The Matai are the chiefs of the Samoans. The matai are responsible for maintaining the respect, traditions, and administration of the village.
The matai are the crown of Samoa and more importantly Fa'a Samoa. At the time of European contact there was mixed opinions about from the foreign visitors as there often is mixed opinions about all people different from each other.
Tui Manu'a held the highest rank within the matai system of Samoa. Overtime the titles of Tuimanu'a, Tuia'ana and Tuiatua were all held in high regard.
With the Samoa Tuna, Fata and Ulumasui, Samoa regained independence from Tui Tonga which is the ogin of the Malietoa title.
After Salamasina, four high titles combined nameed papa. Individually the four titles include Gao'aitele, Tamasoali'i, Tuia'ana, and Tiuiatua.
Salamasina was the first person to hold all four titles, she, and all other people who hold all four titles of the papa are known as Tafa'ifa
The matai system in Samoa reflects a sophisticated system developed over time at which Samoans established a hierarchy in the society. Some of the items associated with Samoan matai are the fue and to'o to'o which represent the value of the Tula Fale (talking chiefs) , oratory and oral traditions present among matai. Oral communication was the standard in Polynesia without a formal writing system and the Lauga (Samoan oratory) is an example of the complex deveolpment of oral tradition in the Samoan culture.
There are two categories of matai:
The Ali'i who are the high chiefs of the county, village, and family.
The Tulafale who are talking chiefs for the county, village, and/or his family.
The Samoan Matai and the matai system account for strict policies of ownership of land in Amerika Samoa and Samoa, this attributes to 90% or more of land in all of Samoa to be owned by people of Samoan descent.
Another thing special about the Samoan matai system is that at its foundations is the very heart of fa'a Samoa, the Aiga , the family. The matai has a responsibility to their family, their village (which may be defined as an area with extended families living close together), district and their people.
The connection of people for their matai extended past having pride in a someone above them in status but also included a pride that one feels about their own family member.