2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Countries; Geography of Oceania (Australasia)

Independent State of Samoa
Flag of Samoa Coat of arms of Samoa
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Fa'avae i le Atua Samoa
( Samoan: "Samoa is founded on God")
Anthem: The Banner of Freedom
Location of Samoa
(and largest city)
13°35′S 172°20′W
Official languages Samoan, English
Government Monarchy
 - O le Ao o le Malo Malietoa Tanumafili II
 - Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi
Independence from New Zealand 
 - Date 1 January 1962 
 - Total 2,831 km² ( 174th)
1093 sq mi 
 - Water (%) 0.3%
 - July 2005 estimate 185,000 ( 185th)
 - Density 65/km² ( 126th)
169/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2002 estimate
 - Total $1.16 billion ( 166th)
 - Per capita $6,344 ( 94th)
HDI  ( 2003) 0.776 (medium) ( 74th)
Currency Tala ( WST)
Time zone ( UTC-11)
Internet TLD .ws
Calling code +685

Samoa, officially the Independent State of Samoa, is a country comprising a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean. Previous names were German Samoa from 1900 to 1919, and Western Samoa from 1914 to 1997. It was recognized by the United Nations on 15 December 1976 ( UN members) as Samoa. The entire group was known as Navigators Islands before the 20th century because of the Samoans' seafaring skills. It has a population of 176,710 (2001 census).


Some historians hypothesize that the first Polynesians to arrive in the Pacific came from Southern Taiwan. A group of people called the "Lapita" are thought to have travelled south from Taiwan through South-East Asia, eventually reaching Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. It is also believed that Polynesians are the result of a mix of Lapita people from Asia, and Melanesians who were already in countries such as Vanuatu and Fiji. From linguistic evidence, it is believed that Samoa was the first place discovered by the Polynesians: Tonga, a country just south of Samoa means "South" in many Pacific languages; and Tokelau, a country to the north of Samoa means "North" in many Pacific languages. Also, in Polynesian legends the homeland of all Polynesians is called "Hauaiki" in Tongan, "Hawaiki" in Māori, and "Hawaiʻi" in Hawaiian. This is thought to be Savai'i, one of the main islands in Samoa. Samoa enjoys a rich history, preserved in folklore and myth, of voyages across the ocean, conquests of different islands, and inter-island warfare with other West Polynesian polities, mainly the Kingdom of Tonga and certain Fijian chieftainships. Some people believe that a temple on the island of Manono has a record, using a system of stone cairns, commemoratating more than 150 wars. Robert Louis Stevenson, who spent the last four years of his life in Samoa, remarked that "War is Samoa's favourite pastime." (It is fair to say that in contemporary times team competition, particularly rugby, volleyball, kirikiti, traditional song and dance, and traditional water sports, have replaced war.)

Contact with Europeans began in 1722, but intensified after the 1830s, when English missionaries and traders began arriving. Mission work in Samoa was begun in late 1830 by John Williams, of the London Missionary Society. By that time, the Samoans had gained a reputation of being savage and warlike, as they had clashed with French, British, German and American forces, who, by the late nineteenth century, valued Samoa as a refuelling station for coal-fired shipping.

As Germany began to show more interest in the Samoan Islands, the United States laid its own claim to them. Britain also sent troops to express its interest. There followed an eight-year civil war, where each of the three powers supplied arms, training, and in some cases combat troops, to the warring Samoan parties. All three sent warships into Apia harbour, and a larger-scale war seemed imminent, until a massive storm damaged or destroyed the warships, ending the military conflict. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Treaty of Berlin split the Samoan Islands into two parts: the eastern group became a territory of the United States (the Tutuila Islands in 1900 and officially Manu'a in 1905), and are today known as American Samoa; the western islands, by far the greater landmass, became known as German Samoa after the British gave up claims to the islands in return for Fiji and some Melanesian territories. New Zealand troops landed in 'Upolu on 29 August 1914 and seized control from the German authorities, following a request by Britain that New Zealand forces take over a German radio station there.

From the end of World War I until 1962, New Zealand controlled Samoa as a Class "C" Mandate under trusteeship through the League of Nations. There followed a series of highly unqualified white New Zealand administrators, who formed their own agendas without consulting with the native Samoans. As one example, administrators might remove titles related to Mata'i (Samoan Chieftainship) for political reasons, where such action was customarily the responsibility of a Chief’s family. Approximately one fifth of the Samoan population died in the Influenza epidemic of 1918-1919, due to the mismanagement, ignorance, and corruption of the New Zealand administration.

