The Independent state of Samoa consists of two main islands, Savaii and Upolu and two small islands, Apolima and Manono, plus five uninhabited islands. Located on the westerly end of the Samoa Archipelago, it is halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand.
The famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson brought his family to live on Upolu in 1890 and built a large home in the foothills above Apia, where he spent the last five years of his life.


Although Savaii is the largest island of the Samoan archipelago, the capital Apia is on the more populated island of Upolu, which is also the seat of government centre for commerce.
Savaii is considerably less developed than Upolu, dotted with secluded beaches and crowned in the centre by the 609 feet Mount Matavanu, whose eruptions in 1905 caused the people to migrate to neighbouring Upolu.


Samoans are the largest group of full blooded Polynesians in the world and have retained much of their ancient tradition and culture.
Traditional tattooing is an intricate ancient art of Samoa and young Samoan males are tattooed with complex symbols designs, from the lower chest to the knees.
Samoan (Polynesian) is the native language, however English is widely spoken and is the official language.


These islands were first settled about 3,000 years ago and are accepted as the heart of the Polynesian culture.
In 1768, French navigator Louis de Bougainville sighted Samoa and called them "The Navigator Islands", because of the many Samoans sailing small canoes far from the sight of land.
During the 18th century vast plantation producing copra and cotton were developed for export and Apia became a major commercial centre in the South Pacific. Annexed by Germany from 1899-1914, and then New Zealand from 1914 (after WW1) until independence in 1962, Western Samoa finally gained self-government in 1962.


Beautiful fauna and flora are found on both islands. Savaii particularly, has lush tropical rainforests housing many fascinating and exotic bird species.
Several Conservation Organizations in Sweden and the US have provided funding to ensure the rainforests of Tafua and Falealupo on Savaii are conserved.


You can visit Robert Louis Stevenson's home in Apia, now a magnificent museum, the Tiavi Falls, the O Le Pupu Pu'e national park where bird watching is a pleasurable pastime and Papaseea, where mother nature has carved sliding rocks with pools beneath which are fun to slide down and swim in.
Also worth seeing is Piula Cave pool in the grounds of the Methodist Theological College. It's an oval shaped natural pool filled with cool spring water flowing from a cave beneath the church.
Savaii Island is reached in a few minutes by plane or in one and a half hours by boat.


Accommodation ranges from international standard to traditional fales (bungalows), some of which offer cooking facilities and private facilities. Villagers will negotiate private rates and home accommodation for budget travellers.


The two large Samoan islands have more than 2,000 kilometres of highway. In Apia there are taxis and rental cars available and driving is on the right side of the road. The first traffic lights in Samoa were installed in 1995. There is a good bus service on the islands of Upolu and Savaii, and Polynesian Airlines internal service operates flights between Apia and Savaii.


The main hotels have dining rooms and Samoan feasts or ‘Fiafia Nights' are held at these hotels on a weekly basis. Entertainment includes traditional singing and dancing. There are also several bars, clubs and cocktail bars, and at the hotel Tusitala, Tisotala, Aggie Grey's and the Beach Bar nightclub, there are live bands and a floor show every Saturday night. A recent addition to this paradise is McDonalds.
It is advisable to boil drinking water or buy bottled water available from stores throughout both islands at reasonable prices.


Sporting facilities are mainly concentrated in Apia. They include the Apia Park Stadium, the Royal Samoa Gold Country Club, public tennis courts, squash, a fitness centre, lawn bowls, hockey, netball, rugby, soccer, and Samoan cricket. There are also numerous marine activities including swimming, snorkelling and diving..


A wide variety of artefacts made by Samoan families for their personal use are also sold to visitors because of the beauty and quality of the craftsmanship.
*Siapo and Tapa cloth made from the mulberry bark and painted with native dyes is made into mats, hats and baskets. Kava and food bowls are hand carved from native hardwood. Shell jewellery and printed fabrics are also available. Shopping hours are from 8 am to noon and 1.30 pm weekdays and 8 am to 12.30 Saturday.


Samoa has proved to be one of the last undiscovered frontiers for wonderful uncrowded diving. With warm, clear waters offering visibility of between 15 and 50 metres and temperatures ranging from 25-30 degrees Celsius, a wet suit is not required.  Numerous sites including scenic walls, canyons and reefs are home to colourful tropical fish and schools of trevally, tuna, turtles and lion fish as well as a variety of hard and soft corals including brain, mushroom and plate corals. Most diving at sites located inside and outside the reef is shore-based from boats. One interesting dive and snorkelling site is Palolo Deep Marine reserve at Vaiala Beach which is almost like an aquarium for free divers and is very safe, especially for inexperienced divers.

Samoa is an excellent destination to learn to dive or advance your diving skills. There are two full dive operators, based on the island of Upolu. Pacific Quest Divers, based at Coconuts on the south side of the island, an active member of PADI, PIRA and DAN, offers a full range of certificates. Squama Divers, based in Apia, has a training program that includes PADI, IDEA and DIA certification. Both operators have rental equipment and night diving is available on request.


Aggie's choice of accommodation styles includes 150 rooms, 2 suites with harbour views and 26 island style bungalows decorated with intricate woven interiors and true South Seas ambience. Each has a refrigerator, tea and coffee making facilities, direct dial telephones and ironing facilities. Same day laundry and dry-cleaning, 24 hour consierge, valet and room service, child care, hairdresser, hotel gift and duty free shops, secretarial service and conference and meeting facilities are all available.
The hotel has three cocktail bars, where it is almost obligatory to sample a Bloody Mary, and the Marlon Brando coffee lounge. A la carte gourmet dining is offered at Le Tamarina Restaurant. Aggie's Fale Restaurant, which is also licensed is by the swimming pool and is surrounded by a tropical garden. A highlight of any stay is the weekly ‘Fiafia Night' (entertainment including a Samoan feast) and a guitar group serenading guests every night.

A meal plan offers three meals a day at very reasonable prices and picnic lunches are prepared for guests planning day trips. The Hotel's tour service can arrange activities such as helicopter sight seeing, water sports on Apia harbour, diving courses, airport transport, cultural demonstrations of Umu (Samoan oven) making, mat weaving and Samoan dancing, trekking and more. Palolo deep marine reserve is a five minute walk along the harbour front.

Some new additions and changes at the Hotel include a new fitness centre, the introduction of complimentary golf for guests at Samoa's 18 hole golf course, a kid's playground and kids', deep sea fishing, diving and complimentary water sports. There is also an extensive range of wedding packages.

Aggie's is a boutique family run international hotel with a unique history, one of the last of its kind. A stay here is a truly memorable experience. In a class of its own, the atmosphere is informal and Alan Grey (Aggie's son), his wife Marina and daughter Tania carry on the traditions started by the late Aggie to ensure that the 300 staff and guests all feel part of the extended Grey family. So when it comes time to go, it is difficult to leave the genuine hospitality, to additional service and friendly atmosphere behind.


Just 20 kilometres north-west of Upolu across the Apolima Strait, Savaii has only 2/5 of the population of Upolu despie being 1/1/2 times the size. In fact Savaii is the largest island in Polynesia outside of Hawaii and New Zealand. Much of the fertile land was buried in the eruptions of Mount Matavanu between 1905 and 1911 transforming the northern side of the island and causing the people to move to Upolu. However, the beautiful tropical rainforest are still home to many exotic birds.
Traditional Samoan villages line the coast of the island, but there is no main town like Apia and the pubic transport is scarce. There are very few taxis and rental cars need to be arranged in advance.

On the east coast, north of the Saleologa wharf is the Rev. John Williams memorial, a tribute to the first Christian Missionary who arrived in 1830. The beautiful lagoon at Lano village is well worth a visit and there is great surfing on Lano's beach and snorkelling at nearby Faga. Eight kilometres away in Letolo plantation is the Pulemelei stone pyramid, the largest remaining monument in Polynesia as well as an idealic waterfall and pool.  Along the southwest coast are a series of spectacular below holes just a short walk from Taga village. Deserted Fatele Beach lies in the vicinity of Faleaupu-tai where the villages can be seen woodcarving adjacent to the Catholic Church.

On the north coast is lovely Papa village and further east one should stop for a swim at Matavai's frewater spring or at Safotu's fresh water pools. Inland from Paia village is the "short people's cave" where midgets are said to live. A two to three hour walk will bring you to Mount Matavanu, the source of the 1905-11 volvanic outbreak, which is well worth a visit as are the massive barren lava fields at Saleaula and Aopo.

Be aware that the ferry service between Upolu and Savaii is eratic, depending upon the weather and numbers of passengers, so although the trip is only 1.1/2 hours don't plan to make it back for an International flight.



Samoa language


Samoa language refers to Samoan which is the major language used and spoken by majority of Samoan population. The other language in Samoa used widely used especially in most of the official and business transactions is English.

