LUFILUFI LAFOIA AVA PENEUETA, Claimant
AKAPO AKAPO JR.,
[In Re the Matai Title
“AVA” of the village of Pavaia`i]
Court of American Samoa
and Titles Division
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
KRUSE, Chief Justice, LOGOAI, Chief Associate Judge, ATIULAGI, Associate Judge,
and MAMEA, Associate Judge.
For Claimant, S. Salanoa
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.
 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
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
 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.
It is so ordered.
 In view of our conclusions
reached, we find it unnecessary to decide Lufilufi’s A.S.C.A. § 1.0403 motion
to disqualify Akapo.