Series: 7ASR3d | Year: () | 7ASR3d211
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[In Re the Matai Title

“AVA” of the village of Pavaia`i]



Court of American Samoa


and Titles Division



No. 09-01



8, 2003




On issue of first criterion (best hereditary right), where court received

conflicting testimony as to whether candidate was actually related by blood to

previous title holder, court resolved dispute in favor of candidate noting that

she was raised as a family member, grew up in family’s village, lived on

family’s property, and participated in family affairs in a manner consistent

with family entitlement. 



On issue of fourth criterion (value to country, family and village), court

found in favor of candidate who had actively participated in family affairs,

and who had rendered tautua to the family, previous matai and relevant

village for all of her life; despite other candidate’s superior service to

territorial government.



KRUSE, Chief Justice, LOGOAI, Chief Associate Judge, ATIULAGI, Associate Judge,

and MAMEA, Associate Judge.



         For Claimant, S. Salanoa


                        For Counter-claimant,

Arthur Ripley, Jr.






April 19, 2001, Lufilufi Lafoia Ava Peneuta (“Lufilufi”) offered the matai

title Ava, from the village of Pavaia`i, for registration with the Office of

the Territorial Registrar.  Akapo Akapo,

Jr. (“Akapo”), filed his objection and counter-claim with the Territorial Registrar

on June 15, 2001.  The matter was

referred to the Secretary of Samoan Affairs for extra-judicial resolution from

where it was returned by the Secretary with a certificate of irreconcilable

dispute pursuant to A.S.C.A. § 43.0302. 

The dispute is before us in accordance with A.S.C.A. § 1.0409.



In these matters, the Court is guided by the four criteria set out in A.S.C.A.

§ 1.0409(c): (1) best hereditary right; (2) clan support; (3) forcefulness,

character and personality, and knowledge of Samoan customs; and (4) value to family,

village, and country.

1.   Best Hereditary Right

Lufilufi traces her entitlement to Ava Lafoia Tulilefaga (“Tulilefaga”), her

grandfather, and accordingly claims 25% hereditary right.  By comparison, Akapo’s claim to the Ava title

is 1.6%.  However, he contends to prevail

on this consideration arguing that Lufilufi has no Ava blood whatsoever.  His supporters, a faction of the family led

by Pagofie Fiaigoa, urge the court to find that Lufilufi’s father, variously

referred to by the witnesses as either “Mapusaga” or “Lafoia Ava,” was not the

natural issue of Tulilefaga, but rather a stranger that was raised from an

early age by Tulilefaga and his wife Fenika. 

Both Pagofie and Taeaolelei Tialavea, an undisputed daughter of

Tulilefaga, testified accordingly as to Lufilufi’s ancestry, on the basis of a

“family account” handed down to them.  In

rebuttal, Lufilufi’s paternal aunt Folole Tulilefaga Ava, 85 years of age,

testified that she, her late brother Lafoia Ava, Lufilufi’s father, and a third

sibling Ailini, are the children of Tulilefaga by his first marriage to Ida

Gaseuli Solitua.  Her testimony was

corroborated by 79 year old Fa`aliliu Paepule, a daughter of a former Pagofie

titleholder, Saei, and granddaughter of a former Ava, Vili I.

[1] The conflicting family accounts

as to Lufilufi’s heritage must be resolved in favor of Lufilufi’s version.  Folole and her siblings were, for all intents

and purposes, raised as Ava family members; they grew up in Pavaia`i, lived on

family property, participated in family affairs, not as strangers, but in a

manner consistent with family entitlement. 

Their descendants so continue to live today.

We find that Lufilufi is not only a blood member of the Ava family, but that

she prevails over Akapo on the issue of hereditary entitlement.

2.   Clan Support

There are four clans of the Ava family: Vili, Levale, Sivai and Sa.  We find that while Akapo enjoyed some support

from the Sa clan, we are satisfied Lufilufi’s candidacy enjoys support from all

of the clans of the Ava family. 

Accordingly, we find that Lufilufi prevails on the issue of clan



3.   Forcefulness,

Character and Personality, and Knowledge of Samoan Customs


our observation of the candidates and from our review of personal background

and achievements, we find that Akapo prevails on this consideration.  While both candidates fared equally on the

factors of character and personality, and knowledge of Samoan customs, we

consider Akapo’s personal achievements in education and career as a meteorologist

to demonstrate greater forcefulness.

We find that Akapo prevails hereunder.

4.   Value to Family, Village, and


[2] On value to country, Akapo’s

service to the territorial government and people of American Samoa clearly puts

him before Lufilufi.  However, on value

to family and village, Lufilufi’s service to family and village has

unquestionably been superior to Akapo’s. 

She has rendered tautua (traditional service) to the Ava family

and matai all her life, actively participating in family affairs, whereas

Akapo’s primary ties have been to the Mase family in Vaitogi.  Having lived and been raised within the Ava

family, Lufilufi is, therefore, more familiar with family needs and family

assets and would be better acquainted with those Ava family members who are

confronted on a day to day basis with the family’s interests.  See Aano v. Sitau, 2 A.S.R. 107, 110

(Trial Div. 1940).  At the same time,

Lufilufi renders tautua to the village of Pavaia`i, where the Ava title

belongs, whereas Akapo’s service has principally been in Vaitogi where he holds

a matai title.

We find in favor of Lufilufi on this criterion.


On the foregoing, we conclude that Lufilufi is qualified to hold the title

Ava.  She prevails over Akapo on the

first, second, and fourth criteria.  The

Territorial Registrar shall, in accordance with A.S.C.A. § 1.0409(b), register

the matai title Ava, attached to the village of Pavaia`i, in candidate Lufilufi

Lafoia Ava Peneuta.[1]

It is so ordered.




[1]  In view of our conclusions

reached, we find it unnecessary to decide Lufilufi’s A.S.C.A. § 1.0403 motion

to disqualify Akapo.