Eni Faleomavaega, who served 13 terms as delegate from American Samoa, dies at 73
House Speaker John Boehner, second left, of Ohio participates in a ceremonial House swearing-in ceremony for Del. Eni H. Faleomavaega, third from right, D-American Samoa, on Capitol Hill in 2011. (Susan Walsh/AP)
Eni H. Faleomavaega, American Samoa’s longest serving non-voting delegate to the U.S House of Representatives, died Feb. 22 at his home in Provo, Utah. He was 73.
A sister-in-law, Therese Hunkin, confirmed the death but did not disclose the cause.
The House delegate for American Samoa, which is a U.S. territory about 2,300 miles south of Hawaii, can vote in committee but not on the House floor.
Mr. Faleomavaega, a Democrat, became a congressional delegate in 1989 and held the position for 13 consecutive terms.
He began his political career in 1973 as an administrative assistant to Paramount Chief A.U. Fuimaono, the territory’s first elected representative to Washington. He served as staff counsel to the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs from 1975 to 1981 before returning to American Samoa as its deputy attorney general.
In 1985, he was elected lieutenant governor and became a congressional delegate in 1989.
He was a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where he was a ranking member of the subcommittee on Asia, and the House Committee on Natural Resources.
In 1996, Mr. Faleomavaega participated in a boycott of an address before a joint session of Congress by French President Jacques Chirac. Just days before Chirac’s speech, France conducted a series of nuclear tests at the Moruroa and Fangatauga atolls in the South Pacific, despite worldwide protests.
He was born Eni Hunkin in Vailoatai Village, American Samoa, on Aug. 15, 194. He graduated from Kahuku High School in Hawaii in 1962, then earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from Utah’s Brigham Young University in 1966.
After serving three years in the Army with a stint in Vietnam, he received a law degree from the University of Houston in 1972 and a master of laws degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1973.
During his time in the House, Mr. Faleomavaega was challenged over the use of his surname, which is a Matai orator title bestowed upon him by the Faiivae family, of Leone, when he was known as Eni Hunkin. “Faleomavaega” is the Samoan chieftain title of the family.
High Chief Faiivae Apelu Galeais, who lost an election to Mr. Faleomavaega, asked the High Court of American Samoa in 1997 to strip the delegate of his title. Galeais, the leader of the family clan, said Mr. Faleomavaega did not attend family and village meetings and did not contribute to their functions.
Mr. Faleomavaega dismissed the complaint as “vindictive.”
Mr. Faleomavaega was unseated in 2014 by Republican Aumua Amata Radewagen.
Survivors include his wife, Hinanui Hunkin; five children and 10 grandchildren.