Saturday, May 16, 2009

An Explanation of the Tongan Presence in Utah

I've found an excellent article which explains the reasons behind the presence of the Tongan's in Utah. I will post an excerpt bellow and a link. Basically they are here because their ancestors answered the call to "gather to Zion" as many of my own ancestors did.

The explanation of my husbands presence in Utah is the same and different from the reasons given in the article.

In 1995, during an early morning jog with my neighbor Senita, I learned that a group of her cousins were coming here soon from her island. Tonga at this time was still a vague idea to me.

She mentioned also that one of her cousins named Samuel after her father might be coming as well. At that moment I imagined him in Tonga, amongst the palm trees, in the lush vegetation and swimming in the ocean. The thought occurred to me, what would he think about me if I went over there to meet him, it turns out that he came to me.

Several months later I went up to the airport with them to pick up the cousins. A group of about six guys got into the back of their suburban, I could sense the essence of their foreignness. Their clothing hung loosely on there muscular frames, they wore sandles on their feet, and they had put gel in their hair which I could smell as I sat facing forward in the back seat.

On the way home from the airport, I listened to their thick Tongan speech. They made exclamations over things, one of which I noticed was when we passed a game of basketball being played.

At some point during the drive I felt tugs on my long blond hair, I turned around quickly and they all sat with innocent looks on their faces. I turned back around and could hear their nervous laughter and teasing tones in their voices.

I later learned that my husband was the one tugging at my hair, because he couldn't believe that my long blond hair was for real. :D

The explanation for their presance here is that they had come to work for their uncle, as concrete laborers.

This is what Sam has done ever since I have known him, he studied the people he worked for and has become very good at it.

He completed renovations on an airport down in Carbon County, Price, last year. However stubborness, the Tongan tendancy to trust word alone, a general inability to keep track of expenses, and the failure to get a contract (despite my repeated warnings) has led us into financial ruin.

With the down turn in the economy, there has been little call for concrete work. Trying to think of another natural interest of Sam's I thought of Personal Training as a career path and investigated that.

He is doing well in his classes despite the language barrier, and I hope that it will be a better choice of career for our family. There are many benefits that come along with working at the gym, besides for the gym pass. :D

He can eventually work for a sports team, or he can help train the police, or he can go into physical therapy, or he can go on for other training to perhaps become a police officer like he has always wanted to be.

There ya' go... a bit of personal history, as well as history of Tongans in Utah.

South Sea Islanders In Utah

Though Polynesian immigration to Utah is primarily a twentieth-century phenomenon that started after World War II with the arrival of a few Tongan and Samoan families, emigration from Polynesia to Utah actually began three-quarters of a century earlier. Mormon proselytizing in the Pacific started in Tahiti in 1844, three years before the first Mormon pioneers reached the Great Salt Lake Valley, and soon expanded to other Polynesian islands. Like their American and European counterparts, these converts from the Pacific islands wanted to join with other Mormons in building Zion. Often arriving with returning missionaries, they came a few at a time, beginning in about 1875. Marked cultural differences inhibited their integration with other Utah Mormons, prompting the LDS Church to purchase land to provide them with a specific gathering place. On 28 August 1889 a company of between fifty and seventy-five Polynesians, mostly Hawaiians, founded their own unique Mormon colony on the 1,200-acre Quincy Ranch located in hot and dry Skull Valley, twenty miles southeast of the Great Salt Lake. There they settled, naming their community Iosepa, meaning Joseph, after Joseph F. Smith, an early Mormon missionary and church leader in Hawaii, and later a president of the Mormon Church.

The townsite of Iosepa was surveyed, land grants were made to each family, and the colonists built homes, public facilities, and even their own aqueduct and irrigation system. Poplar and cottonwood lined the streets. Ponds were constructed where carp and trout were raised, and experiments were conducted with growing seaweed and other traditional products that were absent from this new desert environment. The residents raised livestock and farmed, and eventually cultivated nearly 1,000 acres. The population grew, supplemented by occasional immigrants from Polynesia. But the necessary hard work, exposure, and even a bout of leprosy resulted in a high mortality rate that kept the population at just over 200. In 1915 plans were announced to build a Mormon temple in Laie, Hawaii, and Mormon church leaders subsequently encouraged the Polynesians to return to their Pacific homelands.

Perhaps Utah's Polynesians could be better understood by classifying them in two general categories. One comprises those "more westernized" cultures--the Hawaiians, Maoris, and Tahitians--which historically experienced earlier and more intensive contact with European cultures. The other category includes those "less westernized" cultures, such as the Tongans and the Samoans, which experienced less and later intervention from the outside. In twentieth-century Utah, these historical differences have resulted in two very different experiences in terms of assimilation, acculturation, and the maintenance of cultural tradition.

1 comment:

Star said...

I really enjoyed reading all that about the Tongans in Utah. I had no idea there were people of that culture there. I am sorry to hear about your financial difficulties. I know from person experience, how culture affects a relationship and so will pray for you and your family, that things will pick up in the economy soon.
Loved the music too.
Blessings, Star