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Samoa Travel Guide

Police Band, Apia
The police band passes the historic courthouse dating from German colonial times.

The Colonial Period

On March 1, 1900, the German flag was raised over Samoa. Under Governors Wilhelm Solf (1900-1912) and Erich Schultz (1912-1914), the Germans created the first public school system, built and staffed a hospital, and constructed the only roads that existed right up until 1942.

Though both Solf and Schultz tried to work according to the principle that the Samoans could be guided but not forced, they deported Samoan resisters to the Mariana Islands in 1909. The Germans carefully studied traditional Samoan culture in order to play the rival factions off against each other. In Berlin, Samoa was seen as the brightest jewel of Germany's colonial empire.

On August 29, 1914, at the beginning of WW I, the last German governor surrendered without a fight to a New Zealand Expeditionary Force. The vast German plantations seized at the time are still held by the government-owned Samoa Land Corporation. Most of the 2,000 Chinese the Germans had brought from southern China to work the plantations were repatriated.

The new N.Z. administrators were real bunglers compared to the Germans. In November 1918, they allowed the SS Talune to introduce influenza to the territory, and 8,000 Samoans—22 percent of the population—died; a stricter quarantine kept the epidemic out of American Samoa and Fiji.

This awkward administration revived a strong opposition movement, the Mau, which had existed during German times. The Mau not only rejected colonial authority, but turned away from Western development and culture. Boycotts of imported goods were organized. In 1929, New Zealand crushed the Mau by military force, although the movement continued to enjoy the support of most of the villages, chiefs, and part-Samoan businessmen.

Only in 1947 was there a concrete step toward independence when a legislative assembly was created with some members elected from among the matai (chiefs). In 1960, a constitution was adopted; a year later both constitution and independence were approved in a plebiscite by universal ballot. And finally in 1962, with a Labor government in power in New Zealand, Samoa became the first Polynesian nation to reestablish its independence in the 20th century. In 1976, Samoa joined the United Nations.

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