Looking back at the history of the Fire Knife dance | American Samoa

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Hawaii’s largest Samoan cultural pageant and a pre-eminent showcase of Samoa’s traditions, the We Are Samoa Festival is highlighted by the exhilarating World Fireknife Championships this week on the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC).

 “The World Fireknife Championships is a riveting competition and encompasses everything that makes the Samoan culture so dynamic and captivating. It combines skill, strength, artistry, and fearlessness. There is no other competition like it in the world,” mentioned Logo Apelu, PCC Chief Operating Officer


Uluao Letuli Misilagi, who was born within the village of Nu’uuli, American Samoa originated the fireplace knife dance in 1946 on the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, beforehand dancing in Hawaii and Los Angeles with two knives. Along with performing, “Freddie” — as he was affectionately recognized in his youthful days — was additionally the trainer to the early fireplace knife dancers.

Dating again from the Forties to the Nineteen Sixties, Letuli carried out all through the US and Europe together with his dance troupes previously referred to as “Freddie Letuli and the Flaming Sword of Samoa, showcasing his skills and his island. Additional dance troupes (such because the Samoan Warriors, Freddie Letuli and his Wild Polynesians, Freddie Letuli and the Samoans, and Freddie Letuli and the Hawaiians) had been fashioned to fill his contracts and to maintain up with the demand for the Polynesian reveals. They carried out commonly at varied venues in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Reno, Italy, Chicago, Kentucky, Washington, Australia, and New York.

Letuli’s nice skills and experience obtained him on motion pictures like Pagan Love Song, the 1953 Rita Hayworth movie Salome, and Sailor Beware. Aside from different motion pictures, he was additionally seen on tv reveals and had recurring roles on Adventures in Paradise and The Bob Cummings Show.

With the urging of Governor H. Rex Lee, he returned house to American Samoa the place he joined the Department of Education and taught quite a few faculty youngsters the artwork of Polynesian dancing.

Letuli served as Assistant Director of Tourism, and later served as a Senator within the Legislature of American Samoa, and as an Associate Judge within the High Court of American Samoa. Letuli held the High Talking Chief title of “Olo” by which he was recognized for 40 years. In 2001, he was bestowed the Paramount Chief title of “Letuli”, turning into considered one of solely 5 Paramount Chiefs in American Samoa.

He died in in 2003 on the age of 84.


PCC established the World Fireknife Championships to showcase this treasured Samoan custom and perpetuate it for future generations to embrace.

Now in its twenty second 12 months, the World Fireknife Championships brings collectively opponents of various ages and ability ranges, led by the elite Senior Division, which attracts the world’s prime fireplace knife dancers. In addition to Hawaii and the Pacific, this 12 months’s opponents come from California, Florida, Japan, and Hong Kong. They will carry out their superb fireknife dancing expertise and methods, twirling one, two and, typically, three flaming fireplace knives to a choreographed routine.

Up-and-coming performers studying to grasp the fiery artwork, together with some as younger as six years previous, are competing in junior divisions. There may also be an entertaining group competitors that includes choreography by groups, together with a girls’s group of fireside knife dancers.


Perpetuating the Samoan tradition and inspiring goodwill amongst teenagers is the target of the High School Samoan Cultural Arts Festival.

Hundreds of highschool college students from Oahu exhibit their information of Samoan tradition by competing in a sequence of conventional Samoan practices and life expertise. This contains protocol and speech making, basket weaving, coconut husking and fireplace making, costuming, poise, dance actions, and interpretation.

The expertise is enjoyable, enlightening and helps strengthen bonds between the individuals, each amongst one another and in understanding the roots of their tradition.

(Sources: PCC, Wikipedia, Samoa News archives)

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