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My main objective for this paper is to explore how tattoos can have a big impact on the Samoan tribe. The overreaching inquiries of this research resemble questions posed in a tattoo research project in the Samoan environment: How does a tattoo have such a significant meaning to the people of the Samoan tribe? In what way does it reflect both their faith and culture? Researching these questions will help us better understand the connection of a tattoo to an individual of the Samoan tribe.

I will be opening my research paper with words from “Samoan Art in the Tatau (Tattoo)”, which describe the significance of tattooed men and women in the tribe Samoan and the significance behind a tattoo. Historically the art of tattooing has been around for centuries, many ancient people used the art of tattooing as a form of scarification, while others used this art form as a way to proceed with religious rituals. There has been controversy about whether getting a tattoo has any importance or has any meaning in getting one. There are many questions and yet we have few answers. However, the importance and meaning behind why an individual wants a tattoo or not can only be truly answered by them. For many of the beholders, it’s a way to express their personal style, nationality, or a form of showing respect for one’s religion; however, history does show that one of the main reasons an individual would get a tattoo in the old days would be simply due to medical reasons. Perhaps that was often a choice for many individuals who sought medical treatment, while others wanted to express themselves. However for the people of Samoa islands getting tattoos represents their own community, power, status, respect, honor, and pride, in being a Samoan (U.S. National Park, 2019). To be able to get a Samoan tattoo, the person must be Samoan because a rich and delicate tattoo holds a strong meaning behind the art and the person who wears it. For those who are not born in Samoa and show no signs of heritage getting a Samoan tattoo is a sign of disrespect towards their culture and religion.

The research I will be conducting will help people understand the rich history, and the culture of the Samoan people, and divide increased values, as well as the impact a tattoo holds within the people of Samoa island. Hopefully, this will then help us better understand the Samoan people and their younger generations’ perspective on the meaning behind a tattoo.

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The underlying research and history are an important part of understanding a culture that has been studied for years. For the people of Sāmoa tatau (tattoos) is a lifestyle. Art represents one’s life and the pain process that an individual goes through when getting a tattoo. Archaeologists state that the practice of tā tatau came to the island of Sāmoa 3000(cite) years ago. Historically, the origins of word “Tattoo,” originally comes from the Samoan word ”Tatau,” which originated from the Polynesian language, Meanwhile, the word tatau originates from the tapping sound the tool makes during the process of getting a tattoo. (cite) Ancient Samoans took tattooing seriously because it played an important role in both religious rituals and warfare. In the tradition of applying a tattoo, or tatau, in the Samoan culture, by hand, the person must have a rank and title, such as a chief and their assistants, that come from a notable family in a proper birth order (U.S National Park, 2019). In younger chiefs, they must go through a traditional tattooing ceremony that takes place during the onset of puberty where they take the role of leadership. Enduring the pain upon getting a tattoo is a way to celebrate their endurance and most of all their dedication to the culture’s traditions.

The origins of where the Samoan tatau comes from are still quite a mystery even today. However, it’s been said that it was first introduced to the Samoa island by Fiji women, who came to the island with tools and knowledge of tattooing. (Cite) Ever since tatau has become part of the Samoan culture, tradition, and history it has spread among families and friends. It’s been studied that the first people that came into contact with the Samoan people were Europeans, during their French expedition in 1787 (Cite). The travelers stated that upon taking a closer look at the natives, reporting that “the men have their thighs painted or tattooed in a way that someone would think that they are clothed, they are naked” (U.S. National Park, 2019).

The research I’m conducting will allow me to understand the culture of tattooing in the Samoan island which has been studied by many anthropologists. A way that I will be studying this subject is by traveling to Polynesia for five months and five months in Samoa. The reason I chose those two main countries is due to their history, background, and culture. People of all ages with different backgrounds can help me understand, why a tattoo can have such a big impact on their life. While I’m living in these two field sites, I will be observant of the people around me, interview them, and learn the types of tools and methods that are used to begin the process of tattooing. I will be getting a better insight into the Samoan culture and their people.

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