Samoa Lesson for Kids: Facts & History

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

The tiny island nation of Samoa is famous as a tropical vacation spot, but it's much more than nice beaches and palm trees. In this lesson, learn about the history of Samoa and how it has become a member of the world community today.

Paradise Found

Can you think of a better vacation than going to a beach on an island and playing in the ocean all day? Most people can imagine a perfect island in the middle of an ocean, but these places aren't just a postcard: they're real nations with people, governments, and economies. One island nation found in the Pacific Ocean, called Samoa, is located in a region of islands called Polynesia that is part of a greater region called Oceania, which includes Australia.

Samoa, in the purple-colored Polynesian region of Oceania, is highlighted with a red rectangle

In The Beginning

Samoa is referred to as the Cradle of Polynesia, because one Samoan island (called Savai'i) is thought to be the homeland (called Hawaiki) of all Polynesians who spread to other parts of Samoa and Polynesia.

The first people to come to Samoa arrived in canoes big enough to travel across the ocean, about 3,000 years ago. From there, they spread to new places and met new people, and the legends and histories of the people in Polynesia tell about these meetings.

Image of a Samoan girl from over 100 years ago
Photo of Samoan girl

The ancient Samoans lived a life closely connected to the ocean, which they relied on for transportation, food, and trade. Samoans also figured out how to grow their own food and grew bananas, yams, and coconuts. It sounds nice, but there's always trouble in paradise, and we know that the village chiefs and rulers often fought each other for power or reputation. Villages had to build protective walls to keep themselves safe.

Becoming Modern

Outsiders began to come to Samoa about 300 years ago. European explorers arrived and were welcomed by Samoans because they had new technology and items for trade. However, more outsiders came in, not just from Europe, but also from the United States. They wanted to take control of Samoa and also convert many of the locals to Christianity. For awhile, some Samoan chiefs decided this was a good way for them to gain power, but in 1899, the United States and Germany divided Samoa, without asking the Samoans what they wanted!

Photograph of native Samoans, taken over 100 years ago
Photo of native Samoans

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