Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fa'asamoa-The Samoan Way

Geography and How it has Shaped a Culture

The Samoan people live in an area that consist of two main islands and several smaller islands. This group of islands is located in the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and Hawaii. The climate is tropical and average temperature is around 30°C. The terrain is consistent with most other Pacific Islands and is made up of volcanic mountains and uninhabited islets with sandy beaches. The majority of Samoan people live in a rural setting. Their environment consists mostly of tropical plants with the fauna consisting of a few species of rats and flying foxes and more commonly reptiles such as snakes, lizards, and geckos. The main source of food for the reptiles is a diverse and abundant population of insects. The insects also feed the great number of birds the island plays host to. The most prominent environmental stressors of the area are the cyclones and typhoons as well as less frequent tsunamis.

Genetic adaptations of the Samoa include what has been termed the “thrifty” gene which is beneficial for the seafaring Samoans as well as enabling survival during times when crops were destroyed by seasonal storms. The Samoans also have darker skin pigmentation to help cope with the increased exposure to the Sun. One of the cultural adaptations of the Samoa was their housing called fale which are made of coral cobblestone floors and sugarcane thatched roofs both an abundant resource. The open air fale are well adapted to the tropical environment by allowing air to flow through as well as supporting the open social structure of the Samoa. Another cultural adaptation of the Samoa is the large families. This aids in working the land used for farming which is similar to other farming families of the world. Clothing may also be considered an adaptation and the Samoa traditionally wore siapo. The cloth was made from the bark of a mulberry tree. The long and tedious process of making the bark into cloth involves many hours of pounding and scraping of the bark which is then typically colored with intricate patterns. Samoans also traditionally use siapo as sleeping mats and room dividers.

Communication and Gender Roles
The language spoken is Samoan which is of the Austronesian linguistic family. Besides their native language most Samoans also speak English. They share many words with other Polynesian cultures and also have two forms one formal and one informal. Prior to their encounter with missionaries the Samoans had no written form of language. History and land rites were communicated verbally and were passed down from generation to generation.
The men of traditional Samoa worked from dusk till dawn working in the plantations, gathering firewood, fishing, or building the fales. In the Samoan culture it is also the man’s job to cook. The women’s general duties tend to be the domestic work around the fale such as sewing, weaving floor, and laundry. Women are also skilled shallow water fishermen and foragers. Typically older girls are responsible for the care of children and boys generally start work once old enough to accompany the men of the family in the fields or on the fishing boats. There is also a third gender known as the fa’afafini. The male born fa’afafini is a celebrated addition to Samoan families, as they perform domestic task as women. Presently roles are interchangeable and there does not seem to be any repercussions for a gender performing another’s role.

Provisions and the Economy
Samoan subsistence is farming and fishing. The diet of coconut, taro, and other produce is subsidized with protein from fish. Because of the minimal variation in climate throughout the year there tends to be little variation in diet. It has been noted that at times a lack of protein has caused distended stomachs in children due to the eating order of the culture. Taro was once one of the main exports. However, in 1994 there was a taro plant blight that nearly wiped out the main export. The main export now is coconut products. Taro that is grown locally is now mostly eaten locally and is typically made by boiling it in water. The Samoa also raise chickens and pigs for food, but pigs are generally only eaten on special occasions. With the growing population and limited resources the Samoa have developed an import/export deficit. They also have a tradition of emigrates in other countries sending money back to their families (remittance).

Marriage and Kinship

Marriage among Samoans are monogamous and are only restricted to people of non-blood relation. Traditionally marriage was an economic alliance between families. A fa’alavelaves is charged to the families involved in the wedding and even distant families that live in other countries will help with the wedding cost. The bride is also presented with several wedding dress options from both the bride and grooms family. From which she is to select two. One of the dresses is to be worn during the ceremony the second is to worn to the reception. In the past the offspring of chiefs would have grand ceremonies and poorer couples would elope. A tradition that seems to have become obsolete is the test to prove the bride’s virginity. Where thea women of the grooms family would look for blood on white sheets where the bride and groom had intercourse. Once married the couple lives together along with other family members in the open air fale. A household generally consist of one or more nuclear families and involves multiple generations. A household is generally governed by a matia which is typically a male. Lineage is usually traced back to a common ancestor and descendants can be found in different households within a village or several villages. This extended family traced through the ancestor is known as the Aiga.

