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Samoa — The Heart of Polynesia

INTERESTING FACTS: The Samoans are known throughout Polynesia as the "happy" people because of their enjoyment of life and their good-spirited nature. Famous author Robert Louis Stevenson, known in Samoa as Tusitala or "story-teller," fell in love with the happiness and giving spirit of the Samoan people and settled here. He is buried on Mt. Vaea in independent Samoa.

There are two Samoas: American Samoa, which is the only U.S. territory south of the equator, and independent Samoa, which is ruled by a hereditary head of state. Despite the geopolitical separation, the people share a common language and culture.

LOCATION:  1,800 miles northeast of New Zealand.


AREA:  2,860 sq km, slightly smaller than Rhode Island. America Samoa: 199 sq km, slightly larger than Washington, DC.

POPULATION: Samoa: about 180,000 (as of July 2000 est.); America Samoa: about 69,000 (as of July 2000 est.)

DISCOVERED:  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 name, "The Navigator Islands."

GOVERNMENT:  Samoa has two different governments. Samoa is an independent, sovereign state, and America Samoa is a U.S. territory administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Samoa was a German possession from 1899-1914, then was governed by New Zealand until it became independent in 1962. It recently changed its name from Western Samoa to Samoa.

LANGUAGES:  English, Samoan

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