The remarkable I’iga Pisa and members of his family were photographed by visitors from New Zealand in 1957.
I’iga (born 1882) was one of several chiefs who were exiled by the Germans along with Lauaki Namulau'ulu Mamoe to Saipan in 1909 because of their adherence to the Mau a Pule nationalist political movement. I’iga had been a key organiser for Lauaki in the lead up to exile.
New Zealand archaeologists Jack Golson and W.R. Ambrose befriended the Pisa family at Falefa in the late 1950’s, and the two took these photos of I’iga, the Masiofo (wife) and other members of the family during a visit to Falefa, Upolu, in 1957.
Afioga I’iga became famous in 1915 for escaping from exile and paddling a dugout outrigger canoe from Saipan to Guam, a distance of more than 150km over a period of several days. I’iga navigated by the stars. He fell asleep and lost his paddle in the dark when nearing the island of Rota, approximately half way to Guam. However, he made it to shore and was looked after by locals, until he began the second leg of his journey (with a new paddle).
He was repatriated from Guam to Samoa, via Hawai’i, seemingly in the early 1920’s. I’iga reportedly worked for the Department of Samoan Affairs, under the New Zealand Administration, until 1942.
When the Samoan flag was raised on the first day of independence on 1 January, 1962, I'iga was the only one of the exiled matai from 1909 who was still living.
He was home unwell and couldn’t attend, but the faint sound of the Samoan anthem playing in the distance instilled immense pride, knowing what he and others had sacrificed for sovereign independence.
He died in 1965.
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