Samoa Geography - History

Samoa Geography - History


Samoa is located in Oceania. It is made up of a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand. The main islands are formed from ranges of extinct volcanoes, rising to 1,857 meters (6,094 ft.) on Savai'i and 1,100 meters (3,608 ft.) on Upolu. Volcanic activity last occurred in 1911.
Climate: Samoa is tropical, with wet and dry seasons. The mean daily temperature is 27 degrees C (80 degrees F). Average annual rainfall is about 287 centimeters (113 in.), of which 190 centimeters (75 in.) falls from October to March. Although Samoa lies outside the normal track of typhoons, severe storms occasionally strike.

Maps of American Samoa

Covering a total land area of 199, American Samoa is composed of 5 principal islands (Tutuila, Ta'u, Olosega, Ofu and Aunuu) and 2 coral atolls. It is the southernmost unincorporated overseas territory of the United States, located in the South Pacific Ocean. Out of the 5 principal islands and 2 coral atolls, the Rose Atoll is uninhabited and is a Marine National Monument. Tutuila island is the largest island in American Samoa.

As observed on the physical map of American Samoa above, the islands are largely mountainous due to their volcanic origin. These rugged islands also have narrow coastal plains. Matafao’s Peak is the highest point in Tutuila, at 2142ft (653m). The Tau, Olosega and Ofu islands form the Manu’a island group at the east of Tutuila, constituting the 2 nd largest island area.

Located in the Manu’a islands, on the island of Ta’u is, Lata Mountain – the highest point of American Samoa marked on the physical map above by a yellow triangle. It is 966 m (3,169 ft) tall. The lowest point is the Pacific Ocean (0m). At the extremities of the islands, coral reefs are common.

The United Nations has classified Samoa as an economically developing country since 2014. In 2017, GDP was $ US1.13 billion in the GDP of affordability, ranking 204th among all countries. The services sector accounts for 66% of GDP, followed by industry and agriculture at 23.6% and 10.4% respectively. In the same year, the Samoan labor force was estimated at 50,700.

Samoan (Gagna Fasoma) and English are the official languages. Among second-language speakers, Samoa has more speakers of Samoans than English. Samoa sign language is also commonly used among the deaf population of Samoa. To emphasize the importance of full inclusion with sign language, members of the Samoa Police Service, Red Cross Society and the public were taught primary Samoa sign language during the International Week of 2017.

84% of the 37 species and subspecies of Samoa’s terrestrial birds are found nowhere else in the world. Some examples of these birds include the Samoan tooth-billed pigeon, Samoan wood rail, Samoan ground-dove, etc.

Samoans have gender-specific tattoos that are culturally significant in the region. Samoan girls receive the malu tattoo that stretches from the upper thighs to just below the knees. In males, the tattoo is known as Pe’a and it is more intricate in design and stretches all the way from the upper waist area to the knees.

Samoa Geography - History

Oceania, group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand

Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Rhode Island

tropical rainy season (November to April), dry season (May to October)

two main islands (Savaii, Upolu) and several smaller islands and uninhabited islets narrow coastal plain with volcanic, rugged mountains in interior

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Silisili 1,857 m

Natural resources:
hardwood forests, fish, hydropower

Population distribution:
about three-quarters of the population lives on the island of Upolu

Natural hazards:
occasional cyclones active volcanism

volcanism: Savai'I Island (1,858 m), which last erupted in 1911, is historically active

Environment - current issues:
soil erosion, deforestation, invasive species, overfishing

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note:
occupies an almost central position within Polynesia

NOTE: 1) The information regarding Samoa on this page is re-published from the 2020 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Samoa Geography 2020 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Samoa Geography 2020 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.
2) The rank that you see is the CIA reported rank, which may have the following issues:
a) They assign increasing rank number, alphabetically for countries with the same value of the ranked item, whereas we assign them the same rank.
b) The CIA sometimes assigns counterintuitive ranks. For example, it assigns unemployment rates in increasing order, whereas we rank them in decreasing order.

What Is the Difference Between Hawaiian and Samoan People?

The main difference between Hawaiian and Samoan people is that Samoans are from the independent country of Samoa, and Hawaiians are from the state of Hawaii, which is a part of the United States. Samoans have migrated to Hawaii since 1919, and there are many Hawaiians that are also of Samoan descent.

