History of Samoa

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Archeologists place the earliest human settlement of the Samoan archipelago at around 1500 B.C. This date is based upon the ancient lapita pottery shards found throughout the islands. Samoan oral history, however, extends only as far back as 1000 A.D. Whatever occurred between 1500 B.C. and 1000 A.D. remains a mystery, though this may have been the period of great migrations that led to the settlement of present-day Polynesia: Samoa is recognized as the center of Polynesia, whence people migrated eastward to the Marquesas, southward to Niue and the Pukapuka islands of Rarotonga, and northward to the Tokelau and Tuvalu island groups; in all these islands, oral tradition is maintained of ancestral voyages from the Samoan islands. These migrations reflect the extraordinary courage of these seafaring people in navigating without instruments to sail throughout the vast Pacific Ocean. [[File:Sketch m

European contact

Contact with Europeans began in the early 18th century but did not intensify until the arrival of the British. In 1722, Dutchman Jacob Roggeveen was the first European to sight the islands. Missionaries and traders arrived in the 1830s. Halfway through the 19th century, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States all claimed parts of the kingdom of Samoa, and established trade posts.

High Chief Malietoa Leaupepe died in 1898 and was succeeded by Malietoa Tooa Mataafa. The US and British consuls supported Malietoa Tanumafili I, Leaupepe's son.

US and British warships, including the USS Philadelphia shelled Apia on March 15, 1899.

Division of islands

The Samoa Tripartite Convention, a joint commission of three members composed of Bartlett Tripp for the United States, C. N. E. Eliot, C.B. for Great Britain, and Freiherr Speck von Sternburg for Germany, agreed to divide the islands. Germany received the western part, (later known as Western Samoa), containing Upolu and Savaii (the current Samoa) and other adjoining islands. These islands became known as German Samoa. The US accepted Tutuila and Manu'a, which currently comprise the U.S. territory of American Samoa. In exchange for Britain ceding claims in Samoa, Germany transferred their protectorates in the North Solomon Islands. The monarchy was abolished.


From 1908, with the establishment of the Mau movement ("opinion movement"), Western Samoans began to assert their claim to independence. The early beginnings of the national Mau movement began in 1908 with the 'Mau a Pule' resistance on Savai'i, led by orator chief Lauaki Namulau'ulu Mamoe. Lauaki and Mau a Pule chiefs, wives and children were exiled to Saipan in 1909. Many died in exile.[1]

Shortly after the outbreak of World War I, in August 1914, New Zealand sent an expeditionary force to seize and occupy German Samoa. Although Germany refused to officially surrender the islands, no resistance was offered and the occupation took place without any fighting. New Zealand continued the occupation of Western Samoa throughout World War I. In 1919, under the Treaty of Versailles, Germany relinquished its claims to the islands.

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