Map of American Samoa.
American Samoa ( or ) is an
territory of the United States located in the South Pacific Ocean, southeast of the sovereign state of Samoa (formerly
known as Western Samoa). The main (largest and most populous) island
is Tutuila, with the
Manu a Islands, Rose Atoll, and Swains Island also included in the territory. American Samoa is part
of the Samoan Islands chain, located west of the Cook Islands, north of Tonga, and some
300 miles (500 km) south of Tokelau.
west are the islands of the Wallis and Futuna group.
Coastline of American Somoa
The 2000 census
showed a total
population of 57,291. The total land area is , slightly more than
It is generally believed that the Samoan Islands were originally
inhabited as early as 1000 BC. Samoa was not reached by European
explorers until the eighteenth century.
The pre-Western history of Eastern Samoa (now American Samoa) is
inextricably bound with the history of Western Samoa (now
independent Samoa). The Manu'a Islands of
American Samoa have one of the oldest histories of Polynesia, in
connection with the Tui Manua title,
connected with the histories of the archipelagos of Fiji, Tonga, the
Cook Islands, Tokelau and elsewhere in the Pacific -- all of which
had once been under Manua's occupation.
Tu'i Manu'a from
Manu'a ruled most of the Pacific, including Tonga, long before the
Tu'i Tonga Empire. While Tu'i Manu'a ruled Tonga, the external
influences came in the form of imperial activities, beginning with
the Tu’i Pulotu empire in Fiji and followed by the Tu’i Manu’a
empire in Samoa. In other words, Tonga was under considerable
influence from the imperialism of both Fiji and Samoa. However,
Tonga was able to free itself through bitter and bloody wars from
the imperial domination of the Tu’i Manu’a — which eventually led
to the formation of the Tu’i Tonga empire around AD 950 in the
person of ‘Aho’eitu, the first Tu’i Tonga — whose father was a
deified Samoan high chief, Tangaloa ‘Eitumâtupu’a, and mother a
Tongan woman, Va’epopua, of great noble birth. This double origin
entitled the Tu’i Tonga to hold both divine and secular
In principle, the close cultural and historical interlinkages
between Fiji, Samoa and Tonga were essentially elitist, involving
the intermarriage between regional aristocratic families. Many
years later, after Tonga freed itself from Samoa, the Tongans took
rule over Samoa until Samoa freed itself. Manu'a was the only
island group that remained independent. The islands of Tutuila
and Aunu'u were
politically connected to 'Upolu island in what is now independent
It can be said that all the Samoa islands are
politically connected today through the faamatai
chiefly system and through family
connections that are as strong as ever. This system of the faamatai
and the customs of faasamoa
two of the most famous early chiefs of Samoa, who were both women
and related, Nafanua
Early Western contact included a battle in the eighteenth century
between French explorers and islanders in Tutuila, for which the
Samoans were blamed in the West, giving them a reputation for
ferocity. Early nineteenth century Rarotongan missionaries to the
Samoa islands were followed by a group of Western missionaries led
by John Williams
Missionary Society in the 1830s, officially bringing Christianity
to Samoa. In the second half of the 20th century, the Samoan Congregationalist
became the first independent indigenous church of the
South Pacific.In March 1889, a German naval force
invaded a village in Samoa, and by doing so destroyed some American
Three American warships then entered the Samoan
harbor and were prepared to fire on the three German warships found
there. Before guns were fired, a
wrecked both the American and German ships. A
was called because of
the lack of warships.
As a U.S. Territory
International rivalries in the latter half of the nineteenth
century were settled by the 1899 Tripartite Convention
Germany and the U.S. divided the Samoan archipelago
. The following year, the U.S. formally
occupied its portion: a smaller group of eastern islands, one of
which surrounds the noted harbor of Pago
Pago. Since 1962, the western islands have been an
independent nation, adopting the name The Independent State of Samoa in 1997.
