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Samoa History

  • Church on the island
  • A church on Savaii Island
  • Samoa Maps

It is believed that Polynesians settled Samoa around 1000 BC as part of the general settlement of the Pacific by the Polynesian people. They named the island nation for the sacred (Sa) chickens (moa) of Lu, the son of Tagaloa who was their god of creation. By 200 BC, Samoa was at the centre of an expanding Polynesian community courtesy of the trading that was happening between Tonga, Fiji and Samoa. A chief system (matai) was established and was in place for 1000 years before the first contact with Europeans. It is this system that is still in practice today.

Despite contact with other Pacific Islanders, contact with Europeans did not happen until early in the 18th century. The first European to spot Samoa was Dutchman Jacob Roggeveen in 1722. This was followed by Frenchman Louis-Antoine de Bougainville in 1768. He christened the islands “the Navigator Islands” after encountering Samoans in their ocean canoes.

In 1830, influential missionaries arrived led by Reverend John Williams. By the time ten years had passed, he had managed to convert the islands to Christianity. The mid-nineteenth century saw the arrival of German traders which also had a profound effect on the Samoans. The Germans established the German Trading and Plantation Company with a depot in Apia. This propelled Samoans into the European trading network and the islands became the most popular trading post in the Pacific at the time.

Towards the end of the 19th century, Germany, Britain and the United States all had interests in Samoa. Germany had an extensive trading operation as well as large-scale plantations. The British saw the business possibilities available and acquired harbour rights as well as a consulate office, while the United States had operations set up in what is now American Samoa. The rivalries between these three powers did nothing to aid the issues arising between the indigenous populations who were fighting against each other, as well as against losing their ancient culture.

After two civil wars between 1886 - 1898 in which Britain, Germany and the US intervened, a compromise was reached with the Tripartite Convention in 1899. The islands were divided between Germany and the United States with the German property becoming Western Samoa, and the US property becoming American Samoa. Britain dissolved their rights in Samoa once Germany agreed to certain concessions including the transfer of all their control in Tonga as well as shifting the demarcation line in the Solomon group, among others.

1908 saw the beginnings of the Mau Movement (opinion movement) amongst native Samoans who sought independence. This became more plausible after New Zealand obtained power over the islands after the First World War as a result of a League of Nations mandate. Samoa became independent of New Zealand in 1962, became a member of the Commonwealth in 1970, and was admitted into the United Nations in 1976. In 1997 the constitution was amended to change the name officially from Western Samoa to the Independent State of Samoa.



Samoa Travel Information

At Goway we believe that a well-informed traveller is a safer traveller. With this in mind, we have compiled an easy-to-navigate travel information section dedicated to Samoa. 

Learn about the history and culture of Samoa, the must-try food and drink, and what to pack in your suitcase. Read about Samoa's nature and wildlife, weather and geography, and 'Country Quickfacts' compiled by our travel experts. Our globetrotting tips, as well as our visa and health information, will help ensure you're properly prepared for a safe and enjoyable trip. The only way you could possibly learn more is by embarking on your journey and discovering Samoa for yourself. Start exploring...book one of our Samoa vacations today!


Extend Your Stay

Consider an additional stopover after or before one of your Samoa tours at one of Goway's other South Pacific destinations. You can choose from our selection of Australian vacations, New Zealand vacation packagesTahiti vacation packages, one of our Fiji resorts or perhaps take a Cook Island vacation. 

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Book your Samoa Vacation with Goway!

Goway’s Downunder wizards can offer you many ways to explore and enjoy Samoa. Choose from a simple island stopover and much more. We want to be your first choice when next you go globetrotting to Samoa.



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