Politics and Religion
               Samoa’s politics on the country basis involve a governor and a lieutenant governor. These positions are elected by popular vote. Villages are controlled by fono-the council of matia which are selected by service performed for the family, education, speaking skills (an extremely important attribute in Samoan culture), diplomacy, and economic success. 

               Laws are enforced by fono and in present times also a small police force. Western type laws have been adopted in present times. It has been determined that  many more police would be needed if not for the fono. Punishments imposed can range from monetary to payments with foodstuffs and more uncommonly banishment. These punishments can also be imposed on the innocent family members of the violator.
 The Christian religion has been adopted by Samoa. It is thought that because        Christianity’s one God as the creator parallel’s Samoa’s Tagaloa as the creator made the transition a smooth one. Samoans are vigilant in their attendance to church. They have also been known to give great offerings for dedications of new churches. Their religious beliefs are a main staple of their laws and in general their culture.
Art in Samoa is includes one of my favorites which is the tattoo. Traditional Samoan tattoos often take many weeks and are extrememly painful. The tattoos that men receive are typically filled in to a greater degree and are more of a ritual. They use patterns that symbolize different aspects of nature such as plants, animals or sea life. Men often considered the tattoo as an actual piece of clothing and early sailor described them as “britches”.This being that the tattoo typically covered the lower torso down past the upper thigh-completely! Another form of art in Samoan culture is dance.

 During these dances everyday activities are often imitated. There are also the exciting fire dance and knife dance. Musical instruments of the Samoa were of primitive design. The rolled up mat was one such instrument. They also often used the flat-hand clap (pati), the cupped-hand clap (fiti), and body slapping accompanied by singing or other forms of vocalization.  

Cultural Changes
Samoan culture has definitely been affected by other cultures. I would have to say that foreigners visiting the islands is actually part of thier culture because it has been an occurence for so long. One of the laws that makes it to where a person has to have at least fifty percent Samoan heritage is a great step in preserving this culture.The main affect of other cultures I would have to say is the christian  religion. This has religion has resonated through time and also through other cultures.
Although the Samoan culture is undergoing many changes it is also aware of the need to preserve their heritage. One problem is the new lifestyle of Samoans is so sedentary that is has created an Obese society. This is being seen in many other modernized cultures, but due to the "thrifty" gene Samoans have seen it on a larger scale.

" Geography." New York Times Company, 2012. Web. 12 May 2012.
 "American Samoa." Countries and Their Cultures. Advameg, 2012. Web. 12 May 2012. <>.
Bultman, Ken. "Samoan Weddings." IPacific. Pacific Communications, 1996. Web. 19 May 2012. <>.
Chu, Agnes. "Taro:The Story of the Starchy Potato."Kiva Stories from the Field.” Lonely Planet, 20 Dec 2009. Web. 30 May 2012. < The Story of A Starchy Potato?destId=362912>.
David Cathell. Musical Instrument Museum, Part 10. N.d. Photograph. n.p. Web. 30 May 2012. <>.
Jodi Cobb. Fire Dancer. 2008. Photograph. National GeographicWeb. 29 May 2012. <>.
David Herdrich,* M.A. and Karen Armstrong,** Ph.D., . "Historic Fishing Methods in American Samoa ."University of Hawaii at Manoa. *Social and Cultural Anthropology-University of HelsinkiAmerican Samoa Historic Preservation Office,, 2008. Web. 30 May 2012. <>.
 "Fa'a Samoa." Samoan Sensation. Samoan Sensantion, 2004. Web. 30 May 2012. <>.
Jackson, Moelangi. "Enduring Pain for the Community." People. ABC/Cinemedia, 2005. Web. 28 May 2012. <>.
 Map of the Territory of American Samoa - US. N.d. Map. Geographic GuideWeb. 30 May 2012. <>.
“Tattoos.” Samoan Sensation. Samoan Sensantion, 2004. Web. 18 May 2012. <>
Tuala-Warren, Leilani. "A Study in Ifoga: Samoa's Answer to Dispute Healing." Te Matahauariki Research Institute. Te Matahauariki Institute The University of Waikato, 2002. Web. 19 May 2012. < Papers/TMOP-4.pdf>.
Samoan Fono (meeting) on the malae (open land). ??. Photograph. PhotobucketWeb. 30 May 2012. <¤t=ghfg.jpg&sort=ascending>.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Stories of the Past

