Samoa Basic Facts - History

Samoa Basic Facts - History

Population mid-2009...........................................219,000
GDP per capita 2008 (P.P.P, US$)........... 4,900
GDP 2008 (PPP, US$ billions)................ 1,057 Unemployment..................................................................
Total Area...................................................................1,104 sq. mi.
Poverty (% of population below national poverty line)...... 26
Urban population (% of total population) ........................ 21

Median Age.............................................................20.8

History of Samoa

The Samoan Islands were first settled some 3,500 years ago as part of the Austronesian expansion. Both Samoa's early history and its more recent history are strongly connected to the histories of Tonga and Fiji, nearby islands with which Samoa has long had genealogical links as well as shared cultural traditions.

European explorers first reached the Samoan islands in the early 18th century. In 1768, Louis-Antoine de Bougainville named them the Navigator Islands. The United States Exploring Expedition (1838–42), led by Charles Wilkes, reached Samoa in 1839. In 1855, J.C. Godeffroy & Sohn expanded its trading business into the Samoan archipelago. The first Samoan Civil War (1886-1894) led to the so-called Samoan crisis, a struggle between Western powers for control of the area. This in turn led to the Second Samoan Civil War (1898-1899), which was resolved by the Tripartite Convention, in which the United States, Great Britain and Germany agreed to partition the islands into German Samoa and American Samoa.

After World War I, New Zealand took over the administration of what had been German Samoa, and the area was renamed the Western Samoa Trust Territory. This area became independent in 1962 and was renamed Samoa. American Samoa remains an unincorporated territory of the United States.


Early Samoa Edit

Samoa was discovered and settled by the Samoans’ Lapita ancestors (Austronesian people who spoke Oceanic languages). New Zealand scientists have dated the earliest human remains found in Samoa to between roughly 2900 and 3500 years ago. The remains were discovered at a Lapita site at Mulifanua, and the scientists’ findings were published in 1974. [11] The Samoans’ origins have been studied in modern times through scientific research on Polynesian genetics, linguistics and anthropology. Although this research is ongoing, a number of theories have been proposed. One theory is that the original Samoans were Austronesians who arrived during a final period of eastward expansion of the Lapita peoples out of Southeast Asia and Melanesia between 2,500 and 1,500 BCE. [12]

Intimate sociocultural and genetic ties were maintained between Samoa, Fiji, and Tonga, and the archaeological record supports oral tradition and native genealogies that indicate inter-island voyaging and intermarriage between pre-colonial Samoans, Fijians, and Tongans. Notable figures in Samoan history included the Tui Manu'a line, Queen Salamasina, King Fonoti and the four tama-a-aiga: Malietoa, Tupua Tamasese, Mata'afa and Tuimalealiifano. Nafanua was a famous woman warrior who was deified in ancient Samoan religion and whose patronage was highly sought after by successive Samoan rulers. [13]

Today, all of Samoa is united under its two principal royal families: the Sā Malietoa of the ancient Malietoa lineage that defeated the Tongans in the 13th century and the Sā Tupua, Queen Salamasina's descendants and heirs who ruled Samoa in the centuries that followed her reign. Within these two principal lineages are the four highest titles of Samoa - the elder titles of Malietoa and Tupua Tamasese of antiquity as well as the newer Mata'afa and Tuimalealiifano titles who rose to prominence in 19th century wars that preceded the colonial period. [13] These four titles form the apex of the Samoan matai system as it stands today.

Contact with Europeans began in the early 18th century. Jacob Roggeveen, a Dutchman, was the first known non-Polynesian to sight the Samoan islands in 1722. This visit was followed by French explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, who named them the Navigator Islands in 1768. Contact was limited before the 1830s, which is when English missionaries, whalers and traders began arriving. [14]

Samoa in the 1800s Edit

Visits by American trading and whaling vessels were important in the early economic development of Samoa. The Salem brig Roscoe (Captain Benjamin Vanderford), in October 1821, was the first American trading vessel known to have called, and the Maro (Captain Richard Macy) of Nantucket, in 1824, was the first recorded United States whaler at Samoa. [15] The whalers came for fresh drinking water, firewood and provisions, and later, they recruited local men to serve as crewmen on their ships. The last recorded whaler visitor was the Governor Morton in 1870. [16]

Christian missionary work in Samoa began in 1830 when John Williams of the London Missionary Society arrived in Sapapali'i from the Cook Islands and Tahiti. [17] According to Barbara A. West, "The Samoans were also known to engage in ‘headhunting', a ritual of war in which a warrior took the head of his slain opponent to give to his leader, thus proving his bravery." [18]

In A Footnote to History: Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa (1892) Robert Louis Stevenson, details the activities of the great powers battling for influence in Samoa – the United States, Germany and Britain – and the political machinations of the various Samoan factions within their indigenous political system. [19] [20] Even as they descended into ever greater interclan warfare, what most alarmed Stevenson was the Samoans' economic innocence. In 1894 just months before his death, he addressed the island chiefs:

There is but one way to defend Samoa. Hear it before it is too late. It is to make roads, and gardens, and care for your trees, and sell their produce wisely, and, in one word, to occupy and use your country. if you do not occupy and use your country, others will. It will not continue to be yours or your children’s, if you occupy it for nothing. You and your children will in that case be cast out into outer darkness".

