A visit from far away

Samoan ambassador to soak in local culture, communities

The ambassador from the Independent State of Samoa is expected to arrive today for a visit to the area.

Acting on an invitation from the Ute Mountain Ute Casino, Aliioaiga Feturi Elisaia is visiting the Four Corners area to study local culture and communities that thrive in an arid climate.

“The main reason he’s coming is to learn of Native American Culture and how we survive in the desert,” said Leroy Lasaialii Mariner, assistant to the ambassador.

The trip could be a prelude to other visits from other dignitaries — including the prime minister — from the Pacific island nation on the way to United Nations meetings, Mariner said.

“Our goal is to bring more world leaders to our small town,” he said.

During his visit, Elisaia is expected to visit with the local Republican party, Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Council, as well as local residents in Towaoc, Shiprock, Durango and Cortez.

“We have a rich heritage,” said Kevin Hatch, assistant general manager for the casino. “We’ll always try to put our best foot forward so the ambassador can learn from our culture and our tribe.”

For entertainment, the ambassador is expected to attend traditional Native American dances, and Saturday night’s King of the Cage mixed martial arts fights.

Scheduled events include a dinner with local Republicans 6 p.m. tonight at the casino, a flag ceremony at 7:30 a.m. Friday morning, a visit with tribal government 9 a.m. Friday at the Ute Mountain Tribal Complex, to be followed by a tour of Towaoc.

All events are open to the public including the dinner tonight, which is $15 per person to attend.

From 2 to 5 p.m. Friday, the ambassador is expected to meet with business owners in Cortez. Later, at 6 p.m. that evening at the casino, Elisaia is expected to attend traditional dances at the casino, which will feature free food and entertainment.

Formerly known as Western Samoa, the Independent State of Samoa is separate from American Samoa. The people there gained independence from New Zealand in 1962 through a non-violent movement. The nation celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence this year.

Reach Reid Wright at reidw@cortezjournal.com