Several months ago I had the wonderful experience of meeting Elisapeta Alaimaleata, Founder and Executive Director of the Le Fetuao Samoan Language School. The school is a 501c3 non-profit organization. It is a community-based service program designed to provide young Samoan children with an opportunity to learn their heritage, language and culture utilizing interactive, hands-on, and culturally relevant strategies. They have established partnerships with the University of Hawai‘i Samoan Language and Culture Program, churches and local businesses. These community based partnerships are a part of the planning and implementing of the mission and vision of the school. The school is operated by community members, parents, and volunteers.
Le Fetuao Samoan Language School’s mission is to both increase the literacy of their youth to better understand their culture and Samoan identity and to also empower their youth to be productive and contributing citizens. This effort however is rooted in their historical past.
Elisapeta’s Le Fetuao Samoan Language School’s visit to the Kalaeloa Heritage Park was an effort to help these young children understand not only their Samoan culture but their historical relationship with these Hawaiian Islands. It is rooted in the story of Kaha’i-a-Ho’okamali’I’s commission to go to Tahiti to retrieve an ulu tree and return to plant it here in ‘Ewa. He however goes beyond Tahiti and retrieves an ulu tree from Samoa, returns, and plants it the area we refer to today as the Kalaeloa Heritage Park.
The symbolic meaning of the retrieval and planting of the Ulu represents a rebirth, new life and a beginning on an island. The historical significance of the retrieval of the Breadfruit tree however makes reference to a migration of an ocean community of people beyond Tahiti, and perhaps beyond Samoa. It makes reference to all of us as the same people. It is an effort to instill in all children that we are all of one ocean family. That is the significance of ulu tree. It is the story of all of us …………..who call these islands home.