Samoa Timeline

1000-2000 BC The first human settlement of the Samoan archipelago is established (timeline estimates are based on ancient lapita pottery pieces). Shared oral histories of interaction with Fiji and Tonga which include shared chiefdoms, conflict and flourishing trade

1722 Dutchman Jacob Roggeveen becomes the first European to sight the islands

1768 French explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville names the islands the Navigator Islands after encountering skilled Samoan seamen in ocean-going canoes

1830 Missionaries John Williams and Charles Barf from the London Missionary Society arrive to introduce Christianity

1834 Williams produces transcribed text in the Samoan language for the first time

1841 The death of Malietoa Vaiinopu of Savaii sparks the beginning of a 30-year battle between two chiefly families

1850 Apia establishes itself as a base for Pacific traders, becoming the residence of a British consul

1853 The first US commercial agent based in Samoa is appointed

1856 Germany’s commercial activity commences with the arrival of August Unshelm to set up a trading base for JC Godeffroy & Sohn

1873 In an effort to solve the long-running chiefly battles, British and American representatives, aided by involvement of US agent Colonel Albert B. Steinberger, negotiate a peace settlement that sees Malietoa Laupepa become king. Steinberger then becomes premier, but is arrested and deported on the instructions of the American and British consuls, who suspect him of involvement with the Germans. Factional fighting resumes, complicated by rival US, British and German commercial interests, which include efforts to purchase land for plantations

1879 The Municipality of Apia is set up by the Western Pacific High Commission, with the three consuls forming a board to enforce European law on foreigners

1889 The Berlin Treaty confirms the independent rule of King Malietoa Laupepa and the tripartite authority of the Apia Municipal Council. But within five years Malietoa is challenged and war among locals erupts again. Novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, arrives in Samoa, builds a house in Vailima and becomes involved in the dispute, being sought after for advice from locals

1899 The Battle of Apia occurs in March, between Samoan forces loyal to Prince Tanu and those to Mata’afa Iosefo. Tanu prevails, thanks to assistance from four British and American warships. The Berlin Treaty is annulled, Germany annexes (Western) Samoa, the US navy takes control of the eastern island group (now American Samoa) while Britain renounces (gives up) all claims

1908 Opposition to German control emerges in the form of Mau a Pule, a non-violent resistance movement led by chief Lauaki Namulau’ulu Mamoe, who is then exiled to Saipan with fellow supporters, including wives and children

1914 Shortly after the outbreak of World War I in August, New Zealand sends an expeditionary force to seize and occupy Samoa, led by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Logan. The 1385-strong Samoa Advance Party of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force lands at Apia on 29 August. Although Germany refuses officially, it offers no resistance and Logan proclaims Samoa a New Zealand-run British Military Occupation of Samoa, hoisting the British flag outside government buildings

1918 On 7 November, the New Zealand ship Talune arrives at Apia from Auckland. On board people are suffering from pneumonic influenza, already responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths around the world. Although the Talune was quarantined in Fiji, no such restrictions are imposed in Samoa. Sick passengers disembark and the disease spreads rapidly. As the death toll mounts, bodies are wrapped in mats and collected by trucks for burial in mass graves. The total number of deaths attributable to influenza is estimated to have reached 8500 or 22% of the entire population

1920 Under the Treaty of Versailles, Germany relinquishes its claims to Samoa. New Zealand, having maintained military rule for the previous six years, rules Samoa as an official mandated territory. Opposition to New Zealand soon emerges with a nationwide movement Ole Mau A Samoa, led by Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III

1929 On Saturday 28th December 1929 Tupua Tamasese leads a peaceful demonstration in Apia. Police open fire and Tupua is shot. He and 10 other demonstrators and one police officer are killed. The day is forever known as Black Saturday

1935 The election of the new Labour Government, with Sir Maui Pomare the minister responsible for Samoa, sees relationships improve with a number of banned protestors freed

1945 Following the end of World War II and the establishment of the United Nations, Peter Fraser, NZ Prime Minister and Minister for Island Territories, is involved in the drafting of the UN Charter that sees Western Samoa become a Trustee of the United Nations, administered by New Zealand. The process leading to independence is underway

1947 The NZ High Commission receives advice from a Samoan Council of State, which includes two leading chiefs known as Fautua. A Legislative Assembly is formed and a Constitutional Convention meets seven years later

1959 Two years after the Samoa Amendment Act provides for a Leader of Government Business, Fiame Mata’afa Mulinu’u II is appointed Prime Minister in October

1960 A draft constitution is prepared and approved by the United Nations

1962 After being endorsed by a universal plebiscite (direct vote by the people) in 1961, Western Samoa achieves independence on Monday, January 1st 1962. Tupua Tamasese and Malietoa Tanumafili II are appointed joint Head of State for their lifetime. A Treaty of Friendship between Samoa and New Zealand is also established

1963 Tupua Tamasese dies on April 5th, leaving Malietoa Tanumafili II as the sole Head of State

1970 On August 28th Western Samoa becomes a full and official member of the Commonwealth

1976 It joins the United Nations, using the name of ‘Samoa’ only

1982 The matai (chiefs)-only voting system introduced at independence survives its first major legal challenge after the Court of Appeal overturns a ruling of the Chief Justice

1990 Following the introduction of universal sufferage, a referendum sees 51% support for a change, giving all citizens aged over 21 the vote

1991 The first General Election under the new system takes place in April. Manu Samoa stuns the rugby world by reaching the quarterfinals at its first World Cup appearance in Britain, four years after it wasn’t invited to participate in the inaugural tournament in Australia and New Zealand

1997 Western Samoa formally adopts the name Samoa by constitutional amendment

2002 New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark visits, making a formal apology for the mistakes made during New Zealand’s early administration. During a state luncheon on June 4th she said: “On behalf of the New Zealand Government, I wish to offer a formal apology to the people of Samoa for the injustices arising from New Zealand’s administration of Samoa in its earlier years, and to express sorrow and regret for those injustices.”

2007 Malietoa Tanumafili II dies on May 11. The new Head of State Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi is elected by the legislature on 17th June

2009 On September 9 Samoa officially switches to drive on the left side of the road to bring them into line with New Zealand and Australia, where an increasing amount of its trade, tourism and family connections are from. Both countries are at the forefront of the rescue and recovery when, on September 29, a devastating tsunami from an earthquake destroys much of the southern coast of Upolu. It claims the lives of 148 of its citizens, with 34 killed in neighbouring American Samoa and nine in Tonga

2011 Samoa skips a day (Friday December 30th 2011) to further align itself with New Zealand and Australia 119 years after it was originally persuaded by Californian traders to be on the other side of the dateline. From being almost a day behind New Zealand, Samoa is now one hour ahead

2012 Celebrations for Samoa’s 50th Year of Independence begin

Samoa 50th Independence

Sources – (produced by the History Group of the Ministry of Culture & Heritage) and The Pacific Islands – An Encyclopedia