American Samoa

views updated May 21 2018

American Samoa

Culture Name

American Samoan

Alternative Names

An early explorer, Louis de Bougainville called the Samoan islands the Navigator's Islands, and some early government reports may refer to American Samoa as Eastern Samoa.


Location and Geography. American Samoa is part of the greater Samoan archipelago in the South Pacific half-way between Hawaii and New Zealand. The four western islands constitute the independent nation of Western Samoa (now "Samoa"). In American Samoa, an unincorporated territory only 76.1 square miles (197 square kilometers) in area, the largest island is Tutuila, the administrative center. Just offshore is Aunu'u, and sixty miles to the east is the Manu'a Group: Ofu, Olosega, and Ta'ū. The most remote parts are two atolls, Swain's Island and Rose Island.

The main islands are of volcanic origin, with low coastal areas, fringe reefs, and sand beaches where most villages are located. The land rises abruptly to highland ridges with mountain summits as high as 3000 feet. In this tropical climate, vegetation is dense, and mountain slopes are heavily wooded.

Demography. The population has been projected to be sixty-five thousand in the year 2000, a 69 percent increase since 1960. This population is 89 percent Samoan, 3.7 percent Tongan, and about 2 percent white (mostly Americans). The remaining 5 percent are small subgroups from other Pacific islands, Asians, and groups of mixed heritage. The increase in population since 1960 can be attributed to improved health care and sanitation, a high birthrate, reduced infant mortality, increased life expectancy, and immigration.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Samoan language is part of the Austronesian linguistic family. The Samoic subgroup includes Samoan and the languages of Tokelau and Tuvalu.

Samoan is spoken at home, but most residents also speak English. English is taught in schools from the early grades, and the 1990 census reported that fewer than a thousand people age five or older did not speak English.

Symbolism. Fa'aSamoa, "the Samoan way," encompasses attitudes, beliefs, and traditions that symbolize a world view, shared throughout the archipelago. It is their explanation of the appropriate way to live.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The ancestors of present-day Samoans moved out of Southeast Asia and settled in islands just west of Samoa as early as 1500 b . c . e . They arrived on a double hulled sailing craft with domesticated plants (taro and yams), pigs, chickens, and dogs, as well as pottery known as lapita ware. By the first century a . d ., these people began moving into Samoa and Tonga.

Early contact between Europeans and Samoans occurred in 1722, when the Dutch navigator Jacob Roggeveen's ships called at Ta'ū, followed by French explorers in 1768 and in 1787. Charles Wilkes, commander of the United States Exploring Expedition, observed the culture in 1839 and established a permanent relationship with the Samoans. In the 1800s, Pago Pago's well-protected harbor was a popular port for American whaling ships.

In April 1899, a coaling station was built in Pago Pago harbor by the U. S. Navy, and in February 1900, a deed of cession was negotiated with Tutuila chiefs by Naval Commander B.F. Tilley. In 1904, the Manu'a group was added when a similar treaty was signed by their king.

National Identity. U. S. Navy administration was never oppressive. Samoan customs were preserved if not in conflict with U.S. laws. Hereditary chiefs and talking chiefs were allowed to retain their own forms of assemblage to deal with local political affairs.

Naval officers served as governors until 1951, when the U. S. Department of the Interior assumed responsibility and governors were appointed by the President. Since 1978, governors have been elected by the Samoan people.

Native born American Samoans are U. S. nationals and are free to travel between the two countries and reside in either. Samoans take pride in their status as a U. S. territory and seem uninterested in independence.

Ethnic Relations. The American population has never been large, but Americans have held important positions in government agencies and the public school system. Some intermarriage has occurred, and Americans who become long-term residents tend to adapt to the Samoan way of life. Since 1951, there has been an increased flow of Samoan migrants to the United States, where they have established their own churches and often maintain a Samoan lifestyle.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Until the twentieth century, the lifestyle was rural, and this remains the case in outlying islands and most villages outside Pago Pago Bay. Urban development around the bay and near the airport has a small-town quality.

