, ae le tu’ua i lalo e ta’ita’i, ua fasia fo’i ia auā o lona le fa’aaloalo i ali’i o le nu’u.
A iai fo’i se tagata ua alu ane ma sana avega, po’o se to’i e amo i lona ua i le malae po’o lumāfale o se ali’i, ona faiatu lea o le ali’i o le nu’u i ona taulele’a, “Ia o atu ma pu’e mai lea vale ma fasi ia te ia, ia foafoa ma gaugau.”
A fai o se tagata e tautala tū i luma o ali’i ma tulafale i totonu o se fale, o le fa’alemigao fo’i lea. E tosoina o ia i fafo e ni taulele’a; ua latou fasi ia te ia ma tuli ‘ese.
Aua ne’i toe nofo o ia i le mea e potopoto ai le nu’u. E fa’apenā fo’i le fa’asalaga o se inu tū i totonu o le fale o iai ali’i, auā o le inu tū, o le tasi amio fa’alemigao lea. E ao ina ui ane se tagata i tua o se ali’i, ae sā ona ia ui ane i ona luma, se’i vaganā ua ia punou tulou a’o savali ane. O le le usita’i i le nei tu fa’aaloalo, o le fa’alemigao fo’i lea. E fa’asalaina se tagata fa’apenā e ali’i ma faipule.
E o’o i tamaiti, sa tatau lava ona latou tausi i tu fa’aaloalo. O lea la, ua matuā otegia pe sasaina fo’i  latou ua le migao i se ali’i po’o se tulafale. Fa’apena fo’i ona nofo sala so’o se tama po’o se teine o lo’o so’ona tali atu i ona matua po’o se ali’i, pe fa’asausili, pe pisapisaō vale.
V. O le Tu’i Paepae
O le “tu’i paepae,” o le fa’asalaga lea ua sili ona mata’utia i fa’asalaga uma na masani ai Samoa i aso anamua. Auā fo’i, e le gata ona lavea ai le tagata e to’atasi, a’o le aiga atoa.
A fai o se aiga ua fouvale po ua fa’amaualuga fo’i po’o le fa’asausili i le nu’u atoa, ma ua afua ai ona faia e le aiga o mea matavale i totonu, ma ua le mafai ai ona onosa’i e le nu’u le loto fa’amaualuga o le aiga, ona potopoto lea o le nu’u o ona ali’i ma faipule ma taupulepule fa’alilolilo o le a faia le fa’asalaga i lenā aiga, o le a tu’i le paepae. Ua potopoto loa le nu’u atoa, o taulele’a, ali’i ma faipule, ua tofu ni isi o’i latou ma aga’ese, o nisi ua sauni afi ma fa’asaga atu loa ma fa’aleagaina loa meafale uma a le aiga ua fa’asalaina, e o’o fo’i i mea i tuāolō po’o fanua lava.
O le a fai mea fa’alogo lava le nu’u i se saunoaga mai le ali’i sili o le nu’u atoa ma ona failauga sili i le fa’ai’uina o le faiga o le fa’asalaga po’o le faia pea pe leai.
A fai lava o le a malie le to’asā o le nu’u, o le a fa’apea lava ona o’o o le fa’asalaga i tagata, a le o le fasiotia, ua na ona fa’atafea ese o’i latou ma le nu’u e o’o lava i le fa’avavau.
Ae peita’i, e iai se tasi togafiti e mafai ona fa’amāgaloina ai se aiga ua nofo sala i le “tu’i paepae.” O le mea e tatau ona faia e lea aiga, ia latou fa’asaga atu ma faia sa latou ifoga i ni ie toga se tele e ifo ai i luma o le nu’u, ia lava ai ali’i atoa ma tulafale. O ia lava mea, o le a avea ma mea e togiolaina ai tagata uma o le aiga e o’o lava ia latou meaola ma mea totō.
Fa’alemigao: Crimes and Punishment

The Thief

In the old days, Samoans rarely encountered the offense of stealing, because the mere word itself brought shame upon them, especially since the wrongdoings of a thief would also affect the children.

Stealing of household goods was rare; but what people did steal was food: breadfruit, banana, taro, chicken, and pigs, for example.

