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Samoa Travel Guide

Samoan War Clubs

Samoan war clubs

Prehistory

Samoa was named for the sacred (sa) chickens (moa) of Lu, son of Tagaloa, the god of creation. Samoan tradition asserts that Savai'i was Hawaiki, the legendary Polynesian homeland where the Samoans originated.

Archaeologists confirm that the Polynesians had settled Samoa by 1000 B.C. and there they evolved their distinctive culture. It was a beautiful, comfortable, productive place to live. Their vegetables thrived in the rich volcanic soil, and the lagoon provided ample fish. They had found their true home; not for another millennium did small groups push farther east from this "cradle of Polynesia" to colonize Tahiti and the Marquesas.

The ancient Samoans maintained regular contact with Fiji and Tonga; Tongan invaders ruled Samoa from A.D. 950 to 1250 and the oral traditions of Samoa date back to the expulsion of the Tongans. This feat was accomplished by the first holder of what is still the highest chiefly title, Malietoa, meaning brave (malie) warrior (toa).

The legendary 15th-century queen, Salamasina, became the only Samoan ruler ever to unite the four chiefly titles into one, and for 60 years Samoa enjoyed peace.

The matai, or chiefly system, was well developed for almost 1,000 years before Europeans arrived in the late 18th century. Religion was less developed, and the chiefs were elected from high-ranking lineages: Everywhere else in Polynesia they were hereditary.

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