After the United States Navy
behalf of the United States, took possession of eastern Samoa, the
existing coaling station
Pago Bay was expanded into a full naval station under the command
of a commandant. The Navy secured a Deed of Cession of Tutuila in
1900 and a Deed of Cession of in 1904. The last sovereign of , the
, was forced to sign a Deed of Cession of following a series of
U.S. Naval trials, known as the "Trial of the Ipu", in Pago Pago, ,
and aboard a Pacific Squadron gunboat.
World War I, during the time of the
Mau movement in Western Samoa (then a League of Nations mandate governed by New
Zealand), there was a corresponding American Samoa Mau movement,
led by Samuel Sailele Ripley, who was from Leone village and was a
World War I veteran.
After meetings in the United States
mainland, he was prevented from disembarking from the ship that
brought him home to American Samoa and was not allowed to return.
The American Samoa Mau movement having been suppressed by the U.S.
Navy. In 1930 the U.S. Congress sent a committee to investigate the
status of American Samoa, led by Americans who had had a part in
the overthrow of the Kingdom of
the noted aviator Ed Musick and his crew
died on the Pan American
World Airways S-42 Samoan Clipper
over Pago Pago, while on a survey flight to Auckland,
Sometime after take-off, the aircraft
experienced trouble, and Musick turned it back toward Pago Pago.
While the crew began dumping fuel in preparation for an emergency
landing, a spark in the fuel pump caused an explosion that tore the
aircraft apart in mid-air.
During World War II
, U.S. Marines in
Samoa outnumbered the local population, having a huge cultural
influence. Young Samoan men from the age of 14 and above were
combat trained by U.S. military personnel. Samoans served in
various capacities during World War II, including as combatants,
medical personnel, code personnel, and ship repairmen.
After World War II, Organic Act 4500, a U.S. Department of Interior-sponsored attempt to incorporate American Samoa,
was defeated in Congress, primarily through the efforts of Samoan
chiefs, led by Tuiasosopo
Mariota. These chiefs' efforts led to the creation of
a local legislature, the American
Samoa Fono which meets in the village of Fagatogo, often considered the territory's de facto and de
jure capital (the United States regards Pago Pago as the official capital of the
In time, the Navy-appointed governor was replaced by a locally
elected one. Although technically considered "unorganized" in that
the U.S. Congress
has not passed an
for the territory, American
Samoa is self-governing under a constitution that became effective
on July 1, 1967. The U.S. Territory of American Samoa is on the
Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories
, a listing which
is disputed by the territorial government officials, who do
consider themselves to be self-governing.
Due to economic hardship, military service has been seen as an
opportunity in American Samoa and other
, this has meant that based on population
there have been a disproportionate number of casualties per
population compared to other parts of the United States. there have
been 10 American Samoans who have died in Iraq
, and 2 who have died in
. American Samoans who enlist in
the Army Reserve
assigned to the 100th Infantry
September 2009 earthquake and tsunami
On September 29, 2009 at 17:48:11 UTC, an 8.0 magnitude earthquake
struck off of the coast of American
Samoa. The quake struck below the ocean floor and generated a
. Four waves with heights from to
high were reported to have reached up to one mile (1.6 km)
inland on the island of Tutuila. At least 150 people were reported
to have been killed in American Samoa and Samoa with hundreds more
First Lady Mary Tulafono and Governor
Politics of American Samoa takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic dependency
, whereby the Governor
is the head of government
, and of a pluriform multi-party system
. American Samoa is an
unincorporated and unorganized
territory of the United States, administered by the Office of Insular Affairs,
U.S. Department of the Interior.
