Star Spotlight: Cadina Palelei

Freshman Cadina Palelei’s dad grew up in the island of Samoa and has transferred his memories and different aspects of the culture to his daughter. Palelei has extended family on the island and hopes to visit soon.


Freshman Cadina Palelei poses with the island of Samui flag. Samui is the second largest island in the gulf of Thailand. photo by Helen Krause

by Maureen Burns and Helen Krause

The Dart: Do you ever visit Samoa?

Palelei: Not recently, because of my dad’s business out there.


The Dart: Does your dad ever talk about what it was like when he was there?

Palelei: Yeah! He always described it as like an Island movie. He would wake up in the mornings and climb trees and always have these crazy adventures out there. That really what his childhood was, crazy adventures. And he came out here when he was like 12, but then he went back. So, he was born out there, he lived there until he was 12 then he moved here and then he moved back to the island and back here again. He did a lot of moving.


The Dart: What aspects of that culture did he pass on to you?

Palelei: The whole concept of family because he was the youngest boy of 15, so he really passed on that you need to be close to each other and always be there no matter how far apart you guys are.


The Dart: Regarding that, are you still close to his family?

Palelei: I’m not as close to his family as I want to be, but I would say that we’re pretty close. We all grew up together. My brothers, sister and I are all super close. When I was little my mom had a whole bunch of jobs and so my sister was more like a mother figure to me when I was growing up.


The Dart: Do you still have a lot of extended family living on the Island?

Palelei: Yeah, my grandma and her whole side of the family mostly still live there, and she still technically lives there. It’s just that she comes back here for medicine and better hospitals.


The Dart: Are there any certain items that are significant to your culture?

Palelei: There are tapa cloths that are very traditional that you use as a sort of tapestry, but more island-specific because they did very much have tribes and where you came from and where you are is your boundaries. So certain designs were very specific to where you came from. It is made out of this tree bark and takes a lot of time and processing to make it. Another thing is a Cava bowl, which is what we use for special events to create what is called cava. It is a very traditional thing that you only use for family events.


The Dart: What part of your culture are you most proud of?

Palelei: We’re very family oriented and very confident in what we do.


The Dart: Do you see yourself returning to the island often?

Palelei: I would like to try and go back often because my mom hasn’t been there before and she really wanted to.


The Dart: Did your dad ever mention the pros and cons of the living on the island versus living in the U.S.?

Palelei: Yes, he likes that here, there is a bigger world and you are able to go outside your family and people that you know. He also liked going back home so that he could be with his family because practically the whole island is their family and the next island man that walks up, you could call uncle. It’s very common for people to say a last name and everyone to just know it and come up with all of these memories.