Samoa was an independent country until 1889 when it came under a colony-like supervision of Great Britain, Germany, and the United States. A decade later, it was divided outright into two colonies, one American and the other German. Britain was compensated elsewhere. American Samoa, which included the superb port of Pago-Pago, was less than one tenth the size of Western Samoa, the German colony. In 1914, on the outbreak of World War I, the latter became a colony of New Zealand until 1921, when it was transformed into a Mandated Territory of the League of Nations and assigned to New Zealand. At the end of World War II, Western Samoa was made part of the new United Nations Trusteeship System; it remained under New Zealand's rule. In 1962, it became independent. American Samoa has remained an American colony since 1899.
During all these shifts and turns in world politics, neither the people nor the governments of Samoa were consulted other than perfunctorily.
Before the advent of colonialism, Samoans lived in a subsistence economy in which land was owned communally. The traditional system operated effectively:
Village gardens and community fishing supply food for all; the labor and distribution being under the direction of the village and family chiefs. No one is rich in the sense of owning property or stores of goods, but no able-bodied man or woman is devoid of useful employment and no one goes hungry so long as there is a mouthful to be passed around. 1