Samoans often refer to ourselves as people of the sun. In actuality, we are better described as people of the ocean as our ancestors thrived in and on the great Pacific Ocean, settling all of Polynesia well before the first Europeans attempted to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
The Samoan terms Le Vasa generally refer to the great Pacific ocean. However, when you look closer, you can see another more complex meaning. "Le Va Sa" literally translates into "the sacred space between". It is our belief that our ancestors used this term to not only describe the great Pacific Ocean, but much more. To have a space between, you must have a starting point and a destination - our islands. The journey between islands was most certainly life changing, dangerous, and adventurous and so this journey was thought to be revered and sacred. Finally, the connection between our Polynesian islands, people, cultures, and traditions were vitally important so much so that these great seafarers and navigators would risk their lives to maintain these connections. So we have much more than just the ocean - we have our islands, the journey, and connection - all of which are extremely important to our people. Le Vasa's goals are undoubtedly tied to preserving and promoting these tenets.
Le Vasa was established in 2014 and is a locally incorporated non-profit, tax-exempt charitable organization (tax identification number 66-0789512) under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Paula Stevenson-McDonald is a local Samoan businesswoman with over 20 years of experience in the American Samoa private sector. Mrs. McDonald has also been a life-long paddler, starting her outrigger canoe paddling career at the age of 13, amassing nearly 30 years of experience. Mrs. McDonald has raced competitively in American Samoa, Samoa, Fiji, Cook Islands, Hawaii, California, Arizona, and New York. Through her love of the sport and the ocean, and a strong desire to give back to her local community, Mrs. McDonald inspired the creation of Le Vasa.
Mrs. Stevenson-McDonald obtained her Bachelors of Science degree in Biology from Oregon University.
Michael McDonald is a local Samoan businessman with over 20 years of experience in the insurance & financial services industry and more recently has added economic and project development in underserved communities to his span of experience. Mr. McDonald grew up on the beaches of Utulei village, developing a love for these beaches and all that the ocean has to offer.
Mr. McDonald obtained his Bachelors of Science degree in Biochemistry & Cell Biology from UC San Diego and his MBA from Arizona State University.
Peter Gurr is a local Samoan business man and public servant, having served the American Samoan community as the Deputy Director of the Department of Agriculture from 1993-2017. Having recently retired from public service, Mr. Gurr has returned to his own farms full time and continues his public service by pursuing opportunities to support local farmers, fishermen, and people in general.
Mr. Gurr and his wife Donna also own and operate Island Flowers by Liana in Fagaalu, American Samoa.
Peter Taliva'a is a local Samoan 'waterman' and entrepreneur. Peter is a veteran of the US Army, a boat captain, a certified commercial diver, a tour guide (for his own business), and an expert in all matters related to the ocean. Peter is also a high chief from his home village of Leloaloa, and a champion for conservation of his wife Tali's home village of Aunu'u where they live.