An Austronesian language, Samoan is spoken mostly in the western part of Samoa and in American Samoa. Approximately 420,000 people (in Samoa and American Samoa combined) speak this Samoa language. Samoan is also spoken by a large number of people in Fiji, Tonga, Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia and U.S.A. Samoan is the traditional language of Samoa and American Samoa and is also used as the official language together with English.

With such a wide coverage Samoan can aptly be called the language of Samoa. Samoan resembles the other Polynesian languages to a large extent, especially Tongan. The Samoan alphabet consists of 14 letters. The alphabets are:

Aa, Ee, Ff, gg, Ii, Ll, Mm, Nn, Oo, Pp, Ss, Tt, Uu, Vv

The vowels of Samoan can be both long and short. The long vowels have a macron. The syllables contain only a vowel or a consonant with a vowel. Consonants cannot come beside each other. There are a number of grammatical rules in Samoan and most of them pertain to the alphabets and the pronouns.

Samoan language is similar to a few Indonesian languages in the sense that one thing can have two words depending on the identity of the person to whom the thing belongs. There exists a separate form of this Samoa language that is spoken only by the matais during ceremonies and occasions.


 Talofa, Malo


O a mai oe?

How are you? /nominal/

Manuia Faafetai

I am fine.

Ou te le o malosi

I am not fine.

O a mai outou?

How are you? /plural/

O loo manuia faafetai

We are fine.

O e maunia?

Are you fine?/nominal/

I oe






O ai lou igoa?

What is your name?

O lou igoa o Tu

My name is Tu.

O ai le igoa o le tama lale?(his)

What is his/her name?

O ai le igoa o le teine lale?(her)

 O le igoa o le tama o Teariki

His name is Teariki.

O le igoa o le teine o Moana

Her name is Moana.

 O fea e te nofo ai?

Where do you live?

 Ou te nofo i Henderson

I live in Henderson.

 O e fiafia?

Are you happy?

 Ua e malamalama?

Do you understand it? /nominal/

 Ua tou malamalama?

Do you understand it? /plural/

 Ua manino?

Is it clear?

O le a le mea lea?

What is this?

 O le fasi pepa

A piece of paper.

 O le peni.

A pen.

O le nofoa

This is a chair.

O le a le mea lale?

What is that?

O le fasi penisina

That is a piece of chalk.

O le faamalamalama

That is a window.

O le faitotoa

That is a door.

Ou te leiloa

I don't know.

Ua galo ia au

I have forgotten.

O a ia mea?

What are these things?

O mea ga o seevae

These are shoes.

O a lae mea?

What are those things?



O a au mea o fai?

What are you doing?/nominal/

O au mea o fai?(both)the same...

What is he/she doing?

Tatala le faitotoa

Open the door.

Tapuni le faitotoa

Close the door.

O le a lau mea na fai?(both) the same...

What did he/she do?

O a latou mea o fai?

What are they doing?

O le matou te matamata i le famalamalama

We are looking at the window.

O fea le peni?

Where is the pen?

O le peni lale e i ole

The pen is over there.

O le a le tauga o le nofoa i le faaSamoa?

What is " the chair" in Samoan?










Usually, marriage contracts are not entered into until the parties have reached maturity. Young women of rank are very well trained to serve in all village affairs. They are guarded and chaperoned by elderly women of the chief's house. The custom has evidently done much for the preservation of chastity among the unmarried women. Usually, other girls are selected from the village to live in a group in the high chief's guest house to assist the village maid (taupou) in the receiving of guests of the village. The group which is supervised by one or more elderly women is known as the Aualuma (women attendants). The elderly lady consultants or advisers are selected from the chief's family. This group, headed by the village maid, is responsible for keeping the guest house ready for receptions and all other village functions. The village maid, having been raised under the strict supervision of her parents and the chaperons, is very cultured and hospitable. The village shrine is her abode, as well as a place of refuge for all her race and for visitors from all parts of the world.

Most of the nightly guests in the high chief's guest house are youths who try to gain favour of the selected attendants living there with the Taupou. Often they are talking chiefs from other villages who come on proposing missions to the village maid. They propose in proxy for their high chief who usually does not see council. The nightly guests bring food with them to the guest house. After evening devotions, the village maid with her attendants dine together with their guests, after which they spend the rest of the night dancing and exchanging popular island love songs. None but the best manners and respect are expected at all times in the guest house. The villagers consider it a great honour to receive guests, but they will tolerate no disrespect from any of the gusts; it matters not who he is or where he is from.

Opposition to intra-family marriage and the mating of the commoners with the chief lines is so pronounced that a young woman of rank seldom, if ever, is consulted about her future husband. She considers it a great honour to leave per position as a Village Maid to marry the husband of her village council's choice. In this way the line of high-ranking families is kept intact.

Formal courting of the village maid is seldom done by her chieftain-fiance. Presents of food and many other goods are given sometimes for months preceding the date of marriage, by representatives of the chieftain-lover. During the final visit, if everything is favourable, arrangement is made in which the proposing chief, together with other chiefs of his village, are asked to meet the village maid in her village to receive the formal consent of her parents and village council. Immediately after this assurance in the chief's guest house, the leading talking chief among the visitors orders his people to join him in the chanting at the top of their voices the formal Tigi (marriage shout). This is the ancient way of pronouncing the couple man and wife. Tigis are, in reality, the exclamation of tribute to both the bride and bridegroom - as usual in all formal ceremonies - their heritage, titles and rights are carefully cited. Tigis are not allowed to be given in the marriage of a couple of commoners. The last nights of the village maid in her village are spent in feasting and riotous dancing. The obscenity to prove her virginity which preceded this burst of feeling among the villagers and their guests and expressed in fantastic dancing, will not bear description. Before the arrival of the missionaries in 1830 and long after, the last night spent by the village maid in her village this custom was observed all over Samoa. The governments and churches worked unitedly to suppress this barbarous act, and it is not heard of any more in the islands. If the guests return by foot with the newly married couple, it is customary that the Tigis be continued through the villages. The bride usually wears, on her first trip to her husband's village, the royal robe that was made specially for her by her family. This robe is specified as the Ie Avaga (wedding robe). In the bridegroom's village this ceremonial robe is presented to the chief's orator as a reward for his much appreciated task of representing the chief in the bride's village.

The climax of marriage ceremonies is the performance of the Nunu (dowry exchange), which is usually held after the birth of the first child. Relatives and villages of the bride and bridegroom are very well represented. They come from all over the islands to help with food, merchandise, money and labour. The bride's relatives include in their donations Ie-Togas. This ceremony is held in the open air at the malae (public ground) in front of the high chief's guest house. The scene is suggestive of bridegroom and his side all the Ie-Togas they can get, with a lot of tapa cloths. The bridegroom's side displays, for exchange and to match the bride's collection, money, merchandise, yardage goods, and roasted pigs. It is a strenuous day for the high talking chiefs of both sides, whose duty is to try to please all the contributors. In elaborate weddings in which large districts and islands are involved, the number of Ie-Togas displayed for exchange would easily amount to over a thousand. It takes several days to complete the distribution and exchange of these goods. The bridegroom's side does all they can do to outdo their rivals, by giving to the bride's side more value than they have received. Whichever side wins the honour, the rivalry ends there.

The most valuable royal robe in this exchange is given free, as a gift by the bride's side. It is designated as the Ie-faa-Tupu (village maid's robe). sometimes it is awarded during the dowry ceremony to the high chief, father of the bridegroom Because of several benefits received by the talking chief during marriage ceremonies, he is always active in representing the high chiefs on proposing missions. All of the marriages arranged by the talking chief are primarily for the purpose of getting for himself more dowries and awards. For many generations it was customary for the wife of the chief to live no more than a few months with her husband. She was honourably released and retu4rnded home to clear the way for another marriage. The village talking chiefs would take the matter in their own hands and look for another match in a well-to-do family. According to the ancient custom, the high chief might have a dozen or more wives and concubines at one time.

All marriages approved by the chief council were considered legal. All children born under this system were considered legitimate. In the selection of a chief to succeed the holder after his death, all children that are of age have equal rights to the position. Presupposing the possibility of disagreement in the family when he passes away, he calls a family assembly in which he nominates the son he favours for the position in case of his death.

Before the church and government took hold of the situation, a chief in his lifetime might be legally married fifty or more times. The high chiefs yielded to the wish of their fellow councilmen in order to be honoured and supported legally. In village function the high chief is greatly honoured when all his children from many villages with relatives from their mothers' side, come with voluntary contributions to defray the expenses of the occasion. Evidently, this is the reason why the more wives the high chief has the better they liked it in the village. All the chief's children are always loyal and they also consider it a great honour to them to be present in all the village functions, to serve and help their father.

