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Samoa, History

Samoan Islands, trust territory, London Missionary Society, League of Nations, German occupation

The Samoan Islands were probably settled from Fiji about 3,500 years ago. Settlers from Samoa may then have migrated to other islands of Polynesia, including Hawaii, Tahiti, and New Zealand. The first European to explore the islands was the Dutch navigator Jacob Roggeveen in 1722. However, little was known of Samoa until after the arrival of the London Missionary Society in 1830. Toward the end of the 19th century, Germany, Britain, and the United States competed for influence in Samoa. In 1899 treaties among the three powers resulted in Germany annexing Western Samoa (now called Samoa), the eastern part of the archipelago becoming American Samoa, and Britain withdrawing its claim to the islands.

The German era was marked by commercial development, but it was brief. At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, New Zealand occupied Western Samoa; after the war the League of Nations gave New Zealand a mandate to administer the islands. Although Western Samoa’s request for self-government was denied, the people never accepted foreign rule. The mau, a passive-resistance movement that had begun under the German occupation, gained strength under New Zealand colonial rule. In a tragic incident in 1929, New Zealand authorities shot and killed 11 mau adherents.

American soldiers were stationed in Western Samoa during World War II (1939-1945), but no battles were fought there. After the war, Western Samoa became a trust territory of the UN and New Zealand continued as the administering authority. In 1962 Western Samoa became the first nation in the Pacific Islands to become an independent state, excluding New Zealand. A Treaty of Friendship signed with New Zealand in the same year guarantees a high degree of cooperation and association, but New Zealand has no special responsibilities for the islands’ affairs. Western Samoa changed its name to Samoa in 1997.

Article key phrases:

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