Thieves had been sentenced to different fines, as was the country’s usual practice. The severity of the sentence depended on the level of the offense. Other fines were, for example, five bunches of bananas and five chickens; another penalty might be four small pigs and a hundred taro.

But the worst punishment was public humiliation: they would tie the thief up and leave him out in the sun. The rationale for this punishment was that he would be treated like a pig, with his hands and feet tied up. Thus bound, he was carried like a pig on a wooden pole by people who then placed him in the sun in the front of the house from which he stole.

Men and women were treated differently. If a young girl or a woman stole anything, she might be punished by weeding the grass on the paths or by the communal centre (malae).

It appears the effect of the severe penalties was that the thief is deeply shamed and becomes the object of public disgust.

The Murderer

Death rewards death. There was no waiting for the killer to be found to be brought to justice, as long as the victim’s family could quickly find a brother, or chief of the family, or son of the killer, to take the place of the killer and be substituted in his stead. But there was also a way to excuse the punishment. The way to pardon the prisoner and save his life, was by the īfoga, meaning the traditional ceremony of apology.

The chief (matai) would conduct the ifoga, together with the other chiefs and orators from the prisoner’s family or village, as well as with the prisoner himself. A procession was formed, and when they reached the front of the house of the victim, the prisoner would be covered with ietoga. (see below)

They sat down in front of the victim’s house with heads bowed and waited patiently for a word from the chief of the house.

It takes time to accept the apology. While discussions occurred between the chiefs and orators in the house, they could ignore the people who are suffering in the heat of the sun. However, when the time came, and when their anger had subsided, the family of the prisoner was invited to come into the house. This is a sign that the apology would be accepted. Then the chiefs and orators went in, while the prisoner remained seated outside. Then an apologetic speech was given by the orator who had been selected as the prisoner’s representative. He even offered the ietoga (fine mat) that covered the prisoner as a token of forgiveness. This ietoga is called “The cloth of the kingdom.” When the ietoga was accepted, another speech was given. Finally, the ifoga is ended with the ava ceremony.

Chewing the teve Tree

The chewing of the teve was an extremely severe punishment. Perhaps this punishment is far worse than the penalty for murder. It is no wonder people were afraid of this terrible punishment.

However, this punishment was rarely ordered because the effects on the prisoner were so severe. This penalty was reserved only for a person who committed a very serious crime or for a person who was a repeat offender.

The teve is a small tree that grows in the wild. It is soft in body, but its sap is bitter and sour in its roots.

When anyone was punished with chewing the teve, he was brought before the house where chiefs and orators of the village had gathered. The prisoner was made to sit with his legs crossed in front of the house, surrounded by untitled men (guards) who would prevent him should he try to escape, and compel him to obey the chiefs’ and orators’ commands.

When the orator will stood up, he ordered the prisoner to chew the roots of the teve which was given to him by one of the untitled men who was guarding him. The orator will then return to his appointed place (seat) to observe.

The prisoner fearfully obeys because he cannot reject the roots of the teve due to the pressure from the untitled men surrounding him. He then puts the roots in his mouth and chews it slowly and carefully because it is bitter. Soon after tasting the bitter juice, his mouth began burning, but he could not stop chewing; the untitled men stood by, threatening him with sticks if he showed weakness during his punishment.

Poor man, his gums burned as well as his tongue and his lips. His whole mouth was swollen from the sourness and bitter taste of the teve juice. He would faint and be severely affected, unless the punishment was quickly stopped.

What a relief! The boy will live because the orator will stand again, and stop the execution of the sentence. The young man is happy when the teve is finished, even though he still continues to suffer, his whole mouth will continue to be swollen for many days. He will not eat hard food, for even water will cause him great pain.

The young man was fortunate, as his punishment was quickly stopped by the orator. Others, however, became gravely ill from chewing the teve. Others might not just suffer for many days, but could eventually die.

Disrespect

One tradition that has long been celebrated in Samoa is that of honor and respect for chiefs and orators. It was strictly forbidden to make a sound or noise in the evening during the entire length of time people were getting ready to come into the house until dinner is finished.

