Samoan Islands


Figure 1.--Here we see Samoan Island boys spearfishing in a lagoon. The post card is undated, but looks to have been taken in the mid-1920s, probably in association of the Moana project. They were probably costumed for the scene.

The Samoan Islands in the South Pacific are of volcanic origins. We have some historical background. They were first called Navigators Islands because of the Samoans' reputarion as seafarers. They resisted European colonization until the end of the 19th century. The Samoan Islands were split between the United States and Germany (1900). Germany obtained the Western Islands. The modern independent state of Samoa is the Western Samoan Islands. The Eastern Islands are an United States dependency. The Western or German Islands were seized by the Allies in the opening months of World War I and the League of Nations granted a trusteeship to New Zealand. One of the first documentary film was shot in Samoa--'Moana' (1926). It was filmed in and around the isolated village of Safune. Flaherty chose a landscape and climate that could not have been more different than the snowy setting of his better known documentary -- 'Nanook of the North'. The Island were just beyond the reach of the Japanese offensive in the early months of the World War II Pacific War. New Zealand granted independence (1962). Samoa continues to maintain close ties with New Zealand and quite a number have migtated to New Zealand looking for jobs. The two principal islands are Upolu and Savai'i. Savai'i is one of the largest Polynesian islands. The capital city Apia is located on Upolu. The polpulation is nearly 0.2 million people. More than 90 percent are Polynesian. Only the Maoris on New Zealand out number the Samoans in the South Pacific. Most of the rest of the population is Euronesians (mixed European and Polynesian ancestry). Most of the population (about 75 percent) lives on Upolu. Most Samoans are Christian divided among several major denominations. We do not yet have much information on Samoa, but we do have a school page.

Geography

The Samoan Islands in the South Pacific are of volcanic origins. The two principal islands are Upolu and Savai'i. Savai'i is one of the largest Polynesian islands. The capital city Apia is located on Upolu. Most of the population (about 75 percent) lives on Upolu.

History

They were first called Navigators Islands because of the Samoans' reputation as seafarers. They resisted European colonization until the end of the 19th century. The Samoan Islands were split between the United States and Germany (1900). Germany obtained the Western Islands. The Western or German Islands were seized by the Allies in the opening months of World War I and the League of Nations granted a trusteeship to New Zealand. Located in the South Pacific northeast of Australia and New Zealand, the islands could have beenn used by the Japanese to interdict the vital sea lanes between America and Australia where the Allies were bracing for a Japanese invasion. Samoa proved, however, to be just beyond the reach of the Japanese offensive in the early months of the World War II Pacific War. New Zealand granted independence (1962). The modern independent state of Samoa is the Western Samoan Islands. The Eastern Islands are an United States dependency.

Economics

Samoa continues to maintain close ties with New Zealand and quite a number have migtated to New Zealand looking for jobs.

Ethnicity

The population is nearly 0.2 million people. More than 90 percent are Polynesian. Only the Maoris on New Zealand out number the Samoans in the South Pacific. Most of the rest of the population is Euronesians (mixed European and Polynesian ancestry).

Activities

We have some limited information on actiovites practiced on Samoa and the clothing associated with those activities. The primary activity is school. The first Samoan schools were founded by missionaries (1830s). We have no information at this time on schools during the German (1900-14) and New Zealand (1914-61) period. Independent Samoa has generally followed educatiional trends based on the New Zealand school system. Major improvements were made in the 1990s. The Government made school attendance mandatory for all children from 5 to 14 years of age or until completion of the 8th grade (1994). The public school system administered by the DoE consists of 139 primary schools, 21 junior secondary schools, and 4 senior secondary schools. The Samoan the government instituted a new education plan (1995). There are differences between rural and urban schools. Almost all children attend primary schools. The system generally follows the New Zealand educational system. Many children wear school uniforms. Another imprtant activity is religion. The Samoans like most Polynesians had polytheistic religion that incorporated both human and non-human gods. Ancestors might enter the pantheon. There was little outward display and formal worship ceremonies. Europeans when they first encountered the Samoans concluded that they did not have a religion. Actually the traditionalm religion paved the way for Christianity. One of the most important Samonan god, the war goddess Nafanua, prophesized that a new religion was coming that woul replace the old religion and wipe out the old gods. The first Europeans to settle in Samoa were missionaries. They had a profound influence on Samoan culture. John Williams and Charles Barf (London Missionary Society) came to Samoa to introduce Christianity (1830). Most today Samoans are Christians divided among several major denominations. Samoans because of their association with New Zealanders and Americans have developed a keen interest in sports. This is an entirely inprted cultural phenomenon. And seems to more active than on other Polynesian islands. Some traditiomnal activies continue such as fishing which now is not only a subsistence activity, but for recreation as well.

Garments

Until World War II, Samoa and its culture was still largely untouched by the outside world. Samoans were living a basically traditional lifestyle including both food and clothing. Children wore little or no clothing because of the warm climate. Women wore long grass skirts and did noot bother to cover their breasts. Men also wore grass skirts. Samoa clothing once textiles were introduced were a kind of wrapping up dress. Men also wear the wraps. Some of the popular Samoan garments are Puletasi, lava lava and others. Puletasi is exclusively a woman's gasrment in Samoa. Lava lava can, however, be worn by both men and women. Lava lava is a type of sarong that the Samoans wrap up the body. Puletasi is also a wrap garment. This dress covers the entire body and modt commonly is worn by young girls. Puletasi is a traditional dress that is most commonly worn for traditional Samoa occasions. It is also worn for church attendance. Like other Polynesian cultures (Hawaiian, Tahitian, and Māori) there was a tradition of significant and unique tattoos,

Movies

One of the first documentary film was shot in Samoa--'Moana' (1926). It was filmed in and around the isolated village of Safune. Flaherty chose a landscape and climate that could not have been more different than the snowy setting of his better known documentary -- 'Nanook of the North'.







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Created: 7:35 AM 8/21/2010
Last updated: 5:05 PM 9/29/2013