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Publication: Eagle, Mary Kavanaugh Oldham, ed. Chicago, Ill: Monarch Book Company, Samoa is the native name of a group of islands in the South Pacific, formerly known as the Navigator's Islands. It is a fifteen days' trip from San Francisco on the Australian steamers, which call at Hawaii for several hours, where the steamers coal. Seven days after we find ourselves on the Island of Upolu, which is next to the largest island of the Samoan group, and is forty miles long and thirteen broad.
It has a range of mountains, densely wooded to the summit, extending from east to west, sloping to the shore, which is encircled by a coral reef.
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Street or steam railways are, of course, unknown in Samoa. Most of the traveling amerrican done by boat or on horseback. While we were there the first carriages were introduced.
The moon and stars shine with unusual brightness in this tropical country, and it was a constant delight to us to see the constellations new to amerlcan, the Southern Cross among others. The Samoan people interested us greatly.
They live on taro, pigis, breadfruit, pigeons, and, of course, fish and bananas, all of xamoa they get without much trouble, and certainly without the necessity of labor. It is hot and tropical, and certainly not of that character which would tend to make work a pleasure in itself; and without the incentive of necessity, it is very easy to understand that the people naturally incline to the idle, open-air life which they lead. We were glad to learn that the Samoans were never cannibals.
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In war they still practice decapitation, but justify it, so it is said, by citing familiar examples found in the Bible, which they glibly repeat when expostulated with on the subject by the missionaries. In war they are unquestionably very brave and fearless, but I do not think it is true that they delight in war; on the contrary, a little real fighting goes a long way with them.
In illustration of one of their characteristics, notably loely of fair play, it is a well-attested fact that in more than one battle one party has, under a flag of truce, called for a cessation of fighting until they could replenish their exhausted ammunition, which request was granted.
Again they have been known to call a halt in battle for the purpose of a feed, or a feast, which they would indulge in between the lines. The Samoans are a very good-looking and a finely-built race, both men and women, with skins of a pale brown color, bright eyes, straight black hair and beautifully white teeth.
Physically it would be difficult to find a better developed race. One frequently sees a native with his name tattooed on his arm.
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The tattooing is compulsory, and the operation is said to be very painful, taking from two to three months, during which time the patient remains in the bush or some retired place. No youth is really respected until he is tattooed. The present king, Malietoa Laupepa, was averse to the practice, and passed beyond the prescribed period without having submitted to the painful ordeal, but when selected or raised to power his ammerican refused to anoint him king until he had been tattooed in due form.
The Samoans, as a people, are most courteous and kind, and seem to be naturally endowed with pleasant dispositions and manners.
Living and working in samoa
They are particularly clean and in every way a most attractive race. Their houses are suited to the climate. The roofs are of sugar cane, very neatly thatched, supported on posts, and the better class of buildings are made of the breadfruit tree. There are no walls, cocoanut mats are let down at night when it is raining or during severe winds. Their native houses are built to be very strong and comfortable, and without nail, bolt or spike. Every part is tied with sennit, which is made from the fiber of a peculiar kind of cocoanut, braided in three strands.
This fiber is not more than a foot in length, so that it has to be constantly spliced. The old men make this sennit when sitting in council. The floors of their houses are made of small stones, four to eight inches deep, and covered with mats. These mats are of native manufacture.
Here they live, sitting and sleeping on the floor, for they have neither chairs nor beds, using in their place mats, and at night resting their he on a bamboo pillow raised a few inches from the ground. The natives wear very little clothing, save the lava-lava, which is a straight piece of cloth or tappa, wound about the waist, falling like a skirt to the knees, but they are never without that, men, women or children. Even the smallest baby always has the lava-lava.
The lava-lava proper is made from their native cloth, tappa, or for everyday wear, of calico which is of European manufacture, deed especially for this trade. The colors are generally the brightest, and the patterns in many cases of the most wonderful description. One often sees loenly handkerchiefs of the brightest colors used for lava-lavas on the smaller boys and girls. Older natives use all sorts of leafy coverings made from banana leaves, and from the many vines which grow so plentifully everywhere.
The costume of a high official, or a member of King Malietoa's Parliament, is a white shirt and a lava-lava of brown tappa. The women, many of them, dress in the same fashion as the men, though they often wear a white chemise over their colored lava-lava. Another article of dress seen on young girls and offered for sale at the shops at Apia, is a low-necked and short—sleeved bodice, rather loosely americaj, made of silk, satin and bright colored velvet, and trimmed with lace.
On festive occasions they wear similar bodices made entirely of fresh flowers and vines. They also wear a garment that consists of a straight piece of cloth, about one and one-half zamoa long, with an opening for the head in the center, falling down a little below the waist, both front and back, leaving their arms free and uncovered. This garment is not only made of tappa, their native cloth, loneyl more frequently of calico put together in patch-work style with white muslin, showing their fondness for a variety of colors.
The women always wear what we call a "Mother Hubbard" dress, when they attend church or mingle with foreigners. I could tell you of less ludicrous costumes that one sees on the street daily. On an extremely hot day one often sees a native woman attempting to wear a Mother Hubbard with only one arm in its sleeve, and the skirt on the other side brought up over the shoulder with the sleeve hanging, leaving this arm free and bare, as they much prefer their natural freedom to the restriction which European dress imposes.
