Samoa - Aspects
Archaeologists believe that Polynesians settled in the Samoan Islands about 3,000 years ago from Southeast Asia. Their great migration halted here for some 1,000 years before voyagers went on to colonize the Marquesas, society, and other island groups further east in the great triangle known today as Polynesia. thus the Samoans are known as the "Cradle of Polynesia." The universes known as the early Samoans included Tonga and Fiji, to which they regularly journeyed, often waging war. Tongan invaders ruled the Samoas for some 300 years between A.D. 950 and A.D. 1250.
The first European to see the Samoas was Dutchman Jacob Roggerveen, who in 1722 sighted the Manu'a islands in what is now American Samoa. After visiting Tahiti in 1768, the Frenchman Antoine de Bougainville sailed through the Samoas and named them the Navigator Islands because of the natives he saw in canoes chasing tuna far offshore. The first Europeans to land in Samoa were part of a French expedition under Jean La Perouse in 1787. they came ashore on the north coast of Tutuila in American Samoa and were promptly attacked by Samoan warriors. Twelve members of the landing party and 39 Samoans were killed during the skirmish.
To the Samoans, the great ships with their white sails seemed to have come through the slit that separated the sky from the sea, and they named the strange people sailing them papalagi, "sky busters." Shortened to palagi, the name now means any Westerner with white skin. The Reverend John Williams, who roamed the South Pacific in The Mesenger of Peace, discovering islands and preaching the Gospel, landed the first missionaries in Samoa in 1830. Shortly afterward came traders - including John Williams, Jr., the missionary's son. European-style settlements soon grew up at Apia on Upolu and on the shores of Pago Pago Harbour on Tutuila. by the late 1850s German businessmen had established large copra plantations on Upolu. When steamships started plying the route between San Francisco and Sydney in the 1870s, American businessmen cast an eye on Pago Pago. The U.S. Navy negotiated a treaty with the chiefs of Tutuila in 1872 to permit the U.S. to use Pago Pago as a coaling station. The U.S. Congress never ratified this document, but it served to keep the Germans from penetrating into Eastern Samoa, as present-day American Samoa was then known.
THE GERMANS TAKE OVER
Meanwhile German, British, and Americans jockeyed for position among the rival Samoan chiefs on Upolu, with the Germans gaining the upper hand when they staged a coup in 1887, backed up (unofficially) by German naval gunboats. They governed through Malietoa, one of the island's four paramount chiefs., who had thrown in his lot with them. One of his rivals, Mataafa, lost a bloody rebellion in 1888, during which heads wee taken in Samoan style. Mataafa subsequently was exiled to the German Marshall islands.
Continuing unrest turned into a major international incident - fiasco is a better word - when the U.S., Britain, and Germany all sent warships to Apia. Seven vessels arrived, anchored in the small and relatively unprotected harbour, and proceeded to stare down each other's gun barrels. It was March 16, 1889, near the end of the hurricane season. When one of the monster storms blew up unexpectedly, only the captain of the British warship Calliope got his ship under way. it was the sole vessel to escape. In all, four ships were sunk two others were washed ashore, and 146 lives were lost despite heroic efforts by the Samoans on Upolu, who stopped their feuding long enough to pull the survivors through the roaring surf. Of the three American warships present, the Trenton and the Vandalia were sunk, and the Nipic was beached. Another beached ship, the Germans' Adler, rested half-exposed until the reef was covered by landfill 70 years later. (A newspaper story of the time is mounted in the lunge of Aggie Grey's Hotel in Apia.)
Cooler heads prevailed after the disaster, and in December 1889 an agreement was signed in Berlin under which Germany was given Samoa, the U.S. was handed the seven islands to the east, and Britain was left to do what it pleased in Tonga (it created a protectorate). After many years of turmoil, the two Samoas were split apart and swept into the colonial system. the German flag was raised in Apia and March 1, 1900, after which several stern governors sent more of Mataafa's followers and other resisters into exile. Malietoa followers and other resisters into exile. Malietoa remained as the chosen chief, and the Germans residing in Samoa proceeded to make fortunes from their huge, orderly copra plantations.
