Q: Are Polynesian parents too harsh in raising their kids?
A: I think that Polynesian parents are harsh on their kids. Maybe a little of it is not the expectations that are placed on kids in society. What is expected from the youth as far as high school, elementary, and junior high, and college. I think that is something that the Polynesian community is trying to educate the parents, is letting them know that these are the expectations that are expected from your kids, and this is what you can do to help them. At the same time, the harshness comes from not knowing what is expected.
Q: What do you think is the greatest challenge in moving to the states?
A: Cold weather. Another roadblock is the language and cultural difference. I look mainly at parents. Through them everything else is funneled down to the children. If the parents have a good grasp of society and the cultural differences and how to deal with it, their kids will do just fine. If the parents do not have that grasp and don't understand dating or the cultural expectations at school, then their children will struggle. The focus is always back to the parents, and the kids have to understand that.
Q: So you need to have parent classes?
A: Yes, I think that different church groups throughout the valley are doing things for the parents to help educate them. If you have kids in a family, they will always help to educate the parents and let them know that this is how they are doing it and this is what is in, and this is what I need.
Q: I have heard that in the islands the parents were always the authorities, while here the children are now taking on that role.
A: Again, this comes back to the language, and since the kids are taking on the role of being a parent to the parent, that is causing a little bit of the respect that was there for the parents to be lost, because the kids now have to educate mom and dad. If you have a parent that already knows all of this, then the kids will think that mom and dad know what is going on.
Q: What is the best thing that your parents did for you to make you the way you are?
A: I think that the best thing that my parents did for me was giving me independence. They let me think and do things on my own, which is sometimes something that is not done in Polynesian society. You are told what to do and that is what you do, no questions asked. I remember an experience where my family was getting ready to go on a trip and I said to my dad that I wanted to stay home, and that I needed twenty dollars to join a football league. He told me that I was going to come with the family, and that was that.
After talking it over, and egging my mom on a little bit, they decided to give me the twenty dollars and let me stay home and enroll in the football program. To me I thought that was the best thing in the world. I came home with my uniform, walked around the house, and thought that it was great that I did something on my own. Letting me do something like that helped me.
Q: Part of your career was in football, talk about some of the things that you accomplished.
A: I left high school, not on a football scholarship, I left to go to school. I went to Dixie College. While I was there I ran out of money. My brother Steve was playing at Dixie at this time, told me to come out and play football, but I said no, that I was a brainy type of kid. But I did, because I realized there was an opportunity to acquire the finances to meet my needs. I went, tried out, made the team and got a scholarship. From there I graduated, received another scholarship for a University and graduated from there.
There were too many kids at home to even bother to ask parents to help with money. There were eight boys that grew up in the house, six boys plus two uncles. All of us went to school on a football scholarship. You can do the math on that, it is a lot of money that our parents would have had to give out for college.
Q: Did sports also provide a discipline, or did you have most of your discipline at home?
A: Most of my discipline came from home. I myself now, being a coach, you will get a lot of kids at football season who come and go, and they are still the same way, undisciplined. A lot of the learning has to come from home, parents need to provide that discipline. As long as you have a goal in mind, and think about home and the sacrifice that was made at home, that gives you the energy and motivation to go forward.
Q: Talk about the largeness of Polynesian families.
A: Polynesian families are quite large. Everyone will always be referred to as a brother or a sister, uncle, aunt, or cousin. Cousin, is a word that is not in the Tongan vocabulary, so everyone is referred to as a brother or a sister, or a family member.
Q: So you don't really earn the title of auntie?
A: No, women that are as old or older then my mom would be considered my aunt. Anyone that is as old as my father would be considered my uncle.
Q: So you don't have to be related, it is just anyone that can be called your aunt or uncle?
A: In Tongan geneaology, everyone is related. If someone came from Hawaii and asked me if I knew someone I would say "yeah, that's my family, that is my uncle or my aunt, I am related to them." There is always a relation somewhere. There is a literal relationship, then there is the Polynesian relationship of family. I wouldn't know how to explain it, but the term family brings a sense of pride to us.
Q: Is there something you want people to know so they can understand more about the Polynesian community?
A: I think that we as Polynesians are just ordinary families trying to make ends meet. I think that we have a little more of an advantage because there are two worlds that we are living in. One is fun-loving with family togetherness, and the other is one of progression, always moving forward, keeping with the clock, progressing educationally, etc. There are benefits to both. I love it a lot.
Q: Do you think that some regret coming over here because it is so hard to make a living?
A: I think that there are no regrets when families come over. There is always a longing to be back with the beaches and the cookouts. Even though we do some of these things here, I think there is a more relaxed state of mind at home, as opposed to being here where everything is always on the fast track. People are always going back anyway. However, I don't think that I could live there because of the pace that it is at. I like that pace, but after doing it for two weeks I think it would drive me crazy. I am a Utahn.
The Polynesian Gift to Utah is made possible by a generous grant from the R. Harold Burton Foundation.