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Samoa: The Cradle of Polynesia



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Podcast Transcript

Positioned roughly 1500 kilometers or 950 miles south of the equator and cut up by the Worldwide Date Line, is a small chain of islands which was was believed to be the birthplace of Polynesian civilization.

Right this moment these islands are divided between two completely different nations. Regardless of a standard tradition and language, the variations between them maintain getting bigger over time.

Study Samoa, each Western Samoa and American Samoa, on this episode of Every part In all places Every day.


I first visited Samoa again in 2007. It was one of many first stops I had on my around-the-world journey. 

I immediately fell in love with the nation and when individuals ask me what my favourite nation is, the reply I’ll typically give is Samoa. 

Samoa is a fairly small nation, located in the course of the Pacific Ocean, and it’s reasonably onerous to succeed in. Consequently, not many individuals go to. The overwhelming majority of its guests come from different islands within the Pacific, particularly New Zealand and Australia. 

Earlier than I’m going any additional, I ought to point out the pronunciation. I’m going to be utilizing Samoan pronunciation, which is placing the accent on the primary syllable, and utilizing an elongated “a”. Most individuals will pronounce it with none emphasis as simply “Samoa”.  

The historical past of Samoa dates again about 3,000 to three,500 years in the past when the islands have been settled by Austronesian individuals who have been working their manner throughout the Pacific Ocean. 

The ancestors of the Samoans are referred to as the Lapita tradition they usually started their growth eastward from what’s at this time thought of Melanesia, simply to the east of the island of New Guinea. 

The early historical past of Samoa is intertwined with the islands of Fiji and Tonga. Fiji lies southwest of Samoa and Tonga is South southwest. These islands have been the closest and so that is the place there was essentially the most commerce and communication.

Over 1,000 years in the past within the ninth century,  the Samoan Empire was established, also called the Tui Manu’a Empire, or the Tui Manu’a Confederacy. This was a wide-ranging empire that included Tonga and Fiji however went a lot farther to incorporate a few of Kiribati, the japanese Solomon Islands, and far of what’s at this time French Polynesia.

It was loosely dominated as you may anticipate given the huge distances and time it took to journey.

This started to collapse across the 12 months 1050 with the rise of the Tui Tongan Empire. Ultimately, the 2 largest and westernmost islands in Samoa, Upolu and Savai’i got here beneath Tongan management and remained that manner for a number of hundred years. 

It was through the Samoan and Tongan Empires that the Polynesian growth started which resulted within the settling of islands from Hawaii, to Easter Island, to New Zealand. 

That is the rationale why Samoa is called the cradle of Polynesia. This was additionally one of many final migrations of people to elements of the Earth that had by no means been inhabited earlier than. The lateness of this migration is among the the explanation why Polynesian languages are nonetheless so related to one another. 

The subsequent huge change in Samoan civilization occurred within the 18th century when first contact was made with Europeans. 

The primary European to identify Samoa was the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen who noticed it in 1722. Nevertheless, it wasn’t till the early nineteenth century that important contact with Europeans started.

Within the 1830s missionaries started visiting Samoa with the intent of changing the native inhabitants to Christianity. It was very profitable, as you’ll see in a bit.

There was additionally curiosity in Samoa commercially from Germany, Britain, and the USA. In truth, within the Eighties, all three nations claimed all of what was then the Kingdom of Samoa. 

Issues got here to a head with the primary Samoan Civil conflict which lasted from 1886 to 1894. Opposing factions clashed over management of the island and who could be king. The western powers tried to make use of the conflict to stake their positions. 

In 1889 all three western powers despatched warships to Apia harbor, the capital of Samoa. On March 15 of that 12 months, a serious cyclone hit and broken or sunk lots of the ships. 145 People and Germans have been killed. 

This led on to a convention in June which result in “The Last Act of The Berlin Convention on Samoan Affairs”. 

This act assured Samoan independence introduced again the exiled king and established guidelines relating to conflicts and land gross sales between Samoa and western nations. 