The kings' love affairs are somewhat different. It was common practice among the nobility for the princess of high-ranking village maid to do the proposing, not the king. In the formal procedure, the princess or village maid would go to the king's palace, accompanied by one high talking chief. They would be carrying an Ie-Toga, some fine mats and tapa cloths. Before the king, she would bow and say "I was sent by my father to take care of Your Majesty's bedding." The talking chief then completes the proposing speech and announces the tribute as he presents the princess' token of love which she had brought to the king. This action is known as Faa-Manamea (ladies proposing). Should the proposal be given the king's consent, the high talking chief leaves the princess in the palace. Elaborate celebration of the king's wedding follows, in which his whole dominion participates in the feasting and awarding of dowries.

Manu's differs somewhat from this usual practice among the royalties of Samoa. Chief Maui, a plenipotentiary of King Tuimanu'a, is sent with a tip of coconut leaf to the house of the high chief whose daughter the king wishes to have for his wife. Maui leaves the symbolic leaf at the round end of the guest house above the main post. The meaning of the traditional symbol is clearly understood by the high chief. Immediately preparations are made for the formal delivery of the queen-to-be to the king. The usual ceremonies and feasting follow in the same pattern as other kings. Formerly, no king ever did any proposing in person. All marriages are considered legal which are approved by the district chief council for the king and by the village chief council for the high chief. The children from these marriages are recognized as legal heirs, and their rights are never disputed. Illegitimate children are never elected as kings or high chiefs.

Marriages of common people are quiet and insignificant. Usually the boy proposes to the girl's parents. When the parents give their consent, they are then united as man and wife and live in the parents' home of either the bride or bridegroom.

Elopement of the village maid with her suitor often happens when the village council disapprove the mating of the maid with an undesirable. Such marriage is considered illegal. The eloping couple are liable to pay for their action with their lives if they are caught. They are on dangerous ground all night until they have reached the youth's village. Because the action humiliates the village maid's family and the village, the wrong-doer is severely dealt with.

Polygamy is now made unpopular by both the church and the government. Common-law marriage is practised illegally by many as in other lands. But women as a whole prefer legal marriage for the sake of their children. Marriages are now performed as in other countries. After the couple receives a legal marriage certificate from their government, they exchange their vows in a church before a minister.







The Polynesians are natural musicians and the Samoans are no exception. They love to hear and sing good music. Robert Louis Stevenson once said that the Samoans composed a song for every trivial occasion. . . Song is almost endless. The boatman sings at the oar, the family and evening worship and the workman at his toil. No occasion is too small for the poets and the musicians; a death, a visit, the day's news and pleasantries will be set to rhyme and harmony.

Older style dancing motions are slow, swaying and interpretive. Chants and old poems are sung and recited on special occasions. They are often referred to in speeches and debates. They are also used to figure the time of past historical events. The faataupati (clapping in syncopation dance) is accompanied by ancient war songs and drums.

Ancient and modern Samoan dances do not use songs in three-four tempo. Most of the songs composed for single or group dancers are in four-four and two-four tempos. Drums have often been used to accompany the ancient dancers.

The arrival of the first missionaries marked the awakening of Samoa to the use of church hymns as basic melodies in composing. The only musical instrument known to the natives before the arrival of the white man was the bamboo flute. Instead of fingering six small holes as in a piccolo or flute, they used three and sometimes four holes beside the larger one for the mouthpiece. These bamboo flutes were never used for accompaniment, they were only used by experts to sound a pitch or give interludes for chants. They are mostly played at bed time.

Large wooden drums (lali) of hollowed log are popular in the villages. They can be heard from a distance of several miles. They are used in many ways as village signal stations and for calling chiefs to assemble for emergency cases, or to announce a death or the arrival of village guests.  According to history some high chiefs used the lali to notify their servants living in distant villages to come with food to the guest house for his guests who have just arrived. In addition, these island-made drums are often used to beat the tempo desired for village group and sword dances. In boat races these drums mark the speed desired for the strokes of the oarsmen.

In the traditional siva dance the musicians seat themselves on one side, and proceed to beat a wooden drum at the sound of which the guests start to assemble. When the audience is assembled the musicians beat a sharp tattoo on the drums, and to the sound of applause and clapping of hands, dancers appear from behind a screen and take their places in the open space. The handsome brown bodies of the dancers glisten with coconut oil and their hair is decorated with shells, white and scarlet flowers and each is clad in a very short lava lava of about the size of a large pocket handkerchief. Over this is a fringe and tasselled girdle made of pandanus fibre and dyed in brilliant colours and each wears round the neck and falling over the breasts a wreath of strongly scented flowers.

Lamps are now placed upon the edge of the mats and the girls set themselves in a line facing them. One will begin singing in a shrill high pitched voice, and the others in turn take up the strain, the four voices blending in harmony to which the beating of the drums and the deep bass voices of the musicians make an effective accompaniment. As the girls sing, their bodies sway from side to side, the arms wave gracefully in perfect time, while the music, which commences slowly, gradually quickens, until arms, bodies, and voices are going at lightning speed; then they gradually slow down again and the song dies away in a soft tender whisper.

All the compositions of the Samoan musicians are original with their inspirations and philosophies based on their everyday lives. They aim at fitting the music to the words appropriate for the occasion and the blending of the singers' voices. They may not know the different positions of notes that form the chords, but they can quickly detect any discord that may be present.

Practically all of the love songs that are popular in the islands are expressed dreams of the lovers, who never intend to make the song popular for commercial purposes. The figurative speech and flowery language of the chief is often used by the composers. Indeed, many of the historical love songs of long ago were composed by known princes and princesses. They are still popular and sung with reverence in remembrance of the island nobility.





There are not many Polynesian words that have entered the English language, but perhaps the most widely used is tattoo. Exactly where and when the word "tattoo" originated is open to debate, but it is certain that it was a corruption of the polynesian word tatau, picked up by the early European sailors exploring the Southern Ocean.

The presence of "britches" upon Samoan males, was commented upon in many ships logs of the early explorers, and were sketched by many of the artists that were taken along on these voyages of discovery. Where the Samoans aquired this skill is not known, but there is a folk tale that explains that it was brought to Samoa by two Fijian women. Unfortunately during the course of their journey they made a mistake in the song they were singing. Rather than singing "Tattoo the women and not the men" they started singing "Tattoo the men and not the women". When they arrived in Samoa the first few villages they arrived at were not interested in their skill, but eventually a chief recognised their artistic abilities and they taught the villages their trade and showed them how to make the tools they needed.
There is another story which explains that originally tattoos were painted upon the skin, but a Samoan adventurer who travelled to the kingdom of the spirits learnt the art of true tattooing. He was treated very well by its inhabitants but they found his painted body decorations a pale immitation of their own tatoos. He learnt the art of tattooing, and when he returned to Samoa he introduced the use of hammers and sharpened bone or teeth for tattooing.

Traditional Samoan tattooing of the pe'a, body tattoo, is an ordeal that is not lightly undergone. It takes many weeks to complete, is very painful and used to be a necessary prerequisite to receiving a matai title; this however is no longer the case. Tattooing was also a very costly procedure, the tattooer receiving in the region of 700 fine mats as payment. It was not uncommon for half a dozen boys to be tattooed at the same time, requiring the services of four or more tattooers. It was not just the men who received tattoos, but the women too, although their designs are of a much lighter nature, resembling a filigree rather than having the large areas of solid dye which are frequently seen in mens tattoos. Nor was the tattooing of women as ritualised as that of them men

The whole process was highly ritualised with songs to be sung and tabus being placed on those that were undergoing the ordeal. Some of the first European visitors to Samoa commented upon the tattoos being of religious significance but this seems to have been disputed by anthropologists (both professional and amateur) who arrived later. It is interesting to note that most of the motifs of animal origin are animals which were considered to be sacred by different families.






Legends deified Tagaloa in Samoa. Legends also described not only one, but several heavens as the "holy habitation" of the deity. The ancient Samoans also believed in family and village gods, and worshipped images, stones, birds, fishes, insects and beasts. There are also undisputed stories of cave giants who lived on human flesh. Sickness and death were always traced to a displeased god. Families usually get together to discuss the possible cause of such of such death and plead with their god for forgiveness. If a family god was an owl, for instance, and it flew low across the road in front of a walking member of the family, while there was a sick person in the family at the time, they would take the incident as warning that death was coming to the family.

The people were very superstitious. An unkind deed to anyone while living was said to have been paid back in revenge, when the offended or displeased person died. It was a common belief that the dead people always follow the living in spirit. Should several members in a family die at close intervals to each other, they would pray to their family god or go to the grave of the possible displeased member and plead over it for forgiveness. Evil spirits are believed to enter at will into a human being. Special herbs are pulverized and rubbed on the person afflicted to drive away the Aitu (Ghost).