Until the 1950s, traditional houses (fale) were oval structures with floors of coral pebbles and round wooden posts supporting a beehive-shaped roof covered with sugarcane thatch. Those very open houses were well adapted to the tropical environment and fostered interaction with passers-by. Privacy was and still is minimal. Most families had a house for sleeping and a small cook house in the back, and some had a guest house for entertaining visitors. Since the 1970s, the American government has promoted the building of concrete "hurricane houses" with corrugated metal roofs to minimize storm damage. These rectangular structures are more enclosed, with doors, windows, and sometimes room partitions. Other houses are built of wood or brick. Furnishings in traditional houses were minimalmats for sitting and sleeping and little elsebut some modern houses are fully furnished, and most have television, and telephones.

Legislative buildings are designed in the traditional oval shape, as are public school buildings, the farmer's market, and parts of the airport terminal building. Some commercial buildings now reflect American architectural designs.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Staples of the diet remain taro, breadfruit, bananas, coconuts, papayas, mangoes, some chicken, pork, canned corned beef (pisupo) and seafood. Onions, potatoes, lettuce, cabbages, carrots, beans, and tomatoes are also eaten occasionally. Supermarkets carry most foods found in a U.S. market.

In the past, meals were eaten at midmorning and early evening. Food is cooked but may be served cold. Traditionally, most families ate while seated on mats on the floor and many still do. Elders and guests are always served first; children and the women often eat later. With changes in work patterns, three meals daily are now typical.

Most restaurants on Tutuila specialize in American and other foreign foods, but a few offer more traditional Samoan foods.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Foods served on ceremonial occasions include daily fare plus whole pigs, potato salad, chop suey, puddings, cakes, and ice cream. Palusami (coconut cream bundled in young taro leaves) has become a treat for special occasions. A great quantity of food is served at special events, with guests being expected to eat a portion and take the rest home to share with their households. Kava, a nonalcoholic, mildly narcotic drink, is served to chiefs on ceremonial occasions.

Basic Economy. In this traditionally agricultural country, only 989 farms ("plantations") produced for family consumption in 1990 and 137 produced crops for sale. Two-thirds of these farms have less than five acres. U. S. currency is used in American Samoa.

Imports include food, fuel, raw materials for manufacturers, building materials, and mechanical equipment. In 1996, $471 million in goods was imported primarily from the United States, with exports of $313 million.

The government employs 30 percent of the workforce, the tuna canneries employ 33 percent; the remaining 37 percent fill service, professional, and laborer positions. About 56 percent of families live below the poverty level.

Land Tenure and Property. With the exception of small amounts of government and church property, most land is owned by Samoans. Traditionally, communal ownership was by 'aiga and was controlled by the matai. This remains true for much land. Some whites married to Samoan women acquired individual ownership of land before the 1930s, when the U. S. Navy outlawed land sales. Individual land purchases now are restricted to persons with at least 50 percent Samoan blood.

Commercial Activities. Most commerce is based on the sale of imported products. The most common retail trade establishments are places to eat (over 100) and grocery stores (nearly 200), particularly small family-owned general stores.

Major Industries. The largest industry is fish processing and canning, with pet food as a by-product. Canned tuna, shipped to the United States, accounts for 94 percent of exports. There is also a garment industry, whose products represent 4 percent of exports.

Division of Labor. Age is an important determinant of work roles, with young people engaging in strenuous activities while the elderly play a more sedentary, supervisory and educational role. Children have household responsibilities while leadership roles are given to middle-aged or older persons. In the past some people had specialized skills in building traditional boats and houses, fishing, and medicine.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. There is no true class system in American Samoa. Chiefs' titles are ranked to some degree based on centuries old traditions. These titles belong to specific families ('aiga), and some are ranked higher and are more respected than others. This is primarily significant ceremonially and determines seating in the fono (village council) and the order in which kava is served, but all have an equal opportunity to speak. Any male can aspire to be a matai, since titles are acquired through a democratic process of election by their aiga.

