All of the Samoan islands west of long. 171°W were awarded to Germany under the terms of an 1899 treaty among Germany, the United States, and Great Britain. New Zealand seized the islands from Germany in 1914 and obtained a mandate over them from the League of Nations in 1921. The United Nations made the islands a trusteeship of New Zealand in 1946. New Zealand rule was unpopular, and in the 1930s a resistance movement (known as mau ) emerged among Europeans and native Polynesians. In 1961 a United Nations–supervised plebiscite was held, and on Jan. 1, 1962, the islands became independent as Western Samoa. The nation was renamed Samoa in 1997. Chief Susuga Malietoa Tanumafili II became co-head of state in 1962 and sole head of state in 1963, serving until his death in 2007; Tuiatua Tupea Tamasese Efi, a former prime minister, was elected to succeed him and has been reelected since then. Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has been prime minister since 1996. In 2009 Samoa suffered significant destruction from a tsunami, especially on the south and east coasts of Upolu, and in 2012 a tropical cyclone also caused significant damage, especially around the capital.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.