Malietoa Laupepa, Malietoa from 1880 - 1898
Malietoa Tanumafili I, Malietoa from 1898 - 1939
Malietoa Tanumafili II, Malietoa from 1939 - 2007

Malietoa (Samoan pronunciation: [maːɾiɛˈto.a] Mālietoa, colloquially [maːɾiɛˈko.a]) is a state dynasty and chiefly title in Samoa. Literally translated as "great warrior," the title's origin comes from the final words of the Tongan warriors as they were fleeing on the beach to their boats, "Malie To`a, Malie tau".. brave warrior, brave fight.


In early Polynesian history Tongan king Tu'i Tonga Talakaifaiki of the Tu'i Tonga dynasty ruled, around 1250 to 1300, over several western Polynesian polities including Lau group of islands (eastern Fiji), Niue, 'Uvea, Futuna, 'Upolu, and Savai'i). Tu'i Tonga Talakaifaiki established a long-term residence at Safotu, Savai'i, Samoa [1] and installed his brother, Lautivunia, as governor of Western Samoa islands. Samoan lore suggests that Talakaifaiki's reign was one of tyranny and oppression that was highly resented by his Samoan subjects.

The seeds of rebellion were planted, according to legend, to the "sons" of Atiogie, namely Savea, Tuna, Fata and Ulumasui (who was actually a grandson of Atiogie). The three brothers and their nephew lead a wide-scale campaign of civil disobedience which ultimately escalated into the military overthrow of Talakaifaiki. Driven westward from Aleipata, 'Upolu (where the Tu'i Tonga's birthday festivities were underway) to the coast of Mulifanua, the king and his bodyguards were cornered against the sea.

There was fierce fighting all the way to the sea whereon the Tu'i Tonga reached his superior navy vessels and called out to those on the land.Upon his departure, the aged monarch delivered a short speech which praised the brave fighting qualities of the Samoan warriors and conceded victory to his once-subjects. The Malietoa title is taken from the opening phrase of that speech: "Mālie toa, mālie tau," meaning "great warriors, well fought." [2]

It is said that the brothers Tuna and Fata both took a fancy to the honor spoken by the deposed Tu'i Tonga and a quarrel between the two ensued. Legend tells that one brother was struck dead by the other and chaos was averted by their eldest brother, Savea, who resuscitated and placated both contenders.

The political vacuum left by the ousting of Talakaifaiki was immediately filled by Savea, who was unanimously nominated as paramount ruler of 'Upolu, Savai'i, Manono and Tutuila. Savea was bestowed the title Malietoa which his brothers had fought over and was hence honored in Samoan oratory as Malietoa Savea-ali'i (Lord Savea), Na-fa'alogo-iai-Samoa (He Who Samoa Listened To), Savea Tu-vae-lua (Savea Who Stands on Both Feet), and Savea-matua (Savea the Elder).

Succession List

The following is one of the common lists of the Malietoa paramounts. A handful of other versions are also recorded, however the overall consistency of chronology and nomenclature is impressive given the oral nature of Samoan genealogy transmission.

1. Malietoa Savea - the first Malietoa and first central monarch of Samoa following the Tongan occupation of 'Upolu, Savai'i and Tutuila.

2. Malietoa Uilamatutu - also known as Malietoa Faiga or Malietoa Faisautele. Well known in Samoan mythology as a tyrant cannibal who exacted human tribute from his subjects.[3] He married Lealainuanua, a daughter of the Tu'i Tonga, and resided at Malie on 'Upolu island. His brothers Leupolusavea and Ganasavea may have also ruled as Malietoa either in succession or simultaneously (as rivals). Simeona

3. Malietoa Galoa'itofo

4. Malietoa Sona'ilepule

5. Malietoa Seali'itele

6. Malietoa Uilematutu

7. Malietoa Fetoloa'i

8. Malietoa 'Ula - also known as Malietoa Vaetui or Malietoa Valaletimu. Said to have been a cruel cannibal king who lived at Leoneuta, near the village of Amoa on 'Upolu island.

9. Malietoa Lepalealai - a "scholar chief" known for his wit and love of complicated riddles

10. Malietoa Uitualagi - his position in the genealogy is debatable; some believe he was the biological son of Uilamatutu, others call him an adopted son, and yet others assert that his position is seven generations removed from Uilamatutu (as he is listed here).

11. Malietoa La'auli - also known as Malietoa La'ailepouliuli. An adopted son of Uitualagi; thus, the bloodline of Malietoa Savea does not continue along the patrilineal succession of the Malietoa title from this point on.

12. Malietoa Fuaoleto'elau - the biological son of Uitualagi who opposed his adoptive brother La'auli by setting up a rival government at Si'umu, 'Upolu. Tohu'ia Limapo, the Samoan ancestress of the Tu'i Kanokupolu dynasty of Tonga was a member of the 'Ama family of Safata which descends from Fuaoleto'elau.[4]

13. Malietoa Falefatu - son of Malietoa La'auli (may have been adopted).

14. Malietoa Taulapapa - A descendant of Malietoa La'auli. Malietoa Taulapapa is famous for his Mavaega or Decrees to his children. (Taofia a le Malietoa.) As a result of his decrees, he is why we now have the famous group of Matais called 'FALEUPOLU O TOFIGA'.