Its constitution was ratified in 1966 and
came into effect in 1967. Executive
is exercised by the governor. Legislative power
is vested in the two
chambers of the legislature. The American political parties
(Republican and Democratic) exist in American Samoa, but few
politicians are aligned with the parties. The judiciary
is independent of the executive and the
There is also the traditional village politics of the Samoa
Islands, the "fa'amatai" and the "fa'asamoa", which continues in
American Samoa and in independent Samoa, and which interacts across
these current boundaries. The Fa'asamoa is the language and
customs, and the Fa'amatai the protocols of the "fono" (council)
and the chiefly system. The Fa'amatai and the Fono take place at
all levels of the Samoan body politic, from the family, to the
village, to the region, to national matters. The "matai" (chiefs)
are elected by consensus within the fono of the extended family and
village(s) concerned. The matai and the fono (which is itself made
of matai) decide on distribution of family exchanges and tenancy of
communal lands. The majority of lands in American Samoa and
independent Samoa are communal. A matai can represent a small
family group or a great extended family that reaches across
islands, and to both American Samoa and independent Samoa.
born in American Samoa -- including those born on Swains Island -- are American
nationals, but are not American citizens unless one of their
parents is a U.S. citizen.
As U.S. nationals, American
Samoans may not vote in U.S.
. However, American Samoans are entitled
to free and unrestricted entry into the mainland United
Samoans are entitled to elect one non-voting delegate
United States House of Representatives. Their delegate since 1989
has been Democrat
Hunkin Faleomavaega, Jr.
They also send delegates to the
American Samoa is administratively divided into three districts
and two "unorganized" atolls. The
districts and unorganized atolls are subdivided into 74 villages.
Pago Pago -- the capital of American Samoa -- is one of the largest
villages and is located on the eastern side of Tutuila island in
Ma'oputasi County district #9. Fagatogo is listed in the Constitution of American
as the official seat of
, but it is not the capital.
Samoa, located within the geographical region of Oceania, is one of only two possessions of the
United States in the Southern Hemisphere, the other being Jarvis Island. Its total land area is 76.8 square
miles (199 km²) -- slightly larger than Washington,
-- consisting of five rugged, volcanic
islands and two coral atolls
. Due to its
positioning in the South Pacific Ocean, it is frequently hit by
typhoons between December and March. Rose Atoll, located in
American Samoa, is the southernmost point in the territory of the
Official protest to naming of neighboring Samoa
Department Background Note web page for neighboring Samoa notes that
"in July 1997 the Constitution was amended to change the
country's name from Western Samoa to Samoa (officially the
"Independent State of Samoa"). Western Samoa had
been known simply as Samoa in the United Nations since joining the
organization in 1976. The neighboring U.S. territory of
American Samoa protested the move, feeling that the change
diminished its own Samoan identity. American Samoans still
use the terms Western Samoa and Western Samoans."
Samoa had been controlled from the end of World War I to 1962 by New Zealand as a Class C Mandate under trusteeship through the League of Nations.
It had long
sought political independence through the Mau movement
and achieved it in 1962.
Territorial claim by Tokelau nationalists
Swains Island is claimed by supporters of independence for
Tokelau as part of that country.
and Tokelauans enjoy linguistic and cultural affinities. Tokelauans
refer to Swains as Olohega. In 2006 and 2007, unsuccessful, United Nations-sponsored referenda on
independence for Tokelau, currently administered by New Zealand, revived a dormant source of tension.
American and New Zealand governments are not concerned to
pursue any change of territorial status over the Swains Island issue.
However, the existence of a clause in
a draft independence treaty espoused by United Nations
-driven Tokelauan nationalists
is a matter which will be a potential source of diplomatic tension.
direction or another, the way out of this impasse may depend on the
extent to which the United
States government shows a willingness or other inclination
to support the United Nations'
decolonization efforts at the expense of the current territorial
integrity of American Samoa.
Employment on the island falls into three relatively equally-sized
categories of approximately 5,000 workers each: the public sector,
the two tuna canneries
and the rest of the private sector.
There are only a few federal
American Samoa and no active duty
military personnel except members of the U.S. Coast Guard, although
there is an Army Reserve
The overwhelming majority of public sector employees work for the
American Samoa territorial government. The two tuna canneries
and Samoa Packing
) export several hundred million
dollars worth of canned tuna to the United States each year. In
early 2007 the Samoan economy was highlighted in the Congress
as it was not mentioned in
the minimum wage
bill, at the request
of the Samoan delegate to the United States House of
The Fair Labor Standards Act of
has, since inception, contained special provisions for
American Samoa, citing its limited economy. American Samoa wages
are based on the recommendations of a Special Industry Committee
meeting bi-annually. Originally, the Act contained provisions for
other territories, provisions which were phased out as those
territories developed more diverse economies .