Family gods, if found dead anywhere, are given an honourable burial. In case of a death at sea of any member of the family, and if the body is not found, the family would go to the beach and spread a tapa or mat above the high water mark, and then pray. Should a crab, snail or an insect crawl on the spread, they would fold it in the spread and give it an honourable burial in the family burial ground. It was believed that the spirit of the member who died in the sea turned to a crab, or whatever they had buried. Even death feasts are given by the family for the whole village, after the "spirit funeral" was held. Taulaitus (sorcerers), like the kahunas of Hawaii, are sought for cure and advise on evil spirits, as well as for solution of all family problems. Sermons by the ministers of different denominations in the islands have not as yet completely converted Samoa against the practice. Several still believe that the taulaitus are vested with power by which they can dispel evil spirits.

Modern religion, however, has taken a firm stand in the islands. It is said that the Samoans are one hundred ;per cent religious. The London Missionary Society was introduced to Samoa in 1830 by John Williams and Charles Barff with the help of Tahitian teachers. In honour of the teachers the natives called the first church Lotu Taiti (Tahitian Church). Just recently, a few pastors and members of the London Missionary Society disassociated themselves from the mother church. They organized in Samoa a branch of the Congregational Church (Lotu Faapotopotoga).

The Roman Catholic priests arrived in Savaii from Uea in 1846. The people of Lealatele Village were converted. The church there was their largest branch for many years. Father Gavet was the priest in charge of the Society of Mary. They soon spread and their headquarters are now in Moamoa, Upolu. In honour of the Pope the natives named the church Lotu Pope.

Wesleyan Methodist missionaries arrived in Samoa by way of Tonga in 1828. This date is disputed as their actual organization was said to have been at a later date. Hence the London Missionary Society is widely known and credited as the first missionaries to arrive in Samoa in the first group of Methodist missionaries were a number of Tongan preachers because of this and in honour of their cousins, the Tongs, the Samoans named the church Lotu Tonga (Church of Tonga). They are also known at present as Lotu Metotisi (Methodist Church). Their central school and headquarters are at Lufilufi, Upolu.

The first missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints arrived in Samoa in 1888. After visiting Tutuila they established their headquarters at Fagalii, Upolu. It has been changed to Pesega, Apia, where they now have a large school. They also established large intermediate schools in Sauniaitu, Upolu and at Vaiola, Savaii. In Mapusaga, American Samoa, they have established a junior college. Because their first missionaries brought with them the Book of Mormon, they were called by the natives Lotu Mamona (Mormon Church).

The Seventh Day Adventists first missionaries arrived in Apia, Upolu, during the German Administration. They started in Leifiifi, Apia, and later moved to Fusi, Salualata, where they established their headquarters and a school.

Recently, Evangelists paid several visits to Samoa. But for reasons known only by them, their preachers returned to Hawaii and the United States from whence they came. The chief councils of Samoa gave the churches their full support. As a result, attendance on Sunday services in the villages is almost one hundred per cent. Chiefs of each family rule that all must go to church on Sunday. Because of this, the fine surfing beaches of Samoa are not crowded with a display of the latest style of bathing suits, fancy, coloured automobiles and hundreds of the so-called pleasure-seekers basking themselves on the sand for hours just to get a "temporary tan." The children of Samoa are trained in the village to keep the Sabbath Day holy.





The word matai means chief, and is an honour that is bestowed upon someone. The role of the matais is very complex and interwoven deep into the fabric of Samoan culture and history. Matais have family, civic, political and prior to the arrival of the European, religious duties to perform.

A matai title can be given to either men or women, although you will find far more men with titles than women. It is usually given to someone in acknowledgment for services that have been rendered. A family might give a title to a relation who has been able to support them through hard times or village might give a title to someone that has done something that has been of benefit to the village as a whole. However currently there appears to be a tendency to give a matai title to someone in order to receive favours in return, be they of a financial or other nature.

Until recently it was only possible for matais to vote in parliamentary elections. It used to be a relatively common practice that prospective parliamentary candidates would ensure that members of their constituency would receive titles to ensure that they could increase their share of the vote. Even today only matais are elegible to seek parliamentary office.

Within each village every family has a matai that is a member of the fono (council) and represents the interests of the family. The fono is responsible for administering justice within the village and can pass down a wide range of judgements upon a miscreant. The leader of the fono is called the ali'i, and is assisted by a pulenu'u. The ali'i was considered to be far too important to be bothered with actually discussing peoples problems and so the position tulafale (talking chief) arose.

The tulafale acts on behalf of the ali'i at social occaisions, ceremonies and in discussions with other villages and external bodies. He is usually chosen because he will have an imposing figure and an excellent voice and command of the language. Samoans love oratory, and there is even a form of the language used only for the purposes of oratory and little understood by the majority of Samoans. It makes use of word forms that are not used elsewhere in the Samoan language and makes constant use of Samoan proverbs, meaning of most being quite cryptic unless you are familiar with the story behind the proverb.

A tulafale can be easily identified because he holds a long staff in one hand, has the orators fly whisk over his other shoulder, and was traditionally clothed in a skirt made of matting or tapa.

In Tonga and Fiji the chiefs possesed an almost god-like position within the community. Whilst it was not so extreme in Samoa, it was almost impossible for someone of common descent to scale the ranks of nobility since marriage always had to be to someone of an equal standing in the caste system. This led to an unusal trade system developing between the islands of Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. It was quite possible for chief or title holder (since Tonga operates matrilineally) to be unable to find anyone of suitable breeding to marry. When this occured it would be necessary for them to look to the other islands as a source for a suitable spouse.




The story of European rivalry in the Pacific began even before it was first sighted by Balboa in 1513 and since then Pacific History has been dominated by the European powers ascendant in Europe at any particular time. Portuguese discoveries of the offshore Atlantic islands, the rounding of Southern Africa in 1487 and Columbus's voyage to the Bahamas on behalf of Spain in 1492 caused conflict between Portugal and Spain over the possessions of new lands which the Pope tried to settle by a Bill issued in 1493 awarding all of those lands being newly discovered east of a line one hundred leagues west of the Azores to Portugal and those lands to the west to Spain. By the treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, the dividing line was moved to a line running north and south three hundred and seventy leagues west the Cape Verde Islands. The amended line awarded Brazil to Portugal, but most of the Americas and the Pacific to Spain. Portugal claimed the East Indies but Spain took the Philippines in 1564. However, as the determination of accurate longitude was impossible at this period and remained an inexact science until Captain Cook's time and the introduction of the marine chronometer disputes continue as each country tended to fix longitudes favourable to its own claims.

During the sixteenth century the history of European voyaging and discovery in the Pacific remained predominantly Spanish with the Portuguese acquiring the East Indies at the Pacific's western edge until superceded by the Dutch at the end of the century. There were a growing number of voyages, the most of which were those of Magellan in 1520 to 1522 (the first voyage around the world); Mendana's discovery of the Solomon Islands in 1576; Drake's round the world voyage in 1577 to 1580 and Mendana's second voyage in which he discovered the Marquesas and the islands of Santa Cruz.

By the beginning of the 17th century, the Dutch had taken over much of the Portuguese East Indies and thereafter continued the Portuguese policy of voyaging and discovery. It is possible that undocumented Portuguese or other voyages to part of Australia had provided the basis for some early maps of about the middle of the 16th century but the documented history of the discovery of Australia was begun in 1605 - 1606 by the Dutch although this was followed immediately by the passage of the strait between New Guinea and Australia by the Portuguese Torres. Tasman discovered Tasmania, New Zealand, Fiji and other groups between 1642 - 1643. Piecemeal and incomplete discoveries continued until the improvement in European ships and navigation in the 18th century allowed the great discoveries and charting of the Pacific of that period.

The ending of the Seven Year's War in 1763 left Britain predominant in the colonial and maritime spheres, nevertheless the French were determined to take an equal share of any European expansion in the Pacific and throughout the second part of the 18th century British and French rivalry increased. Although this period is replete with famous names of voyagers - Byron, Wallace, Cook, Bouganville, Perouse, d'Entrecasteaux - and proclamations of sovereignty on behalf of the various European powers were made by ships' commanders from time to time, no actual settlements or acquisitions were made until the British settlements in Australia at Port Jackson Sydney in 1788. By the beginning of the 19th century, the main island groups of the Pacific had been discovered and chartered by Europeans. It remained to fill in the gaps and develop trade.

Disregarding the early European conquest on the edge of the Pacific - the American coast, the East Indies and the Philippines - acquisition only began with the British in Australia in 1788, followed in New Zealand in 1840; these in turn influenced Britain in later acquisitions as the colonialists in Australia and New Zealand were anxious to monopolize Pacific Island trade for themselves and pressed Britain to acquire islands and island groups to keep out the commerce of rival European powers.

