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An Account of Samoan History up to 1918


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In attempting to write a short critical outline of the history of the Native Department of Western Samoa I shall endeavour to indicate what its past history has been and what place it at present fills in the administration of the natives of these Islands. To do this in such a manner that those who have no acquaintance with the Islands may understand, it is necessary to go back to the hoisting of the German flag in Samoa in 1900. Up to this time the Trhee Powers, Britain, Germany and America had amused themselves and thoroughly upset the Samoans over a number of years by setting District against District and chief against chief in the hope that out of the consequent muddle one of them would emerge with another Colony. The Samoans were bewildered but it was becoming increasingly clear to them that it was not their interests that were being considered. Fortunately the agreement arrived at to partition the Samoan Group between the U.S.A. and Germany did at last bring about a cessation of the strife that had continued for a number of years and which had resulted in the Samoans mistrusting all European Powers.

After formalities had been settled and the German flag hoisted on the 1st of March, 1900, Dr Solf who had been representing his country in Samoa for some time and who had been appointed Governor, took over the administration of Western Samoa. He had been a keen observer and was an able man and was at the commencement of his duties able to bring to bear on the situation the knowledge already gained of the characters of the people he was now responsible for.

Until 1905 he attempted to work through a large number of native representatives who resided at Mulinu'u, the historic point about a mile from Apia. These representatives were called Faipule and they numbered more than 100. Their duties were practically nil and they were fed by the people' of their districts. This gathering was not appointed by Dr Solf but was a legacy left him from the time that the Three Powers had attempted to form a Goverment for the country. He decided to allow them to remain as representatives until page 2 such time as he was ready to dispense with them and introduce a more cracticable system. He was well aware of the fact that such a rumber of Samoans could not remain long in idleness without hatching trouble for everybody, especially as the Tumua and Pule were vitally interested in the activities of the different members of the Faipule Fono. From 1900 until 1905 he carefully watched and studied the natives and formulated his plans and when towards the latter end of 1905 the representatives at Mulinu'u had rendered it impossible for him to allow them to continue in office any longer he dismissed them all and appointed 33 Faipule to be representatives of 33 districts in the Group. When doing so he carefully explained his reasons for his action and enlarged on the duplicity and irr; tating tactics that the first body of men had continually indulged in. The new appointees were termed “Imperial Faipule” and they were to be his representatives in the districts to which they had been assigned. Additionally, he appointed a number of other officials such as Judges, Plantation Inspectors, Village Mayoro etc. The significant point is that they were “appointed” and not electedTheir duties were clearly defined and they were given to understand that they were responsible directly to the Governor not only for their actions in their villages or districts but for the faithful and prompt varrying out of the instructions issued to them. Disobedience was met with prompt dismissal or other punishment. All officials received a salary varying with the position held and they were forbidden to leave their districts withou t first having received permission. Dr Solf's plan was to employ Samoans to govern Samoans under the watchful eye of a European. When this plan was put into operation he had the basis of a Native Administration and on it he built as time went on. There were flaws and troubles of a minor nature but on the whole it worked. His policy was to build for the present and for the future and he spared no pains to instil into the native mind that a European Government had come to stay. It was only to be expected that difficulties arose from time to time, for it must be remembered that he had to overcome the nany hatreds engendered by the long drawn out hostilities between she different native factions as well as between the natives and the page 3 Europeans. The Samoans had to learn to adjust their estimate of the honesty of the white man and their contact with him had been such that it required extreme patience and example to bring this about. That Dr Solf succeeded in doing this must be admitted and it is a nonument to his ability and judgment that he was respected finally by both Samoans and Europeans. His principal concern was, of course, the Samoans and his energies were mainly directed to bringing about a system of governing them that while making for their welfare would, to the least possible extent, interfere with their oustoms. In doing this he met with opposition chiefly from irresponsible Europeans and also on one or two occasions from irreconcilable natives. Such troubles he was prompt in handling and even resorted to deportation. Today such action may savour of despotism, but one must remember both the times and the class of people he had to govern. That his actions were justified is evidenced by the resultant peace in the territory. In his work he was assisted by a sound knowledge of the natives and by carefully selected Europeans and Samoans. The Berlin Government sought on occasions to improve matters by suggesting a Constitution for Samoa but Dr Solf invariably and emphatically refused to either agree to or put into operation such a Constitution even if passed. He explained to his Home office “I am and must be the Constitution”, and in stating this he was speaking from a long experisnce of the people he had to govern. He clearly recognised that no Constitution originating in Berlin could nossibly be successfully applied to the Samoans, nor could it contain provisions for the immediate and satisfactory handling of problems that were constantly arising in Samoa. The Samoans had developed a social system in which the Matai or the head of the family or clan was recognised as being the leader and through and by him was the clan governed. They were willing to recognise the head of the Government in a similar light and even to accord to him a greater respect than they were willing to pay to their own matai: but such a man must prove to their satisfaction that he had tact, patience, wisdom and above all the authority to decide matters without reference to some hazy authority 10,000 miles away. Did it become evident as the result of some Constitution that the Governor had to page 4 refer and defer to an authority in some distant land, just so soon would the natives recognise his lack of power and act accordingly.