15. Malietoa Taia'opo - Daughter of Malietoa Taulapapa from one of his 4 wives, or usugas. The only female Malietoa known to history. Her husband was a ranking Tongan chief named Anava'o who carried the Fale Fisi title of Tu'i Lakepa.[5] Legend mentions her reign as one of benevolence and peace. Her brother Seiuli was probably also a Malietoa at one time, although an alternate explanation asserts that Malietoa Seiuli was a descendant of Malietoa Sagagaimuli who claimed the title during this time. A Malietoa Leafuitevaga is also mentioned at this point in some genealogies.

16. Malietoa Tuila'epa - apparently held the Fijian-derived Tongan title of Tu'i Lakepa (Tuila'epa) which his father held, as well as the Malietoa.

17. Malietoa To'oa Tuila'epa - may be the same person as Tuila'epa.

18. Malietoa 'Ae'o'ainu'u - son of either Tuila'epa or To'oa Tuila'epa. Named after 'Ae, the fierce war chief of Tutuila.

19. Malietoa Laulauafolasa

20. Malietoa Muagututi'a - also known as Malietoa Ti'a. Relocated the Malietoa political headquarters and royal household from Malie, 'Upolu to Sapapali'i, Savai'i.

21. Malietoa Fitisemanu I.

22. Malietoa Vaiinupo

23. Malietoa Natuitasina - Half Brother (Same father, Malietoa Fitisemanu I) to Malietoa Vaiinupo

24. Malietoa Moli

25. Malietoa Talavou Tonumaipe'a

26. Malietoa Laupepa

27. Malietoa Tanumafili I

28. Malietoa Tanumafili II (1913–2007), holder of the title from 1939 until 2007. Awarded the title through court decision of 1939. When Samoa become independent in 1962, he also becomes O le Ao o le Malo (Head of State), jointly with Tupua Tamasese Mea'ole.

Modern branches of the Sa Malietoa

The descendants of the Malietoa lineage, both titular and biological, are referred to collectively as the Sa Malietoa. The Sa Malietoa of today is expansive and transcends geographical boundaries, religious persuasions, socio-economic class and even ethnicity (considering various chiefly families in Fiji and other Pacific societies are genealogically linked to the Malietoa family). The subject of descendants of the Malietoa title is a thorny one riddled with claim and counter claim present from the first Malietoa to the present day.

In terms of relative history, the "oldest" branch of the modern Sa Malietoa is the Sa Natuitasina (also spelled Gatuitasina). Malietoa Natuitasina was the half-brother of Vai'inupo who allied with his own nephew Talavou against the London Missionary Society and the pacifist policy of Vai'inupo and the Christians in 1842. He is better known by his other chiefly title, Taimalelagi. The Sa Natuitasina considers the Maota Pouvi (Taimalelagi's former residential grounds) to be their familial "headquarters" and their council house is also located in Sapapali'i, Savai'i. Although only the apical ancestor of this branch has held the Malietoa title, the 1939 ruling grants the Sa Natuitasina deliberating rights on the succession of the Malietoa title.

Perhaps the most well-known of the three modern branches, the Sa Moli has been highlighted as Samoa's royal family for over a century. The families of the Sa Moli trace their genealogies to Malietoa Moli. The Sa Moli maintains a family council house in Sapapali'i called Poutoa, which, since it was established by Malietoa Vaiinupo, is also held as the ancestral maota of the Sa Natuitasina and Sa Talavou.

The Sa Talavou branch includes all descendants of Malietoa Talavou Pe'a, a son of Malietoa Vai'inupo who was born around 1810. Prominent members of the Sa Talavou include Talavou's son, Malietoa Fa'alataitaua, who held the Ta'imua office and was named successor to Mata'afa Iosefo's office as Ali'i Sili while under German colonial rule. Fa'alataitaua held the Malietoa title until his death in 1910. Fa'alataitaua's son, Fitisemanu, was also installed as Malietoa, styled as Malietoa Fitisemanu II, but later conceded the title following a legal battle in 1939. The communal council house of the Sa Talavou in Sapapali'i is called Maota Pouesi, the restored former residence of Malietoa Talavou.

While not legally recognized by the 1939 Malietoa edict (LC 853), there are technically many other family lineages that can claim genealogical connections as "branches" of the Sa Malietoa. Some of these descendants have come to light through media coverage of the ongoing titular dispute prompted by the death of Malietoa Tanumafili II, including families who claim descent from other Malietoas (besides Natuitasina, Moli and Talavou) and/or their descendants.

Family Tree

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Malietoa.


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