In 2007, the Fair Minimum
Wage Act of 2007
was passed, increasing minimum wage in
American Samoa by $0.50 per hour in 2007 and another $0.50 per hour
each year thereafter until the minimum wage in American Samoa
equals that of the fifty states.
population of American Samoa stands at about 65,000, of whom 95%
live on the largest island, Tutuila.
91.6% of the population are native Samoans
2.8% Asian, 1.1% White, 4.2% Mixed, and 0.3% other; 90.6% of the
people speak Samoan (closely related to Hawaiian and other
Polynesian languages), 2.9% English, 2.4% Tongan, 2.1%, other 2%
other Pacific islander, with most people being bilingual. American
Samoa is largely Christian
Congregationalist, 20% Roman Catholic, 30% Protestant and
American Samoa is small enough to have just one ZIP code
, 96799. The island contains 23 primary schools
and six secondary schools
, all of which are
operated by the American Samoa Department
. American Samoa Community
, founded in 1970, provides post-secondary education on
The culture in American Samoa is almost the same as that of Western
Samoa (Upolu). The U.S. sovereignty distinguishes the civilization
of American Samoa from the sovereign Samoa.
According to the World Christian Database, the population of
American Samoa is 98.3% Christian, 0.7% agnostic, 0.4% Chinese
Universalist, 0.3% Buddhist and 0.3% Baha'i.
About 30 ethnic Samoans, many from American Samoa, currently play
in the National Football
. A 2002 article from ESPN estimated that a Samoan male
(either an American Samoan, or a Samoan living in the 50 United
States) is 40 times more likely to play in the NFL than a
non-Samoan American. Pittsburgh
safety Troy Polamalu
though born and raised in the mainland U.S., is perhaps the most
famous Samoan in the NFL, not having his hair cut since 2000 (and
only because a USC
him he had to) and wearing it down during games in honor of his
A number have also ventured into professional wrestling
especially Anoa'i family
). World Wrestling Entertainment
has employed many members from the Anoa'i family, most famously
(who is also African American
). However, with the
releases of Eddie Fatu
and Sim Snuka
, adopted son of Jimmy
, World Wrestling Entertainment
does not currently have any Samoan wrestlers on its roster. Also in
professional wrestling, a wrestler called Samoa Joe
competes in Total Nonstop Action
national soccer team
is one of the newest teams in the world.
It also has the distinction of suffering the worst loss in
international soccer history: they lost to Australia 31 – 0
in a FIFA World Cup
qualifying match on April 11,
- Census Bureau News
- Sovereignty Matters article.
- Story of the Legislature of American Samoa. 1988.
- Revised Constitution of American Samoa.
- (See the discussion, "What is the capital of X?")
- [http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/1842.htm US State Department
Profile on Samoa
- FLSA section 205, "Special industry committees for
- Statement by the President Upon Signing the
American Samoa Labor Standards Amendments of 1956
- Faleomavaega Comments On Minimum Wage Bill Now
- Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007. 29 USC 201.
United States Government Printing Office. 2007-05-25.
- Welcome to ASDOE
- National Park of American Samoa – climate
- American Samoa: Adherents Profile at the
Association of Religion Data Archives World Christian
- The Walt Disney Internet Group (WDIG) – The
Dominican Republic of the NFL
- Ellison, Joseph (1938). Opening and Penetration of Foreign
Influence in Samoa to 1880. Corvallis: Oregon State
- Sunia, Fofo (1988). The Story of the Legislature of
American Samoa. Pago Pago: American Samoa Legislature.
- Meti, Lauofo (2002). Samoa: The Making of the
Constitution. Apia: Government of Samoa.
- Country Data