Apia Commonwealth Walkway

Samoa / The Pacific

SÃMOA Samoa consists of a group of tropical islands in the South Pacific Ocean, first settled by the Polynesians as they were later called.  They arrived there over 3,000 years ago.  The first contact with Europeans was when the French explorer, Louis-Antoine Bougainville, found them in the 18th century and named them the Navigator Islands, impressed by the prowess of the Sãmoans in their ocean canoes.  At the Berlin Conference of 1889, Germany, Great Britain and the United States formalised government of the islands, the United States annexing the eastern islands (American Samoa) and Germany taking on Western Sãmoa.  In 1914, Great Britain authorised New Zealand troops to occupy Western Sãmoa, which was achieved without opposition.  From 1919 until Independence in 1962, New Zealand governed Western Sãmoa, first under a mandate from the League of Nations and then after 1945 under a United Nations trusteeship.  There were two tragic incidents.  Many Sãmoans died in the influenza epidemic of 1918-19 when infected passengers were allowed entry in breach of quarantine regulations, and in 1929 on what is known as ‘Black Saturday’ during a peaceful Mau demonstration, one of the country’s great chefs, Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III was regrettably killed by New Zealand military gunfire.   After 1935 tensions eased when New Zealand’s Labour government introduced a more tolerant administration and the process towards devolution began.  Responsible government was gradually introduced, a plebiscite endorsed it in 1961, and Independence was granted on 1 January 1962.   After that, the two Fautua became joint heads of state, the survivor of the two becoming sole head of state later.  The first two were Tupua Tamasese Mea’ole.  He died in 1963, following which Malietoa Tanumafili II became sole head of state until his death at the age of 95 in 2007. In 1976 Western Sãmoa joined the United Nations and in 1990 universal suffrage was introduced.   On 4 July 1997, they dropped ‘Western’ from its name.  The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Sãmoa in 1977 on one of their Silver Jubilee tours. Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94), writer of Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, settled in Sãmoa in 1889 and built a house inland at Vailima.  He became greatly concerned for the Polynesians and cast a disapproving eye on the rivalry between Britain, Germany and the United States and how these external pressures forced the islands into inter-clan war.  He encouraged the Sãmoans to build roads, plant gardens, care for trees and sell their produce widely.  He died on the island on 3 December 1894 and was buried on Mount Vaea (about three miles inland) in a spot overlooking the sea.  He was much loved by the Sãmoans.  His home was turned into a museum. CAPITAL APIA The capital city is Apia on the central north coast of Upolu, the second largest of Samoa’s islands.  It is a colonial-style town and the hub of government, business and shopping.  From 1900 to 1919 it was the capital of German Sãmoa.   Fun Facts 
  • In 2009 the government changed the rule of the road from driving on the right to driving on the left.

2.8 miles / 4.5 kilometres

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