The Samoans have been mainly a coast-dwelling people living in self-governing, autonomous towns ( nu'u ) linked by Political and ceremonial alliances. Households center on the sacred central place ( malae ) of each nu'u where the ranking high chief's assembly house is also situated. Town populations range between 300 and 1,200 persons and average 450 to 600 persons. In the middle of the last century, town Populations averaged 200 to 500 persons. However, a census taken of twenty-two towns in the district of Aana, Western Upolu, Manono, and Apolima in 1867 shows that town populations ranged between 40 and 310 persons only, the mean being 164 persons. In the nineteenth century, there were a few inland settlements, too. In recent years, there has been a tendency to give up settlements along the coast and to shift towns to newly built roads farther inland.