If a family had already had their dinner, and were drinking coconut juice or breaking the coconut flesh, whilst the coconut for the chief is being broken, they would be punished for drinking before the chief. For such disrespect, they were beaten by the young untitled men of the chief’s family. Another penalty was to destroy or distribute their possessions or to kill their pigs. They were punished, because their actions were disrespectful and a sign of their arrogance.

And if a man walked by the malae (communal area) or the house of a chief, while shielding himself from the sun with branches, or banana leaves, or a tall head covering, he risked punishment. If he did not remove this from his head and carry it, then he would be beaten because this also is an act of disrespect to the chiefs of the village.

If a person walked by with a load or an axe carried on his shoulder at the malae or in front of the chief’s house, the chief might say to the untitled men, “Go and catch the fool and beat him until he is broken and (severely) injured.”

If a person spoke while standing in front of chiefs and orators inside of a house, this too was disrespectful. The young untitled men would drag him out and beat him, and drive him away. He would be banished from village gatherings. The same punishment applied to a person who drinks and stands inside a house while chiefs are present, because drinking while standing was another disrespectful act.

It was acceptable for someone to walk behind a chief, but not before him, unless his head was bowed low as he walked to excuse oneself. To not abide by this courtesy was disrespectful. Such a person would be punished by the chiefs and orators.

Even children should be taught to obey and practice respect. As such, they will be scolded or beaten for their disrespect towards the chiefs or orators. Likewise, any boy or girl who talks back to their parents or to chiefs, with cheekiness or silly noises, would be punished.

Tui Paepae: Exile or Death

Exiling was the most severe of all the punishments common in ancient times in Samoa. Since it didn’t affect just one person, but the whole family.

If a whole family was rebellious or prideful, self important, or arrogant in the village, or the family commited shameful behaviours which cause frustration throughout the village, the people would gather their chiefs and orators to have secret discussions about whether to exile them as punishment. The whole village would gather together, both the young untitled men and the chiefs, and orators, some of whom will have machetes, while others prepare the fire, to immediately destroy the entire household possessions of the condemned family, including their livestock and land.

The village would first hear a speech from the High Chief of the whole village and his highest orators explaining their decision whether to carry out the punishment of exile or not. If the village decided to proceed with this punishment, it must decide together whether to kill them or exile them from the land forever.

However, there is another way that a family can be pardoned from being punished by exile. To seek a pardon the entire family must perform the īfoga by providing lots of ietōga (fine mats) before the village, enough for all the chiefs and orators. Only by doing this, might they achieve redemption for all members of the household, and save their livestock and land.

Taboos – Tapui

 

In the matter of taboos, we depart from our regular translation and comment scheme, since it is useless to explain the concept of tapui which requires important cultural context. Instead, we will include with some scholarship.

The drawing Dotsy envisioned for the subject of tapui (taboos) is a braided coconut leaf, lengthened at one end. Her image is the essence of the Samoan ethos expressed through combining something native and organic in its holistic sense (the coconut leaf) with the human (the art and skill of braiding) to produce something- one of many things- not merely useful (here, a rope), but essential to sustain the integration of all life in all its forms.

Remember that Lata suffered greatly when he forgot to honor the trees he cut down in his passion to avenge his father’s murder, and Maui could not subdue the willful and unreliable sun without a good rope and some very tall trees in which to hide. Both were fully aware that they could not reach their goals without fully integrating themselves with the plants and animals and spirits with whom they coexisted and without whom they could not exist.

Our translation, presented here, becomes more intelligible when the commentary which follows is also read:

In ancient times, Samoans forbade certain conduct, and each forbidden conduct was associated with an object or an event, known as tapui. Each family, as we have learned, has its own aitu who is often the enforcer of the tapui. The village of A’ana had a tapui for the occurrence of thunder and lightning which indicated the land had been violated, perhaps by a thief. If someone was overcome by thunder or struck by lightning, that would reveal his guilt as the offender.

Another tapui was called the tapui a ‘u (the guard fish). If one was bitten by a guard fish when fishing in the ocean, that was evidence that he had stolen breadfruit or fetched down a young coconut. The braided coconut leaf resembling the guard fish was made to represent it.

If a young man struck a tree, and a splinter flew into his eye, then people might say, No wonder his eye was hit- he usually steals taro and its roots.” Accidents did not happen, since events were directed by the aitu enforcing tapui. The belief that this was in the best interests of everyone, and their very lives depended on it, is reflected in the saying, “Fao, the mountain which is inhabited by aitu is the reason we are.”

