Samoa History

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History[edit | edit source]

To truly understand the history of Samoa, one needs to look into the oral traditions of the Samoan people. These include oral genealogies of families and the mythology of Samoa.

Samoan Mythology[edit | edit source]

Samoan mythology tells stories of many different deities. There were deities of the forest, the seas, rain, harvest, villages, and war.[1] There were two types of deities, atua, who had non-human origins, and aitu, who were of human origin.

Tagaloa was a supreme god who made the islands and the people. Mafui'e was the god of earthquakes. There were also a number of war deities. Nafanua, Samoa's warrior goddess hails from the village of Falealupo at the western end of Savai'i island, which is also the site of the entry into Pulotu, the spirit world. She also is regarded as a peace bringer, having brought peace to Savai'i through winning the wars between the two regions of the island. Tilafaiga is the mother of Nafanua. Nafanua's father, Saveasi'uleo, was the god of Pulotu. Another well-known legend tells of two sisters, Tilafaiga, the mother of Nafanua, and Taema, bringing the art of tattooing to Samoa from Fiti.

A figure of another legend is Tui Fiti, who resides at Fagamalo village in the village district of Matautu. The village of Falelima is associated with a dreaded spirit deity called, Nifoloa. The Mata o le Alelo 'Eyes of the Demon' freshwater pool from the Polynesian legend Sina and the Eel is situated in the village of Matavai on the northern coast in the village district of Safune.

Understanding the mythology

Titles & The Matai System[edit | edit source]

Understanding Samoan mythology leads to understanding of Samoan culture, specifically that of the Malietoa and other chiefly titles.

The History of Malietoa

Colonization[edit | edit source]

European colonization in Samoa began as early as the 18th century. It intensified after the arrival of missionaries. The European, Tahitian, and Cook Islander missionaries and traders led by John Williams began arriving around 1830. This opened the door for trading businesses to come into Samoa, namely from Germany, Great Britain, and the United States of America. Developments of coconut, cacao, and hevea rubber cultivation led to great economic growth in Samoa. Having control over Samoa was desirable because of its location in the Pacific. If a nation could control Polynesia, they had control over the Pacific ocean, a great military advantage.

Wars[edit | edit source]

First Samoan Civil War[edit | edit source]

The First Samoan Civil War broke out in 1886 and ended in 1894. The conflict was between Samoan factions on whether who would be the next King of Samoa: Malietoa Laupepa or Mata’afa Iosefo. The end result was that Malietoa Laupepa should be king.

Second Samoan Civil War[edit | edit source]

The Second Samoan Civil War was between the United States, Germany, and Great Britain over who owned Samoa. The Triparte Convention of 1899 occurred due to this war. Upolu, Savaii, and other adjoining islands became German Samoa. In exchange for obtaining possession of the western islands of  Samoa, Germany transferred their protectorates in the North Solomon Islands and other territories in West Africa to Great Britain. The United States received what is modern-day American Samoa.

It appears that no Samoans were consulted about the partition causing the the Samoan monarchy to be abolished.

German Samoa[edit | edit source]

German Samoa (Deutsch-Samoa) existed from 1900-1914. Under the direction of the first governor, Wilhelm Solf, the island nation became such a thriving economy, that Germany no longer needed to fund the development or upkeep of German Samoa. A notable creation was the Telefunken Railroad, which was a narrow gauge railway connecting the waterfront of Apia and a wireless station on Mount Vaea.

In 1914, with the outbreak of World War I, the Triparte was broken after Samoa became occupied by New Zealand which was under British rule.

Occupation of Samoa[edit | edit source]

New Zealand took over German Samoa during World War I. The Samoa Expeditionary Force (SEF), which was composed of about 1,400 soldiers born and raised in New Zealand, landed in Samoa on 29 August 1914. Unopposed, the New Zealanders gained possession over Samoa on behalf of their ruler, King George V. In 1915, the SEF returned to New Zealand. Colonel Robert Logan, the SEF’s commander, stayed behind to administer Samoa on behalf of the New Zealand Government until 1919. His rule is controversal because of how he handled the Spanish influenza outbreak, which resulted in the deaths of 7,500 people in Samoa. In American Samoa, there were zero fatalities because of their governor’s vigorous efforts to prevent the disease from reaching its shores.

Independence[edit | edit source]

In 1946, Samoa became a UN trust territory administered by New Zealand. A resistance movement to both German and New Zealand rule, known as the Mau or strongly held view movement, helped to edge the islands toward independence.

In May 1961, a plebiscite held under the supervision of the United Nations on the basis of universal adult suffrage voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence. In October of the same year, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution to terminate the trusteeship agreement as of January 1, 1962, on which date Western Samoa became an independent sovereign state. Western Samoa earned the distinction of being the first independent sovereign state in the South Pacific.

The prefix Western was dropped in July 1997 and the country renamed itself the Independent State of Samoa. A constitutional monarchy, Samoa has a legislative assembly whose members are from the titled class. A referendum in 1990 gave women the right to vote for the first time. In 1997, a new constitutional amendment changed the country's name to Samoa.

Timeline[edit | edit source]

1830's - English missionaries and traders began arriving
1918 - 1919 Approximately one fifth of the Samoan population died in the influenza epidemic
1997 - The government amended the constitution to change the country's name from Western Samoa to Samoa
2017 - Parliament established an amendment to Article 1 of the Samoan Constitution, making Christianity the state religion

  1. Philip Culbertson; Margaret Nelson Agee; Cabrini 'Ofa Makasiale. "Penina Uliuli: Contemporary Challenges in Mental Health for Pacific Peoples." p. 68. Retrieved 2016-04-12.