Independence Day marked

The Samoan flag was raised in Te Pou o Mata-Au on Saturday. PHOTO: NICK BROOK
The Samoan flag was raised in Te Pou o Mata-Au on Saturday. PHOTO: NICK BROOK
Samoan Independence Day was heartily celebrated at Clutha District War Memorial & Community Centre Te Pou ō Mata-Au on Saturday.

"The last week of May is Samoan Language [Week], leading up to June 1 where we raise the flag for Samoan Independence Day," Samoan Society of Clutha District secretary Salu Tuia said.

"On the 10th of June we also celebrate the first anniversary of the Samoan Society of Clutha District.

"But this year we [decided] to bring it forward to celebrate them together."

About 300 people attended the celebrations, which included speeches, an ‘ava ceremony, song, dance and a shared meal.

Samoa has been peopled for about 3500 years.

The first known non-Polynesians to arrive were Dutch, in 1722.

The islands were eventually colonised by Germany and the United States.

Western Samoa was seized from German control by New Zealand troops in the first month of World War 1.

In 1962 Western Samoa became the first small-island country in the Pacific to become independent, and is now known as Samoa. The smaller, eastern-most island remains an unincorporated territory of the US.

"I’d say there are around 1000 Pasifika people in the Clutha district now," Mrs Tuia said.

"We’re very grateful for the support of local people and organisations in welcoming us to the community.

"Numbers have grown since the seasonal workers have been able to move their families over and gain citizenship, and Samoan is now the third-most spoken language in New Zealand."