In the early 1920's, the Western Samoans began a campaign known as the Mau ("Strongly held Opinion"), a non-violent popular movement to protest the mistreatment of the Samoan people by the New Zealand administration. The Mau was initially lead by Olaf Nelson, who was half Samoan and half Swedish. (He continued to assist the organization financially and politically, though in exile, during the late 1920's and early 1930's.) In following the Mau's non-violent philosophy, the newly elected leader, High Chief Tupua Tamasese lealofi, led his fellow uniformed Mau in a peaceful demonstration in downtown Apia. The New Zealand police attempted to arrest one of the leaders in the demonstration. When he resisted, a struggle developed between the police and the Mau. The officers began to fire randomly into the crowd and a Lewis machine gun, mounted in preparation for this demonstration, was used to disperse the Mau. Chief Tamasese was shot from behind and killed while trying to bring calm and order to the Mau demonstrators, screaming "Peace, Samoa". 10 others died that day and approximately 50 were injured by gunshot wounds and police batons. That day , December 28, 1929, would come to be known in Samoa as Black Saturday. The Mau grew, remaining steadfastly non-violent, and expanded to include a highly influential women's branch. After repeated efforts by the Samoan people, Western Samoa finally gained independence in 1962.

In July 1997, the constitution was amended to change the country's name from Western Samoa to Samoa, as it had been designated by the United Nations since joining the organization in 1976. The U.S. territory of American Samoa protested the move, asserting that the change diminished its own identity. American Samoans still use the terms Western Samoa and Western Samoans to describe the independent State of Samoa and its inhabitants. While the two Samoas share language and ethnicity, their cultures have recently followed different paths, with American Samoans often emigrating to Hawaiʻi and the U.S. mainland, and adopting many U.S. customs, such as the playing of American football and baseball. Western Samoans have tended to emigrate instead to New Zealand, whose influence has made the sports of rugby and cricket more popular in the western islands.


Politics of Samoa takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic monarchy, whereby the Prime Minister of Samoa is the head of government, and of a pluriform multiparty system. The Head of State, His Highness Mālietoa Tanumafili II. Executive power is exercised by the government. Federal legislative power is vested in both the government and the Fono. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.


Samoa is made up of eleven districts, some of which are split between different parts of the islands.

District Population
(2001 census)
A'ana 20,167
Aiga-i-le-Tai   4,508
Atua 21,168
Fa'asaleleaga 12,949
Gaga'emauga 7,108
Gaga'ifomauga 4,770
Palauli 8,984
Satupa'itea 5,556
Tuamasaga 83,191
Va'a-o-Fonoti 1,666
Vaisigano 6,643


Map of Samoa
Map of Samoa

The country is located east of the international dateline and south of the equator, about halfway between Hawai'i and New Zealand in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean. The Samoas are of volcanic origin, and the total land area is 2934 km², consisting of the two large islands of Upolu and Savai'i which account for 96% of the total land area, and eight small islets: Manono, Apolima, Nu'utele, Nu'ulua, Namua, Fanuatapu, Nu'usafe'e, and Nu'ulopa. While all of the islands have volcanic origins, only Savai'i has had recent eruptions and could be considered volcanically active: the last major eruption occurred in the 1700s, and smaller eruptions occurred in the first decade of the twentieth century. The highest point in Samoa is Mauga Silisili, at 1858 m. The main island of Upolu is home to nearly three-quarters of Samoa's population, and its capital city is Apia. The climate is tropical, with an average annual temperature of 26.5 °C, and a rainy season from November to April.


The economy of Samoa has traditionally been dependent on development aid, private family remittances from overseas, and agricultural exports. The country is vulnerable to devastating storms. Agriculture employs two-thirds of the labour force, and furnishes 90% of exports, featuring coconut cream, coconut oil, noni [sic] (juice of the nonu [sic] fruit), and copra. Outside of a large automotive wire-harness factory, the manufacturing sector mainly processes agricultural products. Tourism is an expanding sector; more than 70,000 tourists visited the islands in 1996. The Samoan government has called for deregulation of the financial sector, encouragement of investment, and continued fiscal discipline. Observers point to the flexibility of the labor market as a basic strength for future economic advances.