European traders and missionaries of many nationalities were establishing plantation, trade and religious interests throughout the Pacific which often led to conflict which led in turn to request for help to the European countries from their nationals. Crimes committed by or against Europeans led to actions by warships of their parent countries. Attempts were made to control the recruitment of Pacific Islanders or labour and to restrict the sale of guns. These factors among others built up pressure for the acquisition and control of the various island groups by the European powers and after the American Civil War by the United States of America. The French, disappointed at being forestalled by Britain in New Zealand in l840, counted by acquiring the Society Islands and the Marquesas in 1842 and New Caledonia in 1853. Germany became very active especially in Samoa, in the groups to the north of New Guinea and in the Marshall Islands.

In 1874 Britain annexed Fiji; in 1884 Germany acquired New Britain, New Ireland and the Northeast Coast of New Guinea; in the same year Britain under pressure from the Queensland colonialists declared a protectorate over southeast New Guinea. In 1893 Britain declared a protectorate over part of the Solomon Islands and acquired more of them by agreement with Germany in 1900. After a war with Spain in 1898 the USA acquired Guam and the Philippines and after troubles in the Republic of Hawaii the USA annexed Hawaii also. In 1899 the remaining Spanish possessions in the Pacific - the Caroline, Palau and the Marianna Islands - were sold to Germany which also annexed Western Samoa the same year leaving the USA to take over the Eastern Samoan Islands.





AmericanSamoa-1.jpg image by samoan56

The only American land below the equator, the territory of American Samoa consists of seven beautiful, tropical, volcanic islands and two coral atolls. It lies some 2,300 miles south, south-west of Honolulu and its nearest neighbour is Western Samoa a mere 25 minutes away by jet. Six of the islands are inhabited. Tutuila is the largest and has the most population.


The capital Pago Pago sits on one of the most spectacularly beautiful harbours in the Pacific region. You can best admire its perfection from lofty Mount Alava.


The Samoans, who are of Polynesian extraction have lived here for more than 3,000 years. Their culture is rich in tradition and places great emphasis on the extended family. English is the language of business and most Samoans speak Samoan and English.


The first inhabitants migrated from the west possibly by way of Indonesia, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga to the eastern tip of Tutuila near the present village of Tutuila around 600 BC.  Chief Tulmanu signed the deed of cession after WW1 so that his people could enjoy the privileges of American citizenship, but it wasn't until WW2 that the Samoan islands acquired strategic importance and that road, airport, docks and medical facilities were built.


In Fagatele Bay Marine sanctuary the steep volcanic slopes contain some of the rarest Paleo-tropical rainforest. Large fruit bats or flying fox patrol the jungles and huge seabirds can be seen nesting on the sheer cliffs and ridges. Some 34 species of bird life had been identified. Sixteen of which are unique to Samoa.


Mt. Alava provides stunning views of the harbour which is the steep sided crater of an ancient volcano, the seaward side of which has collapsed to allow the sea to enter and form the mouth of the harbour. Jean P. Haydon Museum of American Samoa, a national historic building that formerly housed the United States Navy Commisary during World War 2, was officially dedicated by famous anthropologist Margaret Mead, author of the controversial book "Coming of Age in Samoa".

Afono Pass, which winds from one side of Tutuila to the other, offers seven scenic points from which to view the incredibly beautiful Pago Pago harbour.
You can visit Tutuila's newly established National Park over the mountains from Pago Pago, and on the Manu'a Islands of Ta'u and Ofu. Pay a visit and you will experience paradise. The tropical rainforest, world-class diving areas, world class hiking trails and Manu'a's historic sites, will make you feel like a native of Samoa's culture and fa'a Samoan way of life.


Facilities include comfortable hotels, motels and lodges. There are no camping sites, but private accommodation arrangements can be made with village chiefs or landowners.


Taxis and rental cars are available. A fleet of ‘aiga', local family buses, run unscheduled services. Driving is on the right hand side and most car rental companies require drivers to be at least 18 years old.


Live bands and traditional dancing are offered in some of the hotels. Yiu can also attend a Samoan party and feast on delicious suckling pig, chicken and fish served on banana leaf plates, or visit the various villages and share a ceremonial drink of kava, and a Fiafia (traditional barbecue).


There are a number of recreational options including snorkelling, swimming, sailing, waterskiing, scuba diving, golf, tennis, rugby, cricket, nature walks and visiting historical archaeological sites.

Try deep-sea fishing for marlin, tuna and shark from a charter boat and watch a whole village harvest fish from the sea in the traditional style using long nets.


Visit the handicraft centre at the Old Age Office at the South end of Pago Pago park. They have fascinating carved wood objects and hand-blocked tapa-print artefacts. Handicrafts are also made in the various villages.







By the flashing light of torches, 200 Samoans hacked a path up the side of Mount Vaea, Upolu, Samoa, while the men of the household dug the grave on the summit. Then up the steep path, with the ensign of the Casco laid over it, came the coffin, carried shoulder high by powerful Samoans. The Samoan chiefs forbade the use of firearms on the mountain, after Robert Louis Stevenson was laid to rest on its summit, so that the birds, undisturbed, might sing about his grave

On the 26th June, 1888, the Robert Louis Stevenson's party went on board the Casco in San Francisco Harbour. The Casco was a 95' fore-and-aft topsail schooner of 70 ton. The Stevenson party comprised Stevenson, his wife, Fanny, his mother and the French maid, Valentine Roch. On the 28th June, 1888, the beautiful yacht was towed across the bay and through the Golden Gate where the sails were unfolded and the vessel began its southward voyage through the Pacific. It was a voyage only intended to be a health and pleasure excursion of a few months' duration but turned into a voluntary exile prolonged until the hour of his death.

The Casco sailed for the Marquesas 3,000 miles away and a month from the day they sailed on the 28th July, 1888, the Casco dropped anchor in Anaho Bay in Nukahiva (Nuku Hiva). They lay there for three weeks during which time they made friends with the natives noting that there was one white trader living among them.
After leaving Nuku Hiva, the Casco party cruised among the coral atolls of the Paumotus (Tuamotus). They spent four weeks at Fakarava, a low atoll, 80 miles in circumference and 200 yards in width shaped like a horse shoe. Here, they spent their time bathing in the warm shallow lagoon and gathering the wonderful seashells.
They made Papeete, in the Tahitian group, during the first week of October, 1888, and it was here that Stevenson became ill with the cold and had to go to the other and milder side of the island to Tautira. It was here that Stevenson formed a friendship with Princess Moi who called upon the Stevensons the day after their arrival, having heard of a white man being ill. She herself made Robert Louis Stevenson a salad of raw fish, which was the first thing he was able to eat. It was to this Princess Moi, ex-Queen of Raiatea, that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the following verses:

The Casco went back to Papeete for repairs, and this meant that the whole party had to remain on at Tautira until she was remasted. It was during this time that Stevenson and his wife gave a great feast to the natives in return for the wonderful hospitality they had received. The Casco however did not immediately return and the locals began to share in the anxiety of the Stevenson party. It was Rui, a sub-chief who went to Papeete and brought back the news that the Casco needed more repairs, and it might be a long time till she returned to Tautira for them. The Stevenson party were most concerned as they had used up all the yacht's stores and had only a few dollars left. It was Rui who told them that they must stay as his guests and that he would look after them until the Casco returned. So they stayed on as Rui's guests during which time Stevenson worked hard at The Master of Ballantrae which he almost finished.

By Christmas, 1888, both masts on the Casco had been repaired and the Stevenson party said goodbye to their friends that they had made at beautiful Tautira, and embarked once more, this time for Honolulu. The Stevensons went to Honolulu to get their mail, but along the way, they had met bad weather and, in Samoa, rebel chief, Tamasese, had risen against King Malietoa. This led to the first of Stevenson's letters on Samoan politics.

Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii was, in those days, an admixture of native life and civilization. The Stevensons were located a little out of town, at Waikiki, in a kind of pavilion and two smaller buildings built along native lines. It was in these surroundings that The Master of Ballantrae was finally completed. During their stay at Honolulu, the Stevenson party saw much of the native royalties, King Kalakaua and his sister, Princess Liliuokolani, and there were many Hawaiian feasts.

Early in May, 1889, Stevenson's mother left, returning to Scotland via America. Later in May, 1889, Stevenson visited the island of Molokai and, by special permission, stayed for a week in the leper colony, the scene of Father Damien's work. This visit made a profound impression upon Stevenson.  On his return to Honolulu, Stevenson was immersed in preparations for the year's voyage on board the schooner Equator with Stevenson paying in advance for a cruise of four months, or longer if desired. This time the party was a different one to that on board the Casco. Stevenson's mother, having returned home, was not present nor was Valentine Roch, who were replaced by Stevenson's step son.

