Samoan (or Navigators) Islands

Samoan (Or Navigator's) Islands, A group of nine inhabited islands, with some islets, in the Pacific Ocean, lying north of the Friendly Islands; population in 1869, 35,107. The soil, formed chiefly by the decomposition of volcanic rock, is rich, and the climate is moist. Among the Polynesian Islands, the inhabitants of the Samoan group rank, in personal appearance, second only to the Tongese. They are well formed, and easy and graceful in their movements. Polygamy is customary, but two wives seldom live in the same house. Women are considered the equals of men, and both sexes join in the family labor. The ancient religion of the islanders acknowledged one great God, but less worship was paid to him than to some of their war gods. They had, besides, a god of earthquakes, a god who upheld the earth, and gods of hurricanes, rain, and lightning, and also many inferior gods, who guarded certain localities. They also worshipped certain chiefs, to whose memory they erected carved blocks of wood and stone. The first missionaries landed in Savaii in 1830 from the Society Islands, and, in 1836, were joined by others from England. The first Roman Catholic missionaries arrived in 1846. The inhabitants are all now nominally Christians. There are schools and a church in every village. The children can generally read in their own language at the age of seven years, and most of the adult population can read and write. The Bible has been translated and printed, as have hymn books and other works, at the missionary printing office. In 1869, the population was divided, denominationally, as follows: Independents and Presbyterians, 27,021; Wesleyans, 5082; Roman Catholics, 3004.

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