Political Life

Government. The governor and lieutenant governor are elected by popular vote for a four-year term. There are two legislative bodies: a Senate of eighteen chiefs (matai), selected by the paramount chiefs of each county, and the House of Representatives, with one member from each of twenty-one legislative districts, chosen by popular vote. American Samoa is represented in the U. S. House of Representatives by a nonvoting delegate. The government is funded in part by local taxes, but the United States provides over 60 percent of funding through grants.

Leadership and Political Officials. Village leadership is the function of the village council (fono), made up of the matai of each household. One becomes a matai through service to the family, knowledge of Samoan customs, and personal qualities such as diplomacy, intelligence, and speaking skills. Higher education, experience dealing with non-Samoans, and economic success may also be important. Political campaigns for higher offices may involve American-style rallies and fund-raising events, and candidates for governor tend to identify with the Democratic and Republican parties.

Social Problems and Control. A police department handles routine law enforcement, and the legal system is similar to that of the United States. An attorney general is responsible for criminal prosecution, environmental enforcement, consumer protection, immigration, land disputes and disputes over chiefly titles. The High Court has nine judges, including the Chief Justice. The most common crimes are disorderly conduct, assault, burglary, driving under the influence of alcohol, and property damage. Sexual offenses and murder are relatively infrequent.

Military Activity. American Samoa has no standing military. The United States maintains a Coast Guard Unit on Tutuila, and sends recruiters for various branches of service to Pago Pago. Samoans can enlist in the military, and it is a popular career option. They leave Samoa for training and service.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The Department of Human and Social Services administers federally funded programs that include disability services, foster care, child care subsidies and provider training, drug and alcohol counseling, and vocational rehabilitation. The largest programs provide nutritional education and assistance to the elderly and the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program for low-income women and children up to age five.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Villages often have an organization of chiefs' wives. This "women's committee" entertains important visitors and raises money for causes such as equipping village medical clinics and church schools.

Untitled men in villages are organized into a cooperative work group called the aumaga that has important ceremonial and labor responsibilities. It is called the "strength of the village," and the leader (usually the son of a high-ranking chief), functions ceremonially as the "village prince," the manaia. The aualuma is the organization of unmarried women and widows. It engages in communal labor activities, entertains guests, and its members serve as attendants to the "village ceremonial princess," the taupou.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Before the transition to a cash economy, men were responsible for heavy agricultural work, fishing, and house construction. Young men cooked much of the daily food and did the cooking and serving at ceremonial events. Women's activities included sewing, weaving floor and sleeping mats, laundry, child care, and later cooking with modern appliances. Nursing has long been an acceptable role for women. Many of these traditional roles continue today, but new options are important. Men and women now work in tuna canneries, banks, stores, tourist-related businesses, and the school system. Men work in construction, transportation, shipping, and government agencies.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Historically, Samoa has been a male-dominated society. Women exert a great deal of behind-the-scenes power. Professional and authoritative positions are held mostly by men, but women occupy important roles in some government agencies and businesses and in some cases serve as matai.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Young people choose their marriage partners, but marriage is primarily an economic alliance between families. In earlier times, high chiefs' sons married high chiefs' daughters, and lower status couples often eloped. One cannot date or marry a blood relative. Nearly everyone marries, usually in the middle to late twenties, and weddings involve elaborate gift exchanges between the two families. Divorce is rare, but remarriage is fairly common among younger people.

Domestic Unit. The household averages seven people and consists of one or more nuclear families and some collateral relatives. It tends to involve three generations and is flexible in composition. The occupants are related through blood, marriage, and adoption. After marriage, couples settle either in the household of the bride or the groom, each of which is headed by a matai. All social and economic activities are under the control of the matai, who is usually a male.