The missionaries insist that the women shall cover themselves when in church, and as a rule they do so, most of them also wearing hats, though one frequently sees them with their hats in their hands or under their arms until they reach the church door, and on leaving the church they remove the hat the moment they are out. Many amefican the natives carry umbrellas, for though they are almost naked and bare-headed, they dislike to get their hair wet.
If they do not have an umbrella, they hold a large banana leaf womej their he, or make a cap of the leaf, or use a small mat for an umbrella. Both men and women are fond of bleaching their hair by the use of lime that is burned from the coral rock.
This gives the naturally black hair a reddish color, which they prefer. While this process is going on it is essential to keep their hair dry. One frequently sees them with their he white, their hair filled with this lime, which is allowed to remain during the day, but is washed out in the evening and renewed in the morning, and so continued until they are satisfied with the color. A flower is never more than a minute in the hands of a native, either man or woman, before it is transferred to the hair, or placed behind the ear, and when these white he are decorated with bright colored flowers and leaves, the effect, contrasting with the dark skin, is quite striking.
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The Samoan women have no regular method of dressing their hair. It is arranged according to each one's individual fancy, but all devote a good deal of time to beautifying themselves in this way. They shave their children's eun, and among young boys and girls the fashion is varied. Sometimes is seen with merely a narrow band of hair running down the back of the head; another with a small tuft in front, which they call the "love-lock;" another with only a little crown of hair on the very top of the head.
Llnely men and women wear wreaths on their he and garlands about their necks, made from the scarlet and green fruit of the pandanus, and generally a single blossom of the beautiful scarlet hibiscus which grows everywhere placed over their ear or on the top of their head. Their clothing is made chiefly of tappa, their native cloth. Tappa is manufactured from the inner bark of the ua oo-aor paper mulberry tree, cultivated for this purpose.
This bark is stripped from the tree and soaked for days amegican the river. Then the women, sitting on the stones on the edge of the stream and frequently in it, lay this juicy bark over a large flat stone or board, and with zmerican application of water, scrape it with a shell until the vegetable mucus is separated from it and nothing remains but the spongy white material. It is then taken to the house, and on a rounded hardwood log kept for that special purpose, is pounded with the flattened side of a heavy wooden club until the bark is expanded to the thinness wanted.
Each piece is then spread in the sun to dry, and when a sufficient quantity is ready the women stick pieces together with arrow-root gum, layer over layer, until a cloth of the desired thickness and size is manufactured. It is then painted in many different patterns. Their paint is manufactured from nuts, plants and flowers which wun find in the bush. This painting is all done by the old women.
This native cloth, when new, is not unlike Japanese paper, but by use becomes soft and pliable. The language of the Samoans is very musical. They have only fourteen letters in their alphabet—-a, e, i, o, u, f, g, l, m, n, p, s, t, v—-and every syllable ends in a vowel, with only three letters in a syllable. They have a Bible, grammar and dictionary in their own language; their children all attend school; their churches are their schoolhouses, the pastor the teacher, and the Bible the reading-book.
I was present at one of their school sessions during an examination in grammar, arithmetic and church history, at which the scholars acquitted themselves in a way that would do credit to many American boys and girls. So far as I can judge, their life, ideas and practices, with reference to keeping the seventh, eighth and ninth commandments, are not in keeping with their seeming observance of the fourth, but before judging them harshly at this point there are aspirations to be other than as they are.
They are happy and contented to a degree I have not seen elsewhere. They take or make little, if any, note of time or space, and even the better informed have no idea of their age, and I think there is no word in their language denoting distance, or by which it can be measured. They seemingly have no more care or thought of the morrow than birds, only they see to it that food for Sunday is procured on Saturday. They are averse to doing more, or other, work than their wants require, and this is but little.
No one is overworked. They are kind to each other, and seem to be as happy in their work as in their sports, which is evinced by the unreserved habit of singing when performing any manual labor. They are much given to exchanging children, or adopting each other's children, thinking in doing this that they strengthen their family ties. Observation le me to believe that they are fond of their own children, but are seemingly as fond of others that come to them by exchange.
The chief article of export is copra, which is the kernel of the cocoanut cut into small pieces and dried. Formerly this was dried in the sun, but now they use large ovens, though the natives still dry in the lonelu in small quantities, of course, as they have to protect it from the frequent rains of that country, and they bring this to the traders at Apia and exchange it for whatever they need. You can hardly imagine the many uses aerican Samoans make of the cocoanut. Really, the cocoanut tree is the mainstay of Samoa, for it is used for food, implements, utensils, fans, baskets, combs, brooms, roofs, and innumerable purposes.
They serve you kava, their native drink, in a cup made from the womfn, which is often highly polished by constant use.
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When the cocoanut is wanted to drink, it is plucked while the outer husk is green. The milk, which is like water, is clear, sparkling, slightly sweet, and very refreshing, the meat at that time being fit to eat only with a spoon.
In native churches fresh cocoanut milk is used in place of wine at the communion service. While these natives use the cocoanut in so many ways, they are very dependent upon taro and bananas for their chief food. Taro is their chief vegetable, its growth being similar to that of our beet. It comes to maturity in four months, and is planted continuously all the year.
When the natives take up the taro, they cut off the top and put it back into the ground, and another root forms as though nothing had happened to it.