He had "seen these judgments of God," in Hawaii where abandoned native churches stood like tombstones "over a grave, in the midst of the white men’s sugar fields". [21]

The Germans, in particular, began to show great commercial interest in the Samoan Islands, especially on the island of Upolu, where German firms monopolised copra and cocoa bean processing. The United States laid its own claim, based on commercial shipping interests in Pearl River in Hawaii and Pago Pago Bay in Eastern Samoa, and forced alliances, most conspicuously on the islands of Tutuila and Manu'a which became American Samoa.

Britain also sent troops to protect British business enterprise, harbour rights, and consulate office. This was followed by an eight-year civil war, during which each of the three powers supplied arms, training and in some cases combat troops to the warring Samoan parties. The Samoan crisis came to a critical juncture in March 1889 when all three colonial contenders sent warships into Apia harbour, and a larger-scale war seemed imminent. A massive storm on 15 March 1889 damaged or destroyed the warships, ending the military conflict. [22]

The Second Samoan Civil War reached a head in 1898 when Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States were locked in dispute over who should control the Samoan Islands. The Siege of Apia occurred in March 1899. Samoan forces loyal to Prince Tanu were besieged by a larger force of Samoan rebels loyal to Mata'afa Iosefo. Supporting Prince Tanu were landing parties from four British and American warships. After several days of fighting, the Samoan rebels were finally defeated. [23]

American and British warships shelled Apia on 15 March 1899, including the USS Philadelphia. Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States quickly resolved to end the hostilities and divided the island chain at the Tripartite Convention of 1899, signed at Washington on 2 December 1899 with ratifications exchanged on 16 February 1900. [24]

The eastern island-group became a territory of the United States (the Tutuila Islands in 1900 and officially Manu'a in 1904) and was known as American Samoa. The western islands, by far the greater landmass, became German Samoa. The United Kingdom had vacated all claims in Samoa and in return received (1) termination of German rights in Tonga, (2) all of the Solomon Islands south of Bougainville, and (3) territorial alignments in West Africa. [25]

German Samoa (1900–1914) Edit

The German Empire governed the western part of the Samoan archipelago from 1900 to 1914. Wilhelm Solf was appointed the colony's first governor. In 1908, when the non-violent Mau a Pule resistance movement arose, Solf did not hesitate to banish the Mau leader Lauaki Namulau'ulu Mamoe to Saipan in the German Northern Mariana Islands. [26]

The German colonial administration governed on the principle that "there was only one government in the islands." [27] Thus, there was no Samoan Tupu (king), nor an alii sili (similar to a governor), but two Fautua (advisors) were appointed by the colonial government. Tumua and Pule (traditional governments of Upolu and Savai'i) were for a time silent all decisions on matters affecting lands and titles were under the control of the colonial Governor.

In the first month of World War I, on 29 August 1914, troops of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force landed unopposed on Upolu and seized control from the German authorities, following a request by Great Britain for New Zealand to perform this "great and urgent imperial service." [28]

New Zealand rule (1914–1962) Edit

From the end of World War I until 1962, New Zealand controlled Western Samoa as a Class C Mandate under trusteeship through the League of Nations, [29] then through the United Nations. Between 1919 and 1962, Samoa was administered by the Department of External Affairs, a government department which had been specially created to oversee New Zealand's Island Territories and Samoa. [30] In 1943, this Department was renamed the Department of Island Territories after a separate Department of External Affairs was created to conduct New Zealand's foreign affairs. [31] During the period of New Zealand control, their administrators were responsible for two major incidents.

