"The News in Samoa"

Two newspaper articles, published side by side a few days before New Zealand troops captured German Samoa, suggest to New Zealand readers reasons for the action about to be taken.

Extract from The Ohinemuri Gazette, volume 25 issue 3285, 26 August 1914.(external link)

Extract from The Ohinemuri Gazette, volume 25 issue 3285, 26 August 1914, page 3. Papers Past.


These two newspaper articles appeared in New Zealand a few days before the New Zealand Expeditionary Force arrived in German Samoa to seize authority on behalf of the British Crown. The articles outline the situation in Samoa before they arrived and the anticipation of troops who had not been told their destination until after they left New Zealand. You can read the full articles, and see the rest of the paper here bit.ly/PP-Samoa(external link)

In 1899, Britain, Germany, and the United States decided to partition Samoa. Germany acquired the western islands, and the United States the eastern islands. German Samoa was an area of concern to Britain during the First World War, so New Zealand agreed to capture it. This was one of New Zealand’s first actions of the war. Germany had instructed the administration not to oppose an allied invasion, so the New Zealanders landed in Samoa peacefully.

For the remainder of the war German Samoa was placed under the control of a New Zealand military administrator. German officials were replaced by New Zealand military officers, civilians, or British residents. In 1920 the League of Nations stripped Germany of all of its colonies and New Zealand was given a League mandate to continue its administration of what was now called Western Samoa.

In 1918, a New Zealand passenger and cargo ship arrived in Samoa carrying passengers with the highly contagious and deadly pneumonic influenza. This disease had already killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world. The resulting epidemic in Western Samoa is estimated to have caused the deaths of 22 percent of the population. Survivors blamed the New Zealand Administrator, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Logan, for failing to quarantine the ship and for rejecting an offer of medical assistance from American Samoa. This action was one of two that caused conflict between many Samoans and the New Zealand administration – the other being the violence on Black Saturday in 1929, when police opened fire on a Mau parade, killing eight people. Many of Samoa’s inhabitants had joined the League of Samoa, an opposition movement known as the Mau. Samoa gained independence in 1962, and in 2002 New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Helen Clark, formally apologised for the mistakes that were made during the time of New Zealand’s administration of Samoa.

Key questions

  • What can we observe?
  • What do we already know?
  • How might people view these two articles in different ways?

Possible discussion questions

  • What are these articles telling us?
  • The first article states “They do not like German rule.” Who is meant by “they”? Do you think this statement is correct? Why do you think it was included in the article?
  • Do you think Britain had the right to agree to the division of Samoa between Germany and the United States? Why do you think Britain might have agreed to it? Should the Samoan people have participated in that decision? Why weren’t they able to participate?
  • Who were these articles written by and for? Does this influence the perspectives given in the articles? How might these events have been written about in a native Samoan newspaper?
  • How do you think the influenza epidemic and Black Saturday affected the way New Zealand was viewed in Samoa? In what other ways might events from long ago have an impact on people many years later?
  • Why do you think that Helen Clark apologised? Do you think her apology was significant for the Samoan people? How do you think the apology may have changed the way Samoan people feel about New Zealand?
  • How can the media influence our understanding of issues today? Can you find examples from the media that give different perspectives on the same issue?
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