Water is everything
VAASILIIFITI MOELAGI JACKSON
The Pacific zone is the largest in the world, but almost
all of it is water. Samoa is a group of islands in the middle of the South
Pacific, inhabited by Polynesian people, with a total land area of just
over 28,500 square kilometres. So water is everywhere and everything about
us is water.
People from countries with large land masses may find it difficult to
understand how we of the Pacific Islands are bound in heart and spirit to
the water. I was born and brought up on a beach where I awakened to hear
the waves. I was lucky that there was also a river nearby. The sea and
that river became my very close friends. As a girl I ran to the beach to
write and draw pictures in the sand, or throw pebbles at the waves and
count how many times they skipped on the water.
It was exciting to go walking on the reef at low tide looking for
shellfish and the many edible weeds, and collecting shells to make my own
necklaces or containers and tools to use at home. The sea around us is so
rich and easy to reach to find food, to have fun or to paddle across in
your canoe - at any time.
Our language is full of words and expressions pertaining to water.
Vaisa - sacred water, vaitele - big water, vailoa -
many waters, vaiola - living water, vailele - flying water,
vaipuna - spring water, vaipisia - sprinkling water and
vailili - shaking water are just a few: the list could go on and on.
Water is life
Water is life - and it is guarded with one's life. Water cleanses the
spirit and gives blessing and good omen to completed work. A new canoe may
have only a short life if the owner fails to dip the entire boat into the
water and dry it properly before it is put into use. To dip - fufui
in Samoan - a newly completed piece of work often calls for special
ceremonies, feasting and, of course, drinking in thanksgiving.
Water is joy, and water is fun. In the United States, parents take their
children to Disneyland to celebrate. In Samoa to be joyful is to take
one's children for a swim in the pools or the sea. The feeling of being
enveloped by water is refreshing and satisfying. We refer to it as
'dancing with nature'.
Most of our thinking is governed by water. We have a saying: 'Moe i le
vai, ae ala i le ai' - 'Sleep in water and wake up to eat'. It means
that as long as you get water you can sleep without food until you awaken.
We also say: 'E inu Malie ae ou te le malie' - 'I drink at the
village of Malie, though my thirst is not quenched'. It means that though
I have drunk, I will be thirsty for more: it is a warning of the value of
water even after enough has been taken for the present.
Water is healing
Water is often used by our people for spiritual healing. Our traditional
herbal healers believe that they can communicate with the Spirit that
gives them their healing power through water perfumed with flowers and
leaves from the forest. Water and the environment is so integrated in our
Many islands in the Pacific are not as blessed with water as we are, even
though water surrounds them. Historically islanders travelled the Pacific
Ocean, sailing from island to island looking for sweet, clean water as
medicine for their kings, queens, high chiefs - and their peoples. Pacific
Islanders have lots of faith in good, clean and blessed water.
I totally believe that water is a heritage from God for the Pacific. It is
our only means of survival. Our resources and lives are locked in to the
availability of good clean water and we must do everything possible to
protect and guard it.
Our beloved Pacific is our food. It is our life. It is our everything. We
guard our land and our rainforest because they hold water. If there is no
water, there will be no forest and, of course there will be no life: and
we must guard our Pacific
High Chief Vaasiliifiti Moelagi Jackson is President of the Faasao
Savaii Society, Western Samoa's first cultural conservation organization,
and Vice-President of the Western Samoan Umbrella for Women's NGOs.