Guided by the stars, the Polynesian ancestors made their way across the Pacific in ocean-faring canoes thousands of years ago.
Samoa’s oldest known site of human occupation is Mulifanua on the island of Upolu, which dates back to about 1000 BC (about 3000 years ago). Stonework ‘pyramids’ and mounds in star formation found throughout the islands have inspired various theories from archaeologists about this stage of Samoan history.
Over the millennia, the Samoan people engaged in trade, battles and intermarriage of nobility with the neighbouring islands of Fiji and Tonga. The interweaving of the cultures and bloodlines has helped strengthen the ties of these South Pacific nations.
European whalers and traders started to arrive in the late 1700s. 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.
Dutchman, Jacob Roggeveen was the first European to sight the islands in 1722, but it wasn’t until 1830 when the Reverend John Williams arrived in Savai'i, that the Christian gospel had an impact on Samoan life. Visitors to Samoa may be shown the monuments to John Williams on both main islands. Samoans are now a devoutly religious people with much time devoted to church activities. For many Samoans, Christianity and Fa‘a Samoa (Samoan culture) are inextricably interwoven.
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 the First World War, New Zealand captured Western Samoa from the small German company stationed on the islands, and following the 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. Samoa celebrates its independence each June.