The initial people who migrated to Hawaii were of European ancestry, starting with the English and the Americans who came as explorers, missionaries and businessmen. Other Caucasian races came to Hawaii from Russia, Portugal, Spain, Norway and Germany. These people intermarried with the original Hawaiians, as well as the other migrated peoples to Hawaii.

The Samoans are not the only group that migrated to Hawaii. Other Asian nations such as China, Japan, Korea and the Philippines all migrated to Hawaii throughout the 1900s. Today, the Hawaiian people are often mixtures of original Hawaiian ancestry and ancestry related to one of the groups of people that migrated to the area. All foreigners used to be called "haloe," which means non-Hawaiians, however it now refers to only people of European ancestry.

The first migration of the Samoans to Hawaii occurred in 1919 followed closely by 1,000 Samoans migrating in 1952 and more than 13,000 Samoans in 1970.

Questions about the Samoan ethnicity

10. What race are Samoans?

We are Samoa! (That’s a song).

Samoan is a race of its own, but when ancient academics needed to classify the inhabitants of the Pacific ocean, Samoans were grouped together with the likes of Hawaiians, Tahitians and Māori etc. and labeled Polynesian, which apparently means ‘many islands’.

That was to distinguish us from other identified island groups in the Pacific, like Micronesia (little islands) – which include the Northern Mariana and Caroline Islands – and Melanesia (dark islands?), made up of islands like the Solomons and New Caledonia.

11. Are Hawaiians and Samoans the same?

Are Thai people and Cambodians the same? Are Mexicans and Bolivians the same? Are French and Spaniards the same?

Hawaiians and Samoans are two different ethnicities that come from two different island nations in the Pacific ocean. But we have such similar linguistic and cultural profiles that we obviously have common origins (from right back in the day) and that’s why we are both classified as Polynesians.

Just like Thai and Cambodians are Southeast Asian, Mexicans and Bolivian are Latin Americans and the French and Spaniards are European.

12. Are Samoans Black?

If you randomly pulled 20 Samoans out of a crowd and lined them up, you’ll see that we come in all different shades of brown, different shapes and sizes (we’re not all big, honest) with facial features reminiscent of a bunch of different races.

Compared to the rest of the world, Samoa is a tiny group of islands with a small population and a long history of um… hospitality towards visitors (and settlers) of other ethnicities. (How’s that for euphemism?)

I consider myself full Samoa because both my parents are Samoan, both born and raised there, but only one generation separates me from the equivalent of one European ancestor, one Tongan ancestor and an unconfirmed but possibly Melanesian ancestor. You can see all that genetic variation amongst myself and my siblings (none of us look alike) and cousins.

I have other relatives – again, born and raised in Samoa – who have at least one full Chinese parent or a full Indian grandparent and even African American grandparents… and those are only the recent genetic mixes. Imagine what other bloodlines are swimming in our DNA after all these generations.

So to answer your question… are Samoans black?

13. Are Samoans Asian?

This question could be answered like the last one (i.e. Yes, some of us are Asian. For sure…). but as a race, the Samoan relationship with Asia is a little bit more tangible than our connection (if any) to Africa.

Some scientific evidence points to the possibility that Samoans actually originated in Southeast Asia (and Papua Niu Guinea).

I haven’t done any anthropological research of my own, so my testimony about us coming from Asia is based on observation alone (a lot of us kinda look like we could be Asian and I do know our language has a few similarities with Tagalog)..but yeah.

American Samoa Culture

Religion in American Samoa

Half of the population are Christian Congregational. There are also Roman Catholics, Latter Day Saints and Protestants, among others.

Social Conventions in American Samoa

Traditional Samoan society is still bound by very strict customs and, despite the younger generation's dissatisfaction with the old values, they are very much adhered to. The government issues an official list of behaviour codes for both Samoas. Skimpy shorts or other revealing clothes should be avoided except when swimming or climbing coconut palms, although disapproval of shorts, if they are not too short, is on the wane.

Samoan social behaviour conforms to strict and rather complicated rituals, to which the visitor will probably be introduced on arrival, and which should be respected.

In the early evening hours, even if swimming offshore, be sure to avoid making any noise that could interrupt the Samoans' prayer period. Usually three gongs are sounded. The first is the signal to return to the house, the second is for prayer and the third sounds the all-clear. In some villages, swimming and fishing are forbidden on Sunday.

