Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen happened upon the islands in 1722. In 1768, French Admiral Louis de Bougainville visited the islands. He was so impressed with the Samoan's numerous canoes and their great skill in handling them that he gave Samoa its original European name, "The Navigator Islands."
Germany took possession of the western portion of the Samoan archipelago from 1899-1914. At the outbreak of World War I, New Zealand troops took possession of the island country. Following WWI the newly formed League of Nations gave New Zealand its Mandate to administer the islands, which resulted in close ties between the two countries that still exist to this day. The newly formed United Nations extended New Zealand's mandate until January 1, 1962, when Western Samoa, or Samoa i Sisifo as the Samoans called it, became the first independent Polynesian nation. In 1997 the island nation officially shortened its name to Samoa. Today, Samoa has a parliamentary style of government and an education system reflecting its former ties with New Zealand.
In light of 19th century European involvement in the Pacific, the traditional chiefs of eastern Samoa sold their islands to the United States in 1900. The U.S. Navy administered the islands until after World War II, at which time the Department of the Interior took over. Today, American Samoans have a U.S. style of government and education, and send a non-voting representative to the U.S. Congress. The people are U.S. Nationals who can freely travel into the United States.