Flu pandemic Edit

In the first incident, approximately one fifth of the Samoan population died in the influenza epidemic of 1918–1919. [32]

In 1918, during the final stages of World War I, the Spanish flu had taken its toll, spreading rapidly from country to country. On Samoa, there had been no epidemic of pneumonic influenza in Western Samoa before the arrival of the SS Talune from Auckland on 7 November 1918. The NZ administration allowed the ship to berth in breach of quarantine within seven days of this ship's arrival, influenza became epidemic in Upolu and then spread rapidly throughout the rest of the territory. [33] Samoa suffered the most of all Pacific islands, with 90% of the population infected 30% of adult men, 22% of adult women and 10% of children died. The cause of the epidemic was confirmed in 1919 by a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Epidemic concluded that there had been no epidemic of pneumonic influenza in Western Samoa before the arrival of the Talune from Auckland on 7 November 1918. [33]

Mau movement Edit

The second major incident arose out of an initially peaceful protest by the Mau (which literally translates as "strongly held opinion"), a non-violent popular movement which had its beginnings in the early 1900s on Savai'i, led by Lauaki Namulauulu Mamoe, an orator chief deposed by Solf. In 1909, Lauaki was exiled to Saipan and died en route back to Samoa in 1915.

By 1918, Western Samoa had a population of some 38,000 Samoans and 1,500 Europeans. [34]

However, native Samoans greatly resented New Zealand's colonial rule, and blamed inflation and the catastrophic 1918 flu epidemic on its misrule. [35] By the late 1920s the resistance movement against colonial rule had gathered widespread support. One of the Mau leaders was Olaf Frederick Nelson, a half Samoan and half Swedish merchant. [36] Nelson was eventually exiled during the late 1920s and early 1930s, but he continued to assist the organisation financially and politically. In accordance with the Mau's non-violent philosophy, the newly elected leader, High Chief Tupua Tamasese Lealofi, led his fellow uniformed Mau in a peaceful demonstration in downtown Apia on 28 December 1929. [37]

The New Zealand police attempted to arrest one of the leaders in the demonstration. When he resisted, a struggle developed between the police and the Mau. The officers began to fire randomly into the crowd and a Lewis machine gun, mounted in preparation for this demonstration, was used to disperse the demonstrators. [38] Mau leader and paramount chief Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III was shot from behind and killed while trying to bring calm and order to the Mau demonstrators. Ten others died that day and approximately 50 were injured by gunshot wounds and police batons. [39] That day would come to be known in Samoa as Black Saturday. The Mau grew, remaining steadfastly non-violent, and expanded to include the highly influential women's branch.

Independence (1962) Edit

After repeated efforts by the Samoan independence movement, the New Zealand Western Samoa Act 1961 of 24 November 1961 granted Samoa independence, effective on 1 January 1962, upon which the Trusteeship Agreement terminated. [40] [41] Samoa also signed a friendship treaty with New Zealand. Samoa, the first small-island country in the Pacific to become independent, joined the Commonwealth of Nations on 28 August 1970. While independence was achieved at the beginning of January, Samoa annually celebrates 1 June as its independence day. [42] [43]

Travel writer Paul Theroux noted marked differences between the societies in Western Samoa and American Samoa in 1992. [44]

In 2002, New Zealand's prime minister Helen Clark formally apologised for New Zealand's role in Spanish Influenza outbreak in 1918 that killed over a quarter of Samoa's population and for the Black Saturday killings in 1929. [45] [46]

1997 name change Edit

On 4 July 1997 the government amended the constitution to change the country's name from Western Samoa to Samoa. [47] However, in the United Nations, the country's name had always been Samoa. [48] American Samoa protested against the move, asserting that the change diminished its own identity. [48]

21st century Edit

On 7 September 2009, the government changed the rule of the road, from right to left, in common with most other Commonwealth countries, most notably countries in the region such as Australia and New Zealand, home to large numbers of Samoans. [49] This made Samoa the first country in the 21st century to switch to driving on the left. [50]

At the end of December 2011, Samoa changed its time zone offset from UTC−11 to UTC+13, effectively jumping forward by one day, omitting Friday, 30 December from the local calendar. This also had the effect of changing the shape of the International Date Line, moving it to the east of the territory. [51] This change aimed to help the nation boost its economy in doing business with Australia and New Zealand. Before this change, Samoa was 21 hours behind Sydney, but the change means it is now three hours ahead. The previous time zone, implemented on 4 July 1892, operated in line with American traders based in California. [52]

In June 2017, Parliament established an amendment to Article 1 of the Samoan Constitution, thereby making Christianity the state religion. [2] [54]

In May 2021, Fiame Naomi Mataʻafa is due to become Samoa's first female prime minister. Mataʻafa's FAST party narrowly won the election, ending the rule of long-term Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, [55] although the constitutional crisis complicates this. On 24 May 2021, she was sworn in as the new prime minister. [56]

The 1960 constitution, which formally came into force with independence from New Zealand in 1962, builds on the British pattern of parliamentary democracy, modified to take account of Samoan customs. [57] The national modern Government of Samoa is referred to as the Malo.