On the 12th day of September, 1905, the 30 odd Faipule were sworn in at Mulinu'u and appointments were made to the Native office also. It may be said that the Native Department as an administrative authority commenced as from this period. Dr Solf commenced to pay regularly visits to the office to meet the Samoans and deal with their problems. Dr Schultz, the Chief Judge, had his permanent office at Mulinu'u and the staff of the Native Office consisted of a number of Samoans and a European. Dr Schultz was also the Judge of the Native Land Court and conducted enquiries into and settled disputes concerning land and titles. He was eminently suited for the work being an accomplished scholar and student of their language and customs.

In September of this same year, 1905, the Government commenced through the Native Department to issue a monthly newspaper called “The Savali” (Messenger.) This publication was printed in the Samoan language and in it was published all instructions from the Governor to the Samoans, details of cases to come up for hearing before the Land and Titles Commission, leases, current news both local and overseas and anything that it was considered would be of interest and of value to the natives.

The Samoans gradually came to recognise the Governor as their head or father and felt that by and through him, aided by his officials, they could expect and receive just treatment. They quickly grasped the fact that those who were in direct authority over them were in sympathy with them and having a knowledge of their language and customs were able to make allowances for their shortcomings. At no time did Dr Solf or his European officials allow the Samoans to believe that they were the equals of the whites, nor would he even permit of them being placed in a position at ceremonies that would tend to create that belief. Always was the Governmr and the Government the power that controlled.

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Being unfettered by a fearsome maze of red tape, European law and ignorant politicians and distant officials, he was able to deal quickly with the native problems that arose: and as the Samoan quickly recognises and appreciates prompt justice especially when allied to his own customs, the German Governor was able to build an organisation that commanded the respect and obedience of the natives.

As the big majority of disputes between the Samoans are concerned with either land or titles, it was early recognised that a special Court would have to be provided to deal with them and such a tribunal must command the respect of the natives and have the unqualified support of the Government. Such a Court was established and held its first sitting in September, 1903. Dr Solf appointed a number of Samoans to act as native assessors or advisers and he chose them strictly with a view to their ability to command the respect of their countrymen and for their general suitability. The names of the Komisi appointed permanently in 1905 are recorded below:-

Name Village Island Chief or Orator.
Tusa Lufilufi Upolu Orator.
Hanogi Vaiala Upolu Orator.
Tuatagaloa Poutasi Upolu Chief.
Puepuemai Fagaloa Upolu Chief.
Mataafa Safata Upolu Orator.
Lealamisa Fasitoouta Upolu Orator.
Futi Toimoana Manono Manono Orator.
vui Talitu Amoa Savai'i Chief.
Aualiitia Salogo Savai'i Chief.
Laufa Safotu Savai'i Orator.
Lesatele Sataua Savai'i Chief.
Tauiliili Neiafu Savai'i Chief.
Tui salega Faiaai Savai'i Orator.
Miupulusu Palauli Savai'i Orator.

The above are all well known names in Samoa and their ranking was sufficiently high to make their decisions respected. It will be noticed that there were 8 Orators out of a total of 14 appointees and this was no doubt brought about because it was understood that the Orators are the recorders of the hsitories of the lands and titles of the country and their assistance on Land and Titles cases would be of great value.

