The people of the Samoan Islands share a common language – Samoan, a common culture – fa’a Samoa and an indigenous form of governance called fa’amatai.2
“Due to colonialism, the Samoa Islands and people were divided by Western powers. Today, politically the islands have two jurisdictions, the independent country of Samoa at the western half of the islands, and the territory of American Samoa comprising the islands to the east. The two regions are separated by 64km of ocean. Most Samoans are full-blooded and comprise one of the largest Polynesian populations in the world.3
Fa’a Samoa means the Samoan Way.4 Fa’a Samoa dictates how Samoans should conduct themselves. This brings out the Samoan Identity and how they should fulfill their obligations towards their families, their communities, the Church and their fellow Samoans. At the heart of the Samoan Identity is Respect, an unquestioning respect for their established institutions, their systems and their elders.
Religion is a very important part of the Samoan Culture. Samoa’s motto in fact is based on religion – “Samoa is founded on God”5 Originally Samoans had a polytheistic religion. This belief is divided in to two – the Atua (non-human) and Aitu gods (human) which also include ancestor worship.6
Thus, when religious expeditions arrived in Samoa, assimilation of the new world was not met by too much resistance. Today, the main religions in Samoa include Congregational, Catholic, Methodist, Assembly of God, Seventh Day Adventist, Bahai,, the Latter Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses.8 Paganism was replaced by the promise of eternal life of these new religions. But what remains is that religion plays a central part in the lives of Samoans.
In Samoa, the aiga (extended family) is all important.9 Villages are composed of aiga’s and the greater