Tongan Culture

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Ofaanga Talanoa

The author's cousins dressed in traditional Tongan clothing for church.

Ofa Talanoa, Staff Writer

In Tongan culture many women still weave mats, and some adults still wear ta’ovala and braid kiekie for young girls to wear for church and formal wear. Ta’ovala and kiekie are both sort of like a skirt, and they are woven from tree leaves. The women usually take care of the children, while the men plant crops and fish. Clothing-wise, women avoid short skirts and low neckline blouses. According to the Tongan newspaper Skye Writer, everything on the island is closed on Sunday except for the hospitals and church buildings because it’s against the law for businesses to be open.  The people of Tonga speak both Tongan and English. The Tongan language consists of three different dialects; one for talking to the king,one for the nobles, and one for the people.

Vasiti Tausisi, a teen visiting from Tonga, expressed her views about the Tongan Cultures and stated, “The Tongan culture is all about the respect and hospitality toward everyone. We are very much family-oriented. I love how everyone is friendly, like at school you’re never alone because you’re friends with everyone even if you just met.” Colt Roundup asked her how other cultures view her and she replied ,“Well, some people view it as beautiful. They have that appreciation for the island and the cultural beliefs, but on the other hand, I’ve met people that whenever they hear ‘Tongan’ they automatically think we’re part of a gang.”

Colt Roundup also interviewed Tupou Tausisi, who now lives in Utah but moved here from the island of Tonga about 20 years ago. She explained how the culture shaped her life and made her who she is right now. She said, “I wish everyone grew up on the island, so that they see how good it is. I wouldn’t be where I was today if it wasn’t for my parents enforcing the cultural ways on me.” She explained that the major difference between the island and America is that Tonga is built on spiritual beliefs and principles, whereas in the U.S. we’re taught to think only as individuals. In the islands, children were taught to always think as a whole and to contribute to the community.    

Colt Roundup interviewed Tongan Petilisa Tausisi.  She said, “What I appreciate the most about the Tongan culture is that everyone respects each other.” She added, “There are many differences like the sports. Girls play basketball where it only consists of girls, and boys play rugby. Relating toward respect, brothers and sisters can’t watch movies together and they can’t sit in the same chair. Kids are not allowed to eat from their father’s plate nor touch their dad’s head, eating while standing is very disrespectful and that’s just the basics.”

Many Tongans have maintained parts of their ancient culture, and Tongans seem to agree that community and respect are integral parts of their heritage.