The Samoa Islands consist of four parts, Savai'i, Upolu, Tutuila and Manu'a. It is more fitting to view them as parts, since only Savai'i is an island by itself while Upolu has numerous small secondary islands, such as Manono, Apolima, Nu'ulopa in the west, Nu'utele, Nu'ulua, Namua and Fanuatapu in the east. Tutuila also has a secondary island Aunu'u, and Manu'a is actually a collective term for the three small islands Tau, Olsega and 'Ofu.
For whatever motives or by whatever means Samoans sold or leased land, it seems highly questionable whether by the 1840s they understood the implications of such transactions. The possibility that they could lose in perpetuity, in return for one payment in case or kind, control over the land, authority over the conduct of its occupants and jurisdiction over the future transfer or inheritance of land they bestowed, was outside their experience or comprehension.
Despite its reputation as an exotic far-away land Samoa was in fact as busy as a shopping mall from the mid-1770s when trading ships, sailing along the spice route and looking for the Great Southern Land, popped in and out with monotonous regularity. Much of the early contact and bloody encounters between Samoans and Europeans took place in the islands that are now part of American Samoa but the islands of independent Samoa suffered the same diseases and acts of violence that came with the European ships.
Samoan society has been remarkably free of ethnic tension, largely as a result of the dominance of a single ethnic group and a history of intermarriage that has blurred ethnic boundaries. Samoans have established significant migrant communities in a number of countries, including New Zealand, Australia, and the United States, and smaller communities in other neighbors.
Since World War II, American Samoa has developed into a modern, self-governing political system. The government is divided into three branches, similar to the United States. The Executive Branch is led by the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, the Legislative Branch is led by the local legislature, consisting of the House of Representatives, who are elected by popular vote and the Senate, who are represented by the village matai. The judicial branch is part of the U.S. judicial system, and American Samoa has a non-voting representative elected to the U.S. Congress.
Traditional Samoan society is based on a chieftain system of hereditary rank, and is known as the "Samoan Way" or fa'a Samoa way of life. Despite the inroads of modern, Western Civilization, local cultural institutions are the strongest single influence in American Samoa. The fa'a Samoa way of life stems from the aiga, the extended family with a common allegiance to the matai, the family chief who regulates the family's activities. Religious institutions are very influential in the community and the village minister is accorded a privileged position, equal in status to a chief or matai. The Fa'a Samoa also reflects a communal lifestyle with non-public ownership and 90% of the communal lands controlled by the family matai.
Given this violent history it's a miracle that the missionaries arriving in the early 19th century, brandishing their Bibles and threats of everlasting damnation, weren't killed immediately. Instead there were wholesale conversions, a phenomenon that might be explained by the fact that Christianity and old Samoan beliefs were not dissimilar and that the Samoan god Nafanua had predicted the coming of a new religion which would be more powerful and stronger than the old gods.
Polynesians, possibly from Tonga, first settled in the Samoan islands about 1000 B.C. Samoa was explored by Dutch and French traders in the 18th century. Toward the end of the 19th century, conflicting interests of the U.S., Britain, and Germany resulted in an 1899 treaty that recognized the paramount interests of the U.S. in those islands west of 171°W (American Samoa) and Germany's interests in the other islands (Western Samoa).
The islands were settled as part of the general settlement of the Pacific by the Polynesian culture. Briefly, at the end of the last century they played a significant part in the colonisation of the Pacific by the western powers. The islands were originally settled about 1000 BC a date arrived at by the dating of shards of Lapida pottery found at Mulifanua. By 200 BC Samoa was the center of a flourishing Polynesian community with trade taking place between Tonga, Fiji and Samoa. In about 1300 AD a group of settlers from Samoa colonised the Tokelau islands, explaining the similarity between the two languages.
Samoa is a group of islands (formed about 7 million years ago) in the Pacific Ocean, roughly 15 degrees south of the equator and some 8 degrees east of the International Dateline, that is about 1700 miles north east of New Zealand. It is made up of nine islands. The two largest Savai'i and Upolu, account for most of population with only two others, Manono and Apolima, being inhabited. The other five are called Fanuatapu, Namu'a, Nuutele, Nuulua, Nuusafee.