Migrants from Southeast Asia arrived in the Samoan islands more than
2,000 years ago and from there settled the rest of Polynesia further to
the east. Contact with Europeans began in the early 1700s but did not intensify
until the arrival of English missionaries and traders in the 1830s. At
the turn of the 20th century, the Samoan islands were split into two sections.
The eastern islands became territories of the United States in 1904 and
today are known as American Samoa. The western islands became known as
Western Samoa (now just Samoa), passing from German control to New Zealand
The 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia wote of Samoa, "A group of islands
situated in latitude 13§30' and 14§30' south and longitude 168§
and 173§ west, and composed principally of fertile mountainous islands,
such as Savai'i, Upolu, Tutuila, Manu'a, of volcanic and coral formations.
The natives are tall, muscular, hardy, and fearless seafarers, but ferociously
cruel (formerly cannibalistic) in war; hospitable, but indolent in peace;
of dignified and courteous bearing, and skilled in debate. The aboriginal
government was an aristocratic federation of chiefs, chosen from certain
families, controlling the royal succession."
"The first mission work in these islands was done by John Williams of
the London (Protestant) Missionary Society, 1830. In 1836 Gregory XVI divided
Oceanica (which includes Samoa) between the Society of the Sacred Hearts
of Jesus and Mary and the Marists. The First Catholic missionaries, Marists,
landed in Samoa in 1845. In 1851 the Vicar Apostolic of Central Oceanica
appointed by Pius IX was also Administrator of Samoa. This double title
was borne by the succeeding bishops, Elloy and Lamaze, until 1896, when
Mgr. Broyer was appointed Vicar Apostolic of Samoa and Tokelau, with residence
at Apia. The total population is estimated at 37,000, of whom 7500 are
Catholics, with l bishop and 21 priests, several of them natives. There
are 17 churches with resident pastors, 100 chapel stations under married
catechists, schools under Sisters of the Third Order of Mary. Divorce and
immorality ae the principal obstacles to Catholic progress. The London
Missionary Society has 12 missionaries and 8658 church members. There are
also Mormon and Wesleyan missions."
"The European name of these islands was given them by Bougainville in
1768. In 1872 Commander Meade, U.S.N., negotiated the concession of a coaling
station in Tutuila; this was ratified by a treaty in 1878. Treaties with
Germany and Great Britain followed in 1879. Native dynastic disorders and
consular aggressions necessitated the Berlin Conference of 1889, between
the interested powers, resulting in a tripartite government of the islands
by the United States, Germany, and Great Britain. Popular disapproval in
the United States of "foreign alliances" led to the dissolution of this
agreement and a partition in 1899, Tutuila and the islands east of 171§W
longitude passing under American control, the rest to Germany, under an
Pago Pago has one of the best natural deepwater harbors in the South
Pacific Ocean, sheltered by shape from rough seas and protected by peripheral
mountains from high winds; strategic location in the South Pacific Ocean.
American Samoa is currently an unincorporated and unorganized territory
of the US; administered by the Office of Insular Affairs, US Department
of the Interior.
This is a traditional Polynesian economy in which more than 90% of the
land is communally owned. Economic activity is strongly linked to the US,
with which American Samoa conducts most of its foreign trade. Tuna fishing
and tuna processing plants are the backbone of the private sector, with
canned tuna the primary export. Transfers from the US Government add substantially
to American Samoa's economic well-being. Attempts by the government to
develop a larger and broader economy are restrained by Samoa's remote location,
its limited transportation, and its devastating hurricanes. Tourism is
a promising developing sector.
In July 1997 the Constitution of Western Samoa was amended to change
the country's name from Western Samoa to Samoa. Western Samoa had been
known simply as Samoa in the United Nations since joining the organization
in 1976. American Samoa protested the move, feeling that the change diminished
its own Samoan identity. American Samoans still use the terms Western Samoa
and Western Samoans.