Culture & History
Thousands of years ago, our Polynesian ancestors made their way across the Pacific in sea-faring vessels. These famous navigators used the stars to guide their way to the Samoa and other islands in the Pacific. Samoa's oldest known site of human occupation dates back to 1000BC (about 3000 years ago). Stonework pyramids and mounds arranged in a star-like form have inspired many theories amongst archaeological circles as to the way of life for Samoan people at this time in history. Over the millennia, Samoan people have engaged in many inter-island activities such as trade, battle, and intermarriage. Marriage was most common means of strengthening ties with neighboring islands - such as Fiji and Tonga - and it was also used to help forming alliances with other noble families to promote economic prosperity.
Dutchman, Jacob Roggeveen was the first known European to sight the islands of Samoa in 1722. He was followed shortly after by Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, who named Samoa the Navigator Islands in 1768. More Europeans started to arrive in Samoa in the late 1700s. During this time, the main visitors were whalers and traders. However, the most significant agents of change were the western missionaries, particularly Reverend John Williams. In 1830, Reverend John Williams arrived on the island of Savaii with the Christian gospel. His arrival brought a new era of faith, converting the Samoan from the belief in many deities to faith in one true God. Travelers may see monuments erected around Upolu and Savaii in honor of the missionary work done by Rev. Williams. Nowadays, Fa'asamoa and Christianity are inextricably linked. Visitors will note that the islands come to a standstill on Sundays. Locals cease physical labour and work in order to attend church services and other related activities.
After years of civil war, the archipelago was divided between the USA and Germany in 1899. The islands to the east became an unincorporated territory of the United States of America, known as American Samoa. The Germans took the islands to the west, which became known as Western Samoa. After WWI ended, Western Samoa was taken from the Germans and handed over to New Zealand in 1918. Administrative control was mandated by the United Nations from 1918 until Western Samoa became independent on 1 January 1962; the first Pacific nation to gain independence. This momentous occasion is celebrated every year in June with a lineup of notable events and festivities. The 'Western' was officially dropped from the name in 1997.