The islands of Western Samoa were first settled about 3,000 years ago, after a very gradual migration eastwards into the Pacific from people originating in South East Asia. Samoa, it seems, was the cradle of the Polynesian culture, and archaeological evidence suggests settlers from Samoa then spread to the other islands of Polynesia including Hawaii, Tahiti and New Zealand.
The Samoans have their own theory as to the origin of the earth and their islands. These islands and the people are the creation of the god “Tagaloa” and the story is very similar to the biblical account given in the book of Genesis. The oldest known site of human occupation is on the western edge of Upolu at Mulifanua where traces of Lapita pottery have been carbon dated at about 1,000 BC. Archaeologists have pondered for decades over the origin, purpose and use of the many prehistoric structures which are scattered over the islands. Many have been lost under centuries of dense jungle growth but many are still visible today.
In 1768, French navigator, Louis de Bougainville, sighted the islands of Samoa calling them the “Navigator Islands” because he encountered many Samoans sailing small canoes far from the sight of the land and assumed they must be good navigators. By the late 1700s, European traders were plying the Pacific and around 1800 ships began to call at Samoa for supplies. By the early nineteenth century, some Europeans (i.e. escaped convicts, seamen and whalers) had settled in Samoa. However by far the greatest impact of change on the culture and society of Samoa was the arrival of the Western missionaries. The strong influence of the missionaries and their teachings, have made the Samoan people devoutly religious right up until today, with much time and resources devoted to church activities.