Paramount Chief Letuli Olo Misilagi of Pago Pago, American Samoa, a former territorial senator, businessman, entertainer and father of the fire knife dance, died July 22 at a hospital in Honolulu. He was 84.
He began dancing in 1934, when he was 15. He was the first Samoan to order tap dance shoes from the Sears catalog. The order was accompanied by an instruction booklet from Fred Astaire and a board, and he practiced so often that friends started to call him Freddie.
Letuli was instrumental in organizing American Samoa’s first World Fire Knife Competition, held two months ago. The organizers, the Flaming Sword of Samoa Assn., paid tribute to Letuli and honored his contribution to the art of fire knife dancing.
He also appeared in several Hollywood movies.
Most people referred to him as Olo, the “high talking chief” from the village of Leone, a post he held for 37 years.
In 2001, he was given the “paramount chief” title of Letuli, one of five paramount chief titles in American Samoa.
He was known as High Talking Chief Olo of Leone when he had a four-year term as the village senator in 1977 and was re-selected to the Samoan Senate in 1993.
In 1983, Olo Letuli became an associate judge on the High Court of the territory, serving for 7½ years.
Survivors include his wife, three sons, six daughters, two sisters, 28 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.