Sunday, 16 October 2011

Burying the Hatchet . . . Samoan Style

I once had a discussion with another Samoan where it was proposed that we “bury the hatchet”. I paused for a moment, then another . . . before refusing. It was only a light conversation between friends including some mock dramatics (from me of course) but it later had me thinking about why I would hesitate to agree to such a thing in a serious situation.

According to my research (i.e. a quick lookup on Google) the expression originates from an American Indian practice, where axes, tomahawks or other weapons are literally buried to signify a peace agreement. This meaning is how it is commonly used in the English language.

However, it may hold another meaning for a Samoan – something not nearly as favourable as a peaceful act. When I heard the expression I was instantly reminded of the famous legend of the warrior brothers, Tuna and Fata, and their preparations in the final battle that drove the overbearing Tongan king and his army out of Samoa for good. The Samoan army (led by Tuna and Fata) buried their weapons not for a peace agreement but as a surprise tactic for an attack. The unsuspecting Tongans watched the Samoans perform song and dance thinking they were going to get a good ol’ entertainment, when suddenly the Samoan warriors retrieved the weapons from where they were hidden in the ground and launched their attack.

So you see how burying the hatchet the Samoan way might be a tad risky. Perhaps it is best to clarify the terms first and consider whether you are asked to bury your weapons for peace or as a warning for a fight. Either way, be prepared :)


  1. LOL so when a Samoan says it, we can assume they're saying, "lets talk about this later (when you're less prepared)"?

  2. Great bit of trivia. I'll keep that in mind next time I have a convo with a Samoan. It's great to learn how different sayings that we take for granted can have other meanings.

  3. Yes - it always helps to be just that tiny bit cautions when "burying the hatchet" with a Samoan. Hehe. Nice Post!.