Fiame Mata'afa Faumuina Mulinu'u II, one of the four highest-ranking paramount chiefs in the country, became Samoa's first Prime Minister. Two other paramount chiefs at the time of independence were appointed joint heads of state for life. Tupua Tamasese Mea'ole died in 1963, leaving Malietoa Tanumafili II sole head of state until his death on 11 May 2007. The next Head of State was Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, was elected by the legislature on 17 June 2007 for a fixed five-year term, [58] and was re-elected unopposed in July 2012. He was succeeded by Tuimalealiifano Va'aletoa Sualauvi II in 2017.

The unicameral legislature (the Fono) consists of 51 members serving 5-year terms. Forty-nine are matai title-holders elected from territorial districts by Samoans the other two are chosen by non-Samoans with no chiefly affiliation on separate electoral rolls. At least, 10% of the MPs are women. [59] Universal suffrage was adopted in 1990, but only chiefs (matai) may stand for election to the Samoan seats. There are more than 25,000 matais in the country, about 5% of whom are women. [60] The prime minister, chosen by a majority in the Fono, is appointed by the head of state to form a government. The prime minister's choices for the 12 cabinet positions are appointed by the head of state, subject to the continuing confidence of the Fono.

Prominent women in Samoan politics include the late Laulu Fetauimalemau Mata'afa (1928–2007) from Lotofaga constituency, the wife of Samoa's first prime minister. Their daughter Fiame Naomi Mataʻafa is a high chief and a long-serving senior member of cabinet. Other women in politics include Samoan scholar and eminent professor Aiono Fanaafi Le Tagaloa, orator-chief Matatumua Maimoana and Safuneitu'uga Pa'aga Neri (as of 2016 [update] the Minister of Communication and Technology).

The judicial system incorporates English common law and local customs. The Supreme Court of Samoa is the court of highest jurisdiction. The Chief Justice of Samoa is appointed by the head of state upon the recommendation of the prime minister.

Administrative divisions Edit

Samoa comprises eleven itūmālō (political districts). These are the traditional eleven districts which predate European arrival. Each district has its own constitutional foundation (fa'avae) based on the traditional order of title precedence found in each district's faalupega (traditional salutations). [61] The capital village of each district administers and coordinates the affairs of the district and confers each district's paramount title, amongst other responsibilities.

A'ana has its capital at Leulumoega. The paramount 'tama-a-'aiga' (royal lineage) title of A'ana is Tuimalealiifano. The paramount pāpā title of A'ana is the Tui A'ana. The orator group which confers this title – the Faleiva (House of Nine) – is based at Leulumoega.

Ātua has its capital at Lufilufi. The paramount 'tama-a-'aiga' (royal lineage) titles of A'ana are Tupua Tamasese (based in Falefa and Salani) and Mata'afa (based in Amaile and Lotofaga). The two main political families who confer the respective titles are 'Aiga Sā Fenunuivao and 'Aiga Sā Levālasi. The paramount pāpā title of Ātua is the Tui Ātua. The orator group which confers this title - the Faleono (House of Six) - is based at Lufilufi.

Tuamasaga has its capital at Afega. The paramount 'tama-a-'aiga' (royal lineage) title of Tuamasaga is the Malietoa title, based in Malie. The main political family that confers the Malietoa title is 'Aiga Sā Malietoa, with Auimatagi as the main speaker for the family. The paramount pāpā titles of Tuamasaga are Gatoaitele (conferred by Afega) and Vaetamasoalii (conferred by Safata). [20]

The eleven itūmālō are identified to be:

1 including the faipule district of Siumu
2 including islands Manono, Apolima and Nu'ulopa
3 including the Aleipata Islands and Nu'usafe'e Island
4 smaller parts also on Upolu (Salamumu, incl. Salamumu-Uta and Leauvaa villages)

Human rights Edit

Major areas of concern include the under-representation of women, domestic violence and poor prison conditions. Homosexual acts are illegal in Samoa. [62]

Christian revival Edit

In June 2017, an Act was passed changing the country's constitution to include a reference to the Trinity. As amended, Article 1 of the Samoan Constitution states that “Samoa is a Christian nation founded of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. According to The Diplomat, "What Samoa has done is shift references to Christianity into the body of the constitution, giving the text far more potential to be used in legal processes." [63] The preamble to the constitution already described the country as "an independent State based on Christian principles and Samoan custom and traditions." [63]

Samoa lies south of the equator, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean. The total land area is 2,842 km 2 (1,097 sq mi), [64] consisting of the two large islands of Upolu and Savai'i (which together account for 99% of the total land area) and eight small islets.