I feel the artist was interpreting the cycle of life in the form of animals.  The fact that the different species of animals were depicted in the time of their mating rituals (spring, summer, and fall) led me to believe that the artist was either inspired or purposely depicted the animals during this time. I furthermore think that the artist was providing this as a roadmap or story to guide future generations.
This leads me to think that this is the reason that not as many people were included. Because the informational art would not be as resourceful for the future human generations humans were not depicted as often
Difficulties that I think early humans may have navigated in order to paint the pictures depicted in the caves are light and time. Among other difficulties time was probably a major issue due to the fact agriculture was not quite in full effect. Utilizing times when hunting and gathering food would mean that they were painting using a basic form of a torch. Since electricity had not been invented light and the fuel that provided light was a resource not to be wasted (especially since the light was probably also the source of heat in those times).
Things that I feel are possible functions of early art are storytelling, a record of the history (visual forms of language), or possibly a way to persuade or influence the soon to be masses of people. Storytelling has a prominent pastime is a sort of all-encompassing function. It somewhat includes a record of history although storytelling in my eyes is not as subjective. Art used to create a general consensus I feel could have been purposely distorted towards one side to help persuade people to favor the artist opinion.
                Modern art I feel generally has the same function. Modern art similar to the art of the Lascaux Caves may provide future generations into what was occurring at the time. If dated, modern art could show why the artist or what influenced the artist to create their art. 
I like many forms of art, but the pain and time (devotion) someone endures to receive a tattoo makes it one of my favorites. The artist that create tattoos perform a service. Tattoos provide many functions which include memorials, self-expression, something meaningful that a person wants to share with the world, a story, a brand that may mark someone as part of something larger or just the opposite provideing uniqueness. There are many examples of tattoos in different cultures. A few examples are Polynesians, Yakuza (Japanese), even Egyptians had tattoos. The main repercussions of tattoos is that they are painful to remove and some see it in a negative light even sinful.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tribal Violence Among the Yanomamo

In Western cultures killings and especially revenge killings are frowned upon and are punishable by lifetime terms of imprisonment. The laws in western societies are very clear in regards to killing being unacceptable. Religion seems to have been a major factor in this culture. The Yanomamo have no such written laws and differ from western cultures in the fact that a killer or Unokais is not punished by their society. The consequences however can be more severe because of the retaliation of the murder victim’s tribe/kin. 
          Revenge killings are carried out by a group of men that participate in a raid. These raids are carried out in retaliation from a previous killing. Not all men that initially set out on the trip which can be a journey of days participate. Some fall ill or "step on a thorn" during the journey and turn back to return to the tribe. Repeat incidences of not participating can earn a Yanomamo the title of tehe or a coward. The night prior to the raid an effigy of the targeted person is made. However, the first man they encounter is generally the person killed. Revenge killings usually occur at dawn and typically one or two killings occur as a result of an ambush.
          The Unokais benefit from their title by thwarting attacks and abductions or seduction of their tribes women by neighboring tribes. The non-Unokais benefit mainly by not being specifically targeted in revenge killings. Becoming known as a Unokais may increase their reproductive and marital success and is also encouraged among boys.
          The Yanomamo have tribes which are led by what is known as a headman. These headmen have multiple wives and tribes are interrelated to each other over several generations. This interrelation creates a web of revenge killings. It’s as if you attack one member of the tribe and the whole “family” will seek revenge.
          Socially the Unokais are looked at as valiant warriors willing to avenge their kin. Women of Yanomamo find this attractive in a mate. Non-Unokais are often ridiculed and as well as insulted. The wives of non-Unokais are also subject to increased sexual attention from other males due to the lack of fear of retaliation.
          Laws provide guidelines for a society, setting boundaries and consequences for actions. As mentioned in the reading material the Yanomamo perform revenge killings for a number of reasons and are consistently living in fear.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Kazoku ( Week 5 exercise)

