Thursday, July 24, 2003


Talking Chief Olo
spread his love
of Samoan culture

Paramount Chief Letuli Olo Misilagi, father of Samoan fire knife dancing and a community leader, died Tuesday in Honolulu. He was 84.

Letuli, known as Talking Chief Olo, spread Samoan culture to Hawaii and the rest of the world. He was in Polynesian films. Letuli also served two terms as an American Samoa senator from Leone, working to keep drugs out of the community.

"To me, Talking Chief Olo personifies what a Samoan chief is all about (by) the way he lives, his home and cultural knowledge," said Gus Hannemann, liaison and consultant to the American Samoan Senate.

"Samoan people love him because of his love for his people," he said.

Between tears, Cha Thompson, of Tihati Productions, said: "Chief Olo was a person -- and I mean this with every ounce of respect and aloha -- who could ride with the high and could crawl with the low. He was a man of humble beginnings but had a huge heart and was very funny."

Born in 1919, Letuli was renowned in his younger years for his fire knife dancing abilities and was instrumental in organizing the World Fire Knife Competition, said photographer and longtime friend Barry Markowitz.

"The culture of Samoa and the favorable view of Samoa have been greatly furthered by his fire knife dancing," he said.

His dancing ability even got him the nickname Fred Astaire, said Thompson.

Letuli died at the Queen's Medical Center after being admitted for breathing problems.

He is survived by wife Pat, nine children, 29 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.


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