The birth of a nation There are many explanations for the name Samoa. One is that when the earth’s centre – known as ‘moa’ – was born, Salevao, the god of the cliffs, brought water to wash the new child. He made water ‘sa’ (holy) to the child and all that grew on the earth.
Samoans are the original inhabitants of the Samoa Islands, which lie north of New Zealand between latitude 13° and 15° south. The two large islands are Upolu and Savai‘i, and the only other inhabited islands are Manono and Apolima. About 80 km south-east is Tutuila, the principal island of the smaller territory of American Samoa.
Archaeological and linguistic evidence suggests that Samoa, Fiji and Tonga may be the original homelands of the Polynesians. It was from these islands that, some 2,000 years ago, Polynesians settled the rest of the South Pacific, eventually reaching New Zealand.
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