‘ie tōga

A historic ‘ie tōga gifted to Helen Clark on the occasion of her apology to the people of Samoa challenges us to think about the role of gift giving and of how we commemorate different events.

‘ie tōga (cloth for tōga). Le ageagea o Tumua, 1800s.(external link)

‘ie tōga (cloth for tōga). Le ageagea o Tumua, 1800s. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.


One of New Zealand’s first international acts of the First World War was to capture German Samoa, on behalf of Britain, on 29 August 1914. The occupation itself is remembered as relatively peaceful, but later events resulted in deaths and injustice for many Samoans.

This highly valued, historic ‘ie tōga was gifted to the then Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, on the occasion of her apology to the people of Samoa for events that occurred during New Zealand’s occupation of Samoa. For example, the way that the 1918 influenza epidemic was handled (8,500 Samoans died in the epidemic, which was over one-fifth of the population) and the shooting of eleven Samoans in Apia in 1929. The apology was made during the fortieth anniversary of Samoan Independence, in 2002. Helen Clark presented the people of Samoa with a waka hui to symbolise the relationship of mutual respect.

Key questions

  • What can we observe?
  • What do we already know?
  • How might people view this gift in different ways?

Possible discussion questions

  • What do you know about ‘ie tōga (fine mats)?
  • Do you have taonga in your family that are treasured because of their stories or because someone special has taken care of them before you?
  • Why do you think this gift was given to Helen Clark?
  • Why is it important to apologise after you have done something wrong?
  • Why and how does a country apologise to another country?
  • What is significant about an apology for something that happened long ago?
  • How do you think this apology is perceived in Samoa?
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