Samoa has been referred to as “people of the ocean or deep sea.” It is in the Central Pacific Ocean region in western Polynesia and an archipelago of islands. The land was created from volcanic eruptions centuries ago. It is tropical landscape with many mountains.
There are two sections, the territory of American Samoa held by the United States and the independent Western Samoa. American Samoa is smaller in population with about 35,000 people. In Western Samoa there are about 200,000 inhabitants.
The Samoan Islands are the home of the largest concentration of full-blooded Polynesians in the world. Today, many native Samoans live and work abroad, mainly in New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii, and California.
The Samoan language belongs to the Polynesian group of Austronesian languages. In looking at Samoan genealogy, it is noted that there are no dialects; except for minor local variants. The same language is spoken on all the Samoan Islands.
The native people have had numerous European settlers on the islands over the centuries. Each had left some impact on the culture of the native people. From the Europeans they became Christians. Some Samoans are Roman Catholics and others follow various Protestant religions. Many native ceremonies focus on life-cycle rites in combination with Christianity.
The Samoan society is divided into social ranks, an important element in Samoan genealogy. In a marriage, the bride and groom should be of similar rank. Extended family members live in a grouping of houses, all close to one another, a type of common hearth is created. More independent nuclear families have developed due to the European influence.
Food is a very important part of Samoan life. Food is not highly spiced or seasoned and consists of a number of cooked ingredients that are relatively unfamiliar to most people. It is prepared in unusual ways such as cooked breadfruit, cooked green bananas and raw fish. In cooking, a fire is built and stones placed on it. When the fire is down to the embers the green bananas, breadfruit, taro, fish, and lu’au are placed on the stones. When everything to be cooked has been placed on the umu, it is covered with banana fronds and left to cook until complete.
Oratory, dancing, singing, and tattooing continue to be means of aesthetic expression. The playing and singing of hymns for church services are an important outlet for expressive needs.