Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month: Blue Cluster Learns About Samoan Culture

Posted on Thursday, May 26th, 2022

Fire-knife dancing, basket weaving, and the importance of coconuts were all things Blue Cluster students learned this month in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Students and teachers tuned in via Zoom to the Polynesian Cultural Center, which is a living museum dedicated to celebrating Polynesian culture and educating its visitors on the island cultures of Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji, Aotearoa, Tahiti, and Tonga. The students watched as the ambassador for the Samoan village, Kap, showed them different aspects of Samoan life and culture. He shared the significance of the coconut in Samoa, talked about the history and geography of the island, and demonstrated many traditional skill sets. 

Blue Cluster Head Teacher Amanda Shaw thought of the event for students after visiting the PCC on a trip to Hawaii. She had the chance to see Kap perform, as he is a former winner and current judge for the international fire-knife dancing competition. He also sits on the board at the University of Hawaii and Brigham Young University. 

He has dedicated his life to educating people on Polynesian and Samoan cultures, both at PCC and in school engagements,” Ms. Shaw said. “In my visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center, I was captivated by Kap’s story and the pride he took in celebrating Polynesian culture. He was relatable, engaging, and clarified a lot of misconceptions/stereotypes that people have about Polynesian culture.”

During his presentation for Gaynor students, Kap demonstrated how to climb trees to retrieve a coconut and explained its various uses, including using the husks for fire, the milk for drinking, and the leaves from the tree for weaving baskets. 

Kap also explained the significance of the tattoo in Samoan culture, and how they use the art form of tattooing to tell stories and preserve their culture. Ms. Shaw said, “He shared the importance of the canoe and water in Samoan culture, as navigating the waters is essential to daily living.”

Towards the end of the presentation, Kap and his two sons showed students how to build a fire using wood from the coconut tree and then performed a fire-knife dance. Kap also discussed the similarities between the Samoan and Polynesian cultures, and showed a couple of different historical items.

Ms. Shaw said she loves how interactive the center is and how visitors, both in-person and virtual, get to see what it’s like to live on one of the islands.

She said, “It celebrates the differences among Polynesian and Samoan cultures, including beliefs, traditional dances, clothing, and their daily routines, but also shines light on the similarities they have, and that they all speak the same cultural language.”