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Courage to the Samoans

 In the wake of the tragedy of the tsunami in Samoa, I am riveted with pain thinking about the people's suffering there. My prayers are with all the Samoans.  

I remember my visit to the island years ago, when I met a most wonderful woman, Tisa, who runs Tisa's Barefoot Bar, a wonderful beachfront restaurant which was noted in airplane magazines as "the" destination at the millennium.  

We sat at the wooden tables with the water lapping the beach, eating freshly caught fish which Tisa cooked herself. 

The conversation was intense in contrast; in fact, about Tisa's decision to run for office (Governor). She was preparing to challenge the male-dominated societal traditions, with a platform including women's rights and openness about "taboo" topics, like domestic violence.  She was even willing to publicly share her previously secret personal experiences with such abuse.  I called the local television station, who responded by agreeing to do a public service show on the topic.  I talked about the psychological issues; my sister-in-law discussed legal issues, and Tisa shared her story. 

Below is an article about the television show, and also an article about Tisa's campaign. 

This seems an appropriate time to share her story here, shoring up the courage of the people.

An email to me in September, 2000, from Rosalia Tisa Faamuli, told the story of her courageous run for office, mobilizing a "Tisa Team." About her running mate, she wrote: a woman who was to run with her pulled out at the last minute and she was replaced by a long time American Samoa resident and social activist, Jim McQuire, and her campaign issues -- the environment, women's rights, family abuse, illegal labor practices and the economy.

Tisa was optimistic. "As a woman, I think I know more about these issues than my opponents," she wrote. "Take business for example, the guest register at the Barefoot Bar in Alega lists thousands of patrons from all over the world who have found American Samoa to be a wonderful and beautiful island with beautiful people."

She was confronting great tsunami odds of a different nature, but not unlike the environmental pounding of today.  She said, "You know our culture is pretty much run by men with high chief titles. I derived from royal bloodlines, I argued that point, the bill was tabled. The old boys club has made it possible to block all the supporters from me by using the food give aways and lots of money. So far the cost to gain a vote per person, is $70.00 USD. In the normal state like California, the cost per voter is $6.70 USD. You realized, my campaign is about no fraud waste and abuse, meaning I am determined to run this campaign with little or no money. The small island paradise, is all related to the big tree. Meaning the big brothers continue to bully the sisters around, the children and youth, our leaders have gained their way into the western way and perverted the hell out both Samoan culture and American. Not to worry, I stick to my guns and charging straight ahead. So far have accomplish one goal to be the first indeginous woman to run for governor ever in the history of our little island and Hawai'i as well."

In March of 2001, Tisa emailed me, "Our little paradise needs friends in big world out there." 

Yes.  Now even more than ever.