Falakika Seilala

Modern map of ‘Uvea which Falakika Seilala ruled over. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

By Holly Marsden

Falakika Seilala was born in the 19th century. She was queen of the Polynesian kingdom `Uvea, or Wallis Island, and ruled in the Third Takumasiva Dynasty, which began in 1820 and continues today. Seilalala inherited the throne from her brother, King Soane Patita Vaimu’a.

Seilala reigned from 1858 -1869 and was the second queen of `Uvea. Previously, `Uvea had only been reigned by a king, or lavelua. The term ‘queen’ was specifically adopted for Seilala as her female predecessor, Toifale, was also referred to as lavelua despite her gender.

This was because Toifale ruled `Uvea prior to European intervention. Samuel Wallis had seen `Uvea in 1767, giving the island a European name. French Roman Catholic missionaries then colonised `Uvea under Seilala’s father in 1837. The island remains predominantly Catholic today.

Despite only having one female ruler prior to Seilala, women held prominent political positions in `Uvea and it’s neighbouring Pacific countries. Prior to European colonisation, Polynesia regarded women as pillars of their communities, exercising leadership in various positions.

Falakika Seilala was succeeded by her niece, Amelia Tokagahahau Aliki in 1869. In 1877 Aliki signed a treaty declaring `Uvea as a kingdom of France. Colonial pressures had been building throughout Queen Seilala’s reign, but she passed away before addressing it formally.

Recommended Reading

Christophe Sand, “A View from the West: Samoa in the Culture History of ‘Uvea (Wallis) and Futuna (Western Polynesia),” The Journal of Sāmoa Studies 2 (2015): 5–15

Elise Huffer, “A desk review of the factors which enable and constrain the advancement of women’s political representation in Forum Island countries,” in A Woman’s Place is in the House – the House of Parliament: Research to Advance Women’s Political Representation in Forum Island Countries, A Regional Study Presented in Five Reports, 1-56. Suva, Fiji: Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, 2006.

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