  • the three islets in the Apolima Strait (Manono Island, Apolima and Nu'ulopa)
  • the four Aleipata Islands off the eastern end of Upolu (Nu'utele, Nu'ulua, Namua, and Fanuatapu) , which is less than 1 hectare (2½ acres) in area and lies about 1.4 km (0.9 mi) off the south coast of Upolu at the village of Vaovai

The main island of Upolu is home to nearly three-quarters of Samoa's population, and to the capital city, Apia.

The Samoan islands result geologically from volcanism, originating with the Samoa hotspot, which probably results from a mantle plume. [66] [67] While all of the islands have volcanic origins, only Savai'i, the westernmost island in Samoa, remains volcanically active, with the most recent eruptions at Mt Matavanu (1905–1911), Mata o le Afi (1902) and Mauga Afi (1725). The highest point in Samoa is Mt Silisili, at 1858 m (6,096 ft). The Saleaula lava fields situated on the central north coast of Savai'i result from the Mt Matavanu eruptions, which left 50 km 2 (20 sq mi) of solidified lava. [68]

Savai'i is the largest of the Samoan islands and the sixth-largest Polynesian island (after New Zealand's North, South and Stewart Islands and the Hawaiian islands of Hawaiʻi and Maui). The population of Savai'i is 42,000 people.

Climate Edit

Samoa has an equatorial climate, with an average annual temperature of 26.5 °C (79.7 °F) and a main rainy season from November to April, although heavy rain may fall in any month. [69]

Climate data for Apia
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 30.4
Average low °C (°F) 23.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 489.0
Source: World Meteorological Organization (UN) [70]

Ecology Edit

Samoa forms part of the Samoan tropical moist forests ecoregion. [71] Since human habitation began, about 80% of the lowland rainforests have disappeared. Within the ecoregion about 28% of plants and 84% of land birds are endemic. [72]

The United Nations has classified Samoa as an economically developing country since 2014. [73] As of 2017 [update] Samoa's gross domestic product in purchasing-power parity was estimated [ by whom? ] at $1.13 billion U.S. dollars, ranking the country 204th in the world. The services sector accounted for 66% of GDP, followed by industry and agriculture at 23.6% and 10.4% respectively. [74] For the same year, the Samoan labour force was estimated [ by whom? ] at 50,700. [74]

The Central Bank of Samoa issues and regulates Samoa's currency, the Samoan tālā. [75] The economy of Samoa has traditionally depended on agriculture and fishing at the local level. In modern times, development aid, private family remittances from overseas, and agricultural exports have become key factors in the nation's economy. Agriculture employs two-thirds of the labour force and furnishes 90% of exports, featuring coconut cream, coconut oil, noni (juice of the nonu fruit, as it is known in Samoan), and copra. [1]

Outside of a large automotive wire harness factory (Yazaki Corporation which ended production in August 2017 [76] ), the manufacturing sector mainly processes agricultural products. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism expanded, accounting for 25% of GDP. [ when? ] Tourist arrivals increased over the years with more than 100,000 tourists visiting the islands in 2005, up from 70,000 in 1996.

The Samoan government has called for deregulation of the financial sector, encouragement of investment, and continued fiscal discipline. [ citation needed ] Observers point to the flexibility of the labour market as a basic strength for future economic advances. [ citation needed ] The sector [ which? ] has been helped enormously by major capital investment in hotel infrastructure, political instability in neighbouring Pacific countries, and the 2005 launch of Virgin Samoa a joint-venture between the government and Virgin Australia (then Virgin Blue).

In the period before German colonisation (from the late 19th century), Samoa produced mostly copra. German merchants and settlers were active in introducing large-scale plantation operations and in developing new industries, notably cocoa beans and rubber, relying on imported labourers from China and Melanesia. When the value of natural rubber fell drastically, about the end of the Great War (World War I) in 1918, the New Zealand government encouraged the production of bananas, for which there is a large market in New Zealand. [ citation needed ]

Because of variations in altitude, Samoa can cultivate a large range of tropical and subtropical crops. Land is not generally available to outside interests. Of the total land area of 2,934 km 2 (725,000 acres), about 24.4% is in permanent crops and another 21.2% is arable. About 4.4% is Western Samoan Trust Estates Corporation (WSTEC). [ citation needed ]

The staple products of Samoa are copra (dried coconut meat), cocoa beans (for chocolate), rubber, and bananas. [77] The annual production of both bananas and copra has been [ when? ] in the range of 13,000 to 15,000 metric tons (about 14,500 to 16,500 short tons). If the Asiatic rhinoceros beetle in Samoa were eradicated, Samoa could produce in excess of 40,000 metric tons (44,000 short tons) of copra. Samoan cocoa beans are of very high quality and are used in fine New Zealand chocolates. Most are Criollo-Forastero hybrids. Coffee grows well, but production has been uneven. WSTEC is the biggest coffee producer.