On the 24th June, 1889, Robert Louis Stevenson, his wife, Fanny, and his step son bordered the Equator. At the last moment, King Kalakaua drove up with the party of native musicians to bid farewell. The schooner sailed, leaving the mighty brown monarch waving his hand from the shore and his native musicians sending strains of farewell music over the widening expanse of sea.

The Equator was bound for the Gilbert Islands (Kiribati), and for the next six months Stevenson was lost to civilization and to his friends. They landed at Butaritari and moved to Abemama in October, 1889. For the first and probably only time in his wanderings, Stevenson was in real danger of violence from the local people for it was here that King Tem Binoka had the power of life and death and allowed no white man on his island. After an inspection of the Stevenson party, and two days' consideration, he admitted them as his guests, and provided for them four houses and a cook.

When the time came for Stevenson's departure, King Tem Binoka was very depressed and miserable at the parting. He sat on his mat, disconsolate, and often sighed. He took Stevenson's party on board in his own gig, refused refreshments, shook hands silently, and went ashore. Early in December, the Stevenson's party arrived in Samoa. In February, 1890, Stevenson departed from Apia, Samoa, to Sydney, Australia, on board the S.S. Lubeck, after a six-week stay in Apia during which time he purchased 300 acres of land and wrote The Bottle Imp, his first Polynesian story.  Whilst in Sydney, Stevenson once again exhibited all his old symptoms of illness, mental and physical. They sailed from Sydney on 11th April, 1890, on the steamer, Janet Nichol. (See The Cruise of the Janet Nichol).

Eventually, the Stevensons returned to Samoa and settled at Vailima where Stevenson was the head of the household of five whites and twelve Samoans. In the first summer at Vailima, Stevenson was very busy with his own work - The Wrecker, and in preparation for the serial publication of The South Sea Letters.  Towards the end of 1892, Stevenson yielded to persuasion and added to and enlarged the house at Vailima. The enlarged house was by far the most imposing on the island.

In February, 1893, Stevenson again journeyed to Sydney where he was given a most encouraging opinion on his health. In the autumn of 1893, the Samoan war broke out and after the war in September, 1893, Stevenson again left home, this time on a voyage to Honolulu. On this, his second visit to Honolulu, the conditions were different for King Kalakaua was now dead, his sister, Princess Liliuokalani, had been deposed and a Provisional Government was now in power. Before he left Honolulu in September, 1893, he made a new will which retained the same trustees but made various different dispositions. This will was his last.

Stevenson became ill with pneumonia and his illness and recovery lengthened the stay in Honolulu after the completion of his business there and it was not until November that he and Mrs. Stevenson were able to make the voyage back to Samoa. The following year, 1894, was his last. On the 3rd December, a blood vessel burst in his head and he never regained consciousness.

The Union Jack that flew over Vailima was brought and laid over him, and the Samoans passed in solemn processions, each kneeling and kissing the hand of their friend and master. The next day, Samoan chiefs came and spread fine mats on him till the Union Jack was hidden beneath them. The chiefs remained all night beside him, in silence.

By the flashing light of torches, 200 Samoans hacked a path up the side of the mountain, while the men of the household dug the grave on the summit. Then up the steep path, with the ensign of the Casco laid over it, came the coffin, carried shoulder high by powerful Samoans. The Samoan chiefs forbade the use of firearms on the mountain, after Robert Louis Stevenson was laid to rest on its summit, so that the birds, undisturbed, might sing about his grave.






In every traditional village there is a chief council which is composed of representatives selected by the village families. Among this group is one or more high chiefs also under-chiefs and orators. The group is vested with the power and authority to officiate in all community affairs and village functions. They pass laws and regulations, and they decide on all public matters which concern the welfare of the villagers. Families are very careful in the selection of their Matai (Chief). He must be intelligent, honest and capable as a leader. He must be well versed in the history of the family, their hereditary rights and privileges, as well as their genealogy. He must also know as much of the history, rights and privileges of other families in the village. He should be well versed in the rights and privileges of other villages and political districts.

He must prove himself willing to serve and protect the rights and interests of his family, village and district, at all times, at all cost, and with his life if necessary. He should be the legal heir of the chief of the family that preceded him. In case of a broken link the family selects the next in line, if he qualifies. He should also prove that he would not rule with an iron hand, but with love and a real desire to discharge his duties for the benefit and blessing of all.

Members of the chief council are trained to participate in the ceremonies, rituals and social functions in their own village, as well as in other villages on district affairs, or when they, with chiefs of other villages, assemble to pay tribute in royal funerals and weddings, as well as other celebrations. The high chief in each village is represented in public affairs by his official Tulafale (orator). Orators, being the spokesmen and mouthpieces of the high chiefs, perform their duties cautiously and wisely. Dignity, honour, rights and privileges of the high chief must be guarded and protected always. If the "Talking Chief" is found not equal to the task, in important matters the high chief represents himself and acts as orator for his village or district. It is not unusual for the high chief to demand the orator to be seated as he substitutes him in open-air debates. The honour and rights of his people must be protected any cost. It is for this that all members of the chief council are supposed to be steeped in the general knowledge of the village functions.

When a chief violates any of the codes of ethic and brings dishonour or humiliation upon the village, either by action or spoken word, he is immediately reprimanded. In severe cases he is either fined or deported. The family usually yields to the will of the Village Council, pays the fine and appoints someone to take his position.

Young men, as they serve the chiefs during the various ceremonies and village functions, start at an early age to study the rituals with an eye for the position of chief. Though the duties of a chief carry a lot of responsibilities, it is coveted by most of the male members of every family. The highest aim in the life of many is to become a chief who will be popular, and known for his wisdom and ability to lead his people.

In the high chief's family one of the young men may be selected to assume the role of a Manaia (handsome leading man). He is the representative of the high chief's family in all dances, entertainments, receptions and social functions. Likewise is the Taupou (village maid or virgin) selected, who takes a very important position in the chief's guest house. Either she or the Manaia or both officiate in leading the villagers in all their entertainments and ceremonies. These two positions are recognized by all the guests of the village and are honoured in every village where there is a high chief.

In the Taalolo (formal presentation of the guest's food supply), either the Manaia or Taupou, or both, lead the group, composed of all the adults in the village, as they proceed, singing and dancing, toward the village central guest house. The ceremony is a common scene in every village of Samoa. All participants in this occasion wear their best Samoan costumes decorated with flowers and perfumed with scented oil. Either the Taupou or the Manaia, or both, wear the distinctive royal headdress (Tuiga), which is the insignia of rank worn exclusively by members of the high chief's family. They lead the group as they march, singing and dancing, and bringing to the village guests the best food in the village - roast pigs and a large variety of delicacies. On special occasions the high chief, himself, or his wife, or both, take the role of the Manaia and Taupou and they wear the headdresses.

When the supply of food is formally presented to the guests on the high chief's lawn, chiefs among the hosts and guests exchange formal speeches of flowery phrases, and poems of congratulation and appreciation. When the high chiefs have properly showered their salutations through the talking chiefs of both parties, in the best phrases from their vocabulary, the selected attendant from the guests announces at the top of his voice what food was received in the presentation. He concludes by inviting any other visitors that are then in the village to make themselves known, in order that they may be presented with a share of the feast. Shares for all ministers of different denominations that are serving in the village are announced and the delivered. If the guests are staying overnight in the village, the villagers join the guests in the evening for family prayers with more food. The guest and hosts then dine together and spend the night exchanging island songs and dances. Parties of this sort are usually lively and fantastic.

In the villager there are several guest houses. There should be as many guest houses as there are holders of hereditary chief and orator titles. The main guest house, however, which is usually in the center of the village is that of the highest chief of the village. In it the guests of honour are received and housed. It is the center of all village functions. Other members of the visiting groups are assigned to occupy other guest houses. Food and sleeping accommodations in any of these guest houses are given gladly, free of charge and without any thought of remuneration whatsoever. Visitors may stay as long as they wish and they are very well served and entertained.

The position of a chief is a profession. Holders of titles are, as a result of their training, very considerate, humble and polite. The word aiga (family) in Samoa does not mean the immediate family group of a father, mother and children. The word has a very broad meaning in Samoa, and also in other islands of Polynesia. All distant relatives are included in the family circle. Favouritism is never shown by the chiefs at any time. This is the way they teach their families unity and cooperation. Loyalty to the chief and his family is evident in the villages all over Samoa. To the Samoans it is a sacred obligation. Undoubtedly it is the spirit of helping each other that has made them a devoted, lovable and exceedingly happy people.

