Meritiana - Tagata Atamai

Tagata Atamai


Meritiana Spandow is a Samoan/Dutch wahine who is the Academic Programmes & Tutors Lead at the Centre for Pacific Languages. She is a daughter of two migrations. With a Samoan mother and a Dutch father, Meritiana developed an appreciation for diverse worldviews. Born and raised in Aotearoa, Meritiana is proud of all of her people and the places that made her.

Meritiana grew up in Pōneke (Wellington) where her mother took her along to many cultural events that were significant to the Pacific Islanders' Presbyterian Church. This cultural hub gave Pasifika migrants a place to congregate. There, stories were shared and traditions were preserved by the people who made it their second home. Despite Meritiana having limited Gagana Samoa and missing some of the jokes as a result, she felt that this was a place where she belonged. What she didn’t understand through language, she connected with through observation and participation in sacred cultural practices.

Meritiana’s aiga (family) valued education and they vocalised their aspirations for Meritiana and her brother as soon as they could understand the words. So, Meritiana put her head down and made her way to university. There, she gained a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Teaching and Learning. Later, Meritiana went into alternative education as a tutor. Her interest in enriching Pasifika communities through learning only grew throughout her career.

Today, Meritiana is a driving force behind language reclamation for Tagata Moana. As an Aotearoa-born Samoan who is still on her journey to fluency in Gagana Samoa, she knows the complexities of our identities and experiences personally. Meritiana sees herself as a humble servant to the communities who have given her so much. She has high hopes for the continued reclamation of our languages ensuring that we are a people who are secure in who we are. In order for this goal to be realised, Meritiana believes that learning and tautua (service) must be undertaken with alofa (love). We need to create spaces that are safe for us to be different; to be wrong; to be together.

“O le ala i le pule o le tautua!” The path to leadership is through service.

​Author: Danielle Kionasina Dilys Thomson

For more stories from Tagata Atamai-

Meritiana - Tagata Atamai

“O le ala i le pule o le tautua!” The path to leadership is through service.


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