A KIWI BACKWATER
German rule came to an abrupt and with the outbreak of World War I in 1914, when New Zealand sent an expeditionary force to Apia and the German governor surrendered without a fight. The Germans in Samoa were interned for the duration of the war, and their huge load holding were confiscated. the plantations are still owned by the Samoa Trust Estates Corporation (WSTEC), a government body whose name you will see all over the country. New Zealand remained in charge until 1962, first as warlord, then after World War I as trustee, initially under the league of Nations and then under the United Nations. The New Zealand administrators did relatively little in the islands except keep the lid on unrest, at which they were generally successful. In 1929, however, the Mau Movement under Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III created an uprising. the movement was crushed when the new Zealand constables fired on Tamasese and a crowd of his followers gathered outside the government building in Apia, killing him and eight others.
Twenty years later, after opposition to colonialism flared up in the United Nations, a Legislative Assembly of matais was established to exercise a limited degree of internal self-government. A constitution was drafted in 1960, and the people approved it and their own independence a year later by referendum (the only time until 1991 that all Samoans could vote). On January 1, 1962, Samoa became the first South Pacific colony to regain its independence from the Western powers. For most of its life as a colony and trusteeship territory, Samoa remained in the backwaters of the South Pacific. Only during World War II did it appear on the world stage, and then solely as a training base for thousands of Allied servicemen on their way to fight the Japanese in the islands father west and north. Tourism increased after the big jets started landing at Pago Pago in the early 1960s, but significant numbers of women started arriving only after Faleolo Airport was upgraded to handle large aircraft in the 1980s.
|3,000 B.C.||Polynesians arrive from the west, settle the Samoa Islands.|
|23,000 B.C.||Samoans venture south and west, colonize Tonga, Marquesas, society, and other island groups.|
|A.D. 950||Tongans invade, conquer Samoans, and rule until 1250.|
|1722||Dutch explorer Jacob Roggerveen is first European to sight the Samoan Islands.|
|1768||After finding Tahiti, de Bougainville sails through the Samoas but does not land; names them the Navigator Islands.|
|1787||Thirty-nine Samoans and 12 members of French exploring team under jean La Perouse killed during skirmish at Massacre Bay on Tutuila in American Samoa.|
|1830||Reverend John Williams lands first missionaries at Leone on Tutuila, American Samoa. European-style settlements soon established at Apia and Pago Pago.|
|1850s||Germans start plantations on Upolu.|
|1872||American Navy negotiates treaty with Tutuila chiefs for American coaling station at Pago Pago.|
|1887||German residents on Upolu stage a coup, set off an argument between U.S., Britain, and Germany.|
|1888||Ousted chief Mataafa leads bloody rebellion at Apia but loses to German-backed chief Malietoa.|
|1889||Warships arrive at Apia to back claims of Western powers, hurricane sinks four, drives two aground, kills 146 sailors. Treaty of Berlin is negotiated and signed. Robert Louis Stevenson settles in Apia.|
|1890||Treaty goes into effect giving Samoa to Germany, Eastern Samoa to U.S. free hand in Tonga to Britain.|
|1894||Robert Louis Stevenson dies at Vailima, his home above Apia; is buries at end of the "Road of the Loving Hearts."|
|1900||Germany officially establishes colony of Samoa, raises its flag at Apia, U.S. negotiates treaty with Tutuila chiefs to cede their island; U.S. flag raised at Pago Pago.|
|1905||chief of Manu'a finally cedes his islands to the U.S., completing American possession of Eastern Samoa.|
|1914||New Zealand expeditionary force seizes Samoa from Germany at outbreak of World War I, confiscates German lands.|
|1920||League of Nations establishes New Zealand trusteeship over Samoa.|
|1929||New Zealand constables put down Mau rebellion, killing nine Samoans, U.S. Senate ratifies treaties of 1900 and 1905 turning Eastern Samoa over to U.S.|
|1942||45 Allied troops use both Samoan as training bases for World War II battles in central and southwestern Pacific. Aggie Grey starts her hot dog and hamburger business in Apia.|
|1949||New Zealand creates local legislative assembly in Apia, grants Samoa limited internal self-government.|
|1951||U.S. government transfers administration of American Samoa from Navy to Interior Department.|
|1960||Samoans vote for independence, draft a constitution.|
|1961||Reader's Digest criticises American Samoa as 'America's Shame in the South Seas." U.S. aid starts flowing to Pago Pago.|
|1962||Samoa becomes first South Pacific colony to gain independence.|
|1977||American Samoans choose first locally elected governor.|
|1990||First of two hurricanes devastate crops, destroy roads.|
|1991||Second hurricane hits, universal suffrage comes to Samoa after 30 years of only chiefs voting for Parliament.|
The Teller of Tales
The salvage crews were still working on the hulks of the British, American, and German warships sunk in Apia's harbour by a hurricane in 1889 when a thin, tubercular writer arrived from Scotland.