To avoid the frequent use of the chief's name, he is addressed in the family circle as "father' or "old man." However, in the guest house and in public, he is properly addressed as a chief should be. The term "old man" is revered in the family. It is a recognition of his much-appreciated, long service as a father and adviser. Being old, he is considered mature in judgment. The term is never intended as an insult, as it sometimes is among the Europeans.

Children in the village are named at birth to commemorate some great event of the time, such as war, famine, storm, sorrow, happiness, poverty, or wealth. Often these names are offered in courts of justice and at village council investigations to help trace past events, as well as to establish dates of historic events of the past for the families and the villages.

In the village a person carries only one name - the given name - without a surname. When a person becomes a chief he carries only his chief's name. This custom has created much trouble for the Samoans when they travel abroad, where they meet immigration officers. For identification the Samoans now are required to establish a surname.

Titles to family land are vested in the chief. The present Land and Title Commissions in British and American Samoa honour the chief's right. However, the chief always consults members of the family on important matters, such as exchanging or selling lands to another Samoan. Selling of lands to foreigners is at present prohibited by law. Should the chief act contrary to the will and wish of the family or against their common interest for his own personal gain, he is forced to forfeit his right as a chief and another is appointed to succeed him. The rights of the family in cases of this are upheld by the Courts of Justice and also the village chief council.

The most popular chiefs are the ones who can keep their families together. The system in the village is somewhat similar to that of the old biblical United Order with the chief acting now as the Bishop acted then to watch over the family and evenly distribute the fruit of their labour for the personal welfare and benefit of all concerned. The work of construction of houses and canoes is done mostly by free labour, furnished by the villagers by order of the chiefs who also donate their time and help supervise the work. Chiefs are duty-bound to give their whole-hearted support to all their fellow members. Farm produce and fish caught by the families are shared with the less fortunate ones in their neighbourhood. This system has unquestionably made the Samoans a generous and happy people, though it seems peculiar to the rest of the world.






The term "fine mat" is not an accurate English translation for the word Ie-Toga, the most valued possession of the royal families of Samoa. It fails to describe the true value of the sacred ceremonial robe as the Samoans see it. Ie-Toga is never used as a mat; it never was and it will never be. It is often said among the Europeans that a person can buy anything with money, and that is true in many cases. But the Samoans can buy several acres of land and save a condemned man with one Ie-Toga. Besides those, there are now among the royalties of Samoa very old Ie-o-le-Malo (government-approved robes) that can never be bought with money. The wealth of the chief is measured according to the number of Ie-Togas he has and the history attached to each robe in his collection. It is the most precious medium of exchange in Samoa according to the Samoans. Valuables belonging to kings and high chiefs while they were alive have been buried with them in their graves when they passed away, even if they were made of gold or diamonds, according to an ancient custom. The Ie-Toga has never been subjected to that treatment. Burying of Ie-Toga with the dead has never been permitted.

The Ie-Toga is woven by hand from cured leaves of the finest grade of the pandanus plant. The best weavers among the women are engaged in the tedious job of weaving one robe which takes them several years to complete. Originally the Ie-Toga (Tongan Cloth) was brought to Samoa by Fuka of Tonga. According to history the first Ie-Toga was woven for many years in Tonga by Fuka herself. Fuka was the younger sister of Tuitoga, the King of Tonga. She brought the robe from Tonga to Samoa to be presented to her older sister, Lautiovogia, who was then the Queen in Samoa to King Tuiatua. Fuka's gift was given to her Queen-sister during her visit to Samoa. In appreciation of the gift, King Tuiatua named the robe Ie-Toga in honour of the Royal Family of Tonga. Since that historical occasion hundreds of years ago, the name of the royal robe has never been changed.

The women of Samoa immediately got together, and in groups they worked to copy the weaving of the precious gift. The honour of being the first and original group to weave the first robe in Samoa for the kings is now claimed by several different groups in the islands. There is also a difference in opinion as to which of things' royal robes was first ceremoniously named. Having no written history at the time, Fuka, the Princess of Tonga, arrived at opinions on the matter which may be taken for what they are worth.

Manu'a claims that the first robe woven and named in Samoa was the Lau o le Teve ma le Masoa (Leaves of the Teve and Arrowroot Plants). Upolu claims that the first established group of weavers was in Fagaloa. The kings, they said, first recognized their Pipii ma le Eleele (Cling to Earth). Tutuila claims that the first one named in Samoa and accepted by the kings was woven by a group of women in the A'uma village, near Leone, and it was the same robe that was completed in Fagaitua by a woman by the name of Tauoloasii. The robe when finished was worn by the weaver when she jumped into a deep pool of water during a ceremony celebrating the great event. When the weaver came out of the water, the robe was said to be perfectly dry. Because of the miraculous event, the robe was officially given the name of Matu mai Vai (dry when out of the water). Savaii also insists on her claim that the first group of weavers was organized in Amoa, Faasaleleaga. They wove the first robe there, and the second one was credited to the weavers of Sala'ilua, in their own island.

King Tuiatua, to whom the original Fala u Fuka (Mat of Fuka) from Tonga was presented in Lufilufi, claimed that his robe Faavae o le Atu Mauga o Atua (Base of the Atua Hills) was, without a question, the first one to be dedicated to the royalties of Samoa. King Malietoa had his robe named Lau Taamu Tafea (Drifting Leaf of the Taamu Plant). It is said that when his son, Prince Laauli, came to see him when he was ill in bed, he brought with him a robe, in accordance with the ancient custom. It was for a tribute to his father, the King. Malietoa ordered that the robe be known as his official robe and it should be named in remembrance of the stormy day in which his son came to see him. Tuiaana (King of Aana) named his robe Fala Seesee o Tamalelagi (The Royal Mat of Tamalelagi).

In royal weddings and funerals it is necessary for everyone who takes part to know the names of the kings' royal robes. Awarding of the ceremonial robes is part of the set program. The chief councils all over Samoa protect the rights of the kings to these royal robes as well as the titles or names of the royal robes which belong to them exclusively. No false claims are allowed to pass unchecked or uncorrected. During the rituals, the whole dominion is alerted to warn the erring chief never to repeat the mistake. Usually such a chief is dealt with severely, punished and dismissed by his chief council. These original royal robes are still treasured by the royal families. They are also known as government-approved robes and valued so highly that money cannot buy them now.

Many new names and titles that are not known in history are attached to royal roles by some petty chiefs purposely, to make them appear more valuable. But all members of the chief councils have always ruled to give credit where it is due, and will not be bribed for approval.

Orators are trained that it is an act of courtesy to stop over in any village during their travels, to attend and pay tribute in any inaugurations, wedding, funeral or any other function held in the village. If he attends any of these ceremonies, he is required to participate in it. In his formal speech the genealogy that connects the honoured with his ancestors or village is cited, as well as all the formal salutations and titles of the village or district it is his duty to honour. If royal robes are involved, he is expected to cite the true titles or names of the royal robes of the king or high chief concerned. Orators are expected to do honour to the ritual by their participation and their citing of the titles and hereditary rights of the honoured hosts. In the past, several orators have been caught in the act of working underhandedly to change the set social system of Samoa for their personal gain. Such violators were immediately corrected and suppressed. The chief councils are alerted to stop repeated errors that might establish new and illegal claims that would be hard to repudiate in the future. An orator might be able to fool a few chiefs once, but it is impossible for him to be able to fool the chef council often. Contradicting opinions on the hereditary rights of the chiefs have caused several wars in the past. In some recorded cases, it was evidently the survival of the fittest. In rituals and village functions the visiting orators are usually rewarded with a large portion of the feast, and are often presented with one or more royal robes according to how they impressed the village in their formal ceremonial speeches.

It is hard to convince strangers that the Ie-Toga plays the most important part in the lives of the Samoans. No hoarder of money was ever fonder of his gold than a Samoan of his Ie-Toga. No function or sacred ceremony is ever complete without a gift or display and exchange of the sacred royal robes. A life of a murderer was often saved when the culprit was wrapped in an Ie-Toga and presented by his family chief or village council to the offended family in an ifoga (submission). When the submission was declared accepted by the offended chief, the culprit was set at liberty once more, having been fully pardoned for life. The submission ceremony is considered as an act of surrender, and a true sign of repentance and a pleading for forgiveness. Although this act of asking forgiveness by means of submission is not yet declared illegal and is still being done, no chief council or family is allowed today to pardon for life anyone in the case of a murder or any other such serious crime. The established courts of justice act on such cases as prescribed by the law. A full pardon can be granted only by the governors when recommended by a parole board.



Games and sports contribute greatly to the much-entertained life of the people of Samoa. In a land of plenty, a suitable climate and a true spirit of friendliness among its young and old, foreigners are lured to the islands to "live an die." It's the pleasure spot of the Pacific - a haven for the weary.

