Hurricanes embrace Samoan language, culture in course led by tertiary professor

The Hurricanes have been reconnecting to the Pacific roots of a significant portion of their squad with the team learning the Samoan language and culture.

The Hurricanes huddle after their match against the Waratahs. Source: Photosport

Players from the Wellington franchise have been part of a 10-week programme under Victoria University of Wellington Samoan Studies lecturer Dr Sadat Muaiava as part of the Samoan Language Initiative within New Zealand rugby, the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association, and the Hurricanes’ Personal Development programme.

With 14 of the Hurricanes’ 38 contracted players identifying as Samoan, including captain Ardie Savea, Muaiava said it was special to help them with their cultural journeys.

“Language is important for inter-generational communication and it is really important today for Samoan youths to be able to communicate with relatives and each other. So to be able to help the players on their language and culture journeys was very rewarding,” Muaiava said.

“Our language and culture are part of who we are, so to embrace and display their culture and language is them telling the world where they are from and that they are proud Samoans.”

Muaiava said players were organised into three different language levels with some who were already fluent speakers becoming mentors to others while a WhatsApp group outside of lessons was created to communicate and practise.

The programme has since seen players begin to use Samoan and has allowed them to introduce themselves and to respond to other players, family, and coaches, player Pepesana Patafilo said.

“Samoan lessons have helped me to reconnect with my culture and have given me a fresh appreciation for the language and culture,” Patafilo said.

“Taking up the lessons has made me feel proud of where I come from and encouraged to learn more.”

Hurricanes CEO Avan Lee said he was proud to see his players embrace the programme, culminating in Savea beginning to include gagana [the Samoan language] in post-match interviews.

“In 2021, we have made a conscious effort to be more culturally aware,” Lee said.

“A significant percentage of our players are of Māori or Pasifika heritage. We are delighted that our Samoan players have invested in themselves by learning more about their language and culture.

“The players are growing together and as individuals, which is fantastic, and I’m confident the guys will improve the Hurricanes organisation as a result.”