Aso Mo Samoa or Samoan Community Day starts in Seattle's Jefferson Park Playfield in August 1993.

  • By Kathleen Kemezis
  • Posted 11/30/2010
  • Essay 9654
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In August 1993, the Samoan residents of Seattle come together at the Jefferson Park Playfield for its first "Aso Mo Samoa" or Samoan Community Day. The day-long event celebrates Samoan cultural heritage and commemorates the political relationship between American Samoa and the United States. The all-day affair includes traditional ceremonies and dancing, island food, and even games of cricket, the cherished pastime of the Samoan people. 

Celebrating Samoan Culture

During the 1990s, increased funding and interest in community-sponsored initiatives sparked a number of community activist organizations and groups in Southeast Seattle. In 1993, the first Samoan Community Day or “Aso Mo Samoa” celebrated the Samoan culture with traditional dancing and singing, costumes, food, and even a cricket tournament.  Samoans take pride in their native dancing and singing, and the community day showcases this heritage. Traditional ceremonies during the event also commemorated the ties between American Samoa and the United States.

Commemoration of the relationship between American Samoa and the United States is common to the Samoan culture.  Every July, the territory of American Samoa celebrates the day on April 17 in 1900 when representatives from the Navy raised the American flag over the capital of Pago Pago.    

Large community events play an important role in Samoan culture since they allow for social connection as well as the passing down of traditions to younger generations. At “Aso Mo Samoa,” members wearing native costumes participate in traditional ceremonies such as the ava ceremony, which welcomes guests who visit the family or community. It involves a tanoa or hand carved wooden bowl with many legs, which represents the shared ancestry of the Samoan people.  Participants act out traditional societal roles and pass the tanoa to sip the ava root drink to show friendship and community.

Since an English missionary brought the game of cricket to the islands in the 1880s, the Samoan people have adapted the sport to fit their culture.  Kirikiti, or Samoan cricket, became a cherished pastime; in Seattle a league formed and organized games, which attract crowds of hundreds.  On the sidelines, families cheer on the teams of men and women players and dance to loud music and drumming.  At “Aso Mo Samoa” the league plays tournament games and contributes to the vibrant, festive air of the celebration.

Seattle's Samoan People

The Samoan residents of Seattle have a history of celebrating their culture, which stretches back to early families who settled in the city in the 1950s. Samoan nationals from Samoa and American Samoa arrived after the closing of an American naval base in Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa, in 1951.  Many servicemen were transferred to Fort Lewis and settled with their families in Seattle, primarily in Southeast Seattle, Beacon Hill, and West Seattle; relatives in search of better education and occupational opportunities soon joined the original families.  These early migrants preserved their cultural roots in events like dances and traditional ceremonies. 

Even as members of the community adjusted to their new life in American society, they tried to preserve their beloved culture. Taamu Faiumu worked as a checker at Associated Grocers in Rainier Valley, but in the summer of 1976, when his family chose him to become their talking chief, or advisor to the chief of an entire family, he threw a huge feast on S Holly Street just as one would in American Samoa.  The Samoans participants wore lava lavas, a sarong-like skirt, brought gifts of food, and after the ceremony, they enjoyed feast of traditional foods and three barbequed pigs.  

The Samoan Islands, located about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand, became an American territory in 1899.  In exchange for the land, resources, and strategic position in the Pacific Ocean, the American government promised protection, trade, and friendship to the Samoan king.


Cassie Chinn, “Narrative Report: Asian Pacific Islander Americans in Southeast Seattle,” December 15, 2009, The Wing Luke Asian Museum, Seattle, Washington; George Foster, “Samoa Comes to S. Holly St. (Taamu Faiumu became chief),” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 1, 1975, p. A-5; J. J. Jensen, "Pasefika Helps Celebrate Pacific Islanders' Heritage," The Seattle Times, August 13, 2004, p. E-2; Phuong Cat Le, “A Swinging Sport for the Whole Family.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 18, 2001, p. A-1; Barbara Burns McGrath, “Seattle Fa'a Samoa (Samoans in Seattle, Washington),” The Contemporary Pacific, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Fall 2002); David A. Takami, Shared Dreams: A History of Asians and Pacific Americans in Washington State (Seattle: Washington Centennial Commission, 1989); Teresa Talerico, “Samoans Celebrate their Roots,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Aug 29, 1998, p. C-1.

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