Samoa is a fertile, fruitful, productive country. In the period before German colonization, it produced mostly copra. German merchants and settlers were active in introducing large scale plantation operations and developing new industries, notably cocoa and rubber, relying on imported laborers from China and Melanesia. When the value of natural rubber fell drastically, about the end of the Great War (World War I), the New Zealand government encouraged the production of bananas, for which there is a large market in New Zealand.

Because of variations in altitude, a large range of tropical and subtropical crops can be cultivated, but land is not generally available to outside interest. Of the total land area of 2,934 km² (725,000 acres), about 24.4% is in permanent crops and another 21.2% is arable. About 4.4% is Western Samoan Trust Estates Corporation (WESTC).

The staple products of Samoa are copra (dried coconut meat), cocoa (for chocolate), and bananas. The annual production of both bananas and copra has been in the range of 13,000 to 15,000 metric tons. If the rhinoceros beetle in Samoa were eradicated, Samoa could produce in excess of 40,000 metric tons of copra. Cocoa is of very high quality and used in fine New Zealand chocolates. Most cocoa trees are Criollo-Forastero hybrids. Coffee grows well, but production has been uneven. WSTEC is the biggest coffee producer. Rubber has been produced in Samoa for many years, but its export value has little impact on the economy.

Other agricultural industries have been less successful. Sugarcane production, originally established by Germans in the early 20th century, could be successful. Old train tracks for transporting cane can be seen at some plantations east of Apia. Pineapples grow well in Samoa, but beyond local consumption have not been a major export.

In the late 1960s, Potlatch Forests, Inc. (a U.S. company), upgraded the harbour and airport at Asau on the northern coast of Savai'i and established a timber operation, Samoa Forest Products, for harvesting tropical hardwoods. Potlatch invested about US$2,500,000 in a state-of-the-art sawmill and another US$6,000,000 over several years to develop power, water, and haul roads for their facility. Asau, with the Potlatch sawmillers and Samoa Forest Products, was one of the busiest parts of Savai'i in the 1960s and 1970s; however, the departure of Potlatch and the scaling down of the sawmill has left Asau a ghost town in recent years.

Fishing has had some success in Samoan waters, but the biggest fisheries industry (headed by Van Camp and StarKist) has been based in American Samoa. StarKist Management announced that it was going ahead with setting up at Asau a blast-freezer project to be operational by 2002. This announcement dispelled a growing suspicion about the genuine motives of StarKist to move to Samoa. The proposed blast-freezer operations in Asau were expected to bring this village back to life.


The main sports played in Samoa are Rugby Union and Samoan cricket.

Rugby Union is very popular in Samoa and the national team is consistently competitive against teams from vastly more populous nations. Samoa have competed at every Rugby World Cup since 1991, and have made the quarter finals in 1991, 1995 and 1999. Samoa also play in the Pacific Nations Cup and the Pacific Tri-Nations The sport is governed by the Samoa Rugby Football Union, who are members of the Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance, and thus, also contribute to the international Pacific Islanders rugby union team. At club level there is the National Provincial Championship and Pacific Rugby Cup Prominent Samoan players include Douglas Faaee, Pat Lam and Brian Lima. In addition there are many Samoans that have played for or are playing for the All Blacks.

Rugby League is also popular amongst Samoans, with Samoa reaching the quarter finals of the 2000 Rugby League World Cup.

Samoans have been very visible in American professional wrestling, despite the relatively small population of the islands. The Rock, Peter Maivia, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, Umaga/Jamal, Rosey, Samoa Joe, Wild Samoans, The Headshrinkers, Rikishi, Sonny Siaki, and the late Yokozuna all share Samoan heritage.


Only the Māori of New Zealand outnumber Samoans among Polynesian groups, but a larger portion of Māori identify with more than one ethnic group.

Roughly 98% of Samoans are Christians, divided among many different churches, including: Congregationalist, originally called the London Missionary Society Church (L.M.S.) 34.8%, Roman Catholic 19.6%, Methodist 15%, Latter-Day Saints 12.7%, Assembly of God 6.6%, Seventh-day Adventist 3.5%, other Christian 4.5%. The Head of State, His Highness Mālietoa Tanumafili II, is a Bahá'í. Samoa hosts one of seven Bahá'í Houses of Worship in the world; completed in 1984 and dedicated by the Head of State, it is located in Tiapapata, 8 km from Apia.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Samoa has a large gender imbalance. . The cause of this imbalance is uncertain, but large-scale emigration of women may be relevant.

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