Nevertheless, the exiled king died simply two years later and conflicts started anew in 1894.

The British author Robert Lewis Stevenson moved to Samoa throughout this era in December 1899. He constructed a home and stayed there the remainder of his life. He served as a pro-Samoan advisor to the Samoan individuals to assist them navigate the politics of western nations. 

He died there in 1894 and was buried on the island. Right this moment his house is a museum. 

The civil conflict resumed in 1898 and this time, on March 15, 1899, 10 years to the day of the Apia cyclone, British and American ships shelled the Samoan capital. 

This resulted in one other negotiated settlement, however this time the implications have been way more pronounced. Britain agreed to surrender all claims to Samoa in change for the Germans ceding claims to Tonga, the Solomon Islands, and West Africa. 

Germany gained management over western Samoa, together with the islands of Upolu and Savai’i, that are by far the 2 largest when it comes to inhabitants and space. This turned referred to as the territory of German Samoa.

The USA gained management over the japanese islands which included the islands of Tutuila and Manu’a. Tutuila is the situation of Pago Pago Harbor, which is the very best deep water harbor within the Pacific. 

This turned the territory of American Samoa.

German Samoa lasted till 1914 and the beginning of the primary world conflict. On the behest of Nice Britain, the island was invaded by New Zealand and the island was taken over with out a wrestle. 

The Western Samoa Belief Territory was created by the League of Nations which was to be administered by New Zealand. 

Western Samoa was now the colony of a colony. 

This state of affairs remained till 1962 when the territory turned the newly impartial nation of Western Samoa. 

In the meantime, the opposite a part of Samoa, American Samoa, was and nonetheless stays, a United States Territory. 

I ought to word that the 2 Samoas will not be removed from one another. Their closest factors are solely about 44 miles or 70 kilometers aside. 

Earlier than their partition, there was one widespread Samoan tradition throughout all the islands. This Samoan lifestyle is called Fa’a Samoa.

For essentially the most half, that is nonetheless the case. The Samoan language is spoken in each areas and you may nonetheless discover conventional fales, that are the thatched-roof bungalows. 

Nevertheless, over a century of being separate territories has given every Samoa its personal character. 

Western Samoa truly modified its title in 1997 to simply Samoa. This truly triggered a spat with American Samoa as a result of they felt that they had an equal declare to being referred to as Samoa. 

To at the present time, the upper-level area title for Samoa is .ws for Western Samoa. 

The title wasn’t the one factor that was modified. 

In 2009, Samoa turned the one nation in historical past to vary the aspect of the highway they drove on from proper to left. 

In 2011, they made one other big change once they moved throughout the Worldwide Date Line. They went from the -11 UTC time zone to the +13 UTC time zone. Previous to this variation, Samoa was thought of the westernmost nation, as a result of it had one of many final inhabited islands the place the solar would set on a calendar day.

Samoa did this by utterly skipping the day of December 30, 2011.  

The explanation for each the date change and the driving change was to align themselves nearer with New Zealand and Australia. Many Samoans stay and work in New Zealand and Australia and they’re additionally the most important commerce companions and the most important supply of tourism. 

Nevertheless, in the midst of doing this, they additional distanced themselves from American Samoa. The Worldwide Date Line now runs between the 2 Samoas and you may’t drive a automotive the identical manner on both aspect. 

One of many different cultural variations which have arisen is sports activities. 

The nation of Samoa is loopy about rugby. They persistently have probably the greatest rugby sevens groups on the earth. 

American Samoa has embraced American sports activities, particularly American soccer. There have been a number of dozen gamers with American Samoan roots who’ve performed within the NFL together with such standouts as Junior Seau, Tua Tagovailoa, Marcus Mariota, and Troy Polamalu. 

I even have to acknowledge the unimaginable success that the American Samoan Anoa’i household has had in skilled wrestling. Virtually each Samoan in skilled wrestling has come from this one household, together with the likes of the Wild Samoans, Rikishi, Yokozuna, The Usos, Roman Reigns, and naturally, The Rock. 