Not yet 40 years old, Robert Louis Stevenson was already famous - and wealthy - for such novels as Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He arrived in Samoa after travelling across the United States and a good part of the South Pacific in search of a climate more suitable to his ravaged lungs. With him were his wife, Fanny (and American divorcee 11 years his senor), his stepmother, and his stepson. His mother joined them later.
Stevenson intended to remain in Apia for only a few weeks while he caught up on a series of newspaper columns he was writing. He and his entourage stayed to build a mansion known as Vailima up on the slopes of Mount Vaea, overlooking Apia, where he lived lavishly and wrote more than 750,000 published words. He learned the Samoan language and translated into it. "The Bottle Imp," his story about a genie. It was the first work of fiction translated into Samoan.
Stevenson loved Samoa, and the Samoans loved him. Great orators and storytellers in their own right, they called him Tusitala, the "Teller of Tales." On December 3, 1894, almost 5 years to the day after he arrived in Apia, Stevenson was writing a story about a son who had escaped a death sentence handed down by his own father and had sailed away to join his lover. Leaving the couple embraced, Stevenson stopped to answer letters, play some cards, and fix dinner. while preparing mayonnaise on his back porch, he suddenly clasped his hands on his head and collapsed. He died not of tuberculosis but of a cerebral hemorrhage. More than 200 grieving Samoans hacked a "Road of the Loving Hearts" up Mount Vaea to a little knoll below the summit, wher4 they placed him in a grave with a perpetual view overlooking Vailima, the mountains, the town, the reef, and the sea he loved. Carved on his grave is his famous requiem:
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
|*||In a Samoan home don't talk to people while standing, and don't eat while walking around a village.|
|*||Avoid stretching your legs straight out in front of you while sitting. If you can't fold them beneath you, then pull one of the floor mats over them.|
|*||If you are driving through a village and spot a group of middle-aged or elderly men sitting around a fale with their legs folded, it's probably a gathering of matais to discuss business. It's polite not to drive past the meeting place. If going past on foot, don't carry a load on your shoulders or an open umbrella (even if several of Pago Pago's 200 inches (500cm) of annual rainfall are pouring on you).|
|*||If you arrive at a Samoan home during a prayer session, wait outside until the family is finished with its devotions. If you are already inside, you will be expected to share in the service. If you go to church, don't wear flowers.|
|*||If you are invited to participate in a kava ceremony, hold the cup out in front of you, spill a few drops on the mat, say "Manuia," and take a sip. In Samoa you do not bolt down the entire cup in one gulp as you would in Fiji, instead, save a little to pour on the floor before handing back the empty cup. And remember, this is a solemn occasion - not a few rounds at the local bar.|
|*||Whenever possible, consult Samoans about appropriate behaviour and practices. They will appreciate your interest in fa'a Samoa and will take great pleasure in explaining their unique way of life.|