Other agricultural industries have proven less successful. Sugarcane production, originally established by Germans in the early 20th century, could be successful. [ citation needed ] Old train tracks for transporting cane can be seen at some plantations east of Apia. Pineapples grow well in Samoa, but have not moved beyond local consumption to become a major export. [ citation needed ]

Sixty percent of Samoa's electricity comes from renewable hydro, solar, and wind sources, with the remainder produced by diesel generators. The Electric Power Corporation set a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2021. [78]

Key Facts & Information


  • The official name of Samoa is the Independent State of Samoa.
  • Their motto is “Samoa is founded on God” (“Faʻavae i le Atua Sāmoa”).
  • The Samoan flag features a red field design with a blue rectangle that has a depiction of the Southern Cross (four big white stars and one small star) on its canton (top left corner of the flag).
  • The flag was first adopted on February 24, 1949, for UN Trusteeships.
  • The flag persisted and was applied for Samoa’s independence on January 1, 1962.
  • The official languages of Samoa are English and Samoan.
  • Samoa is governed by a unitary, dominant-party, parliamentary republic.
  • The largest city of Samoa is also its capital city, Apia, which is located on the central north coast of Samoa’s second-largest main island, Upolu.
  • The city of Apia is the only city that falls under the jurisdiction of the Tuamasaga political district.
  • The city of Apia is 123.81 km² and has an elevation of 7 feet.


  • Samoa is an island country lying about halfway between the islands of Hawaii and New Zealand.
  • Samoa lies south of the equator and is found in Polynesia, a region in the Pacific Ocean that is made up of several islands.
  • Samoa features two main islands, Upolu and Savai’i. These main islands make up 99% of the total area of Samoa.
  • Samoa’s total area is 2,842 km².
  • The remaining percentage of Samoa’s land area consists of eight small islets.
  • Apolima Strait features three islets: Manono Island, Apolima, and Nu’ulopa.
  • The Aleipata Islands are found on the eastern end of Upolu. These consist of Nu’utele, Nu’ulua, Namua, and Fanuatapu.
  • About 1.4 km off the south coast of Upolu, at the village of Vaovai, lies Nu’usafe, an islet that has an area of 2½ acres.
  • Geologically, the Samoan islands are the result of volcanism — the eruption of magma onto the surface of the Earth — from the Samoa hotspot, a volcanic hotspot located in the south Pacific Ocean.


  • The demonym, or name used to refer to the citizens of Samoa, is Samoan.
  • According to a 2016 census, Samoa has a recorded population of 194,320.
  • 75% of the Samoan populace reside on the main island of Upolu.


  • According to scientists of New Zealand, around 2900 to 3500 years ago, Samoa was discovered by the Lapita people — people of Austronesia who speak Oceanic languages — and they became Samoa’s first island inhabitants.
  • People of Fiji and Tonga, other island countries in the Pacific, have genetic ties with the people of Samoa.
  • Samoan people began to interact with Europeans in the beginning of the 18th century, when a Dutchman named Jacob Roggeveen visited the Samoan islands in 1722.
  • Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, a French explorer, was the next to visit Samoa in 1768. He named it the Navigator Islands.
  • In the 1830s, English missionaries, whalers, and traders arrived in Samoa.
  • The first American to visit Samoa was Captain Benjamin Vanderford from Salem. He visited in October 1821.
  • The first United States whalers to arrive were onboard the Maro, a ship of Captain Richard Macy of Nantucket in 1824.
  • The whalers initially came for the resources and provisions that they could get from the Samoan land. Soon, they hired natives as crewmen for their ships.
  • In 1898, Germany and the United Kingdom disputed over who should take control of Samoa. This was called the Second Samoan Civil War.
  • In March 1899, the Siege of Apia occurred, and Samoan rebels were defeated.
  • The imperial force of Germany took over Samoa from 1900 until 1914.
  • Wilhelm Solf was Samoa’s first German colonial governor.
  • Samoa was officially colonized by the German Empire on March 1, 1900.
  • New Zealand Troops defeated the German forces on August 29, 1914, on Upolu.
  • Samoa was officially colonized by New Zealand on August 30, 1914.
  • New Zealand took control of Samoa from the end of World War I until January 1, 1962.
  • New Zealand mandated Samoa to be a part of the trusteeship to the League of Nations on December 14, 1920.
  • Samoa entered the trusteeship of the United Nations on December 13, 1946.
  • The Western Samoa Act was passed on January 1, 1962, declaring the independence of Samoa.
  • Samoa was admitted to the United Nations on December 15, 1976.


