In April, Youth With A Mission Flathead Reservation Montana — a Samoan Christian group— performed its annual cultural practice at the Tribal Council in Pablo, Montana to express gratitude to the local community and government that welcomed them 11 years ago. The two groups formed their continuing relationship when the local community helped the Samoan ministry with immigration. When they first emigrated from Samoa to the United States, the group struggled to secure long-term settlement due to visa issues. They were soon relieved and grateful as they received 10-year visas after the Native American Tribal Council and police department in Pablo wrote letters to the immigration officials about their accomplishments in the community.
The two groups developed and deepened their relationship over the years as they battled local social issues such as suicide, alcoholism, and drug abuse together. The Samoan Christian mission has been sponsoring youth camps, running sports events, and conducting community outreach to meet local needs. In addition to the local community the group also reaches out to communities in Thailand, New Zealand, Samoa, and Hawai‘i. The current leader of the Samoan group has served in several countries in Asia, and is now a pastor in the neighboring town of Ronan. More than half of the population in Pablo is Native American from multiple tribes, whose cultures resemble many aspects of Samoan traditions. The friendship between the two indigenous tribes has grown very close, as evident in the cultural ceremony performed every year.
In addition to the strong ties between the Christian missionary group and the local community in Montana, Samoa also maintains geographic ties via submarine cables. A partnership in February between the Samoa Submarine Cable Company and Southern Cross Cable Network connected the Polynesian island to mainland United States via California.
Yumiko Kozu is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and an exchange student at Dartmouth College.