Samoan culture part of the fun at Kent grade-school fair

Most elementary school students don’t wear a “puletasi” or “lavalava” to school, but a group of Kent Elementary School students don the traditional Samoan clothes every year to teach their classmates about their culture. Pacific Islanders — mostly American Samoans — make up the second largest ethnic group at diverse Kent Elementary, and they have brought their culture to the school’s Multicultural Fair in the form of dance for the last four years.

  • Monday, June 9, 2008 5:29pm
  • Life

Sai Ta’amu

Most elementary school students don’t wear a “puletasi” or “lavalava” to school, but a group of Kent Elementary School students don the traditional Samoan clothes every year to teach their classmates about their culture.

Pacific Islanders — mostly American Samoans — make up the second largest ethnic group at diverse Kent Elementary, and they have brought their culture to the school’s Multicultural Fair in the form of dance for the last four years.

The group started when Kent Elementary administrators were organizing the school’s first Multicultural Fair. They recognized the need to represent the school’s relatively large population of Pacific Islanders and were pleased to find several parents who wanted to help reach the same goal.

Coordinated by those parents and Kent Elementary teacher Michelle Kelly, the group has now grown to more than 30 students who annually perform traditional dances for the school community.

“What began as the promise of a few kids doing a few dances turned into a spectacular production,” Kelly said. “I think my favorite part about this is that it gets them really excited each year. This is a great way for them to share their culture.”

The teacher said the Samoan group is a favorite at the annual fair. This year they were even asked to dance at Neely-O’Brien Elementary School’s multicultural event May 29.

Each year, the students wear Samoan clothes, the girls in “puletasi” dresses and the boys in headbands and “lavalava” cloths around their waists. The boys go shirtless to show off tattoos usually drawn onto their arms and chests by parents.

The group of students ages 6-12 perform about five different dances, each with its own story. Dances like the “Haka” — a dance to scare away enemies and frighten evil spirits — and the “Sasa” — a welcoming dance of happiness — are among the regular routine.

“What I like about these dances is that I get to show the audience who we are and what we do and show our culture,” said fifth-grader Sai Ta’amu, 11.

Ta’amu’s grandparents were born in Samoa, and he has grown up with a healthy dose of his heritage, he said. He has been participating in traditional Samoan has danced at his church since the age of 5, but last year he learned about the opportunity to show his culture at school.

He said he jumped at the chance to join the group.

“I think it’s very important,” Ta’amu said. “I think people should learn about more cultures than just their own.”

The student now acts as the “Faluma” in the “Haka” and “Sasa” dances, the leader who calls out orders and directs the group’s movements. His uncle and father are among those parents who sometimes join in to sing or play instruments.

Fifth-grader Ana Molia’s father also joins in the performances, often playing the drums while the students dance. She said her favorite dance is the “Siva,” an all-girls dance that the “Taupou,” the princess, leads.

“It’s just the girls showing what they can do,” she said.

Molia has been dancing with the group for four years, and she said it makes her proud of her culture.

“I like to do this because now everyone from our school knows that we’re Samoans,” the student said. “Every year that I’ve been here, people thought our dance was the best. That’s why they save us for last.”


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Life

‘Don’t assume it can’t happen to you’

Federal Way resident Evelyn Allcorn shares story of her husband’s battle with COVID-19 after he tested positive on March 28.

Auburn dance studio finds creative solutions to keep going during COVID-19

Pacific Ballroom Dance moves to online classes; group returned home early from national competition

Auburn Symphony Orchestra Gala postponed; concert cancelled

Due to the escalating situation surrounding COVID-19, including Gov. Inslee’s most recent… Continue reading

Ice Cube. COURTESY PHOTO
State fair welcomes hip-hop artist Ice Cube with special guest Ginuwine on Sept. 6

Hip-hop artist Ice Cube with special guest Ginuwine take center stage at… Continue reading

Neely Mansion hosts ‘Women’s Votes, Women’s Voices’ author

Bookmarks & Landmarks series programs set for Auburn, Kent

Kent library program listings | March

Activities for families and children, teens and adults

Auburn Symphony presents Uncommon Voices: Music for Woodwind Quintet

Performances set for Kent, Auburn churches on March 6, 8

Kent Spotlight Series to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

March 13 at Kent-Meridian Performing Arts Center

Top cowboys will compete in the ProRodeo Tour Playoffs at the Washington State Fair, Sept. 10-13. COURTESY PHOTO
Rodeo action, country stars coming to the state fair Sept. 10-13

Eddie Montgomery of Montgomery Gentry, Jimmie Allen and 38 Special to join the country party

Comedian Jo Koy sells out two shows at Kent’s ShoWare Center

Gets key to the city; attracts 14,000 fans

A World War I Sopwith Camel and pilot are surrounded by jets on a table at the NorthWest Scale Modelers Show. COURTESY PHOTO, Tim Nelson
Northwest Modelers show the scale of air, sea and land designs this weekend

Region’s largest display of scale models shows the diversity of aviation and space vehicles