Kin Groups. The largest kin group is the 'aiga, which includes all individuals tracing kinship to a common ancestor. This extended family may have households in different parts of a village or in several villages. The matai of these households exercise various levels of authority within the 'aiga. Matai are members of the village council (fono) which is a regulatory and decision-making body for the community. A matai settles family squabbles and makes decisions about the family's financial contributions to weddings, funerals, and church donations. The entire 'aiga interacts primarily at weddings, funerals, elections and installations of matai, and family emergencies.


Infant Care. Infants receive a great deal of affection and attention and are held and carried during the first year of life. The household usually includes a grandmother, who often serves as primary babysitter. Babies are fed when hungry and sleep where and when they doze off.

Child Rearing and Education. Young children are supervised by a grandmother or other women in the household and often by an older sibling. From an early age, obedience and respect for age and authority are encouraged. There is an educational program for preschool children and universal public school education through high school. There are a few parochial schools.

Higher Education. American Samoa Community College on Tutuila offers associate-level degrees. Most students major in liberal arts, teacher education, and business. Some students attend college in the United States. About seven percent of the population age twenty-five and older have a bachelor's or more advanced degree.


Samoans are meticulous about courtesy, particularly toward the elderly and holders of chiefly titles. One does not stand while others are seated, and if one enters a room where others are sitting on the floor, it is proper to bend slightly and say "Tulouna" ("excuse me"). A respect vocabulary is used when speaking to chiefs. Reciprocal courtesy and etiquette are characteristic at ceremonial and political events.


Religious Beliefs. Before the arrival of missionaries in 1830, Tagaloa was recognized as the creator of the islands and their people and matai served as family religious leaders. The first missionaries represented the London Missionary Society, called LMS by Samoans and still used to identify that denomination. Known today as the Congregational Christian Church of American Samoa, it ministers to fifty percent of the population, while the Catholic Church claims twenty percent and Mormon, Methodist, and Pentecostal churches serve the remaining thirty percent. Samoans are faithful churchgoers and generous supporters of village churches and pastors.

Religious Practitioners. With the exception of the Catholic Church, which usually includes a few Caucasians among its leaders, most denominations have Samoan religious leaders.

Rituals and Holy Places. Church services follow Western rituals, and choral music is an important element. Most villages have at least one church. The dedication of new churches is of supreme importance and involves feasts and choral competitions and attracts visitors from nearby islands and the United States.

The second Sunday in October is White Sunday, when church services are conducted by children, who sing, recite Bible verses, and present plays. All wear new white clothing. After church the children are served a meal at home featuring special foods.

Death and the Afterlife. Death is viewed as being "God's will." The traditional belief that dying away from home leads to one's spirit causing trouble for survivors persists. Until the 1980s, funerals were the day after death. Developments of mortuary services allows delayed burial to accommodate overseas relatives. Gifts are given to the family, and burial is done on family land.

Medicine and Health Care

American Samoa is a relatively healthy place, but hypertension and obesity are significant health problems in the population. Leading causes of death are heart disease, cancer, and cerebrovascular disease. A hospital on Tutuila provides medical, surgical, obstetric, pediatric, and emergency care. More limited services are available at several small clinics, usually staffed by nurses, in a few outlying villages. Local air service is used to transport seriously ill people from Manua'a. There is limited reliance on traditional healers (bush medicine), particularly for ailments known before European contact.

Secular Celebrations

Flag Day is celebrated on 17 April to commemorate the raising of the American flag over American Samoa in 1900, when the islands became a U.S. territory. Activities include traditional group dancing and singing, speeches, cricket games, and races in long canoes, each with about 50 oarsmen.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. The Arts Council and the Government Museum support art instruction for children and adults and subsidize traditional artists to perpetuate traditional arts.

