Tonga Samoa History of Samoa

Queen Salamasina (floruit in the 1500s) was a powerful and high-ranking woman in Samoan social history. She held the four papā (district) titles which gave her the paramount status of Tafa‘ifā ('one supported by four') on the western islands of Samoa.[1] Contrary to popular belief she was not the first Tafa'ifā, as these titles were willed to her by their previous possessor, Nafanua (Tonumaipe'a Nāfanua).[2][3]

Family history

Salamāsina descended from several powerful royal bloodlines. Her mother, Vaetoefaga, was an extremely highborn noblewoman who enjoyed a lofty position in both Samoan and Tongan societies. Vaetoefaga's father was the Tu‘i Tonga Kau‘ulufonua II (a son of Tu'i Tonga Kau'ulufonua I and the Samoan noblewoman Vainu'ulasi) and her mother was Taupoimāsina (the daughter of high chief Lefono of Amoa, Savai'i).

As a teenager Vaetoefaga became the tenth and last wife of the Samoan paramount Tuia‘ana Tamaalelagi, with whom she conceived their daughter Salamāsina. One of Tamaalelagi's royal attendants named Utufanunutunutu traveled to the Tongan island of Tongatapu with the intent of securing Vaetoefaga as Tamaalelagi's wife. He deceived her family with fantastical stories about the land and people of Samoa and succeeded in arranging the marriage and an impressive dowry. As part of the arrangement, Vaetoefaga's brother Ulualofaigā was given political concessions in Fagaloa (in Atua district). Vaetoefaga prompted the construction of the Tuia‘ana's “unofficial” residence (akin to a vacation home) near Vaialua in Nofoali‘i, A‘ana after being threatened by the families of Tamaalelagi's other wives. Vaetoefaga left Nu‘uausala (the Tuia‘ana's residence in Leulumoega) to seek refuge among her Tongan relatives who had settled in the villages allotted to her brother (Tamasese 2004:10). Her home was named Afeafe-o-Vaetoefaga (“refuge of Vaetoefaga) to commemorate this fearful time of persecution and conflict between the budding Tongan community and the established Samoan factions.


Salamāsina’s mother, Vaetoefaga, returned to Tonga and entrusted Salamāsina to the safe-keeping of Levalasi So‘oa‘emalelagi. So'oa'emalelagi was the principal wife of the leading chieftain of the Atua district, Tuiātua Māta‘utia, and Salamāsina was raised as their own daughter.

Adulthood and reign

She was betrothed as a youth to marry a chief named Tonumaipe‘a Tapumanaia in order to form a political alliance with the influential Tonumaipe‘a faction of Savai‘i. However, Salamāsina eloped with the man of her choice, the untitled Alapepe. Their relationship brought forth a daughter named Lupefofoaivaoese, who grew to become Tuia‘ana and the ancestress of several prominent Samoan families. Alapepe was pursued by the furious Tonumaipe‘a clan to Tongatapu, where he was killed for “defiling” the taupou.

Salamāsina also had a son by Tapumanaia, who was named after his father. He later received the Lesātele title of the Salani and Sālesātele villages in Falealili, Atua, ‘Upolu.

Queen Salamāsina had a long and peaceful reign in Mulifusi, Lotofaga, Atua, ‘Upolu. She had attained the lofty status of Tafa‘ifā during her lifetime and both her son (by Tapumanaia) and her daughter (by Alapepe) inherited high rank and prestige through her. Her reign is notable in Samoan history for its absence of warfare and many Samoans today feel pride in tracing their ancestry to Queen Salamasina.


Scholars have been particularly interested in Salamāsina's life (and the fact that her supreme titles passed on to her chiefly descendants primarily through her daughter Lupefofoaivaoese) because ancient Samoa has often been portrayed as a male dominated society.[1]

Penelope Schoeffel and Gavan Daws point to Salamāsina's significance as the ancestor of many powerful Samoan rulers:

Salamasina's historical significance was that she was the means of drawing together all the great aristocratic bloodlines and links to supernatural power in a period of political transformation, to create a basis of legitimacy for the new power-brokers of Samoa, the orator group Tumua of A'ana and Atua. For the next four centuries or so, they were to manipulate the new dynasty she gave birth to through control of the paramount titles which they were empowered to bestow.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Schoeffel, Penelope (1987). "Rank, gender and politics in ancient Samoa:The genealogy of SalamāsinaO Le Tafaifā". The Journal of Pacific History. 22 (4): 174–193. doi:10.1080/00223348708572566. ISSN 0022-3344.
  2. ^ Queen Salamasina, More Women Rulers - Women in World History Curriculum
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2002-06-06. Retrieved 2011-03-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)