Feature image credit by Mynameisben123, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.
You might not know this, but many Samoans play in the NFL. Per capita, more Samoans play professional football in the United States right now than any other ethnic group. Here’s another fact you might not know—Samoans also have a higher rate of enlistment in the United States military than any other ethnic group.
Surely there are many reasons why Samoans are successful as football players and why so many of them choose to serve in the military. But one reason mentioned by nearly everyone who writes about the topic is the tradition of the Samoan warrior—a tradition that runs through Samoan mythology and family histories for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
American Samoans and the NFL
If you’re a Samoan male, your chances of playing in the NFL are 56 times greater than if you’re a male from some other cultural or ethnic background. ESPN, Forbes, The Wallstreet Journal, and even the culture and lifestyle website Salon have all published articles on this surprising phenomenon, attempting to explain it. Many of them come to a similar conclusion: a major cause is the heritage of the Samoan warrior in Samoa and American Samoa.
Today, Samoans take to the playing field with the same courage, intensity, and bravery that their ancestors took to the battlefield and the open ocean. “Their extraordinary internalization of discipline and warrior self-image drives them to play with no fefe,” says one well-known coach—in other words, “no fear.”
American Samoa and the United States Military
Samoan warrior culture emphasizes courage and bravery. And you can see these characteristics in the way Samoans play football. But discipline and loyalty are just as important to the warrior way—so too respect for one’s elders and love of family. Perhaps these characteristics are the reason so many Samoans are ready—and willing—to serve in the military. They see it as an opportunity to serve and protect the people they love.
A recent news story on a website for United States veterans highlighted a family of 41 Samoan first, second, third, and fourth cousins who are all stationed at the same base for training. As their training concluded, they would leave to various assignments. “I’m the first one who will leave the group,” one of the cousins said, “I’m not worried, because there are a lot us out there,” referring to the many other Samoans who currently serve in the military. “I’m bound to meet another relative somewhere. That’s for sure.”
Connect to Your Samoan Heritage
Do you have Samoan ancestors in your family tree? If so, your heritage is something to be proud of and something to share with others. How has the history of the Samoan warrior influenced your life, values, and traditions?
Pass on the warrior tradition. Save a photo to Memories that highlights your Samoan heritage. Or take a few moments to write down and save what being Samoan means to you. Future generations will be grateful.
You can also learn more about your Samoan and Pacific Island heritage by exploring the following resources.