Literature. Oratory is a valued tradition, and a vast body of mythology, legends and poetry survives through use by talking chiefs in village council deliberations and speeches at ceremonial occasions.

Graphic Arts. Samoans value siapo (barkcloth tapestries) and finemats as family property to be exchanged on ceremonial occasions. Production of siapo and finemats is increasingly rare. At one time being tattooed was a male requirement for aumage membership or to qualify for a chief's title. Practice of this art has long been forbidden in American Samoa, but renewed interest in recent years attracts young men to the former Western Samoa for the elaborate knee-to-upper-abdomen tattoos.

Performance Arts. Group singing and dancing are common art forms. Large dance groups of men or women perform movements in unison with hand claps and body slaps. Solo dances are performed by the village ceremonial princess (taupou), sometimes flanked by male support dancers.


American Samoa government. American Samoa StatisticalYearbook, 1996.

Baker, Paul, J. Hanna, and T. Baker. The Changing Samoans, 1986.

Bindon, James R. "Dietary and Social Choices in American Samoa." The World and I, May: 1986, pp.174185.

, Amy Knight, and William Dressler. "Social Context and Psychosocial Influences on Blood Pressure among American Samoans." American Journal of Physical Anthropology 103: (May):718, 1994.

Cote, James. Adolescent Storm and Stress: An Evaluation of the Mead-Freeman Controversy, 1994.

Gray, J. A. C. Amerika Samoa, 1960.

Holmes, Lowell D. "The Function of Kava in Modern Samoan Culture." In Efron, D. H., ed., Ethnopharmacologic Search For Psychoactive Drugs, 107118, 1967.

. "Samoan Oratory." Journal of American Folklore,82:342355, 1969.

. Quest for the Real Samoa: The Mead/Freeman Controversy and Beyond, 1987

and Ellen Rhoads Holmes. Samoan Village: Then and Now, 2nd ed., 1992.

Mead, Margaret. Coming of Age in Samoa, 1943.

. Social Organization of Manu'a, 2nd ed., 1969.

Oliver, Douglas. The Pacific Islands, 3rd ed., 1989.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1998.

Whistler, W. Arthur. Samoan Herbal Medicine, 1996.

Lowell D. Holmes and Ellen Rhoads Holmes

Samoa, American

views updated May 29 2018


SAMOA, AMERICAN. An unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the South Pacific and consisting of seven islands, American Samoa makes up the eastern portion of the Samoan archipelago; the western portion, known as Western Samoa or the Republic of Samoa, is an independent nation.

The first Polynesian colonists seem to have reached Samoa from Fiji around 1000 b.c. By the eighteenth century, Samoa supported a complex society with fortified villages, intensively cultivated fields, and extensive trade among the islands. In 1722, the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen was the first European to visit the islands. Several other expeditions visited over the next century; European influence was minimal, however, until the 1830s, when the first English missionaries arrived. Thereafter, whalers, traders, and missionaries came in steadily increasing numbers.

By the 1870s, Great Britain and Germany were competing with the United States for commercial and diplomatic advantage in Samoa. In 1872 the Grant administration sent Col. Albert Steinberger as a "special commissioner" to "assist" the islanders and generally further American interests. Steinberger helped the Samoans draft a constitution but then installed himself as premier with near-dictatorial powers; he was deposed and deported by the British in 1876.

Samoa continued to be unstable, with various local factions bidding for support from the colonial powers. In 1889, Britain, Germany, and the United States attempted to settle their differences in the islands with the Berlin Treaty, which created a neutral and independent Samoa subject to the "advice" of the powers. This arrangement failed, and Samoa went through two rounds of civil war in the 1890s. In 1899 the three powers replaced the Berlin Treaty with the Tripartite Pact, which divided Samoa between Germany and the United States, with Britain withdrawing all claims in return for acknowledgement of its rights in other Pacific territories. The 1899 line of division, running along the 171st degree of longitude, remains the international boundary today between American Samoa and the independent Republic of Samoa.