  • The traditional Samoan way of life is called fa’a Samoa, and it remains to the present day in politics.
  • The ‘ava ceremony is a ritual of sharing a ceremonial drink to mark an occasion in the Samoan society, and this is still practiced today.
  • Siva is a traditional Samoan dance that features gentle body movements in order to tell a story.
  • Samoa has a distinct tradition of tattooing. Male Samoans have pe’a tattooed on their knees up to the ribs. Female Samoans are tattooed malu, which covers her knees up to her thighs.
  • It is a Sunday tradition in Samoa for a family to share a meal cooked in an umu, or rock oven.
  • The umu dish consists of a variety of ingredients, such as a whole pig, fresh seaweed, crayfish, baked taro, and rice.
  • Coconut is also used in several Samoan dishes.
  • Rugby Union and Samoan Cricket, or kilikiti, are the two main sports played in Samoa.


  • Vaatausili Cave — A lava cave with a pool that is 2 meters deep. The water in the cave is red in color, traditionally thought to be the blood of Samoan warriors, but this is actually due to the crustaceans living in it.
  • Safotu Church — Located in Gaga’ifomauga, a church featuring two towers and built in Neo-Braque style.
  • Seuao Cave — Located in Tuamasaga, a lava tube cave where remnants of human settlement are found and preserved.
  • Piula Cave Pool — Located in Atua, a natural spring that flows from a lava cave.
  • Central Savai’i Rainforest — Located in Palauli, the largest rainforest remaining in the region of Polynesia.

Samoa Worksheets

This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Samoa across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Samoa worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Samoa which is an island country located in the Pacific Ocean. It is officially known as the Independent State of Samoa. Its former name, Western Samoa, was used until 1997. Samoa is made up of two main islands (Savai’i and Upolu), two smaller islands that are also inhabited (Manono and Apolima), and several uninhabited islands, such as the Aleipata Islands, which consists of Nu’utele, Nu’ulua, Fanuatapu, and Namua.

Complete List Of Included Worksheets

  • Samoa Facts
  • Quick Q & A
  • History Bubbles
  • Top Sights
  • Right or Wrong
  • Geography & Geology
  • District Search
  • Flag Sketch
  • Culture Blocks
  • Postcard Design
  • Interview Time

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Use With Any Curriculum

These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.

Facts about Samoa 7: the production of banana and copra

It is estimated that the country can generate the copra and banana around 13,000 to 15,000 metric tons.

Facts about Samoa 8: the Samoan cocoa beans

The Samoan cocoa beans come with the best quality one. There is no need to wonder that they are used to create the delicious New Zealand chocolates.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Samoan society is meritocratic. Those with recognized ability have traditionally been elected to leadership of families. Aside from four nationally significant chiefly titles, the influence of most titles is confined to the families and villages with which they are associated. Title holders gained status and influence not only from accumulating resources but also from their ability to mobilize and redistribute them. These principles work against significant permanent disparities in wealth. The power of chiefs has been reduced, and the wealth returned by expatriates has flowed into all sectors of society, undermining traditional rank-wealth correlations. The public influence of women is becoming increasingly apparent. A commercial elite that has derived its power from the accumulation and investment of private wealth has become increasingly influential in politics.

Samoan History

Guided by the stars, the Polynesian ancestors made their way across the Pacific in ocean-faring canoes thousands of years ago.

Samoa&rsquos oldest known site of human occupation is Mulifanua on the island of Upolu, which dates back to about 1000 BC (about 3000 years ago). Stonework &lsquopyramids&rsquo and mounds in star formation found throughout the islands have inspired various theories from archaeologists about this stage of Samoan history.

Over the millennia, the Samoan people engaged in trade, battles and intermarriage of nobility with the neighbouring islands of Fiji and Tonga. The interweaving of the cultures and bloodlines has helped strengthen the ties of these South Pacific nations.

European whalers and traders started to arrive in the late 1700s. By far the most important agents of change in Samoa were the western missionaries, converting the people from belief in Gods for the sun, earth, heavens and sea to the one God.

Dutchman, Jacob Roggeveen was the first European to sight the islands in 1722, but it wasn&rsquot until 1830 when the Reverend John Williams arrived in Savai'i, that the Christian gospel had an impact on Samoan life. Visitors to Samoa may be shown the monuments to John Williams on both main islands. Samoans are now a devoutly religious people with much time devoted to church activities. For many Samoans, Christianity and Fa&lsquoa Samoa (Samoan culture) are inextricably interwoven.

In 1899 after years of civil war, the islands of the Samoan archipelago were divided &ndash the Germans taking the islands to the west and the Americans taking the islands to the east, now known as American Samoa.

