A group of islands in the southwest central pacific, divided into american samoa and western samoa. They were discovered in 1722 by jacob roggeveen, a dutchman, visited in 1768 and named navigators islands by louis de bougainville, and visited in the 19th century by u.s. Naval officers. They were under native rulers until about 1860. Throughout the remainder of the century united states, british, and german interests figured heavily. They did not achieve independence until 1962. The name comes possibly from that of a local chieftain or from a native word meaning place of the moa, an extinct bird which might have been the totem of the natives.