The new colony was placed under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Navy, and executive authority was vested in a series of naval governors. American claims to the islands were strengthened by various Articles of Cession obtained from Samoan chiefs between 1900 and 1904, although Congress did not ratify these until 1929.

With the growth of Japanese militarism in the mid-1930s, Samoa began to acquire new strategic importance. By 1940 the Samoan islands had become a training area for the U.S. Marine Corps. After Pearl Harbor, the military facilities were rapidly and massively expanded, and Samoa became a rear staging area for U.S. offensives in the South Pacific. The military withdrew after the war's end, but this massive influx of American servicemen and goods had a lasting impact on Samoan society.

In 1951 control of the islands was shifted from the Navy to the Department of the Interior. The Samoans gained a measure of self-government when American Samoa approved its first constitution in 1966. This constitution is still in effect; it provides a tripartite system of government similar to the standard American model, albeit with some unique concessions to local custom. The islands' chief executive continued to be a governor appointed by Washington until 1977, when the position was made elective. Since then, the islands have had considerable autonomy, particularly in local affairs, although certain powers remain reserved to the Secretary of the Interior.

Samoans are American nationals, although not American citizens. They owe allegiance to the United States, and have American diplomatic and military protection, but are not entitled to a representative in Congress. Samoa is an "unincorporated" territory, meaning that not all provisions and protections of the United States Constitution apply there.

Samoans can travel freely to, and reside in, the United States. The 2000 Census gave the population of American Samoa as 57,291, of which 88.2 percent were ethnic Samoans. Ninety-six thousand Samoans were listed as living in the United States, with the largest groups in California and Hawaii. Samoa's economy has remained partly dependent upon American aid and is underdeveloped compared to the U.S. mainland or Hawaii.


Gray, J. A. C. Amerika Samoa: A History of American Samoa and Its United States Naval Administration. Annapolis, Md.: United States Naval Institute, 1960.

Douglas M.Muir

See alsoInsular Cases ; Wilkes Expedition .

American Samoa

views updated May 17 2018

American Samoa

Samoa is an archipelago of islands situated in the South Pacific. The western islands of the archipelago, including Upolu and Savai'i, comprise the present-day independent nation of Samoa. The eastern islands comprise the present-day U.S. Territory of American Samoa since the 1899 Treaty of Berlin division of Samoa, at which time Germany and the United States divided Samoa, while giving up interest in Fiji to Great Britain. During World War II, American soldiers in Samoa outnumbered Samoans, and greatly influenced their relations with the outside world. Pago Pago Airport accommodates U.S. military aircraft daily and at its U.S. Army Reserve Base Samoan soldiers are trained for the Middle East and other American military endeavors.

The chiefs of the islands of American Samoa, under influence of the U.S. Navy commandant of the Pacific based in Pago Pago, signed documents of cession as unincorporated territory of the United States in 1900 when Tutuila and Aunu'u Islands were ceded, and in 1904 when the Manu'a group of islands, or Ofu, Olosega, and Ta'u islands, were ceded, including Rose Atoll and Swain's Island. The U.S. Navy leveraged its takeover of the copra industry, with promises of protection from land speculation, and the support of the Congregationalist Church, against the sustainability and sovereignty interests of local chiefs, especially the Tui Manu'a Elisala, the former sovereign of Manu'a. In the 1950s Chief Tuiasosopo urged the establishment of a legislature, the Fono of American Samoa, and helped stop a U.S. Department of Interior attempt to incorporate the territory. In the 2001 and 2003, the United States attempted to have the U.S. Territory of American Samoa removed from the United Nations' list of nations to be decolonized, stating that American Samoa is "not a colony" (Governor Tauese, Samoa News, 2001).