After the outbreak of the First World War, New Zealand captured Western Samoa from the small German company stationed on the islands, and following the end of the war took administrative control on behalf of the United Nations from 1918 until independence on 1st January 1962. Western Samoa became the first Pacific nation to gain Independence.

From 1962 to 1997, the nation was known as Western Samoa, until it dropped the title &lsquoWestern&rsquo from its name to become the Independent State of Samoa. Samoa celebrates its independence each June.

The Geography of Samoa

Total Size: 2,944 square km

Size Comparison: slightly smaller than Rhode Island

Geographical Coordinates: 13 35 S, 172 20 W

World Region or Continent: Oceania

General Terrain: two main islands (Savaii, Upolu) and several smaller islands and uninhabited islets narrow coastal plain with volcanic, rocky, rugged mountains in interior

Geographical Low Point: Pacific Ocean 0 m

Geographical High Point: Mauga Silisili (Savaii) 1,857 m

Climate: tropical rainy season (November to April), dry season (May to October)

Major cities: APIA (capital) 36,000 (2009)

History of Samoa

Archeological evidence shows that Samoa has been inhabited for over 2,000 years by migrants from Southeast Asia. Europeans did not arrive in the area until the 1700s and by the 1830s, missionaries and traders from England began arriving in large numbers.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Samoan islands were politically divided and in 1904 the easternmost islands became the U.S. territory known as American Samoa. At the same time, the western islands became Western Samoa and they were controlled by Germany until 1914 when that control passed to New Zealand. New Zealand then administered Western Samoa until it gained its independence in 1962. According to the U.S. Department of State, it was the first country in the region to gain independence.

In 1997, Western Samoa's name changed to the Independent State of Samoa. Today, however, the nation is known as Samoa throughout most of the world.

Samoa — History and Culture

The beautiful Pacific nation of Samoa hasn’t always been a laid-back paradise. Since the 18th century, Samoa has been hit with European expansionism followed by colonialism. However, the way of Samoa was fortunately not lost, as traditional culture still dominates this Westernized Pacific island nation.


European contact in Samoa didn’t begin until the 18th century. However, at this time, both Samoa (Western Samoa) and American Samoa were not separate entities. The Dutch and the French made contact with Samoa well before English missionaries began arriving to the islands in the 1830s. The famous English missionary, John Williams, ignited Samoa’s affection for Christianity. Before the end of the 18th century, German influence had also begun to surface throughout the islands.

By the end of the 19th century, the Samoan islands were seen as an important refueling stop for whalers and traders. Therefore, British, German, and US forces arrived into the area, bent on protecting their individual claims to the islands. Two civil wars erupted in 1889 and 1898 respectively. The British, American, and German military assisted the warring parties. These conflicts eventually led to the splitting of Samoa into two parts with the Tripartite Convention of 1899 – German Samoa and American Samoa.

From 1899 to 1914, German administration controlled the commercial and political aspects of Samoa, with assistance from the local chieftain advisers. At the start of WWI, New Zealand sent a force to German Samoa at the request of Britain, and subsequently occupied the islands. During New Zealand’s tenure as administrator of Samoa, several important events occurred.

In 1918-1919, 20 percent of the Samoan population died of influenza brought over by New Zealand ships. Between 1918 and the 1930s, peaceful protests against colonial occupation arose. The Mau movement, which began in the late 19th century, became more prominent in the 1920s and 1930s. On December 28, 1928, a peaceful protest turned violent, resulting in the deaths of more than a dozen Samoans. This later became known as Black Saturday. In 1962, Samoa eventually gained independence from New Zealand.

After independence, Samoa had relied heavily on tourism and agricultural exports to drive its economy. However, nowadays, Samoa’s major business partners are New Zealand and Australia. This became more evident when Samoa moved to the west of the International Date Line in 2011, transforming their time zone to better suit ties with the larger Pacific nations, rather than America. Visit the Museum of Samoa (Malifa, Apia, Samoa) to find more information about the country’s interesting past.


Even though Samoa has been strongly influenced by European powers, fa’a Samoa, which is translated to ‘the Samoan way’, is still prevalent throughout the country. Traditional language, food, dance, music, and song is evident in today’s modern society. Nevertheless, despite the thriving traditional culture of Samoa, the country is still profoundly Christian.

Tattooing is a very important part of traditional and modern Samoan culture. As in other Polynesian cultures, Samoan tattoo artists can be found at local villages. Samoan tribes and families have their own unique tattoos, and the art is still widely practiced across the islands.

Sport is an essential part of life for Samoans. Rugby is the main sport played throughout the country. Even though the population of Samoa is relatively small, the national team usually does well on the international stage, especially in seven-a-side rugby. Samoan cricket is another popular sport played throughout the country.

Watch the video: Geography Now! SAMOA