The Matai are the chiefs of the Sāmoans. The matai are responsible for maintaining the respect, traditions, and administration of the village.
The matai are the crown of Sāmoa and more importantly faʻa Sāmoa. 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 Manuʻa held the highest rank within the matai system of Sāmoa. Overtime the titles of Tui Manuʻa, Tuiaʻana and Tuiatua were all held in high regard.
With the Sāmoa Tuna, Fata and Ulumasui, Sāmoa 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 Gaoʻaitele, Tamasoaliʻi, Tuiaʻana, and Tuiatua.
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 Tafaʻifa
The matai system in Sāmoa reflects a sophisticated system developed over time at which Sāmoans established a hierarchy in the society. Some of the items associated with Sāmoan 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 (Sāmoan oratory) is an example of the complex deveolpment of oral tradition in the Sāmoan culture.
There are two categories of matai:
The Aliʻi 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 Sāmoan Matai and the matai system account for strict policies of ownership of land in Amerika Sāmoa and Sāmoa, this attributes to the majority of land in all of Sāmoa to be owned by people of Sāmoan descent (as of the beginning of the 21st century).
Another thing special about the Sāmoan matai system is that at its foundations is the very heart of faʻa Sāmoa, the ʻāiga, 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.