American Samoa Facts

Samoa is a group of twelve islands in the South Pacific. They lie about 4,200 miles southwest of San Francisco, California and were once called the “Navigators Islands” Nearly all of the islands are volcanic formations, and most of them are surrounded by coral reefs. The islands cover an area of 1,200 square miles and have a population of about 60,000 people. Slightly larger than the United States’ Washington, D.C. the lowest point is the Pacific Ocean and the highest point is the volcanic Lata Mountain. Before the beginning of World War I, Germany and the United Stated shared ownership of this area. Germany owned the Samoan territory west and the United States owned the islands east. At the outbreak of war in 1914, the British troops seized the port of Apia on the German Island of Upolu. In 1920, the League of Nations awarded all of the area owned by the Germans to New Zealand. This territory is officially known as the Territory of Western Samoa. The two largest island groups in New Zealand Samoa, or Western Samoa are Savaii and Upolu. For a long time, Robert Louis Stevenson lived on Upolu. His grave is on Mount Vaea, near the town of Apia, the chief town and government seat of Upolu.

Considered to be an Insular Area, the government of American Samoa is under the supervision of the United States Navy. Tutuila is the most important American possession in Samoa and covers an area of forty square miles with a population of almost 10,000. The United States has had a naval and coaling station on the island since 1872. The port of Pago Pago (pronounced pahngo pahngo) is the only good harbor in Samoa and is on Tutuila. The United States naval base on Tutuilla is an important link in the chain of American Pacific bases. During World War II, the number of American troops actually outnumbered the local population. This being the case, the cultural influences of the West eventually lead too the creation of a local legislature as an organization of their self-governing principles.

Most of the Samooan Islands are very colorful. Mountain slopes dip into fertile valleys. Rich forests and flat lands slope gently toward the sea. The climate is generally pleasant but hurricanes do come between January and March with Typhoons coming from December to March. The rainy season is from November to April with May to October being the driest of seasons. There is little temperature change on these islands throughout the year. The thick forests of Samoa have many different kinds of trees, including sixteen types of coconut palm trees and twenty different kinds of breadfruit trees. The islanders export copra, which is the dried meat inside a coconut, as well as bananas and cocoa. In American Samoa, they raise oranges, limes, mangoes and alligator pears. Other agricultural products include vegetables, taro, yams, pineapples, papayas, dairy products and breadfruit. The only animals on the islands are rats, snakes and a few birds.

The native Samoans are Polynesians. They are tall, well built brown-skinned and physically attractive. They are simple people, but generous and honorable in their habits. Most Samoans are Christians, but they don’t have the elaborate church services of the United States. The primary language on the islands is very closely related to the languages spoken by Hawaiians. English, Tongan, and other languages are spoken as most people speak at least two languages fluently. As their ancestors did, the American Samoans communally own about 90% of the land on the islands. These familial relationships are actually what have contributed to The Manu’a island group maintaining their independence. While most people born on the Pacific Islands are considered to be United States nationals, they are not technically United States citizens. While these individuals participate in our sporting events, they do not represent the United States or compete on any United States teams in the Olympic Games.

The American Samoa’s Independence Day is January 1st, with it’s first Independence Day being in the year 1962. While there is no written constitution, there is a House of Representatives, Members of Parliament and the Governor-General, who heads the Executive Council and consists of all members of the Crown. Queen Elizabeth the II is the most famous New Zealand member of the Crown and heads a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy. Members of the United Nations, The East Asia Summit and the Commonwelath of Nations, the American Somoas have free trad agreements and are a strong force in agriculture.

As Samoa advanced its development of tribes, the Maori was born. This was a tribe that broke off from the subtribes to adapt their own culture based on the eastern Polynesian cultures. As a new indigenous culture, the Maori lacked metal tools and therefore sought out the European and North American trading ships. For timber, food, sex, artifacts and water, the ships occupants traded with the Maori and eventually this tribe was able to establish itself and acquired a lot of land. This led to wars over land and today is still a source of a lot of confusion.