They really had a photograph of the Rock on the Apia McDonald’s after I was there.  

The place many individuals from Samoa go to New Zealand or Australia, American Samoans typically will stay or work in Hawaii or California. 

American Samoa additionally is understood for having the very best price of enlistment within the armed forces of any US state or territory. 

American Samoa has a really distinctive standing in the USA. All different populated territories are what is known as organized territories. American Samoa is the one unorganized territory.

That implies that not like individuals in Puerto Rico or Guam, American Samoans will not be US residents. They’re thought of US Nationals. 

They’ll journey, stay, and work wherever in the USA, they usually journey beneath a US passport. The one distinction is that they’ll’t vote in federal elections or maintain federal workplace, and their passports say “US Nationwide” as a substitute of a citizen.

Touring between Samoa and American Samoa isn’t onerous. The flight is just about 20 minutes. Nevertheless, it may be troublesome for Samoans who wish to go to American Samoa as they want a visa to make the quick journey.

American Samoa is residence to American Samoan Nationwide Park, which is among the 63 nationwide parks within the US. 

Each Samoas are profoundly Christian nations. Within the nation of Samoa, 98% of the nation professes to be Christian. Nevertheless, the odd factor is that nobody denomination is predominant. 

The three largest denominations are Congregationalist, Catholic, and Mormon. Folks of various denominations will typically be discovered inside the similar village. 

Virtually everybody in each Samoas is bilingual, talking each Samoan and English. 

If you happen to want to go to Samoa or American Samoa it isn’t onerous, however it is going to take some effort. Flights to American Samoa solely come from Apia and Honolulu. Flights from Hawaii are very costly as a result of Hawaiian Airways has a monopoly on the route. 

There are regional airways that service the nation of Samoa from Tonga and Fiji, however most worldwide guests might be flying in on Air New Zealand from Auckland. 

One fixed debate is what the way forward for Samoa and American Samoa might be, particularly American Samoa. 

One choice could be for independence for American Samoa. Nevertheless, with a inhabitants of solely 46,000, that may be very troublesome.

An alternative choice, which has been talked about since Samoa was cut up, is Samoan reunification. A mixed nation would have a inhabitants of a bit beneath a quarter-million individuals, and it might actually be simpler for relations on all sides to go to one another. 

The issue is the latest strikes by the nation of Samoa almost about the time zone and the aspect of the highway they drive on has made unification harder.

In truth, there hasn’t been a lot motion on the a part of American Samoa in any respect to do something. They’ve a excessive diploma of autonomy in managing their very own affairs however have the monetary and navy help of the USA behind them. 

Each Samoa and American Samoa are nice locations to go to and the individuals there are pleasant and welcoming. Most individuals consider Samoa as an unique faraway place, however visiting is definitely fairly doable if you’re prepared to take the time. 


Every part In all places Every day is an Airwave Media Podcast. 

The chief producer is Darcy Adams.

The affiliate producers are Thor Thomsen and Peter Bennett.

Right this moment’s overview comes from listener websandrew over at Podchaser. They write:

One of the best factor to come back out of COVID. Gary began this podcast as a result of he couldn’t journey and put his curious thoughts to work on this day by day pod that’s entertaining, fascinating and bite-sized. It actually does span every little thing, and every topic he manages to make fascinating as a result of every is fascinating to him. I’m extra of a science and historical past nerd, and this pod undoubtedly appeals to that, however even the sports activities topics I discover entertaining. And he has an ideal talking voice! So long as he could make extra episodes, I’ll be listening. Thanks Gary!

Thanks websandrew! I’m glad one thing good got here out of COVID. If it wasn’t for this podcast, it might have simply been Zoom calls. 

??I wish to thank everybody who left a overview over at Podchaser in April to assist increase cash for Ukrainian refugees. If you happen to occur to hearken to the present on a podcast app that doesn’t have a overview choice, you may at all times go away a overview at Podchaser. 



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