Samoa history & society
European whalers and traders started to arrive in the late 1700’s. 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. In 1899 after years of civil war, the islands of the Samoan archipelago were divided – 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 World War I, New Zealand captured Western Samoa from the small German company stationed on the islands and following the end of 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 ‘Western’ from its name to become the Independent State of Samoa.
Society & culture of Samoa
Samoa is a traditional society governed by Fa’a Samoa (Samoan Way) – where family is all important, respect for ones elders is strictly adhered to and being of service to your family is your duty. Here you will find a distinctive polynesian culture over 3000 years old.
Fa’a Samoa has three key elements to it – the matai (chiefs), aiga - the extended family and the church. Matai are the heads of the extended family unit and their role is very complex covering family, civic and political duties in the village. There is 362 nu’u or villages found throughout the islands with a total of 18,000 matai.
The aiga or extended family is made up of parents, brothers and sisters, children, grandparents, cousins, nephews and nieces living together within the village. When family members marry partners in other villages, the in-laws too become part of the extended family unit and in times of happiness or sadness all come together to pitch in. It is ones duty as a Samoan to be of service to their aiga for life.
Christianity has been one of the few western influences that has been accepted into Fa’a Samoa. John Williams from the London Missionary Society arrived in Savaii in 1830 with eight Tahitian and Rarotongan teachers to spread the word. Today the motto on Samoa’s crest reads “Fa’avae I Le Atua Samoa” – Samoa is founded on God. You will find churches of various denominations in every village, they are usually the biggest buildings. Samoans are devoted Christians and Sunday is a day of worship and spending time with family, no physical work is done.
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