In the distant past, Samoa was ruled by a group of women paramount chiefs, including Nafanua and her niece Salamasina. These women and their talking chiefs helped formalize growing Samoan protocols of governance called the fa'amatai, and courtesies of language and relationships called the fa'asamoa. These protocols govern the way families relate, especially within the fono or council, maintaining localization and decentralization of governance in the Samoa Islands, in times of sovereignty or colonization. Although the United States has claimed that territorialization of American Samoa protects the fa'asamoa, the fa'asamoa is as well maintained or even stronger in independent Samoa, while the practice of fa'asamoa often dissolves colonial borders between Samoans.

see also Missions, in the Pacific; Pacific, American Presence in; Pacific, European Presence in.


Ellison, Joseph. Opening and Penetration of Foreign Influence in Samoa to 1880. Corvallis: Oregon State College, 1938.

Meti, Lauofo. Samoa: The Making of the Constitution. Apia: Government of Samoa, 2002.

Sunia, Fofo I. F. The Story of the Legislature of American Samoa (In Commemoration of the Golden Jubilee 1948–1998). [New Zealand]: Legislature of American Samoa, 1998.

Turner, George. Samoa: A Hundred Years Ago and Long Before (1884). New York: AMS Press, 1979.

United Nations. UN Working Paper on American Samoa. A/AC. 109/2002/12. New York: United Nations, 2002.

Vaai, Salaimoa. Samoa Faamatai and the Rule of Law. Apia: The National University of Samoa Le Papa-I-Galagala, 1999.

American Samoa

views updated May 21 2018

American Samoa

Basic Data
Official Country Name:American Samoa
Language(s):Samoan, English
Literacy Rate:97%

American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States. The capital is Pago Pago, which is located on the island of Tutilla. The islands are located approximately 2200 hundred miles southwest of the Hawaiian Islands.

American Samoa has a total land area of 77 miles that includes 5 inhabited islands and 1 uninhabited coral atoll. The estimated population in 2000 was 65,446 and the literacy rate was 97 percent.

The area came under U.S. control in 1900 and was presided over by the Navy until 1951. In 2001, the Department of the Interior administered American Samoa.

The Director of Education in 2001 was Mr. Silia Sataua, who oversaw more than 14,000 students in the public school system. The system comprises 90 early childhood education centers (preschools for three- and four-year-olds situated in the villages); 22 consolidated elementary schools; and three high schools with three new high schools under construction. American Samoa also has a vocational-technical school and a community college.

Nine parochial schools and a Montessori preschool provide private education; the latter is operated by the Poor Sisters of Nazareth. The church-sponsored schools service approximately 2000 students.

Education is compulsory and free for all children between the ages of 6 and 18. The focus of American Samoan education is "education for export," since the majority of young people relocate to the United States.

The American Samoa Community College is an accredited, open admission, coeducational land grant institution. The two-year institution provides transfer programs, vocational training, programs in adult education and literacy, and Samoan and Pacific studies.


American Samoa U.S. Territory, 2000. Available from

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Factbook 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2000. Available from

Holmes, Lowell D., and Ellen Rhoads Holmes. Samoan Village Then and Now, 2nd ed. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1992.

Public Schools in American Samoa, 1999. Available from

Morgan Axel Peterson

American Samoa

views updated May 17 2018

American Samoa

Basic Data

Official Country Name:American Samoa
Region (Map name):Oceania
Language(s):Samoan, English
Literacy rate:97%

American Samoa has been occupied by the United States as a territory since 1900, but it is believed to have been inhabited since 600 B.C. Today, the country's five islands and two coral atolls, which lie near Western Samoa in the Pacific Ocean, are managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior and a local, popularly elected Governor. The legislature consists of a House of Representatives and a Senate, and the country also sends an elected delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. The population of American Samoa is estimated to be 607,000. The literacy rate is 97 percent. Most Samoans are bilingual in English and Samoan, a dialect closely related to Hawaiian and other Polynesian languages. The economy revolves around tuna fishing and tuna canning. The government is also a major employer. Efforts to diversify the economy have been hindered by the country's geographic isolation and a fierce hurricane season.