Dr Schultz who was a fluent Samoan linguist and well versed in the customs of the people was appointed Judge of the page 6 Native Land and Titles Commission as it was termed. Associated with him in addition to the Native Assessors were two Europeans, also men of long residence in the country. This Court sat at stated periods and dealt with matters concerning land and titles. The decisions were final and binding on all parties and had the full support of the Court and the Government. Where a case concerned land, the land was first surveyed, and on a decision being entered this land was duly recorded and thus the nucleus of a system of recording the native lands of the country and the titles that controlled such lands was begun. It is notsworthy that the Land and Titles Commission was viewed with the greatest respect by the Samoans, and although all decisions given may not have been strictly correct, the natives rarely created any trouble over them. It was always and clearly indicated to the litigants that the decisions of the Land and Titles Commission were final and binding on all parties, and all decisions were issued to the natives on a printed form at the foot of which was stated that “This decision is final and irrevocable and anyone offending against it will be severely punished.”

Up to the time New Zealand took over control of the Islands, the German Court had dealt with 370 cases and from this tota it is difficult to find an appeal against a decision or a pronounced disagreement with one.

In September, 1910, Dr Solf resigned and returned to Germany. Dr Sohultz, Acting Governor, was appointed in his stead.. We pursued the policy of Dr Solf without untoward incident until the outbreak of war and was up to that time diligently employed in improving his knowledge of the people he had to govern.

Twice a year the Governor called in the Faipule or District representatives for a fono (meeting) at Mulinu'u. This meeting lasted from 5 to 14 days depending on the business to be transacted, and during this time matters concerning the welfare of the country were discussed. The Faipule who were always in touch with their people brought forward remits which were discussed and accepted or discarded. The Governor had, before the fono was called, discussed with his European officials and native advisers, such matters as he, himself, intended to place before the Faipule. His page 7 decisions were given as instructions and on the fono finishing, the Faipule returned to their Districts and acquainted their people with the results of the fono and explained the instructions given to them. In this way were the people kept in touch with the orders and wishes of the Governor. Any Faipule found to be neglecting his duties was promptly dealt with.

Below is a list of the first Faipule appointed and again it will be noticed that they were all men standing as Samoans.

Name Village Rank.
Teausuusu Saleaaumua Orator.
Fiame Lotofaga Chief.
Pulepule Lufilufi Chief.
Leasiolagi Salani Chief.
Molioo Faleapuna Orator.
Faumuina Faleata Chief.
Toelupe Malie Orator.
Seumanutafa Apia Chief.
Ama Safata Chief.
Alipia Leulumoega Orator.
Fui Lefaga Chief.
Lciataua S. Faleu, Manono. Chief.
Pa'o Fasitoouta Orator.
Tia Salelologa Chief.
Tofilau S. Iva Chief.
Tuala Silivelio Sataputu Chief.
Tautaiolefue Saleaula Chief.
Tanusoa Safotu Chief.
Tuailemafua Samauga Chief.
Toomata Vaisala Chief.
Solia Falealupo Chief.
Esu Tufu Orator.
Tuimaseve Satupaitea Chief.
Iafai Mana Samata Chief.
Ielesiuao Palauli Chief.
Ietagaloa Gautavai Chief.
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o sum up the German Administration: there was a clearly defined policy of Native Administration in the hands of trained and capable men - as far as possible the native customs were not interfered with - the health of the people was gradually being improved by the enforcement of suitable regulations - their education was left in the hands of the Missionaries and was of a kind that was sufficient for their needs for many years to come - the natives realsied that there was a controlling power over them and that the Goverrmnent was making an honest effort to govern them to their advantage, and to a surprising extent considering their stage of advancement, they fell into line.

This state of affairs was brought about through the Native Department with the German Governors as the heads and they were assisted by trained and capable Europeans. At all times the German Governors chose only tried and capable men to fill positions that entailed the handling of the Natives. Petty chiefs were passed over as it was inevitable that should they be appointed, they would immediately assume authority that they did not possess faa Samoa and would also be ignored by the higher chiefs. All Europeans connected with the Native Department were compelled to and did know the Samoan language and too much value cannot be placed on this knowledge. It prevented misinterpretation, greatly lessened the possibility of misunderstanding and deceit and assured a more sympathetic understanding of the Samoans and their problems. To the greatest possible oxtent, Samoan problems were settled according to Samoan customs and it is this fact that enabled thenative administration of the country to proceed satisfactorily. The introduction of European law and Eurogoan methods would have resulted in the conditions we have today.