The most legendary sport of the chiefs is pigeon-catching (seuga lupe). The season for the sport is in June, when the berries which attract birds are ripe in the forest. The contesting villages start off with net-making and feasting, then they move on to a certain pigeon ground in a hill or valley. Contestants build huts under the large shady trees to avoid being detected by the approaching pigeons. sometimes the contesting chiefs would remain there for months.

A circular space is cleared and used by the contestants for flying a tame pigeon about in a circle, which is tied to a string about forty feet in length. The trained pigeon roosts on the end of a crook which the owner holds in one hand His other hand holds a bamboo, dried so it will be light, to which a net is attached at the end. When all of the contestants fly their pigeons at one time, the circle looks like a flock of pigeons attracted by food and water. The wild pigeon is attracted, tries to join the others and becomes entangled in someone's net. The one who gets the most pigeons during the day is the hero. His catch is counted with the rest of his team for points. The pigeons that look good enough to be trained are saved. The rest are cooked and distributed to all participants in the fest attended by both the winning and losing teams of the day. Usually more than two teams, formed of different villages, join in the contest.

Another way of catching pigeons and doves (manutagi) is to train a caged one to coo loudly to attract the wild ones. The wild pigeon or dove flies into the cage through a large opening at the top. The owner hides himself below the hanging cage in which his pigeon or dove meets the wild one. The wild bird is attracted wither to love or to fight the tame one. When the loving or fighting begins in the cage the hunter quickly emerges from his camouflaged hiding-place and closes the cage. Well-trained pigeons, when the wild one enters the cage, fly to the top of the cage and hover over the wild one to keep it from escaping until the trainer arrives. Several legends describe the historical pigeon grounds and the popular contests held in the past between the greatest of chiefs of Samoa. Pigeons in Samoa are much larger in size than the pigeons of Hawaii. At present the sport is made unpopular by the introduction of shotguns. Game laws prohibit shooting of pigeons out of season.

Fishing contests are also very popular. Teams fish with hook and line. Points are scored according to the kind of fish caught. A small and round shaped Ta'oto is usually given he highest score of ten. Other varieties are given only one point each. The winners are treated by the members of the losing team to a feast of several roast pigs and many other delicacies. catching turtles, sharks and tuna are also contested and among the most enjoyed, as large fleets of bonito canoes participate in deep sea.

Wooden spear throwing (tagati'a) is a popular game played between the villages by all the male adults. The women are allowed to join in dancing and cheering. Teams are usually unlimited and it is up to each team to get as many relatives as they can to help from other villages. A light javelin is made from a small, light, straight stick which is barked and dried in the sun for two or three days. Before it is used, it is polished smooth so when it touches the ground it flies several yards away, onward and upward toward the set direction. he judges for both sides collect the javelins as they keep the scores. Should one of the teams have thrown ten, or more or less, spears over the farthest spear of the opposing team, they have that many points to their credit. usually the team that tallies 100 points first is considered the winner. Sometimes the contest lasts a week. The village where the contest is held plays the role of the hosts and supplies the food for all the visiting contestants. The guests will have their turn to supply food when the game is played in their village. Cheering, singing and dancing is continuous during the games and in the evenings.

Another way of playing the spear game is with heavy, sharp-pointed hardwood spears which the players throw at a target made of a stump of a young coconut tree. The root of the buried stump is shown above the ground about six feet. The number of spears found on the stump for each team determines the points.
Another ancient sport that is very popular among the chiefs is Tau-Lafoga (pitching of small polished coconut shells). The game is played on a narrow, smoothly woven mat about 18 inches wide and 50 feet in length. There are only two or no more than four in each team. On both ends of the mat the players are seated. Each player has about five shells of varied sizes which he tries to land nearest to the end of the mat. Like European bowling, they try to push the opponent's shells off the mat. All the shells left on the mat beyond the opponent's farthest shell are counted, one each for a point. The mat is spread flat on a cushioned surface to allow free sliding of the polished coconut shells.

By moonlight the most popular game is hide-and-seek (moe-moe-saili). It is played by both men and women. A spot is marked in the center of the village playground for a goal. The teams are usually large as they include all the children who are old enough to run. One team leaves the playground to hide its members in any inconspicuous place behind the homes in the village, and as close as possible to the goal. The captain of the hiding team yells or whistles to inform the searching team that they are ready. The ones hiding are alerted to take the first possible chance to make dash for the goal. Touching the goal is a point. The searching team is supposed to be away from the goal at a set distance from where they can run and touch the head of the one dashing for the goal. All whose heads are touched before they reached the goal are out. This game is played long into the night.

Another interesting moonlight game is hopping on one foot around a human ring (atiga). The player holds a newly-woven coconut-leaf basket between his or her teeth. As the player hops around he tries to drop the basket backward over his head, so as to touch a member of the opposing tem and make a point. In the ring, seats are arranged so as to have members of the two contesting teams sit next to each other. Should the basket be dropped accidentally by the player in touching any of his own team, he is out and the basket belongs to the other side. All members of both teams forming the ring, are restricted from moving in order to dodge the basket. The number of points necessary to be declared the winner is agreed upon by captains of both teams before the game is started.

Wrestling is played by boys. Points are made when the opponent is floored or when he staggers and touches the grounds with his hands.
Canoe racing and surf-riding are also very popular among the young men. Modern games such as football, volley ball, basket ball, cricket, tennis and soft ball are played in the schools and some of the villages.  At moonlight outdoors and in the guest houses the people also amuse themselves by asking and answering riddles. Recorded here are only a few:Something of great value protected behind a gate of pure ivory which opens and closes up and down. Answer: The tongue. The movable gate of ivory is the upper and lower jaw with teeth. Somebody who warns the world at the exact time every night about the coming of day. answer: The roosterThe woman who wears long and grey hair. She sits on the rock wall. Her hair floats in the sky. Answer: The stone oven, heated. he grey hair is the smoke that rises to the sky.A thing that tries to reach the sea. On its way it leaves a trail. Answer: The river. Your most honest friend that protects you from fire and snow. He is clever and moves quickly from danger. Answer: The tongue.

Twenty soldiers who wear white helmets. They serve you faithfully in your waking hours on self defence. Answer: The toes and fingers. The white helmets are the nails.
A lady who sits on balls of ivory. Answer: The hen. The balls of ivory are eggs.  Games of rhyming are also popular. One gives a list of names of fishes and the opponent is asked to rhyme them with names of birds, trees, animals or such as that. One says, "I now have a fish known as gatala." A selected member of the opposing team would reply, "Gatala rhymes with ti'otala." In the same manner they would continue until they could rhyme no more, then they would change probably to names of trees to rhyme with names of animals or plants. Very often both sides would try to blame each other and debate the rhyming of the fish ulua with lelefua. The guessing team insists it rhymed but their opponents argue that lelefua is a butterfly and not a bird. The guessing side would argue that all things that fly are birds, etc. A settlement is always asked from an of the older folks who are present who usually decide on having the side with the best singers and dancers the losers just so that they may be ordered to sing and dance by the victors.

They also amuse themselves with the "Silence Game" (Taputapu Gagana). All participants are instructed not to talk, move, whisper, cough or laugh. sometimes winking at each other is also forbidden. A chant is sung by all members of the two teams. The last word of the chant is understood to be the deadline and all are expected to be absolutely silent. Laughing is the most common offense. A wink from someone to a member of the opposing tem might force somebody to laugh. Finding the guilty one is the greatest fun, when both offenders blame each other as the instigator. The fans usually force the one they want to plead guilty and be punished. Punishment is oftentimes a comical dance or smearing of his face with charcoal.

Fuaga (juggling) is a woman's game. The player sings a song as she tosses three or more oranges over her head and keeps them in the air as long as possible. The length of the act is decided by the number of times the participants repeated the words of the song for the player. When she drops an orange she stops and the other team selects a player.

Tolotolo-uga (Crawling-Snail_ is a guessing game played by the villagers at moonlight. The players must know each other well. Behind a screen or cloth stretched tight by two players of the hiding team crawls one as the two members stretching the screen sing as they all march toward the other team who will give only one guess of the name of the person hiding behind the screen. A wrong guess makes one point for the hiding team, who continue on until the right name is given, when the curtain changes hands.

These are only a few of the games and sports played in Samoa. Other human races could never be any happier and contented than the Samoans have been. "Work is all play in the islands," is often said. Those many friends of Samoa who have had the good fortune to visit Samoa and live with her people agree that this is true. Sports, games, and feasting are all singing and dancing. In the village all the adult population are either directly or indirectly involved. It is in Polynesia, where today as a tomorrow yesterday, and one day is the same as the other. Evidently in the islands contentment is a pearl of great price, and whoever procures it at the expense of thousands of worthless desires makes a wise and happy purchase.


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