As a territory of the United States, American Samoa enjoys the press freedoms provided under the U.S. Constitution. American Samoa has two newspapers: the Samoa News and the Samoan Post. Stories in both newspapers appear in English and Samoan. The Samoan News is printed Monday through Saturday; its circulation is approximately 4,000 a day in addition to an online edition. The Samoan Post publishes Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Its approximate circulation is 1,500.

Three FM stations and three AM stations serve approximately 57,000 radios. One television station broadcasts over three channels to approximately 14,000 TV sets. It is owned by the Office of Public Information of the American Samoan government. Samoanet is the country's sole Internet service provider.


"American Samoa," CIA World Fact Book 2001. Available from

"American Samoa," FCC AM Radio Query 2002. Available from

"American Samoa," FCC FM Radio Query 2002. Available from

"Samoa News," 2002 Home Page. Available from

Jenny B. Davis

American Samoa

views updated May 11 2018

American Samoa

At a Glance

Name: Samoa is a native Polynesian word.

Capital: Pago Pago

Size: 77 sq. mi. (199 sq km)

Population: 67,084 people

Statehood: Unincorporated

Electoral Votes: 0

U.S. Representatives: 1 (nonvoting)

The Place

American Samoa is a group of seven islands located about 2,600 miles (4,184 km) southwest of Hawaii. The U.S. federal government administers the islands, which are named Tutuila, Aunuu, Ofu, Olosega, Tau, and Rose. The seventh island, Swains, is privately owned by an American family that has lived there since 1856.

The capital of American Samoa, Pago Pago, is located on the island of Tutuila and has one of the most beautiful harbors in the South Pacific Ocean. Old coral reefs form Rose and Swains Islands, and extinct volcanoes form the remaining islands. Most of American Samoa is mountainous, and only about a third of the islands can be used for agriculture. The best soil lies in the valleys between the mountains. American Samoa has a tropical climate and receives more than 200 inches (508 cm) of rainfall every year.

The Past

Polynesians settled American Samoa more than 2,000 years ago. They arrived in boats from eastern Melanesia and settled on the habitable islands. In 1722, European explorers visited the islands. Later, in 1878, the islanders agreed to allow the United States to use Pago Pago as a naval repair station.

The United States began to trade with the Polynesians, and in 1899, the United States, Britain, and Germany signed a treaty that divided the Samoa Islands among them. At first, the U.S. Navy directly governed American Samoa. The Department of the Interior took over this role in 1951 and continued to appoint governors until 1978, when American Samoans first elected a governor of their own choosing.

The Present

American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States. Its residents are not U.S. citizens, but they can travel freely throughout the United States.

American Samoan residents do not pay taxes to the United States, but they receive considerable amounts of financial aid from the U.S. government.

American Samoa has a strong economy based on fishing. Approximately 96 percent of American Samoa's exports are fish or fish products. American Samoa also produces coconuts, bananas, and taro in its most fertile regions. Since 1960, when the first resort and large airport was built, travel to the islands has increased.

American Samoa

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American Samoa US-administered group of five volcanic islands and two coral atolls of the Samoa island chain in the s Pacific, c.1050km (650mi) ne of Fiji. The principal islands are Tutuila, the Manu'a group (Ta'u, Ofu and Olosega) and Aun'u. In 1899, a treaty between the USA, Germany, and the UK granted the USA rights to the islands e of 171° longitude, and Germany the rights to the w sector. American Samoa remained under the jurisdiction of the US Navy until 1951. Administration was transferred to the Department of the Interior. In 1978 the first gubernatorial elections took place. The population is largely Polynesian, who are considered US nationals. The US government and the tuna fish canning industry are the main sources of employment. Pop. (2000) 39,000.;

American Samoa

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American Samoa

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American Samoa