The Samoas

Information about the The Samoas

The Fa'a Samoa, or traditional Samoan way, remains a strong force in Samoan life and politics. Despite centuries of European influence, Samoa maintains its historical customs, social systems, and language, which is believed to be the oldest form of Polynesian speech still in existence. Only the Maori of New Zealand outnumber the Samoans among Polynesian groups (though virtually no full-blooded Maori still exist).

98% of Samoans are Christians, divided among many different churches, among them Methodist, Latter Day Saints, Roman Catholic, and Seventh Day Adventists. Hardly any other religious group exists in Samoa, except for the Baha'is, which make up 2% of the population. The King of Samoa, King Malietoa Tanumafili, is a Baha'i.

Culture of Samoa

Samoans are typically friendly and welcoming people. They have a distinct culture in which they have great pride.

Samoans have a communal way of life with little privacy: they do all their activities together and even traditional fales (houses) have no walls, and just use blinds made of coconut leaves during the night or bad weather. Up to 20 people may sleep on the ground in the same fale; during the day the fale is used for chatting and relaxing. Family is viewed as in integral part of life. The aiga or extended family lives and works together. Elders in the family are greatly respected and hold the highest status, and this may be seen at a traditional Sunday umu (rock oven).

Sundays are traditionally a day of rest, and many families congregate to share an umu together for a Sunday afternoon meal. In a traditional household, the older members of the family will sit and eat first, and as the meal continues the younger members and then children are invited to eat. The umu contains an abundance and variety of dishes ranging from fresh seaweed and crayfish to baked taro and rice. Coconut appears in many Samoan dishes, for example palusami, a parcel of corned beef, breadfruit, onions, taro leaves wrapped in breadfruit leaves and coconut cream and baked in the umu. This is eaten in its entirety including the leaves, and is rich in taste due to its coconut content.

Samoa is a deeply religious country despite ancient Samoan culture being contrary to the Church's beliefs, for example, belief in aitu (spirits). Christianity is the main religion and there are many churches to be found around the islands, and are often full on Sundays.

Samoan handicrafts can be found at the craft market and some shops. These include the siapo (equivalent to the Fijian tapa) which is made from beaten mulberry bark, and then patterns or pictures are painted on with a natural brown dye. Examples of pictures depicted are: fish, turtles, hibiscus flowers. The siapo may be used for clothing, for wrapping objects and even simply for decorative reasons. Kava bowls are sturdy, round wooden bowls made of varying sizes, and have many short legs around it. Kava is made up with water in the bowl and drunk socially using coconut shells to scoop up the drink. It is a ground natural extract from the pepper plant root and is used for medicinal and slightly anaesthetic properties. Other handicrafts are fine mats, ornaments or jewellery and hair accessories using naturally occurring materials such as sea shells, coconut and coir.

The traditional Samoan dance is the Siva. This is similar to the Hawaiian dance, with gentle movements of the hands and feet in time to music and which tells a story. Other types of dance are modern dance by the younger generations, at bars or nightclubs.

Traditional Samoan medicine is often practised as a first-line before hospital medicine. This is a type of alternative medicine using plant leaves to massage the affected area.

The traditional ladies clothing is the puletasi which is a matching skirt and tunic with Samoan designs. The lava lava is a sarong which may be worn by men or women. They are of different patterns and colours, but tend to be plain for men who may wear it as part of an official uniform. Some men have intricate and geometrical patterns tattooed onto their lower body and upper legs. The tattooing process is performed without any anaesthesia and is said to be painful.

The above includes excerpts from Wikipedia.org, the free encyclopedia:

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