Club Story: Celebrating Traditions in American Samoa

It’a Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month! In case you missed it, earlier this month we took a look at the history of this observance, ways you can celebrate at your Club, and we were introduced to LaCresha McManus and her journey within the Movement as a woman of Samoan heritage. Read that post here!

LaCresha was excited to meet teens from the Boys and Girls Clubs of American Samoa Keystone Club. Did you know there are Boys & Girls Clubs in American Samoa? You may even be wondering, where is American Samoa? What is the difference between Samoa and American Samoa? What is it like there?


American Samoa is a group of five volcanic islands and two atolls located in the Pacific Ocean. Most of the American Samoan population lives on the largest island, Tutuila.


The Samoan Islands were first settled by Polynesians in 1000 BCE! Following the age of European exploration and colonization, in 1899 the Samoan islands were divided between Germany and the United States. Germany took the islands to the west, now known as the Independent State of Samoa, and the United States took the islands to the east, now known as American Samoa. Although the islands were divided, they still share the same Fa’a Samoa, which is the Samoan way of life and culture.

In Fa’a Samoa, family is all important, respecting elders is required, and service to the extended family is a duty. These guidelines are major parts of Samoan life, and show up in their traditions, celebrations, hospitality, and beliefs. This way of life is over 3000 years old!


To gain more insight into American Samoan culture and how it fits into the Movement, we interviewed Puataunofo Tulafono, Student Services Director & Learning Coach at Boys and Girls Clubs of American Samoa (BGCAS). She has been a full-time volunteer with the BGCAS since 2012 and facilitates all Teen, College and Career Prep, and STEAM programs, serves as the BGCAS Keystone Club Advisor, works with the Resource Development Team as a grant writer and is the certified Learning Coach for BGCAS.


What are some American Samoan traditions and holidays you’d like to share?

American Samoa just celebrated our Flag Day on April 17 — 119 years of being a U.S. Territory. The Samoan language is still primarily used in American Samoa and BGCAS ensures that all programs are dual-language to benefit all members. The Samoan culture remains strong and many of our traditional customs are still utilized today such as the “matai” system.


The Matai are the chiefs of the Samoans. The Matai are responsible for maintaining the respect, traditions, and administration of the village. Some of the items associated with Samoan Matai are the fue and to’o to’o which represent the value of the Tula Fale (talking chiefs), oratory and oral traditions present among Matai. Oral communication was the standard in Polynesia without a formal writing system and the Lauga (Samoan oratory) is an example of the complex development of oral tradition in the Samoan culture.

How does BGCAS celebrate Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month?

Through the Arts- singing, dancing, siapo and ‘elei making, Film Festival. Mentors and volunteers teach traditional Samoan and Polynesian/Pacific Island (Hawaiian, Tahitian, Tongan, Fijian) dancing. Traditional and contemporary songs are taught and performed by Members in our Music Band and Ukulele Club.

“Siapo” is bark cloth art. In the past, we brought in Mrs. Reggie Meredith-Fitiao, a Fine Arts Professor and renowned artist to hold a one-week workshop on the art of siapo-making. “‘Elei” is the art of traditional hand block printing. Mentors and volunteers work with members to create fabric and outfits with these traditional prints and then we cap it off with a fashion show at a final culminating event.

“Fa’aaloalo” (Samoan for respect) life lessons are taught during enrichment program time and incorporated in our anti-bullying campaign. The film festival highlights two important aspects, prominent movies featuring or depicting Pacific Island culture and  highlighting films created by our own members, usually always containing or discussing prevalent social issues among Pacific Islander youth.

We shot this back in 2013 in our Clubhouse’s Multipurpose Room, but it highlights some traditional Samoan dances: the Ma’ulu’ulu, Sāsā, and a Fa’ataupati. The background singers and percussionists are BGCAS Staff and Volunteers.

Want to host a film festival that depicts Pacific Island culture? Staff at the Boys & Girls Club of American Samoa gave us a list of age appropriate films!

  • Moana
  • Whale Rider
  • Princess Kaiulani
  • Lilo & Stitch
  • In Football We Trust (Documentary)
  • The Legend of Johnny Lingo
  • The Other Side of Heaven

How do you teach youth about important cultural traditions? How have you incorporated traditional arts into your afterschool programming? Let us know! Comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email

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