The taulasea (bush doctor) or the fa’ataulaitu. These practitioners made medicine to cure the tapui often made from the laumea leaves or roots, of tree bark, and would often use massage to eliminate the wound or illness, or a poultice or a dressing to wrap the groin, boils or swelling on the body.. . . . . . .

In Western European culture a “taboo” applies to behavior which is forbidden, and which imposes a rule which extends to discussion or contemplation of such behavior, since such behavior is universally (within the group or the entire culture) understood or believed to be too repulsive or too sacred to tolerate or even discuss. Taboos are never discussed.

In extreme contrast, pre-colonial Samoan society did not at all forbid discussion of taboos (tapui), but instead, quite the opposite, gave the responsibility for education on taboo subjects over to the master storytellers who told them with such blistering honesty, no young child who heard them- and they all did- could ever forget. Ignoring them was unthinkable- the penalty was death or banishment from family and society.

A taboo (tapui) was not just a rule- it was a happening that involved everything in the natural world.

Importantly, and in complete contrast to Western ideation of justice, the punishment, the offense, the offender and the offended victim were not separate elements, but linked together in a unitary fashion, with a perfect unitary result, into one event which was completely understood by everyone. There was no Western process or logical sequence, since the act itself dictated the events the perpetrator and the outcome. If one committed an offense against the land (a tapui), the tapui (punishment) for this offense came not from human judicial systems, but from the natural world- for example, being struck by thunder and lightning (the tapui), and one’s own household god (aitu) would be instrumental in bringing it about. The guilty could be identified by the happening of an act of nature which punished the perpetrator without a human tribunal- let alone the highly political chiefs- or any western type jury to intercede. Or even objective knowledge that an offence had occurred. The punishment was proof enough.

Why is this? Our scholars explain: Here, we quote from Grace Wildermuth, “Heaven and Earth: Samoan Indigenous Religion, Christianity, and the Relationship Between the Samoan People and the Environment,” (2012), School for International Training, ISP Collection, 1488.

“Samoan indigenous religion did not conceptualize man as having authority over or ownership of anything in the universe. Consequently, there was no thought that the natural environment was meant to serve human beings, suggesting the superiority of man. Instead, Samoans conceptualized a creation that was part of them. Their relationship with the natural world was based on va tapuia, a sacred relationship between humans and all things.

Tapu (Sacred/Taboo):

The Samoan phrase va tapuia includes the term tapu, which translates to mean both sacred and taboo and often refers to specific prohibitions. The Samoan indigenous religion includes many rituals concerning the natural world that are based on this concept of tapu. Samoans believed that one must seek pardon when breaking or killing a plant, in order to recognize the existence of tapu between plant life and human life (Tui Atua 2009a: 117).

Tui Atua Tupua Tamasesi Efi, of Apia, Samoa, and Head of State from 2007-2017 writes in his book, Su’esu’e Manogi:

“In the indigenous Samoan religion it was crucial that before a tree was cut that fa’alanu or a prayer chant was performed. The chant sought from the god of the forest pardon for taking the life of the tree or any of its member parts”. The concept of tapu within Samoan indigenous religious thought affected all aspects of life, from agricultural practices to fishing methods, house structures, human interactions and societal organizations. One such societal organization based on the concept of tapu was pre-‐contact political organization in Samoa.

Village councils often instituted restrictions to ensure the preservation of the environment. The respect shown to chiefs based on their representation of the ancestral gods provided a platform on which to establish such restrictions.

Tui Atua explains the importance of Tapu,

“During times of re-­growth certain trees and plants were prohibited from being cut or picked. Those protocols and the tapu associated with them provided a conservation plan that dictated what man could take from the environment, when and how much. Such a plan prioritized need rather than profit. In this context the taking of natural resources was never to go beyond what nature herself could not sustain in terms of re-­‐growth (Tui Atua 2008: 107).”

If one was to disregard such restrictions, it was believed that negative spiritual repercussions would follow. These protocols, meant to ensure the preservation of the environment, were based on traditional knowledge that included a deep understanding of the natural world.

 

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