My Kazoku (Family)
GrandmaYoshi (lower left)
For this assignment I interviewed my father, William Edward Fulton. My Father was born in Japan in the year of 1960. His mother is Japanese and is famous dancer in her homeland. His father is Norwegian and was in the U.S. Air Force. When my Dad was eleven his family moved from Japan to the United States. A year later when my father was twelve his father passed away. My Father is the oldest male and carried much of the burden of supporting the family. He has sister that is five years older than him, a younger sister, and a younger brother.
My Father in his U.S. Air Force uniform
                In this interview I used Skype as my means of communication. I enjoyed the video option. Because of geographical distance, my father and I generally see each other once a year. I was uncomfortable asking my Father about his Father because I know that it is somewhat of a sensitive subject. I feel that my interview was affected by this  mostly because he does not like to go into detail about his father. If I had interviewed someone unrelated I might not have approached the issue the same way and may have pressed for information.
                From my interview and the kinship chart the most common pattern is that typically my father’s generation has two kids, older generations tended to have more, and younger generations tend to have one child (so far).  The ethnic difference of language has created the greatest barriers.  My Grandma Yoshi (Father’s Mother) has such a thick accent my sister and I (sometimes my father) have trouble understanding her.
Dad with kids and grandchildren
    I know relatives on both sides of my family fairly well.  I tend to talk to my mother more frequently than my father. However I visit them both about the same number of times a year. I’m not sure if there are any family members that had any more influence on decisions than any other member. I think it really depended on the what was being decided.  If it was a church or color paint then my mother would definitely make the decision. If it was refrigerator or air conditioning unit then it was mostly my father’s decision. I feel family members that marry into the family are welcomed and treated nicely, but I don’t think they are as close. This could be a matter of time spent with them and not being “blood related”.
                During the interview my Father kept mentioning that my Aunt Evelyn, his older sister, has created a family tree and he wished he had a copy. This project has given me leads for looking farther back into my genealogy and maybe help understand my Father’s actions and thougts to a better extent.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Week 4: Growing Money

Part 1: Hunter Gatherers and Agriculture

Both subsistence patterns have advantages and disadvantages. Hunter gatherers benefit in many ways. One of those is a shorter work day which allows them to focus on the social aspects of life as well as religion. Foragers are also less susceptible to famine since they live well within the means of the land. On the other hand using agriculture supports a greater sized population. Agriculture also enables a culture to live a sedentary lifestyle. Agriculture (most of the time) produces enough surplus food so that people are able to become specialized in areas other than hunting or gathering.
As a Hunter gatherer I feel the greatest disadvantage you would have is depending on Mother Nature for your food and water. The population has to be mobile and close to a water source. This limits your possessions to what you or your pack can transport. Agriculture “progress” has led to the modern day peasant where a ruling class has forced laws and taxes upon farmers that were once allowed to trade their surplus freely. Agriculture results in a greater population density. An increase in density can result in the spread of disease, food shortages, and increased social unrest.
Hunter gatherers had limited resources however, due to a lack of variation in food, cultures that have taken up agriculture may lack certain nutrients. This is evident in some African cultures where children have Kwashiorkor, a lack in protein that causes the stomach to become bloated.
I think populations gradually made the transition to agriculture for a number of reasons. Greed-as mentioned above farmers were turned to peasants. As technological “advances” were made and populations the reliance on agriculture also grew.

Part 2:  Economics and Trade:

Trade is known to be based on supply and demand. Trading “surplus” or something that has a lesser value because it is easily available may be traded for something that is not as easily available with a greater value, respectively.
People benefit from trade socially when in the traditional market place by experiencing the smells and colors of the market. They might see friends or neighbors all while purchasing needed goods supporting their local economy. These open air markets (farmers markets) where human interaction happens I feel are of great value to society. People may also benefit from trade by experiencing new things. Things that may have been invented or developed in far away places.  People may hear news or may find something that they themselves could not produce.
Negative results of trade include exploitation of indigenous people, small farm workers,  and others by corporations after large profits.
The development of agriculture created a surplus in food. Because farmers had a surplus they were able to then trade for commodities, services, or labors. The surplus in food also enabled people to become specialist. The specialist need food and the farmers having surplus made for a good trade.