A visitor who happens to be invited to stay in a Samoan household should be mindful of American Samoan customs. On leaving, making a gift, a mea alofa (literally a 'thing of love') of shirts, belts or dress-length fabrics is most appreciated. Samoans are extremely hospitable and visitors may receive more than one invitation to stay with neighbours. However, it is inappropriate to leave your first hosts before a pre-arranged date.

American Samoa — History and Culture

On the surface, American influence appears very strong in American Samoa, especially considering Pago Pago’s giant police cruisers and modern shopping malls. However, American Samoa’s people have managed to balance their status as American nationals with their own proud culture known as fa’a Samoa, a hereditary chieftain system practiced for over 3,000 years.


It is believed American Samoa’s first residents migrated to the islands from Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Indonesia some time around 600 BC. The first settlement was the eastern Tutuila village of Tula. American Samoa’s strong faamatai chief system is said to originate from two early female chiefs, Nafanua and Salamasina.

The Samoan islands had regular contact with Tonga and Fiji for centuries before Jacob Roggeveen, a Dutch explorer, became the first European to encounter the islands in 1722. They developed a reputation as fierce fighters during their 18th century battles with European explorers, with missionary John Williams successfully bringing Christianity to American Samoa in the 1830’s. The ancient stone pigeon-catching structure of Tia Seu Lupe Park (Ottoville) is among the few surviving landmarks of a culture chiefs had to abandon after converting to Christianity.

After the Second Samoan Civil War, the 1899 Treaty of Berlin formally divided the Samoan archipelago into what would eventually become the independent nation of Samoa and the territory of American Samoa. Several Tutuila chiefs ceded their territories to the United States in the 1900 Treaty of Cession of Tutuila.

Although there was an American Samoa Mau movement for independence during the 1920’s, it was less volatile than the original Mau movement in the future nation of Samoa, which then governed by New Zealand and quickly suppressed. Exiled leader Samuelu Ripley was eventually elected mayor of Richmond, California.

American Samoa came into its own in WWII, when Marines trained teenage boys as young as 14 to fight against the Japanese. Much of American Samoa’s modern transportation infrastructure and medical facilities were established during this time. American Samoa was also an important splashdown site for many of the Apollo Moon Missions. A tiny flag presented to former president Richard Nixon and three moon rocks are displayed in the Jean P Haydon Museum (Fagatogo).

Today, American Samoa’s two main employers are the government and two tuna canneries. Although citizens are American nationals who enjoy most of the same rights as mainland Americans, their ancient Samoan culture remains very much intact and sometimes overrides the constitution, especially on matters of religious displays and property ownership.


Americans may have brought Christianity and modern conveniences to American Samoa, but its people have still successfully preserved Polynesia’s oldest culture. The same is true for the Samoan language, still spoken in most households even though English is taught at school. Less than 1,000 American Samoans over the age of five cannot speak English. Visitors can best the 3,000-year old culture during sacred kava drinking ceremonies, lively fia fia feasts filled with dancing and music, and village homestays arranged by the National Park of American Samoa.

The fa’a Samoa way of life revolves around family, faith, and an ancient hereditary chieftain system. Family heads and chiefs are called matai, but every member must perform special family duties called tautua. Children run the show during the Samoan Children’s Mass, spending several hours cooking and gathering the adults to attend morning church services. The children are then rewarded for their choir performance and hard work with new clothing and presents.

Samoa, officially the Independent State of Samoa and formerly Western Samoa, is a country in the western region of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. The two main islands of the country are Upolu and Savai'i.

The first contact with Europeans came in the early 18th century, with mission work beginning in 1830. Germany showed interest in the islands for commercial reasons but the U.S. laid a claim and formed alliances with chieftains on the islands of Tutuila and Manu'a, which were later annexed to the United States as American Samoa. Britain then sent troops to protect British rights, which led to a civil war as America, Germany and the U.K. fought over who should control the islands.

In 1899, the Samoan Islands were partitioned into two parts: the eastern group of islands became a territory of the U.S. (American Samoa) while the Western Islands were German Samoa, which later came under the control of New Zealand until Samoa gained independence in 1962.

Given its size, Samoa's population has remained relatively stable for decades. At the last census in 2006, the population was 179,186. It is estimated this population has grown to 195,000 in 2014.

Watch the video: Geography Now! SAMOA