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No. 20 (November 1957)
– 41 –


Missionaries and traders came to Samoa from about 1830 onwards. Whaling vessels began to anchor in Apia harbour, to give their crews a rest and to obtain supplies. Later, settlers came in search of land on which to establish plantations. The Governments of Britain, the United States, Germany and France, sent their naval vessels to Samoa from time to time, to support the claims of their nationals who were living there; and the first three of these Powers established permanent consulates at Apia.

All these changes affected Samoan society. Individual Samoans gained influence by ways unknown to tradition: by holding office in a mission (as pastor, catechist, or deacon); by ability to speak the English language; or through the possession of money. High chiefs promoted the interests of their title and their family with the backing of European supporters. At the same time, the political structure of the country began to be modified, so that it could deal with the new demands that were made upon it. A central Government was formed to control relations between Samoans and Europeans and to represent Samoa in negotiations with consuls and naval officers.

For a variety of reasons, those changes did not take place smoothly. The Samoan Government, in particular, was never fully effective; and political control in Western Samoa passed first to Germany in 1900 and then in 1914 to New Zealand. But these nineteenth century developments began a process of change which has in more recent years, enabled a new generation of Samoan leaders to emerge, with both the knowledge and the prestige required to tackle successfully the problems of the twentieth century.

(to be continued)