Culture of Samoa

By: Cindy Azoub

The Samoan islands are located in the South Pacific about 1,800 miles east of New Zealand and 2,400 miles southwest of Hawaii. The islands are split into two groups, east and west. The eastern are a United States territory, while the western islands are an independent country.


It·s thought that the first settlers of the Samoan islands came there around 3,500 years ago, migrating from other Polynesian islands. There they lived in seclusion until around 1600 when missionaries came to the islands. The missionaries brought the islanders Christianity as well as helping them invent their own alphabet. They lived without much more intrusion until late in the 1800·s, when Germany and the U.S. began competing for control over the Samoan islands. A treaty was signed and the islands split in two countries and in 1962 Western Samoa became an independent country. Western Samoa has retained their traditional lifestyle, While Eastern or American Samoa became much more industrial.

Daily Life
Most Samoans live in small seaside villages. A chief and several village elders head the village, but each family takes care of itself. The coconut is the main staple as well as bananas and taro root. Fish and pork are also part of their diet. The people speak Samoan language everyday, while English is reserved for business or formal affaires. Almost 100% of the Samoan people are Christian. Also they attend church on Sundays, and have a curfew at night for 10 or 20 minutes.

Legends defined Tagaloa in Samoa as religion. Legends also described not only one, but several heavens as the "holy habitation" of the deity. The ancient Samoans believed in family and village gods, and worshipped images, stones, birds, fish, 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 got together to discuss the possible causes of such deaths 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 a 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. 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).